AROUND THE NFL

A source tells Peter King that the highest levels of the NFL are concerned with the officiating we are getting in 2018:

 

Some of the calls in Pittsburgh-New Orleans were just ghost calls. The early Joe Haden pass interference, a big call in a one-score game, was a phantom call, as so many are. So I was sitting here in a San Francisco hotel writing early this morning when a prominent NFL club official sent me a text. This source is unemotional, even-tempered and a total, absolute league guy. In part, he wrote:

 

“Something has to give on the officiating in our league. The random nature of things week to week, the volume of penalties that breaks up the game. I hear Joe Buck and Troy [Aikman] on FOX and Cris [Collinsworth] and Al [Michaels] on Sunday night confused. Everyone is at a loss. There is no consistency. The game is choppy. It’s obvious that something is broke. Teams, coaches, GMs are at a loss for what will be emphasized week to week. At the same time, officials feel like they have been betrayed by the league and no one has their back. I’ve been around this league for over 25 years. This is as bad as I have seen it.”

 

There is no question, with four good referees being replaced this year (there are 17 refs in all), that the league doesn’t have the same quality of officiating overall. The NFL will have to decide after the season, with more refs on the verge of retirement, how to handle the turnover so it doesn’t affect the overall quality. As it is, the league seems afraid to give the newbies and more inexperienced guys the big games. And there’s a total inequity in some calls from crew to crew. There’s an outcry about officiating every year. I don’t know if it’s worse than ever, but it seems like more and more games hinge on precarious calls.

 

The DB thinks that the offsides and fall start penalties fall on the teams and the coaches, not the officiating department.  Offensive holding and roughing the passer which would be the responsibility of the referee and head linesman don’t seem out of whack.  So it is all of the penalties called on punts and the arbitrary nature of things that go on downfield that seem to be the problem.

– – –

Charean Williams of ProFootballTalk.com gives us the update on postseason turnover which is considerable:

 

Yes, the Patriots have clinched a 10th consecutive division title, but they are an anomaly.

 

For 29 consecutive seasons (1990-2018), the NFL has turned over at least 25 percent of the playoff field from one year to the next.

 

Five teams already qualified for the playoffs after missing the postseason in 2017 — the Bears, Cowboys, Texans, Chargers and Seahawks. The Ravens and Colts still could qualify for the postseason after staying home during the playoffs last season.

 

Since the 12-team playoff format was adopted in 1990, at least four teams have qualified for the playoffs in every season that were not in the postseason the previous year.

 

Chicago has clinched a division title after a last place finish a year ago. In 15 of the past 16 seasons, at least one team has gone from last or tied for last place to a division championship.

 

If Houston clinches the AFC South on Sunday, it would mark the second consecutive season that two teams go from worst to first (Jacksonville and Philadelphia in 2017). That is something that has never happened in any other major U.S. sport.

 

The teams that are out from last year are Jacksonville, Atlanta, Carolina, Buffalo and one of the two NFC Championship Game finalists Minnesota or Philadelphia.  Pittsburgh and Tennessee are also on the brink, with the Rams, New Orleans, New England, Kansas City and one of Minnesota or Philadelphia the repeaters.

 

NFC NORTH

 

DETROIT

Mike Sando of ESPN.com’s biggest asset is getting NFL GMs to dish inside stuff anonymously.  His people think the Lions will move on from MATTHEW STAFFORD in the offseason:

 

1. The Detroit Lions will trade Matthew Stafford

Stafford signed his current contract in August 2017, before Matt Patricia took over as head coach. The thinking behind this prediction is Patricia could want to set his own course with his own quarterback. Trading Stafford would give the Lions needed draft capital to rebuild their roster.

 

“Patricia and [general manager Bob] Quinn both spent a long time in the Patriots’ organization, where they watched Tom Brady very closely,” an insider said. “They are going to want somebody who prepares and manages the game more like Tom.”

 

Right, but doesn’t nearly every team want a quarterback like that? Stafford enjoyed some of his best seasons recently, but the team still has not won a playoff game since 1991, and Stafford isn’t having a particularly strong 2018. He ranks 22nd in Total QBR and 29th in yards per attempt.

 

The Lions, currently projected to draft in the fifth overall slot, could conceivably get better value from their quarterback investment.

 

“Patricia is going to say, ‘This is not the guy that is going to get me fired,'” another insider said.

