AROUND THE NFL

We have an abbreviated Monday version, but we will be back Tuesday morning with a thorough review of the changing landscape of the NFL.  Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com posted this nice recap of the carnage and non-carnage.  The Harbaugh brothers show up a lot.

 

Here’s a one stop look at all coaching and G.M. moves, interviews, rumors, etc. for the 2019 cycle. This is based on published reports and information PFT has acquired from sources with knowledge of the dynamics of the general and specific processes.

 

Jets: Fired coach Todd Bowles. Expected to pursue Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh. Could pursue former Packers coach Mike McCarthy. Reportedly will interview Cowboys defensive backs coach/passing game coordinator Kris Richard, Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, Buccaneers offensive coordinator Todd Monken. Iowa State coach Matt Campbell declined a chance to interview.

 

Dolphins: Fired coach Adam Gase. Could pursue Ravens coach John Harbaugh. Reportedly will interview Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy.

 

Bengals: Fired coach Marvin Lewis. Reportedly will interview offensive coordinator Bill Lazor and special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons. Could consider former Raiders and Browns coach Hue Jackson. Possibly will pursue Vikings coach Mike Zimmer.

 

Browns: Fired coach Hue Jackson during the season. Will interview interim coach Gregg Williams, offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens. Reportedly have contacted former Packers coach Mike McCarthy. Have requested permission to interview Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus, Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski, Colts offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni and Patriots linebackers coach Brian Flores. Reportedly will interview Saints assistant head coach/tight ends coach Dan Campbell. Sources tell PFT that the Browns are expected to hire an offensive coach who will work closely with and develop quarterback Baker Mayfield.

 

Jaguars: Announced that coach Doug Marrone, G.M. Dave Caldwell, and V.P. of football operations Tom Coughlin will return.

 

Broncos: Fired coach Vance Joseph. Could pursue Ravens coach John Harbaugh. Could consider Mike Shanahan. Reportedly will consider Steelers offensive line coach Mike Munchak, Patriots linebackers coach Brian Flores and Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio.

 

Raiders: Fired G.M. Reggie McKenzie during the season. Hired Mike Mayock to replace him. Reportedly interview Marc Ross and Trey Brown for the position.

 

Packers: Fired coach Mike McCarthy during the season. Interviewed former Lions and Colts coach Jim Caldwell, former Colts coach Chuck Pagano. Expected to interview Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and Patriots linebackers coach Brian Flores. Reportedly will interview Saints assistant head coach/tight ends coach Dan Campbell. Could pursue Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald.

 

Vikings: Coach Mike Zimmer has declared that he is not resigning or retiring.

 

Buccaneers: Fired coach Dirk Koetter. Could pursue Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh. Could pursue former Packers coach Mike McCarthy. Bruce Arians has expressed interest. Reportedly will interview Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy.

 

Falcons: Fired offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel, and special teams coach Keith Armstrong. Head coach Dan Quinn will take over as defensive coordinator. Reportedly interviewing former Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell.

 

Cardinals: Fired coach Steve Wilks. Could pursue former Bengals coach Marvin Lewis. Reportedly will interview Rams quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor and Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy.

 

– – –

The final playoff field is even fresher than usual with only five teams from last year’s field returning.  Those who made it back from 2017 were the Patriots (10th straight division title) and Chiefs in the AFC and the Saints, Rams and Eagles in the NFC.  So all four teams that earned byes were in the playoffs last year, although only the Patriots also had a bye. 

 

Of the other three bye teams in 2017, only the Eagles returned.

 

The seven new teams are the Colts, Texans, Chargers and Ravens in the AFC and the Cowboys, Seahawks and Bears in the NFC.

 

The teams that failed to return are the Jaguars, Titans, Steelers and Bills in the AFC and the Vikings, Panthers and Falcons.

 

That leaves 13 of 32 teams that have not made the playoffs in either 2017 or 2018.  The Packers, Dolphins, Raiders, Lions and Giants from that list did make the playoffs in 2016.

