2017 NFL Off-season Thread

Thread for NFL discussion before the 2018 NFL season. To kick off the thread, I wanted to vent about QB evaluations (something I’ve probably said several times before). When evaluating QBs, in addition to look at their performance statistics, the performance of the OL, WRs/TEs, quality of the running game, and nature of the offense and play calling must be factored in. If these things aren’t, the assessment of the QB is close to worthless. In other words, evaluating a QB must be done within the context of his supporting cast and the nature of the offense. I’m pretty sure this is an uncontroversial point–and some may think this is an unnecessary point because it’s obvious. Yet, time and again, I hear people making comments that seem to not take the contextual factors into account. If a QBs stats dip, I’ll hear analysts talk as if the QB is entirely to blame, as if the supporting cast might have been the primary reason for this. The opposite can occur as well. Analysts can give more credit to the QB, overlooking the fact that the supporting cast is really terrific. In any event, failing to account for these factors that affect a QB’s performance is a big pet peeve of mine.

408 thoughts on “2017 NFL Off-season Thread

  1. Keenum or Foles:
    Not sure if either will be available, but who would you choose or maybe none of the above if you were a Denver or a Cleveland? I guess you have to put Cousins on there, but I’m guessing most would choose Cousins over Keenum and Foles (I could be wrong, though).

  2. I would take Cousins over Keenum or Foles, but not at the price he’s going to demand. I think Foles and Keenum could be had for a lot less, despite one of them being the reigning Super Bowl MVP.

    For the Browns, I would take either Keenum or Foles because I don’t think either is your franchise, long-term guy. But they’ll both be fine for developing a young team around them while trying to find their Derek Carr. I think I’d pick Foles because of his history and attitude. He’s been to the mountain, and maybe the mountain was a bit of a lucky thing. Seems to be grateful just to be in the game, if that makes sense.

    The Broncos have a closing window, not an opening one, and I think Keenum makes more sense for them (although they really should go after Cousins). Because Keenum is on the upswing and because he just had a better season than Foles. He could be the real deal, and the Broncos seem like the team to find out.

    What do you guys think the Vikings will do about QB?

  3. I would take Cousins over Keenum or Foles, but not at the price he’s going to demand.

    I agree with Mitchell here, although I have a feeling Keenum and Foles will be too pricey for what they’re worth as well. I like Cousins and Keenum. With Cousins, I think he could be a franchise QB on a team with a really good run game–e.g., the Jaguars or maybe the Vikings. But I’m not sure the money you’d have to fork over would be worth even that. (Think of someone like Flacco. Is he worth the money?) With Keenum, I think he’s a great backup, but not really a starter. Think of someone like Dave Krieg. As for Foles, I’m really skeptical about him. The body of his work suggests that he’s a flash in the pan–mostly based on the scheme/play calling. Peterson seemed to make adjustments that defenses couldn’t catch up to. I’d be surprised if Foles repeats this. I definitely think Keenum has a better shot at being a solid starter, and I say this because I’ve seen good things from him in the past. (However, I think he just got into a good groove, and I’m not confident he’ll sustain this. Keenum’s seasons feels like the really good season Ryan Fitzpatrick had for the Bills.)

    The Broncos have a closing window, not an opening one, and I think Keenum makes more sense for them (although they really should go after Cousins).

    I kinda agree about the Broncos–or at least I think their offensive situation isn’t all that great. I actually don’t think Cousins-Broncos is a good fit for either party.

    If the Jags could get Keenum for a good price, that might not be a bad thing–although I think they’d have to draft a QB.

    I like Mitchell’s suggestion of Keenum going to the Browns, as long as Keenum isn’t too expensive.

    What do you guys think the Vikings will do about QB?

    No idea. While I’ve been rooting for Bridgewater, I’m not confident he’s a franchise QB. Bradford might be a franchise QB, and I might go with him over the other two. (In a way, I actually like Keenum better than Bradford, as the former as a better ability to improvise, but I just have a feeling Keenum’s going to come down to earth. Another thing: The defenses were relatively weak this year, so Keenum might have performed better because of it.)

    What do you guys think of Alex Smith going to Washington? I’m scratching my head with that move.

  4. Based on a small sample size at Minnesota, I think Keenum can be “good enough” and a franchise guy. I’m not saying a top ten guy, but maybe top twenty. I would guess and say Reid would say Keenum is vulnerable to make mistakes and turnovers and I would agree with that assessment. But that guy is pretty cool under pressure and he can move enough to make plays. It’s just if you get him on the run, it’s hard to say if he will always make the right decision. I heard somewhere (cannot remember) that Minnesota will have to assess (ie: play by play) which Minnesota completions should be credited to the two great receivers and which to Keenum. The person said they went through and did that and Keenum had enough creditable plays to say he should be a starting QB. I don’t think Keenum’s numbers in that assessment was phenomenal, but I think it was good.

    Foles was spectacular that one year in Philly under Chip and he was unbelievable in the Super Bowl and playoff game against Minnesota (I didn’t watch that game.). Yes Philly’s coaching staff deserves a lot of credit, but Foles made some throws and was really good in the pocket. Man tough not to give this guy a chance if you were a team.

    I would lean Keenum over Foles, but I think I would take both over any rookie for anything under top ten money.

    Many rumors about Minnesota such as franchising Keenum and trading him (Which seems absurd to me.) and getting more QBs (Which would mean releasing Bradford?). If it was me, I would keep Keenum and get rid of Bridgewater and Bradford. I have more confidence in Keenum. I like Bradford, but he’s an injury waiting to happen.

    Reid hates Alex Smith. Haha. I think I’ve stated this before, but I think Alex Smith is a top fifteen QB (or right around there). I’m fine with Washington getting him, but if they handled Cousins better that would have been the smarter thing to do. I would lean Cousins over Smith, but not by a whole lot.

    I’ll add that Mitchell sort of alluded to certain QBs being better in certain situations hence on certain teams. I like that assessment and agree.

  5. The thing with Keenum is sample size. How do you know he’s not a one-hit wonder? Fitzpatrick has consistently flashed positive attributes–and he’s had two solid seasons in his career. He got on a roll, or maybe (with Chan Gailey and the Bills) he was in an offense that the defenses took a while to adjust to. It wouldn’t completely surprise me if Keenum turned into a solid starter, but I think the risk is quite significant.

    Foles was spectacular that one year in Philly under Chip and he was unbelievable in the Super Bowl…

    His one great year sort of speaks against him, though. Namely, I think defenses weren’t used to Chip Kelly’s offense. Same with whatever Peterson did at some point.

    I think I’ve stated this before, but I think Alex Smith is a top fifteen QB (or right around there). I’m fine with Washington getting him,…

    The key question is, do you think he can lead a team to the Super Bowl and win it? He’d have to play on a team like the 2015 Broncos or 2000 Ravens to do that, in my opinion. You don’t pay good coin for that type of QB.

  6. True, but they’re paying less than they’d have to pay Cousins. In a way, they’re sorta getting the Cousins situation but for slightly less.

  7. But how you’d like to be a Redskins fan, knowing that you traded away a good player, a good pick for a QB that probably doesn’t have the ability to win a Super Bowl?

  8. Alex Smith is better than Trent Dilfer by quite a bit I think.

    No doubt the Redskins messed this whole deal up by not signing Cousins two seasons ago. But at this point in time, there are worse things that could the Redskins could do then signing Alex Smith. However, I wonder if they could have traded Kendall Fuller and a third round pick to get a top three pick this year? Maybe selecting a rookie QB with a top three pick would be better.

  9. Me too, but compared to what management has done over the past 20 years, this doesn’t seem bad at all. Feels kind of hopeful, actually.

    Also, we all agree that the Redskins should probably have signed Cousins two years ago, but the question is really WOULD you have? Because it was not a clear issue then. I think I would have franchised him, just as Washington did.

  10. I don’t get why you would be hopeful. If the Raiders or Seahawks got Alex Smith (assuming they didn’t have Carr and Wilson respectively), I’d be close to despair. If you’re fairly confident a QB doesn’t have what it takes to lead a team to a Super Bowl and win it, who cares if you have a good season–if you’re almost sure to lose in the playoffs? I can sort of relate to this because I felt this way, to a degree, in the last three years with the Seahawks. By mid-season, I had a strong feeling the OL and defense weren’t good enough to take the team all the way. Indeed, I don’t really feel bad that the Seahawks missed the playoffs, and a part of me actually preferred it.

    As for Cousins, I don’t really agree the Redskins should have signed Cousins, and I agree with you that franchising him was the right move. Cousins may not be the guy, but why give up a promising young CB and 3rd round pick for an older QB who probably isn’t capable of winning a Super Bowl? That seems crazy. Let Cousins go, but then build your team around you–that would have been better. If they could have gotten Keenum or Bridgewater (if he’s available) for non-franchise QB money, that might have been better, too.

  11. I’m guessing Keenum or Foles could get similar money to Alex Smith. I wouldn’t doubt it anyway. But I agree with Reid that I would rather have taken a chance on Keenum or even Foles then Smith, even for the same money. On the other hand, I wouldn’t be all that surprised if Alex Smith in Washington becomes a top ten QB, sort of in and around the level of a Matt Ryan.

    As far as Smith winning a Super Bowl, I definitely wouldn’t bet that he could lead his team. But he’s always had decent regular seasons, so I wouldn’t really question him there. And if Foles can lead an Eagle team to a Super Bowl and win it, Smith has to be able as well. Foles looked like a bottom five QB at times this season.

  12. I wouldn’t be surprised if Alex Smith puts up decent numbers during the regular season, but does it really matter, if you believe he won’t perform well enough to take a team to the Super Bowl?

    And if Foles can lead an Eagle team to a Super Bowl and win it, Smith has to be able as well. Foles looked like a bottom five QB at times this season.

    Here’s the difference I see. Foles seemed to struggled until Pederson made adjustments. My hypothesis is that these schematic changes elevated Foles play, and the defenses didn’t have time to adjust. Smith and the Chiefs came out strong in the beginning of the season, but by the end, defenses seemed to have adjusted. Maybe Jay Gruden can develop schemes for Smith that defenses will take a long time adjusting to. Then again, besides Belichick, I don’t think any other coach is better at using schemes to elevate players/offense like Andy Reid has. And even with this elevation, Smith hasn’t looked good in the playoffs.

  13. Spending a top-20 pick on a RB is one of the worst decisions a team can make. Don’t do it. Like, ever.

    In general, I don’t think choosing a RB in the top twenty is a good idea, but I wouldn’t say it should be never done. Here’s a situation where it would be sound:

    1. Team run-based offense, with strong commitment to the running game;

    2. Team has strong consensus and high confidence that RB has Hall of Fame potential;

    Also, for me, even if the two conditions are met, I’d be reluctant to choose a RB that was the smaller, quicker RB who ran in the scat back style. For me, I’d want someone kinda big and physical, and ran in that way. They don’t have to be straight-line, north-south, but I prefer guys who can run in a physical way.

  14. Blake Bortles signs with Jags

    Unless this contract is really team friendly, I wouldn’t be happy with this signing if I’m a Jags fan. I never was high on Bortles, but in the last two seasons, he’s gotten worse. To be fair, he stabilized at some point in this season. However, my guess is that something is wrong upstairs–i.e., there’s a psychological issue. Think Shaq shooting free throws or Rick Ankiel not being able to pitch anymore or Mackey Sasser not being able to throw the ball back to the pitcher’s mound. Maybe it’s not that bad with Bortles, but I feel like it’s in that ball park. (Another: Blair Walsh kicking in pressure situations.) I think these problems are really, really difficult to overcome. If the problem isn’t really psychological, then this may be an acceptable, even good move, but, again, I was never high on him even without these problems.

  15. An Idea to Boost Offense That I Might Like

    To boost, more scoring and offense, the NFL seems to look at making it easier for WRs, harder for DBs.

    But I wonder if they’ve ever considered changing rules or enforcing them in a way to give more of an advantage to the O-linemen–for example, maybe be less stringent on holding. Maybe if this became too obvious, I wouldn’t like that, but if there were subtle ways to help O-linemen, I think that would appeal to me.

  16. Activity Involving Running Backs

    Carolina releases Jonathan Stewart. Stewart was my kind of back; I liked him, except he seemed to get hurt too often. Carolina–and teams like the Jaguars, maybe Bills, Vikings, 49ers–should look at Eddie Lacy and Thomas Rawls, if the Seahawks move away from both. Taking a chance on both, especially if you have a good starter, would be a good move. It wouldn’t surprise me if both were really productive, especially with a good OL. Cowboys and Raiders might be too other good destinations.

  17. Bears release Mike Glennon

    I sort of liked Glennon, but he was awful last year–particularly in terms of ball security. Having said that, you know who he reminds me of? Nick Foles. I don’t think Foles had as many issues with ball security as Glennon, but they have a similar build, and their talent seems similar. If Foles can rehabilitate himself, I wonder if Glennon could.

  18. Another candidate in the Kirk Cousins sweepstakes? Someone mentioned Arizona the other day for Cousins. I like that fit for some reason.

  19. It makes sense, especially if the new coach implements a run-based offense with David Johnson.

    By the way, if I were Cousins, I’d consider the OL of the team. The Cardinals seemed kinda iffy last year. Vikings seemed solid, but will they be able to keep that up next year?

    Oh, going back to RBs. I think the Lions should also look into Lacy and/or Rawls.

  20. Man I don’t think I would take Lacy or Rawls. Rawls plays and runs hard which is a great thing, but that guy cannot stay on the field because of how he plays. Lacy I don’t have any confidence in. If a team really wants to make a play on a “proven” RB, they should look to get Tevin Coleman via a trade. He and Freeman won’t sign after next year, and the Falcons will (or should) listen to an offer. I think I would consider Alf Morris over Rawls or Lacy and Jonathan Stewart too depending on the price tag that comes with Stewart.

    If Quinn wanted Richard as a DC, how did he end up as a defensive backs coach?

    Glennon is out only because of his price tag and what the Bears did to get Trubisky in the draft. I liked Glennon as well. In fact I don’t think there is much difference between Glennon and Keenum in terms of skillset.

  21. Ooops forgot to comment on Cousins. Denver should really go after him (or someone in his caliber), and if they don’t I have no clue why not or what kind of GM Elway is. Their window to be great will close really quickly and they have to do it soon. Although I’m not sure what kind of cap space they have. Any team without a QB right now should be happy to get Cousins, but his price tag may be outrageous at this point (I’m not sure.).

  22. To be clear, I’m thinking of Rawls/Lacy as a backup–e.g., teams like Jags, Cowboys, Lions. I’m not saying teams expect them as a #1 back. I like Stewart, but I think there’s too much wear on the tires. Same with Frank Gore, who is apparently going to be available as well. Actually, if I were the Broncos, I would look at Rawls and Lacy, too. Titans might be another good team for them. Alfred Morris would be a good one in this role as well.

    If Quinn wanted Richard as a DC, how did he end up as a defensive backs coach?

    The year Quinn left to the Falcons, Carroll promoted Richard to DC. He was lauded by players and other coaches as a really good teacher of the secondary, for what it’s worth.

    In fact I don’t think there is much difference between Glennon and Keenum in terms of skillset.

    Glennon might have a better arm, but Keenum is more mobile, and has a better ability to create when a play breaks down. Glennon might have been a decent starter if he just didn’t make awful INTs. (To be fair, I didn’t watch a ton of Bears games. But the ones I saw, he forced Fox to take him out.)

    Any team without a QB right now should be happy to get Cousins, but his price tag may be outrageous at this point (I’m not sure.).

    To me, that’s just one of the reasons the Broncos should be wary. The Broncos don’t seem like they’re just missing a QB. Their OL and run game is still suspect in my view, and if neither improves significantly, I’m not sure that’s a good situation for Cousins, or the Broncos. Then add a costly price tag–I don’t really like it. I think I’d prefer Keenum/Bridgewater, whomever is cheapest, especially if they can draft a good QB prospect. Now, if Denver has a really good run game, solid OL, then going after Cousins, even if he’s costly, could be justified in my view. To me, the Jags are the type of situation that would be ideal for Cousins. You can say that about a lot of QBs, perhaps, but other really good QBs could thrive and take their teams to the Super Bowl in different situations. The Jags situation is basically the only way I see Cousins taking a team to the Super Bowl. (Vikings could be another if their run game gets going.)

  23. You don’t think the Broncos overall as a team is close? I think it’s not impossible to believe their defense can be dominate again. They seem to have lost so players up the middle – Maliek Jackson, Trevathan, etc. They also lost their DC in Phillips, but they have a lot of talent left. If a QB can help the offense just a little and their defense returns to form, they have a shot. Not to mention that everyone was stuffing the box and was all in trying to defend the run. That might change with a QB. I would agree that the Broncos need a lot more help on offense, but I think they may be close enough that a QB can make the difference. I just saw the Broncos are going for Cousins which prompted this post.

  24. I wasn’t thinking about any deficiency in the defense. I was mainly thinking about the offense. I don’t get the sense that they have a solid run game–and I don’t think it was just because of weak QB play. If key injuries were the reason for this, and they can have a really good run game, then I think Cousins could make a big difference. If the run game is just OK to iffy, I think Cousins could be a big disappointment. (Plus, they don’t seem to have a lot of weapons for him.)

    Going back to the defense, I think it’s unlikely that they approach the 2015 level–unless they pick up some really good players in the off-season. The players that I think they really miss are Ware and Ward.

    1. Going back to the defense, I think it’s unlikely that they approach the 2015 level

      I agree that’s highly unlikely. But I would think they can be as good as the Jags were last year, which would put them in the hunt with a Cousins.

  25. I’m a little confused about how good the Jaguars defense actually was last year. At times, they could be dominant, but at other times, they didn’t look so good. I’m thinking specifically of the way they gave up big plays.

    I’ll say this: If the Broncos can have an OL and run game like the Jaguars, the Broncos defense could be good enough to take them far. Add Cousins to the mix and, yes, it’s believable that they could be contenders.

  26. Compelling Argument for Going For It on 4th Down More Frequently

    Most of the arguments I’m familiar with have been unpersuasive to me, but here’s a more persuasive argument that recently came to mind. If going for it on fourth down, increased third down conversions that might make going for it on fourth down worth it, depending on how much that increased third down efficiency. To me, third down efficiency is super important. I suspect it not only contributes to scoring more points, but it’s really important in controlling the clock.

    How would going for it on fourth down help third downs? It’s conceivable to me that this would give more options to the offense and make them more unpredictable and difficult to defend on third down.

    I think the situation would have to be considered–the field position, score and time remaining–but being more open and aggressive would be justified if it improved third down efficiency.

  27. Not sure if the Eagles have lost anyone on their DL, but if not, their DL just got a lot scarier. This is a good situation for both the team and Bennett, as the team doesn’t have to rely a lot on Bennett, and Bennett’s snaps can be greatly reduced. Dang.

  28. That’s an interesting take on this story. 🙂

    What’s the latest on Richard Sherman? I’m hearing buzz.

  29. The Hawks couldn’t get more for Bennett? I don’t even know the receiver they received from the Eagles. I guess it just a salary dump for the Seahawks, but why not try get a little more? What the word on that trade from Seahawk insiders?

  30. Apparently, there were several other possible teams–Browns, Patriots, Falcons, one or two others maybe–so I imagine this was the best deal. It doesn’t seem that great of a deal. I think they’re only getting a 2 million savings in cap space, which seem paltry. I’m not sure what insiders are saying. Unless they get someone good for the 5th rounder and/or this WR is good, I’m not happy with this (obviously; the WR is a UDFA, by the way).

  31. You would think they could have gotten more from the Browns who have like 20 some draft picks. 15 in the first three rounds. Only slightly an exaggeration.

    NFL players cannot choose the team they want to play for or block unwanted trades right? It’s not like Bennett had any say in this trade, why trade him to the best team in the NFL.

    Oh by the way yes the Hawks got a fifth round pick, but gave up a seventh so they only moved up two rounds. As a Cowboy fan, all I can say to the Seahawk’s FO is “stupid, stupid, stupid”. Haha, nah the Boys will be back next year.

  32. Yeah, I would think the Seahawks would have been able to get a better deal with Bennett, and if they did, I’m pretty sure the ‘Hawks would have pulled the trigger (i.e., Bennett would have no say). This had to have been the best deal they could get.

    Re: Sherm. Some news from a beat writer:

    On another note, while I approved of the trade for Sheldon Richardson, I don’t think he’s really worth big money–not based on what I saw from him last year.

  33. I wonder if the asking price on Bennett was forced down because he’s so vocal about non-football stuff. If that was a factor, I’m annoyed.

  34. I’m not sure if this is true, but I’m going to throw this out there:

    Initially the explanation at the end wasn’t included–and I had a hard time believing that this was true. I still have a hard time believing the ‘Hawks pulled out because “they felt bad.” I mean, yeah, they can feel bad, but wouldn’t it be understandable–the Patriots’ offer is significantly better.

    The other explanation I’ve heard, which would explain forgoing the Patriots offer–the Hawks are really high on the Marcus Johnson, the WR from Philly. Indeed, I think I saw reporting that said the Seahawks had their eye on him for a while. Still, if the guy is that good, would the Eagles give him up…Well, if they wanted Bennett badly enough, maybe; and maybe Johnson isn’t “that” good so much as he’s a promising prospect. I guess if is equivalent to a 3rd round player or better, the deal makes more sense. That’s the only way this makes sense. I’m still leaning towards getting a 3rd and 5th, though.

  35. You seem to be forgetting all the stuff you espouse about coaches and systems. What if Johnson just doesn’t fit the Eagles’ plans for that position? They just won the Super Bowl with three excellent pass catchers. If they have what they deem a surplus at receiver, and if they think they need a guy like Bennett on their team (I love that it will be Bennett and Long in the same locker room), it seems like a great deal for them. And if Pete Carroll has been looking for a guy like Johnson for whatever reasons a coach likes a receiver, I don’t see what there is to be puzzled about. I’m only offering this because you’re saying “that’s the only way this makes sense,” but here’s another. Right?

  36. It’s possible that Johnson is a really good prospect, but he’s a not the best fit for the Eagles. This could mean that Johnson is actually a good prospect–and the Seahawks give him a 3rd round grade or higher–then the deal makes sense.

  37. According to this report from Ian Rapopport, the Seahawks traded with the Eagles because the deal was because the Patriots offer came in light, and the Seahawks wanted to honor their agreement with the Eagles. This weakens the hypothesis that they think Marcus Johnson is equivalent to a 3rd round player or higher. Shoot!

  38. Holy Heck! Rams Trying to Create the 2015 Broncos Defense

    The secondary should now enable Phillips to blitz more frequently and more daring ways. Shoot!

  39. RBs like Rawls and Lacy. There’s probably a lot more to go after as backups as well.

  40. I heard the Titans wanted a versatile back (ie: pass catcher and maybe more shifty), which would leave Lacy and Rawls out.

  41. Well, it happened. I’m kinda surprised about the degree to which I felt sad about losing Sherm and Bennett (not so much Lane).

  42. I think the logic here is reasonable–if Carroll’s teams struggled at the end, then maybe he’s the problem. This could be the case. Maybe Carroll is too loose and lax–the opposite of being too much of a drill sergeant. I think there’s a definitely a possibility of that. To me, a great coach finds the right balance, and maybe Carroll was too far on the permissive side.

    However, if Carroll had two ingredients, we might not be having this conversation: 1) a great OC and/or; 2) a really good roster. Cowherd mentions the sustainability of Belichick and Saban. Belichick is sui generis–his coaching can elevate the team in all phases and he’s playing in an era where this approach can have success. This is a sustainable style, if you can coach like that, but I don’t think anyone else can, including Carroll. With Saban, he’s a really good (maybe great) coach with never-ending pipeline of great talent (including coaching?). In Seattle that stream of talent petered out, most conspicuously on the offensive line. If the OL was merely competent, we may not be having this conversation.

    Besides the talent, especially on offense, another problem might have been the lack of a great OC. I think Darryl Bevell is a solid coach, just not great. Give him really good talent, and you’ll have a good offense, but he won’t really elevate an offense, like some great coaches. (I’d put Mike Shanahan in there.) If Carroll had a coach like Shanahan, I think we might not be having this conversation. Whatever you want to say about Carroll, he seems like a guy who needs a really good OC to succeed. Mike Shanahan is similar in that I think he really needs a good DC to succeed. (Same with Mike Holmgren.) I don’t think Seattle ever had that type of coach. Had they had that coach or just didn’t disastrously fail on the OL, we might not be having this conversation.

    Having said that, I don’t rule out the possibility that all of these deficiencies–with the coaching and personnel–points back to a failing of Carroll’s. In fact, I think there’s a good chance that is the case.

  43. My only question to your post is you think Belichick could have had similar success with Eli Manning or Joe Flacco?

  44. Let me first say that I think Brady was important part of their success, and while Belichick can make do without a lot and other positions, I do think he needs a good QB, and maybe more than that to win Super Bowls.

    With regard to your specific question, I’d ask how much better do you think Eli and Flacco are compared to Matt Cassel? I think they’re considerably better, and based on that, I think Patriots could have had a lot of success. Would they have won as many Super Bowls? That, I’m not sure about.

  45. I totally agree with this (at least the first two points. I tend to think the DL deserves more emphasis) The sad thing is her points were relevant at least starting in 2015 and every season after that.

  46. This totally sucks.

  47. It’s funny when a team is winning the most vocal/out-there players are the “heart and soul” of the team. When the team is not winning or it’s time to clean house, those players are the first to go. In Sherman’s case it could be he overstayed his welcome. I wonder if it’s the same for Bennett.

  48. Sherm may have overstayed his welcome–personally, I leaned toward moving on last year, especially if he felt no remorse about chewing out Darrell Bevell. My sense is that the main reason they’re moving on is that they believe he should be paid less given his injuries. (He recently had two surgeries, one to repair his Achilles tendon.) My understanding is that after the 49er offer, Sherm gave the Seahawks a chance to match it, but they didn’t.

    With Bennett, maybe he’s too difficult, but I kinda thought he provided leadership, too. I could be wrong about that. But I think it comes down to what he’s being paid given his age and some of his injuries. Actually, I think that’s what it comes down to for both of these players. If they were younger and healthier, I suspect they’d be signed up already.

    In other news, I heard the Dolphins have or will release Ndamukong Suh, and he’s visiting the Seahawks today. I have questions about his attitude (and some of his dirty play in the past angered me; although I didn’t hear about any incidents when he was in Miami), but if his attitude is solid and he’s a good teammate, I would love a player like him. By this I mean a guy who can, almost by himself, make it impossible for an offense to run against–especially when you LBs like Wagner and KJ playing behind him. In this way, I think I’d prefer him over Sheldon Richardson.

    What I’d like to see is the Seahawks having a DL (or at least their front seven) absolutely shut down a running game. The Seahawks have been statistically good against the run, from what I understand, but I don’t think they’ve been dominant. A guy like Suh could make them take on running teams like the Cowboys.

  49. JG with Rodgers is a scary thought. (He’d probably be scary on the current Saints offense, too.)

  50. The Saints with Graham are a scarier thought than Graham with the Saints. That’s a lot of offensive weaponry.

    I hope the Bennett and Sherman moves were strictly football related.

