AROUND THE NFL

Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com with this update on the PI Replay Review issue which has the potential to be a real mess this fall.

 

Last week, the Competition Committee spoke to coaches about possible “tweaks” to the current rule that makes all instance of pass inference, called and not called, subject to replay review. This week, the process continues.

 

Per a league source, the Competition Committee will circle back with owners this week to determine whether and to what extent the current rule will be changed.

 

Last month, the Competition Committee secured a blank check to revise the new rule. The Competition Committee originally intended to eliminate automatic review for pass interference calls and non-calls, foisting the responsibility for initiating replay review onto coaches. As PFT explained last week, the Competition Committee encountered unexpected resistance to this approach.

 

The Competition Committee also must determine whether replay review will be available for Hail Mary plays and, if so, how Hail Mary plays will be defined. That will not be easy, given that coaches will find a way around whatever the objective parameters may be in order to ensure that a Hail Mary to the Hail Mary, in the form of replay review, will always be available.

 

NFC NORTH

 

GREEN BAY

This from Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com:

 

Name to watch in Green Bay going into minicamp, and training camp: Second-year receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling. The 6′ 4″, 206-pound 24-year-old is faster than the new staff anticipated he’d be, and has quickly picked up Matt LaFleur’s system, which is significantly different than Mike McCarthy’s. You know how big Aaron Rodgers’s arm is, and the Packers quarterback hasn’t been able to overthrow him in OTAs. Add Valdes-Scantling’s emergence to Jimmy Graham surprising the staff with his still-there movement skills, and it looks like Green Bay is going to have ways to take the pressure off No. 1 receiver Davante Adams.

 

NFC EAST

 

DALLAS

A look at coaching prodigy Kellen Moore.  Todd Archer of ESPN.com:

 

The seconds tick off the clock in a two-minute drill at the end of the fifth organized team activity of the Dallas Cowboys’ offseason.

 

Music plays over the loud speakers inside the Ford Center as quarterback Dak Prescott looks about 15 yards to his left at Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, but it is nothing like the overwhelming sound that is heard on a Sunday night inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.

 

It is only May, but to Prescott, the offense and Moore, it might as well be late September when they actually will be in New Orleans for what could be a crucial NFC matchup.

 

Moore presses the button on a walkie-talkie and calls a play in to Prescott’s earpiece.

 

“You’ve obviously got to be able to anticipate some stuff,” said Moore, who is in his first few months as the Cowboys’ playcaller. “It’s first down, you’re expecting it to be good, but sometimes you’ve got to plan, something unfortunate happens and you’ve got to be ready to have a call ready right then and there.”

 

Before the snap, Connor Williams is flagged for a false start, pushing the offense back five yards. Moore calls in another play, and Prescott finds tight end Blake Jarwin for a 9-yard gain. Seven plays later, Prescott spikes the ball to stop the clock and sets up a tying field goal by Kasey Redfern.

 

“Just a sense of calmness and confidence, honestly,” Prescott said of what he wants from the person talking in his ear during games. “I get that from Kellen. I’ve gotten that from him for the last few years. You got it from when he was playing the game to back to my rookie year. He’s one of those guys I looked at and it almost knocked my confidence down just by the way he carried himself, the way he made plays on the field. But now to have him as a coach, you know when he’s calling plays, he believes in it. He’s very convicted about it. And you can feel it.”

 

In addition to making his offseason additions to the offense as the first-year coordinator, Moore has to learn the ins and outs of calling the plays in to Prescott. He never did that in his time as a backup quarterback with the Detroit Lions or with the Cowboys. He did not do it during his stellar career at Boise State, where he won 50 games.

 

The first time he called plays in a game was at the Pro Bowl last January, when he was the Cowboys’ quarterbacks coach and not a coordinator.

 

“We figured it out the day of,” Moore said. “Good test run.”

 

It allowed Moore to learn some of the intricacies of how the coach-to-player communication system works.

 

“There’s a timing aspect of it,” Moore said. “It cuts off at 15 [seconds left on the play clock] but it doesn’t open up right away right after the snap, so you’ve got to get used to the timing. The whistle blows and you’ve got to wait that second before it lets you back in. If you’re too quick, you’re going to be sitting there like you’re talking and Dak’s not hearing anything. Fortunately Dak and I, we kind of understand each other. He knows if he’s not heard anything for a few seconds, he’ll peek back and [say], ‘I’ve got nothing going on,’ so we can work it out.”

 

The offseason has given him more of a test run. So will training camp and the four preseason games. Moore will be on the sideline during the season after last season’s offensive coordinator, Scott Linehan, called plays from the coach’s booth. Quarterbacks coach Jon Kitna will serve as Moore’s eyes from above.

 

“You get used to presenting it in a certain way because it becomes slightly different than when you’re normally talking,” Moore said. “So sometimes you’ve got to slow down a touch.”

 

But not too much, because there is not a lot of time between plays. After Moore calls in a play, his mind already races to what he could call next, good or bad. If a quarterback needs to move on quickly from a poor read or throw, a coordinator has to move on even quicker.

 

Those who know Moore the best, dating to his Boise State days, say his fast-moving mind is his best asset.

 

“One thing with him is his voice carries so much credibility,” said Matt Miller, one of his favorite receivers at Boise State and now the offensive coordinator at Montana State. “He’d get up in the front of the room and everyone’s going to be locked into what he’s saying. He’s so clear and concise with what he’s saying that you’re totally engaged. It’s not what you say but how you say it, and he has a way of giving you words that simplify things so it’s, ‘All right, this is the plan. Let’s go execute the best we can.'”

 

When Cowboys coach Jason Garrett was the backup quarterback, he would relay the plays to Troy Aikman. When he coached under Nick Saban with the Miami Dolphins, he would relay the plays to the quarterback.

 

As a player, Garrett would practice calling plays in a huddle, and that’s something he continues to tell his quarterbacks. He did the same thing when he called plays for the Cowboys from 2007 through 2012.

 

“You’re always thinking about it, and then I just think it’s important to articulate it,” Garrett said. “It’s simple to say it out loud. You’re going to do it a lot. You don’t want to make mistakes. You don’t want to hesitate. You want to rehearse it. I always felt like when I was playing or when I was coaching, saying it out loud helped me understand it better and it helped me be better at it when the game started.”

 

Practices are often scripted, but Garrett uses different play-it-out scenarios in the workouts that are not scripted. Moore said that has helped him get accustomed to the pace he needs as a playcaller.

 

“When I was calling plays, I wanted to be in those situations,” Garrett said. “I didn’t want to just look at a script in practice and just call plays over and over and over again. I wanted to be in it, ‘What is it? It’s third-and-2. It’s third-and-5. OK, where am I going to?’ You have to constantly rehearse those things. You have to practice those things as players, but you have to practice those things as coaches, too.”

 

NFC SOUTH

 

CAROLINA

Norv Turner gives Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com an optimistic report on QB CAM NEWTON:

 

This week, Cam Newton will practice for the first time since undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder in January. And no, it won’t be full-on practice, but the fact that he’ll be out there throwing is significant for a franchise that’s been waiting for five months to see its quarterback actually sling it to his teammates again. Every step’s important, and this is a big one, even just for the symbolism.

 

“He’s really attacked this rehab, and he’s done everything he could possibly do physically to get back to where he is with the shoulder,” offensive coordinator Norv Turner said Sunday morning. “The rehab’s gone great. Obviously, part of it he did on his own, a big part of it, before we got back. But since April 20 or so, when we got back, he’s been totally engaged, both physically and mentally.

 

“It’s been fun to watch him. He’s very serious about the rehab, but he’s been Cam. Everyone likes being around him. He brings energy every day, and he’s very helpful with the young quarterbacks.”

 

Throughout his rehab, he has, quietly, been working on throwing. A couple weeks ago, a rogue amateur cameraman caught him tossing it around during a rehab session, and the video went viral. The truth is, by then, he’d been doing that for a while.

 

“He’s been throwing—spot throwing—for the last month,” Turner said. “And this will be a chance to get out and throw individual, and potentially throw to some new receivers. The whole plan is to be ready when camp starts. There’s only so much can do, without throwing. And he’s really grown there, without being able to throw.

