The Daily Briefing Friday, November 2, 2018
AROUND THE NFL
Earlier this week, we noted that the 2015 draft was nothing special. Michael David Smith looks at the coaching class of 2016 hires:
In 2016, seven NFL teams hired new head coaches. Most of those coaches have now been fired.
When the Browns fired Hue Jackson this week, it made the fourth member of that seven-member coaching class to lose his job. Here are the seven new coaches hired that year:
Adam Gase: 20-20 in the regular season and 0-1 in the postseason through two and a half seasons with the Dolphins.
Hue Jackson: Fired after going 3-36-1 in two and a half seasons with the Browns.
Chip Kelly: Fired after going 2-14 in one season with the 49ers.
Dirk Koetter: 17-22 in two and a half seasons with the Buccaneers.
Ben McAdoo: Fired during his second season after going 13-15 in the regular season and 0-1 in the postseason.
Mike Mularkey: Fired after going 18-14 in the regular season and 1-1 in the postseason in two years with the Titans. (Mularkey began his tenure as the Titans’ interim head coach in 2015, but he was hired on a permanent basis in 2016.)
Doug Pederson: 24-16 in the regular season and 3-0 in the postseason through two and a half seasons with the Eagles.
Of those seven, four have already been fired, and both Gase and Koetter could be on the hot seat depending on how the second half of this season goes. Only Pederson is an unqualified success.
But “unqualified” is also a word used for Pederson at the time he was hired, and not in a good way. The Eagles were widely panned for hiring Pederson. For one example, check this USA Today article, which called Pederson the worst hiring of 2016 and Kelly the best.
Pederson has undeniably done a great job with the Eagles. The rest of the 2016 coaching class? Not so much.
– – –
Among all the men and women who have written about professional football, few made a mark like Paul Zimmerman.
Fans from the 1970s to the 2000s learned more about the NFL through reading Zimmerman, often on the pages of Sports Illustrated and later on SI.com. Zimmerman died on Thursday at age 86, according to longtime Sports Illustrated co-worker Peter King.
We have lost a legend.
Football writer/raconteur Paul Zimmerman, 86, died this afternoon.
There’s only one Dr. Z. He’ll be missed.
For many football fans from ages 25 to 75, it’s a sad day. Zimmerman, affectionately known as “Dr. Z,” was one of the most influential voices of the NFL during its massive growth.
“He’s the Godfather of modern pro football writing,” King told NFL.com in 2017.
Paul Zimmerman was an icon in football writing circles
Zimmerman suffered a series of strokes in 2008, which left him unable to speak or write. That was a heartbreaking loss to the sportswriting world.
Before the strokes, Zimmerman was the template for much of the analysis we see on the NFL today. He was an analyst first, able to break down the Xs and Os of the game at an expert level. And he expressed himself without pulling punches or playing favorites.
Zimmerman’s 1970 book “A Thinking Man’s Guide to Pro Football” and the 1984 sequel “New Thinking Man’s Guide to Pro Football” are considered two of the most influential books on football ever written. For some of Zimmerman’s best magazine work, SI.com did a “Dr. Z Week” in 2016 and linked to some of his best stories and some tributes here.
Zimmerman’s style is still impacting NFL writing today
Zimmerman’s style was gruff, blunt, smart, funny and entertaining. He’d reference “the Flaming Redhead,” his wife Linda, and talk about wine. When Zimmerman got down to the business of football there was a gravitas to it, because he studied the game like a coach. His All-Pro teams, his Super Bowl prediction pieces and even his annual ranking of television announcers were all built on a foundation of writing about football in a matter-of-fact way, with his opinion always very easy to determine.
Zimmerman wasn’t writing about football for the last 10 years of his life. But it’s easy to still see his influence everywhere on the modern NFL writing landscape.
Even though QB MITCHELL TRUBISKY is on fire with 13 TD passes in the last 4 games, Mathew Berry of ESPN.com does not think he should be in your lineup Sunday against the lowly Bills:
Mitchell Trubisky at Bills (ESPN projection: 17.9 points): Buffalo has 99 problems, but its D ain’t one. The Bills are giving up the third-fewest yards per attempt (6.77) and the fourth-fewest air yards per attempt (6.96) this season. With Trubisky coming to town, it’s worth also noting that they give up the fourth-fewest yards per carry to opposing QBs this season (2.88). In what Vegas projects as the lowest-scoring game in Week 9 (O/U in this game is 37.5), my expectation is the defense and run game handle the heavy lifting here, keeping Trubisky under 17.9 points.