    Suh did have a few incidents and suspensions early in his Dolphins tenure, but he appears to have been a model citizen these last couple of years. For the price he’ll likely demand, I question whether the Seahawks are a good place for him. Seattle is not a Suh away. He should look for a team that is.

  51. Did you mean, Graham would be scarier with Packers or with Saints?

    For the price he’ll likely demand, I question whether the Seahawks are a good place for him.

    Yeah, I have a feeling he’ll be too expensive.

    Seattle is not a Suh away.

    You mean, the addition of Suh wouldn’t make the Seahawks strong contenders for the Super Bowl? I would agree with that–but that’s only because the OL and running games are question marks. If the OL and running game is solid, or more than solid next year, I think they could contend. On the other hand, given their track record, it’s hard to be optimistic.

  52. I mean Graham going back to Brees isn’t likely to see a return to the kinds of numbers he once put up. It’s not that much a better situation for him. But the Saints adding another weapon make the Saints scarier. I’m not sure why this is confusing. It would be a nice move for Graham. It would be a great move for the Saints.

  53. OK, I think I understand. I wasn’t making a distinction between how it would affect Graham’s numbers versus how Graham would impact the team. I was mostly thinking in terms of the latter–Graham on either team would make both scary.

    As for Graham’s numbers, I think they could be better than they were at Seattle, and he could equal or surpass the numbers he had previously with the Saints. I say this because my sense is that the Saints’ weapons were in decline at the end of Graham’s tenure with the Saints. If that’s true, and the weapons are now better, adding Graham could elevate his production. Then again, with better weapons that could diminish his numbers, I guess.

  54. Could Drew Brees Be in Another Uniform Next Year?

    Vikings seems like a decent landing spot, although I think a better spot would be a team with a young QB waiting in the wings…like KC. Andy Reid would be a good match, and this would be ideal if Mahomes could use another year on the bench. The one bad thing about KC (if they have cap space) is that KC plays outdoors. I think Brees needs to go to a good indoor team, and the Vikings would qualify. Another team: the Cardinals, although they’re not in as good a situation as the Vikings, in my opinion.

  55. Here’s something in response to Mitchell wondering if the Seahawks released Bennett and Sherm primarily for football related reasons:

    Of course, you have to take this with a grain of salt, as Brown wouldn’t likely say, openly, that the Seahawks released them for non-football reasons. Having said that, I don’t think they did–at least not for the political protests. As the clip points out, both Brown and Doug Baldwin have been outspoken on social issues. The major difference is that both are healthy, and there are less questions about their ability to perform at a high level. I think that’s the main difference.

    Having said that, I think Sherm’s public outbursts against coaches is very different from being outspoken about social issues. This is especially true if Sherm never felt like he did anything wrong. That’s a really big deal for me, and if truly felt like he never did anything wrong, I would have wanted the Seahawks to trade him last year.

  56. I’m pretty sure nobody thinks Brees is going anywhere. It’s pretty clear he wants to play in New Orleans. Every pundit I’ve heard has said he’s a free agent only in name.

  57. I haven’t read what other pundits have said–I assume Brees would stay in NO, but then I saw that tweet, and I started wondering where would be an ideal landing spot.

  58. Sorry I’ve been slow to get our old content back up. It may be a while Until I do, feel free to continue re-starting some old topics.

    I’m not sure if the draft evaulation topic is worth starting again, so I’ll put this here. Thought you guys would find it interesting.

    This website AccuProSports evaluated the 2017 mock drafts (first round only) of 36 mock draft publishers, then scored each mock draft according to this system:

    Number of Correct Picks — Simply, how many correct selections the expert had.

    Total Error -– Total error refers to the total amount of difference between a mock pick and actual pick. For example, if a expert made a correct selection, there was 0 error. If the expert mocked a player to be selected 1st overall but fell to 5th overall, that is a error of 5. We calculate the entire first round error to give us the total error for each expert.

    Average Mock Error — Average mock error takes the total error and averages it to each pick. This gives a window of error for each expert’s pick in the first round. The least amount of error the expert has, the smaller of a window the expert made. The higher the average gets, the bigger of a window the expert has. So if a expert had a average error of 5, this means each selection was within a 5 pick range (either higher or lower) to being correct.

    Difficulty Points -– Difficulty points are weighted to give more value to more difficult picks further into the first round. The degree of difficulty between correctly mocking the first overall pick as opposed to picks 20-32 are vastly different. That is why the deeper we get into the first round, more points are awarded for a correct selection.

    Team Matching -– Team matching is correctly mocking a specific player and team together. No matter if the team trades up or back, if they select the player the expert mocked, points will be awarded.

    The winner for 2017 was Jason LaCanfora, which makes me very happy (Don knows why). The scoresheet is here. I’m also pleased to see Mel Kiper at 12 and Todd McShay at 20. Interestingly, LaCanfora only had to get 8 picks right in the first round (that’s a 25% success rate) to come in first.

    I like how you get credit for matching a team with a player, and for getting the predicted draft position close to the actual draft position. Degrees of wrongness are obviously the biggest factor.

  59. Wait, how much do you guys care about predicting the draft order or even the predicting the team that will pick a specific player? Personally, I don’t really care about this. What I care about is their assessment of a player–generally, how good a player will be, and more specifically the comments about the player’s strengths and weaknesses. I also like to knowing the extent to which a evaluator is certain about these comments (e.g., “I’m sure that the player x has toughness, etc.”)

  60. Not entirely sure what you mean by “silly game,” but I don’t think player evaluation is silly at all–I think it takes really knowledge and skill. Not everyone can do this well, in my opinion. The same is true in education. Not everyone can do a good job of evaluate students.

  61. What the heck? I gotta imagine they’re losing some players–right? (I did hear they’re going to move on from Vinny Curry, but still.) The also added a corner from Carolina. If they don’t lose much more players, Eagles are looking like a favorite to return to the Super Bowl. Dang.
    (Seahawks OL has to get way better to have a chance.)

    Also,

    As Mitchell said, Brees stays in New Orleans as well.

    Andrew Norwell ends up in Jacksonville.

  62. The part that makes the draft supposition silly (and not at all like student assessment) is its predictive nature. Yes, so-and-so can see what kind of skills player x has, but nobody actually knows how good he’s going to be or what he’s going to do in an NFL uniform, although we spend ridiculous amounts of time acting like we might. We’ve been through this. You think it’s not a craps shoot and I do.

  63. If the Eagles go into next season as the NFC favorite, how strong a favorite are they? Even before Wentz went down last year, did you feel they were a very strong contender? I didn’t. If they get better on D and they get Wentz back, I suppose that makes them better, but do they look much better than Dallas or the Rams? I might even pick Carolina to do better than Philly this season, depending on how things roll out this off-season.

  64. The part that makes the draft supposition silly (and not at all like student assessment) is its predictive nature. Yes, so-and-so can see what kind of skills player x has, …

    But that’s where the similarities exist–and not everyone coach, GM, scout, or pundit are equally good at this, just like in education. Educators can assess skills and ability, but they don’t know how successful a student will be in the future. That doesn’t make their assessment less valuable to me.

    If the Eagles go into next season as the NFC favorite, how strong a favorite are they? Even before Wentz went down last year, did you feel they were a very strong contender?

    I think they were a strong contender, at least at some point (before Wentz went down). If all their LBs come back (healthy), and they don’t lose much on their DL, they will have a one of the best front sevens–one that can dominate. (And this doesn’t count who they may add to the draft).

    We still have to see the final roster that will be going into the season, but it looks good for the Eagles right now.

    I suppose that makes them better, but do they look much better than Dallas or the Rams?

    I think there are bigger questions with both the Cowboys and Rams. How will Prescott bounce back in his third year? Is Dez going to be there and will he return to form? What will the defense look like?

    With the Rams, I have big question marks about Goff. I’m really uncertain if he’s a franchise guy. Among good QBs, I think he was one of the worst at throwing under pressure. Specifically, pressure dramatically impaired Goff’s ability to throw the football. But let’s say the Rams get this ironed out. They would also be a big favorite, too.

  65. And they’ve got Jimmy Graham. (They’re losing Jordy, but Jordy seems like a #3 WR, or #2 at best.) Depends on how their roster shakes out, they could also be strong contenders.

    If Butler can return to form, I like this.

    Man, I haven’t mentioned the Raiders. I hope they can finally find a good MLB. They also need help on the DL and the secondary.

  66. QB Shuffle

    Keenum to Broncos. If this is team friendly deal for the Broncos, I kinda like this. If they don’t have a solid OL and run game, though, I think the Broncos are in the decline, maybe a significant one.

    Cousins to Vikings. Is the deal done? if so, there’s a lot of guaranteed money, which surprise. I say this because it will not surprise me at all if Cousins plays a little less than Keenum. The key to me is the OL and run game. If the latter is dominant, then I could see Cousins having success. The thing about Cousins, to me, is that a lot things have to go right, including having a lot of support. I think he’s a better version of Andy Dalton–better in that I think Cousins has more poise, but similar in that they need a great supporting cast.

    Bridgewater (and McCown) to Jets. I’m rooting for Bridgewater. The thing for me: Can he throw the deep ball? He and Mariota seem like two of the worst QBs (among good QBs) at this.

    Bradford (and Glennon) to Arizona. This makes sense

  67. I really dislike Burfict, but he is perfect for the Raiders. Same with Ndamukung Suh. At least the old school Raiders. Honestly, I wouldn’t be thrilled if Burfict goes to the Raiders (even if they really need help at LB). I’m also cooling a lot towards Suh (for both Raiders and Seahawks).

    One of the reasons I don’t want Suh:

    To me, this creates impression he’s more interested in money and himself, versus the team and winning a Super Bowl. The vibe I get is that he was poisonous for a team. If that’s true, I don’t want him.

  68. Vikings QB situation: Cousins and Siemian. I think this is solid. Their Super Bowl hopes demand on quality of run game and defense.

    Raiders secondary: Holy heck! I didn’t realize they lost Sean Smith, TJ McCarrie, and David Amerson. That’s pretty much all of their starters, and they weren’t that good!

    Heard Jordy was going to the Raiders, but now it’s up in the air. Raiders release Crabtree. I like Jordy more than Crab. (I wouldn’t be thrilled if the Seahawks picked up Crabtree, although if he came cheap I guess I wouldn’t mind.) I like Jordy with Lockett and Baldwin, though.

    Raiders also pick up the Muscle Hamster. I don’t usually like small RBs, usually because they don’t run in a physical way that I like, and they’re not durable. Martin is an exception to the former, but not the latter. Dude can’t stay healthy.

  69. Reid,

    You sort of alluded to that if Seattle gets a decent o-line (and maybe a couple other pieces), they can contend, but it almost looks like Seattle is in rebuilding mode. They seem to now want to shop Earl Thomas. In the past, I think we agreed that Thomas, Wilson, and Sherm were on their way to a Hall of Fame career. I think we had Bennett, Wagner, and Chancellor as possible Hall of Famers as well. Of those they currently will have only Wilson and Wagner if they move Thomas. Is it realistic that Seattle is going for any of the big names like Suh or Mathieu? Maybe that are in rebuild mode.

  70. Don,

    I agree–a part of me does feel like they’re in rebuild mode–maybe not tear everything down, but more concerned about reloading and thinking more about the long term. We might be feeling this for different reasons, though. The decisions relating to Bennett and Sherm feel related to an assessment of their worth and cap management–more than a desire to rebuild. With Earl, I get the sense that either a) Earl may want more money than they can afford and/or; b) Earl kinda wants to leave. But these are guesses, especially “b.” I just don’t think the ‘Hawks would be shopping Earl if these two situations didn’t exist.

    If they lose Sheldon Richardson, a part of me feels like they should definitely go full on rebuild mode (and it sounds like they won’t be able to keep Richardson). I might be OK with trading Earl, as long as they can get really good trade value. (By the way, I doubt they can get Suh or Mattieu).

    But let’s say they sign Richardson and keep Earl. I think the window is open–if they make significant improvements to the OL and run game. I think it’s reasonable to believe some improvement will occur, but it’s iffy that this improvement will be significant enough. If they could consistently put together long drives, while minimizing short drives (especially consecutive ones), that might be enough to win. I’m not super optimistic of this scenario playing out though. And even if it does, when you look at the NFC competition, I’m not sure that will be enough.

  71. I heard the Gruden is bringing in blocking TEs. They also signed Dallas’ fullback, who was a good if not great run-blocker as well. Is he thinking of being a run-first team? What are you guys hearing?

  72. Joe Thomas retired. Do you know that in eleven seasons in the NFL, he was never on a team with a 1-0 record? No wonder he’s leaving.

    Jordy Nelson is supposedly in the Bay Area meeting with the Raiders.

  73. I know they re-signed Lee Smith, who is blocking TE, but I haven’t heard much else. (Whose the Dallas FB they brought in?)

    In other news,

    Vikings putting themselves in position to win it all. I still think it comes down to how good the run game can be. In the regular season, the run game need not be that great for the Vikings to will a lot of games. But come playoff time, without a run game that is a serious threat, a lot of pressure would be on Cousins–and he would need to do more. Even if running game is really good, he still needs to make a handful of plays while avoiding really bad ones–but I think he can do that. Can he take on a bigger burden during the playoffs? I’m iffy on that, which is why I think the run game is critical.

    Wonder if the Vikings and Eagles play in the regular season. I’d like to see that game.

  74. I think when pundits are saying blocking TE, I wonder if they are talking about Derek Carrier? He’s like 250 lbs. The FB from Dallas is Keith Smith.

  75. Haven’t heard anything about Carrier, and I don’t even know anything about him. Man, how often did Keith Smith play? Is he any good? I don’t even remember him. (The fact that the Gruden is getting a FB is a positive sign for me, though. Many, if they’re a run-first offense, I will be happy. By the way, I think I’ve said this before, but the one thing good about Gruden coming to the Raiders is that I expect Carr’s footwork and QB play will get better. I’m excited about that. I hope Mariota has coaches that will help him in those areas as well.)

  76. You right Smith didn’t play a whole lot for the Cowboys but I’ll put it to you this way. The Cowboys love, love, love to run two TE sets, and there were times they had a bountiful of RBs, but they still choose to have Smith on the active roster every week. Part of the reason is he was a good if not very good special team player, but also because Dallas loved this guy. The Raiders may have overpaid for him since he may be mostly a first down player and only an occasional second down player, but he could be a great addition if they use him.

    Gruden loves the tough guys (old school). Yet I think his tenor could be “circus-like”. But I sort of cheer for him, despite me not wanting the Raiders to do well.

    The talk is Earl Thomas asked the Cowboys to pick him up for this year last year when they played each other. Dallas has the draft picks to make it happen. I would lean to say it won’t because Dallas can’t afford or will have a hard time affording him after this year, but it’s interesting fodder. I am actually hoping Dallas goes after a talented WR via trade with their draft picks. Someone like Kenny Stills from the Dolphins, who would make a splash (pun intended), yet won’t cost as much. I think they would have a greater chance doing that then being in a bidding war with other teams for a Crabtree or Sammy Watkins.

  77. The Raiders may have overpaid for him since he may be mostly a first down player and only an occasional second down player,…,

    I tend to think he won’t be overpaid if the Raiders want to be a run-first team (and Smith is a good FB). I think in a run-first offense, a good FB is underrated. Overall, I sense people don’t see value in FBs, and that makes sense when a lot of offenses aren’t run-first. In those type of offenses, FBs aren’t that valuable, to me. If Smith is that good, i wish the Seahawks got him, but they picked up Jalston Fowler, who I thought might have had potential when I saw him play with the Titans.

    Gruden loves the tough guys (old school). Yet I think his tenor could be “circus-like”.

    I don’t get what you mean here….Oh, do you mean that Gruden talking about loving tough guys could just be part of his media schtick?

    The talk is Earl Thomas asked the Cowboys to pick him up for this year last year when they played each other.

    It’s not just talk–he said it. And I believe he reaffirmed in a later interview. Yeah, my sense is that trade isn’t going to happen with the Cowboys.

    Kenny Still makes sense; Crabtree, too, if Dez can return to form. I think KC picked up Watkins, though.

  78. In a way, I think that’s better for Don. Whatever productivity he gave the Raiders, I’m kinda happy he’s not with the Raiders. I felt he was overrated, and his drops were frustrating. (I hope Gruden improves the drops, including from AC.)

  79. Yes the Gruden’s tough-guy thing is a schtick. But even more than that, despite what I conceive as good moves (ie: get run-first personnel), I just have a feeling his time as coach may be a disaster (ie: maybe the game has passed him by or he was never great in the first place).

  80. …I just have a feeling his time as coach may be a disaster

    I think the odds are greater that this is the case. How many coaches have stayed away for a long time and came back having success? Vermeil is one that comes to mind. I don’t know if Parcells would count, but he might be another. Then again, how many coaches have stayed out for a long time, and came back to coach?

  81. Colts and Jets Make a Trade for PIcks

    Jets get Colts’ #3 pick
    Colts get Jets’ #6 pick–plus 2 second rd picks (2018), 1 second rd pick (2019)

    That looks like a heck of a trade for the Colts.

  82. I haven’t read anything explicit, but the trade itself seems to strongly suggest that the Colts are confident Luck will fully recover.

  83. If you guys read this, let me know if you think the author makes a sound and compelling argument.

  84. Well I just ordered a Chucky’s Back shirt to wear during the season, so I’m slightly more optimistic than you guys. 🙂


  85. looks like this, although when i just did a google image search for this, i found one i like better. i might have to get a second shirt.

  86. I know! I didn’t know how I felt about Gruden coming back until I saw it. Then I was like OH heck yeah. I’m in.

  87. Jags release Allen Hurns and Marcedes Lewis,

    On a cheap contract, Hurns could be a really good signing. Same with Lewis, maybe on a vet minimum contract. I know I would be pleased if Seattle or Oakland added them on those type of deals.

  88. Decker would be a solid #3 or #4 in my view. So, yeah, same feeling, I think. (I kinda would like a speed guy in the mix).

    In other news,…

    Jamale Olawale (FB) goes to the Cowboys. To me, he’s flashed at times, although more as a runner than a blocker. Don might be happy with this, although he’s never really broken out with the Raiders.

    DJ Fluker (OG) goes to Seahawks. If the deal is good, I’m happy with this pick. I want experienced, solid linemen. I understand Fluker is a solid run-blocker, so I like what that says: The priority is getting the run game going. That’s a really high priority for me as well.

  89. I think Decker at 31 or 32 can still be great and much more than a #3 or #4 guy. He would be at least a #2 and be a great possession receiver. He just has injury problems, and always seem to have hamstring issues. This last part could be completely wrong, but that’s what I feel when I think of Decker. So the Raiders could go with Decker, Cooper, and Jordy, that’s a nice trio if they can stay healthy.

    I know nothing about Olawale and didn’t even know he was on the Raiders. Now I don’t get why the Raiders didn’t keep this guy at $1 million or so instead of getting Smith for four? The Raiders better use Smith a lot even on third down as a pass catcher if he is four times better than Olawale.

  90. You thought Decker played like a #2 with the Titans last year? I didn’t really get that impression.

    Now I don’t get why the Raiders didn’t keep this guy at $1 million or so instead of getting Smith for four?

    If Smith is a good blocker–and the Raiders are going to be run-based (Please, please, please!)–then the trade would make sense. By the way, I just remembered that the new OC, Greg Olson, is more of a run-first guy, at least based on his offenses in the last two stops (Jags and Raiders before that). This and the fact that Gruden hired Cable as OL coach gives me hope that the offense will be more run-oriented. I really hope so.

  91. By the way, I’ve been meaning to ask you* about Saquan Barkley. Do you guys know a lot about him? I’ve only seen a few highlight clips. Based on those, my impression is that he’s more like a Reggie Bush type of RB–i.e., the type that relies on speed and moves. I’m not a big fan of those type of RBs. I like the bruisers, the physical RBs that can punish defenders. They can have great speed and great shifty moves (a la Sanders), but those things are secondary in my opinion. Having said that, the great RB usually have good evasive moves. Also, I prefer bigger/heavier RBs to small ones, even if the latter can run with power. (Rawls and Doug Martin are in the latter category for me.)

    To give some examples, I like a RB like Jonathan Stewart (healthy) over a RB like LeSean McCoy. McCoy isn’t afraid of contact, but that’s not really his strength. Stewart is a load, in my opinion, but his problem has been he can’t stay healthy. Someone like LeVeon Bell is great to watch, and he can be more physical than he seems, but he still doesn’t fit my preference. (To be fair, Marcus Allen doesn’t really fit my ideal, but I’d be happy to have him on my team.) Eddie Lacy showed flashes of the kind of RB I like, but he seems a little too limited in evading defenders and maybe not explosive enough. Still, if he could get back in his primed (with a decent OL), and I’d be happy to have him.

    Edit: *Mitchell, Don, or anyone

  92. I never saw Barkley play or at least I don’t remember him. However, from what I understand he’s not just a shifty guy. I believe he is supposed to be a complete package. I’m not sure what kind of pass catcher or pass protector he is, but in terms of running he is supposed to have it all. I think he wouldn’t be going so high if he was just a shifty guy. I assume in terms of running he’s an Ezekiel Elliot.

  93. I thought Decker was okay in spurts for the Titans, but he was amazing the year before with the Jets, opposite Marshall. He didn’t have a real number one to play along side with the Titans with Corey Davis being out most of the year.

  94. I assume in terms of running he’s an Ezekiel Elliot.

    I never saw highlights of Elliot in college, but in the pros, Elliot is very physical (my type of RB).

    I thought Decker was okay in spurts for the Titans, but he was amazing the year before with the Jets, opposite Marshall.

    I agree he was a legit and solid #2 with Jets (and with Broncos). But why’d the Jets let him go? Was he too expensive? I didn’t get the sense many teams were after him after the Jets, too. If he’s a legit #2, I would expect him to get picked up much sooner now.

  95. I had to look up Decker’s stats. I was wrong about a couple things. One, Decker was good three years ago. Two years ago with the Jets he only played in 3 games. And two, last year it seem Decker played in all 16 games, but I swear if he played, he was rarely 100%. So this could explain why he doesn’t have a lot of teams after him (if that’s a true statement).

  96. Don,

    I kinda was thinking the same way–I didn’t realize he had a really good year three years ago, but now when I think about it, it’s coming back to me. Last year was with the Titans; year before Fitz held out and didn’t have a great year. Year before that Fitz had a great year, as did Brandon Marshall and Decker. Teams must think that those days are over, though, otherwise, someone would get him. A solid #2/#3 type of WR has value in my view.

    In other news…

    Sherm going to the Niners sucks, and I admit I felt a little bitter. At the same time, rationally, I knew it wasn’t really his fault. The ‘Hawks released him. But having said that, I’m really disappointed by the line, “Seven years and I didn’t miss a game until my Achilles finally went. And this is what I get. At the first sign of adversity…they let me go.” I really don’t think that’s fair. I assume Sherm’s thinking specifically of Sherm himself experiencing a set back–and not thinking about the difficulty (adversity) he caused the team and coaches. To be clear, I’m not really thinking of him publicly criticizing coaches (Kris Richard and Darrell Bevell, at least), although the fact that Carroll put up with this should count a little at least. What I’m thinking of is how Sherm never seemed to think he did anything wrong. I can totally understand a player yelling or criticizing a coach or teammate, publicly or privately–but a line is crossed when you don’t think what you did is wrong (when, in my opinion, you are wrong). If this is accurate, I felt like the team should trade Sherm before last season. Indeed, I was anticipating that Sherm would be a problem in 2017–but I was wrong about that (unless something occurred that I don’t know about).

    If Sherm’s account is accurate–that the team never did ask Sherm to take a pay cut, the implication being that the team just didn’t want Sherm–then I’m wondering what I said above is accurate. I wouldn’t blame the team from wanting to move on if Sherm really didn’t believe he did anything wrong.

    But again, I think it’s kinda outrageous to imply that the team just instantly gave up on Sherm.

  97. Don, you like this move? I think this is a good move, assuming the contract is reasonable.

  98. Actually I’m more excited about the Bills WR they got, Deonte Thompson. Thompson has more breakaway speed then Hurns. Not that I have seen for myself. I’m just saying what the Cowboy insiders are saying. From what I hear, Hurns is more like Dez. They don’t necessarily get much separation, but are physical.

    The Cowboy receiving corp is overflowing at this point, especially if they keep Bryce Butler. They still got Terrence Williams, Cole Beasley, Ryan Switzer (last year’s new Cole Beasley), Dez, and Noah Brown (a huge WR). Unless the Cowboys will be willing to part ways with Dez or Williams, new receivers that may or may not be game changers, ala Hurns, may not really help the Cowboys. Hurns or Thompson may take Williams’ spot, and that’s why I’m more excited about Thompson then Hurns because he seems to be different then Dez, rather than a clone of Dez.

  99. Hmm, I’ve watched a few Bills games, and that name doesn’t really stand out, although maybe he has good potential. My impression of Hurns was that he could be a deep threat, but maybe he’s not really speedy.

    A part of me feels that speed, in WRs, is a bit overrated. I think it’s important, but I feel like I’ve seen a lot of WRs with great speed who don’t turn out to be really great WRs–not even great deep threats. Ricardo Lockette, Darius Heywood-Bey, and even Paul Richardson–are names that come to mind. Richardson developed, but I feel like he should have been a more dangerous deep threat than he actually was. Then again, the lack of a run game might have hurt him in this regard. Having said that, I think having a speedy WR, especially for a run-based team, is important. The thing is, just because a WR has a lot of speed, that hardly means they’ll be a great deep threat.

  100. Gold compares him to David Johnson, but I think of Shady, based on the video. And on what I’ve seen, I’m not really enthusiastic about him. He might be really productive, but he doesn’t seem to be the type of RB I prefer. (I also don’t really think highly of Gurley, for what it’s worth.)

  101. Frickin’ Rams. I never really hated the Rams for some reason. I’m starting to now.

  102. Reid,
    Do you think of Shady as a guy that is easy to bring down (If you can hit him that is?)? I don’t see a whole lot of difference between a healthy Shady and a Barry Sanders. Maybe I’m assuming you would be okay with Sanders on your team, but I could be wrong.

    In terms of Barkley, just keep in mind that he plays at about 230 -235 pounds. So maybe he doesn’t play like a bruising back, but I’m guessing he has the weight to be that. Barkley will probably play at 20 pounds more than Shady plays, and outweighs Leveon Bell and David Johnson.

    Oh and now the Rams are going after Odell. With Phillips at DC, the D can be really good, and their offense was already the number one scoring team last year.

  103. Don,

    I don’t think Shady is easy to bring down, per se. He’s more physical than people might think, but he’s pretty far from a physical, punishing RB. As for Barry, it’s hard to say that I wouldn’t be OK with him on my team, but I’d choose a lot of other RBs before him.

    I was aware that Barkley had some weight, but my sense is that that is less important than the way the RB plays.

