AROUND THE NFL
This from Ian Rapoport:
After impressing the #Jets in head-coach interviews, former #Bucs OC Todd Monken will interview with the #Browns for their vacant OC job this weekend, source said. He also spoke with #Jaguars about their vacant OC job.
This from Albert Breer:
The 💰 APY of the 8 remaining QBs (with league rank) …
1. Brees (6) $25.0M
2. Luck (8) $24.6M
3. Rivers (14) $20.8M
4. Brady (21) $15.0M
5. Goff (26) $7.0M
6. Foles (31) $5.5M
7. Mahomes (37) $4.1M
8. Prescott (69) $681K
Fact: No QB making $20M per has EVER won a Super Bowl.
After going an embarrassing 0-for-4 with our picks in the Wild Card Weekend, we plug on. We can still go 7-4 in the postseason.
For the NFC – we’ll take the home teams – the Saints and Rams.
For the AFC – we’ll take the road teams – the Chargers and Colts. That sets up an AFC Championship Game at the building formerly known as StubHub Center (now the Dignity Health Sports Park).
One man’s “stale” is another one’s “complacency.” Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com:
They staunchly denied it while Mike McCarthy served as head coach, but they’re admitting it now.
The Packers had grown satisfied, and it was time to rid the team of that feeling.
During Wednesday’s press conference introducing new coach Matt LaFleur, CEO Mark Murphy explained that he gathered information from nine players (one from each position group) regarding what the players hoped to achieve under a new coach.
“They wanted someone who would hold the players accountable,” Murphy explained. “They felt a complacency had set in among some players and coaches. . . . Is there something we could do to shake people up so they don’t have the complacency?”
That’s the key word: Complacency. As in getting rid of it. Which means, obviously, that McCarthy was ultimately responsible for creating it.
It’s no surprise, especially in light of the absence of a traditional owner. Indeed, PFT has pointed out the signs and symptoms of complacency, and the friction it created, over the past several years. During the 2016 season, quarterback Aaron Rodgers complained openly about a lack of energy on the sidelines. Not long after that, he bemoaned the absence of a healthy fear of getting fired if players weren’t doing their jobs.
Both gripes trace to the head coach, and Rodgers’ willingness to openly comment on those dynamics were interpreted by some (us) as a passive-aggressive tug-of-war between Rodgers and McCarthy.
Aaron didn’t appreciate that very much. He didn’t appreciate it perhaps because the arrow hit the bull’s-eye. And Murphy has now admitted it.
It’s a bit stunning that Murphy was so candid, and it’s not a good sign for McCarthy, if as he claims he intends to return to coaching in 2020. Beyond concerns about an overly simplistic (and obsessively rigid) offensive philosophy, McCarthy will (or at least should) have to answer tough questions about how and why complacency descended onto the Packers under his watch.
The DB has not thought that McCarthy was anything special as a coach, not bad, just not special – and the fact that eight teams are passing on the chance to hire him seems to confirm that is an industry-wide perception.
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Nathaniel Hackett, canned during the season in Jacksonville, is a candidate to team with Matt LaFleur. Darin Gantt of ProFootballTalk.com:
Nathaniel Hackett is making a lap through the NFC North.
According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, Hackett is interviewing with the Packers for “a top offensive job.”
Of course, new head coach Matt LaFleur will have the top offensive job, so even if it carries a coordinator title it might not have the traditional responsibilities.
Getting fired by the Jaguars last November doesn’t seem to have dimmed Hackett’s prospects, as he also interviewed with the Lions for their vacant offensive coordinator position.
Hackett had previously worked with Doug Marrone as offensive coordinator with the Bills and at Syracuse.
Longtime LB THOMAS DAVIS has come to the realization that the Panthers are done with him, even as he is not prepared to be done with football. Scott Fowler of the Charlotte Observer:
The Carolina Panthers did a hard thing this week, parting ways with one of their most beloved players in linebacker Thomas Davis.
But it was also the right thing.
Davis, 35, just finished his 14th NFL season. He wants to keep playing. But, in a raw home video he published Wednesday night on his Twitter account, Davis said that the Panthers don’t want him anymore.