Gil Brandt, headed to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, is also going into the Cowboys’ Ring of Honor. Clarence Hill, Jr. of the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram:
Legendary Dallas Cowboys scouting director Gil Brandt was named to the team’s hallowed Ring of Honor, owner Jerry Jones announced on Friday.
Brandt, 85, becomes the 22nd member of the Ring of Honor.
He will be inducted on Nov. 29 during halftime of the Cowboys game against the New Orleans Saints.
It’s a long overdue honor for Brandt, who is also a contributor finalist for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2019.
“It means everything to me,” Brandt said. “It’s like watching a child grow up. When I first came here we were 0-11-1. We had very few people going to the games. Wasn’t sure we we would have a team in two years. What I went through from the beginning to the now is the unbelievable.”
Brandt was the vice president of player personnel for the Cowboys from 1960 to 1989 and helped Dallas grow into one of the most powerful and popular sports franchises in America.
He helped build the franchise from its inception into its America’s Team championship legacy with 20 consecutive winning seasons, five Super Bowl appearances and two Super Bowl titles during that time.
John Keim of ESPN.com gets some former running backs to talk about the 2018 accomplishments of RB ADRIAN PETERSON:
At a card show in northern Virginia in August, Adrian Peterson chatted with former Jacksonville Jaguars running back Fred Taylor. Peterson remained unsigned and was a little confused as to why.
“I was telling him, ‘Just be patient, it’ll come. Some good stuff will happen,’” Taylor said.
A few days later, the Washington Redskins called. And a lot of good stuff is happening. In August, there were questions about whether Peterson could still play; now he’s the lead back for a division leader, on pace to rush for more than 1,300 yards. He has 587 rushing yards and four touchdowns in seven games.
If he rushes for 1,000 yards, he’d be the fifth player in history to reach that figure at age 33. A lot of backs are hoping that he does, including the last one to do so — Frank Gore, who topped that total two years ago with Indianapolis.
Taylor rushed for more than 1,000 yards at ages 30 and 31. Tiki Barber rushed for 1,662 yards at age 31 — and then retired. Eric Dickerson didn’t crack 1,000 yards in his 30s, but he’s the one in the Hall of Fame.
All four backs weighed in on Peterson’s renaissance season.
Why do you think Peterson has been able to revive his career in Washington?
Fred Taylor: “A lot of the time it’s timing. It’s the systems. It’s the opportunities. … It’s the type of running scheme he’s used to. I know the long run he had the other day, he had two pullers out in front of him. Go back and look at some old runs in the B, C gap and he wants to stretch it and get downhill and put a little fear in that safety’s heart, where the safety won’t run up on him because he punishes those guys. He’s done a lot, showing power, showing quickness, showing speed. He still has that extra gear. I do want to say he deserves everything that’s happening because he put in the work. He’s been extremely patient.”
Eric Dickerson: “When I think of the Washington Redskins, even going back to the days of when we played — I was a Skins fan myself; my cousin [Dexter Manley] played for Washington, and I wanted to play for the Redskins when I left the Colts. But when I’d think of us, the Rams and the Redskins, it was about [power running]. It’s probably an old way of thinking. But I thought it would be a good fit for him in Washington. He and Chris Thompson, a guy that can come out of the backfield. It’s the perfect fit.
“You have to be in the right situation, you really do. I don’t care how old you are or how young you are. If you don’t have the guys up front, it won’t work. The kid with the Giants, [Saquon] Barkley, he’s a great talent. … But he has no help. With Adrian, if he didn’t have guys on the outside or a quarterback or the line, it would be no different. He’d struggle, whether he was 23 or 33. When you’re in your 30s, you make a big deal of it.”
Tiki Barber: “I think part of it is the chip on his shoulder. There’s a determination inside of him that wants to prove everybody wrong. When I watch him, he looks old. I remember Adrian when we played in the Pro Bowl together. He was young and powerful and could run away from anybody. Yet he’s still very effective despite how he looks. That has to come from the inside.”
What impresses you the most about Peterson?
Frank Gore: “How he pulls away from DBs. I’m happy for him. Just hearing all the time about age — just because you turn a certain number, they don’t know how this man lives in the offseason, how he trains, how much he loves the game. That’s the key. Guys like him, myself, Marshawn [Lynch] are true football players. I can tell A.P. is motivated. He’s here to prove [people] wrong, and he’s doing it. They’re winning, and he’s one of the biggest reasons they’re winning, and that’s big.”
Barber: “Durability. The hardest thing, and I remember at the end of my career, is staying healthy week to week as you get older, not recovering as quickly, so being available every week, save for the one game where he gained only 4 yards. He’s been available, and that’s the biggest asset he’s provided to the Redskins. Your body just doesn’t recover as quickly; the damage is cumulative. I always said being a running back is a function of carries, and once you get a certain number, you don’t recover like you used to.”
