AROUND THE NFL

This had to be carefully crafted by NFL Stats & Research, but we still find this an acceptable way to tout the winning history (albeit brief) of the two SB QBs:

 

@NFLResearch

Highest Combined Career Win % By Opposing Super Bowl QBs (Min. 25 Starts, Incl. Playoffs)

 

SB LIV     SF Jimmy Garoppolo   KC Patrick Mahomes  .794

SB XLIX   NE Tom Brady              SEA Russell Wilson    .766

SB LIII     NE Tom Brady              LAR Jared Goff           .755

 

NFC NORTH

 

CHICAGO

Cam Ellis of NBCSportsChicago looks at Championship Weekend through the prism of a Bears fan:

 

You may have noticed that none of the four teams that played this weekend were the Chicago Bears. They haven’t played since the last week of December, but since this disastrous season won’t end for another two weeks, there’s been plenty of time for some especially painful parting shots. And weirdly enough, there were multiple moments through the two games on Sunday that reminded Bears’ fans about the 8-8 season that absolutely no one is trying to remember. Shall we go through them? OK!

 

4. Jimmy Garoppolo Beat The Packers To Go To The Super Bowl With 6 Completions

Remember when the Bears were going to trade for Jimmy G? Back before they traded up to take Trubisky, rumors were swirling that the Patriots’ backup was headed to Chicago. That is what it is — everyone’s connected to everyone at one point or another, and Bears have enough potential QB scenarios to give themselves a stroke over. The real kicker was beating the Packers, and Aaron Rodgers, while attempting eight pass attempts. Remember Nagy’s I’m-Not-An-Idiot comment after running the ball 7 times against New Orleans. Imagine that, but it works, and it’s in the NFC title game. The Bears couldn’t beat the Packers on either occasion this season, and that included 98 pass attempts. That sound you hear is someone (you can choose, really) banging their head against the wall inside of Halas Hall.

 

3. Raheem Mostert Rushing For 220 Yards and Four Touchdowns

Truly an insane night for Mostert. He was briefly on the Bears during the 2016 season, which happened to be Jordan Howard’s first and best. Mostert also was on three other teams (NYJ, SF, CLE) that year, and three OTHER teams (PHI, MIA, BAL) the year before, so it’s not like the Bears are the only team sitting here with yolk on their face. Still, seeing an NFL journeyman get halfway to the Bears’ total rushing touchdown number (8) in one game is the stuff that existential crises are made for.

 

2. Robbie Gould’s Kicking Well For A Super Bowl Team

Things were all well and good when Eddy Pineiro was hitting game-winners in Denver while Gould got off to one of the worst starts of his career. As the Bears’ special teams unit watched from their rented South Beach group house, Gould went 3-3, including a franchise postseason record 54-yarder, in the Niners’ 37-20 win. He started the season by being crowned champion of Chicago Football Madness, and now he gets a shot at ending it with another title, even if it’s not quite as illustrious as the midwest’s premier Bears-only online bracket challenge.

 

1. Literally Everything Pat Mahomes Did All Day

The decision to trade up for Trubisky was bad, but honestly, the endless stream of barely-distinguishable versions of the same snarky tweet may be worse. At some point Bears fans are going to have to come to terms with Pat Mahomes playing for the Chiefs, but it sure as hell won’t be this year. In their defense, everything he does makes you physically stop whatever else you’re doing and figure out what noise just came out of your mouth. Bears fans are robbing themselves of the best Mahomsian experience by insisting on slamming the Caps Lock button anytime the Chiefs play, but with each new height that Mahomes and the Chiefs reach, it becomes harder and harder to blame them.

 

Left unsaid by Ellis is that Garoppolo is a Chicago kid playing for a California team.

 

Going through the list of Illinois-born QBs at ProFootballReference.com, the DB counts Garoppolo as the third QB from Illinois to start a Super Bowl.  One was Donovan McNabb for Andy Reid and the Eagles in Super Bowl 39 against New England.  The other was Ken Anderson for the Bengals in SB16 against the 49ers.

 

Neither won.

 

 

 

DETROIT

Someone named Zachary made a guest appearance in Peter King’s column:

 

@Zachary_TF

@peter_king Trivia for your column :

 

The Detroit Lions have never drafted a Super Bowl QB.

 

The Detroit Tigers have. Patrick Mahomes in the 37th round in 2014.

 

We checked and Zachary is correct if you define a “Super Bowl QB” as someone who started in the game. 

 

The Lions did draft Pete Beathard, Bobby’s brother, in 1964 and he did play in the very first Super Bowl for the Chiefs – completing 1 of 5 passes for 17 yards while also having a 14-yard run.  We also found Rodney Peete (with Carolina) and Charlie Batch (with Pittsburgh) among the Lions QB draftees who were on Super Bowl teams (there could be more).

 

The Lions have drafted two Hall of Fame QBs – Otto Graham in 1944 and Y.A. Tittle in 1948.

 

And that eventually leads King to wonder if they should give up on QB MATTHEW STAFFORD (who still could be the Lions third Hall of Fame draftee) if TUA’s on the board:

 

I think this is my favorite analysis of Tua Tagovailoa, from one of my favorite analysts, Dan Orlovsky: “It’s going to take a courageous general manager to draft him, and it’s going to take a courageous general manager to pass on him.” When Orlovsky told me that, I immediately thought of two teams: Detroit, picking third, and Miami, picking fifth. How can Tagovailoa get past Miami—that’s my first thought.