“I received information from the Carolina Panthers on Monday that they’re going to go in a different direction with the linebacker position,” Davis said.
It sounded harsh — like a man announcing his own firing, except that Davis actually isn’t under contract to the Panthers for 2019. And he’s not going to be.
And honestly, he shouldn’t be.
Davis wants to play next season, and he will probably get that chance once he becomes an unrestricted free agent in March. But his extraordinary career with the Panthers should and will be over.
Davis wasn’t nearly as effective on the field in 2018 as he had been the past several years, and I’m not even talking about the four-game suspension he served at the beginning of the year for testing positive for a banned substance.
At some point, players get older and they get slower. You can play Father Time to a stalemate for years, and No. 58 did. But you’re never going to beat him. Davis finally looked his age in 2018.
Shaq Thompson was the Panthers’ No. 1 draft pick in 2015 with the idea that he would someday replace Davis as Luke Kuechly’s primary running mate, and that day has come.
Davis’s Twitter video was mostly a graceful, 140-second farewell to Panthers fans. It almost sounded like a retirement speech, as he thanked his teammates and the fans and briefly choked up at one point, noting “this is extremely tough for me.”
But then Davis made it clear that he wasn’t retiring at all (although before the 2018 season he said it was going to be his last). And he said that he wanted Carolina fans to understand that they will likely see him in a different NFL uniform in 2019. Davis has spent his entire career with the Panthers since they drafted him with their first-round pick in 2005.
“I’m not retiring,” Davis said in the video. “I feel like I have way too much football left in me to walk away from the game right now. … Panther nation, just know that in no way did I ever imagine putting on another uniform — still to this day don’t want to do it. But I want to play football. So if that’s the way I’m going to be able to continue my career, then it’s something that I have to do.”
Kelly Davis, who is Thomas’s wife and also a regular guest on local TV station WCCB, said in an interview with the station: “This is life. This is a part of the business. This is part of the NFL. You have a lot of people that want him gone. So – they got their wish.”
Kelly Davis also said the Davis family has no intention of moving out of Charlotte and that her husband had already cleared out his locker at Bank of America Stadium, although she added that it was his choice to do so now rather than in March when he officially becomes a free agent.
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The investigation into the alleged over-testing of S ERIC REID finds that Reid exaggerated/lied about the number of times he was tested. Reid has lawyers who are calling the investigators exaggerators/liars. The AP:
Attorneys for Eric Reid dispute a joint statement by the NFL and NFL Players Association that says the Carolina Panthers safety was not singled out with excessive drug tests and they’re demanding the league and the players’ union “immediately issue a retraction,” according to a letter sent to all parties that was obtained by The Associated Press.
The letter obtained Thursday says Reid was indeed tested at least seven times and requests the independent administrator provide all information used to produce the report.
Reid said in December he had been tested seven times by the NFL. He claimed the league was targeting him because of the ongoing collusion case against the NFL in which he alleged team owners conspired to keep him out of the league because of his decision to kneel alongside former 49ers teammate Colin Kaepernick during the national anthem to protest racial and social injustice.
The joint statement released Wednesday said an independent administrator found Reid received the “normal” number of drug tests this season. The statement said, “there is no evidence of targeting or any other impropriety with respect to his selection for testing.”
Reid’s legal team says it rejects “the notion that this report was independent” and claims the report is filled with incorrect dates.
Reid signed a one-year contract with the Panthers on Sept. 27 and took two drug tests that day.
Reid claimed he was tested an additional six times over the next 11 weeks, which would be high above the league norm. Most players say they are subject to testing about two or three times per year over the course of a 17-week regular season.
Reid continued to protest with the Panthers by kneeling during the national anthem this season.
He was also fined four times by the NFL for illegal hits, costing him more than $50,000. He appealed all of the hits and one of them was overturned.
Here is the full statement. As you will note, we don’t know the specific number of times that the investigation found Reid to have been tested, because of “privacy” concerns.
