AROUND THE NFL

We’re back from the Super Bowl where life was too busy to Brief, but we look forward to the offseason moving forward. 

 

It wasn’t the best Super Bowl game ever, but it certainly wasn’t the worst.  Not even the worst of the last five as Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com pointed out:

 

@MichaelDavSmith

I’m kinda shocked by how many people are calling this the worst Super Bowl ever. Five years ago we had a Super Bowl that was 22-0 at halftime on the way to a 43-8 final. I’ll take 3-3 midway through the fourth quarter over that any day.

 

Still the game will be most remembered for the result – TOM BRADY’s GOAT-clinching sixth Super Bowl title, and not the actual events that produced that result.

 

Tim Bourret, who knows all things Clemson, noted a link.

 

@TimBourret

Amazing that each of the last two times Villanova has won NCAA basketball tournament, Clemson has then won the football title and Patriots have won the Super Bowl. Look out for Florida Gators baseball team.

 

This from Rick Gosselin:

 

@RickGosselin9

The Rams were the 11th highest scoring team in NFL history. None of the 11 highest-scoring teams in history ever won a championship.

 

NFC NORTH

 

DETROIT

Lions LB TREVOR BATES has himself in a mental hospital and a legal pickle.  The AP:

 

Detroit Lions linebacker Trevor Bates was arraigned Tuesday from a psychiatric ward on charges accusing him of punching a New York City police officer after he was taken to a precinct house for failing to pay a taxi fare.

 

Bates, 25, pleaded not guilty to charges of assault, resisting arrest, theft of services and obstruction of governmental administration.

 

Bates has been hospitalized since his Jan. 26 arrest and was arraigned via a video hookup.

 

Bates’ lawyer, Eric Breslin, said they were looking forward to “resolving this manner in an expeditious and satisfactory fashion.”

 

Bates was arrested around 1:30 a.m. Jan. 26 at a hotel near LaGuardia Airport after allegedly refusing to pay a $32 cab fare for a ride from Manhattan.

 

Police have said they were ready to let Bates go with an appearance ticket if he didn’t have any outstanding warrants, but that Bates refused to be fingerprinted and punched a sergeant in the face.

 

Sgt. James O’Brien, who was hit as he tried to calm Bates down, suffered a concussion and needed three stitches over his left eye, police said.

 

The 6-foot-2, 240-pound Bates was subdued with a stun gun and taken to a hospital.

 

Bates’ agent said last week that his alleged actions “are in no way a reflection of who he is as a person” and “not at all consistent with the man and friend we know him to be.”

 

“At this time our priority is to ensure that Trevor receives the help he needs and that the privacy of the parties involved be respected,” agent Jeff Jankovich said in a Jan. 28 statement.

 

Bates, who’s from Westbrook, Maine, and played college football at the University of Maine, joined the Lions last year and appeared in nine games.

 

He was drafted in 2016 by the Indianapolis Colts and was on the practice squads of the New England Patriots and New York Giants.

 

Lions general manager Bob Quinn has said that the team is aware of Bates’ arrest but had no further comment.

 

Judge Karina Alomar set Bates’ bail at $5,000 cash or $10,000 bond. His next hearing is scheduled for March 8.

 

Bates faces up to seven years in prison if convicted.

 

NFC EAST

 

DALLAS

Kellen Moore, who is not yet 30, will be the Cowboys offensive coordinator.  Todd Archer of ESPN.com:

 

Kellen Moore isn’t sure where the playbooks are now. Maybe a few are still at his parents’ house, tucked away somewhere in a room or attic.

 

Some people collected baseball cards or video games. Growing up, Moore would search the internet looking for different playbooks.

 

He had NFL offenses, like the West Coast and the number system the Dallas Cowboys used in their Super Bowl run of the 1990s and continue to use today. He had the college offenses, like the run ‘n’ shoot and the Air Raid, favored by Mike Leach.

 

“I don’t know if I ever really bought one,” Moore said. “My dad was a high school coach, so that’s a part of it. I was just trying to learn different things in different offenses. All that stuff. The age that I am, the technology was more available, so you could get online and find playbooks for different teams and whatnot. It was a fun thing.”

 

Moore was named the Cowboys’ offensive coordinator last week. It comes after one season as their quarterbacks coach and two seasons after he retired as a player.

 

Owner and general manager Jerry Jones is counting on Moore to bring fresh ideas to an offense that grew stale at times the past two seasons, and to get the most out of Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and Amari Cooper.

 

For those who know Moore, none of this is a surprise.

 

“It was all kind of meant to be,” said Nate Potter, Moore’s left tackle at Boise State for three years. “It was written on the wall.”

 

Moore grew up in Prosser, Washington, the son of a high school coach. Tom Moore won 21 league championships and four state titles in 23 seasons at Prosser High School. He stepped down in 2009 to watch his sons, Kellen and Kirby, play at Boise State.

 

Growing up, Kellen chased after the tee after kickoffs at Prosser games, moved up to water boy, and before he got to junior high, he was running the same drills with the varsity quarterbacks.

 

Many nights, he digested game film with his father, yellow notepad at the ready, diagramming plays.

 

Grant Hedrick was a redshirt quarterback at Boise State in 2010, when Moore was a junior.

