AROUND THE NFL

Odds may vary – but ProFootballReference.com lists the following on September 8th to win the upcoming Super Bowl based on a $100 bet.  We’ve boldfaced the teams that made the playoffs and put the four remaining teams in red:

 

New England Patriots                        +400

Kansas City Chiefs                               +600

New Orleans Saints                          +1000

Philadelphia Eagles                          +1200

Chicago Bears                                      +1200

Los Angeles Rams                              +1400

Pittsburgh Steelers                           +1800

Seattle Seahawks                              +2000

Minnesota Vikings                            +2000

Los Angeles Chargers                       +2000

Green Bay Packers                            +2000

Dallas Cowboys                                   +2000

Cleveland Browns                              +2000

Jacksonville Jaguars                          +2500

Atlanta Falcons                                   +3000

San Francisco 49ers                           +4000

Baltimore Ravens                              +4000

Houston Texans                                 +5000

Carolina Panthers                              +5000

New York Jets                                     +6000

Tennessee Titans                              +8000

Indianapolis Colts                               +8000

Detroit Lions                                        +8000

Denver Broncos                                                 +8000

Tampa Bay Buccaneers                  +10000

Buffalo Bills                                       +10000

Oakland Raiders                               +20000

New York Giants                              +20000

Cincinnati Bengals                            +20000

Washington Redskins                     +30000

Arizona Cardinals                             +30000

Miami Dolphins                                 +50000

 

– – –

How about this note from Ed Werder and ESPNStatsInfo:

 

 

@WerderEdESPN

@ESPNStatsInfo

: Patrick Mahomes went to Texas Tech. Ryan Tannehill went to Texas A&M. One will advance to Super Bowl LIV. No starting quarterback in Super Bowl history finished their college careers at a Texas university.

 

There are two Texas-born quarterbacks who have won the Super Bowl, but Drew Brees (Purdue) and Nick Foles (Michigan State and Arizona) went to college outside the Lone Star State.  Brees and Foles went to the same high school, as you may remember, Austin Westlake.

 

In addition to their college educations, Tannehill (Lubbock, Big Spring H.S.) and Mahomes (Tyler, Whitehouse H.S.) are both Texas-born and Texas high school products.

 

NFC EAST

 

NEW YORK GIANTS

Joe Judge is interviewing Jason Garrett to be his offensive coordinator.  NFL.com:

 

Jason Garrett could remain in the NFC East in 2020.

 

The former Dallas Cowboys head coach is interviewing at the New York Giants facility today for Big Blue’s vacant offensive coordinator position, NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reported Wednesday.

 

Garrett was formally let go by the Cowboys on Jan. 5 after spending the past 13 seasons with Dallas, including the last nine as head coach. Garrett’s contract officially expired Tuesday. As of Wednesday, he’s on the prowl for a new gig with a former enemy.

 

Garrett spent four seasons with the Giants as a backup quarterback from 2000-2003.

 

The 53-year-old coach was elevated to the Cowboys offensive coordinator role in 2007 and spent four seasons as OC before being named head coach in 2010.

 

Garrett could bring needed experience to first-time head coach Joe Judge’s staff in New York. The bigger questions would involve the type offense he’d employ and his plans to develop young QB Daniel Jones. Garrett last called plays for the Cowboys in 2012 before handing off the reins to Bill Callahan, then Scott Linehan, and finally Kellen Moore in 2019.

 

The Giants had an interest in Garrett during their head coaching hiring process, but landed with Judge. It’s possible they could still bring in a Jerry Jones favorite to run the offense.

 

Garafolo added that Big Blue has also interviewed Mike Shula, the OC under Pat Shurmur, for the job.

 

It’s clear New York is looking for experience at its coordinator gig to buttress a green Judge.

 

NFC SOUTH

 

NEW ORLEANS

Congress put aside its brawling for a few minutes to unite in support of Steve Gleason.   Mike Triplett of ESPN.com:

 

Steve Gleason became the first former NFL player to receive a Congressional Gold Medal — the highest honor that Congress can bestow on a civilian — during an emotional ceremony Wednesday in Washington, D.C.

 

Gleason, who was a special teams standout for the New Orleans Saints, was recognized for his crusading work as an advocate for people with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. He is only the eighth individual athlete ever to receive the Congressional Gold Medal.

 

Gleason pointed out during the ceremony that his is “not a football story or even an ALS story, but rather a human story.”

 

“The truth is that we all experience pain in our lives, but I believe that the problems we face are our opportunity and define our human purpose,” he said.

 

After concluding his speech, he received a standing ovation from a crowd that included members of the Senate and House of Representatives, Saints quarterback Drew Brees, team owner Gayle Benson, and current and former NFL commissioners Roger Goodell and Paul Tagliabue.

 

Gleason, who was diagnosed with ALS in 2011, speaks through groundbreaking speech-generating technology that allows him to type words on a tablet through eye movements. The voice is actually his own, thanks to recordings he taped during the early stages of the disease.

 

Gleason and his foundation were the driving force behind The Steve Gleason Act, which was signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2015 to make critical technology available to patients through Medicare and Medicaid.

 

While ALS has taken away his muscular function, Gleason’s mind and wit remain sharp, and he drew a laugh from the crowd from one comment in particular.

 

“While sharing one’s weaknesses may not be common practice for people, especially for politicians in an election year — wink, wink — sharing my weaknesses was entirely critical for me to play eight years in the NFL,” he said, noting the importance of collaboration in solving problems and overcoming obstacles. “And it has been unquestionably critical to my survival and purpose for the last nine years, living with a disease as dreadfully beautiful as ALS.

 

“Our human potential is boundless,” Gleason said.