 

Stafford, whose $27 million annual average ranks fifth among quarterbacks, entered the NFL under the previous collective bargaining agreement, saddling the Lions with an elevated contract floor when they entered into extensions. The team ranks 15th in Total QBR and 17th in ESPN’s offensive efficiency metric during the Stafford era. The Lions have been worse on defense (26th) and special teams (25th) over that span. They also have not developed a consistent ground game, arguably putting too much on Stafford’s shoulders.

 

“I think the Lions would be absolutely foolish to trade Stafford,” a dissenter to this prediction said. “They have never given him enough help. Even when he had good receiving weapons, there was no run game. This year, they traded Golden Tate despite still being in the playoff race.”

 

 

GREEN BAY

QB AARON RODGERS seems to cast a vote for Joe Philbin to remain as Packers coach.  Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers won’t be involved in the team’s search for a new coach. If Rodgers were, he’d apparently want the interim coach to get the job.

 

“We want to play for Joe [Philbin] and give him the best opportunity possible,” Rodgers said after Sunday’s overtime win against the Jets, via Jason Wilde of the Wisconsin State Journal. While that’s not quite a “hire this man” endorsement from Rodgers, it’s basically the same message.

 

Rodgers says the players want to play for (Philbin), and that they want to “give him the best opportunity possible” to get the permanent job. So Rodgers wants the powers-that-be to come to the same conclusion that he, and apparently other teammates, already have reached. Rodgers wants Philbin.

 

It’s no surprise. Football players are creatures of habit. Rodgers knows Philbin. Rodgers can work with Philbin. A stranger to the organization may do things differently. He may be a guy Rodgers can’t work with. A guy Rodgers ultimately may not like.

 

So he likes Philbin, and apparently that’s good enough for Rodgers. The question becomes whether it’s good enough for the people who will be making the decision, especially in light of Philbin’s past experience as a head coach, winning 24 of 52 games in three-plus seasons with the Dolphins. Now that Rodgers has made his preference clear, the question becomes whether the Packers would hire Philbin to placate Rodgers — or hire someone else to spite him.

 

NFC EAST

 

PHILADELPHIA

TE ZACH ERTZ has the NFL record for catches in a season by a tight end.  Peter King:

 

When Ertz was growing up, east of Oakland, he watched on TV the NFL guy he wanted to be like, Jason Witten of the Cowboys. And Sunday, he officially entered Witten’s league. Witten’s record for catches for a tight end, 110, got broken in the second half of the Eagles’ win over Houston; Ertz finished with 12 catches for 110 yards, and now stands at 113 with a game left to play. The man who scored the decisive touchdown in the Eagles’ Super Bowl win over New England was pretty excited when we spoke post-game. “I always set my goals as one day to be in same breath as Jason and Gronk and [Antonio] Gates and Tony [Gonzalez],” he said, “but I had so much help getting here. It took a village for me to become the player I am. Jason is the guy I emulate. He is the one I learned from watching his game growing up in California. I’d watch how he would attack people. Jason Witten has a part in this record, for sure, because of everything I learned from him.”

 

The record for receiving yards in a season is 1,327 by Rob Gronkowski on 90 catches in 2011.  Ertz, at 1,148 stands 18th on the tight ends list.  So he needs 180 Sunday in Washington to pass Gronkowski.  If he gets 100 for 1,248, he will be 6th on the list.

 

 

WASHINGTON

When the Redskins cut S D.J. SWEARINGER in a fit of pique, there was thought he would end up bolstering a porous playoff team like the Chiefs.  Instead, the lowly Cardinals jumped on him.

 

The Arizona Cardinals claimed safety D.J. Swearinger on Tuesday after criticism of the Washington Redskins’ defensive coordinator led to his release Monday.

 

Swearinger broke the news with an Instagram post on Tuesday, writing, “I gave that organization my heart and soul and they spit in my face for giving my opinion only to better the team!!”

 

He was waived by Washington after criticizing defensive coordinator Greg Manusky in the aftermath of Saturday’s loss to the Titans.

 

“(Redskins coach Jay Gruden) just said it was the third time I’ve been in his office and we’re going to release you,” Swearinger said. “And that was that.

 

“I don’t have words for this. … I gave it my all and put my heart into it every single week to the best I could. I guess it says a lot about the organization.”

 

Gruden told the Washington Post, “We just thought it was best for both parties.”

 

Swearinger played 20 games for the Cardinals in 2015-16. He signed with Washington before the 2017 season.

 

Swearinger took issue with the Redskins’ man-to-man coverages that the team used when Titans backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert entered the game to replace Marcus Mariota, who left with a stinger and did not return.