 

“I’m sitting next to him, watching film, watching concepts at practice and it’s like the dead middle of training camp in August,” Hedrick remembered. “He’s drawing up these things of what we can do differently and he’s got a full notebook. He’s drawing up stuff, making adjustments. I’m sure he didn’t even notice that I saw it. It was like 10 different variations of what we could do differently. It was kind of crazy.”

 

The intellectual side of the game has always mattered to Moore. Mostly because he is a coach’s son, but also because he was not gifted with the greatest of athletic skills. He is barely 6 feet tall, about 200 pounds. He did not have the strongest of left arms.

 

Despite a record 50 wins, 142 touchdown passes and 14,667 passing yards at Boise State, the NFL was hung up on what he couldn’t do and he went undrafted. That he lasted six years — three with the Detroit Lions, three with the Cowboys — speaks to his acumen more than skill, as well as a connection he made with Scott Linehan, the coach he is replacing with the Cowboys.

 

“We’d always just call him the surgeon because he would just dissect defenses and know exactly schematically what they were going to do,” said Matt Miller, one of his favorite receivers at Boise State and now the offensive coordinator at Montana State. “He just always had a good feel for it. He was just one of the smartest football guys I’ve ever been around. I don’t know exactly what it was. I know his football background with his dad and being around it at such a young age. He was just a junkie. He couldn’t get enough of the X’s and O’s.”

 

Miller remembers the countless times Moore would tell him to anticipate a look and adjust his route from a sit to a slant. Sure enough, the corner was waiting for the sit, and Miller ran the slant for a first-down gain.

 

“Obviously he had a lot of prep in the film room Monday to Friday where he had a good feel for where the defenses were trying to get us and he had our counterpunch ready to go,” Miller said.

 

It wasn’t just on the field where he could see things. It was in video games too.

 

“Me and my friends would joke about it,” Potter said. “We’d play Kellen in Madden or NCAA Football and he used to get so frustrated because the defenses, they wouldn’t react how they should. He’d say, ‘They should be doing this if it’s Cover 2 or Cover 3.’ He would get frustrated.”

 

In 2014, quarterback Dan Orlovsky joined the Lions as a free agent to be Matthew Stafford’s backup. Moore had spent two years as the No. 3 quarterback with the Lions after signing with Detroit.

 

One day, Orlovsky remembers sitting in the quarterbacks room with Stafford.

 

“We’re grinding on this one thing for like 20 minutes, maybe longer. Kellen comes in after lunch, sat down casually and just within a minute or two gets up and points his finger on the screen, ‘Look, you can do this, which will make this guy do this and then that guy will do this and we can do this,’” said Orlovsky, who is now an ESPN analyst. “I remember thinking to myself, ‘Uh-oh, this is a smart dude.’ I’m going in thinking I’m a shoo-in for the backup job and it’s, ‘Oh, this kid is really smart. He’s going to make me earn this job.’ But my main thing was, ‘Dude, how did your brain work like that?’ That was an example, to me, that he was probably going to be a good coach one day.”

 

 

PHILADELPHIA

Two expected steps in the NICK FOLES dance – the Eagles say they want him for one year at $20 million, Foles gives them $2 million for his freedom.  Tim McManus of ESPN.com says the next step is a likely tag:

 

Quarterback Nick Foles has informed the Eagles he is voiding his $20 million option for 2019, after the team notified him it would be picking up the option, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

 

Foles must pay the Eagles $2 million to opt out.

 

The move paves the way for the Eagles to place the franchise tag on Foles. They are expected to do so in an effort to then try to trade him, sources from other NFL teams who have been in touch with Philadelphia previously told Schefter.

 

The franchise tag number for quarterbacks is expected to be around $25 million for next season.

 

The Eagles have publicly committed to Carson Wentz as their starting QB moving forward. By placing the franchise tag on Foles, they would have an opportunity to receive compensation for Foles via trade while having a say on where he ends up. The price for Foles is expected to be around a third-round pick, according to Schefter.

 

Foles, the MVP of Super Bowl LII, stepped in again for the injured Wentz at the end of this past season and helped the Eagles to three straight regular-season wins and a playoff victory at the Chicago Bears in the wild-card round.

 

Foles, 30, completed 72 percent of his passes and threw for seven touchdowns and four interceptions in five regular-season games in 2018.

– – –

QB CARSON WENTZ meets the media in the wake of an article with anonymous sources that went out of its way to paint him in the worst possible light.  He is surprisingly candid.

 

– Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz refuted multiple details in a story critical of him published last month by Philly Voice but did not dismiss the story outright, acknowledging that he could have been a better teammate as he navigated a trying year professionally.

 

“I know who I am, first of all. I know how I carry myself. I know I’m not perfect. I know I have flaws,” he said during a sit-down interview with a small group of reporters at the Eagles’ practice facility recently. “So I’m not going to sit here and say it was inaccurate and completely made up. I’m not going to do that. But at the end of the day, I will say our locker room is really close. If there were guys that had issues, in hindsight, I wish we could have just talked about them. But, again, I don’t know how that all happened and everything with that.”

 

Wentz was described as “egotistical,” “selfish” and “uncompromising” in the story, which cited more than a half-dozen players and other sources, all of whom were quoted anonymously. He was accused of playing favorites and resisting certain concepts because he viewed them as “[Nick] Foles stuff.”

