AROUND THE NFL
Here are Bovada’s current odds to win the Super Bowl:
Odds To Win Super Bowl 54
Baltimore Ravens +220
Kansas City Chiefs +375
San Francisco 49ers +400
New Orleans Saints +600
Green Bay Packers +1000
New England Patriots +1000
Philadelphia Eagles +2800
Seattle Seahawks +2800
Houston Texans +4000
Minnesota Vikings +4000
Tennessee Titans +4500
Buffalo Bills +5000
Even with a bye and homefield advantage in the first round, the Packers have longer odds than the Saints.
– – –
The Hot Coach says he expects to stay with Chip and Joanna in Waco. Alex Scarborough of ESPN.com:
Baylor coach Matt Rhule, expected to be a leading candidate for head-coaching vacancies with the New York Giants and Carolina Panthers, said Tuesday he expects to be back with the Bears next season.
“I plan on that,” Rhule said. “I certainly think I will be.”
Sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter earlier Tuesday that Rhule had declined the chance to interview for the Cleveland Browns’ head-coaching vacancy.
Rhule, who signed a contract extension in September that runs through the 2027 season, told reporters he has not been in contact with any NFL teams.
The Giants were making Rhule a focus of their coaching search, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported Monday.
Rhule on Tuesday lamented the NFL speculation surrounding him, calling it a distraction for his players. He said he is happy at Baylor and believes the program could become a perennial College Football Playoff contender but acknowledged that any move he makes has to be in the best interest of his family.
“One thing people don’t realize is coaches, we pick up our families,” Rhule said. “We rip them out of their homes. We rip them out of the places that they are. Sometimes you do that until you get to a point where you find happy. You shouldn’t mess with happy.
“There’s a lot to accomplish at Baylor. And most importantly, it’s just each and every year, I want to put together a championship-caliber team. And I think we have a chance to be even better next year than we are this year. … More than money, it’s about the situation for my family.”
Baylor, who went from 1-11 two years ago to 11-2 this season, will play Georgia in the Allstate Sugar Bowl on Wednesday.
“I’m always looking three, four, five years down the line,” Rhule said. “I think we have a chance to be a perennial national contender, to be in the top 10 and be in the top five and go to College Football Playoff and play in New Year’s Six bowls.”
As the Cowboys ponder the fate of Jason Garrett, they have to be considering his ability to outscore the opposition. A tweet from Trey Wingo:
With a 31 point win Sunday.. Dallas finished +113 in their point differential.. and finished 8-8. Green Bay was +63 and finished 13-3. Saints were +117 and finished 13-3.
The +113 point differential was 6th-best in the NFL in 2019, better than five teams that won 10 or more games.
The 11-5 Seahawks were just +7. The average score of a Cowboys’ game was 27-21 Cowboys. The average score of a Seahawks game was a 25-25 tie.
The +113 point differential is the best for an 8-8 (or worse team) since the 1989 Bengals went 8-8 at +119.
NEW YORK GIANTS
You are what your record says you are. Symmetry with Pat Shurmur:
Pat Shurmur with the Browns: 9-23.
Pat Shurmur with the Giants: 9-23.
– – –
Mike McCarthy is among those known to be on the Giants radar screen to replace Pat Shurmur. Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com:
Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was one of the first names linked with the Giants after they fired head coach Pat Shurmur on Monday and it appears he isn’t the only former NFL head coach on their radar.
Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that the Giants are expected to interview former Packers head coach Mike McCarthy this weekend. McCarthy has already met with the Panthers and the Browns are reportedly interested in speaking with him as well.
The Giants handed McCarthy a pair of memorable losses while he was the head coach in Green Bay. They went into Lambeau Field and beat the Packers 23-20 in the NFC Championship Game after the 2007 season to end Brett Favre’s time with the Packers. They went on to win the Super Bowl and got another road win over a 15-1 Packers team as part of their run to another title after the 2011 season.
The Giants have requested interviews with McDaniels, Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy and Cowboys defensive passing game coordinator Kris Richard. They are also said to be interested in Baylor head coach Matt Rhule, who will be coaching in the Sugar Bowl on Wednesday.
This from Les Carpenter of the Washington Post:
A person with knowledge of the situation says Ron Rivera’s negotiations with the Redskins are moving more slowly than expected.
But then this from fellow Cal grad Mike Silver at 5:48 am EST on Tuesday:
The Ron Rivera deal is done. He has reached an agreement to become the new coach of the Redskins, according to a source familiar with negotiations. @AroundTheNFL @nflnetwork
The Buccaneers will make a decision about QB JAMEIS WINSON in a couple of weeks. Darin Gantt of ProFootballTalk.com:
The Buccaneers may end up keeping quarterback Jameis Winston after his amazing 30-30 season.
But they’re at least going to make him sweat.
Via Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times, Bucs coach Bruce Arians sent another volley in the direction of the only quarterback in league history to throw 30 touchdowns and 30 interceptions in a single season.
He was asked if the team could win with another quarterback, and Arians replied: “With another quarterback? Oh yeah. If we can win with this one, we can definitely win with another one, too.’’