 

“We should have blowed them out,” Swearinger said, according to ESPN. “If I’m the D-coordinator, I’m calling zone every time on third down because you got a backup quarterback. Make him beat us.

 

“We’re playing a backup quarterback. Why would you put us in man-to-man? We are our best on defense when we look at the quarterback.”

 

To make room for Swearinger, the Cardinals placed starting left tackle Korey Cunningham (foot) on injured reserve and released safety Fish Smithson from the practice squad.

 

This from Mike Florio:

 

Some thought that safety D.J. Swearinger‘s propensity to complain about problems in Washington would make him unattractive to other teams. And nearly 10 percent of the league tried to claim his contract.

 

According to Field Yates of ESPN.com, the Raiders and Packers submitted waivers claims for Swearinger. The Cardinals, thanks to their 3-12 record, had priority.

 

At first, Washington’s decision to dump Swearinger after his latest round of D.C. grievances looked to be a ticket to a team destined to play in January. Instead, he’s stuck with the worst team in the league. And if hadn’t been Arizona it wouldn’t have been much better.

 

NFC SOUTH

 

NEW ORLEANS

The pinball stats of QB PATRICK MAHOMES are making him the MVP choice in some quarters, which leads to this salient Tweet from someone who seems to be Jeff in Kenner:

 

Brees piles up monster all-time stats, has no defense, “But Rodgers, Brady, etc, are winning and leading teams to playoffs..”

Brees leads team to NFL best 13-2,#1 seed, best team in NFL, “But Mahomes has all-time stats and has to carry team with no defense.”

 

 

TAMPA BAY

Jenna Laine of ESPN.com bemoans how the great season of WR MIKE EVANS has gotten lost.

 

With his 90 receiving yards against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 16, Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans continues to rewrite the franchise record books.

 

Evans has been one of the biggest glimmers of hope in an otherwise bleak 2018 season.

 

One mark that remains is the Bucs’ single-season record of 1,422 yards, set by Mark Carrier 29 years ago. Evans, who has 1,418 yards, is 5 yards shy of breaking that record and will likely do so in Sunday’s season finale against Atlanta Falcons (1 p.m. ET, Fox).

 

“I’m more upset about the loss, obviously,” Evans said after the Bucs’ 27-20 defeat to the Cowboys.

 

Evans, 25, has already snagged the franchise records in receiving yards, receiving touchdowns (38) and the most 100-yard games in Bucs history (20). His 5,997 receiving yards are currently sixth-most by an NFL player through his first five seasons since the 1970 NFL/AFL merger.

 

He is only the third player in league history to record 1,000 receiving yards in each of his first five seasons, joining Randy Moss (1998-02) and A.J. Green (2011-15).

 

“That’s Mike, man. He’s one of the best players to play the game,” quarterback Jameis Winston said. “He’s going to keep getting better. I’m just happy I get to throw that guy the ball.”

 

The Bucs are 5-10, marking the fourth time in Evans’ five seasons that the team has suffered double-digit losses. In fact, Tampa Bay has had double-digit losing seasons seven out of the past 10.

 

If the franchise don’t turn things around, Evans’ efforts will all have been a waste beyond personal measures. His ability to be “Mr. Dependable” for everyone from Winston to Ryan Fitzpatrick, Josh McCown and Mike Glennon will be quickly forgotten without more to show for it.

 

NFC WEST

 

ARIZONA

After living in Green Bay for more than a decade, Mike McCarthy may want to make his home base in the Valley of the Sun.  He sends a signal to the Cardinals through Peter King as recounted by Jared Dubin of CBSSports.com:

 

Former Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy may not be out of a job for all that long. Fired by Green Bay earlier this season, McCarthy is already emerging as a hot name on the NFL coaching market, before the carousel even gets started. CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora has reported that McCarthy could hold out for the right opportunity, but he’s also been connected to the Browns. And now, NBC’s Peter King is reporting that McCarthy could be interested in the Cardinals.

 

The Mike McCarthy stuff out there is interesting. I hear he likes Arizona and would be interested in exploring the job. I heard the Cardinals have interest as well, so we’ll see, assuming Steve Wilks is one-and-done there.

 

King’s report is interesting in the wake of an Adam Schefter report earlier this week that stated several Packers assistants thought that McCarthy was going to land in Arizona last offseason. Of course, the Cardinals ended up hiring former Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks instead.

 

The reviews of Wilks this season have been universally poor, though it’s worth noting that that has not been the case from the Cardinals’ players. Larry Fitzgerald stated recently that the players would prefer for Wilks to return as coach.

