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FMIA: The Scourge of Draft Desperation and The Combine Without a Sure Thing – ProFootballTalk

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You learn a lot talking to smart people. Daniel Jeremiah’s a smart guy, and I learned a lot from our conversation Saturday evening. Namely: There is one position of great intrigue entering the Scouting Combine this week in Indianapolis, one position that is an absolute mystery with the draft kicking off two months from today.

Quarterback. Surprise!

Jeremiah, NFL Network’s prime draft analyst, has been doing his homework entering the Combine, and his research team came up with this gem: Since 2011, six teams have traded either into the top five picks of the first round, or higher in the top five, for a quarterback. And on every occasion, the acquiring team overpaid, per the old Jimmy Johnson trade chart. The acquiring teams and QBs:

2012: Robert Griffin III, second overall to Washington.

2016: Jared Goff, first overall to the Rams.

2016: Carson Wentz, second overall to Philadelphia.

2017: Mitchell Trubisky, second overall to Chicago.

2018: Sam Darnold, third overall to the Jets.

2021: Trey Lance, third overall to San Francisco.

The Bears have the first overall pick in 2023. There are four quarterbacks likely to go in the first half of the first round, and four teams with major quarterback needs in the top nine: Houston (two), Indianapolis (four), Las Vegas (seven) and Carolina (nine). I hear—though it might be smoke—that none of the four wants to scotch-tape a veteran like 39-year-old Aaron Rodgers and probably not Derek Carr. So the Bears, if they’re not going to use the first pick on a quarterback, could get rich quick by using quarterback desperation against these four teams.

What did the 2022 season teach us about pro football? You need a quarterback to reach the promised land, and you need defenders who can stop the quarterback—edge players, franchise corners. The Bears could just sit at one if they love one of the two best defenders in the class—defensive tackle Jalen Carter of Georgia and edge-rusher Will Anderson Jr. of Alabama. They could sit at one if they’ve fallen out of love—which I doubt—with Justin Fields and want one of the four quarterbacks. Or they could strike a rich deal with a desperate team.

Recent history, in the form of the overpaid move-ups for quarterbacks since 2012, is on the side of the Bears. As Jeremiah said, trading down with Carolina at nine might net Chicago the ninth overall pick plus a second-round pick this year, and first-rounders in 2024 and ’25—if history holds.

“It’s an interesting draft,” Jeremiah said Saturday night, “because you don’t have quite the top-end talent at the top of the draft you’ve had in some past drafts But in my conversations around the league, I talk to friends and they’re sitting there saying, ‘How are we gonna stop these quarterbacks?’ You hope you have one of them. But if you don’t, you gotta go find one with the upside that’s at that level. The second question, and this has been in talking to some GMs in their draft meetings, literally the questions are: ‘Is this guy gonna help us get off the field against Patrick Mahomes, Joe Burrow, Josh Allen?’ You’ve got to build your team towards trying to deal with this next generation of star quarterbacks, particularly in the AFC.”

This week, when quarterbacks Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud, Will Levis and the fascinating Anthony Richardson show up in Indianapolis, the questions will start to get answered. Not a single one is a no-doubt long-term quarterback, but the desperation for the position will cause some intense jockeying for them.

 

Getting on an airplane for work two weeks after I got off the last one from the Super Bowl. Well, okay. Rust, and the NFL calendar, never sleeps. In FMIA this morning:

America, meet Jalen Carter. It’s the start of the two-month season of learning/vastly-overplaying-the-importance-of the NFL’s new rookie class.

Dates to remember: March 7, deadline for franchise tags (also known as the Lamar Jackson National Day of Intense News). March 15, the trading period begins. Keep your phone with you, Jalen Ramsey.

The most interesting twist to the Combine and the draft? Read all about it, right here.

The Combine will be less famous this week. Boldface names are staying home. It’s a trend.

QBs in Indy: “They all have flaws. They all have holes,” Daniel Jeremiah says.

The Texans could have one hellacious draft, if Jeremiah’s current projection holds. (Hint: It won’t.)

The NFL (Netflix Football League) is born. Call me intrigued.

Three QBs, followed for a season. “You’re gonna learn how Patrick Mahomes is like an owl” is one of the best quotes in FMIA history.

Kirk Cousins, Netflix star. He might have given NFL Films the best access of any player in league history, per Films executive producer Keith Cossrow.

Harrison Butker had an interesting post-Super Bowl week.

The Rams will own (day three of) the draft.

Some advice for Russell Wilson, though I think he’s probably figured out how to handle this dungstorm of adversity he’s experiencing.

Meet the newly named Cardinal: Chosen (nee Robby, nee Robbie) Anderson.

Davis Webb’s last six weeks: from starting a game at quarterback against the NFC champs to the most high-profile QB-coaching job in the NFL. At age 28. Webb was a junior in high school when Seattle drafted Russell Wilson.

The Peter King Podcast drops tonight at 7 ET, with 25 golden minutes of a Combine primer from Daniel Jeremiah, and Myles Simmons on the ground reporting from the Combine in Indianapolis. Hit this link after 7 tonight.

The highlight of Shane Steichen’s Combine week? Being the featured guest at my Scouting Combine event Friday night in Indy, to raise money for Teachers’ Treasures, which allows teachers in needy districts to shop for free for their classrooms. Come one, come all.

Other things will be happening at the Combine as well.

 

My conversation with Jeremiah, and trip to the Combine, is my start of draft season. I know many of you are into the October Mock Draft scene. I’m not. So, many of you are waaaaay ahead of me entering the Combine. I hope some of my elementary stuff won’t bore you.