    I heard about the Rams going after OBJ. My sense is that the Rams don’t really believe in the idea that you can only have one or two difficult players, players that can damage a team’s culture. Or their supremely confident that their staff can handle more than a few of these players (which almost amounts to the same thing). Maybe Suh, Talib, Peters, and OBJ aren’t these type of players–and if so, it can work. But if they are, I’d be worried if I were a Rams fan.

  104. Don’t You Dare Tease Me, Gruden

    I’m really starting to get my hopes up. There are a lot of signals that strongly suggest that the Gruden is building a run-based offense. Could he be having a major shift in philosophy, a la Mike Shanahan? Seriously, if Gruden goes to a run-first West Coast offense, I’m going to be ecstatic!

    Just hope this isn’t some mind games where he’s talking up a run-first offense–to get opponents to prepare for this–and then switching once the season starts. (I can’t imagine that something like this would be effective, so I’m guessing that’s not what he’s doing.)

  105. Today’s Questions

    1. Would you trade a two 1sts for OBJ?
    2. Would you want Kaepernick as your backup QB?
    3. Do you think ending instant replay is a crazy idea?

    Here are my answers:

    1. No. I wouldn’t even trade a first. I wouldn’t be crazy about getting OBJ, unless it was a team-friendly situation.

    2. I think Kaepernick might make a decent backup–for certain teams like Seattle and Carolina. Having said that, he’s not good enough to warrant dealing with the headaches and disruptions that he would likely bring to any team. The situation is similar to Tebow. I think Tebow would worth having for a backup for those teams as well, but his ability wouldn’t justify the distraction and disruption he’d bring to those teams.

    3. I don’t the idea is crazy, and it has merit. My guess is that fans were more content and satisfied with officiating than they are now.

  106. This is Why I Don’t Take Cian Fahey Seriously

    I think we’ve talked about Fahey’s analysis before, and I recall mentioning that he made dubious arguments, criticizing Russell Wilson. This is along similar lines.

    My first reaction is to think he’s using criteria that could justify this ranking, and/or this isn’t a list ranking QBs from best to worst. If it is, how do you justify Wilson at #20. Also, Stafford and Big Ben are too low.

  107. You think there’s a wide receiver in the draft who’s better and more of a lock to score TDs than OBJ? You need talent to win and he has it. If the Rams get him, they don’t need him for a lifetime; they just need him this year, since they seem to be going all-out for 2018. I would absolutely trade a 1st and 2nd. Not sure about two 1sts.

    It’s one thing to disagree with his assessments or methods, but not taking a guy seriously because of it seems harsh. And “I have never seen such stupidity” is itself stupid. He’s clearly not a stupid analyst.

  108. I just read the explanations for Prescott and Wilson, and I actually feel like the explanations make the rankings look worse. I wondered if Fahey just looked at the QB and his stats, and sort of ignored the context of supporting cast. But Fahey’s comments about Prescott disabused me of that notion:

    If you thought Dak Prescott played like a superstar as a rookie but was awful during his second season, you’re likely conflating quarterback evaluation with evaluating the offense as a whole.

    Apparently the same didn’t apply to Fahey’s assessment of Wilson. He doesn’t mention that Seahawks had a terrible run game–one that would be far worse if your remove Wilson’s runs.

    His biggest criticism seems to be that Wilson threw a lot of interceptable balls. I actually agree that Wilson threw a high number of these type of passes, but for whatever reason, Fahey discounts the quality of the OL and running game:

    His interceptable passes were constant in quantity but also egregiously bad in how they came about. This wasn’t the case of the offensive line being the problem. Most of Wilson’s problems he created himself.

    Tell if you guys disagree with this: If a QB has a non-existent run game (especially on a team that wants to be run first) and the OL isn’t very good, how can these things not effect QB performance, including something like throw interceptable passes? This is precisely the kind of thing I’d expect. QBs in this situation will often try to do more, especially if they have the ability to scramble, including forcing things–and some of this is not only understandable, but defensible in my view.

    Do you guys find Fahey’s arguments compelling about Prescott and Wilson persuasive? You think I’m being unreasonable if I think he has something against Wilson, or he’s just trolling Seahawk fans?

  109. Is OBJ a diva, I would say yes. Is he a bad teammate (a cancer in the locker room, a guy others don’t want to be around, a guy that doesn’t play hard), I’m not sure. Divas can be bad teammates, but it’s not a guarantee. If I was the Rams and had a shot to win, I would definitely try to bring him aboard. At what costs, I’m not sure. Top two picks in this year’s draft (ie: a one and a two) seems high. A one this year and couple more picks next year, maybe.

  110. Mitchell,

    You think there’s a wide receiver in the draft who’s better and more of a lock to score TDs than OBJ?

    I don’t know. Even if there isn’t, the issue with OBJ isn’t his talent–it’s the other stuff that is an issue. I’m pretty sure you don’t agree, but I think if you get too many players with character issues–guys that can hurt the culture–you are in great danger of messing up your team culture, and it can take years to fix. How many teams have had sustained success with bad locker room players, especially in the last twenty years or so? I don’t know the answer to that, but I’d guess the failures are far more than successes.

    It’s one thing to disagree with his assessments or methods, but not taking a guy seriously because of it seems harsh.

    But what if the assessments and methods are highly questionable? Putting aside whether that’s the case with Fahey, you would agree it would be appropriate to not take such a person’s opinions seriously, right?

  111. By the way, I saw something that is making me reconsider my position on Seattle picking up Kaepernick. Someone mentioned that Seahawks are considering taking Mark Sanchez. All of a sudden, Kaepernick is way more appealing to me, and I’m thinking, “Seatle’s a liberal city, and they’ll be supportive of Kaepernick; and Pete will handle any distractions.”

  112. I have to think about this. The way you put it, my answer would be yes, but somehow it sounds different from what I meant.

  113. Actually I can pull up numerous Fahey references to which he says Wilson is one of the top QBs. I’m pretty sure.

    If the argument is no one can assess QBs because of all the other variables that needs to be taken into account, I can buy that. But the argument or implication that Fahey is the worse of the evaluators seems sort of out there. Of the pundits, he at least seems to do a lot of tape watching as well as evaluate stats. Most do only one or the other. Well, he does concentrate on QBs so maybe that’s why. Is there a pundit that you like?

    I’ll just add that one of your biggest criticisms of QBs, is their tendencies for errors under pressure. Is that completely different from what Fahey is saying if he indeed is saying that Wilson threw more interceptable passes this year? What about Fahey’s criticism of Wilson floating more balls and “velocity being a concern”? Completely false in your estimation? I didn’t see it, but I’m not watching enough.

    FWIW, well most seen Dak as having a slump last year, I agreed for the most part that I thought Dak played better than his rookie year. I still would rather see Dak do more with his legs at times and/or not stand or stay in the pocket as much as he does, but that is probably worse than the alternative of him leaving the pocket too early and not standing in there. And of the little I’ve seen of Wilson, I thought he didn’t look as good as I thought in previous years. Although there are times I thought Wilson’s accuracy was better, I thought he was more erratic overall. But that based on a small number of games.

    I think Dallas is at the point that they need to not go after any big name guys, which include OBJ. Their cap situation is dire enough that I think they need to think of building with draft picks only, while continue to shed payroll. They have done some of that by not signing a bunch of guys last year, and will probably continue to do that going forward. But in general I would take OBJ for a first round pick if I was most teams, yes.

  114. If the argument is no one can assess QBs because of all the other variables that needs to be taken into account, I can buy that.

    I’m not saying that–when evaluating QBs you should take other variables (e.g., performance of supporting cast). My complaint is that Fahey does this for Prescott and not Wilson. Don’t you think the Seattle’s non-existent run game and poor OL are relevant when evaluating Wilson’s performance, especially if you’re willing to do this for other QBs?

    By the way, I really like evaluators who watch tape, especially when they post and breakdown the tape. I’ve enjoyed analysis by Greg Cosell, Andy Benoit, and Brian Baldinger, to name a few. I don’t always agree, especially with the first two, but, in general, I don’t think they’re unfair.

    I’ll just add that one of your biggest criticisms of QBs, is their tendencies for errors under pressure. Is that completely different from what Fahey is saying if he indeed is saying that Wilson threw more interceptable passes this year? What about Fahey’s criticism of Wilson floating more balls and “velocity being a concern”? Completely false in your estimation? I didn’t see it, but I’m not watching enough.

    Wilson did start throwing more balls that could be intercepted (although I think this decreased later in the season), and it was a concern and criticism of mine. But again, you have to look at the context of why this is happening–Seahawks could not run, and the OL couldn’t provide consistently good pass protection. If you factor in this context, I think Wilson’s performance was good, if not really good. It reminds me of Aaron Rodgers a couple of years ago (after Jordy got hurt). The offense struggled mightily, but it really seemed like the WRs/TEs struggled to get open, and they didn’t have much of a run game. (I think Eddie Lacy and some other RBs got hurt.) People will think I’m crazy, but I almost want to say that was one of Rodgers’s best season–because of how difficult the circumstances were. (His ball security was really good and the passes he had to complete were really difficult. The one bright spot, in my opinion, was the OL.)

    Now, having said this, I do think there’s a point where you can criticize a QB even when the supporting cast isn’t playing well (although perhaps I wouldn’t totally hammer a QB). For example, Eli Manning, two or three years ago, would be an example. He didn’t play well, but a lot of that was due to a bad supporting cast, especially the OL. Still, his INTS were really bad, and I blame him for that. Palmer and Newton, in 2016, after both had MVP seasons in 2015, didn’t look nearly as good. I don’t blame them totally–they were getting hammered–but at the same time, I would expect a little more, if they were great QBs. Now, to be clear, by “little more,” I don’t mean MVP performance, but just not as big of a dropoff. (That’s less true for Cam, though, because I think he was injured; although maybe Palmer was, too.)

    Going back to 2017 Wilson. He was a legitimate MVP candidate–because he was single-handedly carrying the team at times. It’s important to remember that the defense wasn’t as dominant as it was before. Some have argued that without Wilson, they could have won like 4-5 games. That’s not a crazy statement to me. Yet, Fahey has Wilson at #20. By the way, do you think that’s a reasonable ranking? What about Stafford?

    But in general I would take OBJ for a first round pick if I was most teams, yes.

    OK, got it. And I assume you’d want the Cowboys to take him if their cap situation (next season and into the immediate future) was in really good shape. I think I’d only want him on the Raiders or Seahawks if a) the contract wasn’t too expensive; b) he was basically the only difficult player to deal with. (Actually, with Sherm gone, that might be the case. Same if you count Bennett.)

  115. You are right, Fahey mentioned Dak’s lack of help, but that’s not the reason or the main reason he gave Dak a high grade. He also mentioned that Dak was fourth in the league in depth-adjusted accuracy and that he was making better pre-snap adjustments. You may be right that Fahey’s biases (as in what he thought of Dak prior to this season) may be why he gave him a higher grade and the same could be said of Fahey’s higher expectations of Wilson resulting in a lower grade. Not to mention you are reading the abbreviated version of all of Fahey’s breakdown.

    I will also say this, Fahey seems to be grading based solely on performance. Not entirely stat based, but on performance. So yes, Reid could be right that if he took into account the things Reid is mentioning he may give Wilson a higher “grade”. I wouldn’t doubt that if Fahey had to pick a QB for his own team for one season, that Wilson wouldn’t be higher than Dak or be much higher on the list. But he seems to be measuring performance, as in what did the guy do right and what he did wrong. And the list is pretty much top heavy with playoff QBs.

    I’ll add that Fahey does posts a lot of breakdowns of tape. Sometimes that’s hard too because he’s only showing what happen in one or two plays. Yes it’s supposed to illustrate tendencies, but sometimes I don’t always think they are fair. So breakdown of tape can leave you which a lot of doubt as well is my point.

  116. But he seems to be measuring performance, as in what did the guy do right and what he did wrong.

    I’m not sure what you mean by this. Do you mean, Fahey focused on mostly what QB could control–i.e., his decisions and physical abilities? But he also factored in performance of supporting cast. Still, you really think it’s reasonable to conclude that not only Prescott, but Trubisky, Tyrod Taylor, and Jacoby Brisett are better QBs than Wilson, based on 2017? Honestly, it’s hard for me to take this judgment seriously. If you guys can defend this (or if you think Fahey’s comments are persuasive), let me know.

    I’ll add that Fahey does posts a lot of breakdowns of tape. Sometimes that’s hard too because he’s only showing what happen in one or two plays. Yes it’s supposed to illustrate tendencies, but sometimes I don’t always think they are fair. So breakdown of tape can leave you which a lot of doubt as well is my point.

    Tape breakdown can be used well or badly. Indeed, Fahey turned me off with the way he brokedown Wilson’s tape.

  117. No I mean Fahey wasn’t ranking who he thought is a better QB, but who performed better just last year. Which is why I made the, “Fahey had to pick a QB for his own team” comment. And when you add those QBs that you mentioned to the mix, you will have to say that the bias of what Fahey thought was going to happen versus what he actually saw must have “moved the needle” in the rankings. I mean he started a paragraph on Wilson saying he should have been a MVP candidate. I’m not defending Fahey, and it’s almost impossible to do so unless you buy the full breakdown, to answer your question if I can defend him.

    But I take what Fahey says and I can see some truths in there. For example, I asked you about the Wilson velocity concern comment? Valid? That’s something that can be more black or white and something you definitely saw in Tom Brady and Drew Brees before.

    And overall, not saying I thought Dak was the seventh best QB last year, I thought there were things Dak did better last year then he did in his rookie year. I’m not 100% sure Dak was that much better (as Fahey seems to assert). But I think the guys who think Dak took a huge step back last year are incorrect.

  118. I’m not defending Fahey, and it’s almost impossible to do so unless you buy the full breakdown, to answer your question if I can defend him.

    Does this mean you disagree with the rankings, even think it’s kinda outrageous, even if you factor in the explanations you gave above?

    But I take what Fahey says and I can see some truths in there. For example, I asked you about the Wilson velocity concern comment? Valid?

    I don’t know if you remember, but I used to talk Wilson’s arm strength–how his longer, line-drive throws would float a little. But I never thought it was a significant problem. (For example, I think Wilson’s arm strength is at least as good, and probably better than guys like Romo, Rivers, and Brees.) So, when Fahey says, “Velocity is a huge concern,” I don’t really agree.

    As for the accuracy of his long balls, I don’t think it was as big a problem as Fahey says as well, especially when you factor in not having a great run game and pass protection. Here’s something I think Fahey and I don’t agree on: In my view, the quality of every QB’s performance will go drop significantly if the pressure on them is fairly constant, and the moments of good pass protection (especially instances with spacious pockets and the defenders stoned at the LOS) are really rare and sporadic. And if your WRs/TEs consistently struggle to get open, I don’t care if you’re Peyon Manning or Dan Marino–you’re going to struggle. The best QBs, in these situations, can mitigate this, minimizing big mistakes while doing more positive things then lesser QBs. Merely good or average QBs would be close to a disaster in these situations. One analogy I’d use: Think of a great pitcher who is keeping the batters off balance, especially throwing hard inside, preventing batters from digging in. If the pitcher has great command, the batters almost have no chance; they can never settle in and get in a groove. I think something similar happens to QBs with bad pass pro and struggling WRs.

    The Seahawk WRs/TEs were fine on paper, but one thing that’s not included in Fahey’s analysis–many Seahawk opponents could get really good pressure with only four pass rushers. Recall that the Giants beat one of the best offenses of all time, largely because they could get significant pressure with only four pass rushers; and the 2017 Seahawk offense is no where near the 2007 Patriot offense.

    Russell Wilson was the whole team. He was there leading rusher. I think he lead the league in TD passes (if you care about such things).

    By the way, with regard to deep passes, Fahey says that Mariota was surprisingly accurate on deep passes. This makes me question my own judgment, making me want to go back and watch Mariota’s games. He also says that Mariota was “phenomenally accurate.” To me, he hasn’t made meaningful improvements in his long ball (which was never good), and he took steps back in terms of his accuracy. Maybe I’m wrong about this, though, but that’s my impression.

    But to be clear: I’m not saying everything that Fahey says is untrue or inaccurate. But the overall rankings, the way he includes context for Prescott, but not for Wilson, makes me seriously question his analysis. It sounds like you and Mitchell don’t agree with me on that.

    And overall, not saying I thought Dak was the seventh best QB last year, I thought there were things Dak did better last year then he did in his rookie year. I’m not 100% sure Dak was that much better (as Fahey seems to assert). But I think the guys who think Dak took a huge step back last year are incorrect.

    I thought Prescott struggled–whether that was because of not having Elliot or a problem with the WRs, I’m not entirely sure. (I don’t really think it was the pass pro, though. It wasn’t as good as last year, but except for a few games, I don’t think it was as bad as Fahey implies–and it’s far better than what Wilson had to go through, if you compare the entire season.) I tend to think he took a struggled, and next year will say a lot about whether he’s truly a franchise guy or not (assuming his supporting cast is solid).

  119. OK, That’s It. I’ve Got My Hopes Up.

    From the Silver and Black Pride site:

    As far as what to expect from that game plan, he has said he is going to be focusing on power running. So he always talks about using a fullback and blocking tight ends. Also an area he doesn’t understand why he is catching so much flak about.

    “If you wanna run the ball, you have to have some components to do it,” Gruden said. “Don’t get me wrong, we’re gonna spread the field, we’re gonna have all the bubble screens and RPO’s that everybody else has, but there will be a package that will involve a fullback, will involve a blocking tight end, we might even move an offensive tackle to tight end.”

    and later,

    Kansas City Chiefs are in our division, they use three tight ends. And they drive people crazy. It’s a great package to have. You can close people out in the four minute drill, run out the clock, you can hand the ball off at the goal line, there’s some great play actions and I don’t think I’m a heck of a lot different than Doug Pederson and Andy Reid that way.”

    (emphasis added)

    Maybe Gruden just means that he wants to get better at power running–not necessarily that power running will be at the heart of the offense. I hope it is, though. I’m close to the point where I’m expecting this to be the case (which is totally the opposite of my initial expectation).

  120. I think if Fahey truly believes that Tyrod is a better QB than Wilson then yes, that’s crazy. But if he believes that Tyrod had more positive and less negative plays than Wilson last year, that’s not completely inconceivable. Add to that, if Fahey’s built in biases to what he expects from a QB prior to the season playing out is strong enough, it’s completely plausible.

    How is it that Wilson should get praised for his performance last year, and Dak should be criticized if their supporting cast both took steps backwards last year? Is the diminishment of Wilson’s supporting cast that much greater from let’s say three years ago (Wilson was an elite QB practically unanimously by all pundits.) to last year versus Dak’s two years ago to last year? You could be right, but that’s pretty bold. Elliot alone went from 1600 yards to a little less than 1000. Not to mention Beasley’s decline (maybe Dak’s fault?) and Dez, who was nonexistent. I was just wondering how you determine how much blame a QB should have in these cases or is it just a matter of the eye test?

    Not sure if we were on the same page, but I thought Fahey seem to assert that Wilson, just last year, loss velocity on his throws compared to years prior. Is that what you meant as well? I took your paragraph to mean that Wilson was just good his entire career. You think Wilson’s velocity was the same last year and years prior?

  121. Don,

    But if he believes that Tyrod had more positive and less negative plays than Wilson last year, that’s not completely inconceivable.

    Is it inconceivable? Using this approach, do you think Taylor–Trubisky, Foles, Brisett–performed better than Wilson?

    Add to that, if Fahey’s built in biases to what he expects from a QB prior to the season playing out is strong enough, it’s completely plausible.

    How meaningful is this approach–and his ranking to you?

    How is it that Wilson should get praised for his performance last year, and Dak should be criticized if their supporting cast both took steps backwards last year?

    Wilson’s 2017 supporting cast: OL stayed about the same as 2016, but the running game got worse. (In 2015, Wilson had a historic eight game run, but in that run the OL played well, which I attribute more to a weak opponents. He’s never had that type of consistent OL play since that time, and in 2016, he injuries that limited his mobility–with an OL that wasn’t very good.)

    Prescott’s 2017 supporting cast: went from one of the best in 2016 to taking a dip in pass pro, running(?) and pass-catching.

    How much of the decline in the passing game is due to Prescott or some deficiency in the pass catchers? Also, Prescott’s struggles might have hurt the run game, too. (Elliot missed a bunch of games, too.) As I said earlier, I really don’t know the answer to this. It wouldn’t surprise me Prescott is the bigger issue–at least in the second year. Defenses figure out a way to defend not only him but the offense with him at the helm. I think something similar happened near the end of Wilson’s second season, too. The formula defenses seemed to have success involved rushing four, with LBs staying in a 4-3 scheme. (I felt Seahawks either needed to run better against this or give more Wilson more time in the pocket. When OL does the latter consistently, Wilson has shown he can carve up defenses from the pocket. They have not been able to do this consistently, though.)

    You think Wilson’s velocity was the same last year and years prior?

    Yes. I didn’t really notice a significant decline in velocity. I could be wrong though.

    Also, with regard to throwing interceptable passes. Wilson has done this in other seasons as well–namely, a pattern of this starts emerging during the season. (If we had the old V-I posts, you can see me writing about this.) What generally happens, though, is that towards the end, and during playoffs, that usually disappears. (One exception is in the 2014 NFCCG, where Wilson threw 5(?) INTs.)

    One other important thing to say about Wilson (important if true, at least). The nature of the game and circumstances of his team seem to have a strong impact of how conservative or aggressive he plays. It’s kinda interesting because I tend to think most QBs aren’t like this. If a QB is aggressive or conservative, they tend to play like that all the time. Wilson can be really conservative, almost overly cautious, and sometimes he can just let it fly. (In general, though, he’s definitely more on the cautious/conservative side.) In 2017, I thought he was more aggressive, and I think that lead to riskier throws. But these throws could have been riskier because defenses could anticipate pass (especially specific passes) because they didn’t have to worry about the run.

  122. You guys agree with this?

    It comes down to how you define the talent or ability to throw the football. But however you define it, for me, I can’t say that Rodgers is definitely more talented than Marino or Elway. If we’re talking raw talent, I’d put more guys in there–like Jeff George, Brett Favre, maybe Warren Moon.

    Rodgers is a definite contender, though. He’s on my Mount Rushmore of QBs who have most successfully actualized great talent. The list would include Peyton Manning, John Elway, and Dan Marino.

  123. So Rodgers is the most talented thrower you’ve seen?

    By the specific criterion you mentioned, I can’t say if Rodgers is better the others, and I might have to throw in someone like Montana (for this specific criterion).

  124. Re: Marquette King

    Here’s one explanation that would explain why Gruden released him. If King is a difficult/disruptive type of player, getting rid of him would make sense for the following logic:

    A. You can only have one or two guys like that per team;
    B. Usually those players are defenders (like D-linemen or CBs) or WRs–positions that are generally more important than punters.

    If this is correct, and your punter is the difficult guy, you’ve probably got to move on.

    Also, if the likely replacement is not significantly worse than King, moving on would be sensible.

  125. What’s your criteria for Top 5 Picks?

    I don’t really have a well-thought out plan for what I’d want from a top five pick, but here are some criteria that come to mind–criteria that if a player didn’t mean, I’d want to trade out of the first round.

    1. Confident about their attitude, character, desire to play the game, etc. There shouldn’t be any significant question marks about any of that.

    2. All-pro, if not hall of fame, level of talent. Being just a solid starter isn’t enough.

    3. No serious questions about their health.

    Basically, if the player meets these two criteria, you’re feeling like you’re almost certain to get a player that is about top five of their position, for 5-10 years (depending no the position). And if you’re staff is iffy on this, then I’d want to trade out of this position to get more picks.

    One exception to this might be QB.

  126. Would you take an all-pro kicker?

    I don’t think I agree with the 5-10 year thing, but I won’t really argue about it. Ten years is freaking long; I don’t know how anyone is almost certain about that for anyone at any position (except maybe kicker). I can live with 5 with optimism for 7.

  127. Would you take an all-pro kicker?

    No, and I probably wouldn’t take a hall of fame kicker, or a punter for that matter. My logic is that the difference between the kicker or punter you could get wouldn’t be as significant as the difference between players are other positions. Additionally, I don’t think either of those positions impact the game the way other positions do.

    The position of the players is a good issue to raise, though. Are there any positions that I would not take in the top five, besides punters and kickers? Maybe I FB, I guess? I think my standards for a RB are a bit higher, too.

    (By the way, I might make an exception for punters and kickers–e.g., a kicker who could reliably kick 60 yard FGs, or a punter who could do something similar.)

    I can live with 5 with optimism for 7.

    I think we basically agree. I’m giving a range, and it’s more based on the health of the player when you’re drafting them. I’m not counting career ending injuries or serious injuries that could shorten a player’s career. In other words, when you’re drafting the player, you would expect them to play for 5-10 years–assuming they didn’t sustain a serious injury along the way.

  128. Tight ends in the top five would raise a few eyebrows. If the next Gronk is out there, why haven’t we seen him yet? If you’re looking for five all-pro years, I would stay away from corners as well, since even the dominant ones seem to dominate only for a couple of years.

    Seriously, if all-pro is the standard, I don’t know how anyone drafts in the top five. I’ll check the numbers later today because now I’m curious. If there are two all-pro teams, you’re looking for a top-four running back in the league, a top-six linebacker (I don’t remember how many LBs make the team; I’m guessing), a top-two QB, a top-four receiver, a top-two center, a top-four offensive tackle, and so on. I don’t think there have been ANY quarterbacks in the last ten years who projected to be that.

  129. Tight ends in the top five would raise a few eyebrows. If the next Gronk is out there, why haven’t we seen him yet?

    I’m not sure, but I’m guessing the dearth of great TEs (Read: TEs that can catch and block) have something to do with the lack of good O-linemen–both of which seem to relate to college offenses. In any event, if they’re rare, wouldn’t that justify using a top 5 pick on a really good one?

    If you’re looking for five all-pro years, I would stay away from corners as well, since even the dominant ones seem to dominate only for a couple of years.

    Is it really rare for a good CB to play well for more five years?

    Seriously, if all-pro is the standard…

    It’s not–not in the sense that they have to be an all-pro for 5-10 years. Think of what I’m saying as ballpark estimates. I’m trying to say that a top five pick should be more than just a solid starter. If not an all-pro, they should consistently be somewhere in the top five of their position.

  130. There’s a semi-interesting piece about Marquette King in the San Jose Mercury News, basically saying the personality stuff is completely irrelevant, and the decision was based more on King’s salary. He’s a top-six punter making far more money than a punter slightly further down the rankings would make, and that makes sense to me, ‘though I hate to see him go. It’s really the reason Janikowski’s out as well. Giorgio is making one-sixth what Janikowski was making.

    The writer brings up the personality thing with Gruden and points to Lynch on the current team, plus Jerry Rice, Charles Woodson, and Janikowski on his original team, and Simeon Rice and Warren Sapp on the Buccaneers. Good point.

  131. He’s a top-six punter making far more money than a punter slightly further down the rankings would make, and that makes sense to me,…

    Same here. The key, for me, would be: How much difference would King be from the likely replacement? Look at Girogio. It’s not only that he’s way cheaper, but was there a really big drop off in quality? It didn’t seem like it to me. (Seabass has a big leg, but he’s a little too inconsistent to me. If he weren’t, I’d want the Seahawks to go get him.)