 

But given the Cardinals’ investment in Josh Rosen, that might not be wise. They clearly need to get the most they possibly can out of the No. 10 overall pick, and they may not be able to do so with Wilks at the helm. Bringing in an offensive-minded head coach to shape Rosen’s development makes sense; but it would be rather interesting if the coach the Cardinals decided on was McCarthy, considering that Rosen was compared in the pre-draft process to Aaron Rodgers, and it’s been a widely-held opinion over the past few years that McCarthy’s simplistic offense was holding Rodgers back.

 

More from King on the coaching cycle in BALTIMORE.

 

 

SEATTLE

Pete Carroll is going to continue to be the NFL’s oldest coach for awhile.  Brady Henderson of ESPN.com:

 

The Seattle Seahawks’ Christmas present to Pete Carroll: a new contract that runs through the 2021 season.

 

The Seahawks signed the head coach to an extension a day after they secured a wild-card berth with their 38-31 win over the Kansas City Chiefs, which will make it seven playoff appearances in nine seasons under Carroll and general manager John Schneider.

 

Russell Wilson won’t win MVP, but to get in the playoffs, he outdueled the front-runner

Holding a tight lead over the Chiefs, the Seahawks put the ball in Wilson’s hands. Needing to match Patrick Mahomes, the Seahawks’ QB answered.

 

“This will continue the championship culture that we have created in Seattle,” Jody Allen, the team’s chair and trustee of the Paul G. Allen Trust, said in a statement.

 

At 67, Carroll is the NFL’s oldest head coach. The extension will take him through his 70th birthday.

 

Carroll told a small group of reporters after the team’s announcement that the extension had been in the works since the organization approached him last week. It was wrapped up Monday afternoon following his morning news conference.

 

His previous extension ran through the 2019 season.

 

“The organization has been exceedingly good to me throughout the whole time we’ve been here, and they’ve continued to take that position, and I couldn’t be happier,” Carroll said.

 

It’s Carroll’s fourth contract with the Seahawks since he came to Seattle in 2010 after nine years at USC. Under Carroll, the Seahawks have gone 88-54-1 in the regular season and 9-5 in the playoffs, which includes the franchise’s first Super Bowl championship after the 2013 season and another Super Bowl appearance the following year.

 

Carroll passed Mike Holmgren for the most wins in franchise history earlier this season. Holmgren is the franchise’s longest-tenured head coach at 10 seasons, but Carroll’s extension will carry him past that.

 

If Paul Allen’s estate is going to sell the Seahawks, the head coach will have a long-term contract to deal with.

 

AFC NORTH

 

BALTIMORE

All the talk about John Harbaugh being gone after this year, has the Ravens coach a bit reluctant to just sign an extension.  There might be greener grass out there in a year without many good coaching candidates.  Or so hears Peter King who also lays out the rest of the state of play in the coaching market:

 

A few things I know about the state of coaching changes:

 

• There’s a real chance that Harbaugh, 56, will not sign an extension, but rather coach his final season and take his chance on the market in 2020—or sign back with the Ravens. It could be a lot like the Joe Flacco situation in 2012, when he wouldn’t sign long-term with Baltimore and gambled that he’d win big in the last year of his contract. He did. The Ravens won the Super Bowl, and Flacco earned a $20-million-a-year contract. Why should Harbaugh sign now? Since that Super Bowl win, the Ravens are 50-47, with only one playoff win. He’s won a Super Bowl, but since then, the Ravens haven’t won anything. I believe he wants to stay in Baltimore but wouldn’t be heartbroken if he had to move on. He’s probably worth more elsewhere, so I think it’s legitimately possible he coaches out his contract in Baltimore in 2019. And I don’t think it would bother him very much to do so.

 

• Eight NFL coaches (Bill Belichick, Jon Gruden, Pete Carroll, Sean Payton, Andy Reid, Mike McCarthy, Mike Tomlin and John Harbaugh) are reportedly in the $8-million-and-higher bracket in 2019. (McCarthy will either make that money by sitting out in 2019 or coaching somewhere else.) Because so many teams pay coaches so much money, I won’t be surprised to see someone throw ridiculous money ($12 million a year? $15 million a year?) at Nick Saban, who will likely say no. Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh and Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley will get phone calls, and we’ll see what happens.

 

• As far as NFL openings, let’s run through them. Green Bay and Cleveland, open. The Jets, Broncos, Bucs and Cardinals, likely open. That’s six. Miami (Adam Gase) and Cincinnati (Marvin Lewis), 50-50. Carolina and Jacksonville, less likely but possible. And there’s always an unexpected change. So it’s likely we’ll see between six and 10 teams change.