The Combine/early draft headlines:

It’s not a great draft for sure things. So it’s not a great draft at the top. “It doesn’t have maybe what we’ve had in years past, in terms of the elite, high-end players,” Jeremiah said. “I love Jalen Carter. I love Will Anderson. Those are my top two players. After that, I think there’s holes and questions on just about everybody.” The question is, will that make teams less desperate to move up? The answer has two months to develop, but I doubt it. Teams usually fall in love with players the closer we get to the draft.

The quarterbacks will take a lot of study. Jeremiah: “Five of them, I think, are gonna end up being starters. But they all have flaws. They all have holes. There’s not a Trevor Lawrence. There’s not a Joe Burrow. There’s not an Andrew Luck. But while there’s risk involved, I think these guys have really, really high upside across the board.” The four likely to go in round one:

  • Bryce Young, 21, 6-0, 195, Alabama. Jeremiah thinks he’ll probably measure under 6-feet, and he hears he weighs about 198 now. Granted no one is totally scared off by lightish 6-footers after the success of Drew Brees and Russell Wilson, but it is a negative. Young completed 66 percent of his passes with 80 TDs and 12 picks in 34 games at ‘Bama. “In terms of what do you like about him, it’s almost like, what do you not like about him?” Jeremiah said. “He’s got poise, he’s got excellent accuracy, he’s a really good decision-maker. Alabama coaches would have a scouting report on for the next week’s game on a Sunday. They said Bryce would show up Monday morning having already studied the entire opponent tape and would come in with corrections and ideas on the game plan saying, ‘I actually like this protection against this one better.’” How much will his size affect decision-makers, starting with Houston? Excellent question.
  • C.J. Stroud, 21, 6-4, 220, Ohio State. Absurd numbers, like Young: 69-percent passer, 81-12 TD-to-pick ratio in 28 games. Watching a YouTube video of him, what’s impressive is how he throws downfield and across the field; he’s not afraid to make any throw, and unlike some quarterbacks who can’t justify such quiet bravado, Stroud has, consistently. “He’s a pure thrower,” Jeremiah said. “He’s not real dynamic or urgent or explosive in terms of his movements. I wanted to see him play a little bit more off schedule. In other words, when he got moved off of his spot I thought when you could move him and get him uncomfortable, I thought his play suffered. Then of course he goes into the playoff game against Georgia and it’s the best I’ve ever seen him play.” Stroud put up 41 points with four TDs and no interceptions against Georgia’s top-rated defense.
  • Will Levis, 23, 6-3, 232, Kentucky. Levis transferred from Penn State after two seasons mostly on the bench, then became the starter early in 2021 at Kentucky. He might be more famous for putting mayonnaise in his coffee than for playing football. (True factoid.) Battled through shoulder and toe injuries in 2022 at Kentucky and the team didn’t develop a weapon around him as dangerous as the departed Wan’Dale Robinson, so Levis wasn’t as good in 2022 as in ’21 in Lexington. A coach like Josh McDaniels, who is big in QB-development and drilling down on the little things, might be a good match for Levis, with the Raiders picking seventh. That’s where Jeremiah has him. “Will’s a tough evaluation,” Jeremiah said. “When I watched him over the summer, I liked a lot of things that I saw from him. But when you watch him, you still see every type of throw you can make. He can do it. He’s got a really strong arm. You know when he’s healthy he’s a good athlete. The two things that you gotta navigate around are the turnovers, the combination of fumbles and interceptions, and then taking a ton of sacks.”
  • Anthony Richardson, 21, 6-4, 232, Florida. Over the weekend, talking with one NFL evaluator for a team that likely will not take a quarterback in this draft, I asked which quarterback he liked the most. “Richardson,” he said. “Clearly the best upside, but you’re gonna have to be patient.” Richardson is a dual-threat player, and had TD runs of 80 and 81 yards at Florida. But he won just six football games in his short career, and may be a classic case of a player who might be the 15th pick this year but could be the top pick in 2024 with more experience. “If you’re on an alien spaceship and you land and you only watch Richardson’s Utah game, you think he’s the best football player on the planet,” Jeremiah said. He was 17-of-24 with 106 yards rushing and three rushing TDs in the upset of the Utes. “But the consistency is just not there. It’s a roller coaster ride that you go on. But there’s a ton of talent in there.”

Where are the coaches? So Sean McVay and Matt LaFleur won’t attend the combine, and Kyle Shanahan may not, and there could be others. That seems nutty, but I’ll tell you why it’s not. The Combine was designed originally to do exhaustive physicals on all the players—which none of the coaches attended. The Combine was designed to have workouts and physical tests on all the players—which the coaches could attend, but see the same thing on TV. The Combine was designed for teams to have 15-minute windows to meet with the players they were most interested in—and all of those meetings are videotaped by teams so that coaches can see them. Here’s what the Combine has become: four or five long days that end with drinking sessions with friends in the business, and networking, and coaches being hounded for jobs by unemployed coaches and personnel people in the hallways of the Indiana Convention Center and bars late at night. If I’m a new coach like Arizona’s Jonathan Gannon, who just got his job 13 days ago and just finished filling out his staff last week, my feeling is my time would be much better spent in long days of meetings in Tempe with coaches I’m just getting prepared to work with. If I were Gannon, I’d figure I have time to meet with prospects in person for 30, 60, 90 minutes in the next two months. I’d rather spend time now with my new staff figuring out how we’re going to coach our players, who we’re going to go after in free-agency, etc. Whatever he does, fine. Even in this microscopically short offseason, I do think meeting players at the Combine does help teams.