That’s the second pointed reference, including the first batch yesterday, moments after Winston’s overtime pick-six cost led to a loss to the Falcons.
He said yesterday Winston’s season included “so much good, and so much outright terrible,” which is a frank and accurate assessment.
Winston has vowed to fix his mistakes, and other than all the interceptions he was great this year, with 5,109 yards and 33 touchdowns. But 30 picks is hard to gloss over, and the Bucs have a difficult decision to make on the pending free agent, and some entertaining public posturing.
There have now been 12 seasons with 5,000 passing yards:
Peyton Manning 2013 5,477 55 10 115.1
Drew Brees 2011 5,476 46 14 110.6
Tom Brady 2011 5,235 39 12 105.6
Drew Brees 2016 5,208 37 15 101.7
Drew Brees 2012 5,177 43 19 96.3
Drew Brees 2013 5,162 39 12 104.7
Ben Roethlisberger 2018 5,129 34 16 96.5
Jameis Winston 2019 5,109 33 30 84.3
Patrick Mahomes 2018 5,097 50 12 113.8
Dan Marino* 1984 5,084 48 17 108.9
Drew Brees 2008 5,069 34 17 96.2
Matthew Stafford 2011 5,038 41 16 97.2
So Winston is 8th different individual to do it. Five Hall of Fame-type QBs, Mahomes and Stafford are the others.
Winston is the only one with more than 20 INTs, much less 30.
His 33 TDs is in line with the rest, but still sits last.
His passer rating of 84.8 is at least 10 points lower than any of the others.
All of the others returned to their teams the next year, hailed as among the best in the game, even Stafford in 2011.
Will QB DEREK CARR be accompanying the rest of the Raiders to Las Vegas? A food for thought tweet from ESPN:
@NFL on ESPN
Derek Carr has 55 losses, the 2nd most ever for a QB in his first 6 seasons… behind only his brother David Carr
Frank Schwab of YahooSports.com thinks the Ravens would rank very high on the list of all-time greatest teams if they complete the run to the Super Bowl crown:
The Baltimore Ravens started this season about in the middle of the pack, as far as Super Bowl odds went. Most people didn’t even pick them to win the AFC North.
Maybe that’s why there hasn’t been much talk about the possibility of the Ravens being an all-time great team. We’re still getting used to the idea of Baltimore being this good.
There’s a lot of football left but if the Ravens can win a title, not many teams throughout NFL history will have a better résumé.
The Ravens have a chance to finish this season as a 17-2 Super Bowl champion. Here’s the list of teams that have won more than 17 games and a Super Bowl: 1984 San Francisco 49ers. 1985 Chicago Bears. That’s it.
The Ravens could be the ninth 14-2 team to win a Super Bowl in the 16-game schedule era that dates back to 1978. The list includes some of the iconic teams in NFL history (the rank of each team on the NFL’s top 100 all-time teams is in parentheses):
1978 Steelers (No. 3)
1986 Giants (No. 12)
1989 49ers (No. 5)
1991 Redskins (No. 15)
1998 Broncos (No. 14)
2003 Patriots (No. 32)
2004 Patriots (No. 16)
2016 Patriots (No. 21)
Other than that 2003 Patriots team — which, like the 2016 team, was likely underrated because this New England dynasty has so many teams to get on the list — any team that finished the race with a 17-2 record or better and a Lombardi Trophy was considered one of the 21 best teams in NFL history.
We probably haven’t heard much about the possibility of the Ravens being an all-time great team because they still need to win a title and they were a surprise. Sports fans might claim to love Cinderellas, but are also skeptical of surprise teams until the bitter end. Also, this Ravens team is harder to evaluate because it is different than anything we’ve seen.
The Ravens set an NFL record with 3,926 rushing yards, carrying an amazing 5.5-yard average. The Ravens edged the 1997 Detroit Lions for the best team per-carry average in the Super Bowl era. No other team has used their quarterback as the centerpiece of a running game like the Ravens did with Lamar Jackson, and it was unstoppable. Jackson is going to win MVP with just 3,127 passing yards, and that would have seemed like an impossibility a few years ago. The Ravens led the NFL in scoring and were second in yards, which is hard to do for a run-first team in a pass-first league. The Ravens were dead last in the NFL in passing attempts.
We’re not used to great offenses looking like this anymore. But it was a great offense. Jackson’s gifts as a runner and a passer are unique in NFL history.
And we haven’t mentioned the defense yet. Baltimore was third in points allowed and fourth in yards allowed. The Ravens were top-six in rushing yards allowed, passing yards allowed and passing touchdowns allowed. Their 77.5 passer rating allowed was second in the NFL. And to complete the balance, the Ravens had the 10th best special teams in the NFL, according to Football Outsiders’ DVOA, led by incomparable kicker Justin Tucker. There’s nothing the Ravens don’t do well. It’s a team without a weakness.