 

• The Mike McCarthy stuff out there is interesting. I hear he likes Arizona and would be interested in exploring the job. I heard the Cardinals have interest as well, so we’ll see, assuming Steve Wilks is one-and-done there.

 

• There’s concern among some coaches’ agents about the structure with the Jets. Would Mike Maccagnan stay as GM, and will he get to hire another coach when/if Todd Bowles is let go? I hear he will. Could that be an impediment to a big-time coach like McCarthy? Unclear.

 

• As for the worry that there aren’t enough good candidates out there, I leave you with five names: Chuck Noll, Pittsburgh, 1969; Bill Belichick, New England, 2000; Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh, 2007; John Harbaugh, Baltimore, 2008; Sean McVay, L.A. Rams, 2017. There are good coaches out there. Funny how coaches get more attractive when they have good quarterbacks on the roster. Terry Bradshaw, Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Flacco, Jared Goff. They help.

 

AFC SOUTH

 

TENNESSEE

Will the Titans be sending out QB BLAINE GABBERT to do battle with QB ANDREW LUCK in Monday’s big game?  This from Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

The Titans are unsure if quarterback Marcus Mariota will be able to play against the Colts on Sunday night due to a stinger and it will likely be some time before there’s clarity about his status.

 

Mariota was a guest on 104.5 FM on Wednesday morning and say that he will “do everything in my power” to get ready to play in a game that will determine whether the Titans advance to the playoffs. Mariota admitted that his power only goes so far when it comes to resolving the issue.

 

“It was one of those deals where it kind of crunched, and basically sent my whole right side numb and tingly,” Mariota said. “It was one of those things, man, and it’s unfortunate because nerves are weird, they take time. But again, I am fighting and I am going to do my best to be out there.”

 

The Titans signed Austin Davis to serve as the backup to Blaine Gabbert in the event that Mariota doesn’t get the green light to play this weekend.

Mariota isn’t the only other potential big loss for the Titans.  Turron Davenport of ESPN.com:

 

The Tennessee Titans will be without Pro Bowl defensive lineman Jurrell Casey when they face the Indianapolis Colts in the season finale next week. The team plans to put Casey on injured reserve with a strained MCL, sources tell ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

 

Head coach Mike Vrabel said he doesn’t anticipate having Casey available when the Titans host the Colts on Sunday. Expect reserve defensive lineman Bennie Logan to replace Casey in the starting lineup.

 

Casey strained the MCL in his left knee in Saturday’s game against the Redskins while helping tackle running back Adrian Peterson late in the fourth quarter. The eighth-year defensive lineman was helped off the field and taken into the medical tent for further examination. Casey removed his pads and watched the Titans’ final defensive stand from the sideline.

 

AFC EAST

 

MIAMI

Apparently the changes in Miami will start nearer the top than coach Adam Gase.  Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald reports some news, then tells owner Stephen Ross how to fix the rest of the mess:

 

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross is all but certain to dismiss vice president of football operations Mike Tannenbaum by the new year, ending his four seasons with the club. And barring some unexpected circumstance, the owner will keep head coach Adam Gase and general manager Chris Grier in place for 2019.

 

(The Miami Dolphins laying another egg similar to the one the past two weeks combined with a significant upgrade becoming available would qualify as an unexpected circumstance, by the way, so it would behoove Gase to get his team to show up for the season finale on Sunday.)

 

But aside from Tannenbaum, the brain trust that led the Dolphins the past three seasons will remain in place — perhaps with an addition of a different VP of football ops, who may or may not have say in the direction of the franchise.

 

How and if Ross would fill the Tannenbaum void remains unclear.

 

It’s a difficult question but as Ross is unlikely to accept anyone removing Gase or Grier, that person likely won’t wield a ton of power and certainly not more than Gase who has contractual control of the 53 man roster and reports exclusively to Ross.

 

I suppose the Dolphins will figure it all out and you’re likely to hear names emerge frof the rumor mill as additions Ross might consider. Already in the past three days I’ve heard Dan Marino, the return of Dawn Aponte, and numerous outside people with no current or previous connection to the Dolphins.

 

Now, what would fake owner Mr. Salguero do with his Miami Dolphins to fix the current situation, starting the day after current owner Mr. Ross sells me the team for $1? (Ross has enough money already and didn’t need me to pay more.)

 

No, I don’t tear it all down. I want to. I really do, but one does not throw babies out with bath water and counter to the current desire of Dolphins fans who constantly email me, or @ me on Twitter, I keep Gase.