The “exceptions in scouting” Combine. There are coaches who, when speaking to scouts in their organizations, specify minimum heights and weights for each position. This year, that could be challenged. “This year, there are exceptions,” Jeremiah said. “In every position in this draft, you can find an undersized player who’s one of the highest-ranked players. For instance, my top corner is [Devon] Witherspoon of Illinois. He’s listed at 180 pounds—and he might be less than that. Obviously Bryce Young at quarterback. You go to the defensive tackles. One of the more fascinating players, Calijah Kancey from Pitt, same school as Aaron Donald – he’s listed at 6-foot, 280 pounds. He might come in at 5-11. But he’s a great player. It’s one position after another where you’ve gotta try and decide like, gosh, I don’t want a team of little guys but these guys are really, really good football players. Fascinating storyline.”

Good year for tight ends. “The best tight end group I’ve seen in the last 10 years,” Jeremiah said. He’ll release his second list of Top 50 players on NFL.com. Tight ends in Jeremiah’s top 25: three. Wide receivers in Jeremiah’s top 25: two. Jeremiah has Utah TE Dalton Kincaid the top-rated tight end or wideout on his board, at number 10. No wonder: In October, with defenders hanging off him, Kincaid caught 16 passes against USC for 234 yards.

The top two talents. Jalen Carter has been talked about for two years by scouts—even with all the talent at Georgia last year, there was a wait-till-Carter-comes-out vibe. Had three sacks and 31 QB hits this year, which is pedestrian. “But his change of direction, his strength, how he creates havoc, he’s just a complete disruptor,” Jeremiah said. Carter’s the top-rated player for Jeremiah, and Will Anderson is two. At Alabama, Anderson had 34.5 sacks and 58.5 tackles for loss in three seasons. At 6-4 and just 235 pounds, he’ll likely grow into a bigger NFL body. “He’s not a Von Miller-type athlete in terms of his ability to really bend and kind of wrap around,” Jeremiah said. “But he’s got so much twitch and so much power in such a short area, you know, that makes him a nightmare to deal with in the passing game. One of the stories I thought was interesting was if you watch these guys at training facilities, they’ll do a lot of drills where you’ve got a band wrapped around a player and you’ve got a coach that’s attached to him. So Anderson is running and the coach is resisting and his trainer’s been doing this for a very long time and he said [Anderson] had more horsepower than anybody I’ve ever done that with. When he takes off and goes, you can feel that jolt.”

Jeremiah loves Texas RB Bijan Robinson. He rated Robinson fourth overall in this draft class, even though he knows it’s highly unlikely a back will go that high these days. “The grade I gave him is the same grade I gave to Christian McCaffrey. It’s the same grade that I gave to Saquon Barkley.” The debate about how high to take backs will likely push Robinson down, but Jeremiah doesn’t apologize for ranking him fourth overall.

Texans fans, rejoice … maybe. Houston has the second and 12th picks as of this morning. In Jeremiah’s latest mock, done without trades (he’s sure, as I am, that there will be some high in the draft), he gave Houston the best QB in the draft, Young, at two, and the best wideout in the draft, USC’s Jordan Addison, at 12. Imagine that. “Even though the warts are where they are on the defensive side of the ball,” Jeremiah said, “I’m trying to give my young quarterback as much help as I can possibly give him.” Thus Addison at 12.

NFL Network will run more than 50 hours of Combine programming starting Tuesday at 10 a.m. and concluding Sunday night. I’ll have this column with Combine stuff next Monday. There will be more than 1,100 media people covering the event, so it’s likely you’ll get your fill over the next week, if you’re interested.

 

In July, a seven- or eight-episode series on the life of NFL quarterbacks will drop on Netflix. This should be exceedingly interesting, because unlike the shiny, happy pieces we see when teams can exert editorial control over the projects, we’re likely to see more of the real here.

The shows, likely about 45 minutes apiece, will focus on the lives of Patrick Mahomes, Kirk Cousins and Marcus Mariota going through the 2022 season. When I saw Mariota’s name, I thought that was great—because Mariota’s season sort of crashed and burned in Atlanta when he lost the starting job in December and left the team to have surgery. The project has a megastar, a quarterback trying to get over the playoff hump, and a quarterback struggling to re-establish himself as a starter.

“Having three quarterbacks in three distinct circumstances allows us to paint a complete portrait of what life is for an NFL quarterback,” said one of the executive producers at NFL Films, Keith Cossrow, who pointed out the power hitters who drive this project—NFL Films, Peyton Manning’s Omaha Productions and Mahomes’ new 2PM Productions—could have landed another franchise quarterback. But (my words, not Cossrow’s) what good would that do? Quarterbacks have rocky times too, and this Mariota season exemplified that. Mariota’s better for this show than Joe Burrow or Josh Allen would have been.

“You’ve got a Heisman winner, the second pick in the draft, who rediscovered his love of the game in Vegas, and now here’s his chance,” Cossrow said. “Did it work out in Atlanta? No. But how he got to this point and the aftermath will be significant aspects of the show. His wife gives birth to their first daughter, he finds out the next day he’s been benched, there’s a little bit of fog of war after that, and then he goes home to Vegas for surgery on his knee. All in three days.”

That should be good TV. Cossrow said the producer assigned to Mariota, veteran NFL Films producer/director Shannon Furman, went to Vegas for a long sit-down with Mariota to dissect just what happened. Mariota’s a great guy but not particularly an open book; I hope his familiarity from his season with Furman encouraged him to bleed a bit here.