That’s reflected in most of their total stats. The Ravens plus-249 point differential is seventh-best of the Super Bowl era. They rank No. 7 all-time in Football Outsiders’ DVOA, which dates back to 1985. They finished the regular season on a 12-game winning streak, and eight of those wins came by double digits. In Week 17, the Ravens rested key starters and their backups beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 28-10.
There are more than a few numbers that point to the same conclusion: Baltimore is three wins away from “2019 Ravens” being shorthand for greatness and deserving a spot alongside the best single-season teams in NFL history. Jackson gives the team a trademark that will be easy to remember long after the details of the games have faded. Jackson’s season is historic in many ways.
Now all the Ravens have to do is win three more games. A spot in history awaits.
Freddie Kitchens isn’t the only one getting the heave-ho in Cleveland. ESPN.com:
John Dorsey is out as the Cleveland Browns general manager after he and ownership couldn’t come to an agreement on a future restructuring of the organization, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Dorsey met Tuesday with Browns owner Jimmy Haslam.
Dorsey, 59, was the Chiefs GM from 2013 to ’16. He became the Browns general manager in December 2017 as Cleveland was on its way to an 0-16 season.
He has overseen the past two drafts and free agency in 2018 and 2019.
He selected Baker Mayfield No. 1 overall in the 2018 draft and picked star running back Nick Chubb with the team’s second-round pick that year. He also made trades for starting wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, and signed troubled running back Kareem Hunt as a free agent.
The Browns improved to 7-8-1 last season but regressed to 6-10 this year, costing first-year coach Freddie Kitchens his job.
Football perspective has a stat for you:
The Steelers had over 5,000 passing yards in 2018.
The Steelers had under 3,000 passing yards in 2019.
Pittsburgh’s passing yardage total dropped by 2,027 yards — a whopping 127 yards per game — the largest single-season decline in NFL history.
The 1967 Oilers had the old mark when they fell 108 yards per game.
In recent times, the 2011 Colts, when Peyton Manning was hurt, fell 101 yards per game.
Oops, ESPN got it wrong. Doug Marrone will be back in 2020. Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com:
What a difference 72 hours makes.
Three days after ESPN reported that the Jaguars had informed coach Doug Marrone that he will be fired after Sunday’s regular-season finale against the Colts, the Jaguars have announced that Marrone will return for 2020.
The Jaguars also have announced that G.M. Dave Caldwell will return for another year.
The ESPN report was met with immediate resistance. PFT reported, citing multiple sources, that Marrone had been told no such thing. A spokesman for Jaguars owner Shad Khan promptly refuted the report as well, implying that even if a firing were to happen it wouldn’t happen until later in the week.
By Sunday, ESPN had softened the report, claiming only that Marrone would be fired after the game and not that he’d already been informed of his fate. That remained incorrect. As explained on NBC’s Football Night in America, the confusion likely arose from the fact that Marrone initially had been led to believe that he’s safe, and that he later was led to believe that his status was in question.
The Jaguars also have announced that the job previously held by Tom Coughlin — V.P. of football operations — will not be filled in 2020.
“We came out of our AFC Championship Game season of 2017 by making a four-year commitment to the collective leadership of our football operations,” Jaguars owner Shad Khan said. “Only two seasons have passed and one change from that leadership team has already been made. I want to see what we produce under a new organizational structure in 2020. Goals have been established. Accountability will be paramount.”
Although it’s clear that Marrone and Caldwell won’t enjoy an unlimited commitment, the fact that they’ve gotten another year gives them a chance to show what they can do without Coughlin’s strong tendency to micromanage. It also gives quarterback Gardner Minshew a chance to develop without a new regime that may not regard him the same way the regime that discovered and developed him does.
The Dolphins pulled off two of the three biggest upsets of the 2019 season, per Odds Shark:
Besides the Dolphins’ win over the Patriots on Sunday, here are the biggest outright upsets this season
+17.5 Dolphins over Patriots (Week 17)
+14: Falcons over Saints (Week 10)
+13.5: Lions over Packers (Week 17)
+11: Dolphins over Colts (Week 10)
However, there is a problem with the above – the Lions didn’t beat the Packers in Week 17.
– – –
Chad O’Shea is out as OC – and Chan Gailey (?!?!) could be in. Omar Kelly of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel:
The Miami Dolphins made a quick decision on who would replace Chad O’Shea as the team’s offensive coordinator, reportedly hiring a coach who has an extensive history with Ryan Fitzpatrick.
According to NFL Network, Chan Gailey, who served as head coach of the Dallas Cowboys for two seasons and the Buffalo Bills for three seasons, is coming out of retirement to join the Dolphins staff as the offensive playcaller.
Gailey, who has served as an offensive coordinator for the Pittsburgh Steelers (1996-97), Miami Dolphins (2000-01), Kansas City Chiefs (2008) and New York Jets (2015-16), has worked with Fitzpatrick in two of his NFL stops.
He was the head coach of the Bills when Fitzpatrick served as the team’s starter for three seasons, producing a 16-29 record as the starter. And Gailey was the offensive coordinator of Todd Bowles’ Jets team that Fitzpatrick started for in 2015 and 2016.