Look, QB NICK MULLENS did just fine in his debut – and the numbers may be “historic.” But we would still like to see him playing a defense that was giving its all on every play.
In the hours before making his NFL debut, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Nick Mullens said he got a good night of rest.
“I slept good except I woke up about every hour,” Mullens said, laughing. “But those hours were great. I slept pretty good.”
If that qualifies as a good night of sleep, Mullens had to feel as if he were living out a dream Thursday night against the Oakland Raiders.
Mullens, a 2017 undrafted free agent out of Southern Miss, began the day by receiving a good luck text from fellow Golden Eagle Brett Favre. He ended by receiving a congratulatory call from Favre and approximately 600 congratulatory text messages from other friends and family.
In between, Mullens put together one of the greatest statistical performances by a quarterback making his debut in NFL history and led the 49ers to a convincing 34-3 victory against the Raiders.
Mullens, who replaced an injured C.J. Beathard as starter, was unfazed by his prime-time debut, calmly directing the Niners to touchdowns on the first two drives of his young career and going on to post the best passer rating by a quarterback in his first start since the merger in 1970.
“You never know until you see someone,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “He didn’t surprise us in terms of, the game’s not too big for Nick. He’s very poised. He is always locked in. The guys, they respect him. He earned a lot of respect in the preseason, them watching him play. Both years, last year and this year. The way he handles himself in practice each week. He didn’t really know for sure whether he was going to start today, until today, and just the way he handled the two days of long walk-throughs and stuff.
“He’s a machine in there and I was happy for him.”
With Mullens at the helm, the 49ers blew out the Raiders in what was the final “Battle of the Bay” before the Raiders relocate to Las Vegas.
By the time Mullens’ first regular-season playing experience was done, he was 16-of-22 for 262 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions for a passer rating of 151.9.
With each completed pass, Mullens seemed to reach another historic benchmark.
• Mullens’ passer rating of 151.9 was the best by a quarterback making his debut with at least 20 attempts since 1970.
• That passer rating was the highest by a 49er since Alex Smith had a rating of 157.1 on Oct. 29, 2012.
• Mullens joined Marc Bulger, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Marcus Mariota as the only players over the past 25 seasons to throw for three or more touchdowns in their first game, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
• Mullens is the first player since Carson Wentz to throw for a touchdown in his first career game on the team’s opening drive, and one of four to do it in the past 15 seasons, along with Wentz, Mariota and Matt Ryan.
• Mullens joined Fran Tarkenton (1961) and Jim Kelly (1986) as the only quarterbacks to throw for 250-plus yards, three-plus touchdowns and no interceptions in an NFL debut since 1950.
• Mullens is the first player in 49ers history to throw for three touchdowns in his first game with the team, according to Elias Sport Bureau.
• The last time a 49ers quarterback threw two touchdown passes on the first two drives of a game was Colin Kaepernick in Week 4 of 2016. The last time the Niners scored a touchdown on their first two drives of a game was Week 14 of 2016.
Things went so well for Mullens on Thursday night that his previously unverified Twitter account was granted a blue check mark — during the game.
All of that added up to the Niners’ second win of the season in one of the biggest blowouts by a team with only one victory this late in the season in the Super Bowl era. The Niners’ 31-point margin of victory is the second largest in that category.
The 49ers signed Mullens in 2017 as an undrafted free agent out of Southern Miss, where he was the most prolific quarterback in school history, surpassing Favre along the way and ultimately shattering Titans quarterback Austin Davis’ records.
Before Thursday’s game, Favre tweeted good luck to Mullens, which might have helped his case for verification, and sent a text message to Mullens that said, “No pressure, just be yourself.”
“It was pretty cool, definitely an honor,” Mullens said. “It’s cool to see Southern Miss alumni stay in tune with the program and support each other. Definitely appreciative of that and definitely have the most respect for Brett. He just told me how proud of me he was.”
In the days leading up to Thursday’s game, Mullens prepared as though he would start, but the Niners held nothing but walk-throughs because of the short turnaround from Sunday’s loss to Arizona.
With Beathard attempting to recover from his injury, the Niners weren’t even sure who would start until things started trending in Mullens’ direction Wednesday night. Shanahan informed Mullens of that decision but still put Beathard’s injured right wrist and thumb through a pregame test Thursday to determine if he’d be available to back up Mullens.
All the while, Mullens was doing what his teammates say he always does, which is relentlessly prepare as if he’s going to play. Mullens has earned a reputation for his dedication to the game, including an at-home ritual in which he downloads crowd noise, plays it as loud as he can in his headphones and practices calling out plays amid the ruckus.