 

Wentz said he was caught off guard by the report.

 

“It kind of came out of nowhere,” he said. “I was literally eating breakfast with my wife, and [a member of the Eagles media relations staff] texted me. Literally, we do, like, quiet time in the morning. We eat breakfast and then I go sit on the couch. So I’m about to go read my Bible and then I get that text and now I’m reading this.”

 

Wentz said he didn’t really sense the friction internally described in the piece, but he didn’t dismiss the notion out of hand.

 

“It’s never fun to read, but to an extent, you look at it and be like, ‘Well, if someone did have this perception of me, why? What have I done wrong? What can I get better at?'” he said. “I realize I have my shortcomings. Yes, I can be selfish. I think we all have selfishness inside of us. There’s human elements to that, that I really look at and say, ‘Well, I can get better.'”

 

A host of teammates spoke out on social media in defense of Wentz, while a senior team official described the QB as a “good person” with “great character” to ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio.

 

“Story has no legs,” the official added.

 

Wentz said he initially tried to “play detective” to figure out who may have contributed to the story before deciding it ultimately didn’t matter.

 

“I’ll learn from it and we’ll all learn that A, things shouldn’t kind of come out the way it did, and B, the pieces that I can learn from it and be a better teammate and player and all that stuff I will grow from,” he said. “But other than that, just turn the page.”

 

There were specific details inside the Philly Voice story that Wentz disputed. Asked about the notion that he was “once verbally attacked by a highly respected teammate for not being ‘a team guy,'” Wentz said, “I didn’t know what that was. I will say I didn’t know what that was about.”

 

While conceding he and Foles, the Eagles’ backup quarterback, see the game differently to a degree and like different concepts, he flatly denied being resistant to running plays that might be associated with being “Foles stuff.” He also pushed back on the charge he “bullied” offensive coordinator Mike Groh.

 

“Groh and I talked to each other that day when it came out, and I think we all know that never took place,” Wentz said. “I even go back to the year before with Frank [Reich], I know Frank has gone and said that he and I used to have these competitive arguments, but they’re healthy. That stuff happens. That’s, I think, what good football teams have, the ability to respectfully do that and kind of be stubborn and those things. It was the same way with Groh. In my opinion, he is a very good football mind, and in my opinion, I feel like I have something to contribute, too, so I thought we had some really healthy dialogue. To say, quote, ‘bullied him,’ I’d say that’s kind of disrespectful to Groh. I don’t think anyone bullies Coach Groh.”

 

Wentz acknowledged he “maybe wasn’t the greatest teammate at times” over the past year because he was “emotionally kind of all over the place” as he battled multiple injuries, worked separately from the group while he rehabbed and had to watch team success from the sideline.

 

“You go through the [ACL] injury, and you’re just 100 percent determined to get back, that’s, like, what my mind is on. And looking back, were there things that maybe I neglected as a teammate and as a friend because I was just so determined and that’s all that mattered?” Wentz said.

 

While looking to grow as a teammate, Wentz said he’s not about to drastically change his approach.

 

“I’m 26 years old; my personality, to some extent, ain’t going to change,” he said. “What’s gotten me here, what’s gotten me successful, I’m not going to say, ‘Oh, now I’m going to have this free-spirited, Cali-guy vibe.’ That’s just not going to change.

 

“Any time you’re a Type A guy, there’s a fine line between being pushy and shove-y and humble and humility and walking that line. Definitely learning to navigate that always and never trying to look down on anybody or make it seem like I’m better than anybody. But at the same time, as a Type A, so to speak, confident person that’s confident in off-the-field things and then on the field with what we like, that’s not going to change. That’s not going to go anywhere. I think that’s something that is a positive if used correctly.”

 

 

WASHINGTON

John Keim of ESPN.com ponders what the Redskins will do at QB with ALEX SMITH attempting a comeback.

 

The Washington Redskins can’t really say when Alex Smith might be healthy, mainly because they really don’t know. What they do know is they’re not ready to divorce themselves from the injured quarterback. Just in case.

 

During Super Bowl week, Redskins president Bruce Allen told both WTEM-AM The Team 980 and NBC Sports Washington’s podcast that the team is not planning for life without Smith. Allen also said the Redskins don’t have to draft a quarterback in the first round.

 

Here’s what it all means:

 

They do plan on keeping Smith around. The so-called nuclear option — cutting him now and taking a cap hit of $40 million (after the $12 million insurance policy kicks in) — was not an option for them anyway. For a couple of months, the refrain from Redskins Park has been to acknowledge the long road Smith faces after his compound leg fracture in November and multiple surgeries, how the odds are against him for the immediate future and that “if anyone can do it, Alex can.” The point is, the Redskins are not ready to dismiss any scenario, which means there’s no reason to cut the 34-year-old now.

 

If they cut him after next season, having determined his career is over, they would have to account for $32.2 million in dead money. They would get $12 million in insurance relief; it’s just a matter of when it would be applied — whether all on the 2020 cap or spread over two years. And that depends on whether Smith is released with a post-June 1 designation (spreading the hit over two years).