 

 

But think if you’re Detroit. Matthew Stafford’s been the quarterback there 11 seasons. He’s never won a playoff game, and the Lions are 13 under .500 in games he starts, and he’s entering his age-32 season. Sometimes, even when something’s not your fault, it might be time to wipe the slate clean. If the Lions draft Tua and keep Stafford this year, then cut Stafford in 2021, it’s a $19-million cap hit (when the cap will likely be well over $200 million the first year of the new CBA, assuming no work stoppage), per Over The Cap. The Lions, at minimum, should do very serious homework on the Alabama QB coming back from his hip injury. I’d be concerned with two high ankle sprains and the hip surgery in the span of 13 months. That’s something you’d better be sure of if you pick him. But if you get past that, how do you pass on him, even with a decent QB situation on your team.

 

Orlovsky we would note was a quarterback drafted by the Lions who did not start a Super Bowl.  In fact, he did not win a regular season game for the Lions, although he did start seven for the Honolulu Blue and Silver.

 

NFC EAST

 

PHILADELPHIA

The Eagles are looking for an OC – and they could have their eye on recent mediocre NFL QB MIKE KAFKA from Northwestern.  He is Andy Reid’s KC QB coach at the moment.

 

NFC SOUTH

 

CAROLINA

Matt Rhule is bringing defensive coordinator Phil Snow with him from Baylor.  The Panthers announcement:

 

Matt Rhule’s trusted defensive coordinator is joining him in Carolina.

 

Phil Snow, who oversaw the defense for Rhule at both Baylor (2017-19) and Temple (2013-16), is officially in the fold with the Panthers.

 

A veteran with 37 years of collegiate coaching experience, Snow has served as defensive coordinator at seven previous schools, among them UCLA, Washington, Arizona State and Boise State. He also coached four seasons in the NFL with the Detroit Lions from 2005-08.

– – –

Prior to Baylor, Snow spent four seasons at Temple under Rhule, where his squad led the AAC in defense in both 2015 and 2016

– —

Rhule and Snow first came together at UCLA in 2001, where Snow was the defensive coordinator and Rhule served as defensive line coach. In 2001, the Bruins led the Pac-10 in total defense.

 

Originally from Winters, Calif., Snow went to Cal-State Hayward and began his collegiate coaching career at Laney College in 1979.

– – –

Peter King thinks LB LUKE KUECHLY has enough hay in the barn to qualify as a Hall of Famer when his time comes:

 

Good question about Kuechly. From John Nguyen: “As a Hall of Fame voter, do you think this more prevalent trend of players retiring earlier than normal, even in their prime ages, will begin to change the threshold for candidates to be considered for the Hall? Terrell Davis played for seven seasons and it took him 11 years to get in. I’m not saying Kuechly should be inducted, but if the average length of an elite player’s career gets shorter, do you think this impacts the argument?”

 

Let’s compare Luke Kuechly to Dick Butkus, one of the best linebackers, by any measure, in NFL history:

 

• Butkus: 119 games played, five years first-team all-pro, eight Pro Bowls, one Defensive Player of the Year award.

 

• Kuechly: 125 games played, five years first-team all-pro, seven Pro Bowls, one Defensive Player of the Year award, one Defensive Rookie of the Year award (which didn’t exist in Butkus’ rookie year).

 

So I doubt we’ll hear much issue with length of career on Kuechly. If Terrell Davis can make the Hall playing 86 games, and Tony Boselli can be a Hall finalist playing 97, Kuechly should be a fine candidate playing 125.

 

NFC WEST

 

SAN FRANCISCO

Bursting with Bay Area Pride, our man in Orinda sent us this tweet from Darin McMains (we boldfaced the victories):

 

It’s been a good decade for Bay Area sports fans.

 

2010 – World Series

2012 – World Series

2013 – Super Bowl

2014 – World Series

2015 – NBA Finals

2016 – NBA Finals

2016 – Stanley Cup

2017 – NBA Finals

2018 – NBA Finals

2019 – NBA Finals

2020 – Super Bowl

 

#BayAreaUnite

 

Peter King, doing his thing with the 49ers.  First with RB RAHEEM MOSTERT:

 

Be honest now. Did you ever think you’d get back to the Super Bowl?

 

Staley: “No. Well, once [coach] Kyle [Shanahan] got here, I did. From day one, I believed. I believed when we started, whatever, 0-9 that first year, and when we were 4-12 last year. He wins, he’s super-creative, and you don’t have to be the most talented player to be able to play for Kyle and this coaching staff. Raheem Mostert is the perfect example of that.”

 

America will get to know Mostert well in the 13 days leading up to the Super Bowl. On Sunday, Mostert’s 220-yard rushing game, with four touchdowns, led the 49ers to an easy win over Green Bay in the NFC Championship Game. In camp, Jerick McKinnon, Tevin Coleman and Matt Breida had an edge on Mostert for playing time. But injuries, and the coaching staff’s ability to judge players without regard to draft or contract status, helped Mostert . . . as did his rushing style. It’s interesting that the Kyle Shanahan 49ers, with running backs coach Bobby Turner, judge backs much the same way Mike Shanahan’s Broncos, with running backs coach coach Bobby Turner, did. Turner is a classic one-cut teacher of backs. Don’t wait, wait, wait to pick your hole; rather, at the first sign of a crease, hit it, and get as much as you can.

– – –

“He’s fast, hits the hole quick, he’s fearless, and he’s got great acceleration,” Staley said. “Those qualities are perfect for our running game.”

 

With all due respect to Staley (and King), we would think that the four qualities expressed above should be perfect for any running game.  There is a team that wants backs who are slow, slow to the hole, filled with fear or can’t accelerate?