    The writer brings up the personality thing with Gruden and points to Lynch on the current team, plus Jerry Rice, Charles Woodson, and Janikowski on his original team, and Simeon Rice and Warren Sapp on the Buccaneers. Good point.

    But that would still fall in line with my hypothesis. Look at the positions of those players. Raiders already have Lynch, and who knows who else. And your kicker is going to be difficult? (By the way, does Jerry Rice really qualify as a potential rotten apple type of player?)

  132. Dang it. Assuming Cooks isn’t a problem in the locker room this is better than getting OBJ in my opinion. As crazy as this may sound, I might have actually preferred them getting OBJ.

  133. Cooks in New England was good, very good, or great last year? I always thought it was just good. I know he didn’t have a unbelievable fantasy year, and I don’t recall him standing out in the games I watched.

    The Rams may be doing New England a favor in this trade.

  134. Don,

    I have the same impression of Cooks. He didn’t seem all that great in New England. I would say that he also didn’t seem spectacular with the Saints. For example, I would never think that he was one of the best WRs. However, my impression is that he had a bigger impact in the Saints (although I my NFL watching petered out at some point last year).

    My impression from Mike Lombardi is that the Pats were never going to sign Cooks, so this was a good deal for them.

    By the way, the Patriots seem to be having a really good off season so far.

    On another note: Has the Patriots really picked up or drafted any great players in the last five years? Revis was a good pick up; people like Jamie Collins or Donta Hightower, but those guys never seemed like really dominant players at their position. Gronk, Brady, and maybe Edelmen are the only three. (Some of the RBs have been productive, but I tend to think that’s more of a play calling/play design thing.)

    Another question: In the last five years, how often do you think Brady makes great throws–the type of throws that really stand out? For example, Aaron Rodgers will make a bunch of those. I think Russell Wilson makes them, too, but this almost always involves scrambling.

  135. I wonder if the Pats thought they could turn Cooks into a Hall of Fame type receiver.

    Why do you think the Patriots have a good off season? They had some losses to guys they really count on like Amendola, Dion Lewis, and Nate Solder. Outside of Solder I’m not sure how good the other guys are or how replaceable, but by the eye test I can tell you Lewis and Amendola shined brightest when it counted the most.

  136. I don’t know if the Pats thought they could turn Cooks into a HoF WR, but I think they were expecting more–I know I was. I’m a little puzzled as to why he didn’t seem more productive. (Not having Edelmen had to have had an impact.)

    Why do you think the Patriots have a good off season?

    Solder seems like a big loss, but the others seem replaceable…Speaking of which, they picked up Jeremy Hill, Adrian Clayborn, Danny Shelton, Cordarelle Patterson, and Jason McCourty.

    Here are their 2018 picks:

    1st round – No. 23 overall
    1st round – No. 31 overall
    2nd round – No. 43 overall
    2nd round – No. 63 overall
    3rd round – No. 95 overall
    6th round – No. 198 overall
    6th round – No. 210 overall
    7th round – No. 219 overall

    …by the eye test I can tell you Lewis and Amendola shined brightest when it counted the most.

    Would you be surprised if the Patriots couldn’t find players to replace them? I would be more surprised if they didn’t.

  137. We seem to be slightly parting ways on Cooks. You seem to almost say now that Cooks wasn’t even that “good”? He was the most productive receiver on the team last year, is my bet. He was just not a game-changer, but as you sort of alluded to, his last year was sort of on par to his Saints career.

    Are the Pats additions good? I see old guys in there (Clayborn), underachieving guys (Patterson, Hill), and not much to be happy about. I think Shelton can be good, but he has been hurt a lot or underachieving when he’s in there. I would be sort of happy with McCourty, but he’s supposed to be just solid, not really a game changer.

    In terms of Dion Lewis, you could be right. His skill set and usage may have more to do with his success then his heart or the “ability to make big plays in big moments”. And if that’s correct, he could be replaceable. I’m not sure if that’s the same for Amendola. Amendola seems to be an average or slightly above average guy in the regular season, then becomes a special player in the playoffs. Some pundits have said that NE saves him for the playoffs (add to that that he’s often injured). I would even say, he’s better then Welker in the biggest moments (Brady cannot throw it and catch too). The Pats maybe able to find someone of his skill set, but I’m just not sure he will be replaceable in big games, especially if Edelman cannot be the guy he once was.

    I’m not saying NE didn’t have a good off-season, I’m just surprised that their off-season would be good enough to be pointed out. I wouldn’t sign Amendola (or Cooks) either, he’s not worth what he’s going to get paid because he cannot stay on the field. I’m not sure about not signing Solder though. That’s sort of a confusing decision.

  138. You seem to almost say now that Cooks wasn’t even that “good”?

    Basically, I thought he would have a bigger impact–primarily in the offense overall. That is, I was sort of thinking the offense could have been one of the best the Patriots have had next to the 2007 season. They weren’t even close to that. (Overall, both in terms of defense and offense, they didn’t seem very impressive, in a dominant sense. This team looked more like the early 2000 teams.)

    Are the Pats additions good?

    I don’t really know, but as you said, Hill and Shelton seem like underachievers. If Belichick can get them to live up to their potential, that they could have a big impact. In that way, these seems like good gets. I don’t think McCourty or Clayborn are game-changers, but solid additions. Same with Patterson.

    Their draft seems very good as well.

    Having said that, I think Cowherd makes an interesting point about the depletions on offense (although I just saw that they signed Troy Niklas, which probably won’t make a big difference):

    Losing Solder, Cooks, Amendola, and I think Cowherd mentioned their RT as well–That’s a lot, especially if he’s right about the draft being weak in terms of WRs.

    Then again, remember a few years ago when the Patriots had these young, no-name WRs? (There were incidents with Brady yelling at them.) The offense wasn’t great, but was it really bad? To me, it’s almost like it doesn’t matter who they bring in–or, to be more precise, they don’t need great players, just competent ones, and they’re going to be good. If the AFC East continues to be weak, Pats will likely get into the playoffs.

    Anyway, Cowherd seems to be saying that Belichick is sabotaging Brady and the offense because a) he’s pissed off about trading Garropolo; b) he wants to show that Brady’s ability has declined (so BB can get what he wants? To show up Kraft? Brady?). If Cowherd is right, this is indefensible and stunningly foolish. I have a hard time BB could do something like this, but it would diminish my estimation of him in my eyes (not to the point that I wouldn’t say he’s probably the greatest coach of all time).

  139. How would you answer these two questions?

    Me:

    Can you expect accuracy to improve in the NFL?

    I tend to believe that if you have good feet–as in, coordination, nimbleness–especially if you have the potential to move gracefully–then I tend to think accuracy can improve quite a bit. OF course, the QB has to be coachable and do what it takes to improve in this area. I think this last point is the bigger obstacle. (To be fair, some QBs might be reluctant because they don’t want to change their throwing too much, or have to think about throwing so much–both of which seem like somewhat valid concerns. However, my sense is that, at the very least, improving one’s footwork can improve accuracy, and it shouldn’t mess with your throwing motion.

    Can you fix pocket poise?

    In contrast, I sort of feel like this is something that is fixed–in the sense that you rarely go from someone who lacks poise and then gains it (although I don’t t losing poise is so uncommon, not as a QB gets older). Can you guys think of a lot of examples? One QB that I think qualifies as an exception is Matt Ryan. I’ve been really hard on Ryan, in terms of his ball security/poise, especially in the big games, but I feel like he’s gotten way better. In the last two or three years, he’s had really muddy pockets, and he’ll make good throws from them. (The situation and frequency of these situations remind me of Philip Rivers.) To consistently hang in and throw from these pockets–without dramatically impacting accuracy or ball security–that’s a really big deal for me. I have a very high regard for QBs that can do this. And I feel like Ryan has improved significantly in this regard, more than any QB that comes to mind.

  140. Crazy Hypothesis Explaining Jim Mora’s Comments About Josh Rosen

    Rosen really doesn’t want to play in Cleveland, and he’s told Mora this.
    So, Mora made comments about Rosen to scare Cleveland away from drafting him.

    Problems with this hypothesis:
    The remarks would scare away other teams as well. (Maybe Rosen doesn’t care.)

    Mora has said other things which I would consider foolish in the media. Therefore, him misspeaking would be consistent with his statements to the media in the past.

    I would think Rosen would have to have agreed to this, and that seems kinda nutty.

  141. But Jim Mora Jr was his college head coach. I’m assuming teams would put stock in what they said–even moreso if it was negative. Right?

  142. Yeah that’s a good point, but I think they would still be leery of things said in public. Unless he didn’t intend for it to be public, and somehow it was leaked. Even then though, I’m not sure how much stock they would put in those comments. I would think (actually hope) that teams do enough due-diligence on their own.

    So the scenario where Mora was approached by Cleveland and he said those things in private, but somehow it got leaked. Then I would think Cleveland would take stock in those comments. Outside of that, I not so sure.

  143. I’m wary of positive comments from a player’s college head coach, because they almost have to say this, but that’s not the case with negative comments. Indeed, there’s pressure to avoid negative comments, so wouldn’t you put more stock when the coach says something negative?

    And of course teams aren’t just going to stop the process just because of this. I can’t imagine any team doing this. These comments are only one part of the whole process.

    By the way, according to this SI piece, Mora made the comments on NFL network:

    Last week, Jim Mora, fired as Bruins coach last fall, said on NFL Network that he’d take USC quarterback Sam Darnold over Rosen with the first pick in the draft if he were running the Browns. Mora said it was “because of fit” and cited Darnold’s “blue-collar, gritty attitude.”

    I forgot about the “blue collar, gritty attitude.” If my hypothesis is wrong, I’m dumbfounded as to why Mora would say this. The other conclusion I have to draw is that Mora lacks the diplomatic skill that coaches (and politicians) have when speaking to the media. (And again, I don’t think this is the only example of this from Mora, so this might be the most likely explanation.)

    Peter King suggests other explanations (including the one I offered):

    Mora coached Rosen for three years. Rosen and Darnold are competing to be the top player picked in this draft. Oh, and Darnold played for UCLA’s archrival. Was Mora trying to slap the free-spirited Rosen with some tough love? Was Mora taking this TV analyst neutral-party thing very seriously and simply telling the truth as he sees it? Or was Mora trying to help his old quarterback avoid Cleveland and land with the Giants and a quarterback mentor he trusts, Pat Shurmur, at number two?

    The tough-love theory is a little intriguing. Suppose, as the head coach, you knew a player responded really, really well to comments that downplayed or disrespected a player–lighting a fire under that player—then Mora’s doing this, knowing this will piss Rosen off and get him to work really hard. I guess it’s plausible.

    I guess the neutral-party explanation makes some sense, too.

    (If you didn’t read the article, Mora actually says controversial things after the remarks I have above, and in some ways they’re worse.)

    “He needs to be challenged intellectually so he doesn’t get bored. He’s a millennial. He wants to know why. Millennials, once they know why, they’re good. Josh has a lot of interests in life. If you can hold his concentration level and focus only on football for a few years, he will set the world on fire. He has so much ability, and he’s a really good kid.” It sounded like Mora thinks Rosen would be well-served to be pushed by quarterback mentors like Shurmur (Giants) or Jeremy Bates (Jets), and to learn for a year or so from Eli Manning (Giants) or Josh McCown (Jets).

    Much of what Mora just said in the last two paragraphs is what he’d tell an NFL GM if he called to ask about Rosen. Curiously, Mora said: “None of them have called, which is interesting.”

    (emphasis added)

    As I said in the NFL analyst post, the remarks in bold are a really big red flag, almost damning. How can it be hard to challenge a QB? One, the QB should be passionate about football. Two, an NFL QB is one of the most complex and challenging positions to learn in all of sports. Unless he’s a savant and just knows everything that a 6 year vet knows, how could the position not be intellectually stimulating and challenging?

  144. Rosen is supposed to be the spoiled rich kid, which is why there were some doubts on the media. But you emphasized that “Josh has a lot of interest…” Does it matter what those interest are? I mean it has to matter somewhat, but one of the rumors early on is Josh is into humanitarian efforts. Would that dissuade you as well? I would think it has to be better than being really into video games, but what if a QB is really into golfing?

  145. Don,

    My concern is that he’s not passionate about football and that the coach–not Rosen–has the burden of keeping Rosen’s interest and concentration in football. His off-field interests are secondary–if he loves playing football. One thing that I hear again and again–QBs today have to really spend a lot time studying and preparing. Is there any QB, in the past twenty years, that was really good that didn’t do this?

  146. I’m told the Cowboys would free up 8.5 million of cap space, if they cut Bryant, and that Earl Thomas’s cap hit would be 8.5 million. Don, would you like Cowboys cutting Dez and then signing Thomas?

    It’s probably obvious, but I’d hate this. If I were a Cowboys fan, I’d probably like this. I really like Bryant, but his recent performance has given me serious pause–either he’s declined significantly or I thought too highly of him in the past. I’ve heard comments that Bryant has declined, so if that’s the case, I’d be more in favor if I were the Cowboys. I just wonder how much decline in production was due to Prescott’s sophomore slump. (Then again, Dez seemed to declined slightly in 2016, although my memory is hazy.)

  147. That makes sense. I’m not sure if I’d prefer that over getting Earl. Losing someone like Bryant would concern me, though, especially with a more run-based offense. On the other hand, even if Dez takes a sizable cut, would it still make him a better or equal value to a WR they could get instead? Is Dez value better than Allen Hurns, for example? I don’t know the answer to this, but here’s what I would say: Put numbers aside–if Dez can make 2-4 difficult catches in difficult situations, particularly against top CBs, that would be decisive factor with sticking with him. He doesn’t have to put up big numbers.

  148. My attitude on Dez is I feel it’s more of a risk to get rid of him, than to keep him. I think most fans feel the opposite. I hope Dez is willing to take some kind of pay cut, but with Sammy Watkins making 16 million a year and not really putting up any consistent numbers in his career is not great news for Dallas’ FO. I would part ways with Dez if he’s not willing to take any pay cut. I would keep him if he’s willing to take even a small cut.

    In terms of Earl, it’s not about what he’s worth now or this coming year. It’s all about whether Dallas will be willing and more importantly able to pay him after this year. I think there are more pressing issues like Dak’s and Elliot’s future contracts.

  149. That Watkins make that much seems insane to me. (He’s like the Sam Bradford of WRs.) Anyway, I know what you mean about taking a risk with getting rid of Bryant. But I would compare it to the situation with the Seahawks losing Sheldon Richardson. I didn’t think he was great, and if he played the same way, or even a little better than last year, I don’t think he’d be worth a big price tag–that is, his presence wouldn’t really make a big enough impact. The Seahawks got two DTs for a lot cheaper. Richardson’s impact might be better than both, but not enough to make his salary worth it. Still, it’s scary to lose a talent like Richardson. But if the difference in performance isn’t that big and the cap hit is far less, ultimately, that’s gotta be the best move.

    If Dez plays at a similar level as last year, not only would he cost a lot, but the impact he may have might not be worth it–especially if you compare this to a likely replacement. If the replacement isn’t as good, but the difference in impact isn’t that significant and the replacement is way cheaper, then this is probably the smart move.

    Then if you add Earl, you’re talking about a Hall of Fame caliber player still pretty much at the top of his game. His impact would likely be significant. You could lose a little offense, if the defense gets significantly better. Yeah, you will have to pay Earl (plus, he’d probably want a long term contract), but he would be worth it. Dak has two more years on the rookie contract, right? You could give Earl a three year with ability to cut after two.

  150. Huh. I know I said that getting Earl, if the current situation occurred, might be preferable to keeping Dez, but now I’m wondering if they would be better off getting cheaper players and getting their cap situation in order (partly to pay for the good players they’ll have to, as Don mentioned). One thing I’ll be watching for. If the Cowboys don’t really upgrade their pass catchers from last year (assuming Hurns doesn’t really help much), and Prescott has a better year, that will be a good sign. Then again, if he has a similar year, it might be hard to know if the pass catchers were the problem or him.

  151. I’m ambivalent about this. I’m concerned about his health, and I didn’t realize how old he was. Also, my sense is that while he has a strong leg, he seems to miss too many FGs, at least for a really good kicker. That’s my impression, anyway. To me, I’d rather have a guy who was super reliable from 40 or under than someone who has range but less reliable.

  152. Yeah, especially last year in pressure situations. (How good is Seabass in pressure situations?)

    They might face each other in regular season, but I’m pretty sure they’ll play each other in the pre-season.

  153. I Didn’t Know This Backstory About Marquette King and Bruce Irvin

    Bruce Irvin Got Approval to Play on Special Teams When Raiders Face Marquette King and the Broncos

    I’m not sure I believe Gruden would allow Irvin to go on punt team just for the Broncos–because Irvin has a thing against King–but who knows? In any event, I admit, I’m kinda interested in what happens on when the Raiders receive punts versus the Broncos last year.

    Here’s some things that Cordarelle Patterson says about Marquette King. Patterson says teammates didn’t really like him (although Patterson seems to). In any event, he sounds like punter that the Raiders would have on their team. The Old School Raiders, anyway.

  154. Serious Player Discontent in Patriot Nation?

    From NBC: Complexity of Gronk situation reflects bigger issues facing Patriots

    There are two things that stand out to me–two things that I think are significant problems if they are true:

    1. If Belichick benched Butler in the Super Bowl out of a power trip. Or if it was something other than what gave the team the best chance to win. If Belichick did this to lay down the law, or if it was something personal–in spite of Butler giving the team a better chance to win–then I think Belichick is wrong, and this is a big problem. The problem isn’t only disgruntled players, although that is a problem (and they would be justified)–but Belichick’s ego. I’m talking about the type of pride that can bring great people down. I’m not sure if this is the case, but if Belichick is starting to develop what I will call the pride of Lucifer, then I think this is a big deal and bad for the Patriots.

    2. Patriot way becoming too inhumane. The article features players’ quotes complaining about really tough standards. At first blush, I thought: All players who play for great coaches say the same thing. But something could be different here. If what they’re getting at is that the coach and organization is going a little too far–treating them too much like cogs in a machine–that can also be a significant problem.

    To be clear, I think all NFL teams treat players like cogs in a machine–at least to some degree. The league is a business. But each team can vary to what degree they treat their players like this. My sense is that the Patriots are on the extreme end of treating players like cogs. (I get the sense that the Seahawks are on the opposite end–which is not necessarily a good thing–at least it terms of the performance on the field.) This isn’t necessarily bad, but it can go too far and ultimately hurt the team. (A team can also go too far in the other direction–hurting the performance of the team.)

  155. Reid,

    I thought your stance was if Butler did something wrong (broke a rule for example), it wouldn’t matter if this is the Super Bowl, he should be punished. I thought you were in the belief that team culture is one of the most important things? I was sort of on the fence whether or not a guy should be punished in the championship game because of how it affects the rest of the team’s chances to win the championship.

    I sort of believe that Belichick thought Butler didn’t give him the best chance to win and that’s why he sat him. The part that he didn’t give him a shot, though, when the Pats’ defense was getting shredded, is the part that gives me pause. But I stated all that originally.

    When I read the article, other than the feeling of “all right the “great ship” is sinking”, the biggest take-away was the fact that Bill wears the two hats (GM and coach). It’s almost like the players were saying, “I understand how hard we have to work to build a championship team and culture, but when it’s time to pay me or even just keep me, I would hope I would be “taken cared of”.”

  156. thought your stance was if Butler did something wrong (broke a rule for example), it wouldn’t matter if this is the Super Bowl, he should be punished. I thought you were in the belief that team culture is one of the most important things?

    In general, I put a higher priority on culture than talent. But whatever infraction Butler committed, it would have to be a significant–that is, a significant threat to the culture and authority of the coach. I have a hard time imagining what that could be or that Butler would so something like that before the Super Bowl, but if he did–then I could support the move.

    The other scenario that would make the benching justifiable is if Belichick truly believed that Butler didn’t give the Patriots the best chance to win. Based on Amendola’s comments, Belichick didn’t really explain himself–which, if true, I find problematic. If a lot of players liked Butler and/or felt he was the better player, I would think the head coach owes the team an explanation for the move.

    It’s almost like the players were saying, “I understand how hard we have to work to build a championship team and culture, but when it’s time to pay me or even just keep me, I would hope I would be “taken cared of”.”

    The thing is, that has never been the case, going back to Richard Seymour and later on Deion Branch.

  157. Don beat me to it. You’ve been pretty clear about certain behaviors being unacceptable because of how they affect the authority of the leadership or the chemistry in the locker room. What if Butler was still the excellent player he’s been, but he openly questioned the play-calling in front of the whole team? He has to be benched, right?

    What if the thing that made the Patriots a long-term dynasty of a team is adherence to the practice of not questioning the coaches? Then playing Butler might win you this Super Bowl, but what does it do to the chances of continuing the team’s winning ways?

    I don’t believe this, of course, but don’t you?

  158. As I said in my post above, benching Butler could be justified for two reasons: 1) He did something that really threatened the culture or authority of the coach(es) and/or 2) He didn’t give the team the best chance to win.

    I’d be a little surprised if Butler did something that would fall into the first category, but who knows.

    What if Butler was still the excellent player he’s been, but he openly questioned the play-calling in front of the whole team? He has to be benched, right?

    Not necessarily–but it could be. I never thought that Carroll necessarily had to administer severe consequences for Sherman when he had an outburst against Kris Richard. I felt same when he went after Darrel Bevell on the sidelines–although, depending on the specifics (which I wasn’t privy to), either situation might have justified some serious consequence. Having said that, I did feel like the team should move on from Sherman if he genuinely believed he didn’t do anything wrong in either instance. I thought that was a serious threat to the culture and authority of the coaches.

    To be clear, one act of defiance or disrespect to the coaches or an instance of rule-breaking doesn’t pose a serious threat to a team’s culture. Indeed, I would every team has at least one player (usually one of the more talented ones) that do things that potentially threaten the team’s culture, and possibility authority of the coach. There’s a point where that player can cross a line, however, but the line will depend on the specifics of the situation. If Butler crossed a line, then sure, I can support benching him.

    If that didn’t answer your questions, let me know.

  159. Does it matter that Butler was benched for the Super Bowl? I’m on a similar page to Reid in terms of benching and punishing based on what he wrote and wrote previously. But being that this is the Super Bowl, and I have heard many former players (now broadcasters) complain that punishing Butler would be punishing the entire team if he did give them the best chance to win. Why not just punish him after the championship game was the consensus of comments.

  160. But what if the Bellichick power trip IS the culture?

    I’m not sure what you mean by this. A culture is more than just the way authority is wielded in the organization, although that can be part of it. It has to do with the values and standards, the norms of behavior and expectations, the habits of behavior.

    By the way, did my response answer your questions?

  161. Yes; that’s why I didn’t ask for further clarification. What I’m suggesting is that it’s conceivable that Bellichick doing whatever he wants for whatever reason could be the whole reason the team has been successful. In that case, if his sole reason for benching Butler was a power trip, then it’s both what you would call a troubling reason for the benching and an acceptable reason for the benching.

  162. What I find interesting about the Patriots saga (and I haven’t read the article you’ve shared) is that when the centerpieces of the team have done a certain amount of winning, it seems the tradeoffs are no longer worth it. They were willing to put up with Bellichick if it meant winning a few Super Bowls, but they didn’t win this last one, and they’ve already won a few, so maybe this just isn’t working for Brady and Gronk anymore. Now they want some freedom. Now they want to get paid. And now they might move on.

  163. Yes; that’s why I didn’t ask for further clarification.

    OK, but for what it’s worth I’m not sure that a lack of response always means that you don’t need further clarification.

    In that case, if his sole reason for benching Butler was a power trip, then it’s both what you would call a troubling reason for the benching and an acceptable reason for the benching.

    I have a hard time thinking of a scenario where this would be the case. Can you think of a specific example when a power trip would be an acceptable reason?

    What I find interesting about the Patriots saga (and I haven’t read the article you’ve shared) is that when the centerpieces of the team have done a certain amount of winning, it seems the tradeoffs are no longer worth it….

    I think this is a common story. What’s remarkable to me is how long Belichick has been able to maintain success. On the other hand, I think a big part of this has to do with Belichick’s coaching–specifically, his ability to scheme his way to success. This has allowed him to have success without great players, which allows him to move on from players who aren’t happy. Tom Brady might be a notable exception. The thing that may be different now is that Brady is the one that is unhappy.

  164. Cowherd Gives Love to the Cowboys

    The 2018 Cowboys could win their division, but I’m going to push back on some of the premises for Cowherd’s prediction:

    1. Since 2014, Cowboys have had great record when their franchise QB was healthy. Here’s the thing that Cowherd seems to assume: Prescott is approaching or equal or better than Romo. I think this is a possibility, but far from a certainty.

    2. Cowboys pass catchers won’t take significant steps backward from previous years. If the loss of Bryant and addition of Hurns and the other guy (whose name I can’t remember)–if Witten hasn’t significantly declined–if they can add someone to make up for Bryant–then Cowhere has a stronger case, but, again, I think this remains a question.

    If Cowboys are come out on the good sides of both of these issues, then I can definitely see them not only winning the division, but being Super Bowl contenders.

    On last point. The claim that the Cowboys know what they’re doing, that they’re well-run is kinda pushing it. As far as I know, they really wanted Paxton Lynch over Prescott–but the Denver beat them to the punch. This lead to the Cowboys getting Prescott. Additionally, I believed Jones has publicly bemoaned not drafting Manziel. Yes, the Cowboys ultimately didn’t draft Manziel and got Zack Martin instead–and Jones deserves some credit for that. But I wonder how much of that was just good fortune–Jerry holding himself in check in the Manziel case and Denver just beating them to the punch. Swap Martin and Prescott for Manziel and Lynch, and the Cowboys are a totally different team, probably going through some rough times.

  165. Dallas winning the NFC East with Philly in there will be tough. Teams will need to learn how to stop Philly’s offense. I think some of that will come, but I’m not completely confident that teams (not only NFC East teams) will do that next year. I only say that because Belichick struggled to do that in the Super Bowl. Add to that the Giants, who yes, still have Eli, but has good if not great pieces to build around. The NFC East may be the best division next year.

    Onto Dallas FO: I think the FO had some growing pains or lessons learned after Jimmy Johnson left. Dallas and probably more specifically Jerry Jones liked the big names, liked the free agents, and liked to move up in the draft. All those things seem to back fire on Jerry and now his or at least the FO philosophy has changed. Did it change because they were forced to being so far behind the cap? Maybe. But regardless, Dallas in the last three or four years don’t make wild trades and don’t sign any big free agents. Dallas seems content with paying their own stars and building in the draft. And as Reid stated, maybe the Cowboys have gotten lucky with some of their picks, but right now, their team is mostly “home-grown” and are better off for it. Whether they can get over the hump is another story, but I think Dallas’ team will be pretty good for a number of years. To most without any championships or many playoff wins in general, that doesn’t add up to much (and I agree as a fan), but Cowherd is right in that Dallas has been consistently pretty good for some time now, sans some years with Romo out, and I think they will remain competitive in the near future as well.