 

They still are considering life without him. Just in case, of course. However they want to phrase it, they have no choice but to think about this scenario. The big question is whether it’s short- or long-term planning. There’s a reason the Redskins are looking at whatever options exist to find another quarterback. At this point, they have only one who will be healthy when spring workouts resume: Colt McCoy. They have been interested in re-signing Josh Johnson since the season ended.

 

Barring a change in thinking and cap space, they can’t afford a high-end free agent, and it doesn’t make sense to trade for a quarterback with a big salary. That’s too much to invest in one spot. So they’ll look at a quarterback such as Johnson or a mid-level one such as Teddy Bridgewater, perhaps.

 

They are looking hard at quarterbacks in this draft class, but the question that can’t be answered now is which round makes the most sense. The more they learn about Smith’s future, the more this question can be answered. They could opt for a quarterback in the first round or a mid-to-late-round pick; perhaps even an undrafted one.

 

The Redskins have remained firm in their belief in McCoy, though they have never given him the starting job outright — he has played only when others ahead of him get hurt or benched. But the bottom line is that in this scenario, they would enter the season with no quarterback proven over 16 games.

 

They’d enhance the run game. If they’re not going to take a quarterback in the first round, then they’d better invest a bit more to enhance the run game. That means finding a solid left guard. They can’t pay a lot for one anyway, not with big deals already at both tackle spots — and with right guard Brandon Scherff engaged in talks about an extension.

 

It also means adding a consistent blocker at tight end and finding a way to keep running back Adrian Peterson around. There have been preliminary talks with Peterson. With Derrius Guice set to return from a torn ACL, it would be wise to have a strong option to pair with him; after all, Peterson rushed for 1,042 yards this season and averaged 4.44 yards per carry in the first eight weeks behind a healthier offensive line.

 

The Redskins had a solid strategy of trying to win with defense, a strong run game and few turnovers. It helped that they built a 6-3 record before the quarterback injury disasters struck. They’re not going to lure a great quarterback to Washington this offseason, so they must bolster the talent around this position. Otherwise, they’ll make it a lot harder on whoever plays quarterback — now or in the future.

 

NFC SOUTH

 

ATLANTA

The Falcons are parting ways with CB ROBERT ALFORD.  Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com:

 

The Atlanta Falcons on Tuesday released starting cornerback Robert Alford after six seasons.

 

“We thank Robert for all that he brought to the team during his six seasons in Atlanta,” general manager Thomas Dimitroff said in a statement. “He was a significant contributor to our defense and we have a great deal of respect for him. We wish Robert all the best going forward.”

 

Alford thanked the team in a tweet.

 

@rockorocky

 Thank you Atlanta for 6 incredible seasons. Sucks that it ended on this note. I enjoyed playing in this incredible city. Ima miss my dawgs but I’m excited for the next chapter. #TAT

 

Alford, a second-round draft pick in 2013, had two years and $17 million left on his contract. He signed a four-year, $38 million extension ($21 million guaranteed) in December of 2016. Releasing Alford provides a $7.9 million savings against the 2019 salary cap.

 

The Falcons appeared destined to part ways with Alford after he struggled in coverage and with penalties during the 2018 season. Despite those issues, Alford expressed confidence in his ability, saying an early-season ankle injury affected his performance at right corner.

 

“I feel like I’m top 10 [cornerback] in this league,” Alford told ESPN in December. “Last year, I was doing my thing. Came into this year, I did my thing. At the end of the day, I just have to get back to my style of play and make those plays that the team needs me to make that I’ve been making in the past.

 

“I haven’t made those plays this season, but we have [two] games left. All I have to do is show my worth and go out there and ball my tail off.”

 

In the end, the Falcons told Alford it was time to move in another direction.

 

Alford started 76 of 88 games with the Falcons, playing 4,904 defensive snaps. He finished his Falcons stint with 291 tackles, 10 interceptions, 59 pass breakups and two defensive touchdowns. Alford probably was best known for intercepting New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in Super Bowl LI and returning the interception 82 yards for a touchdown.

 

With Alford gone from the starting lineup, the Falcons are likely to look to 2018 second-round pick Isaiah Oliver in a starting role next season. Oliver saw some valuable playing time late in the 2018 season, rotating in for both Alford and starting left cornerback Desmond Trufant.

 

The Falcons seem likely to stick with Trufant, who still has four years and $44.75 million remaining on his contract. Drafting a cornerback doesn’t seem out of the realm of possibility, either, as the Falcons try to fix the defense with head coach Dan Quinn taking over as defensive coordinator. Quinn fired defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel.

 

The Falcons’ secondary is expected to be much improved next season with the return of Pro Bowl strong safety Keanu Neal (ACL) and free safety Ricardo Allen (Achilles) from season-ending injuries.

 

NFC WEST

 

SAN FRANCISCO

Wes Welker’s coaching career detours to the 49ers.  Cam Inman of BayAreaNewsGroup.com:

 

Wes Welker, who led the NFL in receptions three times during his New England Patriots tenure, is joining the 49ers coaching staff.

 

Welker’s role, likely as a receivers coach, has yet to be announced or confirmed by the 49ers. His hiring was first reported Tuesday by the Houston Chronicle’s John McClain.

 

Welker, 37, retired from his 12-year career after the 2015 season, and he spent the past two years as a Houston Texans assistant. He reportedly interviewed this past month with the 49ers and Green Bay Packers.

