AROUND THE NFL

Someone, either Colin Kaepernick or his agent, wants an NFL check.  John Breech of CBSSports.com:

 

The 2019 NFL season has gotten off to a brutal start for the league’s quarterbacks, who are dropping like flies.

 

Through just two weeks, we’ve already seen Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees and Nick Foles go down with serious injuries. Cam Newton might also end up missing a game in Week 3 due to a foot problem and Sam Darnold is expected to miss multiple games due to mononucleosis.

 

With so many quarterbacks going down, it seems that Colin Kaepernick is hoping the 2019 season will be the year that his unofficial blackballing from the NFL finally comes to an end. According to SportsNet New York, Kaepernick’s agent has reached out to multiple teams this week in hopes of landing a job for his client.

 

@CWilliamson44

Source close to @Kaepernick7 in light of all the QB injuries: “Colin is literally in the best shape of his life. He’s been working out 5 days a week at 5 am for 3 years. He wants to play and his agent has been contacting teams in need of a QB.”

 

If you’re wondering who Kaepernick’s agent has reached out to, Stephen A. Smith has that answer. According to the ESPN commentator, Kaepernick’s camp has contacted the Steelers, Jets and Saints.

 

Unfortunately for Kaepernick, though, it doesn’t sound like those conversations went very well. 

 

“I am being told that he has contacted — Colin Kaepernick’s agent and others — have contacted the Pittsburgh Steelers,” Smith said this week. “Essentially, they’re not interested. They’ve contacted the Jets, no word on them yet. They’ve contacted the Saints. They didn’t get their phone calls returned.”

 

Ouch. That’s 0-for-2 with the Jets door still slightly open.

 

Even worse for Kaepernick is the fact that all three of those teams have actually added a quarterback since Tuesday morning.

 

On the Saints end, they signed J.T. Barrett to their practice squad and he’ll be their No. 3 guy behind Teddy Bridgewater and Taysom Hill. On the Steelers’ end, the team added Paxton Lynch to their practice squad on Tuesday. As for the Jets, who are down to third-string quarterback Luke Falk, they reportedly signed David Fales on Wednesday.

 

If there’s one saving grace for Kaepernick, it’s the fact that none of those quarterbacks are as good as him.

 

If you’re thinking that teams might be scared away from Kaepernick because he wants to be a starter, that doesn’t seem to be the case for him anymore. Smith spoke with Kaepernick’s girlfriend (Nessa Diab) last week, and she apparently told him that Kap would be willing to take a backup job.

 

“One of the things that Nessa Diab told me last week when she and I met, she said, ‘Colin Kaeperinck trains five days a week, every day, all five days, at 5 a.m.,'” Smith said. “‘Working out a minimum of three hours a day, if not longer. He’s ready to go. He wants to be back in the NFL and it doesn’t have to be as a starting quarterback. It could be as a backup quarterback.'”

 

That actually adds a twist to the situation, because if Kaepernick is willing to be a backup, that presumably means he’d be willing to play for backup money. If that’s the case, there wouldn’t be much risk to signing him, and if anything, the NFL should be encouraging teams to make it happen.

 

If Kaepernick signs with someone, that would solve a lot of problems for the league. For one, people would stop talking about the fact that he’s been blackballed. Also, if he plays well, it would be a comeback story that the league could easily sell. On the other hand, if he doesn’t play well, his new team could cut him and the league wouldn’t have to answer anymore questions about why Kaepernick never got another chance to play. For the NFL, there’s not a lot of downside.

 

If you’re wondering what kind of football shape Kaepernick is, he did spend some time practicing with multiple NFL players this offseason, including Odell Beckham.

 

Nessa Diab, who compared Ravens owner Steve Biscotti to a slave owner at a critical juncture in this tale, is part of the problem towards Kaepernick getting a new contract, not part of the solution.

 

Also, exactly who is Kaepernick’s agent?  He or she is continually referred to as “Kaepernick’s agent” in all the stories we see.  Is it Diab?

 

NFC EAST

 

PHILADELPHIA

The Eagles have a very iffy situation at wide receiver this week.  Jeff Kerr of CBSSports.com:

 

The Philadelphia Eagles signed DeSean Jackson to be their deep threat wide receiver for Carson Wentz, but won’t have him for the rest of the month. Per a report from ESPN’s Tim McManus, Jackson will be out at least two weeks with an abdominal strain. The Eagles host the Detroit Lions Sunday and travel to Green Bay to face the Packers for Thursday Night Football four days later, so Jackson will be out for both games next week. Jackson could return for the Eagles’ Week 5 game against the New York Jets on October 5.