Fitzpatrick led the Jets to a 10-6 season with Gailey as his playcaller in 2015, which was arguably the quarterback’s best season in the NFL. The Jets and Fitzpatrick regressed in 2016, a season where Fitzpatrick won 3-of-11 games he started.
Gailey, who will turn 68 next week, has a reputation for building an efficient scheme that leans on the spread offense, and relies on the play-action passing game to keep defenses off-balance. Gailey was one of the first NFL head coaches to infuse the spread offense to the pro style during his tenure with the Bills, and typically runs offenses that features three and four receiver sets.
During his tenure with the Dolphins Gailey calls plays for two 11-5 teams, and produced Miami’s last playoff win.
Jay Fiedler was the team’s starting quarterback during that run and in 2000 he threw 14 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Lamar Smith rushed for 1,139 yards and scored 14 touchdowns. That offense averaged 20.1 points per game and converted 35 percent of its third down opportunities.
Here’s more on the entire offensive staff from Kelly:
The Miami Dolphins’ struggles on offense and defense in Brian Flores’ first season as head coach has cost a few assistants their jobs.
Offensive coordinator Chad O’Shea was fired after his first season as a play-caller, and offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo and safeties coach Tony Oden will not have their contracts renewed.
It is possible that O’Shea, DeGuglielmo and Oden won’t be the only members of Flores’ coaching staff leaving following Miami’s 5-11 season, which featured the offense and defense struggling for most of the year.
“I want to thank Chad, Dave and Tony for their hard work and commitment this season. This was not an easy decision but one I felt was best for the future of the Miami Dolphins,” Flores said in a statement.
“We’re evaluating everything — players, coaches, myself,” Flores said. “So everything is being evaluated, and I think that’s the right approach you need to take to make sure we’re doing things the right way, and doing what’s in the best interest of the Dolphins.”
Oden was one of the few holdovers from former coach Adam Gase’s staff. His unit struggled because of the team’s lack of passing rushing, and because of the season-ending injuries Reshad Jones and Bobby McCain suffered, which forced the Dolphins to move cornerback Eric Rowe to safety and start Adrian Colbert, a former University of Miami standout, for five games after he was signed off the Seattle Seahawks practice squad.
DeGuglielmo just ended his third stint as an offensive line coach for the Dolphins. He had previously spent time on Miami’s coaching staff as an assistant under the late Tony Sparano and Gase.
He initially joined Miami as an offensive consultant last offseason, but was promoted to the coaching staff after Flores fired Pat Flaherty at the conclusion of the first week of training camp.
DeGuglielmo’s unit struggled all season. It was handcuffed by the Week 1 trade of standout left tackle Laremy Tunsil to the Houston Texans in a package of players that delivered two first-round picks and a 2020 second-round selection to the Dolphins. However, the group began to stabilize late in the season when center Daniel Kilgore returned from his knee injury, and Julien Davenport returned from a broken leg and became more comfortable playing left tackle.
However, that unit allowed 58 sacks, which tied the Carolina Panthers for the league lead during the regular season, and paved the way for 1,156 rushing yards, which set a new franchise low. No team ran for fewer yards than the Dolphins during the regular season. Miami and the New York Jets averaged a league-low 3.3 yards per carry.
The Dolphins offense, which was led by O’Shea, who joined Miami after spending 10 seasons in New England as the Patriots receivers coach, finished 2019 averaging 310 yards per game, which ranked the offense 27th, and 19.1 points per game, which ranked Miami 25th in scoring.
The Dolphins offense struggled for most of the season but found an identity in November and December behind the play of veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who led Miami to five wins in the final nine games. During that stretch of games, the Dolphins averaged 23.6 points per game, which would be good enough to rank the Dolphins 15th if that average carried out throughout the entire season.
It’s also unclear what Jim Caldwell’s future role with the Dolphins will be in the upcoming season. Caldwell, who was Flores’ biggest hire last offseason, was named the team’s assistant head coach and quarterback coach back in January. He left the team before the season started because of medical issues, and served as a consultant to Flores but didn’t handle any day-to-day duties.
NEW YORK JETS
The strange Twitter account with over-the-top praise of Coach Adam Gase may not be the creation of Adam Gase himself as some had theorized. Instead, it could be a spoof from a media antagonist. Ian Castleberry of AwfulAnnouncing.com with the latest theory on who created @WyattV18:
Creating a burner Twitter account to pose as a head coach sounds like something beat writers might joke about among themselves. Wouldn’t it be hilarious if one of us… ?
But is it possible that one NFL beat reporter actually did go through with such a thing? New York Daily News reporter Manish Mehta is being accused of just that by New York Jets fans on Twitter, and most notably by Barstool Sports’ Kevin Clancy, aka KFC Barstool.
First, some background on this wild notion. Last week, Mehta wrote an article on the disdain Jets coach Adam Gase has shown toward fans and media who cover the team. According to the report, Gase shields himself from fan criticism by talking about how much money he makes. But Gase has also been told that his demeanor during press conferences is a bad public face for the organization and he’s apparently taken steps to improve his behavior.