 

Welker made five Pro Bowls and earned four All-Pro honors during a career that saw him play with the San Diego Chargers (2004), Miami Dolphins (2004-06), Patriots (2007-12), Denver Broncos (2013-14) and St. Louis Rams (2015). He totaled 903 receptions for 9,924 yards and 50 touchdowns while also serving as a return specialist (264 punt returns, 183 kick returns).

 

Most likely to benefit from his addition are young, slot-friendly receivers Trent Taylor and Richie James, with Dante Pettis also figuring to improve after an encouraging rookie season. While George Kittle set a NFL tight-end record with 1,377 yards, the 49ers wide receivers were led by Kendrick Bourne (487 yards) and Pettis (457).

 

The 49ers receivers have been coached the previous two seasons by Mike LaFleur (passing game coordinator) and Katie Sowers (offensive assistant). Both are expected to remain on the staff.

 

Kyle Shanahan has had to make a few, mostly minor, changes to his coaching staff entering his third season at the helm.

 

In the Houston media, there is an implication that Welker was pushed, not that he jumped.

 

 

LOS ANGELES RAMS

Will history repeat?  The last team to score three points in a Super Bowl won 32 of its next 34 games and a pair of Super Bowls:

 

@NFLResearch

 

Bad News:

@RamsNFL joined the 1971 Dolphins as the only teams in NFL history who failed to score a TD in the Super Bowl.

 

Good News:

The 1972 @MiamiDolphins are the only team in NFL history to go undefeated (without ties) for an entire season, including winning Super Bowl VII.

 

So the Rams had 20 running back touches on Sunday and 11 went to TODD GURLEY.  Lindsey Thiry of ESPN.com:

 

Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay said Tuesday that the game plan going into Super Bowl LIII was to have running backs Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson share the workload.

 

Gurley had 11 touches for 34 yards, while Anderson had nine touches for 34 yards in the 13-3 loss to the New England Patriots on Sunday.

 

“We just didn’t get a lot of attempts off,” McVay said. “So that really ended up being a big result of what ended up happening where neither Todd nor C.J. got involved.”

 

The Rams ran 60 plays and gained 260 total yards as they scored the fewest points in McVay’s two seasons as coach. They were 3-of-13 on third down.

 

Gurley, who signed a record-breaking, four-year, $60 million contract extension before the season, declined to speak with reporters through a team spokesperson Tuesday as players cleaned out their lockers.

 

Gurley rushed for 1,251 yards and scored a league-best 21 touchdowns before he was sidelined for the final two games of the regular season because of inflammation in his left knee.

 

He played a limited role in the NFC Championship Game and Super Bowl following a performance in a divisional-round victory over the Dallas Cowboys in which he rushed for 115 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries.

 

Speculation regarding Gurley’s health grew as his numbers declined, but Gurley has not appeared on the injury report since Jan. 10, when he was listed as a full participant in practice, and he has repeatedly said in the days and weeks since that his knee has felt “fine.”

 

Players underwent routine end-of-season physicals Tuesday, and McVay said there were no plans for any offseason procedures on Gurley’s knee, which is the same knee he had surgery on in 2014 to repair a torn ACL.

 

“As far as I’m concerned and as far as I know, that isn’t the case where we’re planning to do anything like that,” McVay said.

 

The Rams signed Anderson with two games remaining in the regular season, after a string of injuries to their running back corps. Trusted backup Malcolm Brown suffered a clavicle injury in Week 13 and was placed on injured reserve, and second-year pro Justin Davis suffered a shoulder injury in a Week 15 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, before Gurley was sidelined for a series in the third quarter. Rookie John Kelly was inserted and struggled in pass protection, all of which prompted Anderson’s signing.

 

In Gurley’s absence, Anderson rushed for a combined 299 yards in victories over the Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers.

 

When Gurley returned in the divisional round of the playoffs, he shared carries with Anderson, and the two combined for 238 rushing yards and three touchdowns.

 

McVay said Tuesday that the game plan through the NFC championship and Super Bowl was to replicate that model.

 

“They both were just in a really good rhythm,” McVay said. “And I think the ideal scenario that we had gone into the playoffs with was what you saw in Dallas, where it was both of those guys getting involved.”

 

But that’s not how it panned out.

 

Against the Saints, Gurley had five touches that resulted in 13 yards, including a 6-yard touchdown run. He also committed two uncharacteristic mistakes in the first half when he let a ball bounce off his hands for an interception, and when he let an open pass fall incomplete on third down in the red zone. Anderson rushed for 44 yards in 16 carries.

 

After the game, Gurley called his performance “sorry” and expressed relief that the Rams would advance to the Super Bowl. McVay said he failed to get Gurley into the flow of the game.

 

In the two weeks leading to the Super Bowl, McVay said he felt obligated to get his star running back involved. But a lack of plays against the Patriots, McVay said, made it difficult.

 

Gurley played 43 snaps (66 percent), while Anderson played 22 (34 percent).

 

“We didn’t get the amount of plays off and didn’t really have any drive continuity where we’re punting more than we did,” McVay said. “And that’s a big result of why those opportunities were limited for him.”