The other two quarterbacks provided some gem moments, per Cossrow. “Kirk was an open book,” he said. “I think it’s the best access we’ve gotten with a player in [NFL Films] history. The first episode in the series will end with an incredible moment. In the Detroit-Minnesota game in week three, the Vikings win but Kirk has a significant overthrow on what would have been a TD. So after the game, he lets the crew go home with him to his big family gathering, and there’s a firepit in the backyard, and the kids are eating ‘smores. Everyone leaves, and it’s kind of dark, and Kirk’s there, and he’s beating himself up over the overthrow. Captured beautifully. That was the first cue, to me, that we’re going to get what we’re after here.”

The project came together late. At first, Andy Reid had to be convinced—a phone call from Manning was involved—and it sounds like Reid gave his blessing when he found out Mahomes really wanted to do it, and that NFL Films cameras wouldn’t be around the facility, a la “Hard Knocks.” Cossrow said cooperation with the Kansas City in-house crew was important, with some shots from practices. Mahomes was mic’d up once a week at practice and, as with Cousins and Mariota, he was wired for every game of the season.

“We were home with Mahomes after the Jacksonville playoff game,” when Mahomes suffered the high ankle sprain, Cossrow said. “There’s a couple of magical moments with Patrick during the Super Bowl that you’ll see. And his off-platform throws are explained by the person he works with to make the precision throws. You’ll see how every day he works to contort and throw on target. Basically, you’re gonna learn how Patrick Mahomes is like an owl.”

Well, that should be a hoot.

This is an important show for NFL Films and for the league. Netflix has done or is doing other shows with sports themes—in tennis, car racing and golf—and won’t want this to be all polished and positive. Cossrow knows.

“We did not want to put out fluff as our first project with Netflix,” he said. Sounds like there’s some quality TV that most certainly will not be fluff.

 

I.

I was kind of thrown into the fire but I came in and did what I had to do to go 3-3 I was just trying to get used to my teammates, used to the coaches, used to playing in the AFC North, used to playing in the cold.

–Cleveland quarterback Deshaun Watson, in an online radio show with his private QB coach, Quincy Avery, on his first six games as a Brown, via The Plain Dealer in Cleveland.

 

II.

One thing in this profession you learn is, comfort is the enemy of progress. I don’t like being comfortable. I like accepting challenges.

Eric Bieniemy, the new offensive coordinator and play-caller of the Washington Commanders.

 

III.

Harrison Butker is taking a week of silent prayer and meditation and reflection in an abbey here in California.

–Colm Flynn, reporting for the religious news network EWTN, per Lisa Gutierrez of The Kansas City Star, on how the man who made the winning kick in the Super Bowl is celebrating this month.

 

IV.

It’s disappointing to see that in 2023, there are only four Black head coaches in the NFL. I think it’s going to shift. I hope I’m around to see the shift.

–Longtime NFL assistant Jimmy Raye, 76, to Jarrett Bell of USA Today.

 

You may have seen in the last few days a report that the Rams might trade cornerback Jalen Ramsey. It’s true. It’s not certain, but it absolutely could happen.

The Rams are trying to reverse course from the team that hasn’t had a first-round draft choice since they picked Jared Goff first overall in 2016. If they’re able to deal Ramsey for something near market value, what exactly would that market value be—and what would it mean for the Rams’ drafts in 2023 and ’24?

The Rams are slated to have 10 picks in 2023, and though compensatory picks have not been announced, we can project them reliably—and I have done that with the aid of overthecap.com. The Rams’ picks: 36th overall (round two), 69th overall (round three), three picks in the sixth round, one in the seventh round, and compensatory picks in rounds four, five, six and seven.

Jalen Ramsey at the 2023 NFL Pro Bowl. (Michael Owens / Getty Images)

Ramsey will play his age-29 season this year. In his last three season, PFF has ranked him the 16th-, fourth- and 11th-rated cornerback in the league in coverage grades. So he’s still a quality player at a need position. He’s got three years left on a contract that is due to pay him $17 million this year.

My projection is the Rams could get something between a low first-round pick this year (Dallas, Buffalo and Kansas City could be interested, and pick between 26 and 31 overall) and a package of picks—perhaps a low two this year, and a fourth-rounder this year or next, that could rise depending on performance or play-time markers Ramsey could meet.

The other factor about this team: I expect GM Les Snead to trade the Rams’ high second-round pick this year for either two or three picks between the mid-second and fifth rounds. Ideal world, Snead trades his high two for a low two and two fours. If they deal Ramsey, add a prime pick this year (I project a second-rounder) plus somewhere around a three next year.

In my scenario, the Rams would start the major retooling of their roster with a lineup of picks something like this:

Round 1: 0.

Round 2: 1.

Round 3: 1.

Round 4: 3.

Round 5: 1.

Round 6: 4.

Round 7: 2.

Total: 12 (10 in the bottom 150).

Add a third- or fourth-rounder next year in my Ramsey scenario, and, say, three compensatory picks because the Rams are not likely to be aggressive signing their own free-agents this year.

So, in my projection, no team will have to be better scouting and projecting over the next two drafts. The Rams will have in the neighborhood of 24 picks, combined, in 2023 and ’24 to make over this roster and get back in the thick of the NFC West race.

Postscript: Imagine next year having a first-round pick for the first time in eight years, and imagine that pick being pretty high in the first round, and imagine Caleb Williams of USC coming out of the draft. This will be Matthew Stafford’s age-35 season, his 15th year in the league. Next year is very far away, but it’s an intriguing time to think about the future of Sean McVay and the Rams.

 

I.

Last June, the veteran NFL wideout from Temple was known as Robby Anderson.

In August, he changed his name to Robbie Anderson.

This month, he announced his name is now Chosen Anderson.