 

I believe Gase is going to be a good head coach. Someday.

 

Yes, some of the stuff we’ve seen this year are cringe-worthy. Please, coach, stop telling me the reason you’re struggling on the road is because you’re playing tough teams. I don’t buy that for one second and I really hope neither do you. I rather just hear you don’t know why your team stinks on the road rather than you concocting answers that make my head explode.

 

And then what I do is take a lot of power away from Gase. Love, you bro, but you’re not Bill Belichick at this point.

 

I don’t want Gase having final say over practically everything on the football side from free agency to trades to salary cap philosophy to contracts. Gase clearly has his plate quite packed with coaching the team and, particularly his ineffective offense.

 

So he shouldn’t be the final decision-maker on anything else beyond that.

 

Get the Dolphins offense in the Top 10 in the NFL for four or five years and Gase can have all that power back. Be a good steward over a little, and you can be the steward over much.

 

But not yet. Miami’s offense is 25th in points this year, was 25th in points last year, and was 24th in points in 2016.

 

So fix that. Concentrate on that.

 

Oh, yeah, and concentrate on hiring coaches to fix the defense, too. Because the head coach is responsible for both the offense and the defense.

 

And the Miami defense is not just bad but historically bad. So bad that last week Cody Kessler and Blake Bortles beat the Dolphins.

 

On what planet does that suggest there’s no problem?

 

So fake owner Mr. Salguero gives Adam Gase a contract extension. He gets a raise from his $5 million per year deal because I want him to love Mr. Salguero and I want everyone to know Mr. Salguero loves his coach.

 

But that contract extension costs Adam Gase final say on everything from the roster to when people in the facility can go to the bathroom, which is basically the kind of power he has now.

 

(A small bookkeeping item: To accomplish this Gase extension transaction I need to have someone that can go to agent Jimmy Sexton and win the negotiation. The Dolphins too often in recent years have had it handed to them by Sexton on deals for Gase, Andre Branch, Ndamukong Suh and others. Mr. Salguero’s Dolphins are not caving to Sexton’s ploys and antics. That stops.)

 

That complete, I find someone who is every bit an Alpha male as Gase. Because Alpha 1 is sometimes going to tell Alpha 2, “No.”

 

No, we’re not letting Ryan Tannehill get by without having surgery after blowing out his knee.

 

No, it’s not OK to skip drafting Tannehill’s replacement after that non-surgery.

 

No, we’re not trading Mike Pouncey.

 

No, we’re not signing a bunch of old free agents — most of whom will end the season on injured reserve.

 

No, we’re not taking Philadelphia Eagles discards.

 

No, Frank Gore is not coming back next year so he can be a progress stopper again.

 

No, we’re not paying middle-of-the-road defensive ends $8 million after they had one good season in a contract year.

 

No, we do not fall in love with players no matter how much you like them or what position they play. This is a business relationship, not a marriage.

 

No, we don’t hire first-year coordinators to run the defense when proven coordinators are available. And we certainly don’t do it two times in a row.

 

No, we don’t act like guards don’t matter. Because they do.

 

No, we don’t draft tight ends that cannot block and aren’t tough.

 

Yes, we do accept the occasional questionable person on our team. Because the Miami Dolphins are a football team and not a Presbyterian choir.

 

Mr. Salguero hires a person that balances Gase and brings him to that place where he thinks like a ruthless business man with forethought and vision, rather than the young coach who is fueled mostly by testosterone, black coffee, Red Bull, and pizza.

 

The person I’m hiring to tell Gase no when necessary is going to be more than a “no” man. He’s earning the big bucks because he must keep his eyes on the prize and make sure the Miami Dolphins are always pointed toward that prize.

 

Coaches don’t keep their eyes on the prize.

 

General managers sometimes but not always keep their eyes on the prize.

 

Tannenbaum didn’t keep his eyes on the prize.

 

The prize, by the way, is not winning the next game.

 

The prize is not sneaking into the playoffs as a sixth seed, going on the road and getting destroyed — one-and-done.

 

The prize is not staying employed.

 

The prize, my friends, is winning the Super Bowl. That has never changed and has been said in this space before.

 

Except the Miami Dolphins clearly have not had that vision for many years, including during the last three years under Tannenbaum, Gase, and Grier.

 

I’ve gotten the feel that they keep their eyes on next week.

 

Next game.

 

Getting to the postseason maybe and then we’ll see.

 

I know this because if the prize was winning the Super Bowl, we’re not signing Jay Cutler when the starting quarterback goes down. Look, the starting quarterback goes down in training camp, your season is either over or saved improbably by the backup who has been on the roster.