 

His emotional speech left Brees choked up as he recalled the time when he first heard about Gleason’s diagnosis.

 

“There is no person on earth with the strength, courage, passion and tenacity to overcome all obstacles and make the lasting impact that Steve has made,” said Brees, who pointed out that Wednesday was both his 41st birthday and the 11th birthday of his son, Baylen, also in attendance.

 

“Quite honestly, there was no place we would rather be than here with you right now,” Brees said. “And there is no person more deserving of this honor than you.”

 

Several elected officials from both houses of Congress also gave moving speeches about Gleason, who was unanimously selected for the honor by both houses of Congress before President Donald Trump signed the legislation.

 

Speaker Nancy Pelosi introduced Gleason as a “true American hero.”

 

“You bring luster to this award and pride to our nation,” she said.

 

The short list of past athletes who received the Congressional Gold Medal: Roberto Clemente, Joe Louis, Jesse Owens, Jackie Robinson, Byron Nelson, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus.

 

Gleason’s most spectacular moment on a football field came when he blocked a punt against the Atlanta Falcons to spark a Saints victory on the night the Superdome reopened in 2006 post-Hurricane Katrina.

 

NFC WEST

 

SAN FRANCISCO

TE GEORGE KITTLE shows up on the injury report, missing Wednesday practice.  Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

As the 49ers prepare to host the NFC Championship, one of their key players was unable to practice on Wednesday due to injury.

 

Tight end George Kittle missed practice due to an ankle problem, according to the team’s injury report. Kittle, who missed two regular-season games with knee and ankle injuries, was not on last week’s injury report. As the 49ers prepare to host the NFC Championship, one of their key players was unable to practice on Wednesday due to injury.

 

Tight end George Kittle missed practice due to an ankle problem, according to the team’s injury report. Kittle, who missed two regular-season games with knee and ankle injuries, was not on last week’s injury report. Kittle was hurt when his left ankle caught under Vikings linebacker Eric Wilson after one of the three receptions Kittle made during the divisional-round victory.

 

Joining Kittle with the “DNP” designation was defensive lineman Dee Ford, who is still dealing with quad and hamstring injuries. Ford returned to action last week after missing six games, getting a sack and beefing up the pass rush simply with his presence.

 

Linebacker Kwon Alexander was limited with the pectoral injury that had resulted in his placement on injured reserve (he returned last week). Running back Raheem Mostert (calf) and running back Tevin Coleman (elbow) fully participated.

 

Joining Kittle with the “DNP” designation was defensive lineman Dee Ford, who is still dealing with quad and hamstring injuries. Ford returned to action last week after missing six games, getting a sack and beefing up the pass rush simply with his presence.

 

Linebacker Kwon Alexander was limited with the pectoral injury that had resulted in his placement on injured reserve (he returned last week). Running back Raheem Mostert (calf) and running back Tevin Coleman (elbow) fully participated.

 

AFC WEST

 

LAS VEGAS

With the chance to put a key part of the old gang back in place, Coach Jon Gruden jettisons the defensive line coach who nearly tripled the Raiders sack total in his first year.  Jason Owens of YahooSports.com doesn’t look far enough back in Rod Marinelli’s bio to find the key.

 

The Raiders have fired defensive line coach Brentson Buckner after one season on the job, NFL Network’s Jim Trotter reports.

 

Head coach Jon Gruden made the decision and replaced Buckner with veteran NFL coach Rod Marinelli.

 

@JimTrotter_NFL

Raiders coach Jon Gruden has fired respected defensive line coach Brenston Buckner and is expected to replace him with Rod Marinelli. Under Buckner, the Raiders improved from 13 sacks in 2018 to 32 this year, and from 30th against the run to 8th.

 

As Trotter points out, the Raiders saw tangible progress on the defensive line in Buckner’s year on the job.

 

The Raiders improved from last in the league with 13 sacks in 2018 to 24th with 32 in 2019. They also improved from 30th to eighth against the run, where they allowed just 98.1 yards per game on the ground last season, an improvement of better than 40 yards on average.

 

Buckner, 48, played in the league as a defensive lineman for 12 seasons from 1994 to 2005 and has worked as a defensive line coach in the NFL since 2013, where he started with the Arizona Cardinals. He spent 2018 on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers staff before joining the Raiders last season.

 

Gruden reportedly told Buckner that his performance wasn’t the reason for the firing.

 

@VicTafur

Brentson Buckner was surprised when he got the call today. The fired DL coach said Gruden told him, “‘I need to make a change. I need to make room for someone, it was nothing you did.’ And I thanked him for the opportunity.”  #Raiders

 

Marinelli, 70, was the head coach of the Detroit Lions from 2006 to 2008 and has spent the last six seasons as the Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator.

This almost gets to the reason.  Sebastian Livermore of LastWordOnProFootball:

 

Marinelli began his professional coaching career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers back in 1996 under Tony Dungy. He was most recently the defensive coordinator of the Dallas Cowboys; a position he held there since 2014.

 

While this might seem like a confusing firing and hiring process on the surface, there may be more to this than meets the eye. Current Defensive Coordinator, Paul Gunther, has been rumored to be on the hot seat after the Raiders defense concluded another season in which they gave up 350 plus points. Marinelli has had success running a defense and would be prime to take over Gunther’s responsibilities if the Raiders’ defense were to come out the gate cold again next season. This might not be a popular decision amongst the Raider faithful, but it could end up being the coaching steal of the offseason when all is said and done.

 

This from the Dallas Morning News:

 

Marinelli, 70, was Gruden’s assistant head coach and defensive line coach during Gruden’s stint as the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the early 2000s. The duo helped lead the Bucs to the 2002 Super Bowl title.