“That was the best thing I’ve seen so far,” tight end George Kittle said. “That’s what he does. So he gets that, I know Coach Shanahan will record the calls for him and he will re-listen to them and he’ll re-call them out. I’m pretty sure last year he was a guy who would take the script after the game and he’d go out on the field and run through the plays by himself. That’s just Nick Mullens in a nutshell.”
Cornerback Richard Sherman even ceded pregame speech duties to Mullens before his first start. Like everything else Mullens did Thursday night, that even got rave reviews.
“He did phenomenal,” Sherman said. “That’s what the team needed. In a situation like this, prime time, Thursday night, this guy’s first start, the team needs to hear from him. He’s going to lead us out there today. He’s going to be the guy who gets us this win and he did everything right today. This is Nick Mullens’ day today.”
The 49ers don’t play again until Nov. 12 on Monday Night Football against the Giants. Beathard should have plenty of time to recover by then. The question now is whether Mullens will get a chance at an encore performance of Nick at Night, something Shanahan wasn’t immediately ready to answer after the game.
“We’ll consider it,” Shanahan said. “Definitely not thinking about that right now, but our whole team played very well. Nick definitely did. … It was a very good all-around win. I was real happy for our guys. We’ve been through a lot here and we’re not done. We’re trying to get our way out of this. It’s good to get a win today and hopefully it can lead to some others.”
LOS ANGELES RAMS
WR COOPER KUPP is off the injury report and so is expected to play Sunday against the Saints. He’s missed the last two games with an MCL injury.
Injuries are bad, injuries that cluster at one position are worse. Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com:
Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens will be without their starting offensive tackles for Sunday’s crucial game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Left tackle Ronnie Stanley (ankle) and right tackle James Hurst (back) were declared out Friday after not practicing all week. That means Jermaine Eluemunor, a practice squad player earlier this year, likely will replace Stanley on the left side and rookie third-round pick Orlando Brown Jr. will fill in for Hurst on the right.
The Ravens will try to protect Flacco using their third different starting offensive line combination in as many weeks. The Steelers rank second in the NFL with 24 sacks.
“We’re not as healthy as they are, but we’re healthy enough to win the game; I promise you that,” coach John Harbaugh said after Friday’s practice.
Hurst will miss his third straight game, while Stanley will be sidelined for the first time in 15 games. Stanley, the No. 6 overall pick in 2016, injured his ankle during last Sunday’s game in Carolina. He missed one full series before returning.
Eluemunor, a fifth-round pick out of Texas A&M in 2017, was waived by Baltimore on Sept. 22, and spent the past four weeks on the practice squad before being promoted on Oct. 23. He has two career starts.
If Eluemunor takes over for Stanley, it will be the first time he has started a game at left tackle since the 2016 Texas Bowl.
“I pride myself on being able to play every position on the offensive line,” Eluemunor said.
If the Ravens (4-4) beat the Steelers (4-2-1), they’ll move within percentage points of first place in the AFC North. If Baltimore loses, it will drop three games back of Pittsburgh in the loss column and fall to 1-3 in the division.
Hue Jackson goes on TV to explain his firing. Pat McManamon of ESPN.com:
– Hue Jackson did not agree with Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam’s statement that “internal discord” led to the firing of Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley on Monday.
“I don’t really think it was truly just about internal discord,” Jackson said Friday on ESPN’s First Take. “I think that’s a strong word. I think you have disagreements with coaches. With Todd, with [defensive coordinator] Gregg Williams, with Amos Jones, who’s also the special-teams coordinator. I don’t think that’s internal discord.”
To what, then, did Jackson attribute losing his job eight games into his third season with the Browns?
“I think when you stop and look at it, it’s truly, really about Baker Mayfield,” Jackson said. “I think they want to do everything they can to put him in the situation … I mean, you got the first pick in the draft — who I think is going to be a franchise quarterback, who’s going to be a sensational player — and he’s not playing as well.
“So again, here is the perfect storm to move forward and move on.”
The perfect storm was brought on by the record and Jackson’s belief that Mayfield would have been better served in a different style of offense.
Jackson was fired one day after a 33-18 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers dropped the Browns to 2-5-1. He was brought back for 2018 after going 1-15 and 0-16 his first two seasons because Haslam believed the personnel he was given in 2016 and ’17 impeded winning.
“Bottom line, let’s just be clear, we didn’t win enough,” Jackson said. “At the end of the day, when you look at it, we didn’t win enough games. No matter how you cut it, regardless of what they said or how they said it, you gotta win enough games.