“In fact, some people on One Jets Drive are convinced Gase or a family member has a burner Twitter account to monitor what is being written or said about him — and defend him if necessary. Gase didn’t respond to several requests from the News for this story.”
The burner account in question is “@WyattV18,” which touted Gase’s ability as a coach and his appeal on the NFL coaching market. The handle is named after Gase’s son and the tweets were all posted when the Jets wouldn’t have been in practice or playing games. The account has now been deleted, but plenty of Twitter users have screen-capped those tweets supporting Gase.
Mehta even asked Gase about this during a press conference on Monday, after the 2019 Jets season ended, and the coach responded as you might expect.
Adam Gase on whether he has Twitter account: “No…. Do you?”
Well, maybe you would’ve expected a chuckle, smirk, or sneer from Gase. But that hasn’t been Gase’s approach with the media since taking the Jets job. Mehta reports that the coach feels emboldened by getting another NFL head coaching job so quickly after he was fired by the Miami Dolphins and isn’t changing how he does business because of that. Had he laughed off the notion, would Gase have seemed more believable there? Did his terse answer come off as defensive in any way?
However, those questions are irrelevant and Gase’s response is understandable if he really had nothing to do with the account. And Jets fans following @WyattV18 closely noticed a slip-up that appears to indicate that Mehta himself might be behind the supposed Gase burner account. A link to a Daily News article by Mehta was posted to the account, then quickly deleted. It appeared as if someone posted to the wrong account, then tried to fix the mistake. But fans were watching and ready to screen-cap:
KFC Barstool pointed to other tweets that could implicate Mehta, such as @WyattV18 sloppily referring to “me” in a couple of tweets that accused Mehta of lobbying for a front-office job with the Jets. Those tweets were deleted and reposted with “coaches” replacing “me,” presumably demonstrating that whoever was writing the tweets briefly forgot the role he was playing.
Wow Adam Gase blocked me 😂😂 actually a smart move because I was going to go look through @wyattv18’s tweets to see why he has so much beef with Le’Veon. Did he block like, the entire world after he was outed?
The deleted tweets led Clancy to theorize that @WyattV18 could be Mehta himself because Gase probably wouldn’t have made such a mistake. The last piece of evidence Clancy pointed to was Mehta sending a DM on Twitter, mocking the idea that he was responsible for the burner account.
Is this damning evidence? Hardly. But KFC Barstool knows that and had a joking tone throughout his entire write-up. He admitted he “was completely fucking around” with the accusation to begin with. Yet maybe it’s notable that the @WyattV18 account was deleted after Clancy raised the possibility and it circulated around Twitter. Too much heat on the burner!
This is obviously all speculation based on evidence that’s circumstantial at best. But we do live in times where public figures have allegedly created burner accounts to feign fan support. New York Knicks owner James Dolan may have done so earlier this month, as Awful Announcing’s Andrew Bucholtz pointed out. The most infamous example might be Kevin Durant, who was discovered using #BurnerTwitter when posting to the wrong accounts.
The whole scenario seems silly — outrageous, even — yet Mehta has been harshly, sometimes outlandishly, critical in his tweeting and reporting before. That’s led many to dismiss him as a media personality who tries too hard to get attention. Creating @WyattV18 would certainly fall under that category, especially if it was an attempt to create credibility for his reporting. If it’s true — and we may never know — this makes the New York Jets beat and Mehta’s coverage (along with Gase’s interactions with him) more intriguing to follow.
THIS AND THAT
ODDS AND ENDS
If, beginning with Week 1 in 2010, one person had placed a $100 bet on the money line for every game on the Dolphins ($16,000 in bets), they would have $17,864.
If you had done the same thing with the Browns, you would has $11,605. The other 31 teams are somewhere in between per these tweets from Odds Shark.
Most profitable NFL moneyline teams of the decade ($100 bets):
1. Dolphins +$1864.42
2. Chiefs +$1355.58
3. Saints +$1100.23
4. Eagles +$957.94
5. Bills +$833.42
6. Patriots +$515.48
7. Seahawks +$388.09
8. Titans +$345.31
9. Steelers +$247.14
10. Ravens +$199.69
Least profitable NFL moneyline teams of the decade ($100 bets):
1. Browns -$4395.69
2. Bengals -$2525.68
3. 49ers -$1760.77
4. Chargers -$1653.81
5. Jaguars -$1552.76
6. Jets -$1471.87
7. Giants -$1301.29
8. Packers -$705.54
9. Cardinals -$674.30
10. Lions -$521.38
The teams in the middles are Cowboys, Redskins, Vikings, Falcons, Buccaneers, Panthers, Rams, Broncos, Raiders, Colts, Texans, Jets.
Some DB observations –
As near as we can figure out, about half of Miami’s +$1,864 came in the last game of the decade alone – last week’s win in New England.
The AFC East has three winning teams and one in the middle, the Jets.