 

That leaves the Broncos as the most “elite” of the eight teams that have not made the playoffs in the last three years.  The others are the Buccaneers, Redskins, 49ers and Cardinals in the NFC and the Jets, Browns and Bengals in the AFC.

 

Heck, the Broncos won the Super Bowl in 2015 and the Cardinals, Redskins and Bengals were division champs in ’15.  So the 4-year drought teams are just the Buccaneers, 49ers, Jets and Browns.

 

Some other thoughts –

 

All four teams from the AFC South, of all divisions, have made the playoff in the last two seasons.

 

In the last five season there have been 10 NFC bye slots.  Ten different franchises have now claimed those byes with the Saints and Rams this year.  It was the Eagles and Vikings last year, the Cowboys and Falcons in ’16, the Panthers and Cardinals in ’15 and the Seahawks and Packers in ’14.  The Bears who almost had a bye this year, would not have changed that stat if they had made it instead of the Rams.

 

The NFC’s Super Bowl representative in each of the previous four seasons has been one of those byed teams.

 

NFC NORTH

 

MINNESOTA

If the Vikings want to make a move, it won’t be with the help of Mike Zimmer.  This tweet from Tom Pelissaro:

 

Text from #Vikings coach Mike Zimmer: “I’m not retiring or resigning. Period.” Disappointment still fresh, but multiple team sources tell me they’d be shocked if Zimmer is out. He’s under contract for 2019.

 

The DB thinks that Zimmer makes a lot of sense as the next coach in Cincinnati – he’s worked successfully for the Browns, has a home nearby, etc. 

 

NFC SOUTH

 

ATLANTA

Last year two teams cleared out their coordinators while keeping the head coach.  Pete Carroll of the Seahawks got a new deal in 2018, while Mike McCarthy of the Packers got shown the door (after being allowed to civilly address the team of course).  Which path will Dan Quinn follow in 2019?  Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com:

 

The Atlanta Falcons have parted ways with offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel and special-teams coordinator Keith Armstrong as part of sweeping changes following a 7-9 season.

 

Coach Dan Quinn will serve as defensive coordinator moving forward, the team announced Monday.

 

“All three of these men are excellent coaches that I have a lot of respect for,” Quinn said in a statement. “While these are difficult decisions, we know we have a group of players here we are excited about and in order for us to consistently play true to our identity in all three phases we thought we needed some changes.”

 

Former Seattle Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell is considered the favorite to become the Falcons’ next OC and will interview with the team later this week, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Bevell, 48, coached on the Seahawks staff with Quinn and was previously the offensive coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings.

 

Although there had been speculation about the changes for a while, Quinn had vowed not to make any decisions until the conclusion of the season.

 

Sarkisian, a first-time NFL coordinator, held the role for two seasons after replacing Kyle Shanahan, now the coach of the San Francisco 49ers. Sarkisian spent his first season attempting to carry on the same outside-zone scheme Shanahan implemented and then added his own wrinkles during the second season. However, Sarkisian wasn’t able to elevate the offense back to the Super Bowl-caliber level it had under Shanahan, despite having one-time MVP Matt Ryan, Pro Bowlers Julio Jones and Alex Mack, and weapons such as rookie Calvin Ridley, Austin Hooper, Mohamed Sanu and Tevin Coleman.

 

“Sark has shown he’s a good coach and playcaller,” Quinn said. “After evaluating the entire season, I decided it was necessary that we had a new voice and direction for our offensive unit. I have a ton of respect for Sark, both personally and professionally, and I appreciate all he’s done during his time here.”

 

Inconsistency and injuries along the offensive line, plus losing two-time Pro Bowl running back Devonta Freeman to a season-ending groin injury, didn’t help Sarkisian’s cause.

 

In early December, Sarkisian said he didn’t feel the need to answer his critics.

 

“I never feel the need to validate myself to anybody outside of our building,” Sarkisian said at the time. “I work for Arthur Blank, Thomas Dimitroff, Dan Quinn, and I worked for these players. And I do the best I can do for them every single day. One week doesn’t change how I prepare or what I do. You put the work in. You feel good about the work. And when you do, you’re able to go to sleep at night knowing you did your job.