 

Marinelli and Monte Kiffin are two big reasons Gruden has a Super Bowl ring.

 

AFC NORTH

 

CLEVELAND

Two guys named Kevin.

 

In 2015, a Cleveland team lost an obscure 38-year-old guy named Kevin who was hired to manage a rival team because he was willing to follow the lead of analytics experts in concocting on-field strategies.  That Kevin was Indians bullpen coach Kevin Cash who gained a second contract with the Tampa Bay Rays by faithfully following a cutting-edge analytics department that came up with things like the opener while using superior people skills to convince his team (and its fans) that it all really makes sense.

 

In 2020, a Cleveland team selected an obscure guy named Kevin who would be 38 years old when he first coaches the Browns.  That Kevin is Vikings OC Kevin Stefanski – and he may be tasked with a similar challenge, to serve as the personable and placid frontman for an experiment in football tactics.

 

Matthew Florjanic of WKYC.com:

 

“Analytics” is a word that has evoked plenty of emotions in Cleveland Browns fans over the last four seasons because of a 1-31 stretch over 2016 and 2017 and more failed picks in the NFL Draft, but new coach Kevin Stefanski is not afraid of thinking outside the box.

 

Regardless of what the fans think about “analytics,” Stefanski embraces the acquisition of information as a way to have the Browns’ players and coaches better prepared for all contingencies on game day.

 

“I am looking for any edge we can get on game day and certainly analytics,” Stefanski said during his introductory press conference at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland Tuesday. “We are looking to make informed decisions.

 

“As a play caller or whether it be player evaluation, information is power, so we like to have a lot of information that informs our decisions. I think the setup that we have here and meeting with the guys this morning was incredible. I think we are well on our way where we can provide impactful information to our coaches, to our personnel department that can really help the product in terms of wins and losses.”

 

When the Browns hired Freddie Kitchens last January instead of Stefanski, the Minnesota Vikings’ interim offensive coordinator at the time, it was viewed as the football side of the organization winning out over the analytics department.

 

Fast-forward a year and the Browns once again found themselves looking for a head coach, but in Stefanski, they get the best of both worlds.

 

“To me, analytics, I cannot say it enough, it is a tool,” Stefanski said. “How does it help on game day? Well, I would met with some of our people with the Vikings and they would help me understand as we got into this ball game, down and distance-wise, field position-wise where a coordinator may be more apt to blitz.

 

“Really, it is something as a play caller was formulating a plan of attack, you start to take in that information.”

 

In addition to the analytics, Stefanski has extensive experience as an NFL coach, as the long-time Vikings assistant, where he most recently served as offensive coordinator in 2019 after previously mentoring the quarterbacks, running backs and tight ends in 13 seasons with the club.

 

The interim offensive coordinator in the final weeks of the 2018 season, Stefanski was given Minnesota’s play-calling duties full time heading into 2019, and the results were positive.

 

The Vikings averaged 25.4 points, 353.5 yards of total offense and 133.3 rush yards per game. They finished top 10 in points scored (eighth) and rush yards (sixth) while being in the middle of the pack in the NFL in total yards.

 

“That really was helpful and I can tell you certain decisions you make, whether it be for protection or when to run certain plays, you have that in mind and you have some information that was able to be gathered by compiling that data,” Stefanski said.

 

“I just think it is another tool when it comes to play calling and personnel. Again, something that the Vikings did, something that I know the Browns do. It just provides more information. We have so much of this information. We have years of it, so let’s use it to our advantage.”

– – –

WR ODELL BECKHAM, Jr. was a prominent part of LSU’s post-victory celebration, doing something both sweet and dumb at the same time.  Ben Baby of ESPN.com:

 

The money that Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. distributed on the field after LSU’s national championship victory Monday was real, Tigers quarterback Joe Burrow said in a podcast interview released Wednesday.

 

“I’m not a student-athlete anymore, so I can say yeah,” Burrow said on the most recent episode of Barstool Sports’ “Pardon My Take.”

 

The university’s athletic department issued a statement Wednesday saying it was aware of video showing “apparent cash” being given to players by Beckham and that it has been in contact with the NCAA and the SEC regarding the matter.

 

Joe Burrow, Ed Orgeron made history, won a title and changed LSU forever

“We are aware of the situation regarding Odell Beckham Jr. interacting with LSU student-athletes and others unaffiliated with the team following the championship game Monday night,” the LSU statement said. “Initial information suggested bills that were exchanged were novelty bills. Information and footage reviewed since shows apparent cash may have also been given to LSU student-athletes.

 

“We were in contact with the NCAA and the SEC immediately upon learning of this situation in which some of our student-athletes may have been placed in a compromising position. We are working with our student-athletes, the NCAA and the SEC in order to rectify the situation.”

 

An LSU spokesperson on Tuesday morning had told the Baton Rouge Advocate that the money being handed out on the field by Beckham, a former LSU star, was counterfeit.

 

In a now-private Twitter video that initially went viral, Beckham was filmed handing out what appeared to be real cash to LSU players in the aftermath of the Tigers’ 42-25 victory against Clemson for the university’s first national championship since 2007.

 

After the game, LSU coach Ed Orgeron said he wasn’t aware of the incident.

 

“First I’m hearing about it,” Orgeron told reporters in New Orleans after the game.

 

If the money being doled out by Beckham was real, as Burrow said Tuesday, it would be a violation of NCAA bylaws. Cash is an example of impermissible benefits that are prohibited by the governing body.

 

We should note that the $500,000 their coach received as a bonus for leading these student-athletes is permissible.