Over/under on the next name change: seven months.

 

II.

Want to know about a fascinating coaching career? Look at Greg Olson, who just took a job with the Seahawks as quarterback coach.

Notes about Olson, who turns 60 on Wednesday:

  • He has had 19 jobs in 36 years of coaching. Ten of them have been in the Pacific Time Zone—five in California, three in Washington, one in Nevada and one in Idaho. The Far West jobs for Olson:

  • Olson coached Derek Carr in Oakland in 2014, in Oakland from 2018-’20, and in Las Vegas in 2021.
  • Just my take here, but I’ve always thought if you’re a good coach—and Olson is, by virtue of getting hired 19 times—on some teams that don’t win consistently, you’re going to be on a lot of staffs that either get fired in total or have lots of changeover. That leads, in this case, to Olson having hundreds of contacts in the business. His network must be enormous. So when jobs are available, I bet most head coaches asking around about Greg Olson find lots of peers who’ve worked with him.

 

I.

Miami cornerback Byron Jones, casting doubt on his football future, and on some of the treatments he may have received as a player.

 

II.

Demovsky covers the Packers for ESPN.com

 

III.

The MLS franchise noting a classy thing done by the U.S. league Saturday.

 

IV.

WMTW reporter James Corrigan on one crazy basketball finish in Maine.

 

Reach me at peterkingfmia@gmail.com, or on Twitter @peter_king.

I devote too much time to the Black coach story. From Christopher Stallings: “Every week I dive into your articles hoping to get ‘inside the NFL’ and every week I walk away shaking my head. Yet another half an article dedicated to left-wing conspiracies. Your latest on Eric Bieniemy is particularly astounding. Are you suggesting there’s no other reason Bieniemy would be not offered a head coaching job is because of the pigment of his skin? Billionaire owners are lighting torches passing up the hundreds of millions of dollars in Super Bowl revenue and increased team value? What’s worse is you think he deserves a head coaching job because of and only because of the color of his skin.”

I wrote 282 words in an 8,148-word column on the situation involving Bieniemy and Black coaches in the NFL; that’s 2.8 percent of the column, not “half,” as you claim. The “left-wing conspiracy,” as you claim, deals with Bieniemy, who is Black, being the offensive coordinator of Kansas City for five years. The previous two offensive coordinators are white: Doug Pederson (three KC seasons as coordinator) and Matt Nagy (two KC seasons as coordinator). None of the three called offensive plays; Andy Reid always has. Bieniemy was OC on three teams that went to the Super Bowl, two of which won Lombardi Trophies. Pederson and Nagy never got to a Super Bowl with Kansas City. Pederson and Nagy got head-coaching jobs; Bieniemy got to three Super Bowls and never got a head coach offer. I do not back down, Mr. Stallings, from pointing those things out, nor from pointing out that in a league that fields about two-thirds Black players, 12.5 percent of the head coaches are Black—four of 32. You call this left-wing-conspiracy talk. I call it pointing out an apparent injustice.

I don’t devote enough time to Black coaches. From George Retaleato of Syosset, N.Y.: “You bemoan the fact that the NFL only filled one of five coaching vacancies with a Black man. Yet, you give Jonathan Gannon (whose hiring is a joke) an interview but not DeMeco Ryans. It’s white liberals like you who continue the lip service to minorities while celebrating all the young white geniuses.”

I interviewed Gannon for the column, in part for taking the only coaching job filled in the week before my column appeared, in part for being the defensive coordinator of the Eagles defense that crumbled in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl. I led the column with the defensive flop, and he was a key factor in it. Gannon was a more newsy person last week, by far, than any of the other four new hires. I’ll catch up with the rest of them at some point this spring, and I’m sure you’ll note when I do.

I hear this a lot. From Garth Cooper: “You would think that minority head coaches themselves would do everything they could to put other minorities in the position to be on that fast track to becoming head coaches. However, Mike Tomlin hired a white offensive coordinator. DeMeco Ryans just became the head coach of the Texans and who did he hire as an offensive coordinator? A white guy. Todd Bowles fired his Black offensive coordinator and who did he hire? A white guy. Mike McDaniel hired a white OC. Robert Saleh, white OC. The only minority head coach who hired a Black offensive coordinator is Ron Rivera. Just like Black-owned businesses should be giving greater opportunities to other minorities, Black head coaches should be trying to further the careers of their colleagues if they truly want to solve this problem.”

This is not altogether fair, but I see your point. Bowles just appointed a Black quarterback coach, Thad Lewis, and the QB coach position is where many coordinators and head coaches have their roots. In addition, two more Black QB coaches, Jerrod Johnson (Houston) and Israel Woolfork (Arizona) got their gigs this off-season from programs instituted by the NFL or by NFL teams to increase the ranks of Black coaches on the offensive side of the ball. That’s a positive step.

Eli’s not a Hall of Famer. From Brian Antkowiak: “Opinions on the Pro Football Hall of Fame voting have become more polarized. Consider me on the ‘conservative’ side. I think the increase in players honored via avenues like the Senior Committee or 100th anniversary devalue the honor. Since 2011 I’ve been conditioned to think and accept that Eli Manning, who is a worse Joe Flacco but with a better last name, is going to be a Hall of Famer. Why? David Tyree and Mario Manningham making the best plays of their lives are all that stands between Manning being Kirk Cousins or Mark Brunell if last names aren’t considered.”

Brian, Brian, Brian. “A worse Joe Flacco”?

  • Super Bowl wins: Manning two, Flacco one.
  • Passing yards: Manning 57,023, Flacco 42,320.
  • TD passes: Manning 366, Flacco 232.