 

This from Mostert:

 

“I got immune to being cut. Not everybody can deal with that type of stress and pain and agony that I went through.”

– – –

Some good news for RB TEVIN COLEMAN who could be suiting up for the SB despite a painful shoulder dislocation.  Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com:

 

San Francisco 49ers running back Tevin Coleman suffered a dislocated right shoulder that cost him most of Sunday’s win against the Green Bay Packers.

 

Although that injury left Coleman in plenty of pain, it doesn’t appear that it’s going to keep him out of Super Bowl LIV on Feb. 2 against the Kansas City Chiefs.

 

At least, that was the initial indication given by coach Kyle Shanahan.

 

“We have got to wait until we get the stuff back, so I don’t want to speculate too much, but usually a week to rest it and usually gets back in,” Shanahan said. “I expect him to have a chance to play. Can’t hold me to that. We’ll find out more after the imaging, but expect him to have a good chance to play.”

 

Shanahan was asked if Coleman’s injury is similar to the one that ended cornerback Emmanuel Moseley’s season last year, but that injury apparently had deeper issues than what the initial tests of Coleman’s injury showed.

 

Shanahan drew a comparison to movie detective Martin Riggs to better explain Coleman’s injury.

 

“This is more like a ‘Lethal Weapon [2]’ type thing where they had to pop it back in,” Shanahan said.

 

 

 

SEATTLE

Brady Henderson of ESPN.com sings the praised of LB K.J. WRIGHT:

 

K.J. Wright’s only goal for 2019 was to play in every game. He did, no small feat for a 30-year-old linebacker who missed most of 2018. And on top of making 16 regular-season starts plus two more in the playoffs, Wright set career-highs in tackles, interceptions and passes defended.

 

With a season like that, there wouldn’t be much question whether the Seattle Seahawks will bring back their longest-tenured player for the second and final year of his contract if not for his $10 million cap number.

 

Wright did everything he could to convince them it would be money well spent.

 

“I thought he had a terrific season,” coach Pete Carroll said. “I thought he had a terrific finish to the season. The last two months of the season were his best play of the year. We really worked hard to make sure, coming off his stuff from last year, to keep him healthy and keep him strong through the year. He got stronger as the year went on. It just became more impacting, and he made a ton of plays. Really great leadership and good toughness. It really showed up a lot. I was really fired up for him.”

 

The Seahawks let Wright hit free agency last offseason after he missed 11 games because of a knee injury that required surgery. He returned on a $14 million deal that included $6.5 million in first-year guarantees but none beyond that, meaning he had to prove himself in 2019 in order to be back in 2020. Wright responded with a season every bit as productive as the one he had in 2016, when he made his lone Pro Bowl.

 

Wright’s 132 tackles edged out his previous career best from 2016. His three interceptions matched his total from his first eight seasons combined, including playoffs. His 11 passes defended were five more than his previous best, a spike that occurred as Wright was thrown at more than any other linebacker. According to Pro Football Focus, the five touchdowns Wright allowed on his 99 targets were tied for third-most among linebackers who played at least 250 coverage snaps, while his 91.6 passer rating against was 14th best.

 

“K.J. was amazing this year,” said All-Pro Bobby Wagner, who combined with Wright to form one of the league’s top linebacker tandems of the past decade. “It was really, really amazing to see because … there was a lot of people writing him off last year, a lot of people thinking that he was done, thinking that he wasn’t going to come back to the form that he was after the injury, and he came back and had a career year all over the field, whether it’s interceptions, tackles, pass breakups, leadership, just being a guy that the young guys and myself can go to and lean on.

 

“He was an amazing person before, and just watching him battle through that, I definitely have even more respect for him. I didn’t think I could have more. So he’s an amazing person, amazing teammate, amazing friend.”

 

That Wright was so frequently targeted was partly a product of how often he was on the field. His 997 defensive snaps were second on the team to Wagner’s 1,054. That put Wright at well above the 80% playing time threshold he needed to achieve a $1.5 million escalator that raises his 2020 base salary from $3.5 million to $5 million.

 

It raises his cap number from $8.5 million to $10 million, now the fifth-highest figure on the team behind Russell Wilson ($31 million), Wagner ($14.75 million), Duane Brown ($12.5 million), Justin Britt ($11.67 million) and Tyler Lockett ($10.25 million). Wright counted $5.5 million against the 2019 cap.

 

AFC WEST

 

KANSAS CITY

QB PATRICK MAHOMES will be the 5th-youngest QB to start a Super Bowl writes Jeff Kerr of CBSSports.com:  One of the younger ones lost last year.  Of the younger ones, the only “winner” had an awful game:

 

Patrick Mahomes has been making history since he first suited up for the Kansas City Chiefs, and now he’s taking the franchise to its first Super Bowl appearance in 50 years, as Kansas City sits one win away from its first championship since the 1969 season. Mahomes — who’ll be 24 years, 138 days on Jan. 2 — will become the fifth youngest quarterback to start a Super Bowl; it’s another big accomplishment for the 2018 NFL MVP, who has played just two full seasons in the league.

 

Mahomes’ postseason run with the Chiefs has been nothing short of incredible. He’s 46 of 70 for 615 yards with eight touchdowns and zero interceptions with a 131.6 passer rating. He’s the first player in NFL history to start his postseason career with 10-plus touchdown passes before his first interception. Mahomes is the first player in NFL history with 250-plus passing yards and 50-plus rushing yards in back-to-back playoff games, and joined Joe Montana (1984) as the only players with 250-plus pass yards, 3-plus pass touchdowns, and 50-plus rush yards in multiple career playoff games.