The NFC North is the only division without a top 10 winning team.
In addition to the AFC East, the NFC South did not have a top 10 loser.
NFL MAKE OVERS
Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com looks at what teams are heading into makeover season:
This is the time of year when we use fun NFL buzzwords like culture and cohesion and structure. The truth is some teams simply have bad players and coaches.
Luckily for them, this offseason promises to serve the underwhelming while the teams with quality rosters wait for them to catch up. At least seven free-agent quarterbacks have extensive starting experience. At least four new head coaches will be learning on the job. And a draft with serious depth at several positions — including running back and wide receiver — can bolster teams saddled with capital.
It’s time to get better. Here’s a deeper look at which non-playoff teams need an overhaul, and the list of tweaks needed by teams that don’t need a massive rebuild.
Tear it down
2019 record: 2-14
Average age of starters in 2019: 26.7 (6th youngest)
Projected 2020 cap space: $57,144,748 (No. 12)
Big-ticket free agent: A.J. Green
Low-key important free agent: Andrew Billings
Priorities this offseason: Get the quarterback. Let Andy Dalton walk and use the No. 1 pick on the guy — either LSU’s Joe Burrow at the top or moving back a few spots to select Tua Tagovailoa or Justin Herbert. Execs agree the offensive line needs major work and the defense has looked a step slow thanks to multiple aging vets. And make efforts to re-sign Green at a reasonable cost, which seems possible coming off a lost year due to injury. Coach Zac Taylor will probably get at least another one to two years to fix this.
2019 record: 5-11
Average age of starters in 2019: 26.5 (3rd youngest)
Projected 2020 cap space: $102,565,053 (No. 1)
Big-ticket free agent: Aqib Talib
Low-key important free agent: Evan Boehm
Priorities this offseason: Use 14 draft picks to catalyze a complete rebuild. The Dolphins have traded the players they don’t want and re-signed the ones who fit their plan. What’s left is a monster effort to improve every position on the roster, starting with identifying the right quarterback in the draft but also making smart free-agents signings along the offensive and defensive lines. “Brian Flores has [Bill] Belichick-type job security,” one NFL scout said. “They believe in him and will give him time to fix the Dolphins. He’s shown a lot of promise.”
New coach taking control
New York Giants
2019 record: 4-12
Average age of starters in 2019: 26.9 (15th youngest)
Projected 2020 cap space: $63,656,986 (No. 8)
Big-ticket free agent: Eli Manning
Low-key important free agent: Markus Golden
Priorities this offseason: Get to work on a defense that needs an upgrade at virtually every position. Several NFL evaluators believe an offensive nucleus of Daniel Jones, Saquon Barkley, Darius Slayton, Golden Tate, Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram should be able to score consistently. But both lines need work, and Leonard Williams hasn’t played his way into a lucrative deal. The Giants should frantically scribble Chase Young’s name on the draft card if he is available. Getting faster in the back seven is a must too. General manager Dave Gettleman will have another year to get the new coach a workable defense.
2019 record: 5-11
Average age of starters in 2019: 27.5 (7th oldest)
Projected 2020 cap space: $28,811,992 (No. 22)
Big-ticket free agent: James Bradberry
Low-key important free agent: Mario Addison
Priorities this offseason: This job has a ton of potential, with new facilities and an owner (David Tepper) who was schooled by Art Rooney II. But uncertainty at quarterback, lack of clarity with the front office and an uneven roster could turn off some candidates. The franchise must sort out Cam Newton’s future before anything else. The new head coach and a reworked personnel department must decide whether the oft-injured Newton is the best quarterback to lead the mini-rebuild. Fortify the secondary, either by re-signing Bradberry or investing in corner help early in the draft. And bolster the line by going shopping in a deep free-agency class of pass-rushers.
2019 record: 6-10
Average age of starters in 2019: 26.7 (9th youngest)
Projected 2020 cap space: $52,022,480 (No. 16)
Big-ticket free agent: Joe Schobert
Low-key important free agent: Rashard Higgins
Priorities this offseason: Get organized! Freddie Kitchens showed his inexperience on a weekly basis with bad playcalls, bad strategy and disgruntled players. Get a smart, organized playcaller with pedigree, and improve the finer points of the job; bring a sense of order to that place. And figure out the passing attack or risk losing Baker Mayfield for good.
2019 record: 3-13
Average age of starters in 2019: 26.8 (12th youngest)
Projected 2020 cap space: $50,200,810 (No. 17)
Big-ticket free agent: Brandon Scherff
Low-key important free agent: Tress Way
Priorities this offseason: Opting for Ron Rivera’s calm approach and experience at head coach makes the Redskins look like adults in the room for a change. Anything to bring stability to the building is a good thing. Give Dwayne Haskins a chance by upgrading the skill positions and re-signing Scherff; Pro Bowl guards should be kept. Get Josh Norman off the books to save $12 million in cap space. Reinforce the youth movement on defense by drafting playmakers on that side of the ball.