What about these four games? In 2007, the Giants were 7.5-point ‘dogs at Lambeau Field against Brett Favre in the NFC title game, then 12-point ‘dogs against the 18-0 Patriots in the Super Bowl, and New York won both. In 2011, the Giants were 8-points ‘dogs at Lambeau against the Aaron Rodgers Packers in the playoffs, then 2.5-point ‘dogs against the Pats in the Super Bowl, and New York won both. Manning’s 2-0 against Belichick/Brady in Super Bowls. “A worse Joe Flacco.” Come now.

God bless Teachers’ Treasures. From David Tracy, of Albany, Ore.: “I’ve been reading your column regularly for about 12 years now and I am finally writing for the first time. The thing that inspired me to write this week was your mention of your fundraiser at the Scouting Combine supporting Teachers’ Treasures. I teach second grade and while I was recently filing taxes I calculated $340 spent on school supplies through Amazon alone. I stopped there because teachers can only claim up to $300 for out-of-pocket school supplies. I know it would be a lot more if I tallied EVERYTHING I purchase for my class throughout the year. Thank you so much for supporting this awesome cause.”

David, thanks so much for doing such a vital job. I appreciate what you do. We’re lucky to be able to shine a little light on the central Indiana nonprofit that helps so many teachers in needy districts. I hope those who can’t make the event might consider making a donation to Teachers’ Treasures, which allows teachers at lower-income areas to be able to “shop” for school supplies for free. You can buy tickets to the event here and donate to the organization here.

 

1. I think if I’m Giants GM Joe Schoen, and Daniel Jones is asking for $45 million a year—and I truly don’t know if he is—I’m shaking his hand, wishing him good luck finding it somewhere and franchising him. And if a team wants to give me high draft compensation for him, I’m taking it and moving on.

2. I think the most interesting real football item of the past week was Davis Webb retiring from football to become Sean Payton’s quarterback coach in Denver. That’s a whoa. Payton will not only be coaching Russell Wilson this year in a crucial year for them both—he’ll be putting a first-year position coach in charge of coaching Wilson. Not that Webb won’t be a good coach. But throwing him into a raging inferno in year one is an interesting move by Payton, to say the least. Webb goes from starting for the Giants in their regular-season finale to coaching Wilson six weeks later.

3. I think the football story of the week dropped on Friday, with Kalyn Kahler, Mike Sando and Jayson Jenks of The Athletic reporting that a year ago Russell Wilson asked “Seahawks ownership” to fire coach Pete Carroll and GM John Schneider. The story reported that a Wilson attorney called the story “completely fabricated.” In a tweet, Wilson said he loved Carroll and “never wanted them fired.” The reporting says otherwise and continues the narrative that most people in Seattle believe—that Wilson wanted more influence than he had with the Seahawks.

4. I think the most notable thing, to me, is the outsized influence, as it turned out, that Wilson had on the Denver offense. It wouldn’t have been outsized if Wilson had a great year. But he had an awful year, as we all saw: inaccurate with a total loss of confidence. After averaging 33 TD passes a year in his previous five years, his production dive-bombed to 16 in his first year in Denver. I remember in training camp coach Nathaniel Hackett telling me about Wilson’s desire to have a participatory role in coach and play ideas. The Athletic detailed that here:

Hackett signed off on plays presented to him by Wilson for inclusion in the game plan. One offensive coach said the Broncos’ no-huddle package was the one Wilson brought from Seattle, including the quick-tempo “code words” the quarterback used in the two-minute offense. Some felt that Hackett accommodated Wilson to a fault, which hurt the continuity of the offense.

“He had too much influence,” one coach said. “And it was mainly based on what Hackett allowed him to influence.”

Tuesdays are typically players’ only off days during game weeks, but Wilson asked the offense to meet with him at the team facility for “state of the union” meetings, something he also did in Seattle. Broncos guard Dalton Risner said Wilson had the offense “watch film on the next opponent and kind of come to an agreement on what they’re running … and what we can do to beat them.” While some players grumbled about the meetings, several said they were helpful and well-attended.

5. I think I’d recommend two things for Wilson.

One: Put your head down, say little, don’t try to justify anything from the past, and do whatever Sean Payton tells you.

Two: Stop talking about your dedication to the job and how hard you work. When you’ve gotten a contract extension worth $49 million a year, you’re supposed to work like you’ve never worked before to take your team to the promised land.

6. I think this was a good summary of where the Ravens-Lamar Jackson contract thing stands, from Jeremy Fowler and Jamison Hensley of ESPN. One thing stood out: An unnamed AFC executive saying Jackson “goes to the front of the line” of available quarterbacks this offseason, and Jackson’s “durability is a mild concern.” Hmmmm. It has been discussed widely but never confirmed by Jackson that the five-year, $230-million fully guaranteed contract the Browns gave Deshaun Watson last year is the baseline for a Jackson deal. Whatever the desire of Jackson, the Ravens do not want to fully guarantee a contract, and to this point the Watson deal appears an outlier; it’s the only fully guaranteed long-term contract an NFL quarterback has gotten in the current QB cycle. If the Ravens put a franchise tag on Jackson in the coming days (the deadline is March 7), depending on which tag is placed, that means a team could sign Jackson to an offer sheet; the Ravens could match the deal and keep Jackson, or receive up to two first-round picks as compensation for letting him go.