 

In the 53 prior installments of the Super Bowl, the championship game hasn’t been kind toward young quarterbacks. Mahomes has an opportunity to rewrite the history books, but has an uphill mountain to climb in changing the narrative of the youngest quarterbacks to start a Super Bowl. Here’s a look at how the four who were younger than Mahomes fared.

 

Dan Marino (23 years, 127 days): Super Bowl XIX (1985)

Marino had what was the greatest regular season for a quarterback in NFL history when he took the Miami Dolphins to the Super Bowl in that 1984 season. Marino became the first player to throw for 5,000 passing yards that season (and the only player to do so in the 20th century) in winning the league MVP award.

 

Marino threw for seven touchdowns in two postseason games as the Dolphins blew out the Seattle Seahawks and Pittsburgh Steelers to advance to Super Bowl XIX. The San Francisco 49ers defense switched to dime personnel to contain Marino, who threw for 318 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions (66.9 rating) in a 38-16 defeat. The 49ers controlled the clock for 37 minutes and held the Dolphins to just 25 rushing yards in the loss, putting the game on Marino’s shoulders. Marino would never play in another Super Bowl.

 

Ben Roethlisberger (23 years, 340 days): Super Bowl XL (2006)

The only quarterback on this list to win his first Super Bowl start, Roethlisberger did not play well in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 21-10 win over the Seattle Seahawks. Roethlisberger was 9 for 21 for 123 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions, finishing with a 22.6 passer rating (the lowest rating for a winning quarterback in Super Bowl history).

 

Roethlisberger did have a rushing touchdown in the win (there was controversy about whether he actually scored, but the call was eventually upheld after review). He did complete a third-and-28 pass to Hines Ward (the Super Bowl XL MVP) for 37 yards, which was the longest third down conversion in Super Bowl history.

 

David Woodley (24 years, 97 days): Super Bowl XVII (1983)

Woodley had one of the worst performances in Super Bowl history, but his game didn’t start out that way. On Woodley’s third pass of the game, he fired a 76-yard strike to Jimmy Cefalo for a touchdown to give the Miami Dolphins a 7-0 lead over the Washington Redskins in the first quarter. Woodley’s final completion came with 10:23 left in the second quarter, and he finished just 4 of 14 for 97 yards with a touchdown, interception and a fumble in a 27-17 Dolphins loss.

 

Woodley had just five touchdowns and eight interceptions in the strike-shortened 1982 season, so his performance wasn’t particularly surprising. The Dolphins had just two first downs and no completions in the second half, which led to the franchise drafting Dan Marino that April.

 

Jared Goff (24 years, 112 days): Super Bowl LIII (2019)

Goff’s performance in last year’s Super Bowl is one to forget, as the Los Angeles Rams scored just three points in a 13-3 loss to the New England Patriots (after averaging over 30 points in the regular season). Goff went just 19 for 38 for 229 yards with an interception and was sacked four times as the Rams failed to advance past the Patriots’ 27-yard line in the entire game (which was where Goff threw his interception just short of the end zone).

 

The Rams punted on their first eight possessions and nine of their first 10, yet still were in a one-score game until seven minutes left in the fourth quarter. Goff threw for 4,688 yards and 32 touchdowns in the regular season, but was far from that quarterback in his Super Bowl debut.

 

 

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

Inquiring minds want to know where in Florida are QB PHILIP RIVERS and his entourage moving? 

 

We think the answer is Blue Mountain Beach  near Santa Rosa Beach

 

AFC NORTH

 

CINCINNATI

Duke Tobin of the Bengals claims the Bengals will listen to offers for the first overall pick. Or at least, they don’t yet know that they won’t listen.  Charean Williams of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Duke Tobin, the Bengals’ director of player personnel, said ESPN’s report that Cincinnati won’t trade the No. 1 pick no matter what is “news to me.”

 

“I don’t know that any decision has been made for what we’re going to do in April,” Tobin said Monday, via Geoff Hobson of the team website. “We’re early in the process. We certainly haven’t had any meetings to determine that at this point. Those will be meetings we’ll have as we go through the process.”

 

The Bengals hold the No. 1 overall choice by virtue of their 2-14 record. They are expected to target LSU quarterback Joe Burrow, but much can change over the next 94 days.

 

Tobin, the team’s de facto General Manager, called Burrow’s senior season “a wonderful year, a year very few people have had.”

 

Indeed, Burrow won the Heisman Trophy and national championship.

 

Only a week has passed since LSU beat Clemson in the national title game. That makes it understandable why Burrow chose not to play in the Senior Bowl, where the Bengals staff is coaching the South team.

 

“We’ve seen him,” Tobin said. “We’ll have a lot of opportunity to get to know him through the process. We feel very comfortable by the time we have to make a decision in the draft on him and the other players as well.

 

“We respect his decision. He’s had a incredibly long season. It lasted a lot longer than ours did. Fifteen games at a high level. I can certainly understand needing a little time to decompress after the year they had. We certainly understand what his thoughts there.”

 

 

CLEVELAND

Peter King:

 

Encapsulating everything that is wrong with the Cleveland Browns:

 

Baker Mayfield has been the franchise quarterback for the Browns for the last 21 months. Including those who will be hired this week, he has now had:

 

• Four head coaches. (Hue Jackson, Gregg Williams, Freddie Kitchens, Kevin Stefanski.)

 

• Four offensive coordinators or passing-game coordinators. (Todd Haley, Freddie Kitchens, Todd Monken and one yet to be chosen.)

 

• Three quarterback coaches. (Ken Zampese, Ryan Lindley, and one yet to be chosen.)