 

“It’s been good for him to concentrate on the mental part of it. And it’s good that the other three [quarterbacks] have gotten the reps.”

 

It’s easy to forget now, but there was a point last year where Turner had Newton rolling in a revamped offense. At midseason, the Panthers were 6–2, and the QB’s passer rating was 100.8, buoyed by a 15-4 TD-INT ratio. Even as the team slipped from there, Newton’s rating rose to 103.7 (22-7 TD-INT) at the end of November. The wheels came off thereafter, as the team had to manage Newton, first giving him Wednesdays, then Wednesday and Thursdays off.

 

“The hardest part for all of us was that middle stretch where we were still playing really good offense, and he was limited on Wednesdays and Thursday,” Turner said. “It’s really hard to play at a high level if you’re not practicing those days, he’d only get Friday. But Week 11, we play Seattle, and he’s still 14-of-14 at the half, and finishes 25-of-35, taking us up and down the field, and playing at a high level. But it catches up to you when you can’t practice. Hopefully that’s behind us.”

 

As Turner said, the plan is to have Newton throwing without limitation when the team reports to Spartanburg, S.C. for training camp in six weeks. Hopefully, the offense will pick where it left off before Newton got hurt as one of the more innovative and diverse attacks in football.

 

“His second year in a system, there was change for Cam last year, change for me,” Turner said. “With the young players, their second year, we should see some real growth—D.J. [Moore], and Curtis Samuel, and even Christian [McCaffrey]. I think that we can be a really, really explosive offense, and his ability to do so many things makes it really hard for defenses, and we’ll still mix some things in where he’s the featured ballcarrier. We know it starts with him.”

 

That it will again is a big win for Carolina.

 

NFC WEST

 

ARIZONA

This is what Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com has to report on QB KYLER MURRAY so far:

 

QB Kyler Murray: The only access to Murray on the field is through stretching and individual drills, so it’s tough to get a true gauge on how he looks, but one thing is for sure: His passes are crisp. They seem to jump off his hand and his long passes land rather effortlessly. His teammates rave about him. They’ve praised his speed, accuracy, intelligence and his leadership — all high marks for the 21-year-old No. 1 overall pick.

 

AFC WEST

 

KANSAS CITY

We have seen that WR TYREEK HILL is in the clear (at the moment) from the Johnson County (Kansas) DA, but there is another proceeding in child court still ongoing.  Albert Breer:

 

The NFL and the Chiefs remain in wait-and-see mode on Tyreek Hill, after the criminal charges in his child abuse case were dropped. The league is deferring to the child protective services proceeding involving Hill’s young son as of right now, and will wait for the green light from the Kansas Department of Children and Families to interview Hill. The Chiefs, as a matter of course, are staying out of the way of the league’s investigation, and Hill remains home, on a form of paid leave.

 

As we’ve said before, the fact that Hill is even on the roster right now is because of the level of player he is. I feel comfortable saying there’s no way that the Chiefs, or any other team, would stick by a player with Hill’s history through a situation like this one, if that player wasn’t a cornerstone on the field. So, really, we are where we were in the NFL a few years ago—if a player is deemed replaceable (hello, Kareem Hunt), teams will take a stand. If he isn’t replaceable, well, then due process is necessary.

 

Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com wouldn’t let Hill off the hook.

 

Some — not all, but some — Chiefs fans have picked a strange hill to die on.

 

The Tyreek Hill truthers cling to the notion that, absent proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the Chiefs receiver broke the arm of his three-year-old son, he cannot be suspended. Emboldened by a recent comment from the local district attorney that Hill currently isn’t the subject of an active criminal investigation, while selectively ignoring the NFL’s comment that this development has no impact on its review of the situation, the Tyreek truthers have gone on the attack, insisting that Hill is “innocent,” demanding that he not be suspended, and shouting down anyone who would dare to mention that there’s much more to the story than the question of whether Hill will or should be prosecuted for child abuse.

 

The Personal Conduct Policy sweeps far more broadly than that. Beyond the fact that the NFL can, and will, investigate and punish a player for domestic violence even if he’s never arrested or charged (e.g., Ezekiel Elliott), the NFL also can, and will, punish a player for domestic misconduct that does not involve actual violence.

 

Indeed, the very first type of prohibited conduct listed under the policy covers “[a]ctual or threatened physical violence.” (Emphasis added.) In other words, threats alone are enough.

 

Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith learned that lesson last year, when he received a four-game suspension for threats and emotional abuse of the mother of his three-year-old child, apparently within the context of a custody dispute.

 

“The NFL found evidence of threatening and emotionally abusive behaviors by Jimmy toward his former girlfriend that showed a pattern of improper conduct,” the Ravens said when the suspension was announced last year. “Our player’s behavior was inappropriate and wrong.”

 

The behavior also wasn’t violent.

 

“I’m very close to Jimmy and it’s unfortunate with what happened,” former teammate Eric Weddle said at the time. “It’s hard to fathom arguing with your [significant other], never touching her and that gets you a suspension like this when guys are getting DUIs or physically abusing other people, and they never get near this [penalty]. I know details of it that I can’t get into, so I just feel bad for him.”

 

Hill admits that he said to Crystal Espinal earlier this year, “You need to be terrified of me too, bitch.” The comment came during an argument with Espinal regarding whether Hill’s son respect Hill or is terrified of him.

 

It’s for the league to decide whether that comment from Hill to Espinal amounts to a threat. Given that Hill previously admitted to choking and beating a then-pregnant Espinal in December 2014, it’s hard to regard his comment as idle chatter. And Hill’s past conduct, for which he was never disciplined by the league because he wasn’t in the league yet when it happened, surely will influence the league’s handling of him now.

 

What Hill previously did to Espinal was reprehensible; even the most ardent Chiefs fan will admit that. His comment — you need to be terrified of me too, bitch — suggests that the person who choked and beat Espinal more than four years ago is still lurking within him. That person requires intervention by the league, and if the league gave Jimmy Smith a four-game suspension with no history of violence or other misbehavior toward the mother of his child, Hill arguably merits at least that much.

 

Then there’s the ongoing proceeding that resulted in the removal of Hill’s son from Hill’s custody. Something like that doesn’t happen without serious, proven concerns that the child has been placed at significant risk, and the Personal Conduct Policy specifically prohibits “[c]onduct that poses a genuine danger to the safety and well-being of another person.”

 

Applying basic logic, if Hill’s behavior created a situation that prompted the government to remove his son from Hill’s custody, Hill necessarily engaged in behavior that poses a genuine danger to the safety and well-being of another person.

 

Applying more basic logic, the league’s decision to delay its investigation while the Child Protective Services matter remains active suggests that the league has specific questions and concerns regarding the overall circumstances that resulted in Hill’s son being removed from Hill’s custody, regardless of whether those circumstances involve violence or threats of violence or emotional abuse.

 

So even without proof of violence, Hill can be suspended. He can be suspended for threats or emotional abuse of Espinal, Hill’s son, or both. Hill’s history of violence against Espinal, choking and beating her while pregnant, would become an aggravating factor that could make Hill’s suspension much longer than the four games Smith got last year.

 

AFC NORTH

 

CLEVELAND

Adam Rank of NFL.com has a long look at the state of the Browns at the moment here.  Edited somewhat below:

 

Members of the Cleveland Browns organization, fans of the Browns and all of you BakerManiacs around the world:

 

What a time to be alive in Cleveland! I know that I say something like this for a lot of teams. But I really do mean it for the Cleveland Browns. How great is it to back the Browns right now? Fans are already slamming the doors shut on the bandwagon. The velvet rope is out, and the bouncers are checking the list to make sure that you truly deserve to walk through the doors.

 

And this team won seven games last year.

 

But there is a good reason for the optimism. For the first time in a long-ass time, there seems to be an answer at coach and quarterback. The team was already a pick to click before acquiring one of the best receivers on the planet. There’s a lot happening right now. Let’s get started.