 

AFC SOUTH

 

HOUSTON

Bill O’Brien praises his trades that sent draft picks packing. Kevin Patra of NFL.com:

 

Playing the coach/general manager/Tsar role for the Texans, Bill O’Brien spearheaded a bevy of moves aimed at bringing a Super Bowl to Houston. They fell short of that goal, but the coach believes each of his moves was worth it.

 

The Texans traded multiple first-round picks for left tackle Laremy Tunsil, who made the Pro Bowl and solidified the left side of the line despite being penalty prone, and receiver Kenny Stills, who caught 40 passes for 561 yards and four TDs.

 

The coach shipped out what became a third-round pick for running back Duke Johnson, who had 820 scrimmage yards and five total TDs.

 

O’Brien swapped spare parts for running back Carlos Hyde — perhaps his best move — and watched the RB become his lead back, galloping across the 1,000-yard barrier.

 

He traded away Jadeveon Clowney, getting back a draft pick, linebacker Jacob Martin (3.5 sacks) and Barkevious Mingo, who blocked a punt in Sunday’s playoff loss.

 

O’Brien then traded that pick obtained in the Clowney trade to get corner Gareon Conley, who ended up starting six games in Houston. And he plucked Vernon Hargreaves off waivers and plugged him in as the nickel back solution.

 

“I think that those moves did pay off,” O’Brien said, via the Houston Chronicle. “Those guys came in, without mentioning each guy specifically, but I do believe that those guys came in and really entered into our culture of what we’re trying to do, learned the systems, tried to go out there and those guys played well. I’m sure there’s always plays that each one of them wish they could have back, but I think that those guys helped our team win this year, when we won.

 

“I think any move we make, we try to think about the long term. Now, you could probably pick and choose some moves where maybe contractually it doesn’t seem like it’s long term, but within the building and within the meeting rooms, we think about it more for long-term purposes as we move forward here. I think all those guys came in and contributed.”

 

The moves, however, left the Texans with only five draft picks, before compensatory selections are added. Owning few bites at the apple to remake a defense that badly needs help will put a heavy onus on Houston brass.

 

Whether you believe getting to the Divisional Round was a success, or ultimately a failure for O’Brien likely depends on your natural bend. The coach doesn’t believe his team would have gotten that far without all those moves.

 

 

JACKSONVILLE

Hard to believe that two years ago this week, the Jacksonville Jaguars took a young roster into the AFC Championship Game with New England and built a 10-point fourth quarter lead (win probability 86% per ESPN).  Now, their president is apologizing for being horrible losers and can’t seem to understand why GM David Caldwell and Coach Doug Marrone are working for him. Kevin Patra of NFL.com:

 

Things in Jacksonville slid downfield quickly since losing the 2017 AFC Championship game, with the Jags finishing last in the AFC South in back-to-back years including a 6-win 2019 campaign.

 

Losing in Jacksonville has become a habit. The Jags generated 10 losing seasons in the past 12 years.

 

Jaguars President Mark Lamping was blunt during a recent discussion with The Florida Times-Union.

 

“We have done a crappy job of winning,” Lamping said. “Hopefully we will get better. But just to sit back and say winning is going to cure everything, not in this market.”

 

Perhaps winning won’t cure everything, but it’d go a long way to get eyeballs on the Jags, locally and nationally. Owner Shad Khan’s statements this year have focused heavily on generating support from fans.

 

In bringing back coach Doug Marrone and general manager Dave Caldwell, the Jags decided to stay the course instead of undergoing a big reboot much of the fan base desired.

 

“I would be surprised if the fan wasn’t frustrated. I’m frustrated but I go to the games for free,” Lamping said. “We’re in the business that your record is who you are. Shad made a decision not to terminate Dave Caldwell, not to terminate Doug Marrone.

 

“I think if you had a vote of our fans they would say both of those gentlemen should have been terminated. This is a business where people get fired all the time.”

 

Instead, the Jags will give Marrone a fourth full season to see if he can dig himself out of the hole.

 

“Our on-the-field performances have been so bad, I just don’t want it to shade the conversation to such a degree that that’s the only thing people focus on,” Lamping said. “We’re really fortunate to have a really wealthy person who owns the Jaguars that feels like helping turnaround downtown Jacksonville is a noble goal.”

 

The Jags’ biggest sell at this point: Quarterback Gardner Minshew, who enjoyed a fantastic rookie campaign. Minshew Mania provides energy and entertainment lacking from the Jags. Fans, however, will only take that distraction for so long. Jacksonville knows it needs to win, and win soon.

 

 

TENNESSEE

Mike Vrabel says he was a bad coach for the season’s first six games – and implies he feels he has been a good coach for the subsequent 12.  Kevin Patra of NFL.com:

 

Six games into the season, the Tennessee Titans were a forgotten squad, withering with inconsistency and uninspired play. The season appeared lost.

 

Smash cut to today, the Titans conducted Championship Wednesday pressers after finishing the season 7-3 and upsetting the New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens to be the first No. 6 seed since 2010 to reach a conference title game where they’ll face the Kansas City Chiefs.

 

“We can’t change what we’ve done to get us in this position, to have this opportunity,” coach Mike Vrabel said. “On October 15, we were 2-4. I was a bad coach, and this was a bad team. We tried to believe in each other, we tried to improve, tried to prepare, trust each other, execute and that’s what’s gotten us here.”

 

The Titans’ season turned with Vrabel’s decision to bench quarterback Marcus Mariota and insert Ryan Tannehill into the lineup. Since Week 7, Tennessee’s offense has steadied the ship, with Derrick Henry pummeling opponents into submission, and Tannehill divebombing opponents with big plays. The Titans averaged 160.6 rush YPG and 245.6 pass YPG (406.2 total YPG) in Weeks 7-17.