  166. Oh, even in the most ideal scenario, I would say the Cowboys likely have a tough road. Having said that, I have a hard time knowing how good the Giants and Redskins will be. I want to see how good the Giants OL will be–I have really no idea. I’d be a little shocked if the Redskins are a good team. The only way I can see that is if their defense and run games are really good.

    All those things seem to back fire on Jerry and now his or at least the FO philosophy has changed.

    I think Jerry changing is the key. He deserves some credit for that, but my reservations relate to how deep those changes really are. I do think they do better with no-name players, at least on defense. My sense is that getting big name guys messes up their culture–or Jerry and the FO don’t know how to manage the team and culture when they get players like that. (I mostly blame Jerry for this.) My sense is that the less Jerry is involved in football matters, the better the product on the field. (They seem to have good scouts.)

    1. even in the most ideal scenario, I would say the Cowboys likely have a tough road.

      Tough road to win the NFC East or tough road to do anything this year. As in highly unlikely to make the playoffs? That’s pretty bold.

  167. The Flip Side of Belichick

    Michael Bennett apparently told a reporter that he would read books during team meetings because he’d already heard what Carroll was saying. I think the details and context to this could make a big difference, but without knowing anything else, I would say this is not good. Bennett shouldn’t do this, and it also doesn’t reflect that well on Carroll. (More on this later.) Having said that, I think it’s important to note that I’m pretty sure you could find examples of this on any team, at any time. (Well, maybe not so much with the Patriots, perhaps.)

    I wanted to comment on this reaction from a Seattle sports talk guy:

    Is Bennett taking advantage of Carroll? Yes. However, I tend to put more of the blame on Carroll–because he essentially is allowing Bennett to do this….Then again, Carroll and the FO traded Bennett, in part, because of this, then I take what I say back.

    My larger point is that Carroll might be too lenient and permissive. Where Belichick is too much of a hardass, Carroll allows the players to get away with too much. Both are bad. The goal is to find the right balance between the two.

    I just want to say that I really like the way Carroll emphasizing the positive and avoids harsh, negative interactions with players. A coach can do things like bench or even cut a player without being overly negative and verbally harsh–and this can be effective. I also believe in the rationale for the approach–the ultimate objective–namely, to help build confidence of players and eliminate or reduce fear and stress when the players are performing. Not only do I think this will consistently get the best performance from players, but I would really want players to play in this state of mind. This is the most enjoyable way to play, while playing with fear or anxiety is awful.

    The one potential problem is that in striving for this objective–using a very positive approach–I think can avoid or hold back on using “sticks” and that can have negative effects on the team and maybe even the player.

  168. Don,

    Tough road to win the NFC East or tough road to do anything this year. As in highly unlikely to make the playoffs? That’s pretty bold.

    Sorry–tough road to win their division. Now that you bring this up–is it more likely that the Cowboys win their division or miss the playoffs? Man, that’s a tough one. I’ll say this, I think it’s more likely that they’ll be close to winning their division than missing their playoffs. For the former to happen, I think Dak and the passing game has to struggle quite a bit and/or their defense has decline. I don’t see the latter, but the former could happen. Or: the Giants and Redskins are going to have to be really good. That could happen, but I feel like that Giants have 50/50 shot at that, and the Redskins a lot less. Oh, it’s possible that Eagles will blow everyone out of the water, lose like one or two games, but I tend to think that won’t happen, because it’s hard to do after winning a Super Bowl.

    If the Cowboys offense can return to level of 2014-2016, then I think they can go all the way. If the Eagles are as good as they seem on paper, I’m going to love the Cowboys-Eagles games!

  169. Giants Release Brandon Marshall

    At first, I perked up at hearing this–a big WR like that would be great for the Seahawks or even the Raiders. But in thinking about this more, I question how much gas Marshall has in the tank. Also, the guy seems like he could be disruptive in the locker room. Getting him on the cheap seemed really appealing at first, but now I’m not terribly enthusiastic about that.

    I kinda feel similar about Bryant, although I feel like there’s a greater chance Bryant has a lot more gas in the tank–and I wouldn’t be surprised if he plays like a great playmaker next year. Still, potential disruptions would make me wary of Seattle or Oakland taking him, even on a good deal. Having said that, I lean towards either team picking him up, on the condition of a 1 year prove it type of deal.

  170. Russell Wilson Doesn’t Get Respect He Deserves–Including From People in Seattle

    There’s a decent chance this is just an attempt to stir up controversy. It’s the off season after all. Still, I hear discussion of the possibility of trading Wilson among Seahawk fans, and it just seems crazy to me. Then again, I think Wilson’s a top 3 QB, and I suspect there’s a large number of Seahawk fans who would strongly disagree, and probably find this claim ridiculous. I guess if you think Wilson ranks between sixth to tenth best QB, trading him might not be out of the question….Actually, would you be pining to trade your QB if they were somewhere in that range? Even then, I think serious consideration of this–without a tantalizing offer on the table–seems unusual.

    From me, I can’t help but see this as another sign that even Seattle fans don’t fully appreciate Wilson. I’m not opposed to drafting Lamar Jackson, but the implication is that Seahawks can draft him so that they can move on from Wilson, avoiding the big money Wilson is likely to get in his next contract. It’s the implication of moving on from Wilson that bugs me, as it’s no big deal to move on from a QB like Wilson.

    I’ll make a prediction. If Wilson gets a good supporting cast–especially a good OL (maybe even just a decent one)–I think his productivity will go through the roof–or at least make him appear on par with Brady, Rodgers, Brees, etc. People will say things like, “Wilson finally developed into a pocket QB,” etc. But in my view the truth will be that Wilson just got a good supporting cast–especially in terms of the OL.

  171. No argument from me, although maybe what we’ve seen in Green Bay and Seattle suggests it’s not entirely a bad idea to blow it all up and start over with a great but inexpensive young QB.

  172. …although maybe what we’ve seen in Green Bay…

    I assume you’re referring to the transition between Favre and Rodgers. If so, it’s important to note that situation is completely different. Favre was on his way out, and the Packers had a promising QB who had been sitting (for two seasons?). That’s really different from contemplating moving on from a really good QB in the prime of their career. Has any team ever done anything like that? I guess some would say that Kirk Cousins would qualify, although I would strongly disagree with anyone who thought Cousins was in the same ballpark as Wilson. There’s a decent chance that Kirk Cousins will prove to be this era’s Dave Krieg.

  173. I’m Placing More Value on OL Drat picks

    I think I said earlier that if an O-lineman’s floor was a solid starter, and a ceiling of top 5 at their position, I use a top ten pick on him. Indeed, even if the floor was slightly more likely than the ceiling, I might use a top ten pick–certainly I think I’d prefer that lineman to a riskier QB. I’m not sure if experts agree with this, but this is my feeling.

    Generally, with the top ten pick, I’d choose almost any position that I had strong confidence they could be a top 3 player at their position (except for maybe RB, K, or P)–over any higher risk player. For example, I’d pick a safe LB (no off field, no injuries) with good chance of being top 3 player, then QB with tremendous potential but high risk. The LB may turn out to just be a solid player or worse, but I’d use a top ten pick on that type of situation. If there aren’t players like that, I’m trading down, if possible.

    By the way, from the little I’ve read, a lot of the QBs in this draft sound very risky–Allen, Mayfield, Rosen, specifically. Even if I need a QB, I don’t think I’d use a top ten pick for them. The Browns must have tremendous pressure to pick a QB. But suppose you think all the QBs are a too high a risk. One of the QBs could be great, but it’s a big gamble. I don’t think I’d choose a QB.

    Vita Vea to the Raiders

    I was listening to a discussion about Vea. If the Raiders can’t get Roquan Smith, I think I’d be happy with Vea, especially if he’s another Haloti Ngata. (I’d be happy if the Seahawks got him, but that seems unlikely.)

    Like O-lineman, I kinda think DTs are a little undervalued. I’m not totally confident about this, but I tend to think that if you can get a DT that is a fireplug, a guy who almost messes up an opponent’s run game single-handedly, that has more value than people think. Then again, it’s not like finding these guys are easy. Still, I hear people evaluating DT by their ability to rush the passer. If you get a DT that can do that, that has tremendous value, but I think if the DT is really good at stopping the run–allowing less players to stop the run–I think this is more valuable than people think.

    I’m not sure if Vea is that guy, but if you draft him high and all he amounts to is a player that dramatically upgrades the run defense, that pick might be worth it. (It sounds like Vea can be much more than that, though.)

  174. I think it’s tough because there are certain positions that have a much greater chance to be bust such as QB. But I think the consensus for the least chance to be a bust is Quentin Nelson the guard from Notre Dame. But I wonder where he will go especially if teams think he cannot move to a tackle position. Most teams seem to want him to play the blind side if they choose him with with a high draft pick.

  175. I think it’s tough because there are certain positions that have a much greater chance to be bust such as QB.

    I agreed with this when first hearing this, but I wonder how true this is. Maybe QBs seem to bust more often because they’re so high profile and so often taken early?

    Re: Quentin Nelson

    Unless a team already has really good guards, I would consider taking Nelson, a team can’t trade down. My sense is that guards weren’t as valued in the past, but I think they’re value is much higher now, especially guards that can stone interior pass rushers. If there’s a good chance Nelson will be a top three guard for the next ten years or so, I’d want to take him. (If the Raiders get him at #9, I think I’d be content, assuming he meets the conditions, and depending on who they opted not to choose.)

    Also, RT seems underrated position to me. I mean, it seems like it’s almost as important as a LT. I say that because defenses will place good pass rushers against RT. (RT seemed to be an achille’s heel for the Cowboys. That was the one place on the OL that seemed vulnerable.)

  176. The implication here is that Wilson uses his mobility as a crutch. That is, he uses his mobility to hide or overcome his deficiencies in the pocket. I’m speculating here about Benoit’s thinking, but I think it’s reasonable based on what he’s said about Wilson in the past. If I’m reading Benoit right, I think he’s missing the quality of the Seahawk OL and to a lesser degree the quality of his pass catchers. This goes back to what I was saying about how people know, on one level, that a QB’s performance is highly dependent on his supporting cast, but then act as if it’s not.

    On a related note, you know who I think would be a great backup for Houston? Kaepernick–at least in terms of his fit with the offense. I don’t see why Kaepernick couldn’t put up big numbers in the offense that Watson ran. (Then again, I expect that the offense won’t be as effective this year, as defenses will have had time to adjust.) But even if this is correct, Houston will never take Kaepernick (and Kaepernick may not choose to go there) given the comments of their owner.

  177. Seahawks pre-draft press conference

    You guys wouldn’t be interested in the above, but John Schneider mentions the difficulty and importance of evaluating a player’s character and psychological make-up. This got me think about two different ways NFL teams could be doing this:

    1. Analyzing the online footprint of the players to determine what they’re like;

    2. Using an FBI profiler. Here I’m wondering if teams can create a profile of the ideal player and then an FBI profiler can identify traits, behaviors, or any other clues and information that would indicate if a prospective player would meet that profile.

    It wouldn’t surprise me if some teams are already doing this.

    Edit

    This tweet–Carroll’s comments–hit me and surprised me. It sounded really pointed, something I don’t expect from Carroll. Watching the video clip above didn’t change that impression–it confirmed, and even strengthened it. It does seem like Carroll felt like Sherman and Bennett were big problems–players who wouldn’t buy in. I’m not surprised that this would apply to Sherman (although I’m still disappointed to hear this), but I’m a little surprised about hearing this about Bennett.

    If Carroll mishandled the situation with these players (and others)–if he was too lenient and permissive, what he seems to have recognized that, and has now sent the message–namely, if you cross too many lines, you’re not going to be on the team. If what I’m saying is accurate, I totally support all of this.

  178. Overrated as in he’s not one of the three best receivers in the game? Or overrated as in he’s really not very good?

  179. More the former. I’ll put it this way. If you ask who I’d want for a #1 WR, if I could choose anyone, and I don’t think his name would make the list. Also, by “overrated, ” I mean that his actual performance doesn’t seem to match with the praise and hype he seems to receive.

  180. So if there was a complete redraft of the NFL, you don’t see yourself taking him among the first 32 receivers? I know that’s a stretch but I’m trying to clarify if you would choose him at all to be your #1.

  181. Yeah, that’s a stretch. I would need to see the entire list, but he would have to be in the top ten, I would think. This is comparing OBJ with other WRs who came into the draft, not the current NFL WRs.

  182. So he’s not a top-three receiver. I’m guessing (although nowadays I honestly don’t know what you think about receivers, except for Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree) you have Julio Jones and Antonio Brown ahead of him. Who else? DeAndre Hopkins? I think the argument could (and should) be made that we should count Rob Gronkowski as a receiver, so he makes my list. A.J. Green, maybe?

  183. Yeah, I would choose Julio and Antonio Brown over him. I’m not sure who else. When I talk about “overrated,” the issue involves a disconnect between the player and the hype and praise of the player.

  184. I understand. So he might actually be the third-best receiver in the NFL, but he’s not as good as people keep saying, or he’s not skilled enough to warrant all the media attention he gets for his skills. Like, can we please stop talking about him? He’s good but he doesn’t deserve this much attention.

  185. So he might actually be the third-best receiver in the NFL, but he’s not as good as people keep saying, or he’s not skilled enough to warrant all the media attention he gets for his skills.

    Right. I mean, when it comes to the third best WR, I might say that there really isn’t a significant difference. For example, between Hopkins, Green, OBJ (and I might be missing some others)–I’d have a hard time saying one is way better than the others.

    By the way, I don’t know if I’m annoyed that people praise him, I think the praise isn’t commensurate with the player. My hypothesis is that spectacular highlights–especially that one-handed catch at the pylon–is the basis for the hype. Think of that Lynn Swan catch in the Super Bowl. I assume Swan is great (I no longer remember enough to say for sure), but I have a feeling people think he’s great because of that one catch, which is admittedly terrific and iconic. If that’s true, that’s kinda ridiculous. Another example of this sort of effect: John Elway’s “helicopter” touchdown against the Packers. That one thing might create the impression that Elway had a great game. He really didn’t, though.

  186. So do you think people think of OBJ as the best receiver ever? I doubt anyone will pick him over Rice though. But second best receiver ever? Man, if that’s what I thought people were saying, I would think he’s overrated as well.

    FWIW, I would only have a healthy Julio (which isn’t always the case), and Hopkins, who from what I heard can really “win” one-on-one battles and was a huge reason for Watson’s success, over OBJ. Ant Brown puts up the most ridiculous numbers of all the receivers, but from what I know his strength is he is the Iverson of receivers and can run for days. He can wear anyone out. I know he’s supposed to be a great route runner as well, but if that is his strength I would probably pick OBJ. OBJ plays with Eli as well. You have to take that into account as well.

  187. So do you think people think of OBJ as the best receiver ever? I doubt anyone will pick him over Rice though. But second best receiver ever?

    No, I don’t get the sense that the praise has gone that far. I don’t know how good OBJ is, or will be. I just feel like the level of praise doesn’t seem commensurate with what I see on the field.

    The Giants have had problems, so that could be it. At the same time, the Giants supporting cast can’t be worse that the Texans. The thing about Hopkins, to me, was that he was the main guy, with a weak QB (until last year). As for AB, he’s not really the type of WR I love–he’s not dominant jump ball guy or a burner, but the sense I get is that even though everyone knows he’s great, he continues to produce in big ways. So far, I don’t get the same impression from OBJ. I do think he can make some spectacular catches, though.

  188. I almost think you’re crazy if you take OBJ over Antonio Brown, but only almost. He gets open whenever he wants. That’s kind of ridiculous. Everybody knows the ball is going to him and he still gets the first down. I think only Gronk approaches his reliability to get a first down.

  189. I’m pretty sure Hopkin’s numbers were not great prior to Watson (ie: two seasons ago). I want to say they were pedestrian even. My guess is Julio Jones’ numbers are probably the most inconsistent of the bunch. I bet if you take out Jones top two games each season and average the rest of his games, his numbers will not be elite as well. He seem to always pull out one or two high hundred or even two hundred yard games every year. OBJ’s numbers are more consistent, but the Giants pass more then they should and are often behind.

  190. Hasn’t Hopkins been relatively high fantasy WR, even prior to Watson? Also, he didn’t have a QB throwing to him and really no other pass catchers to help him. To me, he kinda reminds me of Larry Fitzgerald, after Warner left and before Palmer came on board.

    I don’t know about Julio Jones’s numbers, but he’s probably at the top of the list of guys I’d want. So is OBJ in the mix for the best WR, in your mind?

  191. Mitchell,

    You are right in terms of production, Ant Brown is crazy good. It’s just when you watch him play he is not spectacular in anything or nothing stands out. But I could just not know enough to know how good he really is.

  192. He gets open whenever he wants. That’s kind of ridiculous. Everybody knows the ball is going to him and he still gets the first down.

    I don’t know about first downs, but I agree with everything else you said.

    Also, given these comments, I’d like to mention Doug Baldwin. But I don’t think he’s a true #1 and not someone that is so great that you can build your passing game around them.

    I forgot to comment on Gronk. I know what you mean about including him as a WR. What I’ll say is that he’s basically equivalent to a great #1 WR in my opinion–or at least that’s what it seems like to me.

  193. I looked it up and two years ago Hopkins didn’t have a 1000 yards. I’m pretty sure he wasn’t hurt for any long stretches as well. But point taken that he didn’t have anyone throwing him the ball.

    OBJ is top three to me, but you have to put Jones, Brown, Hopkins, after last year, and probably AJ Green (when healthy) all in the same class.

  194. I looked it up and two years ago Hopkins didn’t have a 1000 yards.

    Oh OK.

    OBJ is top three to me, but you have to put Jones, Brown, Hopkins, after last year, and probably AJ Green (when healthy) all in the same class.

    I don’t think that’s necessarily crazy to say, depending on the criteria one would use.

  195. If You Thought the Stories About Problems Between Brady and Belichick Were Nonsense, Take a Look at This

    My reaction: Whoa.

  196. How important is having your players feel appreciated? It has to be much less important than a manager at Walmart having to have their staff feel appreciated. In sports the players already are motivated by winning. I’m not saying it’s not important, but is it a 9 out of 10 important? Or is it more like a 5?

    I wonder in what sense does Brady not feel appreciated. He took the pay cut right so it’s not about compensation. Is it the team doesn’t listen to his needs? Not treated like the star he is? Not that we will know, but I wonder what he thinks he’s not getting.

  197. I would think for Brady it at least has to be considered by the team’s management, precisely because he has willingly been compensated far below his market value. Yes, I’m sure it’s about winning, but if he feels the team hasn’t made wise decisions with what is effectively his money, I can see why this past year might have worn on him, despite the Brandin Cooks acquisition last off-season. Banning his personal health guru from the facility has to be grating as well.

    I’m only guessing, but I’ll bet it’s the accumulation over a long period of time of small things like that.

    I bought the Michael Holley Bellichick and Brady book released last year, but I haven’t even opened it yet. Maybe there’ll be some insights in there. In Holley’s interview with (I think) Dan Le Batard shortly after its publication, the writer said Brady wants to be coached, wants to be told what to do, and that’s been his relationship with Bellicheck, not necessarily one of consultation, as some might think. It’s one reason I’ve always favored Peyton on the field.

  198. How important is having your players feel appreciated? It has to be much less important than a manager at Walmart having to have their staff feel appreciated. In sports the players already are motivated by winning.

    Before I answer the question, I think Brady’s response is crucial. Whatever the specifics of the situation is, my takeaway is that there is a problem and it’s a big deal–at least to Brady. I really don’t think he would answer the question this way if it weren’t. Putting aside your general question, for Brady specifically, the answer seems to be that being appreciated matters to him quite a bit.

    As to your question, my feeling is that NFL players aren’t that different from most human beings. The desire to win doesn’t really change that in my opinion, if that’s what you’re suggesting. Do you also think that players care less about respect from their teammates and coaches because they want to win? Personally, I don’t think so.

    I think it’s worth pointing out that there’s a difference between wanting to be appreciated and feeling like someone is not appreciating you–to the point of maybe taking you for granted, being dismissive of your contributions. When you get to that level, the issue can be about respecting one’s value to the organization, and maybe even respect for the person. I don’t know if this type of dynamic is going on with Brady and Belichick, but based on what he said, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was.

  199. Mitchell,

    I’m only guessing, but I’ll bet it’s the accumulation over a long period of time of small things like that.

    In Holley’s interview with (I think) Dan Le Batard shortly after its publication, the writer said Brady wants to be coached, wants to be told what to do, and that’s been his relationship with Bellicheck, not necessarily one of consultation, as some might think. It’s one reason I’ve always favored Peyton on the field.

    How are you thinking this connects to Brady wanting to be appreciated? Also, I’m not clear on what this makes you favor Peyton more.

  200. I wasn’t trying to imply that wanting to win will not make you care if you are appreciated or not. I was trying to say that even if you don’t feel appreciated you will still give a whole lot to performing well because you are motivated to win. At Walmart if the worker isn’t appreciated, I’m guessing that worker’s performance will diminish. Basically how much of does not feeling appreciated affect the performance of a professional athlete and team.

    Just as more background, in all of the “criticisms” of Belichick of late, it seems that the players said that Belichick makes the team better and seem to say he gives them the “best chance of winning” (at least in terms of how the players are treated). If that is true, then players may overlook not feeling appreciated, to a point of course. So if the importance of showing appreciation for the Walmart manager to motivate their workers to perform is a ten, I was asking what you think the number would be for a professional coach.

  201. So if the importance of showing appreciation for the Walmart manager to motivate their workers to perform is a ten, I was asking what you think the number would be for a professional coach.

    My guess is that the number would be less. 5 sounds acceptable–if we’re talking about motivation, especially during games. If a player feels underappreciated, I suspect they’re still going to be motivated during games. But the bigger questions are, could this have a significant impact on those performances? Could this impact the overall success of the team? By the way, do you think this is a big deal, or do you feel like this isn’t that important?

  202. If your answer was still 10, as in same as a Walmart manager, then I would say it’s a huge deal. But I sort of agree with you that it’s somewhere in between. So that being said, what if the players not being (not only feeling, but actually not being) appreciated is a negative effect of something more important. In the Walmart manager’s case making their workers feel appreciated may be the most important thing. But if a professional athlete may be self-motivated or motivated by other things to perform well, maybe something else like managing the cap or having the players worked harder than other teams would is more important than having the players feel appreciated.

    In terms of significant impact on performances and overall success of the team, unless something changed just recently then the answer has to be no since NE is the most successful team in the league.

  203. How are you thinking this connects to Brady wanting to be appreciated? Also, I’m not clear on what this makes you favor Peyton more.

    Some of the things people have tossed out there about why he might be unhappy have to do with the way Bellichick has gotten rid of some of his best teammates, such as Wes Welker and Nate Solder, possibly without consulting Brady. I’m suggesting that maybe the consultation part isn’t (or hasn’t been) related, since Brady and Bellichick don’t have that kind of working relationship and Brady seems (if I heard correctly) to prefer it that way.

    It’s a direct contrast to Peyton, who seems to have been an extra coach on his teams, and who called his own plays. My kind of QB.

  204. By the way, I heard the audio of Brady saying “I plead the fifth,” and it comes across completely innocuously. He’s laughing and joking, and maybe there’s a kernel of truth in there, but I don’t hear anything about dissatisfaction in the quote, the way it sounds in type as quoted. I agree with Wilbon and Kornheiser who said yesterday that this is more nothing than something.

  205. Don,

    But if a professional athlete may be self-motivated or motivated by other things to perform well, maybe something else like managing the cap or having the players worked harder than other teams would is more important than having the players feel appreciated.

    It’s important to be specific about what we mean by “being appreciated.” If players feel like the head coach and management doesn’t value the player or their contributions, I think that would be a huge problem–one that will have a significant impact on the field and to the team, overall. Maybe not immediately, but at some point. It sounds like you disagree with that, but I’m not sure. Do you agree or disagree with that?

    In terms of significant impact on performances and overall success of the team, unless something changed just recently then the answer has to be no since NE is the most successful team in the league.

    My sense is that something really has changed. Has Brady ever said anything like this before? Also, more players seem to be speaking out and complaining a little more.

    An analogous situation might be with the Pete Carroll and a player like Richard Sherman–with Sherman’s disruptive behavior being analogous to the sense of feeling appreciated it. Teams can have success when they have players who are disruptive, just as teams can have success if their coach doesn’t always show an appreciation for the players. But there are lines that can be crossed. Little problems can accumulate and turn into bigger ones, as Mitchell pointed out.

  206. Mitchell,

    OK, I think I know what you mean. You’re saying that Brady might not be mad that he wasn’t or isn’t consulted about personnel matters because “… Brady wants to be coached, wants to be told what to do, and that’s been his relationship with Bellicheck.” If so, I wouldn’t draw the same conclusions from that quote. I’ve heard similar things about said about Peyton. However, the context was about if Peyton had an ego, if he was coachable; and if I’m not mistaken this was in relation to Adam Gase, a younger OC, coaching Peyton. The takeaway was that Peyton wanted to be coached, wanted to be critiqued. I don’t know the context of the Brady quote, but it sounds like a similar situation. I certainly don’t get the impression that Brady is a slavish, automaton, if that’s what you’re getting at.

    I do think get the sense that Manning is like a coach on the field to a degree that Brady is not, but I don’t think that relates to issues of having a say in personnel.

    By the way, I heard the audio of Brady saying “I plead the fifth,” and it comes across completely innocuously. He’s laughing and joking, and maybe there’s a kernel of truth in there, but I don’t hear anything about dissatisfaction in the quote, the way it sounds in type as quoted.

    I really disagree with this. If there is no issue, I really don’t think he’d answer in that way. Later, he can’t give a straight answer if he’s happy. (Brady says, “I have my moments.”) These aren’t hard questions to answer if you’re happy and if the sense of being appreciated isn’t a big deal.

  207. Are There Only Eight TEs in the Hall of Fame?

    That seems kind of low.

    I think Witten should probably get in. If you take longevity out of it, though, do you guys think he’s better than TEs like Brent Jones, Jay Novacek, and Todd Christensen? I don’t know if I’d say that. I’m not sure how good a blocker Christensen was, but for a while he seemed like a one-man wrecking crew for the Raiders.

    I would think Antonio Gates should get in.

  208. This makes me a little uneasy

    Just when I’m starting to change my mind about Gruden as a coach, this article comes along.

    From The Bleacher Report: Mike Freeman’s 10-Point Stance: Raiders Are All Gruden, But Is That Good?

    The gist of it is that Gruden has more power, and he’s using it. The result is arguably one of the more risky drafts (not to mention free agency and trades where the Raiders picked up Daryl Worley and Martavias Bryant). I’ve been critical of Jerry Jones and more recently the Rams for taking too many risky players–relating mostly to character concerns, but also health concerns as well. My hope is that the Raiders have done a good job with their homework, and the players they’ve brought in will vindicate them. The flip side is that Gruden just has a different approach to risk–showing a willingness to take more chances. I really hope that’s not what’s going on.