 

That’s 11 coaches of influence, teaching three completely different offenses, in less than two years.

 

Ryan Lindley is/was an NFL quarterbacks coach at the age of 30?

 

After a thoroughly undistinguished pro career, this is his coaching career –

 

San Diego State

Lindley was a graduate assistant at San Diego State from 2017 through October 31, 2018.

 

Cleveland Browns

Lindley was hired as the running backs coach for the Cleveland Browns on October 31, 2018, after running backs coach Freddie Kitchens was promoted to offensive coordinator. On January 14, 2019, he was named the Browns’ quarterbacks coach.

 

Not to say he won’t be worthy of such a job or more in time – but didn’t Freddie Kitchens put him on quite a fast track?

– – –

But on Kevin Stefanski’s staff, Bill Callahan will play the role of Gary Kubiak.  Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

It looks like the Browns will have a top assistant with head coaching experience working under Kevin Stefanski in his first year as the boss in Cleveland.

 

Tom Pelissero of NFL Media reports that Bill Callahan is expected to take a job on the Browns staff as the offensive line coach. Callahan has done that job for the Jets, Cowboys and Washington over the last 12 years and has also held offensive coordinator and assistant head coach titles over that span.

 

He also served as the interim head coach in Washington for the final 11 games of this season. He went 3-8 and was 15-17 over two seasons as the Raiders head coach. Callahan also was the head coach at the University of Nebraska from 2004-2007.

 

The Browns are also expected to hire Joe Woods as their defensive coordinator, although that will have to wait a couple of weeks for the 49ers defensive backs coach and defensive passing game coordinator to wrap up his current responsibilities.

 

Alper neglected to mention that Callahan was a Super Bowl head coach, with the Raiders in 2002 when they lost to Tampa Bay.

 

AFC SOUTH

 

INDIANAPOLIS

This is the first NFL story from St. Louis we have read in a while, and it’s a good one.  Ben Fredrickson wrote it in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch – and when you’re done you’ll be a fan of Colts CB PIERRE DESIR:

 

His toes could have been in that plastic tub.

 

That was not lost on Pierre Desir.

 

The realization was a big part of the reason the Indianapolis Colts defensive back was here in Jennings on Thursday, bent over at the waist in the Northview Elementary gym, washing the feet of children he had just met.

 

Desir guided warm, soapy water around ankles. Hands strong enough to rip down interceptions gently pulled up fresh socks. As he tied new laces into little knots, he shared how he once walked in their shoes.

 

Desir was a St. Louis kid who knew what it was like to wear scuffed sneakers longer than he liked.

 

He will never forget the thrill of being the first to wear a pair.

 

As a small army of volunteers that included his mother and one of his brothers worked to wash, dry and introduce little feet to new shoes, Desir recalled a fond memory.

 

His favorites.

 

“Reebok Classics,” he said. “White and black.”

 

Desir’s mother and father, Haitian immigrants who came to St. Louis to escape political unrest when Desir was 4, took their son to a Foot Locker sale when he was in sixth grade. There was a surprise. This time, he didn’t have to just window shop.

 

“I wore those things with church clothes,” Desir said. “I wore them with dress pants. A lot of people take that for granted, the impact a new pair of shoes can just do for your confidence. It was one of the moments I cherish.”

 

Desir’s story deserves a movie.

 

His family arrived in St. Louis with help from missionaries. His mother, Marie, and father, Wilfrid, worked multiple jobs while learning English. The couple built a life for what grew into a family of five, relocating from St. Louis to St. Charles along the way. All of the Desir children have graduated or are on track to.

 

Desir is a father of three who now proudly pulls out his cell phone to show photos of his kids, but he was just 16 years old when his oldest, daughter Keeli, was born. Her arrival could have sidelined both school and football.

 

That’s if Desir had much of a football career at that time.

 

Raised on soccer, he did not try American football until his freshman season at Francis Howell Central, where he became an All-State defensive back. But he failed to meet Division I academic requirements. His route to the NFL included three seasons at Division II Washburn and one life-changing season at Lindenwood that convinced NFL scouts he deserved a shot.

 

The Cleveland Browns made him Lindenwood’s first NFL draft pick when they selected him in the fourth round of 2014.

 

“He’s never forgotten where he came from,” Lindenwood football coach Jed Stugart said during his volunteer shift. “We speak about humility in our program. When you see someone go on who is doing that, it gives credibility to what we say.”

 

The Browns released Desir. The Chargers signed him, then waived him. Same for the Seahawks. The Colts picked him up off waivers in 2017, and they have not let go of him since, signing him to a three-year, $22.5 million contract in March 2019.

 

Increased security in Indy has helped Desir increase his impact in St. Louis.

 

“I play in a different state, but I care,” Desir said. “I understand there is a need. I wanted to show St. Louis that I am in your corner.”

 

Desir, who was nominated by the Colts for the league’s Walter Payton Man of the Year award, recently returned to Francis Howell Central for the dedication of a performance center he donated $185,000 to help build. Lindenwood has become the home of his annual football camp. He was back Thursday to introduce Samaritan’s Feet, a program he’s become an ambassador for after discovering it with the Colts. The nonprofit started by Nigerian immigrant Manny Ohonme has since its founding in 2003 given away more than 7 million pairs of shoes in 108 countries. Add 576 Northview students to the list, thanks to funding from Desir.

 

These shoe giveaways come with a twist. They go on clean feet.

 

Question: Have you ever washed a stranger’s feet?

 

The act is often believed to be a religious one. Not necessarily. As Samaritan’s Feet regional director Denise Blomberg reminded: “Jesus did it, but he didn’t invent it.”