 

Tannehill said Wednesday that it took some time to move into a leadership role after being mostly “a fly on the wall” during training camp and the start of the season.

 

“It’s a little bit of a slow process,” Tannehill said. “You don’t want to come in guns blazing and shake the boat too much. It’s just a matter of being myself, leading in my own way, encouraging guys, trying to press this offense, press each and every person, build relationships and try to get the most out of every guy.”

 

After he did blaze guns, the Titans took off.

 

Tannehill said that going from an afterthought to January Cinderella instilled conviction that Tennessee can weather any storm that might come in Kansas City during Sunday’s AFC Championship Game.

 

“There’s a belief in one another, first and foremost, that we’ve been through a lot this season,” he said. “Ups and downs and won games in a lot of different ways. Different guys have stepped up throughout the season and made those plays for us to win. And with that comes a lot of belief, and all that confidence in one another that it doesn’t really matter not matter play call that we’ll find a way to make it work.”

 

Henry has been the key to the Titans’ turnaround, churning out yards like a bulldozer moves land. Henry generated 1,273 rush yards over his last eight games (including playoffs), second-most rush yards in an 8-game span (including playoffs) since at least 1950 (Adrian Peterson, 2012, 1,322).

 

The running back carried the offense through the first two playoff games, averaging a whopping 188.5 rushing yards per game.

 

What happens if the Chiefs are able to stymie Henry early, or the Titans get down to an explosive Patrick Mahomes squad? Will Tannehill and the passing offense, which has averaged 77 yards per game in the playoffs, be able to get in gear?

 

“No doubt,” Tannehill said. “We’ve put in a lot of work do get to this point in the season. We’ve done it multiple ways throughout the season. You don’t forget how to throw and catch in two weeks. It’s something we still have a lot of confidence in. And I know our guys outside have a lot of confidence in themselves. And I have a lot of confidence in them being able to get open and give them the football.”

 

Facing a dynamic Chiefs offense that scored touchdowns on seven straight possessions in the Divisional Round is a different beast that the Titans have fought in recent weeks. Mahomes exploded for 446 passing yards in Tennessee’s Week 10 win over K.C. It took a brilliant Tannehill drive at the end, and several key defensive stops, to pull out the 35-32 home win. The Titans once again may need Tannehill to deliver against the Chiefs, this time with the Super Bowl on the line.

 

AFC EAST

 

NEW ENGLAND

Follow the furniture.  Jaclyn Hendricks of the New York Post:

 

Tom Brady is on the move.

 

The Patriots quarterback, who is set to become a free agent, and wife Gisele Bündchen have moved into their $9 million Greenwich, Conn., home, according to WEEI, after listing their Brookline, Mass., property last year. The change in zip code has added more fuel to the fire regarding Brady’s future in New England, a topic he is still digesting amid a premature bounce from the playoffs.

 

“The contract things I think a week after the season, I would say these things haven’t even started to pick up,” Brady recently told Jim Gray on Westwood One. “That’s really not my concern at this point. It has been about decompressing and resting my mind a little bit and resting my body and spending time with the people who have supported me over the last six months.”

 

Though Brady put retirement talk to rest last week, where the 42-year-old quarterback suits up next season is very much a question mark, as he and Bündchen, 39, apparently packed their bags from Foxborough, too.

 

“The Brady suite at Gillette Stadium where [Bündchen] has been known to watch her husband play football has been cleaned out,” WEEI’s Greg Hill said Tuesday.

 

“It would appear to be, by those who are in the know, that it has been cleaned out in way that perhaps it has never has been cleaned out before.”

 

Patriots Nation has already shown how far they are willing to go to keep Brady in New England, with Massachusetts politicians promising holidays and towns renamed in the quarterback’s honor.

 

But what about the Instagram message at the end of the seaon?

 

Retired defensive end Marcellus Wiley believes Tom Brady’s recent message contains a pro-Patriots red herring and actually indicates his intention to move on from the team this offseason.

 

“This was an alert to 31 other teams out there, for you to not pause for the cause of Tom Brady’s services,” Wiley said on FS1’s “Speak for Yourself” on Wednesday.

 

Earlier in the day, Brady posted a verbose Instagram message that read, “I just wanted to say to all of our fans, THANK YOU! After a few days of reflection, I am so grateful and humbled by the unconditional support you have shown me the past two decades. … I know I still have more to prove.”

 

The post came four days after the Patriots season ended in disappointing fashion with a 20-13 upset loss to the Titans in the wild-card round. Brady, 42, finished the season with a 60.8 completion percentage and 24 touchdowns, his lowest in both categories since 2003.

 

 “More to prove means, ‘I’m going to play,’ but thanking the fan base probably means not here,” Wiley said. “You don’t thank the fan base unless you’re thinking about departure, but departure to continue.”

 

While Wiley’s argument does give off conspiracy-theory vibes, the situation in New England has become very fluid. After 20 seasons with the Patriots, the six-time Super Bowl champion will be an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career. Patriots owner Robert Kraft wants Brady to either return or retire. Brady, on the other hand, is less resolute on his future.

 

“I’ll explore those opportunities whenever they are. If it’s the Patriots, great,” Brady said to NBC Sports after Saturday’s loss. “If that doesn’t work, I don’t know. I just don’t know.”

 

“There’s no rhyme or reason to bring him back,” Wiley said. “If you bring him back even at a low-ball number, do you know how bad, how indicting that is? Because everyone in that locker room is going to say, ‘Tom Brady didn’t take a haircut because it was his choice, they gave him what he’s worth and he’s not worth that much. So why would we start our season with a guy you don’t even think highly of, organization?’ So that’s a damning situation in the locker room. All this points to Tom Brady continuing his services elsewhere, but not as a Patriot.”