  209. Yeah, isn’t that surprising? I think Ditka was the first. That whole time when we were appreciating Christensen, Winslow, Casper, Francis, and Chester (yes, I think he’s at least Hall-considerable), there wasn’t one TE in the Hall of Fame.

  210. Witten’s HOF credential is that he has 11 pro bowls with the only guy above him being Gonzalez with 14. The next guy(s) below Witten has like 8. But I think based on catching only, he has been good not great, but I guess his blocking will make him great? He definitely not impactful like a Jimmy Graham.

  211. Mitchell,

    I forgot to mention Russ Francis. But I don’t really have a good sense of how good he was. I thought Raymond Chester was really good, but he was kinda old by the time I started watching him.

    Don,

    I see Witten as the TE equivalent to Jerome Bettis and Curtin Martin. Maybe they weren’t the best, but they were good for a really long time.

  212. I have no memory of his blocking, but Christensen was a running back at BYU and the Cowboys drafted him to play fullback. They released him when he balked at converting to tight end. The Raiders used him on special teams and as a long snapper before convincing him to move to TE. I think that’s why he wore 46. I don’t know if he should be in the Hall, but he’s one of those borderline guys for sure. Led the NFL in catches twice, and was only the second TE to do that. Just a really cool player.

  213. I have no memory of his blocking…

    Just a really cool player.

    Yeah, and he seemed unstoppable during a certain stretch of his career.

  214. Raiders Seem to Have an Old LB Corps

    Derrick Johnson, the former KC LB, joins Navarro Bowman. Something Mike Lombardi comes to mind. He said that if your LBs are slow, then your defense, particularly from sideline to sideline will be slow, too. (At least I think that’s what he meant.) I agree with this, and it’s been a problem since McKenzie has been with the Raiders. Are Bowman and Johnson slow? I’m not sure, but that’s my assumption.

  215. Re Brady:
    I’m more on the side that nothing has changed in NE. I think Bill is still the same hard-nosed, attention to detail, jackass. I think in terms of Brady speaking out, it’s just no one had asked him before. I think the others speaking out have sort of snowballed into Brady. I will also add that I agree with both of you on Brady’s tone. I agree there is something there (it’s not nothing), but as Dan Patrick said, Brady was playing to the crowd on that response. Dan thought if it was a one-on-one interview the answer would have come out different. In that same interview Brady also said, “… He’s not the easiest coach to play for, but he’s the best for me. …he maximizes talent. What more could you ask of a coach than that?”

    Popovich is going through something similar with Kawehi. I think Bill and Pop’s coaching style is bound to rub players the wrong way eventually, and eventually guys will say so. That being the case though, it doesn’t seem like the comments from the players that criticized Bill were all bad. For example, even Amendola said that Bill was “the best coach ever”.

    1. It’s important to note that prior to Brady’s remarks there were stories that there were problems between Brady and Belichick (and maybe Gronk, too?). I didn’t really think much of it. Within that context, Brady’s comments seem to confirm that the problems are real. If it wasn’t a big deal, I would expect him to signal that there isn’t a problem. The remark signals the opposite. Yes, he’s playing to the crowd–but what’s the message? Pleading the fifth ultimately means that there’s a problem; it’s not nothing.

      It’s also critical to remember that the Belichick runs a really tight ship when it comes to how players speak to the press. Some of these complaints and criticisms seem mild, but feel more significant because of this. Think about it: Why are these players saying these things in public? This is the kind of thing that should be and probably normally is kept in house–especially in the Patriots organization. I think the fact that players–particularly Brady–are expressing this publicly seems significant–Brady even more so as he’s the QB, and to my knowledge has never said anything like this.

      1. Reid,

        Do you think there will be any negative effects to all this “trouble” in NE? Or do you think it will only “show itself” if they start losing? They seem to have lost some talent, but as long as Brady stays healthy, they will be in the driver seat in the AFC, imo.

        1. Don,

          If the problem is as significant as it seems to me, my guess is that there will be negative effects. Brady’s grievance, Richard Sherman’s outbursts, Colin Kaepernick’s protests, Marcus Peters’s character–all these things in my opinion have the potential to hurt the team and on-field performance. From the outside, we don’t know how significant these issues are for the team, we don’t know how the team is handling the issues, so we can’t really say with certainty if each is a significant problem. But I can say with certainty that they potentially pose a significant problem.

          With Brady remarks, my guess it is a big problem, for the reasons I mentioned. I’ll say this, though: Whether it significantly hurts the team or not depends on how Belichick and Kraft handle this situation, and how Brady and the other players respond. Unless the problem is irreparable, there are ways to quash the problem. From the outside, though, we have no idea about any of this, though. My guess is that the problem is significant, and I don’t get the sense that Belichick has been effective (and maybe he’s done things to make it worse). Hence, if I had to guess, I think it will negatively impact the team.

          1. Is it really fair to put Kaepernick in that? Didn’t his teammates vote him teammate of the year in his final season in SF? That team was already falling apart with or without those protests

  216. http://www.raiders.com/news/article-1/Trio-Of-Oakland-Raiders-Graduate-From-College/9dcbfd35-5ea5-46ae-99a6-56593fbf9a9c

    This is pretty cool. Amari Cooper, Gabe Jackson, and (rookie kicker) Eddie Pineiro graduated from their colleges this weekend. Not as big a deal for the kicker since he’s a rookie, but AC and Jackson have been in the league for four years. I wish these stories made the news more frequently; there might be guys on every team who did this.

  217. Mitchell,

    I included Kaepernick’s protests because it’s the type of off-the-field issue that can hurt the team and the team’s on-field performance. Maybe the issue isn’t a big deal if teammates chose him as a captain. That’s possible. It’s also possible the protests cause a disruptive and divisive tension in the locker room, too. Is that latter beyond the realm of possibility? I don’t think so. Again, we’re looking in from the outside, so it’s hard to know how significant something like that is, and we don’t really know who the team is handling these things. I do think that something like the protests can hurt the team especially if the organization doesn’t handle it well.

    1. Of course it’s not outside the realm of possibility, but I just find it interesting that religion is never part of this conversation. What’s a more divisive off-field topic than religion? Yet nobody ever calls out religious players for possibly being negative influences on locker rooms. Of course being politically active can have negative effects on a team, but so can ANYthing not directly related to football. It’s a level of speculation that continues to baffle me.

      1. Of course being politically active can have negative effects on a team, but so can ANYthing not directly related to football.

        Absolutely, and that’s what I partially tried to show with my examples. I could have also included Tim Tebow in there (and maybe religion is part of that as well). Tebow’s case is interesting because he’s a great teammate, has really good character. But the bottom line is that he would be a distraction (and has a cult-like following–to the point where fans might want him to be a the QB even though he’s not very good).

        It’s a level of speculation that continues to baffle me.

        What does “it’s” refer to, here? Are you saying that you’re baffled about how people (like us) determine what will be distracting or not?

  218. Yeah, that’s what I’m baffled about. Based on my casual fandom for all these years, I just don’t see enough evidence for anything like this actually affecting whether a team wins or loses. I’m not ruling it out, but there’s usually enough reason from on-field results that probably have nothing to do with off-field issues.

    1. Based on my casual fandom for all these years, I just don’t see enough evidence for anything like this actually affecting whether a team wins or loses.

      Wait, this is something different. Here, you sound skeptical that any off-field issue could impact on-field performance, whereas my question involved identifying which specific off-filed incidents would have an impact.

      In any event, I don’t get why understanding how off-field issues could negatively impact on-field performance is so difficult. Think about teaching. Do you think a teacher’s relationship with the principal could impact the teacher’s performance in the classroom? Or suppose a media circus at the school every day, with the media constantly asking you questions. You could see how this would adversely impact a teacher’s performance, right? And really, this would apply to almost any profession.

      1. My feeling is that speculating on which issues are the sort to contribute negatively to team play is kind of a waste of energy. Brett Favre’s father dies, and he has the game of his career. Isaiah Thomas’s sister dies, and his career spirals downward. One team’s defensive coaches tell their captains to instigate a brawl in the last practice before the Super Bowl, and that teams cruises to a win. Another team has fights in the locker room before the Super Bowl and it loses a heartbreaker.

        Teams are complicated. Maybe all that tension in the New England locker room has been moderated by Julian Edelmann these past few years, but since he wasn’t there this year, it got out of hand. Maybe annoyance with the head coach is one of those chips everyone says Brady has on his shoulder, the thing that motivates him to win Super Bowls. Or maybe for whatever reason, God doesn’t want the Patriots to win anymore. It’s all just pure, 100% speculation.

        1. My feeling is that speculating on which issues are the sort to contribute negatively to team play is kind of a waste of energy.

          OK, and I think that’s reasonable. But do you understand how these things could adversely impact performance? I’d like clarity on this point, because you’re giving me the impression that you either a) don’t think these things impact on field performance, and/or b) you don’t understand how they possibly could.

  219. So you do understand how these type of issues, if they’re significant, could impact performance? It’s not puzzling that media circus or a player not feeling respected and appreciated by the organization could impact the on-field performance? If you agree, then I think we don’t disagree. The only area of disagreement is if this issue is worth speculating about or not.

    1. Yes, they could. But so could God’s will, and we never really offer that as a possibility. Why is that?

      Sorry if I sound exceedingly negative. It’s not my intent.

  220. But so could God’s will, and we never really offer that as a possibility. Why is that?

    Because it’s remote and not really reasonable. You really think the examples we’re talking about are just as remote and unreasonable? We have facts, and I think one can provide compelling arguments why the situation with Brady, Sherm, Kaepernick, and Tebow can hurt a team and it’s on-field performance. Are you suggesting that these facts and arguments are essentially the same as the “God’s will” argument?

  221. I guess. I don’t think the examples we’re talking about are as remote and unreasonable; I think God’s will is equally reasonable. The evidence amounts to the same thing: all we have to go on is the players’ testimony. We don’t actually know if or when on-field performance is affected negatively by off-field stuff. I’m willing to accept that you and I will not agree on this.

  222. I think God’s will is equally reasonable. The evidence amounts to the same thing: all we have to go on is the players’ testimony.

    And what evidence do we have that God’s will is adversely affecting performance? What argument would make that bad performance is due to God’s will?

    1. That’s what I’m suggesting. We don’t really have verifiable evidence for either; only players’ testimony. It could be bad vibes in the locker room; it could be God’s will. Either way there’s really no way to determine whether either of us is right, you know?

      1. But in the specific examples above we have evidence–player’s testimony, the amount of media coverage with the protests, negative fan reaction. We have reports about character concerns with Peters; we have the fact that the Chiefs traded him, despite the fact that he’s young and really good. We could even site many previous examples and testimony from coaches and players about how players with bad character can damage a team and affect the performance on the field.

        That’s substantially more evidence than God’s will. What makes you believe that God’s will is equally likely to affect the performance on the field–with the players we’re talking about? Heaches, a fight with a girlfriend–those things can affect on field performance as well. But there’s no indication that those things are at play in the situation above. On the other hand, we have evidence that there is serious tensions between players and coaches in NE; that Kaepernick was a distraction; and Peters was a problem on the team. Where’s the evidence that God wants the performance of those teams to suffer?

  223. Okay, I was speaking a bit more broadly. I can’t think of times when players have said that it was God’s will they lost, but they say all the time that it was God’s will they won. If it can be God’s will that a team wins, it can be God’s will that a team loses. I believe this, although I don’t think God gives a rip whether a team wins or loses. My point is that all we have is testimony to God’s will as a cause, the same as all we have is testimony that bad locker room vibes can cause a team to lose. And it is not substantially more. More players thank God for their wins than credit team chemistry. By far.

    You can say we have evidence that Kaepernick was a distraction, but all you’re citing are the words of players and coaches, which is the same thing as testimony saying winning or losing are God’s will. If players say the reason they lost is that they didn’t wear their lucky socks for the game, are you going to believe that? I’m not.

  224. Okay, I was speaking a bit more broadly.

    And I think that’s one of the problems–you’re speaking broadly, dismissively, about specific incidents and their potential effects. It’s like dismissing the Brady episode by saying, “Well, eating spoiled food by the team chef can hurt performance, too, so who knows if the Brady’s grievance is going to affect the team.” Yes, eating spoiled food could negatively impact the team’s performance, but unless there’s evidence that this occurred, there’s no reason to suspect that this is hurting the team. That’s what I feel like you’re doing.

    You can say we have evidence that Kaepernick was a distraction, but all you’re citing are the words of players and coaches, which is the same thing as testimony saying winning or losing are God’s will.

    I think things like media distractions, conflicts within the organization, players with bad characters are more common and reasonable factors that affect performance and teamwork–not just in sports, but in any field that requires teamwork. We could be talking about a rock band, military unit, or school. In a school setting, I think a good working relationship between the staff, a staff with good character, and minimal outside distractions are much more likely to positively impact the school than a lucky sock.

  225. Brandon Marshall Visists Seahawks

    He’s the type of WR I’d want–the type of WR that the Seahawks should give Wilson–but I’m not to keen on him joining the team, unless it’s at vet minimum. Even then, my impression is that he can be difficult to deal with, and that’s not the right type of player to bring in now. I kinda feel the same about Dez Bryant as well.

    But both are tempting because getting this type of receiver, if they’re not over-the-hill, would be great for Wilson and the offense.

    Sam Bradford Could Look Real Good in Mike McCoy’s Offense

    I keep forgetting that Mike McCoy is not the Cardinals OC. This could be a boon for Sam Bradford, as it seems like a really good fit. I also think it takes a lot of pressure off the OL because McCoy utilizes a lot of quick, short passes. In a lot of ways this is the opposite philosophy of Bruce Arians, and that’s good news for all the QBs and the OL.

  226. I think teams should give Dez a chance. He hasn’t been a “distraction” for the Cowboys for a couple years now (from what we know). He will have a chip on his shoulder. And he is an amazing physical talent. The two knocks I’ve heard on him since his release are that he’s a lazy route runner (or some say a free-lancer) and that he is not great “off-the-ball” or off the snap of the ball. The route running can be coached up unless he doesn’t want to be coached (but getting released should change that). And he doesn’t win battles off the snap of the ball, he wins them when the ball is in the air. He still can get the job done, I think.

    1. Actually, I read a comment from the Cowboys scout that said Dez could no longer win one-on-one or win downfield. That kinda surprised me, but if it’s true, releasing Dez makes sense. The primary value of Bryant, for me, is his ability to win in one-on-one situations. Still, I’m a little tantalized by the prospect that the scout is wrong–that maybe Dez, with new found motivation, will return to form.

      As for how difficult Dez will be in the locker room, he may not have been a big problem, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he wouldn’t a challenge to the coaching staff and organization. My sense is that the Carroll lost his way a bit, failing to properly manage guys like Sherm and maybe Bennett as well. (He has noticeably praised and remarked about the humility of the recent draft picks.) If this is right, I can see how they wouldn’t want to bring in player like Dez or Marshall.

    1. I’d be surprised if a team doesn’t. Indeed, I understand the Bills tried to get him, offering him 7 million, but Dez rejected the offer.

  227. I read not winning one-on-one battles as beating his man either off the snap of the ball or getting open down the field. Yes Dez wasn’t doing that because of the two reasons I mentioned. He’s not good off the snap (not explosive in terms of speed is how I interpret that) and he isn’t a good route runner (so he’s not fooling anybody). But throw a ball up and he’ll have a better than 50 percent chance of bringing it down. I’ll add as negative, although I haven’t heard that many say it, he can drop some easy ones.

    He may be overvaluing himself if he’s going to keep rejecting offers.

    1. Based on last year, did you think he was still good at jump ball situations? I didn’t have that impression. In fact, I want to say this also diminished a bit in 2016, but I could be wrong about that.

      As for dropping relatively easy passes, I kinda feel like that was always an issue for him, although it may have gotten worse last year.

  228. Eight Teams That Have the Best Chance of Winning the Super Bowl

    I just glanced at this list, but it seems like a solid one:

    The Panthers and Steelers were the main picks I didn’t care for. Will the defense be really good? (Thomas Davis will miss games, and I feel like he may be declining.) What about their OL and run game? I like that they got Mike Anderson, but I think this is a key to their success. If they can get they get a bellcow RB and their running game gets going, then I think they could be contenders.

    As for the Steelers, they’re not bad so much as I would put other teams ahead of them–e.g., the Jaguars. I’m not a big believer in Bortles, but the Jags made moves to strengthen both their OL and DL. If they succeed, especially with the DL, their defense could be dominant–more so than last year. In a strange way, I think their defense was a bit overrated last year. I feel like they gave up too many explosive plays last year (DBs got beat on bombs). The problem wasn’t only the DBs. The Jags rushed four a lot, and while they have good players, I think there would be fairly long stretches where the Jaguars generated little pressure. I suspect that had to do with a lack of depth. If they’ve fixed that problem, look out. They not only be dominant defense, but maybe move toward an all-time great one. With that, and a strong run game and ST (no idea about the quality of the latter), they would be Super Bowl contenders.

  229. No Rams? Not sure how it will all work out, but they have to be on a pre-season list of 8 teams to contend. Why wouldn’t I think Phillips can remake the defense he had in Denver in LA?

    If the Chargers didn’t have the history of slipping on the banana peel, I would pick them top four. I like their team a lot, but I know a few key guys are going to get hurt there.

  230. I’m mildly surprised the Rams don’t make the cut, but then I don’t know who LaCanfora would take out. What’s really disappointing is that he calls it a Final 8 but doesn’t pick four teams from each conference.

    Without thinking too hard about it, I would go with
    1. Patriots
    2. Saints
    3. Seahawks
    4. Packers
    5. Eagles
    6. Vikings
    7. Texans
    8. Rams

    I just realized that I only have 2 AFC teams. Might have to reevaluate here.

    My 9 and 10 are the Panthers and Cowboys.

  231. LaCanfora mentioned that if you want put the Rams (and Falcons) on the list, he wouldn’t really argue much, and I sort of agree with him (not so much the Falcons, though). Certainly, on paper, just looking at the talent, they are Super Bowl contenders. But the talented guys they brought in have baggage as well, and that’s where things get dicey. Indeed, my sense is that in similar circumstances the team gets worse more than gets better. (One exception might be the Broncos when they brought in Ward, Talib, and Ware, all in the same year, I think. However, I think Talib was the only one with issues.)

    Additionally, I really think there are huge question marks with Goff. It would not surprise me if he struggles mightily. Even if he performs in a similar fashion, unless their defense is in the all-time great range (and it could happen), if Goff’s ability to throw under pressure doesn’t significantly improve, I give them little chance of winning it all.

    I agree with you about the Chargers. Their off season moves seems to have addressed some major vulnerabilities. They might actually have a good OL and potentially dominant defense. But as you alluded to, they’ve had some good rosters in the past, and for whatever reason couldn’t close the deal. I’m curious to see if Anythony Lynn is a good coach, and if he can be a difference maker.

  232. Mitchell,

    I’m interested in your thinking about the Seahawks and Texans. What kind of off season moves have the Texans made?

    I forgot about the Cowboys. If I had to choose one of these teams to add to the list, I think I’d choose the Cowboys. Their question mark seem less significant and/or less things have to go right for them to go all the way in my opinion.

  233. Yeah at this point I would have the Cowboys over the Seahawks. If the Seahawks will be any good, it’s because Wilson will be carrying that team.

    Not that anyone cares, I was a little down on the Cowboys last preseason because of the two losses to the offensive line from the year before. I think it sort of showed itself last year at times. I’m a little higher on the Cowboys because I think with the draft pick of Williams, La’el getting another year as a starter and their free agent pick up, their line could really dominate again. Also their defense showed some real signs last year versus the really soft defense of two years ago.

    I wouldn’t sleep on the Falcons who will improve if Ridley is any good. They will have the best receiving corp and Sark isn’t Shanahan, but I thought he was okay. I will say the same of the Texans, who was pretty lights out when Watson was QBing. I’m not a Watson believer, but if he can do what he did last year, then Texans are not a bad top eight preseason pick.

  234. Don,

    Wilson gives them of going deep into the playoffs, but for this to happen, the OL and running game will have to be way better than last year.

    The Cowboys may be more of a balanced team this year. Maybe the offense isn’t as good as 2014, but the defense is better. To me, it comes down to Prescott, because I feel like defenses made adjustments and Prescott had difficulty adjusting to that. Can he make those adjustments this year? Equally important–can Prescott make the few handful of plays that often decide games–in bit situations like the playoffs? If the answer is yes, then I think they are in contention.

    With the Falcons, I want to see their OL. In the last two years, they’ve had a good offense with a rickety line. This is one of the reasons that I have been impressed with Matt Ryan. I’m not sure if other pundits agree with me about the line, but I think it’s more vulnerable than the overall effectiveness of the offense suggests. Whether they’ve shored up the OL or not is my key question.

    With the Texans, I’m not 100% sold on Watson, but I don’t have as many doubts as I did after RGIII’s first year. I’m more open to the possibility that he can develop as a pocket passer. That’s important in my view because my guess is that defenses will catch up to their misdirection stuff, which seemed unique from other offenses. To what degree will these plays be effective? To what degree will Houston rely on these plays? To give a comparison, the Panthers are in a similar situation. But Cam can play from the pocket and do a lot of damage. They run the misdirection-running QB thing, but it’s almost complementary more than their bread-and-butter. If Watson and their offense can do damage in more conventional situations–at least to some degree–then he and the offense is probably in good shape.

    How good is the Texans defense? I don’t really have a clear picture of that, but that’s going to be another big factor, obviously.

  235. Wilson is good enough that I don’t think the OL and run game have to be WAY better. They could be slightly better, and with Russell healthy, they could easily be a top 8 team. This was my thinking, anyway.

    For the Texans, I think we have to accept that we’re never again going to see the J. J. Watt we love, but he’s still going to be a force if he’s healthy, and the Clowney-Watt combination is too sexy to ignore. Add the electricity of the QB (and I’m not exactly a believer either, but I’m happy to go along while it’s still a thing), a top-five receiver, and an easy division, and it’s a pretty nice team to keep an eye on.

    Plus, let’s not forget they have an outside linebacker whose name sounds like “merciless.”

  236. No Seahawk RB ran for more than 250 yards. I don’t think any scored TDs. Wilson was their leading rusher and if you took his yards away, I think they’d be dead last in the league. Just becoming an average team would be “way better.”

    I agree about not having high expectations for Watt, and watching Watson should be interesting.

  237. By the way, along with teams like Rams, Falcons, and Cowboys, I think I’d put the Raiders in that group as well. If things go well, I could see them being contenders as well. I lean towards things not going well enough, though. Part of this relates to my unease with what seems to be Gruden’s greater control over the personnel, particularly with taking high risk players. By the way, even if you put aside the fact that I don’t care for Gruden’s offense philosophy in the past, I don’t think he’s a great coach.

  238. Where do you guys have Carr ranked after last year. Going into last year I would have had Carr top five or right outside of that. Now I have him maybe top ten, or maybe outside of that. He didn’t look great last year. Yes he was injured and yes they had problems all over the place, but without being great I’m not sure how good the Raiders can be.

    1. I had a similar view heading into last season–with Carr being in the top ten, closer to the back end. By the end of the season, I think I’d put him out of the top ten.

      My guess is that the injury was a big factor, and we’ll see if it is or not. If it was a factor and he’s healthy, I think he can be really good–as in take a team deep into the playoffs.

      1. I have to think about Carr a little before I rank him. He has elements of a gunslinger, which I don’t mind too much, but you have to have receivers who can go get it, which the Raiders don’t really have, it seems. Maybe Cooper’s relationship with Carr will put them more in tune with one another so Cooper can adjust better when Carr’s off.

        1. For what it’s worth, I think the quality of his receiving targets is sufficient, and not really explanation for Carr’s less than elite play. If Carr were healthy, that would raise more questions about whether he’s the problem.

  239. Belichick or Aaron Rodgers for Ten Years

    Who would you rather have to for ten years (and assume that this is Rodgers ten best years)? I love Rodgers, but I’d go with Belichick. Belichick is more valuable than any QB–at least if he’s coaching in the salary cap of NFL. What about Brady or Belichick–who would you guys choose?

  240. I’m not as confident on Belichick’s ability to win without a QB. I know he has done it in spurts (deflategate suspension, Cassell), but can he win it all without a QB. The Eagles did it last year, but I’m not sure the amount the Pats rely on Brady that they could. So I’ll take the QB.

  241. Even if Belichick doesn’t snag a great QB, I’m thinking he’ll field teams that are really competitive, probably getting to the playoffs (depending on how tough of a division he played in). To win it all, I’d expect he’d need a really good QB, but not necessarily an all-time great one.

    Would having Rodgers lead to better chances of going to and winning the Super Bowls? I’m not sure about that. I continue to believe that QBs in Rodgers’ class (e.g., Elway, Manning, Marino) are a double-edged sword. They’re so good that it’s hard to be a run-based offense, and their teams tend to be more offensive-oriented than defensive-oriented. This is not a championship formula. I think Rodgers is fantastic, but I actually wouldn’t be as enthusiastic as people would expect if he were on my favorite team, primarily because of the reasons I mentioned. Same with Elway, Marino, and Peyton Manning in their prime. I’d want QBs that would be fine with handing the ball off a lot (e.g., Aikman).

  242. The one thing that is sort of unfair in this comparison, and I never thought about it when I first posted, is the fact that the QB will count heavily against the cap (unless you get a Brady) versus a coach who doesn’t. In that situation I guess I can see the coach being more valuable.

    I think if Rodgers was willing to play for Brady type money, his team will consistently be great and they could possibly win more championships. Just by the fact that they would be able to get one or two more super stars.

  243. In that situation I guess I can see the coach being more valuable.

    For Belichick, maybe. Would this apply to any other coaches? Andy Reid is another coach I’d consider, but I probably wouldn’t take him over Rodgers.

  244. If Lamar Jackson explodes on the scene, who would be a good trade partner for Flacco?

    I’m not sure if this is true, but I heard Lamar Jackson has been performing well so far. This got me to thinking: If Jackson emerges as this years Deshaun Watson, and the Ravens consider trading Flacco, which team would be a good landing spot? The first team that came to mind was the Jags. That could make them serious Super Bowl contenders in my opinion.

    Changing the subject, I heard a discussion on the radio that compared Dak Prescott and Deshaun Watson–who would you rather have? I think this is actually a close call. I have a significant level of uncertainty for both players–and that level is actually fairly close (to my surprise). But I think my uncertainty with Watson is a tad higher, so I’ll choose Prescott.

  245. First reaction: Aw man, that sucks.
    Second reaction: Screw the NFL.

    I was recently thinking about the anticipation I feel in the offseason, wanting to see how teams and players will look on the field. And then I thought of the two things that often ruin when you get to actually see them: 1) bad OL play; 2) rash of injuries, especially season-ending injuries to key players. Those two things make football unwatchable.

  246. I don’t consider either dominant or great–but they could very well take the next step this season. I’m not sure what the Vikings are missing, but they’re missing something. Perhaps the issue is that one of their units isn’t truly dominant–the secondary, LBs, or DL. If one of those units gets to that level, I suspect they will be dominant. (Sheldon Richardson could do that for the DL, although he didn’t do it for Seattle’s.)