 

2019 VIPs

 

Head coach: Freddie Kitchens. He kind of looks like a guy who would be typecast to play “football coach” in an ABC sitcom, or the guy you inevitably end up with when you use the “create-a-coach” feature on “Madden.” But make no mistake, it seems like the dude can coach. Through the first eight weeks of the season, the Browns were struggling under head coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley, who always seemed to be at odds. They were like that bickering couple at a party who makes everybody else uncomfortable — and then, once they call it a night, the party comes alive. That was what it like when Kitchens took over the Browns’ offense last year, stepping up as coordinator under interim head coach Gregg Williams. People were doing shots. Everyone hit the dance floor. Somebody in the wedding party ended up in a trashcan. It was like that.

 

With Kitchens as coordinator, the Browns averaged 395 yards per game. With Kitchens as coordinator, they averaged 6.86 yards per play. With Kitchens as coordinator, they scored 12 touchdowns on their first 12 trips inside the red zone. With Kitchens as coordinator, the offense scored 25 touchdowns. With Kitchens as coordinator — you know what, you kind of get the point now, don’t you?

 

It’s fair to wonder if someone whose first non-position-coach job came last year is ready to be a head coach. But the in-house promotion makes plenty of sense when you think about the chemistry he demonstrated with the most important piece of the franchise puzzle …

 

Quarterback: Baker Mayfield. I’m a huge believer in Baker. And it’s not like I’m jumping on the bandwagon just now. I have proof right here. Baker was the quarterback we (I) all believed he could be. He broke Peyton Manning’s record for touchdown passes as a rookie (27) despite not entering a game until Week 3. I mean — and as I say this, I should point out that I like Tyrod Taylor — Mayfield was no doubt the best quarterback in the room. Maybe he did benefit from not bearing the weight of the expectations that come with starting Week 1. The bottom line is, from Week 10 to Week 17, when the Browns went 5-2, Mayfield ranked first among quarterbacks with 200-plus attempts in yards per throw (8.86) and fourth in passer rating (108.4). That first number is a significant factor that we’ll come back to later.

– – –

The 2019 roadmap

The competitive urgency index is: ELEVATED. In a perfect (or fair) world, we would give the Browns a chance to grow. Kind of like the way no one expects their child to go out and drain buckets like Steph Curry the first time he/she picks up a basketball. But the internet is going to internet, and if the Browns don’t win the Super Bowl, people are going to wonder what the hell is wrong with this team. Which seems totally fair for an organization that hasn’t won a championship since the 1960s. I think. I didn’t look it up.

 

Fine. I looked it up. It’s 1964. They haven’t won a title since ’64.

 

Editor’s note: No one from Cleveland had to look that up.

 

Will the Browns be able to …

 

Deal with expectations? I mean, it’s a whole new world for the Browns, coming in as the expected AFC North champs. Even their new second-round corner got a little (David Caruso puts on his sunglasses, “CSI Miami” style) “Greedy,” proclaiming that the Browns are going to the Super Bowl. We’ve seen “super teams” fail in the past. But I don’t get the impression that the Browns are in danger of that. There are a lot of guys who still have something to prove, despite all the hype. They’re more like the Indians in “Major League” than the Indians in “Major League II.”

 

Find balance between Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt? How have we not talked about this yet? The Browns’ signing of Hunt, who had been released by the Chiefs after a video showing Hunt shoving and kicking a woman in a February incident at a Cleveland hotel was made public, was surprising. Why bring him in when Chubb was coming off a rookie year in which he averaged 84.8 rushing yards per game during the final half of the season? If you’re an on-pace guy, that would come out to close to 1,400 rushing yards in a full season at that level of usage. Chubb also had three of his four 100-yard rushing games during that span, which came after the Browns traded away veteran back Carlos Hyde. (Seriously, I don’t mean to bash Hue Jackson; that’s not fair. But wow.) How will Cleveland continue to get the most out of Chubb while also working in Hunt, who ranked sixth in the NFL in touches (532) in 2017-18, when he returns from his eight-game suspension? And that’s not even factoring in dual-threat back Duke Johnson, though he might not be on the team long-term.

 

Keep the momentum going on the offensive line? In 2017, the Browns allowed 50 sacks, sixth-most in the NFL. In 2018, they brought that total down to a more manageable figure of 38, 19th in the league. Plus, they allowed just five sacks over the final eight games of the season, the lowest total in the NFL over that span. Four-fifths of the line that finished out the season is set to return. Can second-year pro Austin Corbett replace former right guard Kevin Zeitler, who was sent to the Giants in the Beckham trade? Will Cleveland regret the loss of depth that came with releasing Desmond Harrison?

 

One storyline people are overlooking: Todd Monken is a pretty good offensive coordinator. What a fantastic addition to Cleveland’s staff. Remember last year, when Ryan Fitzpatrick was tearing up the league with the Buccaneers? Guess who his offensive coordinator was. (Seriously, if you guessed anyone other than Monken, what are you doing with your life?) It’s expected Kitchens will call the plays for the Browns. And why not? He was pretty good there last year. But adding Monken is a pretty great move. He had other chances out there, because he’s a well-respected coach. But he wanted to be a part of Kitchens’ staff and work with Baker. Just another reason to start believing the hype.

 

For 2019 to be a successful season, the Browns MUST …

 

— Get off to a good start. They can’t afford to overlook those two teams mentioned above, because the stretch from Week 3 to Week 9 — which includes the two other key dates mentioned above, vs. the Rams and Patriots, as well as contests with the Seahawks and in Denver — is fairly gnarly.

 

— Make the playoffs. Or at least win nine games. It is one thing to win seven games when nobody is expecting much from you. When people are counting on you, it’s time to step up and deliver.

 

In closing

Here is why I believe in the Browns. We’ve seen Cleveland take positive strides before, making (what we thought at the time) were good picks, or maybe by making a nice signing. They’ve settled on coaches who seemed like the right hires. And we’ve bought in before, only to learn that none of the hype was really warranted.

 

This time, I truly believe things are going to be different. Kitchens passed his offensive-coordinator audition last year, and he strikes me as a Bruce Arians-type. Mayfield is a good quarterback. OBJ is a proven NFL superstar. Garrett is a good NFL player. There are legitimate football reasons — tangible ones — to support the thesis that the Browns are legit. This isn’t hope; this is real life. The Browns are going to be good this year. See if you can sneak by that bouncer and hop on this bandwagon.

 

AFC SOUTH

 

HOUSTON

There are Friday afternoon document dumps in D.C. and there was a Friday afternoon GM dump in Houston.  Sarah Barshop of ESPN.com with the bare facts:

 

The Houston Texans have fired general manager Brian Gaine, the team announced Friday.

 

The Texans hired Gaine in January 2018 after former general manager Rick Smith took a leave of absence to help take care of his wife as she battled breast cancer. Gaine was signed to a five-year contract.

 

“After a thorough evaluation of our football operations, we have decided to relieve Brian Gaine of his duties as general manager,” Texans CEO Cal McNair said in a statement.

 

Until the Texans hire Gaine’s replacement, Houston’s football operations will be led by Chris Olsen, the team’s senior vice president of football administration.

 

Gaine spent the 2017 season as the Buffalo Bills’ vice president of player personnel.

 

Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com goes behind the scenes with some informed speculation:

 

In retrospect, maybe we all should’ve paid a little more attention on April 2.

 

That was the day that former Patriot culture coach Jack Easterby—who chose to walk away from New England in the aftermath of Robert Kraft’s solicitation charge—was hired by the Texans as their executive vice president of team development, choosing Houston from a host of NFL options he had for 2019. It was also the day, evidently, that the wheels started spinning on what would go down late in the day last Friday.

 

Now that this is over, and the Texans have fired GM Brian Gaine, Houston is head coach Bill O’Brien’s operation more than it’s ever been. Which is interesting, because that’s exactly what we were all saying when Gaine was hired from Buffalo 17 months ago. 

 

So here’s the takeaway from the Texans stunner: The NFL is a coach’s league.

 

In New England, Easterby’s title was character coach/team development, and some characterized his role as the team’s “life coach.” He touched a little bit of everything on the football side of the franchise and, just as important, graded it all for Bill Belichick. As one ex-co-worker there described him, “He’s smart as sh–, has really good perspective on a lot of things, and is an incredible resource for the head coach.”