 

Brady earned $23 million in 2019 including a $13,750,000 signing bonus. A restriction in his most recent contract extension prohibits the Patriots from using the franchise tag on him, meaning that the two parties will have to reach a new agreement by March 18. Even at this late stage of his career, Brady could earn $30 million on the free agent market, especially in light of the many quarterback-needy teams in the league.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

ZEBRAS CHOSEN

The officials for the three playoff games have been chosen – and for the first time all three referees (and it looks like most of the other officials) have been chosen from the ranks of those who worked in the first two rounds. 

 

All three referees, by the way, are from Southern California. In fact, if they all wanted to go to a Los Angeles Angels game, it would take each less than 30 minutes to meet at the ballpark in Anaheim.

 

The AFC Championship game, Tennessee at Kansas City, will be helmed by veteran Tony Corrente, who also handled the Buffalo at Houston overtime game in the Wild Card round.  The 68-year-old is in his 25th season as an NFL official, 22nd as a referee.  This is his 20th postseason assignment including Super Bowl 46.  We are surprised to learn that

Corrente officiated the first matchup between these two teams during Week 10 in Tennessee.

 

                                                           Yrs        2019 crew      

R         99        Tony Corrente             25                  

U         92        Bryan Neale                 6         Smith  

DJ       6          Jerod Phillips                4         Martin 

LJ        18        Byron Boston             25         Anderson        

FJ        56        Allen Baynes              12         Hussey           

SJ        3          Scott Edwards            21        Torbert

BJ        46        Perry Paganelli           22        Blakeman       

 

Replay official: Mike Wimmer  Replay assistant: Bill Ellis

Alternates: Carl Cheffers (R), Bruce Stritesky (U), Mark Hittner (DJ), Jim Quirk (SJ)

 

John Hussey gets his biggest refereeing assignment with the NFC Conference Championship Game, Green Bay at San Francisco.  Hussey had the Tennessee upset in New England in the Wild Card round.  After 13 seasons as a line judge, he is in his 5th season as referee.  This is Hussey’s 13th postseason assignment, including Super Bowl 45 as a line judge.

 

                                                         Yrs          2019 crew      

R         35        John Hussey              18                   

U         81        Roy Ellison                 17         Hill      

DJ       74        Derick Bowers                       17         Novak

LJ        59        Rusty Baynes            10         Boger 

FJ        97        Tom Hill                       21        Hochuli           

SJ        103      Eugene Hall                  6        Cheffers         

BJ        111      Terrence Miles            12        Novak

 

Replay official: Billy Smith Replay assistant: Andrew Lambert

Alternates: Bill Vinovich (R), Alan Eck (U), David Oliver (DJ), Ryan Dickson (FJ)

 

And now we turn to the Super Bowl – where the man who orchestrated the Rams win over the Saints in the 2018 NFC Championship Game, gets his second Super Bowl.  Bill Vinovich, who was also the referee of Tennessee’s win at Baltimore in the Divisionals, is getting his 2nd Super Bowl to go along with SB49.  It will be at least the 2nd Super Bowl for all but one of his fellow selectees.

 

                                                  Yrs     2019 crew       Prev. SB

R         52         Bill Vinovich        14                             49

U         20        Barry Anderson   13    Allen   

DJ       79        Kent Payne         16    Rogers              45, 51

LJ        101      Carl Johnson       16    Hussey            42

FJ        72        Michael Banks                18    Cheffers          43

SJ        41        Boris Cheek        24    Corrente          42, 50

BJ        12        Greg Steed         17    Rogers              44

 

Replay official: Mike Chase

Replay assistant: Marv LeBlanc

Alternates: TBD

 

We can also report that Craig Wrolstad will work the Pro Bowl.

 

The veteran referees who did not receive a postseason assignment are Brad Allen, Jerome Boger, Alex Kemp, Clay Martin and Ron Torbert.  We would say that Torbert’s lack of inclusion is the biggest surprise with second year refs Shawn Hochuli and Shawn Smith getting playoff work, and not Torbert who seems to do okay when the DB catches him in action.  There were three new referees this season: Adrian Hill, Scott Novak, and Brad Rogers.

 

 

 

 

CONTRACT AWARDS

Former agent Joel Corry, writing at CBSSports.com bestows his awards for the best and worst moves and contracts of 2019:

 

The NFL’s financial landscape is being assessed through awards for the seventh straight year on CBSSports.com with the regular season in the books. These awards differ from the traditional NFL honors because they are from an economic perspective emphasizing 2019 veteran acquisitions.

 

Players acquired by trades or in free agency can have a tremendous impact on an NFL team’s fortunes. Rookies weren’t given any consideration because their salaries are a function of draft position and the rookie wage scale. The same applies to players on restricted free agent tenders since the amounts are set by the NFL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement.

 

Most Valuable Acquisition

 

Ryan Tannehill    TEN • QB • 17

The Titans were going nowhere fast with a 2-4 record before inserting Tannehill into the starting lineup. Tannehill along with a 2019 sixth round pick was acquired from the Dolphins for a 2019 seventh round pick and a 2020 fourth round pick during the offseason in case Marcus Mariota suffered another injury or faltered. To help facilitate the trade, Tannehill took a big pay cut in a contract renegotiation that saw his 2019 compensation drop from $18.75 million to $7 million, of which the Dolphins paid $5 million. The new deal allowed for Tannehill to make as much as $12 million because of incentives while also deleting his 2020 contract year for taking the pay cut. Tannehill earned an additional $3.175 million in incentives.