 

Jackson played just 11 snaps in Sunday’s loss to the Atlanta Falcons, a game which the Eagles were amazingly short-handed at wide receiver. Alshon Jeffery played just six snaps before exiting with a calf injury and No. 2 tight end Dallas Goedert aggravated a calf injury in pregame warmups, missing the game. At one point in the game, the Eagles had just two healthy wide receivers and one healthy tight end on the roster. The Eagles had to run “11” personnel the entire game with just one tight end on the roster, affecting the game plan with head coach Doug Pederson adjusting on the fly.

 

And with WR ALSHON JEFFERY ailing, the Eagles aren’t even practicing, per se, on Wednesday.  Mike Chiari of Bleacher Report:

 

The Philadelphia Eagles canceled practice Wednesday on the heels of Sunday’s 24-20 loss to the Atlanta Falcons.

 

Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer noted that he could not remember the Eagles ever canceling a Wednesday practice sandwiched between two Sunday games in consecutive weeks.

 

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport provided a potential reason by pointing out that the Eagles are “really, really banged up.”

 

Both wide receivers Alshon Jeffery (calf) and DeSean Jackson (groin) left Sunday’s game and did not return. Defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan also exited with a foot injury.

 

In an update, Rapoport added that the Eagles are having a walkthrough rather than a practice due partly to injuries and partly to the fact that they have a Thursday night game in Week 4. That is something they have done in the past.

 

AFC WEST

 

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

RB MELVIN GORDON may be holding out, but he’s not going to sit out the year and have to do it all over again.  Eric Williams of ESPN.com:

 

In a video chat with his Instagram followers on Tuesday, Los Angeles Chargers running back Melvin Gordon said he’s “going to play somewhere” this season and that “it would be a waste of talent” if he did not.

 

Gordon also said that although the Chargers finished 12-4 in L.A. and reached the postseason in 2018, last year “was good, but nobody [fans in L.A.] cared.”

 

Gordon continues to hold out because of a contract impasse with the Chargers. Gordon’s representation asked for and was granted permission by the Chargers to pursue a trade, but so far no deal has materialized with another team.

 

Gordon is scheduled to make $5.605 million in the final season of his rookie deal. Just before the season started, Chargers general manager Tom Telesco announced that the team postponed negotiations with Gordon until the season is over. If Gordon chooses to report, he will play under his current contract.

 

Gordon desires a contract extension that will compensate him among the top running backs in the league like Todd Gurley, David Johnson and Le’Veon Bell, who earn an average of $13 million to $14 million annually. During training camp, the Chargers offered Gordon a new contract that doubled his salary at roughly $10 million annually.

 

Gordon likely will continue to sit and wait to see whether his leverage in negotiations changes during the season, depending on the Chargers’ record or injuries at his position.

 

If all that fails, the NFL’s constitution and bylaws state that players on the Reserve/Did Not Report list are “prohibited from being reinstated in the last 30 days of the regular season.”

 

If Gordon wants to play this year, he would have to report no later than Nov. 29 (31 days before the end of the regular season).

 

Gordon also needs to report by then to earn credit for this season so he can become an unrestricted free agent in 2020. However, the Chargers can still place the franchise tag on Gordon next season and could control his rights for the next two years.

 

Gordon continues to train in San Diego during his holdout.

– – –

This time, with TE HUNTER HENRY again injured, the Chargers have moved on from TE ANTONIO GATES.  Eric D. Williams of ESPN.com:

 

With tight end Hunter Henry out because of a knee injury, the Los Angeles Chargers announced Tuesday they have signed veteran tight end Lance Kendricks.

 

To make room on the roster, the Chargers officially placed safety Adrian Phillips on injured reserve with a broken right forearm.

 

The Chargers also waived wide receiver Andre Patton and re-signed defensive end Chris Peace.

 

Henry suffered a tibia plateau fracture to his left knee during the season opener against the Indianapolis Colts, and he likely will miss four to six weeks. He has not been put on injured reserve.

 

With Henry out and the team moving on from Antonio Gates, the Chargers needed to add a receiving tight end to the fold. Kendricks should serve in that role, joining tight ends Virgil Green and Sean Culkin on the active roster.

 

AFC NORTH

 

CLEVELAND

Coach Freddie Kitchens does not like the protection around QB BAKER MAYFIELD.  Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

 

Freddie Kitchens prided himself on not getting Baker Mayfield hit when he took over as offensive coordinator in the final eight games of last season.

 

Mayfield was sacked only five times in those games — by far a league low — and not hit very often.