 

“You always want to do better. There’s always things that you wish you did better.”

 

Manuel, who joined the Falcons four years ago as the secondary coach/senior defensive assistant, spent the past two seasons as the defensive coordinator. In 2017, the Falcons finished in the top 10 in both scoring defense and total defense for the first time since 1998. This season, they suffered a significant defensive drop-off. It didn’t help when starting safeties Keanu Neal (ACL) and Ricardo Allen (Achilles) went down with season-ending injuries and when star linebacker Deion Jones missed 10 games following foot surgery to repair a broken bone.

 

“Marquand is a talented coach and excellent teacher that I have coached with for a number of years,” Quinn said. “I believe he should have the opportunity to call plays for a defense, so we have decided to allow his contract to expire so he can explore those opportunities.”

 

Manuel spoke up for himself before the season finale at Tampa Bay.

 

“I know one thing, I’ve coached this defense to the best they’ve had in 20 years,” Manuel said. “With that being said, everyone is evaluated, which is part of why we do this job. And things of that nature will take care of themselves, as they always will.”

 

Manuel could find a new home quickly, particularly if close friend and former Seahawks coaching mate Kris Richard, now with the Dallas Cowboys, becomes a head coach. There is a belief around the league that Manuel could be Richard’s defensive coordinator in such a scenario.

 

Armstrong just completed his 11th season with the team. He once interviewed for the head-coaching job held by Quinn. Asked about the coaching staff evaluation process last week, Armstrong responded, “I don’t worry about that part of it. I go out and do my job and coach my ass off and let the chips fall where they may.”

 

 

NEW ORLEANS

Gil Brandt notes this:

 

@Gil_Brandt

The Saints lost three games this season — to the Bucs, Cowboys and Panthers — the same three opponents they lost to in their Super Bowl-winning season.

 

NFC WEST

 

ARIZONA

Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com, in contrast to Kent Somers, his beat writer compatriot of the Arizona Republic, sticks up for one-and-done Steve Wilks:

 

One of the most turbulent seasons in Arizona Cardinals history came to a close Monday, when team president Michael Bidwill fired first-year head coach Steve Wilks after a 3-13 season.

 

After a year like that, one riddled with poor decisions and even worse play, there was no doubting that changes needed to be made.

 

But the Cardinals made the wrong one.

 

They shortchanged Wilks by giving him only one season. That wasn’t enough time for him to mold the roster to the specifications of a 4-3 defensive scheme. Sure, Wilks began the process of transforming the defensive front into one that would suit his system, but he had to do it with the players he inherited. He was given a front, namely the likes of Robert Nkemdiche, Rodney Gunter, Corey Peters and Olsen Pierre, that was good but not great. That’s the one area that determines whether a 4-3 defense is successful. He also had to ask his top pass-rushers, Chandler Jones and Markus Golden, to change their approach from being standing rushers to having their hands in the dirt. That adjustment — or readjustment for Jones, who began his career with his hand in the dirt — took time.

 

And time is exactly what Wilks did not get.

 

Wilks took the Cardinals job knowing it would take at least a couple of years to get the franchise where he wanted it — where he needed it — to be. He saw with the Carolina Panthers, where Wilks spent six years as an assistant, how a team can develop over time.

 

“I was there throughout the process where we struggled early in Carolina,” said Wilks of his six seasons with the Panthers. “Had to make some roster moves from free agency, did a great job in the draft. Just like we did this past year. In Year 3, then all of a sudden we’re making moves, we’re in the playoffs. Year 4, we’re in the Super Bowl.

 

“So, again, it’s a process, and sometimes it takes time.”

 

The decision to let Wilks go was a clear sign that Bidwill and general manager Steve Keim wanted a quick fix.

 

But Bidwill need not look further than Keim to figure out why the team struggled in 2018. Keim should’ve been the one to pack up his office on Monday, not Wilks.