 

Those who know Easterby swear it’s unfair to see him as O’Brien’s assassin. That’s not who he is as a person, they say. But it’s not hard to see where those on Kirby Drive were adding Easterby’s old job description to his new title, and figuring that everyone could be on notice. Predictably, tension followed.

 

Just as clear was who was responsible for his hire.

 

Easterby landed in Houston two months ago because O’Brien wanted him badly—badly enough for the Texans to outbid the Panthers and Dolphins, among others, for his services. As a result, Easterby got the EVP title. Subsequently, Easterby’s hire quietly set into motion an unofficial assessment, top to bottom, of where Houston’s football operation stood.

 

Again, the NFL is a coach’s league. The four coaches who played in the conference championships in January—Andy Reid, Sean Payton, Sean McVay and Belichick—all carry a big stick in their respective organizations, and it doesn’t stop at the white lines. If you have a good one, and the Texans believe they do, chances are that guy’s voice will resonate. Accordingly, history tells us sustained winners generally empower their coaches.

 

While the McNair family surprised many by siding with O’Brien in his power struggle with former GM Rick Smith in early 2018, it was never hard to figure the logic. And just as O’Brien won over Smith, 15 months later, O’Brien got Easterby, which would ultimately lead to a second GM being pushed out in a span that encompassed all of 17 games for the franchise.

 

What’s next? If you follow the above breadcrumbs, Nick Caserio, the Patriots’ VP of player personnel, is next. Or at least, that would be the outcome the Texans would want. We’ll explain.

 

One thing that should be made clear: Gaine didn’t deserve this fate—and I think even O’Brien and Easterby would probably concede that. Gaine signed a five-year deal in January 2018. He got Tyrann Mathieu in on a discount in free agency. Despite not having first- or second-round picks in the 2018 draft, he got production from a rookie class that included promising receiver Keke Coutee and safety Justin Reid. The Texans went 11–5 and won the AFC South.

 

Yes, Deshaun Watson took a beating behind a weak offensive line, but that was as much as a result of the team’s awkward spot in the anthem situation of 2017, which led to the forced trade of franchise left tackle Duane Brown, as anything.

 

So with that established, why would the Texans pull the plug? Fit. Alignment. O’Brien’s vision for the franchise. And, perhaps, the opportunity to do what teams have failed to for the last half-decade—pry Caserio from New England.

 

Along those lines, here is some of what I know about this offseason and where things are going from here in Houston …

 

• There wasn’t disagreement over the Texans’ handling of Mathieu or Jadeveon Clowney, both of whom had contracts expiring. The brass was well-aware of Mathieu’s desire to become the highest-paid safety in football again, and the team wasn’t going there if it got to that point, which it did. As for Clowney, the team was open to doing a deal last year on its terms. That didn’t happen, so the Texans franchise-tagged Clowney this year, making it so they’d have to go into the $20-million-per stratosphere to sign him long-term.

 

• The coaches have been happy with Mathieu’s replacement, Tashaun Gipson, who came at about half the price for which the Honey Badger went to Kansas City.

 

• O’Brien is a big fan of Alabama State OT Tytus Howard, and the scouts were thrilled to draft him, regardless of whether he was taken higher than the league consensus. Meanwhile, second-round OT Max Scharping has already impressed, as has third-round TE Kahale Warring.

 

• That said, if there was a criticism of Gaine’s final draft in Houston, it may tie to that league consensus and the possibility he could’ve gotten Howard a little later on. The Texans didn’t make a single draft-day trade—they had an extra second-rounder from the Brown deal, and moved their fourth-rounder and swapped sevens with Denver in the Demaryius Thomas trade. One can argue that if Texans loved Howard, it wasn’t worth losing him (especially given the need), but the lack of trades is absolutely relevant given that O’Brien and Easterby came from an organization that’s routinely trade-happy on draft weekend.

 

• O’Brien and Caserio (offensive coaches together in 2007, O’Brien’s first NFL season) are very close. Easterby and Caserio are very close. And here’s one thing I found interesting—three guys that know all involved well told me over the weekend that they saw O’Brien as good a fit for Caserio as a coach as Caserio’s college teammate, Josh McDaniels. Or maybe an even better fit.

 

• Perception has long held that Caserio won’t leave New England. But he’s come closer than people think—and he really considered taking the Dolphins job in 2014. The deal breaker there? Owner Steve Ross wasn’t going to let him fire Joe Philbin and bring in his own coach, I’m told.  Which explains how important being set up with the right coach is for Caserio.

 

• Caserio’s position in New England may not be what some would consider a “real GM job,” because Belichick has final say. But he’s been given a broad set of responsibilities, which he may not be able to duplicate in every other situation. One part of the job that Caserio loves is his role as a quasi-coach—he’s actually on the headset, from the booth, with McDaniels during Patriots games. So going to a place where he can shape the job as he sees fit, and with a coach who understands what he does, could certainly be a factor.

 

• Easterby’s whereabouts the day before Gaine’s firing? Brookline, Mass., for the Patriots’ ring ceremony. Caserio and Easterby hanging out there isn’t huge news, because, again, they’re good friends. But it certainly stands to reason that Caserio’s future may have come up as they.

 

Now, add that up. The Texans hardly face-planted under Gaine, who’s got a strong rep in scouting circles and is very well-liked, nor was there massive philosophical disagreement on any one move. But—and this is a big but—in January 2018, when Gaine was hired, it looked like Easterby was going to Indianapolis with McDaniels, and the Patriots denied the Texans permission to talk to Caserio (and college scouting director Monti Ossenfort).

 

Since then? Easterby became available. And soon enough, we’ll find out if Caserio did too. Maybe this winds up being Ossenfort (who’s well-respected) or even someone like Scott Pioli (who had Easterby in Kansas City). But I’d be surprised if either of those guys landed the job without making a hard run at Caserio first.

 

That is, assuming something isn’t quietly done already.

 

 

JACKSONVILLE

A contract dispute in Duval.  Kevin Patra of NFL.com:

 

The Jacksonville Jaguars will kick off minicamp without their top edge rusher.

 

Yannick Ngakoue released a statement Monday saying he will hold out of mandatory minicamp after his contract desires have not been met.

 

“I will not be attending minicamp as my contract has not been resolved. I remain committed to Jacksonville, the fans and my teammates. My hope is to be with Jacksonville for years to come,” Ngakoue said in a statement obtained by NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport.

 

The 24-year-old former third-rounder enters the final year of his rookie contract slated to make just a shade over $2 million. For a pass-rusher of his caliber, he is woefully underpaid compared to his production and talent. Ngakoue’s 29.5 sacks in three seasons are tops among players from his draft class, a group that includes Joey Bosa, DeForest Buckner, and Chris Jones.

 

Ngakoue is one of the best young pass rushers in the entire NFL. The Jags snagging him in the third round made up for the whiff on Dante Fowler Jr., whom the team traded last season. Now the Jags have to find a way to pay Ngakoue more commensurate to his value.

 

With contract talks not going his way, Ngakoue will use his only method of recourse: withholding his services. By skipping mandatory minicamp, Ngakoue is subject to fines up to $88,650, per the CBA.

 

We shall see whether his decision to hold out kicks negotiations into high gear or creates an issue that festers through the summer and lasts into training camp.

 

 

TENNESSEE

After a long run in Miami, EDGE CAMERON WAKE is happily with the Titans.  Turron Davenport of ESPN.com

 

Cameron Wake didn’t get the memo.

 

The typical story for a veteran player in the twilight of his career is to join a Super Bowl favorite. That’s not the case for the 37-year-old defensive end, who picked the Tennessee Titans on March 13.

 

“That’s an interesting concept,” Wake said when asked about veterans leaning toward obvious Super Bowl contenders. “There are a lot of pieces to it. You have to take all of your desires and wishes on your list and match it with the offers across the board. It could be 20 different things. It’s not going to be one thing.”

 

Wake mentioned the Titans’ coaching staff, scheme, his role and the city among the factors in his decision. There were multiple offers, but for Wake, the Titans were the team that offered the best overall package.

 

Nashville had everything that he wanted, and Wake dug deep to find out what was going on with the Titans. Defensive line coach Terrell Williams coached Wake in Miami and helped him get a clear idea about the team.