“We take any claim questioning the integrity of our collectively bargained performance enhancing drug policy seriously,” the statement said. “We asked the independent administrator of the policy to review and produce a report on the claims of targeting. A copy of this report, which contains personal and confidential testing information, has been provided to Eric Reid. We will not breach any player’s confidentiality, but can confirm that the report documents the dates he was randomly selected for testing and the actual dates of the drug tests. The report also demonstrates that Mr. Reid’s tests were randomly generated via computer algorithm and that his selection for testing was normal when compared with the number of tests players were randomly selected for throughout the league during the time that he was on an active roster. There is no evidence of targeting or any other impropriety with respect to his selection for testing.”
Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com challenges Reid’s lawyers to do more than issue a strongly-worded statement.
If foul play occurred, Reid should use all devices at his disposal to get to the bottom of it. If Reid’s suspicions are correct, it means that the NFL somehow corrupted the independent testing procedures — and it now means that the NFL and NFLPA jointly have generated and disseminated false information about the number of times he was tested in order to cover it all up.
In other words, it would be one of the biggest scandals the league has ever seen.
Thus, Reid and his lawyers need to do more than send letters, if they believe something improper occurred. They should file a grievance or pursue whatever other legal action is available, with the goal of proving that Reid was tested as many times as he claims and that one or more of the tests weren’t random.
Whatever the truth may be, let’s stop beating around the bush and uncover it. Today’s developments are a half-step in that direction. Reid and his lawyers now need to go the rest of the way.
Presumably, Reid did not test positive for any substance, so we’re not sure why his “privacy” is of much concern if the matter is the mere time and amount of the tests.
Kliff Kingsbury has a DC. NFL.com:
At Kliff Kingsbury’s introductory press conference Tuesday, the Arizona Cardinals said they were looking to match their offensive-minded rookie head coach with an experienced defensive coordinator. They’re hiring one with head coaching experience, too.
The Cardinals announced they have hired Vance Joseph to lead their defense. NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reported the two sides were closing in on a deal Friday morning. The former Broncos head coach had garnered interest from several teams and had just interviewed for the Browns’ DC vacancy.
Instead he’s headed to Arizona. He takes over a unit that ranked 26th in scoring defense and 20th in total defense, which were significant dropoffs from the previous year. The cupboard is hardly bare, however. Cornerback Patrick Peterson is still playing at a Pro Bowl level, safety Antoine Bethea had one of his best seasons at age 34, and safety Budda Baker looks like a cornerstone. It all bodes well for Joseph, who has done some of his best work with defensive backs.
The 46-year-old Joseph has been coaching in the NFL since 2005, spending his first six seasons with the San Francisco 49ers. He became a defensive coordinator for the first time in 2016 with the Dolphins, heading an opportunistic defense that helped spur Miami to the playoffs.
He then guided the Broncos to a 11-21 mark the past two seasons, which saw the defense fall from a top-five unit to the middle of the pack.
The Cardinals also announced Bill Davis, their DC in 2009-10 and most recently the LBs coach at Ohio State, will head the linebackers, and Jeff Rodgers will remain the special teams coordinator.
LOS ANGELES RAMS
The Rams say they have come off the bye week with a healthy RB TODD GURLEY II. Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com:
The Rams expect to be at full strength for Saturday night’s game against the Cowboys.
Head coach Sean McVay said on Thursday that defensive lineman Ethan Westbrooks will be listed as questionable, but that “everybody is good to go” in the game from a health standpoint. That includes running back Todd Gurley, who missed the last two weeks of the regular season with a knee injury.
Gurley returned to practice this week and McVay said that the team likes what it saw.
“He looks like Todd,” McVay said, via Joe Curley of the Ventura County Star. “He looks like the explosive, great back that we’re used to seeing.”
McVay said earlier this week that he expected “a good balance” of Gurley and C.J. Anderson, who ran well during both of the games that Gurley missed in December. If Gurley’s return to health is matched by a return to form, those plans could change as Saturday’s game plays out.
Greg Roman, who knows a thing or to about running quarterbacks, is now the OC in Baltimore. Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:
With Lamar Jackson in and Joe Flacco on the way out, the Ravens are changing up their offense.