 

There’s no debating that Keim was once a savant general manager. He made all the right moves, signed all the right guys, cut all the right players from 2013 to 2015, when the Cardinals skyrocketed to the upper hemisphere of the NFL under then-first-time head coach Bruce Arians.

 

But Keim has largely been the reason the Cardinals started to fall back to earth in 2016 and 2017, and why they crashed in 2018.

 

Before his DUI in July that led to a five-week suspension during training camp, there were a series of bad and head-scratching moves: From trying to underpay Calais Campbell and Tyrann Mathieu to signing veteran offensive lineman after veteran offensive lineman who either got hurt or didn’t live up to their expectations, hoping for a quick fix that never came.

 

Then there were the draft mistakes. Four of his first-round picks — Josh Rosen, Deone Bucannon, Haason Reddick and Nkemdiche — hardly produced this year. His 2013 first-round pick, Jonathan Cooper, was traded in 2016. Keim’s only first-round pick to begin living up to expectations was tackle D.J. Humphries, who’s been hampered by injuries for most of his career.

 

And now Keim will be in charge of the first pick in the 2019 draft.

 

Keim’s absence during training camp left Wilks on an island. Even though Wilks was able to rely on his former coach in Carolina, Ron Rivera, and other head coaches for advice, he didn’t have access to his GM during the most important time for any coach, much less a first-time coach.

 

And that could be part of the reason Arizona entered the season with a thin offensive line and a receiving corps that, at the time, featured one known commodity in Larry Fitzgerald. It’s no surprise both positions were a liability all year.

 

It’s also no surprise that Rosen, the Cardinals’ quarterback of the future whom Keim finally pulled the trigger on getting, struggled. As injuries on the offensive line mounted without much depth, Rosen found himself running for his life time and time again. And when he finally had time to throw, he was looking at an understaffed receiving corps. It didn’t help Rosen or the Cardinals that offensive coordinator Mike McCoy may not have been Wilks’ guy from the start. That was another experiment that turned out to be a disaster before Wilks fired McCoy after an embarrassing Week 7 blowout on national TV.

 

Wilks isn’t completely without blame for this season.

 

He hired assistant coaches who may not have been fully qualified to coach at the NFL level. And his 4-3 defense struggled largely in part because it wasn’t able to stop the run.

 

One year wasn’t enough time for Wilks to find his footing as a head coach. And it was clear at times throughout the season he was a bit lost. But what else would anyone expect from a first-time head coach?

 

Wilks should’ve been brought back, at the very least with an ultimatum that if the 2018 debacle carried into 2019, he’d be let go midseason. The person who should’ve been fired Monday was the person who was responsible for the roster Wilks inherited, one that wasn’t set up for Wilks to win in 2018.

 

AFC NORTH

 

CLEVELAND

The firing of Adam Gase could be a good thing for the Browns.  A tweet from Jeff Darlington:

 

@JeffDarlington

Browns owner Jimmy Haslam is interested in Gase, through recommendation of Peyton Manning, per sources. This one would be complicated and intriguing. Gase LOVES Baker. But Landry is also there. Dorsey’s presence creates an unknown.

 

But worth at least noting: Haslam is intrigued.

– – –

Here’s what QB BAKER MAYFIELD did despite not starting for Hue Jackson until forced into it by injury.  Pat McManamon of ESPN.com:

 

Baker Mayfield broke the NFL rookie record with his 27th touchdown pass Sunday during the Cleveland Browns’ final game of the season against the Baltimore Ravens.

 

The rookie mark became Mayfield’s with 3:24 left when he threw a 1-yard TD pass to fellow rookie Antonio Callaway. That gave him 27 for the season, one more than Russell Wilson and Peyton Manning, who had shared the record.

 

Mayfield’s 27 TDs came in 13 starts. He did not play the first two games before taking over for an injured Tyrod Taylor in the third game against the Jets. He has thrown at least one touchdown pass in all 13 of his starts.