    With the Jags, they gave up too many explosive plays in my view, especially in the playoffs. The problem may be more with the DL then the secondary, though. I have a hunch the problem may be lack of depth on the DL. They’ve got a talented front four, but maybe they were getting gassed and the dropoff with the rotational players was too big. What could also help if the offense gets better at extending drives.

    Edit:

    Oh, they also mention the Titans, which surprised me a little. For me, they have a long way to go based on what I saw last year, and there are too many unknowns. I have my eye on other defenses–the Rams, Chargers, and the Broncos, for example.

  247. Listening to recent press conferences from Pete Carroll and Brian Schottenheimer, the new OC, I got the impression that basically Schottenheimer’s coming in to run the old offenses, adding a few of his stuff to the mix. Schotty described the ratio as 70% old, 30% new. Question for you guys: Have you guys heard something like this before? It seems unusual. I believe Marc Trestman tried to run Kubiak’s offense in Baltimore, but that didn’t work out. I wonder if Mike McCoy tried to run Kubiak’s offense in Denver, which also didn’t seem to work out.

    I’m not real enthusiastic about Schotty to begin with, and this makes me less so.

    1. Were the plays or the players–or even the coaches–the problem? It’s hard to know, but I choose the plays last as the source of the problem.

  248. Is it me or is Gruden trying to make the Raiders older? News today is that they signed Frostee Rucker and Ahtyba Rubin–both were solid players a few years ago, but they’re older, and my sense is that Rubin is close to being done. (I’m not sure about Rucker.) They’re probably players added for depth, but one principle I have is that getting older is bad, except on the OL and especially on defense. I hope Gruden proves me wrong.

  249. According to this guy analyzing the Titans, Matt LaFleur comes from the coaching trees of Mike Shanahan and Jon Gruden, and the guy believes LaFleur is going to install an offense more like Shanahan’s (at least the running game, anyway.) Man, if this is the case–and he’s in the close to the talent of Shanahan or Kubiak, I’m going to be ecstatic.

    1. I think age and cost trump scheme fit.

      I’m not sure I buy the claim that LaFleur is going to install ZBS offense a la Shanahan. The Rams offense doesn’t strike me in that vein. Now, maybe LaFleur’s preference and forte is in Shanahan run-based offense. I really so. You know if this is the case, Carroll should have gone after LaFleur.

    1. You think if the Titans install a Shanahan style offense, they’ll have problems with the Texans? If so, I’m curious to hear your reasons for thinking this.

  250. A friend of mine was a passerby in a commercial filmed this morning with Marcus Mariota. She says she got a signed photo of him and a poi doughnut. I asked if, when he passed her the doughnut, it sailed four feet to the right.

  251. The Packers as a team to make the playoffs that didn’t make it last year is a no-brainer. I cannot see them not making the playoffs with a healthy Rodgers. That being said though, I think the Vikings are really good and the Lions and Bears will be interesting next year.

    I think the Chargers are a no-brainer as well, but they are the Chargers, and what if the Gruden experiment actually works in Oakland. The Raiders got just enough pieces that a coach can make a difference.

    As of right now, I would pick the Titans (a team they had out of the playoffs) over the Texans (the number 1 team picked to make the playoffs). I cannot believe that Watson can continue to make five or so big (as in enormous) plays a game like he did last year. The Texans’ defense may be great, so it may not matter, but if they are the wounded team they have been in the last few years and their DBs are below average like they were last year, I think they could be 8-8.

  252. The Ravens, as a team making the playoffs, stood out the most for me. I’m not that confident about them doing that. Did they really upgrade their receiving corps? Also, I don’t have a lot of faith in Mornhinweg.

    … and what if the Gruden experiment actually works in Oakland. The Raiders got just enough pieces that a coach can make a difference.

    If the pieces pan out, this will go against my rule that you can’t have too many problem players–they either will lose time of the field (due to offfield issues) and/or wreck the team culture. By the way, my understanding is that the Raiders are bracing themselves for a multiple game suspension of Martvais Bryant. I’m not sure about the details, though. Ugh.

  253. Yeah, as I stated before, I’m leaning on the side that Gruden is going to fail. Just pointing out a possibility (although in my eyes slim) of San Diego not making the playoffs.

    I agree with you on the Ravens, but people seem to be very high on Lamar Jackson, which is the only reason I can see people high on them.

  254. Lamar Jackson isn’t even supposed to start this season, so that’s a weird reason. I am with you both, though: it really surprised me to see them on the list.

    If Watt, Clowney, and Merciless are all healthy (huge if, I know), I don’t think anyone is going to be able to run against the Texans.

    This might be the season where Reid and I are rooting for the same team but for opposite reasons. I really want them to win with all the problem players because I think winning makes all of that stuff go away. As much as I dislike the Rams (when Kurt Warner isn’t their QB), I may find myself rooting for them, too.

    Interesting also in that piece is that Cleveland is in the “others receiving votes.”

  255. Lamar Jackson isn’t even supposed to start this season, so that’s a weird reason.

    I agree. And what’s even weirder is the somewhat enthusiastic talk (from GM Street) about Flacco and Jackson being on the field at the same time. I mean, it’s fun, but that’s not a reason to think they’re going to do well (not that the GM Street guys were saying that).

    If Watt, Clowney, and Merciless are all healthy (huge if, I know), I don’t think anyone is going to be able to run against the Texans.

    Even if Watt is healthy, what’s the chances he’ll return to the level he was at in his prime? Then again, he doesn’t necessarily have to be that good to make a significant difference. On a side note, I feel like this defense hasn’t lived it the hype. Also, my sense is that Brian Cushing was a big factor in the past–the defense wasn’t the same when he wasn’t in the game.

  256. I think it’s more about continuity with the Texans’ D. I wonder if we can count on one hand (maybe it would take two) the amount of games that Watt, Clowney, and Merciless has been on the field together. I thought the Texans took a step backwards once Phillips left as DC, but again they always have injuries so it’s so hard to tell. They have added some pieces on defense (Honey Badger and couple DBs), and if I was confident in their offense, I would say the Texans will be a playoff team. Reid how is their offensive line? They don’t seem to run the ball well, but again injuries to the RB position in the last three years may be part of the problem.

    1. Even when Phillips was there, I didn’t think they had a dominant defense. At best, I’d say the defense was very good. But again, some or a lot of this could be due to injuries, as Don mentioned.

      Reid how is their offensive line? They don’t seem to run the ball well, but again injuries to the RB position in the last three years may be part of the problem.

      I didn’t follow them closely, but they looked like night and day depending the QB and offensive system. With Watson and the offense that went with him, the OL looked decent.

      To me, it comes down to Watson. Is he healthy? Will he adjust well to the adjustments defenses will make after the first year? How well will the misdirection stuff work this year?

      In other news, I thought this (the article, not the headlines) would be something that would please Don:

      Marinelli’s basically really happy about getting Richard. It makes sense. My impression is that the DL is Marinelli’s strength. Richard’s is the secondary, so this makes a good match. (With Carroll, his strength is the secondary, and I tend to think he needs a good DL coach, which is what Quinn seemed to be.)

      If the Cowboy offense slips a little, they still might be contenders if the defense improves. They could be a one of the most balanced teams in the league.

  257. If Richards does good with Dallas, it probably means that Dallas does good overall, which in turn means I doubt it Garrett gets fired. It does seem within the Cowboys’ insiders that the talk is Richards is pretty much the DC or at least equal to Marinelli. I’m glad to hear that Marinelli is welcoming and wanting Richards there.

    1. …it probably means that Dallas does good overall, …

      I tend to agree. Where this may not occur is if Prescott and passing game really struggle. My guess is that is not going to happen–or the struggles won’t be that bad.

      …which in turn means I doubt it Garrett gets fired.

      What’s your take on Garrett? Do you want him to remain the coach or not?

  258. I would rather have Garrett out. I agree with pundits that say when Dallas has all their pieces, Garrett can perform, but he is not great at adapting to hardships such as injuries, nor has his team beat Rodgers in the playoffs (although they probably would have in the Dez catch game).

  259. I don’t have a specific coach in mind. Where would Garrett be on the list of active NFL coaches? Top five? Top ten? Without knowing all the coaches or their styles, I would put Garrett in the bottom half of the league.

    1. I think evaluating Garrett is difficult because Jerry Jones, like Al Davis, has been fairly hands on. My sense is that Jones wanted a pass-based offense, built around Romo, not Garrett, and it seemed like Jones finally allowed Garrett to implement Garrett’s preferred approach. I think Jones also does things to harm the culture of the team and undermine the authority of the coach.

      One the main reasons I like Garrett is precisely because of the offense he seems to prefer, so if you remove that, then he would drop in my rankings of coaches.

  260. Why do you think Jones wants or wanted a pass-oriented offense? I’m not saying it’s wrong, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard that any place other then you. This is what I do know or at least pretty confident about Jones. He thinks Jimmy Johnson’s blueprint of building a championship team was/is correct. He believes he needs a trio of QB, RB, and WR and he believes in building a great offensive line. And I’ve always thought it was to run the ball. I never thought it was to build a good pass-pro. I think the old Cowboy’s team doesn’t get enough credit for building a great defensive team. Johnson would rotate like seven to eight guys on the defensive line in the height of their defense. But I never got the sense the Jerry or other pundits feel it is as important. That being said though, the last two drafts were mostly about defense, so maybe that is changing.

    1. Why do you think Jones wants or wanted a pass-oriented offense?

      I think he made comments that alluded to this–specifically about Romo being the focal point. For example, when Romo was throwing the ball a lot and putting up big numbers, Jones seemed to be happy, not unhappy. Garrett’s comments, during the 2013 season, were the opposite of that. He would make comments like, “I think we need to run more” and stuff like that. I used to think, “If that’s what you think then why don’t you make that happen? You’re the coach.” And I believe this was the year, Jones took away play calling duties from Garrett. (Didn’t Jones select some assistance coaches at the time, as well? I don’t know if it was Callahan or Linehan. There were odd shifting of coaches.) Early in Garrett’s career, I recall the Cowboys having the type of offense they have now, and I remember liking that. Finally, I thought there were rumors Jones wanted to hire Gruden–maybe even copy the Gruden’s Tampa Bay blueprint. (They hired Monte Kiffin, for example.)

  261. Bobby Wagner or Luke Kuechly?

    I hate to say this, but Kuechly being better seems pretty clear-cut to me. I think Wagner is really good, but Kuechly is better. I’ll put it this way: if both continue to play at their current levels, and have a ten year career, I’m more confident that Kuechly should be in the HoF than Wagner.

    What team would be a good fit for Teddy Bridgewater?

    Since he came in the league, I’ve been rooting for Bridgewater. At the same time, the hard truth, for me, was that I didn’t think he is or likely would be a great QB. (I would say it comes down to lack of talent, and even a the ability to perform well in crucial moments. He also seemed to struggle throwing deep balls, but I figure he can improve on that.)

    Still, I think he could be a solid QB, and a good backup at the very least. He’s with the Jets now, but what other team would be a good fit?The one team that came to mind is Miami, especially if Bridgewater wasn’t too expensive. At worst, he could be a solid backup for Tannehill. At best, he could become a better starter. Also, if I were the Bills I think I would have liked him better than AJ McCarron, and I kinda like AJ. Finally, the Jags came to mind, and that’s a decent fit, but he’d have to improve his deep ball to make the fit better. (I still want to see Flacco go to the Jags.)

    This is a bad sign for the Raiders

    I share Tucker’s sentiment. (I heard a comment on a podcast that Bryant could be suspended for the entire season! My initial impression was four games or something like that. They gave up a 3rd for him, which is a pretty penny. Guys with red flags or proven bad behavior generally tend to cause problems for a team, either by not getting on the field, or by disrupting the team and culture. Ugh.)

    This might be the dumbest argument I’ve heard from Cowherd

    And I don’t really think he makes a lot of dumb argument. He may express opinions or construct arguments that I disagree with, but I rarely think he says something inane. Or maybe I just don’t fully understand his argument–particularly that comment ostensible link between Mayfield celebrating and the need to make quick decisions in the NFL. Can someone explain that to me?

  262. What do you think Kuechly can do better or significantly better then Wagner? What about a healthy Sean Lee is he not even in the conversation?

    1. My sense is that Kuechly is better at sniffing out plays and getting to the ball. He might be better in coverage as well, but I’m not sure. The difference may not be huge, but it’s big enough where I’d choose Kuechly over Wagner.

      Sean Lee, when healthy, is up there with Wagner. I think I would choose Wagner over him, but I’m not as certain.

      1. You think Kuechly is as fast or faster than a Lee or Wagner? I feel like of the three Wagner is a better tackler. At least I feel more confident in his ability to bring a guy down over Kuechly or Lee. I think Kuechly is amazing in coverage. His instincts are on point in that area. But overall I would put all three in the same tier. I don’t feel any one of them is significantly better than the others. For me at least, it’s like Bell, Elliot, and David Johnson. It’s a much smaller sample size with Johnson only having one great year, but I would put them in the same tier as well. I may like one guy’s style over the other, but looking at them objectively, there would all be in the same tier in terms of an overall RB.

        1. You think Kuechly is as fast or faster than a Lee or Wagner?

          No not really–and that’s what I used “sniffing out plays,” which entails knowing where the the ball will be and getting into the right position/angle to make a play. Kuechly just seems better or more consistent at doing that then the other two.

          Wagner and Lee (when the latter is healthy) are really good, but, for whatever reason, they don’t stand out as much as Kuechly. For example, when I compare all three to HoF LBs, Kuechly seems closer to those guys than the other two.

          For me at least, it’s like Bell, Elliot, and David Johnson.

          Hmm, I wouldn’t use that comparison. For one thing, I’m uncertain about David Johnson, so let’s put him on the side. Bell and Elliot are close. The main close. The biggest difference has to do with stylistic preference, as you allude to.

          I guess, if I think Kuechly is a clear step ahead of Wagner and Lee, then the RB comparison obviously wouldn’t be apt for me.

    2. One thing that came to mind about this debate. Kuechly might have a better DL than Wagner, particularly at the tackle positions. If this is true, that might explain the difference that I see. Put Wagner on a team with a good DL, ones that keep the O-linemen off him, and he might look just as good if not better than Kuechly.

  263. I didn’t read the article, and while I’m optimistic about Derek Carr’s future, this is crazy. David is his brother, but c’mon. I’m pretty sure most of you would agree this is crazy. Who would you choose instead of Carr?

    Me: Rivers, Ryan, Stafford; probably Newton. OK, maybe this exercise if far less interesting than I thought.

    1. Actually before this past season I probably had Carr right about where his brother ranked him. I definitely would have had him over Stafford and Ryan, and right in there with Wilson, Rivers and Newton.

      Now, I would have him as an average QB with guys like Alex Smith, Tannehill, and Keenum. And I tend to lean on that he will never be an elite QB, whereas before last year I thought it was just a matter of time.

      1. I definitely would have had him over Stafford and Ryan…

        Wow. It’s funny because for a long time I didn’t really believe in those two QBs, but my estimation of both has really grown. Not only has my faith in their ball security improved (although I’m less sure about Stafford in the playoffs), Stafford has shown both underrated mobility in the pocket and ability to throw in muddy situations. Ryan ability to throw in cramped, pocket that’s falling a part has been really impressive as well. (I think the last two or three years their OL is shaky, and Ryan’s been able to perform despite that.) These things put them clearly above Carr for me, even when Carr looked his best.

        Now, I would have him as an average QB with guys like Alex Smith, Tannehill, and Keenum. And I tend to lean on that he will never be an elite QB,…

        Any specific reasons you feel that way? You’re not factoring in his injuries, especially the back injury last year? I’m guessing that’s the biggest reason for his struggles and slight decline. Now, if you tell me, he’ll never recover fully from that, then I might agree with you. But if we assume that he will fully recover, then I’m expecting him to eventually become a really good QB.

        Also, for all my complaints about Gruden, I’m assuming that as a west coast guy, he’s going to help Carr with his feet, and that will help with accuracy issues. I suspect Gruden will help with any turnovers as well. Those two things happen, and he can be in the top five.

        1. All the times I watched Carr last year, I wasn’t impressed. His accuracy is below average and he makes bad decisions even when not under durress. I think part of it is a bias on my part because I really thought he was going to be an elite QB and that his mistakes were just due to his inexperience. But now I’m leaning to the fact that, that’s just who he is. I didn’t even see flashes of brilliance last year (but I probably saw him play only about four times). Even when I watch Tannehill, who I’m less thrilled about then before, I see some flashes of greatness, like how he throws on the run and avoids pressure. I do still think Carr is decent with pressure as in he stays poised and moves decently to avoid pressure, but he just doesn’t make great throws. And I get the feeling he performs worse when the game is on the line, although I probably don’t have anything concrete to back that up.

          1. But you know he was injured last year, right? I think it was a back injury. You don’t think that could explain his struggles last year?

      1. I’d probably have Wilson at 2.

        On another note, I was thinking about something the other day: How sure are you that Drew Brees would be really good if he played in the 80s or even the 90s? If had to choose the most accurate QBs, he might be up there on my list, but I’m not sure he’d be as successful in the 80s or 90s. The biggest reason is his height and the fact that there weren’t many shot-gun offenses…Well, Elway had one, and I guess if a coach did that for Brees he would be fine.

        For similar reasons, I’m a little uncertain about Wilson, too. Then again, I’m kinda uncertain about him now–that is, I still can’t believe he’s as effective and successful as he is.

        Brady’s another QB I have some doubts about. I think he would be OK at worst, but I’m not sure he’d be great.

        The QBs I am confident about are Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning. I’m also more confident that Rivers and Romo would play well in the 80s and 90s.

  264. Does Alex Smith Deserve to be on in the NFL Top 100?

    I’m not sure, but I heard John Clayton decry this fact. To me, it’s believable. When you talk about game-managing QB, in the more pejorative sense, I think Smith is a good representation of that.

    On the plus side, I respect Smith’s resilience. He had a really rough start to his career, and he managed to persevere and become a functional QB. He has improved over time, and even in area like ball security, which I thought was a significant weakness. (I still have some serious doubts about this, but now I’m wondering if I’m wrong.)

    Thoughts on Developing QBs

    I’ve probably said this before, and I’ll probably say it again at the start of the season, but here are two things I’m looking for in Jared Goff and Carson Wentz.

    First, with Goff, I want to see if he can throw functional passes when under duress. My impression was that he was awful at this last year. If he dramatically improves in this area, I think he could lead them to a Super Bowl.

    With Wentz, the issue also involves pressure–specifically, handling blitzes. In my view, he struggled at times to read (pre-snap?) blitzes (and make the right protection calls?). The other issue is just being smarter with his body, taking hits. He plays a little too recklessly in my view. He improves in these two areas, and he could be one of the better QBs in the league.

    Oh, since we’re talking young QBs, I’ll mention a few more. Mariota has the same issue–the deep pass. My guess is that his footwork is a huge part of this, and his footwork seemed to regress last year. Ball security is still a concern–I’m interested in seeing improvement in that area.

    DeShaun Watson–I’m watching if he can function in the non-college-y type of sets; if he can play well in more conventional offense, and in predictable passing downs.

  265. I thought with Wentz and Goff that their offensive systems made them look better than they really are. These two played in the two of the most prolific offenses last year. I know Reid is very high on Wentz, and I thought based on previous posts (not so much this past one) was really low on Goff. I think Reid had Wentz as a top five guy, and by my interpretation of what Reid wrote, Goff as an average or even below average QB (as in bottom half of the starting QBs).

    I think defenses may catch up to two of these two teams a little bit. In the case of the Rams, they were on pace with the Greatest Show on Turf at times last year, and really they are not that good. I think teams will try and take away some of their underneath especially those dump downs to Hurley (maybe put a spy on Hurley) on passing downs. Defenses should also try to get Goff to beat them deep and to the outside by taking away a bigger portion of the middle of the field. With the Eagles, they were a big play team, much as the DeShaun Watson Texans. Defenses will need to try and take those plays away. It may be harder than it sounds, but I thought the Cowboys did that pretty well against Wentz. I think how well the offensive systems of the Rams and Eagles are able to adapt may affect how well the QBs play, imo.

    1. I think Reid had Wentz as a top five guy, and by my interpretation of what Reid wrote, Goff as an average or even below average QB (as in bottom half of the starting QBs).

      This is correct–except that description of Goff applied his first year. Paxton Lynch and Jared Goff looked very similar in their first years in my opinion. With McVay, Goff played way better than I thought he would. Now, if he can maintain the same level and improve on passing under pressure, I think he can be a Super Bowl QB.

      I thought with Wentz and Goff that their offensive systems made them look better than they really are.

      I don’t think this is true for Wentz, and I say that because if you took away the Wentz’s 3-4 sandlot plays per game, I don’t think the offense would be as successful. I mean, obviously with Foles they were, but I’m saying that the offense didn’t look particularly impressive if you took away Wentz’s plays.

      they were on pace with the Greatest Show on Turf at times last year, and really they are not that good.

      I agree. And I suspect that defenses will catch up the Rams a bit. In a way, I feel like this season is more like Sophomore season for Goff–one where defenses catch up, and younger QBs struggle to adjust.

      I don’t really feel the same for Wentz.

      1. So Goff is an above average starter? You like him better than a Cousins, Keenum, Winston, and Mariota?

        But Foles in the Eagles system in the AFC Championship Game and Super Bowl was spectacular, which is a big reason I credit the “system”.

        1. So Goff is an above average starter?

          If he improves on throwing under pressure, and performs at the same level as last year, yeah, I’d say so. And if this happens, I’d give him the edge over those QBs, generally speaking. If I evaluate them one by one, here’s what I’d say:

          vs. Cousins. I have question marks about Cousins, whether he can make a few crucial handful of plays and protect the football in the playoffs. If Cousins can’t do this, he’s below the Goff I describe above. If he can, I think it’s closer, but I’d give the edge to Goff (because I think he has a better arm).

          vs. Keenum. Will Keenum duplicate last season’s performance. I like Keenum, but I tend to think not. I like the Goff I describe above quite a bit more than Keenum.

          vs. Winton. Goff (that I describe above)

          vs. Mariota. I think Mariota would have to improve significantly from last season to be in the same ball park as the Goff I describe above.

          If Goff plays at the level of last year, I think he’d basically be on the same level of those guys, more or less. (If you only factor in regular season, I’d probably choose him slightly above all of them except maybe Cousins.)

          But Foles in the Eagles system in the AFC Championship Game and Super Bowl was spectacular, which is a big reason I credit the “system”.

          I think you have to separate the two situations.

          Here’s another reason the Eagles did well with Foles. It wasn’t so much the system, as much as they could create a new system that defenses were totally unfamiliar with. The credit still goes to the system.

          But Wentz was playing, the eye test tells me that Wentz and his improvisation was a key reason for their success. To me, Wentz is a QB that lies somewhere in between Cam Newton and Russell Wilson–i.e., he not as bulky or strong-armed as Newton, and he’s not as good a scrambler as Wilson. He’s a less powerful but better scrambling QB than Cam.

          1. I probably have Goff around where you got him, or probably lower. I swear even last year you had Goff lower than what I thought of him, but now it has shifted. I do not think Goff is better than Cousins or Mariota. I think he has more potential than Keenum or Winston though. Just because I wrote so much about Carr, I can tell you I like Carr over Goff (if that helps where I think Goff is on the spectrum). It must be his small hands (Reid said this is a real thing.).

  266. Reid,

    What is your guess on Derek Carr? Do you think he has a better chance of becoming a future elite QB or just an average to below average starter based on what you have seen thus far?

  267. Do you think he has a better chance of becoming a future elite QB or just an average to below average starter based on what you have seen thus far?

    I think the chances are higher for the former rather than the latter. This is based on the hunch that his injury explains his struggles last year. I’m assuming you don’t think that was a big factor. (Coaching also could be an issue as well.)

    1. The injury has to be a factor, although yes I’m definitely leaning that he is not and will never become an elite QB. For example, I would put Stafford right outside of the elite category, and I will be surprised if Carr can be better than Stafford. I lean that Carr will at best be a Steve Grogan (not sure how I pull that name out), but probably be closer to a Carson Palmer sans the great year at Arizona.

      1. Steve Grogan (not sure how I pull that name out),

        Hahaha, indeed. Did you just choose Grogan as example of the overall quality of play or because you factor in styles, too? And I’d argue Grogan was above average. I think he could have been better on a better team.

        or example, I would put Stafford right outside of the elite category, and I will be surprised if Carr can be better than Stafford.

        It depends what you mean by elite. If elite is the top tier–the very best QBs–e.g., Brees, Brady, Rodgers, and I’d put Wilson–I agree Stafford is outside that group, and probably in the tier below (e.g., Newton, Ryan, don’t know who else).
        If he makes it to Stafford’s level that’s pretty high, and, yeah, I guess I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets into the first tier.

        As for Palmer, if you take away his really good years in Arizona and Cincy, I would say he’s average to below average–which is lower than what Stafford is now.

        Anyway, what about the fact that Carr is playing for Gruden? I think the one good thing about the hire is that it increases the chances that Carr will develop and also put up good numbers.

        Edit

        OK, now I’m trying to think of QB you had in mind to represent the level Carr would attain. What about Joe Ferguson (the man with the Golden Arm)? You remember him? Or what about someone like Phil Simms–or do you think Carr won’t get to that level? Bernie Kosar? Don’t even say Jeff Hostetler. What about Dave Kreig? Or what about Marc Bulger, or Trent Green? Who was the backup for Moon with the Oilers, the guy who took Atlanta to the Super Bowl? Or what about Chris Chandler? Neil Lomax might be a good one. Don “the Magic Man” Majkowski.

        1. I like the Bernie comparison of the group. I actually was thinking Hostetler, but I knew that would draw ire from you.

          Edit
          I still rather have my Grogan comparison though, I think Grogan was slightly better than Kosar when compared to their peers. Don’t you think? Man I cannot really remember for sure though.

          1. I actually was thinking Hostetler, but I knew that would draw ire from you.

            Hot fire.

            I still rather have my Grogan comparison though, I think Grogan was slightly better than Kosar when compared to their peers. Don’t you think? Man I cannot really remember for sure though.

            That’s a tough call, partly because, as you say, it’s hard to remember. The one thing I don’t like about the comparison is that I think of Grogan as a runner. I mean, not like Michael Vick, but more like Roger Staubach. Carr is a little more athletic than people might think, but still.

            Also, I really liked Kosar. But my memory is hazy, for both, but especially Grogan.

            What about Eli or Flacco?

  268. Sorry I probably should have been clearer. I doubt Carr will reach Stafford’s level, which as you confirmed is a tier below elite. But there was a time I thought Carr would be elite (above Stafford’s level), as in a top three to five QB of his time (so maybe once Brady and Brees retired or if their game regressed in their old age). I picked Grogan as what I now think is Carr’s ceiling. A guy definitely in the top ten in his time, but definitely not a top five guy, and maybe barely an All-Pro (or not a consistent All-Pro). I picked Carson as what I feel would be around where I think Carr mostly likely will be, which is good, but not great. That is an average guy, maybe in a good year an All-Pro, but definitely not in the conversation by almost anyone as one of the top guys in his era.