Greg Roman, who spent last season as the assistant head coach and tight ends coach in Baltimore, has been promoted to offensive coordinator. Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic reports that Harbaugh confirmed the move.
Where that leaves last year’s offensive coordinator, Marty Mornhinweg, is unclear. Mornhinweg has been told he can remain on the staff in another role, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see him leave rather than take a demotion.
Roman should be a good fit for Jackson. Roman was previously the 49ers’ offensive coordinator (working for John Harbaugh’s brother Jim Harbaugh) during Colin Kaepernick’s best seasons. It’s easy to see Jackson having some of the same kinds of success that Kaepernick had with the 49ers.
Harbaugh has reportedly told his entire offensive staff they are welcome to stay, although it’s unclear if all of them will under a reorganized organizational chart.
Instead of hiring from inside The Family, the Bengals are going to join the Packers and Cardinals in chasing the next Sean McVay. ESPN.com:
Los Angeles Rams quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor is the Cincinnati Bengals’ top choice to be their next head coach, league sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen.
The Bengals would like to hire Taylor, 35, after Los Angeles’ season ends, sources said. Because the Rams are still in playoffs, they can’t negotiate a contract.
Taylor was the offensive coordinator for the University of Cincinnati in 2016, and sources said he would like to return to the city.
Taylor would replace Marvin Lewis, who parted ways with the Bengals after the season, ending a 16-year tenure.
A former star quarterback at Nebraska, Taylor began his NFL coaching career with the Miami Dolphins as a quarterbacks coach in 2012, helping to develop Ryan Tannehill, and took over offensive-coordinator duties during the 2015 season.
After spending a year with the Bearcats, Taylor returned to the NFL with the Rams under Sean McVay, for whom he served as assistant wide-receivers coach in 2017 before shifting to quarterbacks this season.
With Taylor overseeing Jared Goff, the Rams went 13-3 and ranked fifth in the NFL this season with 282 passing yards per game.
So, if the DB counts correctly, this is his fourth job in four years.
So, in 2016, Kliff Kingsbury was going 5-7 at Texas Tech (starting a run of three losing seasons; Matt LeFleur was the QB coach of the Falcons under OC Kyle Shanahan under head coach Dan Quinn and Zac Taylor was leaving the Dolphins (after Joe Philbin’s staff was fired) to become OC at the University of Cincinnati.
Now, just over two years later, all three are head coaches in the National Football League.
Oh yeah, in 2016, Freddie Kitchens was the quarterbacks coach under OC Harold Goodwins and Assistant Head Coach Offense Tom Moore for head coach Bruce Arians in Arizona. In 2017, he would be replaced as QB coach by Byron Leftwich and sent to coach the running backs.
Steve Wilks could join Freddie Kitchens as Arizona refugees in Cleveland.
And on the day the Cardinals are landing former Broncos’ HC Vance Joseph as their defensive coordinator, the former Arizona HC Steve Wilks is visiting the Cleveland Browns to discuss their DC job, per source.
Steelers ownership signals a willingness to part ways with WR ANTONIO BROWN. Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com:
Antonio Brown won’t be released but “all other options are on the table” regarding his future with the Pittsburgh Steelers, team president Art Rooney II told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Brown’s absence in Week 17 practices resulted in a benching for the season finale against the Cincinnati Bengals, and during that week Brown had a flare-up in a team setting.
Rooney said in the Post-Gazette interview that it would be “hard to envision” Brown as part of the team when it reports to training camp in late July.
“There’s not much we can do right now; we have time to make a decision,” Rooney told the outlet. “We’ll look at all the options. We’re not going to release him, that’s not on the table. But I will say all other options are on the table. Whether the situation can be reconciled and have him back on the team next year, we’re a long way from thinking that can happen. We’re not closing the door on anything at this point.”
A trade can’t be executed until the start of the new league year March 13, and, perhaps more importantly, Brown’s $2.5 million roster bonus due March 17 would incentivize the Steelers to deal him.
The Steelers would absorb $21.12 million in 2019 dead money on the salary cap by trading Brown, but taking his $22.165 million cap charge off the books would offset that cost. Brown enters the third year of a five-year, $72.7 million extension signed before the 2017 season.