 

The Titans made the playoffs as an AFC wild card by going 7-3 with Tannehill as starting quarterback. Tannehill led the NFL with a 117.5 passer rating and 9.6 yards per pass attempt. He finished third in the league with a 70.3 completion percentage. The 117.5 passer rating is the fourth best single season mark in NFL history.

 

In the 10 games Tannehill was under center, Tennessee averaged 30.4 per points per game, which was the NFL’s fourth best during that time. The Titans were 28th at 16.3 points per game when Mariota was starting. Offensive yards also increased dramatically from 290.5 per game, which was 27th in the NFL, to the league’s third best at 406.2 yards in the games Tannehill started.

 

Tannehill was named AFC Offensive Player of the Month for December. In five December games, Tannehill connected on 90 of 132 passes (68.2 completion percentage) for 1,322 yards with 12 touchdowns and two interceptions. His passer rating was 124.6.

 

Runners Up: Shaquil Barrett (Edge)-Buccaneers; Marcus Peters (CB)-Ravens; The Smith Brothers (Edge)-Packers

 

Least Valuable Acquisition

 

Antonio Brown     NE • WR • 17

The Raiders gave the Steelers 2019 third and fifth round picks last March for arguably the NFL’s best wide receiver. As a part of the trade, Brown got an upgraded contract. He received an $11.2 million raise over the three remaining years of the four-year, $68 million contract extension he signed with the Steelers in 2017. He was scheduled to make $50.125 million over the three years with the potential of an additional $4 million through incentives in the new deal. The adjusted contract had $30.125 million fully guaranteed. The guaranteed money was Brown’s $14.625 million 2019 base salary, $14.5 million 2020 base salary, $500,000 2019 workout bonus and $500,000 2020 workout bonus. The $1 million of workout bonuses was treated like signing bonus for salary cap purposes and prorated over the three years because of being fully guaranteed at the signing of the adjusted deal.

 

Brown wore out his welcome in Oakland with his off-the-field antics before ever playing a down for the Raiders. He was released a day before the regular season started because of multiple breaches of his contract, which allowed the Raiders to void $29.625 million of guarantees. NFL contract guarantees void for a laundry list of reasons (suspensions under a league policy or by the team for conduct detrimental, failing or refusing to play, practice or report to the team, etc.). The conditions vary depending on team convention, the attention the agent pays to the language and his/her leverage in negotiations. In some cases, fines can trigger the voiding of guarantees.

 

Brown filed multiple grievances against the Raiders to collect the salary guarantees, one week’s salary of $860,294 and approximately $215,000 in fines he was assessed while in Oakland. The grievance is expected to be heard during the upcoming offseason. Brown’s best chance for a favorable decision is with the one week of salary because his release occurred after the close of business on Tuesday that week.

 

The Raiders currently have a 2020 salary cap charge of $666,667 from the workout bonus proration. Assuming the expected outcome of the grievances where the arbitrator rules in favor of Brown for the one week payment, the Raiders should come out with a $139,706 credit on the 2020 salary cap. There should be a $333,333 credit for the 2019 cap charge relating to the workout bonuses. Brown didn’t earn the first $500,000 because of a lack of participation in the workout program. A $666,667 credit should also be given for the existing 2020 cap charge.

 

Brown’s implosion led to a chain reaction of events at wide receiver. The Raiders were forced to rely on Tyrell Williams, who was slowed by a foot injury, and 2019 fifth round pick Hunter Renfrow more heavily. The duo combined for 91 catches, 1,256 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns. That type of production would have been a “down year” by Brown’s standards. The Raiders gave up more draft capital during the season to try to improve the wide receiving corps. Trevor Davis was acquired from the Packers for a 2020 sixth round pick. A 2021 fifth round pick was given to the Bills for Zay Jones.

 

It’s impossible to know how the Raiders’ draft plans would have changed without trading for Brown. Wide receivers A.J. Brown and D.K. Metcalf were still available when cornerback Trayvon Mullen was selected in the second round with the 40th overall pick. The third round pick sent to Pittsburgh was the 66th overall pick. The Redskins took wide receiver Terry McLaurin 10 spots later.

 

Runners Up: Nick Foles (QB)-Jaguars; Devin Funchess (WR)-Colts; C.J. Mosley (LB)-Jets

 

Offensive Signing of the Year

 

Mark Ingram   BAL • RB • 21

Ingram left the Saints after eight years to join the Ravens on a three-year, $15 million deal with $6.5 million fully guaranteed. He became an excellent complement to quarterback Lamar Jackson, the presumptive 2019 NFL MVP, in Baltimore’s historic rushing attack, which set a single season record with 3,296 yards.

 

Ingram and Derrick Henry are the only two players to rush for at least 1,000 yards (1,018) and have at least 10 rushing touchdowns while also averaging five yards or more per carry this season. He had five other scores on receptions to rank fourth in the NFL with 15 touchdowns. Ingram was named to the Pro Bowl on the original ballot for the second time in his career this season.

 

Runner Up: John Brown (WR)-Bills

 

Defensive Signing of the Year

 

Za’Darius Smith  GB • OLB • 55

Preston Smith     GB • OLB • 91

Second year Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst revamped Green Bay’s defense by being much more aggressive in free agency than Ted Thompson, his predecessor, ever was. Outside linebackers Za’Darius and Preston Smith, who are known as the “Smith Brothers” although unrelated, were signed to four-year deals worth $66 million and $52 million respectively to provide a pass rush. The Smith Brothers combined for 25.5 sacks, a Packers single season record for a duo. Za’Darius had 13.5 sacks to rank sixth in the NFL while Preston wasn’t far behind with 12, which was eighth. They are the only pair of teammates to each hit the 12 sack mark this season.