7. I think the Jackson story leaves three questions any interested team would have to consider:

  • Would a team be willing to fully guarantee a contract for Jackson, or come close to it, and be willing to give two high draft choices for the right to acquire him?
  • Could a team get comfortable with devoting, say, $40 million to $45 million guaranteed dollars each year, not to mention the high draft compensation, for a player who has missed 34 percent of his team’s snaps in the last two seasons due to injury?
  • Should an acquiring team minimize or simply not consider Jackson’s 1-3 playoff record, with a 68.3 postseason passer rating?
Lamar Jackson on the sideline during Ravens-Steelers in January. (Patrick Smith / Getty Images)

8. I think that executive who thinks Jackson’s durability is a “mild concern” is very likely an executive who won’t put his job on the line by agreeing to pay $45 million a year with major guarantees, plus significant draft compensation, for Jackson. How is the injury status of a guy who makes a good part of his living with his legs—Jackson might be the best combo running/passing quarterback in NFL history—a mild concern, considering he has started and finished one December/January game in the past two years?

9. I think you might read all of this and say, “Man, you’re really on down on Jackson.” I’m not. I like Jackson a lot, as a player and a person. I would want him in my locker room as a leader and teammate. But I’m pragmatic. If I’m the Ravens, and if Jackson is going to insist on a contract with major guarantees at or near the top of the current QB market—and if another team will give him that, and give Baltimore two high-round picks—I’d probably wish him well and let him walk. Jackson may play the next 100 games without injury. I hope he does. But it’s not smart to lock in a player who’s been hurt a lot recently at huge money without some protection for the team.

10. I think these are my other thoughts of the week:

a. Story of the Week: Alan Paul of The Wall Street Journal, with an essay on one of the most interesting political stories of my life: How the Allman Brothers Band Helped Make Jimmy Carter President.

b. It’s true. In the mid-seventies, Gregg Allman, of Macon, Ga., and his red-hot band helped make Jimmy Carter cool to a generation of young voters who helped propel the little-known governor of Georgia into prominence in the Democratic Party, and into the White House in 1976.

c. Wrote Paul:

“The Allman Brothers helped put me in the White House by raising money when I didn’t have any,” Mr. Carter said in the documentary film “Jimmy Carter: Rock and Roll President.”

Mr. Carter’s friendship with the band began in January 1974, when he hosted a reception for Bob Dylan and the Band following an Atlanta performance. The members of the Allman Brothers Band were invited, but none of them made it—at least while the guests were still there. In a 1987 interview with Kirk West, the band’s official archivist, Gregg Allman recalled that when he finally rolled up in a limousine, the lights were being turned off. As he was getting back into the car to drive the 90 miles back to Macon, a guard called after him and said the governor was waiting for him.

The limousine was waved ahead, and Allman saw Mr. Carter standing on the porch of the darkened house wearing a pair of Levi’s and a T-shirt, barefoot and with a baseball cap on his head. The governor greeted Allman and then surprised him by saying, “Come on in. I got some new Elmore James albums we can listen to.” As they walked inside, Mr. Carter praised Allman’s songwriting and started “rattling off the lyrics” to his songs.

The band’s biggest assist to the Carter campaign was a benefit concert they performed on Nov. 25, 1975, at Rhode Island’s Providence Civic Center. Journalist Geraldo Rivera emceed, introducing the candidate to the crowd as “an honest, open progressive politician.” Speaking to a smattering of boos, Mr. Carter raised his arms in the air and said simply, “I have just four things to tell you. My name is Jimmy Carter. I’m running for president. I need your help. I’m gonna win. And now I want to introduce some very good friends of mine from Macon, Georgia…the Allman Brothers.” The crowd erupted in cheers.

d. Such a cool story of living history.

e. Cautionary Tale of the Week: Sam Stern, an Arizona State student writing for Cronkite News, on the human cost of sports gambling.

f. Writes Stern, in a story we’re going to hear more of, just with different names:

PHOENIX – The tipping point came when Michael Olson sat down with his wife and was given a simple but cataclysmic ultimatum – stop betting on sports or lose your family.

It was at that moment that Olson, who lives in Flagstaff, knew that his sports gambling addiction was ruining his life.

“There was a point in time where my wife asked me to leave the house and kind of get my head on straight and see what I wanted to do,” he said. “You know, (she asked) if I wanted to be a good dad, if I wanted to be a good husband, or if I wanted to continue the lifestyle I’d been leading. And that’s where I recognized this is not a healthy arrangement for me.”

g. Sam Stern’s a student of noted veteran sportswriter Lisa Olson, and from reading this story, I’d say Lisa Olson is doing a heck of a job at Arizona State.

h. It’s Feb. 27, and there has been zero measurable snow in my Brooklyn neighborhood this winter—though, for the first time this season, I walked through a light 15-minute flurry Saturday. I feel for those who’ve gotten slammed in recent days and weeks, and I actually miss the snow. I love the seasons. It’s one of the great things about living in the northeast—we get all seasons, some intensely. Fine with me, except maybe when it’s 92 and humid eight days in a row.

i. Beat Writer Story of the Week: Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic, on the very bad year for the Rams and how Sean McVay got distant from his staff, and now, how McVay is working his way back.

j. Sometimes, you read a story and you just feel the deep institutional knowledge a writer covering the story has. Rodrigue, for the deep reporting herein, has to have deep tentacles in the organization. I say that with great admiration, because more and more today, it’s harder to get contacts and sources who can tell you real stuff inside organizations.

k. Wrote Rodrigue about the downward spiral of the season and the head coach:

If the Rams were a supernova, so was McVay.

He became emotionally distant from players and staff, consumed by his frustration. Sky-high expectations had been replaced by problems that the meticulous coach couldn’t control, and it was infuriating to him. He faded away, polite but mechanical in press conferences, drained and angry behind closed doors. Players gravitated toward defensive coordinator Raheem Morris’ office as their head coach drew inward.