Rooney said in the interview that salary-cap implications would not “box us into anything.” The team president added he and coach Mike Tomlin have not spoken to Brown.
Brown has not formally requested a trade. Sources close to Brown said the All-Pro has been frustrated with team dynamics for a while but has not mentioned the desire for a trade since the season ended.
Steelers linebacker Bud Dupree told ESPN that the Steelers have “family issues” that appear to revolve around Brown and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who have combined for six consecutive 100-catch seasons. Roethlisberger said on his end-of-season radio appearance with 93.7 the Fan Pittsburgh that he wants Brown back and had a good conversation with the receiver in Week 17.
“We don’t really know what’s going on, we just know (Brown and Roethlisberger) are heated at each other,” Dupree said. “It’s not coach (Mike) Tomlin, it’s two grown men, two free players butting heads… We have to learn how to be together (as a team). We have to put it in the open and stop hiding.”
Ryan Wilson of CBSSports.com tries to find a trade partner for Brown:
First, let’s take a look at landing spots that could make sense.
The Cardinals have $56.5 million in salary-cap space, according to Spotrac, and with Larry Fitzgerald mulling retirement and the team in desperate need of a downfield playmaker, Brown makes a ton of sense. His on-field productivity would also be welcome news to Josh Rosen, the 2018 first-round pick who is coming off a rough rookie campaign. Then there’s new coach Kliff Kingsbury, fired by Texas Tech last season and most recently the USC offensive coordinator. He’s considered an offensive innovator, which could appeal to Brown, who appeared frustrated at times with his role in Pittsburgh. (He’d also be going from one of the NFL’s most successful franchises — the Steelers haven’t had a losing record since 2003, seven years before Brown was drafted — to one of the worst last season; the Cardinals won just three times.)
In addition to the extra cap space, there’s another reason to keep the Cardinals in mind. Back in October, there was speculation that the Steelers might be interested in trading for cornerback Patrick Peterson, who wanted out of Arizona before later changing his mind. With Brown now available for a trade, perhaps that deal is more likely; the Cardinals get one of the league’s best receivers and the Steelers gets a top-flight cornerback to bolster a decidedly mediocre group of cornerbacks after Joe Haden.
Can you imagine? The Cowboys have $48.5 million in cap space, which ranks 10th in the league. And for as balanced as this offense has been, it’s still below replacement level, according to Football Outsiders — the offense ranks 24th overall, 19th in rushing and 26th in passing. You know what would help? Another downfield threat to pair with Amari Cooper, whom the Cowboys acquired for a 2019 first-round pick.
And if the Cowboys were willing to part with a second-rounder for Brown, we’d imagine the Steelers would listen; Brown, at 30, is six years older than Cooper though he’s still playing at a high level. He’d give Dak Prescott two No. 1 wide receivers, which is noteworthy because Ezekiel Elliott led the team with 77 receptions during the regular season. Next on the list? Cole Beasley (66), whose contract expires in March. There’s rookie Michael Gallup, who flashed down the stretch, but he’s still a third or fourth option in this offense.
San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers’ season was over shortly after it began; franchise quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo tore his ACL in late September and that came after Jerick McKinnon suffered the same injury in training camp. The offense, understandably, was a mess. The group ranked 27th overall (23rd in passing, 32nd in rushing). But with Garoppolo and McKinnon set to return, there is still no No. 1 receiver. Tight end George Kittle led the team in receptions (88). And while he’s fast becoming one of the league’s best tight ends, Kendrick Bourne and Dante Pettis — the two leading wideouts on the team — combined for 69 receptions. Put another way: fullback Kyle Juszczyk was third on the team in catches.
San Francisco has the cap space — $46.4 million — and the need. It also has some pretty good recruiters. Following Brown’s practice blowout ahead of the Week 17 game, Kittle tweeted this on New Year’s Day:
The Colts have more cap room than anyone — $122.4 million — and they’re arguably the most attractive destination on this list because of the success they’ve had under general manager Chris Ballard and first-year coach Frank Reich. But Ballard may not be inclined to devote a non-trivial part of that cap to Brown, who became a distraction on one of the NFL’s best teams.