 

This season, Mayfield has already been sacked eight times and hit 13, including three sacks in Monday’s 23-3 victory over the Jets. At that clip, he’d be sacked 64 times this year — two shy of the season record for Browns quarterbacks.

 

“We need to get the ball out of his hands quicker,’’ Kitchens said on a conference call Tuesday. “He’s taking too many hits. I don’t like my quarterback to take hits. I need to get the ball out of his hands quicker.”

 

According to Next Gen Stats, Mayfield finished last among 34 NFL quarterbacks with 15 passes or more in Week 2 with a time-to-throw rate of 3.35 seconds during Monday night’s 23-3 victory over the Jets. Overall, he’s third worst among NFL quarterbacks this season at 3.07. Last season, Mayfield was middle-of-the-pack in many of those games in the second half of the season.

 

But the Browns are better playing defenses this season they did down the stretch last year — and face a huge challenge against the defending NFC champion Rams Sunday night at FirstEnergy Stadium.

 

The offense has only played together twice on the field. Odell Beckham Jr. missed most of training camp with a hip injury, which he revealed Monday has been bothering him since OTAs. He also said his torn quad from last season wasn’t fully healed until April.

 

So it’s a work in progress between him and Mayfield, as well as Mayfield and others.

 

“That probably has a lot to do with it,’’ said Kitchens. “My job is to, until we get (more reps is) do what we can do good right now and that’s a week-to-week thing. I have to do a better job of doing that.”

 

 

PITTSBURGH

Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com on the Steelers’ decision to give up a first for CB MINKAH FITZPATRICK:

 

On the surface, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ decision to deal a first-round pick to the Miami Dolphins for safety Minkah Fitzpatrick reeks of desperation. They are 0-2, just lost their franchise quarterback for the year and see the Super Bowl window closing fast. The stage was set for Pittsburgh to get a high pick in 2020.

 

But the Steelers have never done business with draft positioning in mind. Win now is always the culture. The Steelers feel strongly enough about Fitzpatrick’s talent — and affordable rookie contract with an average base salary of $2.1 million for the next three seasons — to justify any pick the team could muster in April’s draft.

 

The move says a lot about where the Steelers are, and where they will be:

 

Roethlisberger isn’t retiring

Despite an elbow injury that could take the better part of 12 months from which to recover, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is likely back for next season. He’s not a lock to start Week 1, but Roethlisberger said in his statement Monday he’s honoring all three years of his deal.

 

Roethlisberger will be 38 in March, which is a reasonable number thanks to the blueprint set by Drew Brees and Tom Brady. Surrounding him with high-level pedigree is crucial.

 

The defense needs the help

As news broke midweek that the Dolphins were willing to deal Fitzpatrick, the 11th overall pick in 2018, I was told the Steelers wouldn’t be involved in the preliminary wave for him. Giving up a first was too steep for a franchise that values such capital.

 

But giving up 61 points through the first two weeks with what should be an improved defense must have pressed Pittsburgh to negotiate harder. They are tired of watching their safeties almost make plays. Terrell Edmunds’ athletic gifts should turn into consistent performance eventually, but they haven’t yet.

 

Fitzpatrick gives the Steelers a versatile safety who can help cover the slot and erase mistakes on the back end. He also can serve as a potential replacement for Sean Davis, who’s a free agent in March. A three-man safety lineup of Fitzpatrick, Edmunds and Davis is much better than what the Steelers rolled out in a 33-3 loss to New England in Week 1.

 

The defense now has eight former first-round picks in its starting lineup. If Mike Tomlin can’t make that work …

 

This speaks loudly about Rudolph

The Steelers had no intentions of selecting a quarterback in the top 10 next year despite Roethlisberger’s injury. General manager Kevin Colbert believes Mason Rudolph is a first-round talent, and the team is clinging to that belief with this move.

 

Teammates say they believe in Rudolph and their words don’t feel empty. He prepares hard, and that has earned their respect.

 

They also probably looked at the draft class of quarterbacks and figured they would win enough games to have no shot at Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa or Oregon’s Justin Herbert.

 

But that outside chance makes this move incredibly risky. If the season tanks and the rebuild is on, the Steelers just traded away a potential replacement quarterback.

 

But the Steelers will sell this: We have two good quarterbacks already. That promotes bold ideas.