 

Williams wasn’t the only coach that appealed to Wake, who had nothing negative to say about his time in Miami. But he gushed about how much a coach like Mike Vrabel — who had a 14-year career as a linebacker — appeals to veteran players.

 

“He’s a tremendous asset,” Wake said. “A guy like me that has been in the league for a long time, having a coach that was a player is tremendous. No matter how many seminars you go to, how many coach’s clinics, you can read every book but there’s a different level that you can’t achieve until you know what it’s like to have a 300-pound man grab you or you grab him. There’s a lot that you can study, but you can’t fully know until you experience it. He knows what it feels like the next day.”

 

Wake also likes the challenging scheme defensive coordinator Dean Pees employs. Wake says he’s been impressed with the details Pees harps on. Wake likes how on some plays he’ll be a decoy, and on others the “weight of the team” will be on him to make a play. From what Wake has seen to this point, many positions are given “a seat at the table” when it comes to rushing the passer. Everyone gets a chance to hunt.

 

The Titans will use Wake as a stand-up edge defender as well as a defensive end in sub packages. The role is a little new to Wake, but it’s not foreign. He embraces the challenge.

 

“It adds a little more dynamic to it. Being able to do a little bit of this and a little of that will be fun,” Wake said.

 

One of the most significant factors for Wake is getting the opportunity to pay it forward as a veteran. Wake pointed to Jason Taylor and Joey Porter as guys that helped him when he was in Miami. Now he gets to pass the knowledge down.

 

The impact goes beyond what happens on the field. Second-year linebacker Rashaan Evans said Wake looks like he can play another 10 years because of how hard he works to maintain his physique. Outside linebacker Harold Landry spends a lot of time with Wake because they’re in the same position group. Landry, a second-round pick in 2018, will be relied upon to step up this year. Having Wake there to guide him is a bonus.

 

“I feel like I am in a blessed situation. Just talking to him and his overall flow, how he takes nutrition so seriously. He’s been a great help for me with how I go about the game,” Landry said.

 

AFC EAST

 

MIAMI

Cameron Wolfe of ESPN.com says that ageless QB RYAN FITZPATRICK is running ahead of QB JOSH ROSEN at the moment.

 

Rolling to his right with an easy glide and fluffy beard taking up his half his helmet, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick pulled his best Patrick Mahomes impression. He fired a no-look pass 20 yards on the money to wide receiver DeVante Parker, who dragged his toes along the sidelines for a catch. Miami Dolphins offensive players, standing on the nearby sideline, shrieked “Yeah” in excitement.

 

Several plays before that, Fitzpatrick cranked his arm back and threw a 70-plus yard pass that again hit Parker in stride. Fitzpatrick held up the touchdown signal and started skipping down the field. He later said he predicted that exact play and result to Parker when he walked into the building earlier that morning.

 

That’s some of the fun in FitzMagic. And on Wednesday — the Dolphins’ final day of spring workouts — Fitzpatrick had two memorable plays in a matter of minutes.

the 36-year-old gunslinger is on his eighth NFL team because inconsistency and a penchant for interceptions has left him in a constant yo-yo between starter and backup.

 

The Dolphins have one of the NFL’s few starting quarterback competitions with Fitzpatrick battling talented second-year player Josh Rosen.

 

Everything screams that it’s in the Dolphins’ best long-term interest for Rosen to win the job.

 

Rosen, 22, was a top-10 pick a year ago and he was acquired by the Dolphins for pennies on the dollar in April. Miami has been looking for its true franchise quarterback since Dan Marino retired 20 years ago. There’s no chance Fitzpatrick is the No. 1 answer, but Rosen has a slight chance.

 

Fitzpatrick isn’t interested in what’s supposed to happen. He’s playing loose, confident and dare I say… consistent in these padless workouts. He has been the Dolphins’ best quarterback this spring.

 

“I’m a perfectionist. There’s already some stuff on my mind that I have to go talk to some players about, some coaches about and have to work on myself,” said Fitzpatrick, before a wry smile appeared between his beard. “But yeah, there’s always a couple throws a day that get me fired up a little bit.”

 

Fitzpatrick has Parker smiling more, too. Players try to avoid picking favorites in a quarterback battle, but it seems those two already have a blooming relationship.

 

“He helped me a lot with communications and signals and everything,” Parker said. “[Fitzpatrick’s] telling me what I’m doing and what I need to do to be in the right spot.”

 

There was a moment after Wednesday’s practice that Fitzpatrick pulled promising undrafted rookie receiver Preston Williams aside to coach him on a mistake he made earlier in the day. It was a subtle but natural move.

 

Dolphins coach Brian Flores doesn’t believe in June depth charts, but he does believe “everything counts” in regard to the quarterback competition.

 

With Fitzpatrick, it’s hard not to be impressed with the impact he has made on this young offense in a few short months.

 

 

NEW YORK JETS

Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com with some good insights into the Jets new GM Joe Douglas:

 

I said this when the Jets fired Mike Maccagnan, and I’ll say it again now. For all the pain the Jets went through to get here—the bad press, the outsized contract for a first-time GM, the awkward offseason, all of it—there’s a better-than-good chance that hiring Joe Douglas will be worth it.

 

That’s because Douglas is among the most respected scouts, at any level, in all of football, and one of the few who you really never hear anything negative about. To try and illustrate that, I hit up the last two guys he worked for to get their feedback on Sunday.

 

“Joe is so prepared for this opportunity,” Eagles EVP of football operations Howie Roseman said, via text. “He’s been with three great organizations and contributed to [Super Bowl]-winning rosters. He knows what it looks like on and off the field. He’ll take some from everywhere and put his own spin on it. He’s a great listener but also passionate about what he believes in.”

 

“Start with being an excellent evaluator—not just good at accurately grading players, but also painting a picture of the player to everyone in the room,” texted Bears GM Ryan Pace. “Joe is great with the coaches. Great listening to everyone’s opinions and being respectful as you go through the process of establishing final grades on players.

 

“His personality and disposition is unique in that he’s very likable, yet he’s not afraid to stand his ground and strongly convey what he believes in. … Throw in high-end work ethic and you have someone that’s going to be successful in the GM position for the Jets.”

 

With that established, a few leftovers from the process during the last few weeks in Florham Park, N.J. …

 

• We mentioned it before, but one of Douglas’s greatest strengths comes with his Rolodex. Connected in the scouting community like Chris Ballard was going to Indianapolis two years ago, Douglas should be able to build a robust department. The first two names I’d keep an eye on are the two rising stars he poached from Baltimore upon getting to Philly: director of player personnel Andy Weidl and director of college scouting Ian Cunningham. Maybe Roseman lets him take one of the two. Among the other names that have been out there as possibilities to join Douglas in Jersey are Chicago’s Champ Kelly (who interviewed for the Jets’ job) and ESPN’s Todd McShay.

 

• One name that’s an important one going forward: Hymie Elhai. The SVP of business affairs and general counsel has been more active in football operations of late, and is one of three now (joining Douglas and Adam Gase) reporting directly to ownership. How Elhai fits into the overall framework figures to be one element to watch going forward—he was right there with Gase and owner Christopher Johnson in the interview process, which is a pretty clear indication of where he stands in the organization.

 

• The Jets were prepared for Douglas to turn them down. The team was talking contract figures with Seattle director of player personnel Scott Fitterer’s camp as they were negotiating with Douglas, which was smart business. Fitterer impressed them enough to where they were comfortable with the idea of hiring him. In the end, they got their first choice, and certainly Gase’s first choice.

 

• I’d consider the six years on Douglas’s deal vital, mainly because of the lingering unknown of how secure the new GM would be when Woody Johnson returns from the UK, which could happen as soon as next year. It’s also interesting that Douglas’s deal goes two years past the four-year deal Gase signed in January.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

FRANCHISE QUARTERBACKS

Ali Bhanpuri of NFL.com looks at how many “franchise quarterbacks” each team can claim in their history.  The Texans have one, the Buccaneers barely two and so on:

 

After a grueling deep dive into each NFL team’s history to identify their franchise QBs of the common-draft era, there’s only one reasonable thing left to do: rank ’em! As a reminder, only pro quarterbacks who started at least 48 games with a team since 1967 were eligible for consideration. Each passer who met that minimum threshold also needed to satisfy two of the following three requirements:

 

1) Winning regular-season record.