But there’s also no denying that Brown would make the Colts better; Andrew Luck is having one of his best years, in part because he’s finally healthy, in part because the offensive line is one of the league’s top units, and in part because of the emergence of tight end Eric Ebron, who has taken some of the pressure off T.Y Hilton. But there is no clear third option. Brown would obviously solve that problem.
There’s also this: running back Le’Veon Bell, who skipped the Steelers’ 2018 season and will be a free agent in March, “has his eyes” on Indianapolis, SNY.com‘s Ralph Vacchiano reported last month. Vacchiano added that Bell hasn’t ruled out signing with the Jets — or any other team with interest — but seems to have the Colts at the “top of his list.”
The feeling may not be mutual — as we described above, Ballard could have other ideas about how to spend some of that $122.4 million. Still, try to wrap your head around what the Colts’ offense, which ranked 10th this season, would look like with Brown and Bell taking the field.
The odds on this have never been longer; Rooney suggested as much on Thursday.
“There’s not much we can do right now; we have time to make a decision,” he told the Post-Gazette. “We’ll look at all the options. We’re not going to release him, that’s not on the table. But I will say all other options are on the table.
“Whether the situation can be reconciled and have him back on the team next year, we’re a long way away from thinking that can happen. We’re not closing the door on anything at this point.”
But here’s something to consider: What if the Steelers are able to get a second-round pick for Brown and then focus on finding his replacement in the 2019 NFL Draft? Pittsburgh has the 20th pick and we’ve had them taking a linebacker, cornerback or edge rusher virtually every week. But if, say, the Steelers traded Brown to the Cardinals in a deal that included Patrick Peterson, that would address one of their biggest needs. Not only that, the team has a horrible track record when it comes to drafting cornerbacks (2016 first-rounder Artie Burns was benched midway through the season and never got his job back).
You know what position the Steelers have been insanely successful at addressing in the draft? Wide receiver.
And if they’re able to land a player like Ole Miss’ D.K. Metcalf, or N.C. State’s Kelvin Harmon or Georgia’s Riley Ridley, the offense could continue chugging along as one of the NFL’s best units, while the Steelers defense landed secondary help in the form of Peterson.
In case you’re wondering, Metcalf is our favorite receiver in this draft class. He’s tall, well built, makes contested catches and can beat defenders deep. The two biggest issues are experience and health. Harmon is a lot like Metcalf and he’s not quite as explosive, he has more experience. Ridley is a different player; he’s Calvin Ridley’s brother, and he’s a great route runner who excels at high-pointing downfield throws.
Bill Barnwell on the harvest the Colts have made in the aftermath of trading down to allow the Jets to draft QB SAM DARNOLD:
When the Jets missed out on Cousins, their next move was to pursue one of the draft’s top quarterbacks. To get a good shot at nabbing one, the Jets were forced to move from the sixth pick to the third overall selection, which cost New York their own first-round pick and three second-round selections. The Jets chose Sam Darnold, and after a hot end to the season, they’re understandably excited about what Darnold might do in a Jets uniform.
The Colts aren’t upset about trading down, either. They’ve managed to turn the second pick into some significant assets. Indy used the No. 6 pick on guard Quenton Nelson, who was a first-team All-Pro in his rookie season. They turned one of the Jets’ second-rounders into Braden Smith, who started 13 games and appears to be Indy’s right tackle of the future. They traded another to the Eagles for two picks, with Kemoko Turay and Jordan Wilkins each showing promise in rotational roles during their rookie campaigns. They also have the Jets’ second-rounder in 2019 coming their way, and after a dismal campaign from Gang Green, the Colts will be inheriting the 34th overall selection.
The Dolphins look like they will be the last team to settle on a head coach. An in-house candidate is getting a late look. Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:
The Dolphins are interviewing another one of their own coordinators for their head-coaching vacancy.
Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains is interviewing for the head job in Miami today, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports. Also interviewing today is special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi.
If Loggains doesn’t get the top job in Miami, he’s expected to follow Adam Gase to New York and become the offensive coordinator of the Jets.