“You know, these jobs, there’s 32 of them and I was fortunate and blessed by Dee [Haslam] and Jimmy to have an opportunity to be one of 32. But at the end of the day, when you look at it, you gotta win enough games and we didn’t.”
Jackson said the one thing he would do differently is keep control of the offense going into this season.
“That’s what I got hired for,” Jackson said. “If you’re going to go out, you go out doing the things that you know and that you truly believe in.”
Jackson said he made the Haley hire and gave him control over the offense and playcalling.
But as he watched the season unfold, Jackson grew to believe that Mayfield should have been running an offense similar to the one he ran at Oklahoma, which was based on playing fast with quick throws — more slants, more outs, more fast passing and fewer seven-stop drops.
“I think you have to go back to Oklahoma and use all the concepts that made him be who he was, the first pick in the draft,” Jackson said. “I think you do everything you can to play the way he plays, and you build your offensive football team and your system to his liking. Because that’s going to help him be the best version of him.”
After saying a week earlier that he wanted to “help” with the offense, Jackson said he decided he was going to step in and take a more active role. He said after the most recent loss that he was going to talk to Haslam and general manager John Dorsey about taking over the offense.
Sources had said he was even going to see if he could fire Haley.
Instead, at the beginning of the meeting with Haslam and Dorsey, Jackson was told he was losing his job. Haley was fired about an hour later.
“I think we played a traditional style of football,” Jackson said. “And that’s OK. There’s nothing wrong with that. But again, the question that was asked of me is, ‘What would you do with Baker?’
“I think that’s where I think the rubber meets the road. You have to do everything you can to make him successful. And if you’re going to do that, then you go back and do the things that made you draft him as the first pick in the draft.”
Asked why he didn’t just take control because he was the head coach, Jackson said the Browns’ system — as set up by Haslam — did not work that way.
“Because at the end of the day we’re still a collaborative group,” Jackson said. “I think the owner and the GM are also involved in that. Obviously that’s how we have our organization set up at the time, and that was the way we were going to go about it.
“Any decisions that I made that way, there is nothing that I wouldn’t have not run by Jimmy Haslam and John Dorsey.”
Jackson does not hide from his overall 11-44-1 record as a coach in Oakland and Cleveland.
“I hope the next opportunity for me is to go back and be a coordinator, first and foremost,” he said. “Go back and put my name back to where it should be, among some of the best playcallers in this league, and then to move forward from there. And whatever happens from there, obviously that’s going to be God’s decision as we move forward.”
This tweet from Trey Wingo:
Hue Jackson has a career win% of .205. Bill Belichick has a .680 winning %. Bill would have to lose his next 867 games to drop to .205
Mathew Berry of ESPN.com thinks RB LAMAR MILLER is a good play on Sunday in Denver:
Lamar Miller at Broncos (ESPN projection: 14.8 points): You know this recommendation gives me the heebie jeebies, but hey, it is Halloween week! Miller is coming off consecutive games with at least 18 rushes, 100 rushing yards and a rushing score — one of only three players with such a streak this season (James Conner and Marlon Mack are the other two) — and I like him to keep it going on the road against a Broncos squad coughing up 135.8 rushing yards per game (sixth most) and 5.1 yards per carry (second most).
The Bills declined to trade RB LeSEAN McCOY because he is in their plans for 2019. Mike Rodak of ESPN.com:
– Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane publicly committed to keeping running back LeSean McCoy on the roster next season.
With the trade deadline imminent, Monday could have been LeSean McCoy’s swan song in Buffalo. If so, it wasn’t a memorable finale.
Beane told The Buffalo News that McCoy is “definitely” in the team’s plans for next season, the final season of a contract extension McCoy signed upon being traded from the Philadelphia Eagles in 2015. McCoy will count $9 million against the Bills’ salary cap in 2019.
“LeSean is still a very good player in this league,” Beane said. “Our offense is not where we want it, but LeSean is still playing well. He’s a talented player. We like what he brings, to the point we’ll have him back in 2019. He’ll definitely be a part of that.”
McCoy, 30, who is on pace for a career-low 514 yards this season, has averaged a career-low 3.4 yards per carry and has not scored a touchdown since Week 15 of last season. His rushing average ranks 41st this season among NFL running backs with a qualifying amount of carries, and he has gained first downs on 13.3 percent of his rushes, which ranks 47th among qualifying running backs.
After rushing 12 times for 13 yards in a 25-6 loss Monday night to the New England Patriots, McCoy expressed frustration with his performance this season.