 

What the washing of feet definitely represents is an act of empathy that forges an automatic connection – after a little initial awkwardness.

 

“It tickled!” said sixth-grader and aspiring artist Jaisyn Cartier, the first student to walk away in a pair of red Adidas.

 

“It was warm,” said sixth-grade football player Christian Cole. “I love the shoes.”

 

“He’s a football player?” “said sixth-grader Haleigh Harrison, who wants to be a heart surgeon. “I’m going to have to tell my dad.”

 

Northview’s principal put the day in perspective.

 

“Our district is considered 100 percent free and reduced lunch,” said Patricia Guyton. “To give them shoes? My goodness. We have some students come to school with shoes that are too big or too small. This will be something they always remember.”

 

Thanks to Peter King for pointing it out.

 

 

TENNESSEE

DC Dean Pees is retiring. Turron Davenport of ESPN.com:

 

Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator Dean Pees announced Monday that he is retiring after 47 years coaching football, including 16 in the NFL.

 

The tough decision came the day after the Titans’ 35-24 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game.

 

“It’s been 47 years,” Pees said. “I told the team today that 721 games is a lot of games to coach. It’s time. I just feel like it’s a great time for us. I want to spend time with my wife. She’s been very supportive. It’s been a great ride.”

 

Pees, 70, ended a short retirement in January 2018 to become the defensive coordinator on Mike Vrabel’s staff after Vrabel was named the Titans’ head coach. Just weeks earlier, Pees had retired as the Baltimore Ravens’ defensive coordinator after six seasons.

 

Pees spent 10 total seasons as a defensive coordinator with the Ravens and New England Patriots. The veteran coach is one of eight defensive coordinators in NFL history to coach in a Super Bowl with two different teams. He was part of a Super Bowl-winning staff for both the Ravens and Patriots.

 

Pees broke into the NFL as a linebackers coach with the Patriots in 2004, when he coached Vrabel. When Vrabel got the Titans’ head-coaching job, he said he had to have Pees as defensive coordinator.

 

“After my first call home, my call was to Dean Pees,” Vrabel said. “I asked Dean, knowing he was in the process of retiring, but I wanted him to be a part of this to help me lead our defense and our team with his knowledge to help us get this thing going.”

 

Pees said he didn’t have to interview with Vrabel.

 

Known for elaborate schemes and his ability to confuse quarterbacks, Pees has drawn praise from many players he coached. Perhaps the best endorsement came from veteran defensive back Logan Ryan, who called Pees “a literal genius.”

 

Pees felt a special connection to the Titans’ players and coaches. He was especially thankful that his return to coaching included having his son, Matt, on the staff as a defensive assistant.

 

Having returned from temporary retirement in Baltimore, Pees joked that this time he’s finished for good.

 

“I talked him out of retirement once. I didn’t have the heart to talk him out of it again,” Vrabel said.

 

Another change on the defensive staff will be coming as defensive backs coach Kerry Coombs is leaving the Titans to be the defensive coordinator at Ohio State.  He had coached at Ohio State before following Mike Vrabel to Tennessee.  The 58-year-old succeeds Jeff Hafley as Buckeyes DC as Hafley is now the head coach at Boston College.

 

AFC EAST

 

MIAMI

Jim Caldwell is available as he leaves the Dolphins after a health-shortened stint.  Cameron Wolfe of ESPN.com brings us up to date:

 

Veteran coach Jim Caldwell won’t return to the Miami Dolphins’ staff in 2020.

 

Caldwell, who was hired by Brian Flores in February as assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach, never coached a game for the Dolphins. He took an indefinite leave in July due to an undisclosed health issue and did not return to his on-field role.

 

Caldwell is ready to resume coaching again. The two-time former head coach, who led the Colts to the Super Bowl in 2009, has been mentioned as a candidate for multiple vacant roles this offseason including the Philadelphia Eagles’ offensive coordinator gig.

 

The Dolphins hired West Virginia senior offensive analyst Robby Brown to be the quarterbacks coach. Miami’s assistant quarterbacks coach Jerry Schuplinski was hired as the New York Giants quarterback coach earlier this month.

 

Caldwell is a highly respected coach throughout the NFL with a history of developing quarterbacks and running strong offenses. He was on Fritz Pollard Alliance’s recommendation list for teams looking to hire a new head coach. The Alliance is an independent organization that works with the NFL to champion diversity.

 

Flores has undergone a dramatic overhaul of his coaching staff as he leads the Dolphins into a very important 2020 offseason.

 

The Dolphins are in the market for a franchise quarterback and could find that player high in the 2020 draft. They have the No. 5, No. 18 and No. 26 selections in the first round.

 

The Dolphins also officially hired Chan Gailey as offensive coordinator, replacing Chad O’Shea, who was fired after one season. Josh Boyer was promoted to defensive coordinator after Patrick Graham left that role to take the same gig with the Giants earlier this month.

 

 

NEW ENGLAND

Whether or not he returns to the arms of Robert Kraft, QB TOM BRADY plans on dancing every dance at the ball.  Mike Reiss of ESPN.com:

 

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his 20-year career on March 18, was asked Sunday whether he views it as a realistic possibility that he could play for another team.

 

“I’m open-minded about the process,” Brady said in his weekly interview with Westwood One radio, when also asked whether he’d be willing to play elsewhere. “At the same time, I love playing football and I want to continue to play and do a great job. I’m looking forward to what’s ahead. Whatever the future may bring, I’ll embrace it with open arms.”