The 38-year-old Loggains has previously been an offensive coordinator for the Titans and Bears, and a quarterbacks coach for the Titans, Bears and Browns.
How about this hot take from Max Kellerman? This from NESN.com:
It’s no secret that Max Kellerman isn’t Tom Brady’s biggest fan.
The ESPN commentator long has predicted (incorrectly) the New England Patriots quarterback would “fall off a cliff” and cease to perform at an elite level. While that eventually will happen, it hadn’t prior to this season, as Brady took home MVP honors following the 2017 campaign.
But Kellerman has enjoyed ripping on the 41-year-old QB during his subpar 2018 season, and now that the Patriots’ postseason run is starting Sunday when they take on the Los Angeles Chargers in the AFC Divisional Round, Kellerman is unleashing on Brady.
On Thursday’s edition of “First Take,” Kellerman called Brady the worst remaining quarterback in the AFC playoff picture and claimed he doesn’t believe Brady has what it takes to bring the Patriots back to the promised land.
“The question is: how much is on Brady’s shoulders?” Kellerman asked. “The answer is less than ever before but they need there to be more. They need more from Tom Brady at the precise moment that he’s incapable of doing that. Now, you look at the Denver Broncos when they won with Peyton Manning. They won the whole thing with a quarterback who had nine touchdowns and 17 interceptions that season and wasn’t good. But, he was a smart game-managing veteran quarterback, one of the all-time greats who didn’t have it anymore and they won the Super Bowl.
“And Tom Brady is clearly better than Peyton Manning was then and Tom Brady has always been a way better pressure player than Peyton Manning. But they were able to win that Super Bowl, not because of Peyton Manning but because Peyton Manning didn’t get in the way of them winning the Super Bowl. The defense won it for them. That’s not this Patriots defense, that’s not this Patriots team. The Patriots are asking Tom Brady to do less than ever before because that’s what he’s capable of doing at this point in his career. To everybody who said, ‘Max you were wrong about the cliff,” is he an elite quarterback right now? Has he been this season? No. Where does he rank in the AFC? I’d say dead last in AFC quarterbacks left.
“All the numbers are down for Tom Brady. Not just on third down, all across the board. But in terms of the dinking and dunking passing, the yardage is shorter than ever and he’s not throwing into tight windows, by the way, guys are wide open. So not only does he not have the offensive weapons he used to have, not only is the defense slower than it used to be, he’s capable of much less.”
Brady has proven Kellerman wrong countless times before and he’ll try to do so again Sunday at Gillette Stadium.
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Bill Barnwell of ESPN on how a Pete Carroll move gave the Patriots the pick that drafted TOM BRADY:
Bill Belichick might have drafted Brady, but the draft pick the Patriots used to select Brady actually made its way to New England while Belichick was still defensive coordinator of the Jets. When I analyzed Belichick’s propensity for accumulating draft picks back in 2015, I found that the Pats had cap trouble under Pete Carroll’s administration during the 1999 offseason and had to let several starters leave in free agency. They also simultaneously signed several players and were awarded four compensatory picks in the 2000 draft: a fourth-rounder, two sixth-rounders and a seventh-round selection.
By virtue of the various contracts handed out to the Patriots who left, we can narrow down the two sixth-rounders to defensive tackle Mark Wheeler and linebacker Todd Collins, who shares a name with a longtime backup quarterback. I’m going to guess that Collins, who was signed by the Rams to a four-year deal, was the free-agent loss who handed the Patriots the 199th pick in the 2000 draft. The Patriots famously debated between drafting Brady and Louisiana Tech product Tim Rattay, who would eventually go to the 49ers.
You know what happened next for Brady, who is unquestionably the best draft pick in league history. Collins won a ring with the Rams but was out of football by 2001, the year Brady took over as Patriots starter for an injured Drew Bledsoe and led New England to the Super Bowl, where it beat those very same Rams. Patriots fans might already feel like Carroll handed them one Super Bowl (XLIX), but that might be selling short the history of how the Patriots ended up with Brady.