 

The TD to Callaway was the third of the game for Mayfield — against the NFL’s top-ranked defense. Earlier, Mayfield had thrown a 28-yard touchdown pass to Breshad Perriman in the first quarter, then tied the mark with a 48-yard throw to Jarvis Landry.

 

The 13 consecutive games with a touchdown pass ties him with Brian Sipe and Frank Ryan for fifth in Browns history, one behind Bill Nelsen’s 14-game streak between 1969 and 1970.

 

Mayfield has thrown for multiple touchdowns in nine games this season, a record for a Browns rookie and the most by a Browns quarterback since Derek Anderson in 2007.

 

He also owns team marks for touchdown passes and passing yards by a rookie.

 

 

PITTSBURGH

Amazing note from Scott Kacsmar:

 

@FO_ScottKacsmar

Steelers will have missed playoffs five times in Roethlisberger’s career.

 

2006

2009

2012

2013

2018

 

Every time they were one game out of a spot.

 

Every time they lost a game to the Raiders.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

FINAL REGULAR SEASON AIKMAN RATINGS

 

The Chicago Bears lead four NFC teams atop the final 2018 Aikman Combined Ratings compiled by Sports Radar.  The Bears used the NFL’s top Aikman Defense combined with an attack that ranked 13th in Aikman Offense (above the 21st it was assigned by the NFL’s yards-only method) to beat out the Saints by 3.2 points.  The Saints had the 2nd-ranked Aikman Offense and the 16th-ranked defense.

 

The Kansas City Chiefs were the top team in the Aikman Offense Ratings by a considerable 4.3 points as the Saints faded a bit down the stretch.  The 2018 Chiefs became the first team in Aikman history to top 100.0 for a season.

 

Meanwhile, with Aikman Offenses averaging a record 83.4 on the year, the Bears at 81.2 were the only team in Aikman Defense over the traditional “average” number of 75.0.

 

 