“I ain’t expect to have no season like this,” he said. “I’m not really playing well at all. We’re not doing much on offense. … What do I got,  yards? In the [eighth game]? That’s never happened to me. Yeah, it’s different. It’s a different season. I’m 30 years old, playing since when I’ve been in high school. This stuff [has] never happened to me. It is tough.”
However, McCoy believes his skills have not declined.
“I still can play,” he said. “Defenses know I still can play. You see the way they approach me when I’m in the game.”
Sources told ESPN’s Jeff Darlington that several teams reached out to the Bills about McCoy prior to Tuesday’s trade deadline. Buffalo decided not to trade him.
“There was definitely interest out there [in our players],” Beane told The Buffalo News. “I think there’s naturally going to be interest in players on teams that are not doing as well as they hoped. At the end of the day, you have to listen — that’s my job, to listen — but at the same time, we’re trying to win here, not only now, but win in the future. The guys that they were asking about I felt were part of what we’re still going to be doing as we build into 2019.”
– – –
Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com points out the futility of the Bills passing game to date:
A quarterback’s touchdown-interception ratio has long been used as a shorthand for how well he’s playing. There was a time when any quarterback in positive territory was said to be playing well: In the 1970s, interceptions were more common than touchdown passes, and so if you were a quarterback who had more touchdown passes than interceptions, you were probably better than average.
But times change, the NFL is much more pass-friendly now, and being in positive territory on the touchdown-interception ratio is just considered the bare minimum for competent quarterback play. In fact, if you even want to be considered an average NFL quarterback, you should be throwing at least twice as many touchdown passes as interceptions. So far this NFL season, there have been 432 touchdown passes and 209 interceptions across the NFL, through Thursday night’s 49ers-Raiders game.
All of that is a preamble to say this: The Buffalo Bills are setting back offensive football, with passing statistics that would have looked terrible even in the 1970s.
So far this season, the Bills’ three quarterbacks have combined to throw just three touchdown passes and 13 interceptions. The season is half over, so the Bills are on pace to finish with six touchdown passes and 26 interceptions. That is simply, unbelievably, awful.
There are only four quarterbacks in the NFL this season who have thrown at least three more interceptions than touchdowns, and three of those four quarterbacks play for the Bills. Here’s the full list:
-4 Jameis Winston (6 TD, 10 INT)
-4 Derek Anderson (0 TD, 4 INT)
-3 Josh Allen (2 TD, 5 INT)
-3 Nathan Peterman (1 TD, 4 INT)
Winston has been benched by the Buccaneers, but the Bills are already out of players to bench. They benched Peterman for Allen, who got hurt and was replaced by Anderson, who got hurt and is now expected to be replaced by Peterman on Sunday. The Bills have batted around and still can’t find a good quarterback.
The Bills’ job won’t get any easier on Sunday when they face a Bears defense that is second in the NFL with 11 interceptions this season. It’s hard to imagine Peterman doing anything to put his touchdown-interception differential into positive territory.
Frank Schwab of YahooSports.com with more on the injury to QB RYAN TANNEHILL:
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s shoulder injury was so strange, the NFL looked into whether the Miami Dolphins had violated any injury report rules.
Tannehill played against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 5, practiced the following week, then on Sunday morning before the Dolphins played the Chicago Bears there were reports that Tannehill wouldn’t play. Tannehill didn’t play, and in Week 9 he still hasn’t returned. There’s no guarantee he’ll be back in Week 10 either.
If you’ve watched the NFL for any amount of time, you know that’s not typical. Players don’t practice in full for a week, then come down with a multi-week injury out of the blue. It seemed like the only explanation was the Dolphins were holding back something.
Finally we got a report about what happened to Tannehill, and everything makes a lot more sense.
Ryan Tannehill reportedly has shoulder capsule injury
Adam Beasley and Jordan McPherson of the Miami Herald reported Friday that Tannehill suffered a capsule injury in his throwing shoulder Week 5. As the Herald noted, a capsule is “a tough sheath or membrane that encloses something in the body.”
When a player suffers a shoulder capsule injury it can cause pain or instability. The Herald said that shoulder capsule injuries can cause pain hours after activity. The mystery seems solved: Tannehill practiced, likely through some pain (not unusual for football players in the middle of a season) but the problem was that he still felt pain hours after.
Assuming this is all accurate, that probably closes the case on the injury report issue. It doesn’t give the Dolphins their quarterback back, however.
THIS AND THAT
Richard Dietsch of The Athletic was moved to send out this tweet while watching the Raiders play on Thursday:
Jason Witten for Jon Gruden would honestly help both teams right now.
Steve Palazzo writing in ESPN.com breaks down the top 10 QBs likely to be in the draft class of 2019:
A year removed from one of the deepest quarterback classes in recent draft history, the 2019 NFL draft lacks established high-end talent at the position, and there are questions at the top.