What Barnwell doesn’t emphasize is that this was an extra 6th round pick. Tom Brady was not the Patriots favorite player even in the 6th round. New England preferred Antwan Harris over Tom Brady from the pool of players available in the 6th round.
186 Baltimore Ravens Adalius Thomas † LB Southern Mississippi
187 New England Antwan Harris SS Virginia
188 Kansas City Chiefs Darnell Alford G Boston College from Miami
189 Denver Broncos Mike Anderson RB Utah from St. Louis
190 Seattle Seahawks John Hilliard DT Miss. State
191 Baltimore Ravens Cedric Woodard DT Texas from Minnesota
192 Philadelphia Eagles John Romero C California from Washington
193 Tampa Bay David Gibson S USC
194 Buffalo Bills Leif Olve Larsen DE Texas-El Paso
195 New Orleans Saints Michael Hawthorne S Purdue from Indianapolis
196 Jacksonville Jaguars Emanuel Smith WR Arkansas
197 Tennessee Titans Robaire Smith DT Michigan State
198 St. Louis Rams Matt Bowen SS Iowa
199 New England Tom Brady † QB Michigan
NEW YORK JETS
It looks like the Jets are pairing Adam Gase with Gregg Williams. The New York Post:
The Jets think they have the man to run the other side of the ball.
New head coach Adam Gase is progressing in talks to make Gregg Williams the Jets’ defensive coordinator, The Post’s Brian Costello confirmed.
Williams was let go by the Browns after being passed over for the head-coaching job this week. He took over for fired Browns coach Hue Jackson mid-season and led the team to a 5-3 record in the interim role. Interim offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens got the job instead.
Williams, 60, has been the defensive coordinator for the Titans, Redskins, Jaguars, Saints, Rams and Browns. In New Orleans, Williams was suspended for a full season as one of the faces of the Saints’ Bountygate scandal.
The Jets were also considering former Broncos coach Vance Joseph for the position.
Caution from Jason LaCanfora:
Four teams are interested in Gregg Williams for DC openings, NYJ among them. They may get first meeting with him. Pending that, he could meet with WSH and other teams next week
THIS AND THAT
Pete Thamel of YahooSports.com with this on RB BRYCE LOVE:
Former Stanford tailback Bryce Love is recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, which he suffered in the Cardinal’s final regular season game. Love underwent surgery on Dec. 18 with Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham and is expected to make a full recovery.
He will attend the NFL combine in February but will be limited in his participation. He’s still too early in the rehab process to determine when he’ll be cleared to return to the field. Love disclosed the injury, which hadn’t been previously reported, to Yahoo Sports on Friday in an effort to be transparent for the pre-draft process. Love is rehabbing at the Andrews Institute and training at EXOS in Pensacola, Florida.
“I’m very grateful to Dr. Andrews and his team for making the surgery a seamless process,” Love said in a statement to Yahoo Sports. “Obviously, there’s no such thing as an ideal injury, but I’m on the path to recovery, and my goal remains the same — getting drafted by an NFL team and being the ultimate professional. I’ll be back better than I’ve ever been.”
The injury occurred during Stanford’s 23-13 victory over Cal to conclude the regular season. Love finished that game with 22 carries for 74 yards and got injured on a red-zone run in the fourth quarter, the final play he was in the game for. He did not participate in Stanford’s Sun Bowl victory over Pittsburgh, as he announced he’d “focus on being completely healthy and prepared for the 2019 NFL draft.”
Love is a 5-foot-10, 202-pound tailback who flashed a rare dynamism at times during his Stanford career. After rushing for 2,118 yards in his junior season, despite battling persistent ankle issues, he made the surprising decision to return for his senior season. Love finished second in the Heisman Trophy race in 2017 behind Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield. He earned unanimous All-American honors, won the Doak Walker award for the nation’s top tailback and earned the Pac-12’s Offensive Player of the Year honors.
Love came back for his senior year in part to be with his teammates for another season and help Stanford win more games. Love also returned because he wanted to finish his undergraduate degree in human biology at one of the nation’s elite academic institutions, as he plans to become a pediatrician after his professional football career is done. (Love is taking a few seminars this semester to complete graduation.)