2) Minimum passer rating of 75.0.

3) At least one Pro Bowl selection.

 

And just so we’re all operating under the same parameters, note that Pro Bowl totals below include AFL All-Star Game selections, while Super Bowl ring totals only include titles won as the team’s starting quarterback.

 

Enough with the rules. Let’s go!

 

32 HOUSTON TEXANS

Who qualifies for the Texans?

— Matt Schaub (2007-2013): 88 starts | 46-42 | 2 Pro Bowls | 90.9 passer rating

 

Chalk this up to the Texans being such a young franchise — 2019 will be their 18th season — and Deshaun Watson not yet having enough starts to qualify.

 

31 CHICAGO BEARS

Who qualifies for the Bears?

— Jim McMahon (1982-88): 61 starts | 46-15 | 1 Pro Bowl | 80.4 passer rating | 1 SB ring

 

McMahon’s ring is really the only reason the Bears aren’t last. If Mitchell Trubisky keeps developing, though, there’s legit hope the Bears could actually improve their ranking.

 

30 DETROIT LIONS

Who qualifies for the Lions?

— Matthew Stafford (2009-present): 141 starts | 66-75 | 1 Pro Bowl | 88.4 passer rating

— Bill Munson (1968-1975): 48 starts | 24-21-3 | 0 Pro Bowls | 75.2 passer rating

 

Stafford still has plenty of time to change the narrative currently defining his NFL career: He’s highly productive but can’t win when it counts.

 

29  TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Who qualifies for the Bucs?

— Jameis Winston (2015-present): 54 starts | 21-33 | 1 Pro Bowl | 87.8 passer rating

— Brad Johnson (2001-04): 49 starts | 26-23 | 1 Pro Bowl | 83.2 passer rating | 1 SB ring

 

Stafford has been more effective and prolific than both Johnson and Winston, but the former’s got the jewelry, while the latter could be poised for a career resurrection under new head coach Bruce Arians. I’m probably betting too much on Winston’s potential.

 

28  ARIZONA CARDINALS

Who qualifies for the Cardinals?

— Carson Palmer (2013-17): 60 starts | 38-21-1 | 1 Pro Bowl | 91.1 passer rating

— Kurt Warner (2005-09): 57 starts | 27-30 | 1 Pro Bowl | 91.9 passer rating

— Neil Lomax (1981-88): 101 starts | 47-52-2 | 2 Pro Bowls | 82.7 passer rating

 

The Cardinals got some great late-career performances out of Warner and Palmer, but they went so many years settling for adequate or worse at the position.

 

27 BALTIMORE RAVENS

Who qualifies for the Ravens?

— Joe Flacco (2008-2018): 163 games | 96-67 | 0 Pro Bowls | 84.1 passer rating | 1 SB ring

 

The Ravens have played 23 NFL seasons, and Flacco started 11 of them as the team’s QB1. He’s had an up-and-down career, for sure, but his play during the team’s 2012 Super Bowl run is what every fan base yearns for from its franchise quarterback. Still, zero Pro Bowl selections says a lot …

 

26 CLEVELAND BROWNS

Who qualifies for the Browns?

— Bernie Kosar (1985-1993): 105 starts | 53-51-1 | 1 Pro Bowl | 81.6 passer rating

— Brian Sipe (1974-1983): 112 starts | 57-55 | 1 Pro Bowl | 74.8 passer rating | 1 MVP

— Bill Nelsen (1968-1972): 51 starts | 34-16-1 | 1 Pro Bowl | 72.1 passer rating

 

While the Browns QBs cannot match Flacco’s ring or Warner’s Super Bowl appearance with Arizona, I have Cleveland ahead of the Cardinals and Ravens because of the 217 combined starts and numerous playoff appearances Sipe and Kosar strung together for the franchise.

 

25 JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

Who qualifies for the Jaguars?

— David Garrard (2002-2010): 76 starts | 39-37 | 1 Pro Bowl | 85.8 passer rating

— Mark Brunell (1995-2003): 117 starts | 63-54 | 3 Pro Bowls | 85.4 passer rating

 

Brunell was everything the Jags could’ve hoped for when they made him their first-ever QB1, and Garrard was solid after the torch was passed. Their success out of the gate is what made the QB issues that followed so frustrating.

 

24  NEW YORK JETS

Who qualifies for the Jets?

— Chad Pennington (2000-07): 61 starts | 32-29 | 0 Pro Bowls | 88.9 passer rating

— Vinny Testaverde (1998-2003, 2005): 61 starts | 35-26 | 1 Pro Bowl | 80.2 passer rating

— Ken O’Brien (1984-1992): 106 starts | 50-55-1 | 2 Pro Bowls | 81.0 passer rating

— Joe Namath (1967-1976): 103 starts | 52-50-1 | 4 Pro Bowls | 66.0 passer rating | 1 SB ring

 

Fair argument to be made that I’m both over- and under-valuing Namath’s impact with this ranking. Pennington, Testaverde and O’Brien were all decent starters.

 

23 CAROLINA PANTHERS

Who qualifies for the Panthers?

— Cam Newton (2011-present): 122 starts | 68-53-1 | 3 Pro Bowls | 86.4 passer rating | 1 MVP

— Jake Delhomme (2003-09): 90 starts | 53-37 | 1 Pro Bowl | 82.6 passer rating

— Steve Beuerlein (1996-2000): 51 starts | 23-28 | 1 Pro Bowl | 87.7 passer rating

 

Of all the newer franchises, none have had a quarterback as dominant or talented as Newton. Delhomme’s just the whipped cream on top.

 

22  MINNESOTA VIKINGS

Who qualifies for the Vikings?

— Daunte Culpepper (1999-2005): 80 starts | 38-42 | 3 Pro Bowls | 91.5 passer rating

— Wade Wilson (1981-1991): 48 starts | 27-21 | 1 Pro Bowl | 73.4 passer rating

— Fran Tarkenton (1972-78): 93 starts | 64-27-2 | 3 Pro Bowls | 81.5 passer rating | 1 MVP

 

The Vikes had a top-10 offense in four of the five years Culpepper was the franchise’s full-time starter, and Tarkenton was awesome in his second stint with the team. Tommy Kramer’s absence is felt here.

 

21  KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

Who qualifies for the Chiefs?

— Alex Smith (2013-17): 76 starts | 50-26 | 3 Pro Bowls | 94.8 passer rating

— Trent Green (2001-06): 88 starts | 48-40 | 2 Pro Bowls | 87.3 passer rating

— Steve DeBerg (1988-91): 52 starts | 31-20-1 | 0 Pro Bowls | 81.8 passer rating

— Bill Kenney (1980-88): 77 starts | 34-43 | 1 Pro Bowl | 77.0 passer rating

— Len Dawson (1967-1975): 90 starts | 53-33-4 | 4 Pro Bowls | 78.6 passer rating | 1 SB ring

 

Dawson’s ring and Smith’s development into a top-12 starter aren’t enough to elevate the Chiefs above the Falcons. Had the Chiefs legend’s pre-’67 production been eligible for consideration, it’d be a different story.

 

20  ATLANTA FALCONS

Who qualifies for the Falcons?

— Matt Ryan (2008-present): 174 starts | 102-72 | 4 Pro Bowls | 94.9 passer rating | 1 MVP

— Michael Vick (2001-06): 67 starts | 38-28-1 | 3 Pro Bowls | 75.7 passer rating

— Chris Chandler (1997-2001): 67 starts | 34-33 | 2 Pro Bowls | 87.4 passer rating

— Steve Bartkowski (1975-1985): 121 starts | 55-66 record | 2 Pro Bowls | 76.0 passer rating

— Bob Berry (1968-1972): 50 starts | 19-28-3 record | 1 Pro Bowl | 79.2 passer rating

 

Ryan has been one of the league’s best QBs for the past decade, giving Falcons fans hope that every season could be the one. The rest of the team’s franchise passers, covering large swaths of the past 50 years, each had their moments in the sun.

 

19  BUFFALO BILLS

Who qualifies for the Bills?