 

AFC WEST

 

THE RAIDERS

The Raiders want to spend 2019 across the bay, but both the 49ers and/or NFL could put the kibosh on their scheme.  Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal:

 

A report Sunday indicated the Raiders unequivocally will play their 2019 home schedule in San Francisco, but a person familiar with the situation dispelled any agreement as premature, citing two critical steps that have yet to be completed.

 

The San Francisco 49ers must waive their territorial NFL rights to the San Francisco market for the Raiders to play seven regular-season home games in the region. The NFL also must approve the arrangement.

 

Neither has happened, but on Twitter, NBC Bay Area anchor Raj Mathai reported the “Raiders will play in San Francisco for 2019,” adding that the club reached an agreement with the San Francisco Giants to use Oracle Park (formerly AT&T Park). This site is of known interest to the Raiders, a venue they have researched in-depth when exploring their 2019 opportunities.

 

It is owner Mark Davis’ preference to remain close to team headquarters, which are based in Alameda, California. To play at Oracle would accomplish that.

 

For now, however, work remains before such a resolution.

 

Mathai cited NFL sources when saying an announcement is “expected this week.” The red, white and blue Super Bowl confetti barely settled onto the turf here at Mercedes-Benz Stadium when that evening report arose. New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick was holding a news conference following a 13-3 win over the Los Angeles Rams at the time.

 

Raiders officials did not respond Sunday night to requests for comment.

 

Multiple colleagues at NBC Sports Bay Area refuted Mathai’s report, characterizing the Raiders-to-San Francisco deal as “not done.” At press time, Mathai had not posted a follow-up to his initial report.

 

The franchise’s lease at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum expired following the 2018 season.

 

Talks to renew the deal hit a significant snag on Dec. 11 when the city of Oakland filed a federal antitrust lawsuit against the NFL and all 32 of its clubs in protest of the Raiders’ 2020 relocation to Las Vegas. Officially, the Raiders have not ruled out a 2019 return to Oakland, but they have weighed a number of options, including some outside the Bay Area.

 

One of the Raiders’ eight allotted home game will be played in London against the Chicago Bears. Their other seven contests will involve the Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs, Los Angeles Chargers, Detroit Lions, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans and Cincinnati Bengals.

 

Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com thinks the Silver and Black will be back in Oakland:

 

The Raiders currently have a deal to play in 2019 at Oracle Park in San Francisco, but they could still have a deal to play in Oakland, if they want it.

 

According to Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the board that oversees the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum continues to have a one-year, $7.5 million rent agreement on the table to host the Raiders for at least one more season.

 

The Raiders walked away from the offer after Oakland sued the Raiders and the rest of the league over the team’s looming relocation to Las Vegas. And the Raiders recently reached a deal to share space with the San Francisco Giants.

 

“We have always wanted them to come back and play the last season here,” Coliseum Authority executive director Scott McKibben said Tuesday, per Gehlken. “Keep in mind the Coliseum Authority that I work for and represent is not in this lawsuit. The lawsuit has been filed by the city of Oakland. The role that I have taken is I’ve got a lot of jobs to save for a season or two. . . . We would love to see them play here for the fans and the sponsors and the media exposure and all the various constituents that are impacted by this.”

 

Although the Raiders want to play in San Francisco, Gehlken notes that the league has not approved the arrangement. Likewise, the San Francisco 49ers (which play in Santa Clara) have not waived their territorial rights to the city for which the franchise is named.

 

There was a clear sense last week in Atlanta that the Raiders eventually will spend 2019 in Oakland. And that outcome could unfold like this: The league tells the 49ers to choose between letting the Raiders play in San Francisco or inviting the Raiders to share space at Levi’s Stadium. Then, if the 49ers choose Levi’s Stadium, the league tells the Raiders to choose between Levi’s Stadium and Oakland.

 

However it plays out, the Raiders are expected to remain in the Bay Area for 2019. Despite the pending litigation, it won’t be a surprise if they stay in Oakland.

 

AFC NORTH

 

CINCINNATI

Now that he got a job after knowing Sean McVay, new Bengals head coach is quick to announce he won’t emulate the Rams wunderkind.  Katherine Terrell of ESPN.com:

 

New Cincinnati Bengals coach Zac Taylor knows the comparisons to Sean McVay will come early and often. Taylor not only spent two years working with McVay as an assistant for the Los Angeles Rams, but they’re also similar in age. At 35 and 33, respectively, Taylor and McVay are the youngest head coaches in the league.

 

Considering McVay took the Rams to the Super Bowl in just his second year as a head coach, a number of teams have poached assistants from his staff hoping for similar results. Taylor said he’s grateful to McVay for giving him his shot and helping him through the interview process the past year. But he’s certainly not trying to be him.

 

“He was an unbelievable resource as the process unfolded,” Taylor said. “Any question I had, he was an open book. … So, no, he wasn’t pushing me along. He knew I wanted to be a head coach. And he wanted me to be a head coach. And when the interview request came in, he did sit down and say, ‘Here is what I went through. Here’s experiences that may help you.’

 

“But at the same time, if I try to be Sean McVay, I’m going to fail. To be quite honest with you, we’re different people. I’ve learned a lot from him, but I’m going to be Zac Taylor and do the best I can my way. And not my way, it’s the Cincinnati Bengals way, right? Everyone’s on the same page and we’re going to get the most out of everybody here.”