Oregon’s Justin Herbert has the best combination of NFL-level production and overall skill set, but the junior could still return to Eugene next season. If that is the case, it’s a wide-open race to find the top signal-caller to come off the board, as the class is filled with signal-callers who appear to be lacking in at least one significant area.
Let’s rank the top 10 draft-eligible quarterbacks right now, using Pro Football Focus’ grades as well as what we know about how the NFL evaluates prospects.
1. Justin Herbert, Oregon
Junior | 6-foot-6, 233 pounds | 23 career starts
2018 stats through Nov. 1: 155-of-260 passing (59.6 percent) for 2,069 yards, with 20 TDs, 6 INTs; 2 rushing TDs; 77.4 Total QBR (No. 20 in FBS)
PFF grade: 80.8
Herbert has everything scouts will be looking for, from his 6-6 frame to his strong arm to his impressive athleticism. He can drive the ball accurately up the seam, and he has been accurate throwing down the field, as he is tied for ninth in the nation in big-time throw percentage at 6.5 (big-time throws are PFF’s highest-graded throws as timing, accuracy and level of difficulty separate them from regular throws).
While Herbert appears to be the best option in a weak crop, he has struggled at times this season, particularly on the road last week against Arizona. Plus, Herbert might prefer to play one more season at Oregon, and that looming decision could make a questionable group even weaker.
2. Will Grier, West Virginia
Senior | 6-2, 223 | 23 career starts
2018 stats through Nov. 1: 154-of-219 passing (70.3 percent) for 2,272 yards, with 25 TDs, 7 INTs; 1 rushing TD; 83.0 Total QBR (No. 6 in FBS)
PFF grade: 91.8
There’s a lot to like about Grier’s game as he’s been one of the better downfield passers in the country over the past two seasons, and he has the top grade this year at the all-important intermediate (10-19 yard) range at 92.7. The concern for Grier has been multiple subpar outings this year, particularly against Kansas and Iowa State, and there were similar duds last season despite him posting strong, identical grades of 91.1 both last year and this year. Grier is not the most physically talented quarterback in the class, but he’s efficient in the right areas, and he’s been excellent when throwing from a clean pocket, one of the most stable metrics for next-level success.
3. Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State
Sophomore | 6-3, 220 | 8 career starts
2018 stats through Nov. 1: 224-of-315 passing (71.1 percent) for 2,801 yards, with 30 TDs, 5 INTs; 1 rushing TD; 83.9 Total QBR (No. 5 in FBS)
PFF grade: 81.7
Haskins has emerged as a top prospect this year as he’s taken Ohio State’s passing game to new heights. He has a strong arm and a natural passing ability that the Buckeyes haven’t had in years, though like the others on the list, there are a few red flags that must be sorted out. Haskins has seen a significant drop-off in performance in his biggest games, on the road against Penn State and Purdue. While Ohio State pulled off the win against Penn State, Haskins picked up 235 of his 270 yards after the catch on his way to his worst grade of the season at 44.1 overall. Purdue was better, as he finished at 63.4 overall in Ohio State’s loss. As important as clean-pocket success is for the next level, Haskins has had a major drop-off when facing pressure (PFF grade of 91.2 when clean, 38.3 when under pressure) and it’s a big question that still needs answering as he’s only eight starts into his college career.
4. K.J. Costello, Stanford
Third-year sophomore | 6-5, 215 | 15 career starts
2018 stats through Nov. 1: 170-of-254 passing (66.9 percent) for 2,165 yards, with 17 TDs, 6 INTs; 80.0 Total QBR (No. 11 in FBS)
PFF grade: 84.3
Costello is still flying under the radar, but as a redshirt sophomore, there’s no guarantee that he’ll be in this draft class. He’s a name to watch for the future, however, as he’s developed nicely in Stanford’s system and he’s currently grading at 84.3 overall on the year. Costello could stand to improve his throw-for-throw accuracy, and his 83.7 grade from a clean pocket is below others in the class, but he’s handled pressure well with a 75.9 grade and 9.0 yards per attempt this season. If Costello comes out this year, he’s one of the more intriguing prospects and he could be a Day 1 option if he waits until the 2020 draft.