 

Runner Up: Tyrann Mathieu (S)-Chiefs

 

Biggest Steal

 

Shaquil Barrett   TB • LB • 58

 

The Buccaneers got the NFL sack leader for a one-year deal worth $5 million including incentives. In all fairness, nobody could have foreseen Barrett having 19.5 sacks. The 2014 undrafted free agent produced a total of 14 sacks in his previous four seasons with the Broncos.

 

Runner Up: Ryan Tannehill (QB)-Titans

 

Best Use of a Contract Year

 

Shaquil Barrett  TB • LB • 58

 

Barrett’s bet on himself with a one-year, $4 million deal (worth up to $5 million in incentives) is going to pay big dividends. He earned NFC Defensive Player of the Month honors for September with nine sacks in the first four games. The nine quarterback takedowns also tied an NFL record for the most sacks through four games. Although Barrett couldn’t sustain his early season pace, he led the NFL with 19.5 sacks.

 

The Buccaneers have made it clear that Barrett isn’t going anywhere. Absent a long term deal, Barrett will be given a franchise or transition designation. The 2020 linebacker franchise and transition tags are expected to be approximately $15.975 million and $13.75 million respectively with a salary cap in the $200 million neighborhood. Barrett’s breakout season should put him in position to at least get a long term deal comparable to the five-year, $90 million contract ($18 million per year) with $56 million in guarantees Trey Flowers got from the Lions in free agency last March.

 

Runners Up: Matthew Judon (Edge)-Ravens; Justin Simmons (S)-Broncos; Ryan Tannehill (QB)-Titans

 

Worst Use of a Contract Year

 

Marcus Mariota    TEN • QB • 8

 

Mariota, who has been playing under a $20.922 million fifth year option, was benched for ineffectiveness six games into the season. He was completing 59.1 percent of passes, averaging 196.5 passing yards per game and had been sacked a league most 25 times when he lost his starting job. The Titans would have likely made a long term commitment to Mariota worth upwards to $30 million per year if he had lived up to the potential this season that made him 2015’s second overall pick.

 

Mariota’s days with Tennessee are clearly numbered. He will be looking to become a starting quarterback or an opportunity to complete for starting job in free agency. Those opportunities may be few and far between because the veteran quarterback supply is probably going to exceed demand this offseason. Mariota may have to settle for the best backup situation that could eventually provide him a chance to play should the starting quarterback struggle.

 

Runners Up: Nelson Agholor (WR)-Eagles; Devin Funchess (WR)-Colts

 

Best Contract Year Extension (for a team)

 

DeVante Parker    MIA • WR • 11

Parker renegotiated his $9.387 million fifth year option into a two year, $10 million deal worth up to $13 million through incentives last March. The Dolphins probably would have released him rather than have the option become fully guaranteed.

 

Parker’s long anticipated breakout season finally occurred this season. He caught 72 passes for 1,202 yards with nine touchdowns. Parker tied for fourth in the NFL in touchdown receptions and was fifth in receiving yards. His 16.7 yards per catch was ninth best in the league.

 

Parker, who turns 27 on Jan. 20, signed a three-year, $30.5 million contract extension containing $22,367,647 of guarantees with a couple of weeks left in the regular season. The extension is worth up to $34.5 million because of realistically achievable incentives. After signing the extension, Parker had his way with Patriots first team All-Pro cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who has been named NFL Defensive Player of the Year by The Professional Football Writers of America, in the regular season finale. The soon-to-be 27 year old caught eight passes for 137 yards with Gilmore primarily covering him.

 

The timing of the extension is curious for Parker. There shouldn’t have been any urgency on his part because he had a 2020 contract year. By signing during the season, Parker doesn’t get to reap benefit of any wide receiver deals done in free agency or possible contract year extensions for Chris Godwin (Buccaneers), Kenny Golladay (Lions), Cooper Kupp (Rams) or JuJu Smith-Schuster (Steelers). If this season isn’t an anomaly, he’ll likely come to regret signing an extension running through the 2023 season for good number two wide receiver money rather playing out his contract.

 

Runner Up: Marcus Peters (CB)-Ravens

 

Worst Contract Year Extension (for a team)

 

Jacoby Brissett      IND • QB • 7

The Colts renegotiated Brissett’s contract in a pre-emptive strike after quarterback Andrew Luck surprisingly retired during the preseason. Brissett was scheduled to play out his rookie contract with a $2 million base salary remaining when he signed through the 2020 season for a total of $30 million over the two years. That makes Brissett’s deal a one-year extension for $28 million, which is a fair approximation of the 2020 non-exclusive quarterback franchise tag.

 

Brissett didn’t do anything this season to convince Colts general manager Chris Ballard he is the long term answer at quarterback. In fact, Ballard recently said the jury is still on Brissett, who ranked 26th in the NFL in both touchdown passes (18) and completion percentage (60.9), and 27th in passing yards (2,942) this season. He was without wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, the top weapon in the passing game, and tight end Eric Ebron for several games because of injury.

 

The Colts would have had an additional $28 million of salary cap room to play with in the offseason to help find a veteran quarterback in free agency or via trade if Brissett had played out his rookie contract. Cap space isn’t an issue though. No NFL team should have more than the nearly $92 million in cap room the Colts are expected to have.

 

$8 million in cap space would be saved by releasing Brissett rather than keeping him on the books with a $21.5 million cap number. That’s unlikely to occur since the plan is to bring in someone to push Brissett. Whether that’s through the draft or free agency remains to be seen.

 

Runner Up: Jared Goff (QB)-Rams