 

Taylor and McVay both come from offensive backgrounds, and Taylor plans to call his own plays, as McVay does. But even if he wanted to emulate McVay, it would be difficult considering their personalities are different.

 

“Sean is a very dynamic personality,” Taylor said. “He walks in front of a room and he energizes that room. And that’s Sean’s personality. I’m a little more reserved. … So I’m not going to try to be Sean. Sean is spectacular in his own way and I’m going to do it the way I feel most comfortable with and has got me to this point.

 

“[Sean] affects everyone he’s around. It’s more than just scheme. He is brilliant at creating mismatches, but it’s one that he gets the most out of the people, players and coaches that are around him every day. I’ve always felt that’s important. Sean is another example of doing it the right way and good things will happen.”

 

McVay told reporters on Tuesday that he doesn’t anticipate Taylor taking any assistants with him from the Rams’ staff. Taylor was mum on any specific candidates, but said he wanted “great teachers, concise communicators, outside-the-box thinkers and people who are not afraid to deviate from the norm.”

 

Taylor said he was more interested in the type of people being hired than the specific schemes they might bring with them, which is also something he learned during his time in Los Angeles.

 

“Everyone felt valued. No idea was dumb or too great to be a part of the plan,” he said. “Everybody felt like their role was important. It’s easy to come to work every single day when you feel like there is value to what you are doing and you feel appreciated, so you try to establish that same culture there.”

 

AFC SOUTH

 

HOUSTON

Tight ends coach Tim Kelly gets a promotion from Bill O’Brien.  Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle:

 

The Texans made it official, promoting tight ends coach Tim Kelly to offensive coordinator.

 

Kelly drew praise all season from coach Bill O’Brien, who had operated as his own offensive coordinator, for his work with tight ends Ryan Griffin, Jordan Thomas and Jordan Akins.

 

Kelly had risen in the coaching ranks under O’Brien from a graduate assistant at Penn State to offensive quality control. He hasn’t been an offensive coordinator before, but is regarded highly for his coaching acumen and people skills and adaptability.

 

The Texans made several other moves.

 

That included hiring Carl Smith as quarterbacks coach. He replaces Sean Ryan, who now coaches the Detroit Lions’ quarterbacks.

 

Smith was previously the Seattle Seahawks quarterbacks coach, working with Pro Bowl quarterback Russell Wilson. He is the father of Tracy Smith, the Texans’ assistant special teams coordinator.

 

The Texans promoted offensive assistant Will Lawing to tight ends coach.

 

Former Texans quarterback T.J. Yates has been named an offensive assistant as well as John Ayward.

 

Former Texans inside linebacker Akeem Dent has been hired as a defensive assistant.

 

The Texans hired Mike Eubanks as strength and conditioning coach and named former Texans Pro Bowl linebacker Brian Cushing as assistant strength and conditioning coach along with Joe Distor and Jason George.

 

The Texans hired former New York Jets executive Clay Hampton as director of football operations, shifting Doug West to assistant to the head coach.

 

Retired Pro Bowl wide receiver Wes Welker, who interviewed with the 49ers and Packers is no longer listed on the Texans’ coaching staff.

 

AFC EAST

 

NEW ENGLAND

Kudos to Christopher Price for spotting this trend:

 

@cpriceNFL

The #Patriots were the only team this year to beat the MVP (twice-Mahomes), the Defensive Player of the Year (Donald), the Defensive Rookie of the Year (Leonard), the Comeback Player of the Year (Luck) and the Coach of the Year (Nagy) this past season. @BostonSportsBSJ

– – –

The people of Boston may love a parade as much as the people of New Orleans.  Or at least the 12th title parade in 17 years still brings out a huge crowd. Darin Gantt of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

The Patriots have set another record.

 

According to the Boston Herald, local police officials estimated the crowd at yesterday’s latest victory parade at 1.5 million.

 

Sgt. Detective John Boyle said it was the “largest crowd Boston has seen at a parade.”

 

You have to realize, the long suffering fans of the greater New England region haven’t had a a title to celebrate in nearly four months, since the Red Sox won the World Series (also over a Los Angeles team, the Dodgers).

 

Between that at temperatures in the mid-60s, it was a perfect chance for people to lay out of work or skip school to join the festivities.

 

“Never gets old,” fan Sara Luppi said. “We’re witnessing mastery. Championship, parade, repeat.”

 

Boyle said there were 12 arrests. Four juveniles and an adult were involved in a fight, and two adults and a juvenile were arrested on alcohol-related charges. Which, frankly, seems low.

 

Boston has one year for a record seventh championship in one decade – if Wikipedia is to be believed:

 

Since the turn of the century, Boston’s professional sports teams have won twelve championships: six by the Patriots (Super Bowls XXXVI (2001), XXXVIII (2003), XXXIX (2004), XLIX (2014), LI (2016), and LIII (2018)), four by the Red Sox (2004, 2007, 2013, and 2018) and one each by the Celtics (2008) and the Bruins (2011) respectively. Their sports teams have also appeared an additional ten times as league finalists: five by the Revolution (2002, 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2014), three by the Patriots (Super Bowls XLII (2007), XLVI (2011), and LII (2017)) and one each by the Celtics (2010) and the Bruins (2013) respectively. The recent sporting success of their teams has given rise to the city’s monicker as the “City of Champions and “Titletown.”