— Drew Bledsoe (2002-04): 48 starts | 23-25 | 1 Pro Bowl | 79.2 passer rating

— Jim Kelly (1986-1996): 160 starts | 101-59 | 5 Pro Bowls | 84.4 passer rating

 

Kelly was too good for too long to not have the Bills in the top 20. He’s single-handedly carrying this ranking.

 

18  TENNESSEE TITANS

Who qualifies for the Titans?

— Steve McNair (1995-2005): 131 starts | 76-55 | 3 Pro Bowls | 83.3 passer rating | 1 MVP

— Warren Moon (1984-1993): 139 starts | 70-69 | 6 Pro Bowls | 80.4 passer rating

 

I went back and forth between the Titans and Eagles here nearly as many times as I debated McNair and Moon for the franchise’s top QB. Ultimately, the Eagles just had more guys do it for longer.

 

17  PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

Who qualifies for the Eagles?

— Donovan McNabb (1999-2009): 142 starts | 92-49-1 | 6 Pro Bowls | 86.5 passer rating

— Randall Cunningham (1985-1995): 107 starts | 63-43-1 | 3 Pro Bowls | 78.7 passer rating

— Ron Jaworski (1977-1986): 137 starts | 69-67-1 | 1 Pro Bowl | 74.0 passer rating

 

Three quarterbacks combining for 386 starts over 40 years shows great longevity and stability at the position. That they were collectively as good as they were makes it even easier to appreciate.

 

16  CINCINNATI BENGALS

Who qualifies for the Bengals?

— Andy Dalton (2011-present): 120 starts | 68-50-2 | 3 Pro Bowls | 88.8 passer rating

— Carson Palmer (2003-10): 97 starts | 46-51 | 2 Pro Bowls | 86.9 passer rating

— Jeff Blake (1994-99): 66 starts | 25-41 | 1 Pro Bowl | 79.3 passer rating

— Boomer Esiason (1984-1992): 123 starts | 62-61 | 4 Pro Bowls | 83.1 passer rating | 1 MVP

— Ken Anderson (1971-1986): 172 starts | 91-81 | 4 Pro Bowls | 81.9 passer rating | 1 MVP

 

The Bengals, like the Eagles, have decades-spanning depth at the position. Although they have no Super Bowl rings (and, in some cases, playoff victories) to show for it, Cincinnati’s franchise passers consistently gave their teams a chance to win. Seems The Dalton Scale is representative of the team’s QB history.

 

15  NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Who qualifies for the Saints?

— Drew Brees (2006-present): 205 starts | 125-80 | 11 Pro Bowls | 100.6 passer rating | 1 SB ring

— Bobby Hebert (1985-1992): 75 starts | 49-26 | 1 Pro Bowl | 79.1 passer rating

 

You could reasonably argue New Orleans should be higher — Brees has been that dominant (and important) for the franchise. I don’t know if factoring Archie Manning — who didn’t meet the qualifications — into this equation would help or hurt the Saints’ cause.

 

14  WASHINGTON REDSKINS

Who qualifies for the Redskins?

— Kirk Cousins (2012-17): 57 starts | 26-30-1 | 1 Pro Bowl | 93.7 passer rating

— Mark Rypien (1988-1993): 72 starts | 45-27 | 2 Pro Bowls | 80.2 passer rating | 1 SB ring

— Joe Theismann (1974-1985): 124 starts | 77-47 | 2 Pro Bowls | 77.4 passer rating | 1 MVP | 1 SB ring

— Billy Kilmer (1971-78): 74 starts | 50-23-1 | 1 Pro Bowl | 76.9 passer rating

— Sonny Jurgensen (1967-1974): 67 starts | 33-29-5 | 2 Pro Bowls | 86.0 passer rating

 

The Redskins’ best wasn’t as good as the Rams’, while Washington’s other signal-callers were comparable.

 

13   LOS ANGELES RAMS

Who qualifies for the Rams?

— Marc Bulger (2002-09): 95 starts | 41-54 | 2 Pro Bowls | 84.4 passer rating

— Kurt Warner (1998-2003): 50 starts | 35-15 | 3 Pro Bowls | 97.2 passer rating | 2 MVPs | 1 SB ring

— Jim Everett (1986-1993): 105 starts | 46-59 | 1 Pro Bowl | 78.1 passer rating

— Pat Haden (1976-1981): 55 starts | 35-19-1 | 1 Pro Bowl | 69.6 passer rating

— Roman Gabriel (1967-1972): 82 starts | 55-22-5 | 3 Pro Bowls | 75.9 passer rating | 1 MVP

 

Warner was better individually than any of the Redskins’ passers, even if his super successful run with the team was so short. Three total MVPs give the Rams the edge over Washington’s franchise QB room.

 

12  NEW YORK GIANTS

Who qualifies for the Giants?

— Eli Manning (2004-present): 230 starts | 116-114 | 4 Pro Bowls | 84.1 passer rating | 2 SB rings

— Kerry Collins (1999-2003): 68 starts | 35-33 | 0 Pro Bowls | 78.4 passer rating

— Phil Simms (1979-1993): 159 starts | 95-64 | 2 Pro Bowls | 78.5 passer rating | 1 SB ring

— Fran Tarkenton (1967-1971): 69 starts | 33-36 | 4 Pro Bowls | 81.0 passer rating

 

None of these Giants QBs can compare with Warner or Brees on their own. Not even close. But collectively, they form a solid QB group that helped bring three Lombardis to the Big Apple — and a fourth was won by Jeff Hostetler in the 1990 season, when Simms compiled an 11-3 record before breaking his foot. Availability plus championships nudges New York ahead.

 

11  SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

Who qualifies for the Seahawks?

— Russell Wilson (2012-present): 112 starts | 75-36-1 | 5 Pro Bowls | 100.3 passer rating | 1 SB ring

— Matt Hasselbeck (2001-10): 131 starts | 69-62 | 3 Pro Bowls | 82.2 passer rating

— Dave Krieg (1980-1991): 119 starts | 70-49 | 3 Pro Bowls | 82.3 passer rating

 

Wilson has developed into a top-10 passer and remains in the prime of his career. But I just can’t see this group of QBs — as productive and winning as they’ve been — ranking above any of the crews below. That could certainly change, even in a year’s time.

 

10  LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

Who qualifies for the Chargers?

— Philip Rivers (2004-present): 208 starts | 118-90 | 8 Pro Bowls | 95.6 passer rating

— Drew Brees (2001-05): 58 starts | 30-28 | 1 Pro Bowl | 84.9 passer rating

— Stan Humphries (1992-1997): 76 starts | 47-29 | 0 Pro Bowls | 77.1 passer rating

— Dan Fouts (1973-1987): 171 starts | 86-84-1 | 6 Pro Bowls | 80.2 passer rating

 

Ranking the next set of teams is like trying to order your top 10 favorite TV shows. You know “Friday Night Lights,” “Breaking Bad,” “The Sopranos,” and “Game of Thrones” are making the list, but in what sequence? The next four or five teams could be rearranged numerous different ways, and the ranking would probably hold up. That said, someone had to be No. 10. Rivers and Fouts form a formidable duo, but much of Fouts’ success (of which, in fairness, he had a lot) is directly tied to the years Don Coryell coached the squad. And while both Humphries and Brees were solid with the franchise, the former was not a true game-changer, while the latter didn’t become the all-time great he is today until after he left for New Orleans. I wanted to put them one spot higher, but I had to come to terms with a certain truth …

 

9  PITTSBURGH STEELERS

Who qualifies for the Steelers?

— Ben Roethlisberger (2004-present): 214 starts | 144-69-1 | 6 Pro Bowls | 94.2 passer rating | 2 SB rings

— Kordell Stewart (1995-2002): 80 starts | 46-29 | 1 Pro Bowl | 72.3 passer rating

— Neil O’Donnell (1991-95): 61 starts | 39-22 | 1 Pro Bowl | 81.8 passer rating

— Terry Bradshaw (1970-1983): 158 starts | 107-51 | 3 Pro Bowls | 70.9 passer rating | 1 MVP | 4 SB rings

 

Although Rivers has been a better overall player than Roethlisberger (it’s close) since they came into the league in 2004, there’s no question Big Ben has accomplished more in his career. But even if you allowed Rivers and Roethlisberger to cancel each other out, Bradshaw’s four rings (despite his uneven career) elevate him into an exclusive club of franchise QBs. And I don’t see Humphries, Fouts or pre- Saints Brees on the guest list.