5. Daniel Jones, Duke
Junior| 6-5, 220 | 31 career starts
2018 stats through Nov. 1: 118-of-183 passing (64.5 percent) for 1,457 yards, with 13 TDs, 4 INTs; 1 rushing TD; 69.7 Total QBR (No. 39 in FBS)
PFF grade: 87.3
The most improved quarterback on the list, Jones went from intriguing, toolsy projection to viable prospect this season. At 6-foot-5, 220 pounds with an NFL arm, scouts have been keeping an eye on Jones’ development. However, PFF grades of 65.7 in 2016 and 61.8 in 2017 were not encouraging. However, he’s grading at 87.3 overall this season while firing the fifth-lowest percentage of negatively graded passes in the nation. Jones can get the ball down the field as his adjusted completion percentage of 54.5 on deep passes ranks 17th in the nation, but the questions remain if this is just a strong six-game stretch or a sign of his natural progression. Jones is still a developmental prospect at this stage.
6. Drew Lock, Missouri
Senior | 6-4, 225 | 41 career starts
2018 stats through Nov. 1: 169-of-279 passing (60.6 percent) for 2,144 yards, with 16 TDs, 6 INTs; 3 rushing TDs; 76.1 Total QBR (No. 27 in FBS)
PFF grade: 81.4
The first-round hype has been present for Lock for a few years now, and there’s still a strong chance that he ends up there come April, but his on-field performance is not at that level just yet. Lock will win the eye-test contest with his measurables to go with one of the best arms in the country when it comes to pure velocity. On the positive side, Lock has improved each year in PFF grading terms, from a rough 43.7 as a freshman to 67.8 in 2016, 81.8 last year, and now an 85.3 overall grade here in 2018. His deep passing has been excellent, as he ranks third in the nation with an adjusted completion percentage of 65.7 on deep (20-plus-yard) passes, however, it’s the rest of Lock’s game that raises concerns. He’s slow to process in Missouri’s QB-friendly scheme, and his accuracy is lacking when compared to other top-end quarterback prospects. The other concern is the drop-off in performance in SEC play this season. Still, someone will still fall in love with Lock, and we’re not completely ready to give up on him, but there’s too much projection to his game at this point.
7. Ryan Finley, NC State
Senior | 6-4, 212 pounds | 35 career starts
2018 stats through Nov. 1: 177-of-265 passing (66.8 percent) for 2,250 yards, with 13 TDs, 6 INTs; 84.5 Total QBR (No. 4 in FBS)
PFF grade: 90.7
Another prospect where competition level may have exposed his flaws, Finley has continued to produce at a high level over the past few years, but his lack of arm strength is a glaring issue in games against Clemson and Notre Dame during his career. Finley posted solid grades of 89.3 last year and 90.7 this season, but his 53.0 grade against Clemson sticks out, as he simply couldn’t get anything going down the field. Finley’s skill set fits best as a developmental backup.
8. Jordan Ta’amu, Ole Miss
Senior | 6-2, 210 | 13 career starts
2018 stats through Nov. 1: 173-of-268 passing (64.6 percent) for 2,622 yards, with 16 TDs, 5 INTs; 4 rushing TDs; 78.7 Total QBR (No. 14 in FBS)
PFF grade: 86.4
Perhaps a surprising name on the list, but Ta’amu continues to excel in Ole Miss’ offense. Yes, he’s surrounded by excellent wide receiver talent, but he’s grading at 90.2 from a clean pocket, and his throw-for-throw accuracy percentage is second best in the nation. Ta’amu’s worst game came against Alabama (50.3 grade), and that’s a concern against high-end competition, but a 92.1 grade on 10-plus-yard throws puts him in the developmental category and potential late-round pick.
9. Jarrett Stidham, Auburn
Junior | 6-3, 215 | 25 career starts
2018 stats through Nov. 1: 142-of-235 passing (60.4 percent) for 1,714 yards, with 8 TDs, 4 INTs; 2 rushing TDs; 53.8 Total QBR (No. 78 in FBS)
PFF grade: 63.0
Expectations were sky-high for Stidham coming into the season, but his development has been stalled for a while now after a promising true freshman season in 2015 at Baylor. He has NFL velocity, but his ability to process in the pocket must improve in order to live up to his potential. Stidham’s 63.0 overall grade this season continues a disappointing trend that has seen him drop from 89.3 in 2015 to 71.5 last year to his career low here in 2018.
10. Brett Rypien, Boise State
Senior | 6-2, 202 | 44 career starts
With three-plus years of strong production under his belt, Rypien has put himself into position to become a late-round option. His 89.4 overall grade currently ranks 10th in the nation after posting strong grades between 78.5 and 84.8 in each of the past three seasons. Like others on the list, he’s lacking the physical tools, but he’s a good decision-maker and he’s had a dominant season throwing down the field. Rypien’s 18 touchdowns on deep passes are six more than the next closest quarterback, and his 898 deep passing yards rank second. Rypien is another potential backup at the next level.