 

In the 2000s, Boston’s professional teams had what was argued to be the most successful decade in sports history, winning six championships (three by the Patriots, two by the Red Sox and one by the Celtics), while also appearing an additional five times as league finalists (four by the Revolution, one by the Patriots).

 

In the 2010s, their professional teams matched their 2000s achievements, winning six additional championships (three by the Patriots, two by the Red Sox and one by the Bruins), while also appearing an additional five times as league finalists (two by the Patriots, one by the Celtics, one by the Bruins, and one by the Revolution).

 

When the Bruins won the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals, the city of Boston became the first city in the 21st century to have all four of its major professional league teams win a league championship, and became the only city to ever have championships in all four major professional leagues within a ten-year span, accomplishing this feat in a span of six years, four months, and nine days (from the Patriots’ championship win on February 6, 2005 to the Bruins’ championship win on June 15, 2011). This sporting achievement was what Dan Shaughnessy of Sports Illustrated dubbed as Boston completing the “Grand Slam of North American sports.”

 

The Bruins reaching the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals also allowed Boston to join Philadelphia as being the only cities to have had all of their teams play in each of the four major North American professional sports leagues’ title rounds since 2000. In addition, Boston beat out Philadelphia for playing in all of the “big” league championship rounds in the shortest time in the new millennium by doing so within a span of three years, seven months, and four days (from the Red Sox’s World Series win on October 28, 2007, to the Bruins playing game 1 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals on June 1, 2011); it took nine years for Philadelphia to achieve this in contrast. However, Philadelphia holds the all-time record for achieving this feat, having set the record much earlier between 1980 and 1981 when all four major league teams played in their respective championship games within an eight month span. When the Bruins reached the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals, Boston became the only city to have had all of their major league teams play in their leagues’ championship title rounds two times or more this century.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

BROADCAST NEWS

The fact that the nation’s second-biggest television market had a team in the Super Bowl did not help the ratings.  Dan Caeser of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch gleefully reports:

 

Sunday’s Super Bowl was the lowest-scoring one in the event’s 53-year history and struggled in the television ratings, too — especially in Los Angeles, where it had near-record low viewership.

 

Preliminary numbers from Nielsen, which tabulates viewership, show that 44.9 percent of homes in the nation with a TV tuned into CBS to watch the Patriots beat the Rams 13-3, the worst rating since the 2009 matchup between the Steelers and Cardinals had a 42.1 figure. Last year’s scintillating Eagles-Patriots contest generated a 47.4 “overnight” rating.

 

Nielsen also reported that Sunday’s game was seen by 100.7 million viewers combined on television and streaming services, with the TV audience alone at 98.2 million. That is a 3 percent dip from last year’s 103.4 million, on NBC.

 

LA finish 33rd among the 56 major U.S. cities in which ratings are tracked electronically, producing a 44.6 rating. That was the second-lowest figure for a market with a team competing in the game, according to records that date to 1987. The only worse figure was 40.6, in New York for the Giants-Baltimore Ravens matchup in 2001.

 

Of course, many of the residents of 21st century Los Angeles prefer soccer, baseball and basketball to football on a general basis.

 

Usually the New Orleans market ranks highly for any kind of football, not just a Saints or LSU telecast.  Not so Super Bowl 53.  Andrew Bucholtz of AwfulAnnouncing.com:

 

Super Bowl LIII’s low overnight ratings were particularly notable in one city; New Orleans. Many Saints’ fans are still upset about the controversial non-call late in their NFC Championship Game loss, which led to protests from the governor, congressmen and even a senator, and that led to a vowed boycott of the game. And boy, did many come through on that, delivering just a 26.1 overnight rating for CBS. That rating was the lowest for New Orleans in Super Bowl history:

 

Anthony Crupi

@crupicrupicrupi

 Saints fans weren’t just flapping their gums when they said they would sit out the Super Bowl. New Orleans ranked DFL in the 56 metered markets with a 26.1 overnight, down 51% vs 2018 (53.0). Lowest rating for the DMA in Super Bowl history.

 

Paulsen has more on that at Sports Media Watch:

 

New Orleans ranked dead last among the 56 metered markets for Sunday’s Super Bowl 53. Patriots-Rams scored a 26.1 rating in the market, down 51% from last year (53.0) and down 46% from 2017 (48.4).

 

…Typically, New Orleans is one of the NFL’s strongest neutral markets. It ranked seventh for last year’s Super Bowl. Saints fans were incensed by a blown call in the NFC Championship Game, and talk of a Super Bowl boycott percolated throughout the two-week bye.

 

Of course, this didn’t affect the overall nationwide ratings too much. New Orleans is the country’s 50th-largest media market with just 624,020 TV households in 2018-19 (as per Nielsen estimates), and so even a drop this big only corresponds to 175,000 fewer households (or a .15 rating nationally). So it’s not accurate to cite this boycott as a reason why the overall ratings were down so much. But it is interesting to see New Orleans go from a market punching well above its size in Super Bowl ratings (again, seventh nationally last year) to one punching way below its weight, and to see a threatened NFL boycott that actually had a significant impact (unlike so many threatened NFL boycotts in recent years). And the city’s still salty about how this played out, as shown by the New Orleans Times-Picayune front page seen above.