The low point came when the Rams traveled to Kansas City in Week 12. McVay gave up play-calling, handing off duties to [offensive coordinator Liam] Coen. McVay wanted to see if ceding control could ease some stress, and at 3-8, the Rams had nothing to lose by trying it out.

McVay is a “heart-on-his-sleeve” play caller. Careful observers can see the ebbs and flows of his brain call by call — and they can also see when creativity and collaboration morph into frustration and angst. When he calls a game, he feels connected to his players and they to him; the unspoken energy is transferred back and forth, good or bad. Or really bad.

As McVay stood on the sidelines in Kansas City, his shoulders knotted and his jaw set, he could hear the game unfolding in his headset and see it on the field. But not calling the game made him feel more distant than ever from his players — and from himself.

“I think it made him more miserable,” [club COO Kevin] Demoff said.

l. Now there’s some inside knowledge right there. Great piece.

m. Every year at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, I meet with fans at Sun King Brewery in downtown Indy. This has been going on for eight or 10 years now, and my friend in Indianapolis, Angie Six, helped me add a charitable component a few Combines ago. This year’s event promises to be a fun one: Our special guest for Friday evening is new Colts coach Shane Steichen. Tickets are just $25. Where else can you go to rub shoulders with the new coach of the local NFL team for $25?

n. Tickets available here. Further details:

When: Friday, March 3, 5:30-7:30 p.m.

Where: Sun King Brewery, 135 North College Ave., downtown Indianapolis (.9 miles from Lucas Oil Stadium).

Cost: $25 per ticket.

Details: I’m joined by media friends and Steichen (who will be on hand for about 30 minutes before ducking back into Combine meetings) to talk NFL, NFL Draft, and Colts. We’ll answer your questions, have a beer or soft drink—Sun King leads a great craft beer scene in Indianapolis—and auction off some stuff too.

Auction items: The Colts have donated some gems: A Shaq Leonard autographed jersey, plus three autographed footballs—Reggie Wayne, DeForest Buckner, Shane Steichen.

What it benefits: Teachers’ Treasures, which turns each dollar raised into $15 of school supplies, given for free to teachers at 270 Indiana schools that have at least 60 percent of students on reduced-cost meal programs. In an average day at Teachers’ Treasures, housed in a former Kroger store, about 100 educators walk through and pick up about $500 worth of supplies to bring back to the classroom.

If you can’t come: You can donate to Teachers’ Treasures here. Or you could buy tickets to the event here, and we’ll donate the tickets to local people to come to the event.

o. Damian Lillard scored 71 points Sunday night for the Trail Blazers. He made 13 three-pointers, was a perfect 14-of-14 in free throws … and he sat nine minutes! He did all that in 39 minutes!

p. Front-Office Football Story of the Week: Emmanuel Morgan of The New York Times on the fact that five Black people have been hired as NFL team presidents in the last three years, starting with the first Black president ever, Jason Wright, in 2020. I’m a couple of weeks late on this one, but it’s an important story.

q. Morgan had insightful comments from Denver’s Damani Leech and Washington’s Wright, including these:

Leech said he and the other Black team presidents have formed a tight bond and text each other frequently, and he consulted with Wright a few times before he was hired. “We can talk about what we’re doing, share thoughts and it’s really nice to have that,” Leech said. Wright said he hopes their circle will swell in the coming years.

“It’s not a bad start,” Wright said. “There’s a scripture that says, ‘Don’t despise the day of small beginnings.’ We should celebrate that there’s more of us now when there were zero for 100 years.”

r. Column of the Week: Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports on the decision of Alabama to allow Brandon Miller to continue to play for its highly ranked basketball team, despite serious allegations against him.

s. I didn’t know much about this until the last few days. Most amazing factoid: In Alabama, Person A can bring a gun to Person B, and unless Person A knows Person B intended to commit a crime, Person A cannot be charged with a crime. In this case, Person A was Miller, a potential NBA lottery pick, who allegedly brought a weapon to friends in Tuscaloosa. One of those friends has been charged with capital murder, using the gun that was brought to him to commit the crime.

t. The university seems to have the attitude of: Miller’s not being charged with a crime, so he didn’t do anything wrong … and we got basketball games to win. Good job by Wetzel fleshing it out.

u. Now you might not believe it if I told you a radio reporter ran away to join the circus. But it’s sort of true.

v. How old would it make you feel if I told you that Wednesday will be Hollywood Henderson’s 70th birthday?

w. A very happy 90th birthday to you today, Raymond Berry.

x. How about this two-year span for the former Baltimore Colt, one of the great receivers in league history: In 1959 and 1960, the NFL played 12-game seasons. Berry led the NFL in both seasons in catches and receiving yards, and totaled 140 catches for 2,257 yards and 24 TDs. That’s 16.1 yards per catch. That’s 94 receiving yards per game. Justin Jefferson in his last two transcendent years: 14.6 yards per catch, 101 receiving yards per game.

y. Oh, and this for Berry: In the game some historians to this day call the greatest game in the 103-year history of the NFL, the 1958 NFL Championship Game, Berry caught 12 balls for 178 yards and one TD in Baltimore’s 23-17 overtime win over the Giants at Yankee Stadium.

z. That Joe Montana story by Wright Thompson a couple of weeks ago hammered home a point we should always remember: There have been all-time players in every era of NFL history, and we should not forget them because a player or two or 20 might have stats that put the old timers’ numbers deep in the rear-view. Kudos to you, Raymond Berry.

 

Draft season. This week?

The Super Bowl just ended!

Football never sleeps.

 

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