 

You do not hire a mercenary who has never won anything for $10 million.

 

What? You’re saying my solution might lead to a terrible season if the backup on the roster isn’t up to the task? That’s true.

 

So fall back one year. Collect yourself. And resources.

 

And come back next year with more salary cap room and higher draft picks in order to do what in the future? Yes, have enough draft capital to select a quarterback who can help you chase a what?

 

Yes, a Super Bowl.

 

I don’t think making the playoffs one year, on a sheer goof, and then falling off the table for a couple of years is a good formula.

 

I would rather endure one or two years of major pain (yes, losing) that gets me potentially great draft picks that become potentially great players. And then we roll two or three years down the road with some sustainability.

 

(Gase is fine with this because he’s my coach for a long time after that extension and we draft a great, young quarterback he can coach up. Oh, look, I’m remaking the Miami Dolphins in the image of the Steelers or Patriots.)

 

The Miami Dolphins need to start playing the long game. They’ve been playing the short term for too long by giving lip service to winning now while, you know, not actually winning now.

 

They’ve been making decisions to win a little now, maybe, at the expense of winning big later. And, by the way, the win-now decisions haven’t exactly worked out — as proven by the decision to keep DeVante Parker at the trade deadline last October after that great Houston game he had.

 

That was the time to dump Parker for perhaps a fourth-round pick. Maybe a fifth.

 

The Dolphins kept him because they didn’t have enough bodies at receiver at the time and wanted to win with Parker this year. And what did that get them?

 

Parker had 134 receiving yards in that Houston game, days before the trade deadline.

 

And since the trade deadline passed, Parker has 122 receiving yards in the six games. And he is not going to be on the team next season when the Dolphins rescind his fifth-year option.

 

Instead of playing the long game, and enduring some pain as a result, the Dolphins played the short game. And lost at both.

 

Did you hear Gase last week say he hasn’t talked to Gore about returning next year but will do so down the road? That conversation should be a farewell, not a planning session for 2019.

 

Because Gore is not the future.

 

Because a 36-year-old Frank Gore next year would once again be a marvel. But one who takes carries away from more explosive backs Kenyan Drake and Kalen Ballage, who actually are the future.

 

The Dolphins need someone to tell Gase, nope, not doing that Gore thing again. Sounds good. Makes your soul feels good.

 

But doesn’t fit a long game philosophy.

 

Doesn’t fit the vision of chasing a Super Bowl and making moves that fit that vision accordingly.

 

 

NEW ENGLAND

Jason LaCanfora of CBSSports.com looks at how the Patriots were blind-sided by the suspension of WR JOSH GORDON:

 

The Patriots had no indications that troubled wide receiver Josh Gordon was facing yet another substance-abuse suspension — one that once again casts his NFL career into doubt — and hope to able to continue supporting him during his indefinite banishment from the league.

 

Team sources said that Gordon had been a good teammate and was well-liked by coaches, and there had not been any recent indications that he had failed any tests or had his playing status in doubt. The team’s coaching staff found out on Thursday morning, within hours of Gordon releasing his statement that he would be taking a leave from the Patriots, sources said; some had an opportunity to speak to the former Pro Bowler before he left the team. The staff also did not receive word of the NFL’s suspension of Gordon until Thursday as well.

 

“He is not a bad kid at all,” one member of the organization said. “We enjoyed working with him. I just feel awful for him. This is a really sad time for Josh, and for us. And it’s not about football. You always have to deal with injuries and different personnel each week. That’s what all teams do.

 

“This is about Josh, and is he going to be getting the right help and support now? Is this about helping him, or punishing a kid who has not shown that he can handle what the league says he should be able to handle? Because if this was easy, then Josh would have already overcome it. He needs help and he needs support and direction. We were aware of that and trying to do what we could for him, and it’s unfortunate we can’t continue to do that with him in our building, whether he can play or not.”

 

Gordon had presented no discipline problems or significant issues, team sources said, and they were hopeful of his ability to contribute to the team down the stretch and into the postseason. The Patriots can deploy Chris Hogan and Phillip Dorsett, who have had a limited role this season, on many of the deep routes that Gordon ran to stretch defenses and open up space in the middle of the field.