 

On Saturday night, Brady was in Las Vegas for UFC 246, where he crossed paths with Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis. Photos of them together generated predictable buzz on social media, highlighting how Brady’s future is not just arguably the biggest story of the upcoming NFL offseason, but in all of sports.

 

It is uncommon for a player of Brady’s stature to reach free agency. As part of the revised contract he agreed to with the Patriots in August, the team can’t assign him the franchise tag, which gives the 42-year-old Brady leverage to dictate his plans.

 

If Brady returns to the Patriots for a 21st season in 2020, he would tie former Detroit Lions kicker Jason Hanson for the longest tenure with a team in NFL history, according to ESPN’s Stats & Information.

 

Brady said in his Westwood One interview that he’s spent the past two weeks “decompressing from the season” and spending time with his family.

 

We don’t know whether or not to believe it, but we are hearing that the Buccaneers are higher than you might think on Brady’s list of teams he would be interested in talking with.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

HUE

Hue Jackson says his record speaks for itself, except for his time in Cleveland. Darin Gantt of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Hue Jackson would like to get back into coaching, but hasn’t been overwhelmed with offers since being fired by the Browns.

 

It appears going 3-36-1 is the kind of thing some people hold against you.

 

But while coaching in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl last week, Jackson justified his own resume.

 

“My coaching record over 32 years speaks for itself,” Jackson said, via Joe Reedy of the Associated Press. “I don’t think 2½ years at Cleveland should tarnish my whole career but at the same time people have to know that you are out there and are willing and able to work.”

 

Jackson did have an 8-8 season in his one year as head coach with the Raiders in 2011, but otherwise built a solid resume as an offensive resume.

 

He said he watched games last year and realized he wanted to be involved again, but he avoided watching Browns games.

 

“That’s where the itch comes from. You miss the smell of the grass, the players, the camaraderie and all the process you went through,” he said. “When you look back there are a ton of things I would do different. For one I would have never gave up play-calling.”

 

Jackson isn’t the only coach who would like to strike Cleveland from the record book, and while it clearly wasn’t all his fault, he also failed to win in a more spectacular way than others.

 

 

2020 DRAFT

Peter King has a Senior Bowl preview:

 

Tuesday: Mobile, Ala. Senior Bowl practices begin, and interest is intense. “Best wide receiver class in my 22 years of scouting,” Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy told me Sunday . . . Best player in town this week could be defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw of South Carolina, a likely top-15 pick . . . Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert gets a big advantage in the Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday practice sessions, playing for the South team (with offensive-minded Bengals coach Zac Taylor) while top prospects Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa sit out for rest and health reasons . . . Most compelling prospect this week could be Utah State quarterback Jordan Love, who begins a bit of a redemption tour this week

 

More from Chris Trepasso of CBSSports.com:

 

The Senior Bowl is the unofficial start to NFL Draft season when most of America is introduced to some of the top talent in the incoming rookie class two months before they’re selected.

 

Believe it or not, because of the rigors of the regular season and, for some, the playoffs, it’s also the event in which many head coaches get their first impressions of draft prospects and that could mean something significant. For example, New York Giants general manager Dave Gettleman talked about falling in “full bloom love” with quarterback prospect Daniel Jones at last year’s Senior Bowl. Weeks later, Gettleman shocked the world by selecting Jones at No. 6 overall in the 2019 NFL Draft.

 

The week leading up to the exhibition game on Saturday, Jan. 25 is just as important — if not more important — than the game itself, and, below, I’ve answered the questions you might be asking yourself right now.

 

Who are the top prospects participating?

 

Javon Kinlaw, DL, South Carolina

Kinlaw is primed to go in the first round and probably the top half of it. While he doesn’t have gaudy, traditional statistics to point to — just 10 sacks and 16 tackles for loss over his last two season at South Carolina — his film is overflowing with backfield disruption against the run and pass. He has high-level burst off the snap and long arms that routinely stun offensive linemen due to their power. It would not surprise me whatsoever if the week of practices concludes in Mobile and all the talk is about how Kinlaw was the most impactful defensive player.

 

Terrell Lewis, EDGE, Alabama

Lewis has vines for arms and is a fine athlete at 6-foot-5 and 250-ish pounds. His frame actually could add around 10 more pounds to it without him losing any suddenness, a scary thought for offensive linemen. Lewis dealt with injuries early in his career at Alabama but was mostly healthy in 2019 and had six sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss in 10 games. Because he knows how to deploy his arms to fend off blockers with an array of pass-rushing moves, Lewis should hear his name called inside Round 1.

 

Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon

Herbert checks all the boxes from a physical perspective of playing the quarterback spot. And he was a full-time starter at Oregon for three seasons. His tape does feature some odd misses and stretches of ineffective play but is also loaded with impeccable, high-degree-of-difficulty strikes at the intermediate level and down the field. He’s patient in the pocket too. Despite the few dud games in his career that have been damaging to his stock, his solid-to-phenomenal games should lead to Herbert going in the top half of the first round.

 

Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU

While not a towering outside cornerback, Fulton can play on the perimeter, and his stickiness in coverage is at the same level as consensus top cornerback Jeff Okudah from Ohio State. The LSU star has the feet, hips, and explosion to stay in phase (keeping up in coverage) with any type of receiver on a route with any amount of intricacy. And as we saw in 2019 when he tallied 13 pass breakups, he’s aware when the ball is arriving and knows what to do. It’ll be surprising if Fulton isn’t the second cornerback off the board.