2019 record: 8-8
Average age of starters in 2019: 27.2 (15th oldest)
Projected 2020 cap space: $80,445,358 (No. 5)
Big-ticket free agent: Dak Prescott
Low-key important free agent: Maliek Collins
Priorities this offseason: Settling the futures of Prescott and Amari Cooper is crucial. The team can utilize a franchise tag and a transition tag this year because the collective bargaining agreement will have expired, so don’t be surprised if the Cowboys consider one or both options on these players. But they absolutely must protect themselves from letting Prescott walk into free agency. Try to keep at least one of these three defensive free agents: Collins, Robert Quinn, Byron Jones. And the new coach must instill a sustainable culture after the Cowboys clearly lost their edge under Jason Garrett. No franchise needs a shock to the system more than the Cowboys.
Defense needs help
2019 record: 3-12-1
Average age of starters in 2019: 27.4 (12th oldest)
Projected 2020 cap space: $38,370,945 (No. 20)
Big-ticket free agent: A’Shawn Robinson
Low-key important free agent: Graham Glasgow
Priorities this offseason: Create a new identity in the secondary. The Lions opened 2019 with a spark, but they finished dead last in passing defense, curiously trading Quandre Diggs at the deadline. Detroit could pair Darius Slay — who will badly (and deservedly) want a new deal — with a free-agent corner such as Byron Jones, then draft a rangy safety. The offense is set up to score a lot of points next year.
2019 record: 5-10-1
Average age of starters in 2019: 27.8 (5th oldest)
Projected 2020 cap space: $64,975,357 (No. 7)
Big-ticket free agent: Larry Fitzgerald
Low-key important free agent: D.J. Humphries
Priorities this offseason: The defense is several players away. Chandler Jones, Budda Baker and Jordan Hicks are among the staples. Patrick Peterson needs a rebound season, however, and there isn’t enough behind him in the secondary (though corner Byron Murphy will be good in the slot). “Kyler Murray has a chance to be really good,” one NFL scout said. “They need to surround him with more talent.”
2019 record: 7-9
Average age of starters in 2019: 27.5 (6th oldest)
Projected 2020 cap space: -$6,692,554 (No. 31)
Big-ticket free agent: Vic Beasley
Low-key important free agent: Tyeler Davison
Priorities this offseason: For the love of coherent football, get the offensive line right. Matt Ryan saw a collapsing pocket too often, and the running game finished 30th in yards per game. A passing attack of Ryan throwing to Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley and Austin Hooper (the latter of whom should be extended this offseason) can make even average line play work. The team rallied around Dan Quinn by finishing 6-2, but that doesn’t mask a defense that wasn’t as good as advertised. The Falcons are probably two more good pass-rushers away.
More offense, please
New York Jets
2019 record: 7-9
Average age of starters in 2019: 27.2 (16th oldest)
Projected 2020 cap space: $56,387,712 (No. 13)
Big-ticket free agent: Robby Anderson
Low-key important free agent: Jordan Jenkins
Priorities this offseason: Finding reliable offensive line play is a start. A combination of injuries and questionable talent left the Jets’ offense grounded all season and spoiled a good run defense. Le’Veon Bell had nowhere to run, and Sam Darnold looked uncomfortable. Use the top half of the NFL draft and part of free agency to bolster the blocking. Anderson is a good player, but when he is your No. 1 wideout, it’s time to prioritize building up that position too.
2019 record: 7-9
Average age of starters in 2019: 27.4 (14th oldest)
Projected 2020 cap space: $61,588,109 (No. 11)
Big-ticket free agent: Justin Simmons
Low-key important free agent: Shelby Harris
Priorities this offseason: Build the passing game around Drew Lock, Noah Fant and Courtland Sutton. This trio has the Broncos believing that the days of offensive inertia are over. Lock still needs polish, but he has energized the team in a short span. The maligned offensive line showed signs of life late in the campaign, so let Mike Munchak do his thing with a blue-chip guard or tackle in the draft. And it’s probably time to let Chris Harris Jr. chase a championship elsewhere.
2019 record: 6-10
Average age of starters in 2019: 26.2 (Youngest)
Projected 2020 cap space: $299,090 (No. 30)
Big-ticket free agent: Yannick Ngakoue
Low-key important free agent: Marcell Dareus
Priorities this offseason: Reset locker room morale, starting with Tom Coughlin’s replacement. “There’s questionable leadership with players in that locker room,” one NFL source said. “There is some unrest there.” Since quarterback Nick Foles’ contract can’t be unloaded ($33.875 million dead cap in 2020), let him battle with Gardner Minshew II for the starting job this offseason. And quit plugging offensive line holes with stopgap talent.
Possibly a new QB, but not much else changing
Los Angeles Chargers
2019 record: 5-11
Average age of starters in 2019: 27.4 (10th oldest)
Projected 2020 cap space: $55,194,394 (No. 15)
Big-ticket free agent: Philip Rivers
Low-key important free agent: Hunter Henry
Priorities this offseason: Make the 2020 Chargers something they haven’t been in nearly two decades: a team quarterbacked by someone other than Rivers. His unrestricted free agency offers a fresh start for both parties. The draft provides alternatives; or perhaps Ryan Tannehill or Cam Newton will be available. Get a quarterback who can go vertical with Keenan Allen and the underutilized Mike Williams, while pumping Austin Ekeler as a do-it-all back. Melvin Gordon needs a new home too. And pay Henry.