 

The Patriots assigned people to be with Gordon at all times, as part of an elaborate security play, to help keep Gordon from the kind of stumbles that landed him back on the suspended list this past week. The Patriots had Jack Easterby, a former team chaplain who has blossomed as New England’s team development/character coach, working closely with Gordon, and the team had invested a lot of resources in Gordon’s security as well as his rehab and recovery. The team felt it had the right infrastructure in place, but also recognized the challenges facing Gordon with this addiction, one that he has been unable to overcome in the past with others trying to provide similar support. According to ESPN reports, Gordon is believed to have run afoul of the substance abuse policy during the team’s Nov. 18 bye weekend, somehow eluding the support structure the team had established around Gordon.

– – –

So, QB TOM BRADY, perhaps in decline, has one year left on his Patriots contract.  But he wants to play longer than that.  You do the math.  Mike Reiss of ESPN.com:

 

Reflecting on what football has meant in his life, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady repeated his intention to continue playing in 2019 and beyond.

 

“I absolutely believe I will. I know I’ve talked about it for a long time: I have goals to not only play next year, but beyond that,” Brady said in his weekly interview on Westwood One. “I’m going to try to do it as best I possibly can. I’m going to give it everything I have, like I always have.

 

“It will certainly be a challenge. I don’t take any of these things for granted, but I hope I can keep playing, and I hope I can keep playing at a championship level.”

 

Brady’s current contract expires after the 2019 season. He has spent his entire 19-year career with the Patriots.

 

Brady, 41, earned his NFL-record-tying 14th Pro Bowl berth this season, joining Tony Gonzalez, Peyton Manning, Bruce Matthews and Merlin Olsen in an elite group.

 

During his radio interview, Brady discussed the place football has in his life.

 

“I’ve been able to be in a career for 19 years that I love. I wake up every day excited to go to work. I wake up every day fulfilled with what I’m doing. I don’t think there’s any greater gift in my life than to have that,” he said.

 

“Along with that has come a lot of other very cool opportunities, but in my heart and soul, I love playing the sport of football and it’s brought me so much joy in my life. It tests you in so many ways. I’ve been dealing with it for a long time. There’s anxiousness and nerves, and joy and happiness. There’s disappointment and frustration. The emotions run the gamut. But if you can stay and build your mental toughness, it’s just been incredibly rewarding. I’m a very, very lucky man.”

 

We note the story earlier in the Briefing about Detroit wanting a Brady type, instead of MATTHEW STAFFORD.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

2018 DRAFT

Here is how ProFootballFocus.com grades the top five picks in the 2018 draft:

 

PICK NO. 1: BAKER MAYFIELD, CLEVELAND BROWNS

2018 SEASON GRADE: 84.1

Mayfield was electric from start to finish in his team’s Week 16 win over the Bengals, and he ended the game with an overall grade of 86.8, the second-best single-game mark of his career. The former first overall pick was lethal when he was kept clean from pressure this week and completed 21 of his 29 attempts from a clean pocket for 175 yards and three touchdowns, all good for a passer rating of 122.1 — the seventh-best mark of the week.

 

PICK NO. 2: SAQUON BARKLEY, NEW YORK GIANTS

2018 SEASON GRADE: 85.8

In Week 16, Barkley was kept in check by an underrated Colts defense, and he was never really allowed to get anything going. He ended the day with just 43 rushing yards from 21 carries, at an underwhelming average of 1.52 yards after contact per attempt — the second-lowest single-game mark of his career.

 

PICK NO. 3: SAM DARNOLD, NEW YORK JETS

2018 SEASON GRADE: 65.0

Darnold followed up a terrific Week 15 performance with yet another strong showing in Week 16. Like Mayfield, Darnold was at his very best when he was kept clean from pressure, and completed 22-of-29 attempts from a clean pocket for 315 yards and three touchdowns, all good for a passer rating of 145.0 which was second among quarterbacks this week.

 

PICK NO. 4: DENZEL WARD, CLEVELAND BROWNS

2018 SEASON GRADE: 79.0

There was a little bit of rust on Ward as he took the field for the first time since Week 13, but he still managed to make his mark on the game. In total, he logged five solo tackles and a defensive stop on his 41 defensive snaps, and he allowed three catches from five targets for 35 yards on throws into his primary coverage. Through 16 weeks, Ward has allowed a passer rating of just 70.7 on passes thrown into his coverage, which is the 10th-best mark among the league’s qualifying cornerbacks.

 

PICK NO 5: BRADLEY CHUBB, DENVER BRONCOS

2018 SEASON GRADE: 66.8

Along with a number of his teammates, Chubb never really got going on Monday night. He did manage to tally three hurries from 21 pass-rushing snaps and a defensive stop against the run, but overall, it wasn’t his best game as a Bronco.