 

Ashtyn Davis, S, California

Davis is a veteran striker on the back end for Cal, who flashes high-end deep middle range — a rare trait that gets safeties picked high — and a linebacker’s demeanor during his run-stopping efforts. Davis had seven interceptions and nine pass breakups over the past three seasons for Cal. At 6-1 and a chiseled 200 pounds with effortless, dynamic athleticism, Davis is bound to be the second safety off the board after Grant Delpit from LSU.

 

What’s at stake for the QBs?

There are two groups of quarterbacks at this year’s Senior Bowl. I’ll put Justin Herbert and Jordan Love together, the passers with high-end traits, streaks of inconsistency, but a strong likelihood to land in the first round (Herbert more so than Love).

 

Then, there are the Day 2 or Day 3 prospects — Jalen Hurts from Oklahoma, Anthony Gordon from Washington State, Colorado’s Steven Montez, and Michigan’s Shea Patterson — who won’t enter the week with a lot of expectations which means there’s a gigantic opportunity in front of them to gain positive traction during the pre-draft process.

 

Which prospects have the most to gain?

Herbert could undoubtedly do wonders for his stock with a steady week of practice and a game without blatant misses or moments of uncertainty inside the pocket. Beyond him, quarterback Jalen Hurts has the most to gain at the position. The former Alabama and most recently Oklahoma star has a running back frame and improved as a passer with Lincoln Riley this season but is still not at a level that screams NFL starter because he’s not quick through his reads and likes to prematurely run from inside the pocket.

 

At running back, Ke’Shawn Vaughn, a thunderous but nimble back from Vanderbilt, could bolster his stock after a down senior year that followed an electric junior campaign in 2018 when he averaged 7.9 yards per rush with 12 touchdowns.

 

As usual, the small-school guys have much to gain. Which leads me to my next question and answer.

 

Who are some small-school sleepers to monitor?

 

Antonio Gandy-Golden, WR, Liberty

Liberty recently moved up to the FBS level, but the strongest competition it faced in 2019 was a date with the Virginia Cavaliers, and the Flames lost 55-27. However, in that game, Gandy-Golden went for six grabs, 60 yards, and a score. At 6-4 and 220 pounds with subtle smoothness to create separation, physicality to beat press at the line, and a star rebounder’s mentality when challenged at the catch point, Gandy-Golden is a serious prospect. This is a perfect event for him because he’ll finally get the opportunity to face top competition. He caught 20 touchdowns over the past two seasons at Liberty with 70-plus catches in each campaign.

 

Akeem Davis-Gaither, LB, Appalachian State

We are talking about a modern-day linebacker here. Davis-Gaither is listed at 6-2 and 215 pounds and is absolutely electric in space. He changes directions like a wide receiver and strikes like a much bigger outside linebacker. He had 101 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss, five sacks, and a stellar eight pass breakups this past season. ADG was blessed with long arms, has honed outstanding play-recognition skills, and has high-end range because of his athleticism and length. He is what today’s version of the NFL is looking for at linebacker.

 

Alex Taylor, OT, South Carolina State

Listed at a ridiculous 6-9 and 310 pounds, Taylor might be the tallest player in Senior Bowl history. Despite height that typically creates stiff movements, Taylor glides out of his stance as a pass protector and, amazingly, possesses the lateral agility needed to stymie inside rushes and ride defensive linemen out of the play. He certainly could add weight to get stronger, and he’s not always in the correct spot on combo blocks for the run game, but his size and athleticism combination cannot be coached. Taylor also plays with good knee bend, so he’s not routinely out-leveraged by shorter defenders, and every defender he faces is shorter than him.

 

Kyle Dugger, S, Lenoir-Rhyne

Yeah, Dugger is from Lenoir-Rhyne, a Division II school in Hickory, North Carolina. If you are good, the NFL will find you. And Dugger is. At 6-2 and 220 pounds, he roamed the middle of the field in college and, his top gear is undoubtedly NFL caliber. Because he’s so big for the traditional safety spot, and his click-and-close is seemingly elite, don’t be surprised if he ultimately plays linebacker on Sundays. 

 

Which prospects can play their way into the first round?

 

Josh Jones, OT, Houston

The long-time left tackle for Houston has an NFL body with plus athleticism and a controlled, balanced style of play. His footwork improved in 2019 — kick slide was kind of a mess in 2018 — and he simply dominated everything in front of him. The 6-7, 310-pound blindside protector has the athletic profile and experience teams adore, and with a strong week playing “up” in competition, we very well could leave Mobile talking about Jones as another first-round tackle in this class.

 

Josh Uche, EDGE, Michigan

Uche is a speed-to-power demon with above-average bend and versatility to play off the ball in coverage. His multi-faceted game lends itself an NFL game that has become more positionless. If Uche wins with his acceleration off the snap, bend around the edge, and awesome speed-to-power conversion like he showcased at Michigan, the first round will not be out of the question for him.

 

Zack Baun, LB/EDGE, Wisconsin

Another edge rusher with linebacker traits, Baun is a twitchier, bendier version of Uche with less size and not as much pure power. Oftentimes, he lined up off the football and looked like a classic outside linebacker with his range and tackling ability but was at his best in 2019 flying around the corner and using his arms to keep longer blockers off his frame. He finished with 12.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss as a senior.

 

Brandon Aiyuk, WR, Arizona State

Aiyuk is a speedster with good size at 6-1 and over 200 pounds. He’s more impressive running in a straight line than he is changing directions, but his instant acceleration and top gear will threaten NFL cornerbacks right away in 2020. He averaged over 18 yards per grab with eight scores in 2019 at Arizona State and was magnificent after the catch thanks to his athletic traits. A big week in one-on-one drills could catapult Aiyuk into Round 1.