Final 2018 Aikman Combined Ratings

————–

Aikman

————–

————–

NFL

————–

Rank

Record

Team

Combined

Off

Def

Off

Def

Combined

1

12-4-0

Chicago Bears

166.7

85.5

81.2

21

3

24

2

13-3-0

New Orleans Saints

163.5

95.9

67.5

8

14

22

3

13-3-0

Los Angeles Rams

161.6

94.7

66.9

2

19

21

4

10-6-0

Seattle Seahawks

161.5

90.7

70.8

18

16

34

5

12-4-0

Los Angeles Chargers

161.2

89.5

71.6

11

9

20

6

10-6-0

Indianapolis Colts

161.1

90.8

70.3

7

11

18

7

12-4-0

Kansas City Chiefs

158.4

100.2

58.2

1

31

32

8

11-5-0

New England Patriots

158.0

89.2

68.8

5

21

26

9

10-6-0

Baltimore Ravens

157.3

85.9

71.5

9

1

10

10

9-6-1

Pittsburgh Steelers

157.1

89.8

67.2

4

6

10

11

8-7-1

Minnesota Vikings

154.6

80.0

74.6

20

4

24

12

9-7-0

Tennessee Titans

153.6

79.8

73.8

25

8

33

13

11-5-0

Houston Texans

153.5

84.1

69.4

15

12

27

14

9-7-0

Philadelphia Eagles

153.0

83.6

69.4

14

23

37

15

6-9-1

Green Bay Packers

151.6

87.3

64.3

12

18

30

16

10-6-0

Dallas Cowboys

151.4

80.9

70.5

22

7

29

17

7-8-1

Cleveland Browns

150.8

84.0

66.7

13

30

43

18

7-9-0

Carolina Panthers

149.9

86.6

63.3

10

15

25

19

6-10-0

Denver Broncos

149.7

80.6

69.1

19

22

41

20

6-10-0

Detroit Lions

146.6

80.2

66.5

24

10

34

21

7-9-0

Atlanta Falcons

146.3

89.4

56.9

6

28

34

22

7-9-0

Washington Redskins

146.3

77.0

69.2

28

17

45

23

5-11-0

New York Giants

145.4

81.5

63.9

17

24

41

24

6-10-0

Buffalo Bills

142.5

73.8

68.6

30

2

32

25

6-10-0

Cincinnati Bengals

141.6

85.5

56.1

26

32

58

26

5-11-0

Jacksonville Jaguars

140.7

69.7

71.0

27

5

32

27

5-11-0

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

139.9

84.5

55.4

3

27

30

28

7-9-0

Miami Dolphins

137.7

74.2

63.4

31

29

60

29

4-12-0

San Francisco 49ers

136.8

77.5

59.3

16

13

29

30

4-12-0

Oakland Raiders

135.1

76.4

58.7

23

26

49

31

4-12-0

New York Jets

134.3

69.9

64.5

29

25

54

32

3-13-0

Arizona Cardinals

129.9

69.2

60.6

32

20

52

149.9

83.4

66.5

 

 

Aikman Offense Ratings Through Week 17, 2018

Aikman

NFL

Team

AER

1

1

Kansas City Chiefs

100.2

2

8

New Orleans Saints

95.9

3

2

Los Angeles Rams

94.7

4

7

Indianapolis Colts

90.8

5

18

Seattle Seahawks

90.7

6

4

Pittsburgh Steelers

89.8

7

11

Los Angeles Chargers

89.5

8

6

Atlanta Falcons

89.4

9

5

New England Patriots

89.2

10

12

Green Bay Packers

87.3

11

10

Carolina Panthers

86.6

12

9

Baltimore Ravens

85.9

13

21

Chicago Bears

85.5

14

26

Cincinnati Bengals

85.5

15

3

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

84.5

16

15

Houston Texans

84.1

17

13

Cleveland Browns

84.0

18

14

Philadelphia Eagles

83.6

19

17

New York Giants

81.5

20

22

Dallas Cowboys

80.9

21

19

Denver Broncos

80.6

22

24

Detroit Lions

80.2

23

20

Minnesota Vikings

80.0

24

25

Tennessee Titans

79.8

25

16

San Francisco 49ers

77.5

26

28

Washington Redskins

77.0

27

23

Oakland Raiders

76.4

28

31

Miami Dolphins

74.2

29

30

Buffalo Bills

73.8

30

29

New York Jets

69.9

31

27

Jacksonville Jaguars

69.7

32

32

Arizona Cardinals

69.2

NFL Average:

83.4

 

Aikman Defense Ratings Through Week 17, 2018

Aikman

NFL

Team

AER

1

3

Chicago Bears

81.2

2

4

Minnesota Vikings

74.6

3

8

Tennessee Titans

73.8

4

9

Los Angeles Chargers

71.6

5

1

Baltimore Ravens

71.5

6

5

Jacksonville Jaguars

71.0

7

16

Seattle Seahawks

70.8

8

7

Dallas Cowboys

70.5

9

11

Indianapolis Colts

70.3

10

12

Houston Texans

69.4

11

23

Philadelphia Eagles

69.4

12

17

Washington Redskins

69.2

13

22

Denver Broncos

69.1

14

21

New England Patriots

68.8

15

2

Buffalo Bills

68.6

16

14

New Orleans Saints

67.5

17

6

Pittsburgh Steelers

67.2

18

19

Los Angeles Rams

66.9

19

30

Cleveland Browns

66.7

20

10

Detroit Lions

66.5

21

25

New York Jets

64.5

22

18

Green Bay Packers

64.3

23

24

New York Giants

63.9

24

29

Miami Dolphins

63.4

25

15

Carolina Panthers

63.3

26

20

Arizona Cardinals

60.6

27

13

San Francisco 49ers

59.3

28

26

Oakland Raiders

58.7

29

31

Kansas City Chiefs

58.2

30

28

Atlanta Falcons

56.9

31

32

Cincinnati Bengals

56.1

32

27

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

55.4

NFL Average:

66.5