 

8  MIAMI DOLPHINS

Who qualifies for the Dolphins?

— Jay Fiedler (2000-04): 59 starts | 36-23 | 0 Pro Bowls | 76.8 passer rating

— Dan Marino (1983-1999): 240 starts | 147-93 | 9 Pro Bowls | 86.4 passer rating | 1 MVP

— Bob Griese (1967-1980): 151 starts | 92-56-3 | 8 Pro Bowls | 77.1 passer rating | 2 SB rings

 

Griese and Marino combined for 17 Pro Bowls — eight more than Bradshaw and Roethlisberger. Now, simple math shows the Steelers’ QBs with three times as many Lombardis as the Dolphins’ duo, but let’s put a little more context around that: Roethlisberger has had a top-10 defense (yards allowed) 11 times in his 15 pro seasons, including each time he led the franchise to the Super Bowl. Marino, on the other hand, enjoyed a defense that good just five times in 17 seasons with the Dolphins. All I’m saying is, if Marino had a little bit more help, the hardware probably would’ve started to stack up. Miami’s best is better than Pittsburgh’s — and they did it for longer, too.

 

7  OAKLAND RAIDERS

Who qualifies for the Raiders?

— Derek Carr (2014-present): 78 starts, | 32-46 | 3 Pro Bowls | 88.8 passer rating

— Rich Gannon (1999-2004): 74 starts | 45-29 | 4 Pro Bowls | 91.2 passer rating | 1 MVP

— Jeff Hostetler (1993-96): 55 starts | 33-22 | 1 Pro Bowl | 82.1 passer rating

— Jim Plunkett (1979-1986): 57 starts | 38-19 | 0 Pro Bowls | 75.7 passer rating | 2 SB rings

— Ken Stabler (1970-79): 96 starts | 69-26-1 | 4 Pro Bowls | 80.2 passer rating | 1 MVP | 1 SB ring

— Daryle Lamonica (1967-1974): 84 starts | 62-16-6 | 4 Pro Bowls | 75.8 passer rating

 

This group’s got rings, MVPs, Pro Bowls and a whole lot of Ws. Although their best isn’t quite at the same level as a bunch of other teams, the overall depth and quality of the Raiders’ franchise QBs has been remarkable and covers 35 years. If Derek Carr returns to his 2016 form with all the new toys at his disposal, this spot could end up looking foolishly low a couple of years down the road.

 

6  NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

Who qualifies for the Patriots?

— Tom Brady (2000-present): 267 starts | 207-60 | 14 Pro Bowls | 97.6 passer rating | 3 MVPs | 6 SB rings

— Drew Bledsoe (1993-2001): 123 starts | 63-60 | 3 Pro Bowls | 75.9 passer rating

— Tony Eason (1983-89): 49 starts | 28-21 | 0 Pro Bowls | 80.6 passer rating

 

Bledsoe was a solid option for New England and did lead the franchise to a Super Bowl appearance, but Brady is the sole reason for this ranking. … The Pats should probably be higher.

 

5  DENVER BRONCOS

Who qualifies for the Broncos?

— Peyton Manning (2012-15): 57 starts | 45-12 | 3 Pro Bowls | 101.7 passer rating | 1 MVP | 1 SB ring

— Jake Plummer (2003-06): 54 starts | 39-15 | 1 Pro Bowl | 84.3 passer rating

— Brian Griese (1998-2002): 51 starts | 26-24 | 1 Pro Bowl | 84.1 passer rating

— John Elway (1983-1998): 231 starts | 148-82-1 | 9 Pro Bowls | 79.9 passer rating | 1 MVP | 2 SB rings

— Craig Morton (1977-1982): 64 starts | 41-23 | 0 Pro Bowls | 79.1 passer rating

 

The Broncos won a ton of games (and three titles) behind Elway, Plummer and late-career Manning. In a lot of ways, the team that drafted Elway and the team that traded for him have evenly matched production at the position over their respective histories. But the Broncos still feel far away from adding another franchise passer to their list, while the Colts have theirs in place. And in a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league, the Broncos haven’t gotten much out of their QBs in several seasons.

 

4  INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

Who qualifies for the Colts?

— Andrew Luck (2012-present): 86 starts | 53-33 | 4 Pro Bowls | 89.5 passer rating

— Peyton Manning (1998-2010): 208 starts | 141-67 | 11 Pro Bowls | 94.9 passer rating | 4 MVPs | 1 SB ring

— Bert Jones (1973-1981): 92 starts | 46-46 | 1 Pro Bowl | 78.8 passer rating | 1 MVP

— Johnny Unitas (1967-1972): 49 starts | 32-14-3 | 1 Pro Bowl | 68.4 passer rating | 1 MVP | 1 SB ring

 

The Colts’ franchise QBs have combined for six MVPs and 17 Pro Bowls since ’67, and that number will surely increase as Luck’s career continues. They can’t top the Super Bowl titles (or appearances) belonging to the Broncos, but their individual accolades are unmatched. The Colts’ transfer of power from Manning to Luck was about as good as it gets, and both have more than lived up to their billing as first overall picks. I’m (maybe unfairly) giving Indy a boost over the Broncos because the Colts currently have their franchise QB, and he’s still playing at an elite level.

 

3  GREEN BAY PACKERS

— Aaron Rodgers (2005-present): 158 starts | 100-57-1 | 7 Pro Bowls | 103.1 passer rating | 2 MVPs | 1 SB ring

— Brett Favre (1992-2007): 253 starts | 160-93 | 9 Pro Bowls | 85.8 passer rating | 3 MVPs | 1 SB ring

 

These two quarterbacks have tormented the Bears (and the league) for most of my life. I take small comfort in knowing that as good as they’ve been, they remain the second-best franchise QB duo of the common era, behind …

 

2  SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

Who qualifies for the 49ers?

— Alex Smith (2005-2012): 75 starts | 38-36-1 | 0 Pro Bowls | 79.1 passer rating

— Jeff Garcia (1999-2003): 71 starts | 35-36 | 3 Pro Bowls | 88.3 passer rating

— Steve Young (1987-1999): 124 starts | 91-33 | 7 Pro Bowls | 101.4 passer rating | 2 MVPs | 1 SB ring

— Joe Montana (1979-1992): 139 starts | 100-39 | 7 Pro Bowls | 93.5 passer rating | 2 MVPs | 4 SB rings

— John Brodie (1967-1973): 73 starts | 37-32-4 | 1 Pro Bowl | 72.4 passer rating | 1 MVP

 

The Montana-Young one-two punch is the best in NFL history. The Packers could make a run at this spot, depending on how Rodgers finishes his career, but he’ll need at least another MVP and/or a ring for it to even be a discussion.

 

1  DALLAS COWBOYS

Who qualifies for the Cowboys?

— Dak Prescott (2016-present): 48 starts | 32-16 | 2 Pro Bowls | 96.0 passer rating

— Tony Romo (2003-2016): 127 starts | 78-49 | 4 Pro Bowls | 97.1 passer rating

— Troy Aikman (1989-2000): 165 starts | 94-71 | 6 Pro Bowls | 81.6 passer rating | 3 SB rings

— Danny White (1976-1988): 92 starts | 62-30 | 1 Pro Bowl | 81.7 passer rating

— Roger Staubach (1969-1979): 114 starts | 85-29 | 6 Pro Bowls | 83.4 passer rating | 2 SB rings

 

The Cowboys have had above-average-to-great quarterback play consistently for almost 50 years, with five Super Bowl titles and 19 Pro Bowl selections combined between their franchise guys. As a Bears fan, I just can’t wrap my head around this.

 

Only one franchise QB for the Bears (McMahon)?  Amazing

 

We count four QBs who are franchise QBs for two franchises – Peyton Manning, Fran Tarkenton, Kurt Warner and, and Drew Brees who surprisingly qualifies with the Chargers.