2019 record: 7-9
Average age of starters in 2019: 26.8 (11th youngest)
Projected 2020 cap space: $61,923,380 (No. 10)
Big-ticket free agent: Karl Joseph
Low-key important free agent: Benson Mayowa
Priorities this offseason: Year 2 of the Jon Gruden era V2.0 featured a productive draft class in Oakland, but it relied too heavily on stopgaps with past character issues such as Richie Incognito (who just received a two-year extension) and Vontaze Burfict. Year 3 is the time to spend in free agency. Take your draft capital and cap space to stock the defense with more talent. Derek Carr is still a viable option in 2020, but since he appears to have a ceiling, peeking at the quarterback draft class might just be a change Gruden welcomes.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2019 record: 7-9
Average age of starters in 2019: 26.4 (2nd youngest)
Projected 2020 cap space: $84,297,572 (No. 3)
Big-ticket free agent: Jameis Winston
Low-key important free agent: Ndamukong Suh
Priorities this offseason: The Bucs have the best free-agent class seven wins can buy in Winston, Jason Pierre-Paul, Ndamukong Suh and Shaq Barrett. Tampa Bay has smartly maintained one of the league’s youngest rosters while carving out healthy cap space, but keeping that defensive front seven together is prudent business. Since teams are allowed to double up with the use of franchise and transition tags in 2020 via the CBA transition, maybe use them on Winston and Barrett, while going all-in on a run for the playoffs next season. But don’t give Winston long-term money; you’d be competing against yourselves in that particular market.
2019 record: 8-8
Average age of starters in 2019: 26.7 (7th youngest)
Projected 2020 cap space: $4,063,504 (No. 28)
Big-ticket free agent: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
Low-key important free agent: Kevin Pierre-Louis
Priorities this offseason: Give Mitch Trubisky one last shot — a real shot, with a much-improved supporting cast. Trubisky looked lost at times, but everything went wrong around him. How does an NFL offense in 2019 not have a tight end with more than 14 catches? The line fell apart, the Bears couldn’t run the ball and Allen Robinson was the only consistent threat beyond five yards. Even Matt Nagy’s genius sheen wore off with every inharmonious playcall. “Ryan Pace doesn’t want to give up on Mitch yet,” one NFC exec said.
Close, but some tweaks needed
Los Angeles Rams
2019 record: 9-7
Average age of starters in 2019: 27.4 (9th oldest)
Projected 2020 cap space: $20,227,875 (No. 24)
Big-ticket free agent: Dante Fowler Jr.
Low-key important free agent: Cory Littleton
Priorities this offseason: With no first-round picks for the next two years and a handful of players occupying much of the salary cap, the Rams have limited options to get better. They might be stuck with Todd Gurley’s albatross contract, which carries $25.65 million in dead money should he be cut. Jalen Ramsey will likely command a $100 million deal, because the Rams gave up everything to get him. So, the best course of action in Los Angeles is to let some free agents walk, try to strengthen a once-proud offensive line with smaller moves and draft well on Days 2 and 3. Good luck.
2019 record: 7-9
Average age of starters in 2019: 26.6 (5th youngest)
Projected 2020 cap space: $93,473,804 (No. 2)
Big-ticket free agent: Eric Ebron
Low-key important free agent: Anthony Castonzo
Priorities this offseason: Either give Jacoby Brissett another season in hopes that a contract year and a healed-up knee will return him to early-2018 form or reunite Philip Rivers with Frank Reich from their Chargers days. But closely evaluate quarterbacks in the draft class, just in case. Indy needs a top-shelf pass-rusher and a wide receiver opposite T.Y. Hilton, but it is in good shape overall. “Chris Ballard is one of the most well-respected GMs,” one AFC scout said. “The Colts are pointed in the right direction.”
2019 record: 8-8
Average age of starters in 2019: 26.9 (14th youngest)
Projected 2020 cap space: $4,744,706 (No. 27)
Big-ticket free agent: Bud Dupree
Low-key important free agent: B.J. Finney
Priorities this offseason: Ben Roethlisberger’s health is everything. By mid-March, the Steelers need to feel reasonably good that he can recover at least most of his velocity coming off elbow surgery. Otherwise, they need to refresh their free-agency list at quarterback. “I think he’ll be the last quarterback of that 2004 [draft] class of quarterbacks to survive,” one NFC exec said. But Big Ben won’t be enough; he needs more playmakers around him. Dupree has earned a massive payday in free agency, and since the Steelers are usually pressed against the cap, they probably need to draft his replacement. At age 30, Cam Heyward’s Pro Bowl season proved he is worthy of a third contract. JuJu Smith-Schuster didn’t do enough to warrant the massive post-third-year payday.