    I really like Carr’s poise in most situations. That goes the same with his brother David. However, I’m leery of his accuracy and his footwork on just ordinary throws. I like his ability to avoid the rush (ie: move in the pocket), but not confident in his willingness (more than ability) to set his feet and make a good throw on the move. I just am not sure he can be discipline enough to always set his feet and throw or not throw off his back foot or out of position. Nor as I said before, am I confident in his ability to make plays when his team needs him the most. I know Crabtree and Cooper can be clowns at times (especially with the drops), but they are elite in talent especially as a one (Cooper) and a two (Crab), and there is a part of me that thinks they made Carr look better than he is. The coaching change is huge for Carr, but again I’m not in the “Gruden is the answer” camp, which makes me even less confident in Carr. But on a side note, I am sort of (very slight because it is the Raiders, the team of Reid, Mitchell, and Gregg) cheering for Gruden to do well.

    1. I picked Grogan as what I now think is Carr’s ceiling. A guy definitely in the top ten in his time, but definitely not a top five guy, and maybe barely an All-Pro (or not a consistent All-Pro).

      I could definitely see Carr being just a top ten guy, barely all-Pro. I mean, even in optimistic progrognostications, top ten in his time falls within the ballpark. In other words, if all goes well, I think Carr could be top ten or even top three. I also wouldn’t be too surprised if he’s outside the top ten.

      Oh, here’s one: What about Eli Manning? Or Flacco? Take away how they performed in the playoffs, I think I could definitely Carr ending up at a similar level as those two.

      I really like Carr’s poise in most situations.

      I was more impressed in his rookie season. I might be a little less impressed now.

      Re: his footwork. I totally agree this is an issue, but footwork can be improved, if you’re willing to work on it. I don’t get the sense that he’s one of those strong-armed QBs that will never change. I feel like with good coaching, he can and will improve in this area (and a west coast coach is really good for this). By the way, I feel very similar towards Mariota.

      Nor as I said before, am I confident in his ability to make plays when his team needs him the most.

      I’m not that worried about this. I don’t know why, but I feel like with better coaching, that will translate to a better offense, this won’t seem like an issue. In other words, play calling, play design, and preparation, more than Carr’s poise in crunch time are big factors to the offense’s performance in crucial situations. That’s just a hunch, though.

      The coaching change is huge for Carr, but again I’m not in the “Gruden is the answer” camp, which makes me even less confident in Carr.

      In terms of Gruden’s background and offense, I think the fit is great for Carr’s development. The question I have, with regard to this issue, is if Gruden will be effective after staying out of the league for so long. Who has come back from a long layoff and had success? Vermeil is the first and only one that comes to mind.

      But on a side note, I am sort of (very slight because it is the Raiders, the team of Reid, Mitchell, and Gregg) cheering for Gruden to do well.

      I’ll say this: If this is pass-first offense, you might be cheering for them more than me.

    2. I think both of you guys are using All-Pro in a manner I disagree with. There are only two All-Pro teams (in the AP poll): a first team and a second team. Each team only has one QB, so Carr would have to be a top-two QB. This past season, Brady was the first team QB and Wentz was the second team QB. Do you guys mean borderline Pro-Bowler instead?

      1. I think I viewed “all-pro” more as a placeholder for a high level of play–i.e., top tier–rather than it’s literal meaning. This was probably careless thinking on my part. Also, I was sloppily conflating all-pro with pro bowler, as you suggest.

  269. Here’s Why I’ll Be Watching the Bears Offense

    First, my assumption (which could totally be wrong) is that the new coach will install an offense and approach that’s similar to Andy Reid’s and Doug Pederson’s. The Eagles and Chiefs don’t really have similar offenses, but I’ll explain later why I’m including them. This approach basically relies heavily on clever schemes for success (similar to Belichick’s approach). I believe there are two general approaches: a clever complex approach where the scheme is almost more important than the talent and a simpler approach where talent, execution, and effort are critical. I think Belichick and Reid are in the clever camp. I put Pederson for indirect reasons. Let me explain. My hypothesis is that the Eagles had success with Foles because they made changes to their offense and defenses just didn’t have enough time or tape to prepare for this. In other words, the schemes/plays were unfamiliar so they were at a huge disadvantage. Essentially, this fits the approach where the scheme is more important than the talent.

    This brings up to the Bears and Matt Nagy. If Nagy employs a scheme-based approach and has a lot of success, I will start thinking this is a better way to coach. Actually, the biggest issue with this approach is that there doesn’t seem to have been many coaches who are capable of doing. If I’m right about Pederson, he actually might not qualify for what I’m talking about.

    In any event, if Nagy can do adopt an approach that’s scheme driven, then I will start thinking that this is something that can be duplicated.

  270. I could be wrong, but I believe what happen with Foles last year was that they tried to install an offense more suited to him in the beginning. FWIW, it was also a watered down offense. But it wasn’t working, so at some point the coaching staff said, let’s try running the same offense, which is when the offense picked up.

    The Eagles rely on just that one pass-run-option play. There really isn’t any trickery. It’s just a straight-up option play. This is why I was a little surprised at how effective it was all year. Give some credit to a good o-line though, they may have made the scheme look more effective than it really was.

    1. I wish I knew more about the offenses, particularly any changes that occurred after Wentz went down. I really have no idea what changed or if anything changed at all. I do know that the Foles and the Eagles offense looked terrible against the Raiders and then looked way better in the playoffs. I can only guess as to why that is.

      However, the fact that they could play so well against the Vikings (a game I didn’t watch) and the Patriots makes me think the difference was so scheme change that both defenses just weren’t prepared for. Granted, Foles made some nice throws in the Super Bowl, and his WRs made some nice catches–and the Patriots defense was far from great–but I still lean toward plays/schemes that the Pats defense wasn’t ready for. Ditto the Vikings.

  271. I forgot to add that Foles was really comfortable running the run-pass-option with Chip Kelly, so that is something he like to run anyway.

  272. I thought Kam was a top five safety for more like 4-5 years. I wonder if he would have been in the HoF if he wasn’t the second best safety on his team. Although that may have hurt his play as well.

    1. I thought Kam was a top five safety for more like 4-5 years.

      That’s fair, but two of those years, he might not have been in the top 2. He played at a really high level for maybe 2-3 years in my view. It’s not like he was bad in the other years, but it seemed noticeably less. And to be clear, I’m judging this a lot on the number of big hits, which might not be the best way to judge him.

  273. Interesting piece at ESPN.com by Bill Barnwell in which he ranks all 32 teams’ skill position players. Reid will appreciate that Barnwell at least acknowledges the difficulty of doing so without considering offensive lines and QBs, but he will also be annoyed at the attempt to do so at all. 🙂

    It’s a long piece, but I actually read the whole thing. If you just skim, I suggest at least reading the intro and then the first sentence of the 32nd-ranked team’s summary. It’s a cute transition.

    Man, when you look at the Raiders skill guys, it’s difficult not to get kinda depressed about the upcoming season. Yow.

  274. Dallas’ ranking is lower than I expect just because of the impact of Zeke, but really not by much. I think I would take Dallas corp over Green Bay’s, whose star is Jimmy Graham. Green Bay may have a lot of running backs though, each of whom did okay when asked last year. But without Jordy, I would lean Cowboys’ wide receivers (as bad as they may be) over Green Bay’s.

    I also wouldn’t pick the Chiefs number 1. Best running back corp in the league, I can buy. But Hill and Watkins cannot be relied upon as true number one receiver. I really like Kelce though. I would rather have Atlanta who has a dominate receiver and a great running back group.

    Patriots at 8 is also crazy taking away scheme. They have Gronk and no one else. He can carry that group all the way to 8, and Zeke can only get his team up to second worse? I hear a lot of pundits love Sony Michel, though, so he could be a difference maker if he is as good as people think.

    1. That kinda strengthens Don’s case in my view. Adams has never really impressed me. Maybe he’s still developing; maybe Graham’s presence will open things up for him (and Cobb), I don’t know.

    2. 149 receptions and 22 TDs in his past two seasons are maybe not all-star stats, but they’re pretty dang solid, and he’s never missed a game in four seasons. He’s 25 this season, and I’d say a legit 2nd-tier #1 receiver.

        1. I’ll also add that two years ago Rodgers made even James Jones (a receiver left for dead) into a receiver that could put up similar numbers.

          1. Did Jones put up similar numbers? He really struggled open, and if it wasn’t for back-shoulder throws and the Rodgers scrambling ability, Jones would be useless.

            I think Adams is better, but I don’t see him or the other Packer receivers getting open consistently, not like Jordy in his prime. My hypothesis about the Packers is that they’ve been missing one or two great one-on-one pass catchers. If they get that player, McCarthy can use that to scheme open the other pass catchers. Can Graham be that player that makes the others better? We’ll see.

  275. Reid will appreciate that Barnwell at least acknowledges the difficulty of doing so without considering offensive lines and QBs, but he will also be annoyed at the attempt to do so at all.

    Actually, I appreciated the acknowledgement without any annoyance. I’m mellowing with age, I guess.

    Man, when you look at the Raiders skill guys, it’s difficult not to get kinda depressed about the upcoming season. Yow.

    You mean, relying on Nelson, Martin, Bryant, and Lynch is dicey? I agree. We’re talking old guys or off-field issues. You can’t rely on Martin to stay healthy, and who if he’s not too beat up even when he is. Who knows how much gas Lynch has in the tank? I don’t think you can rely on him all that much. I have to wonder if they’re really going to be committed to the run. Would you expect Martin and Lynch to create one of the better rushing offense in the league? I wouldn’t. Nelson seems to be the most solid pick-up, but he seems to be a #2 at best.

    If you just skim, I suggest at least reading the intro and then the first sentence of the 32nd-ranked team’s summary. It’s a cute transition.

    What was the transition? I had a hard time loading the article, and keeping the article.

    Don,

    I think I agree with a lot of your impressions. One thing, though: I sort of feel like the differences between many teams can be quite slim. With some exceptions, I think the ranking is really difficult.

    I also wouldn’t pick the Chiefs number 1. Best running back corp in the league, I can buy. But Hill and Watkins cannot be relied upon as true number one receiver. I really like Kelce though

    Number one seems a bit high. The way this makes sense to me is if you think of the WRs as running backs as well and add that to Andy Reid’s offense.

    Patriots at 8 is also crazy taking away scheme.

    Yeah, and I didn’t realize they lost Amendola. I think Edelman is the difference maker, though. I think when he and Gronk are on the field, that can open things up for the other players.

  276. I was going to say that about Edelman, but he’s out for a quarter of the season and the point Barnwell makes about his age (compared to Wes Welker’s) has me thinking twice.

    The transition I’m talking about is this. The end of the intro says

    All right! The Jets were 32nd last season. Surely, they’ve invested in their skill-position talent for new quarterback Sam Darnold and won’t be last this year, right?

    and the next thing is

    32. New York Jets
    Well, no.

  277. Maybe Jones didn’t put up the numbers Mitchell listed, but the numbers for the Packers overall was down in 2015 (Am I misremembering? That’s the year Jordy went down right?). I’m pretty sure James Jones led or was really close to the leader in terms of receiving stats in 2015. And no other NFL team wanted him.

    1. I think 2015 was the really down year. I think the Raiders and the Giants cut Jones before the Packers picked him up.

      By the way, since we’re talking Packers, this is sick:

  278. https://www.profootballfocus.com/news/pro-nfl-offensive-line-rankings-all-32-teams-units-entering-2018

    Pro Football Focus ranks the O-lines based on their ratings system. I don’t know how I feel about PFF: I do like that Sunday Night Football shows the PFF ratings when it puts the starting lineups on the screen, but I’ve read that their system is flawed in a major way I never had time to investigate.

    The top 6 teams were in the playoffs last year. The highest-rated non-playoff O-line is Oakland at 7. The writer missed a chance to be cute, which disappoints me a little. He says, “A lot will come down to how quickly rookie right tackle and first-round pick Kolton Miller can assimilate.” Man, he should have written, “…how quickly rookie right tackle and first-round pick Kolton Miller can Osemele.” Although maybe that might have flown over some heads.

  279. Whoops. Hahahaha. I guess my own personal filter just blocks out any mention of the Cowboys whenever someone says something good about them.

  280. I was thinking about something, so I’m posting for some possible feedback. Earl Thomas and Kawhi Leonard and their respective teams are in the same boat. Both players are one year away from being a free-agent and more importantly both have public shown interest in one particular team, Cowboys for Thomas and Lakers for Leonard. In my opinion, this really hurts their current team. If I’m Boston, why would I give up a lot for Kawhi, thinking he may not resign or may not agree to a new contract, and leave after next year and go to the Lakers. This goes for Thomas as well with him wanted to go to the Cowboys. I think in Seattle’s case it may not be as “dire”, because there is no way of knowing whether or not Dallas will want to spend the money for Thomas in his next contract. With the Lakers, they seem to be positioning themselves to pick up a big free agent next year by signing a lot of one year deals this year. For both the Seahawks and Spurs, I’m not sure there is much they could have done to prevent this predicament (and again for the Seahawks, how bad of a problem this is may be slightly overstated at least at this point). But should both teams have already traded with the teams these stars wanted to go to already? If what I’m saying is true, is the value of both players only going down at this point? Whatcha think?

    1. If I’m Boston, why would I give up a lot for Kawhi, thinking he may not resign or may not agree to a new contract, and leave after next year and go to the Lakers. This goes for Thomas as well with him wanted to go to the Cowboys.

      Boston isn’t analogous to Seattle, though, right? Seattle has Earl for one more year. If they do another contract, the contract will be for more than a year, so Seattle wouldn’t have to worry about Earl leaving for Dallas. Or maybe I’m not understanding something.

      Here’s the nature of Seattle’s dilemma as I see it:

      1. If they extend Earl, they may pay too much, and they take a risk that Earl may decline or get hurt. (Similar to what happened with Kam Chancellor.)

      2. If they don’t extend Earl, yes they have him for one year, but Earl would likely disgruntled and possibly disruptive. Knowing Seattle’s MO, my sense is that they generally want to find some mutual agreement so that both sides are happy, but if that’s not possible, they try to move on from the player.

      The problem here is that other teams aren’t willing to give what Seattle’s FO would consider fair market value for Earl. And I think that leads to just keeping Earl, despite the possible pitfalls with that situation.

      But should both teams have already traded with the teams these stars wanted to go to already? If what I’m saying is true, is the value of both players only going down at this point? Whatcha think?

      With Seattle, I tend to think a trading Earl already might have been better. The thing is, Seattle would likely get less of what they think Earl was worth, and I tend to agree. That still might be better than one more year of Earl’s performance and then losing him with nothing in return, unless Seattle can get a comp pick, but I’m not sure if they can. If they can get a comp pick, then Seattle should probably not trade Earl.

      And yes, I think the value of Earl has a greater chance of going down. Or I think the desire to sign him for a long term deal, something that Earl wants, becomes less attractive for potential suitors.

  281. Yes you are misinterpreting something. Yes Boston is not Seattle, in my example. Kawhi plays for the Spurs so Seattle would be analogous to the Spurs. Boston would be a team not named the Lakers that might trade for Kawhi. So I was trying to say why would Boston trade for Kawhi knowing he will go to the Lakers after his contract is up after one year? Or if they do trade for him, they will offer much less to the Spurs then if they thought they would have a good chance to lock him up to a long contract after next year.

    Another thing to note is if Seattle has a chance to resign Earl to a long term contract, that would be another big difference between Earl and Kawhi or Seattle and San Antonio. I think it’s widely known that the Spurs have zero chance to resign Kawhi after next season.

    In terms of compensatory picks for Earl, there is a formula that is not public from what I understand. The formula takes into account salary, snap counts, and post-season awards (and maybe other things). I think how it works is like this. If Seattle lost Earl and he is worth a third round comp pick (note third is the highest comp pick), but Seattle picks up a free agent worth a fifth round comp pick, Seattle may be awarded a fourth round comp pick. Note a couple of things though. One, this is not a player for player comparison, it’s a team comparison, so the league will compare all the players Seattle loss in free agency to all the players obtained in free agency and if there is a difference offer comp picks. And two the picks are not available until the following year’s draft. So if they lose Earl next season to free agency, they wouldn’t get a possible comp pick until the 2020 draft.

    1. Boston would be a team not named the Lakers that might trade for Kawhi.

      I guess this is a little odd because I’m not thinking of the Earl situation outside of the Dallas and Seattle. In any event, if another team tries to sign Earl, I think the contract will be long-term, because that’s seems to be the main issue for him. Maybe he’d go to the Cowboys without a longer deal in place, just because he wants to play there so much, but I can’t really see him doing that with another team.

      Another thing to note is if Seattle has a chance to resign Earl to a long term contract, that would be another big difference between Earl and Kawhi or Seattle and San Antonio.

      My guess is that Seattle could probably do this, but they’re reluctant.

      I think how it works is like this.

      My understanding is similar or the same as yours, but I’m unsure if Earl would even qualify. If Earl’s contract ends after this year, and Seattle doesn’t re-sign him, and someone else does, does the compensatory pick process go into effect? I think there are situations where it would not, but I’m not sure what those situations are.

  282. So the bottom line is that you don’t think Earl’s interest in the Cowboys is lessening his trade value? I’m not disagreeing, but I will say that although I haven’t really heard a lot of pundits say it, I would guess that’s not the case in terms of Kawhi. I would think teams will not offer what he’s worth or not offer at all because of Kawhi’s interest in the Lakers because getting him for long term if you are not the Lakers seems somewhat unlikely.

    Yes if Earl becomes a free agent (not resigned by Seattle) that is when the comp pick scenario kicks in. From what I know that is the only situation in which the comp pick kicks in. I think the only way it wouldn’t kick in is if Seattle brings in more free agents then it loses. That would mean their comp pick calculation would be negative.

  283. So the bottom line is that you don’t think Earl’s interest in the Cowboys is lessening his trade value?

    Yes. I’m still not entirely why you think it would.

    To me, the main issue for Earl is a long-term contract; I think he cares about that more than where he plays. I mean, if the Browns gave him a great long-term contract, I think he’d go there…OK, maybe that’s pushing it. If a long-term contract wasn’t a big deal, I suspect the Seahawks would give him a shorter deal that paid fairly well. Basically, if you’re a team interested in him, you have to be willing to pay big money for a long-term deal. That’s my sense, anyway.

    I would think teams will not offer what he’s worth or not offer at all because of Kawhi’s interest in the Lakers because getting him for long term if you are not the Lakers seems somewhat unlikely.

    So Kawhi would go to another team on a short term deal? I don’t think that would interest Earl much, otherwise he’d stay with the ‘Hawks or maybe that would make it easier to trade Earl.

    Yes if Earl becomes a free agent (not resigned by Seattle) that is when the comp pick scenario kicks in.

    OK, I wasn’t sure. Is this true even if they release him?

  284. I thought it was clear but maybe not. So in both Earl and Kawhi’s case if they really wanted to play for a certain team, there isn’t much the other teams could do to stop them. So most people are saying that Kawhi really wants to be traded to the Lakers, but the Lakers at this point aren’t willing to offer the Spurs what he’s worth. But let’s say Boston offers the Spurs something he’s worth. Kawhi would play for Boston for this one year under his current contract and then he would be a free agent next year (same as Earl). He could then just opt to play for the Lakers. So what I was trying to say is if I was Boston why would I offer the Spurs what he’s worth knowing there is a better than 50% chance he’s going to leave to go to the Lakers after one year. For example why would Boston give the Spurs their next two first round picks, knowing they would be “renting” Kawhi for one year. So now that lessens the value Kawhi has to the Spurs. That includes what they could get from the Lakers because the Lakers can just wait a year to get him. In Earl’s case the desire to play for the Cowboys may not be as strong as Kawhi, but there is no way for other teams interested in Earl to know for sure. So they would have to chance trading for Earl knowing that, there is always a chance (maybe not better than 50% like Kawhi) that he may choose not to sign a long term deal so he can sign with the Cowboys after next year.

    So it’s not that Kawhi would go to another team on a short term deal. When he is traded he is still under his existing contract, so if the new team is unable to sign him up for a longer term, he will still be a free agent next year.

    I’m pretty confident that the comp pick rule only applies to unrestricted free agents. So if you release a player you lose the chance to get a comp pick, and I’m pretty sure if the player is restricted free agent, which means the incumbent team or Seattle in this case would get a chance to match any offer to Earl by other teams, you also don’t get a comp pick.

    1. For example why would Boston give the Spurs their next two first round picks, knowing they would be “renting” Kawhi for one year. So now that lessens the value Kawhi has to the Spurs. That includes what they could get from the Lakers because the Lakers can just wait a year to get him.

      I think I understand what you’re saying, but I don’t think this applies to Earl. Let me see if we’re on the same page. In your view, if Earl ruled out being rented for a year by another team, would that make the situation different from Kawhi’s? My sense is that Earl’s desire for a long-term deal is what makes the situation different. If anything that desire for a long term deal lessens his trade value–or at least makes trading him more difficult. If Earl were willing to take short term deal, I suspect Seattle could find a trade partner–but that would include the Cowboys. And, in this scenario, I would expect Seattle to sign him to this short term deal (paying him well in the process.) What am I missing here?

      …and I’m pretty sure if the player is restricted free agent, which means the incumbent team or Seattle in this case would get a chance to match any offer to Earl by other teams, you also don’t get a comp pick.

      Are you sure? I thought there are restricted free agents that, if another team overbids the incumbent team, then this comes with a pick. Players are often tagged with this designation. It’s usually not the elite players.

  285. I can think of a few good reasons the Celtics might give up a few strong assets now in exchange for Kawhi’s 201-19 season. First, if they feel they’re one good piece away from an NBA title THIS year, especially with a weakened Eastern Conference, they should be sorely tempted. Draft picks are nice, but you can’t use them to win this year unless you trade them. Boston’s window might not be closing on their young talent, but the conference isn’t far from a couple of teams making strong pushes, teams like Philadelphia.

    If you can win this year, I think you should go for it, something I admired Houston for this season. It seemed like the Rockets looked around them and didn’t see a team in the west making a serious push to beat Golden State, so they said let it be us.

    Another reason Boston might do it is if they have a lot of confidence that once Kawhi sees what it’s like to play in that city and win, and to play on that team and be immersed in its culture, he might be persuaded to re-sign as a free agent. Miami has this kind of culture-confidence, and I don’t see why Boston shouldn’t think the same thing, especially with Brad Stevens coaching the team. I know nothing about Stevens as a coach, but I know people perceive him as being great. Can Leonard have the same confidence in Luke Walton?

    Finally, there’s the issue of playing with LeBron. If Kawhi is on friendly terms with Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, Kevin Love, and Kyrie Irving, he might want to talk to them about what that’s like, and it’s something I would plant firmly in Leonard’s mind if I were the Celtics.

    It bums me out that Leonard’s relationship with the Spurs couldn’t be repaired. That’s really the team he belongs on. Alas.

  286. SB Nation: The six sharpest unis in the NFL.

    https://www.sbnation.com/nfl/2018/7/17/17574950/nfl-jerseys-uniforms-best-49ers-raiders

    I seriously disagree with the choices of Pittsburgh and Minnesota. While the color schemes are classic (although I liked the Minnesota purple when it was darker), I can’t stand the stylistic jersey numbers. Pittsburgh’s looks okay with a lineman’s number, but on the skill guys (especially the single-digit skill guys), the numbers look terrible. The only numbers in the league worse than Pittsburgh’s are Baltimore’s and Tampa Bay’s.

    Minnesota’s numbers aren’t as bad as those, but they’re still annoying.

    I’ve been told whenever they survey the players on this question, the Raiders almost always win.

    I would take Pittsburgh, Minnesota, and Jacksonville off this list, and add Cincinnati (although I wish they’d lose the drop-shadow on the numbers), LA Rams, and NY Jets. Maybe New England instead of NY.

    1. I feel weird judging uniforms without helmets (but strangely, I’m comfortable judging helmets without uniforms).

      The only numbers in the league worse than Pittsburgh’s are Baltimore’s and Tampa Bay’s.

      I don’t know about the numbers, but I think Tampa Bay’s uniforms look terrible.

  287. What? You don’t like the pewter and red? That’s a great color combination! It’s just the freaking LED-looking number that stink.

    I don’t think the writer was evaluating unis minus helmets. I was including the helmets in my thinking, too. One reason I put Cincinnati on the list. The tiger-stripe helmets are unique, and they look great with the jerseys.

      1. Wikipedia says pewter is 85% to 99% tin, with copper, antimony, bismuth, and sometimes silver or lead. You know, like a pewter mug.

        This is what it looked like when it was still on the uni.

  288. …and this just looks stupid on Roethlisberger’s huge body. Like a kid hurriedly added a 7 to his jersey.

  289. If we’re including helmets, I would agree with the Bengals–and I think I would choose them over the Vikings. I like the Bills unis. Also,I would think the classic Cowboys unis should be mentioned as well.

    Another thing: I wish the Steelers and Giants would come up with different helmet designs. Steelers is a cool name for a team, and they should have a color design for their helmets. How about just a stainless steel helmet? That might be too flashy to suit the team….Or, what about a iron-colored helmet with no real logo except for rivets (drawn, not actual)?

    I really dislike Jacksonville’s current helmets as well. They’re original ones were way better.

    1. I thought of that, but I didn’t mention it because I think the rims would make this unfeasible. I like the concept, though. If they could somehow do this, I think that would be cool–at least the idea is cool.

  290. I know you guys don’t really care, but these comments by Cliff Avril were depressing:

    According to former Seahawks defensive end Cliff Avril, however, fans shouldn’t get their hopes up about the line improving too much in Solari’s inaugural season.

    Avril, who co-hosts the Cliff and Puck show on KJR-AM radio, likes the players Solari has to work with. But as he opined on Thursday, with the Seahawks adjusting to an offensive scheme with more power running concepts, he suspects the first year will be very difficult and it will take some time for the group to gel.

    “They have a good group of guys,” Avril said. “But I do know going from one type of system to another can be very difficult for the young players to adapt to because still, they’re trying to figure out who they are as players.”

    What’s depressing is that this is totally reasonable answer, one that will likely prove true. Even if Seattle hired the best OC, the OL improvement might be minimal in year one, or at least that wouldn’t be surprising. I don’t think Solari or Schottenheimer are great coaches. Instead, they strike me as competent coaches, who can have success with talented players. Seattle’s OL might not have enough talent, and that makes matters worse.

    The thought of Seattle’s OL being only slightly improved is incredibly depressing. In such a scenario, Russell Wilson sustaining a serious injury is a real possibility, and even if he remains healthy, with only a slightly improved OL, the Seahawks will likely to repeat last year’s level of performance, if not something worse; and they were unwatchable, to me, at times.

    One last thought. Even if one can’t reasonably expect significant improvement from the OL, if they don’t significantly improve, I think Carroll probably should be fired. I think you could make a case he should’ve been fired at the end of last season. The OL has been a problem for at least three years. This season woudl be the fourth. There’s no excuse for this.

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