 

Thoughts on the Roethlisberger injury from Bill Barnwell of ESPN.com:

 

Ben Roethlisberger’s injury throws the Steelers into significant uncertainty at the most important position in sports for the first time in 15 years. He has struggled to stay healthy at times — and his off-field behavior has included a serious motorcycle accident and multiple allegations of sexual misconduct — but the Steelers have been assured of generally above-average play from the quarterback they selected in the first round of the 2004 draft. One NFL executive to whom I recently spoke compared his team to a house and the starting quarterback to a roof. The Steelers haven’t had to worry about getting wet for 15 years. Now, suddenly, there’s a huge hole in their roof.

 

This injury comes at a time when the Steelers already were in transition on offense. Longtime starters Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, Marcus Gilbert and Jesse James — along with legendary offensive line coach Mike Munchak — all left the organization this offseason. While the Steelers already had developed a pair of replacements in running back James Conner and offensive tackle Matt Feiler, Pittsburgh generally used midround draft picks (and former Munchak assistant Shaun Sarrett) to replace the others.

 

Pittsburgh always has been an organization built around drafting and developing young talent; but in recent years, it has used some of its cap space to target veteran help in free agency, including cornerbacks Joe Haden and Steven Nelson. Perhaps owing to the $21.2 million in dead money Brown occupies on their 2019 cap, the only veteran the Steelers added to their offense this year was wideout Donte Moncrief, who has been a disaster while playing through a dislocated finger over the first two weeks of the season.

 

Roethlisberger was supposed to be the rock of the offense, one of the few players who wasn’t moving into a larger role or subject to a coaching change over the offseason. Now, he’s gone. The Steelers didn’t choose to sign a veteran to help back up Roethlisberger this offseason, instead letting 2017 fourth-rounder Joshua Dobbs and 2018 third-rounder Mason Rudolph compete for the job. Rudolph was the favorite and won the competition, with the Steelers promptly shipping off Dobbs to the Jaguars for a fifth-round pick.

 

The Steelers already have promoted Devlin Hodges from their practice squad to serve as the new backup quarterback. There aren’t exactly many options available in free agency, but I wonder if Pittsburgh might call Matt Cassel, who played under former Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley in Kansas City. Offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner’s scheme shares many of the same playcalls with Haley’s playbook.

 

Even if the Steelers sign a veteran such as Cassel, they’ll move forward in the short term with Rudolph as the starter. Projecting how he will perform is a difficult enterprise. The 24-year-old played in a spread offense at Oklahoma State under Mike Gundy, posting a 79.1 Total QBR over his four seasons at school. That number comes in just behind Sam Darnold’s 79.5 mark over his two years at Southern California.

 

Like Roethlisberger, the 6-foot-5, 230-pound Rudolph has the prototypical size you would expect from an NFL quarterback. Some reports coming out of college, however, suggested Rudolph doesn’t have the prototypical arm strength that often is associated with that physical archetype. For what it’s worth, Rudolph’s numbers throwing deep in college were quite good, as he posted a 98.8 QBR on throws traveling 16 or more yards in the air.

 

The arm strength concern popped up during Rudolph’s biggest play on Sunday, the 45-yard flea-flicker that he tossed to JuJu Smith-Schuster. When Rudolph threw the pass, Smith-Schuster was accelerating past a wrong-footed Lano Hill, but Rudolph’s throw forced the star wideout to slow down and nearly gave Hill a chance to break it up. A better throw would have produced a walk-in touchdown:

 

It would be impossible to draw broader conclusions about Rudolph’s future from his appearance on Sunday. He was 12-of-19 passing for 112 yards with two touchdowns and an interception against a Seahawks pass defense that had been gashed by Cincinnati at home the previous week. His interception was entirely on Moncrief, who was benched after his most recent drop. His two touchdown passes were short throws to Vance McDonald, one of which came on a failed screen. The second of those touchdown drives was just 3 yards. Rudolph didn’t cost the Steelers the game; Pittsburgh’s defense allowing three consecutive touchdown drives in the second half before letting the Seahawks turn a third-and-16 over two plays into a new set of downs was what pushed the Steelers to 0-2.

 

What we know, historically, is that the success rate for third-round quarterbacks in the NFL hasn’t been great. Since 1990, 36 quarterbacks have been drafted in the third round. Two of them are Rudolph and Will Grier, whose futures still are basically indecipherable. When you look at the other 34, just six became players who started three seasons or more. (This assumes that recently drafted quarterbacks who have been slotted into backup roles, such as C.J. Beathard and Sean Mannion, don’t suddenly turn into multiyear starters.) Five made it to at least one Pro Bowl. Two of them started and won Super Bowls; one was Nick Foles, while the other was the only passer from the 34 to turn into a no-doubt franchise quarterback — Russell Wilson.

 

Wilson fell to the third round only because he lacked prototypical size. Rudolph has that size; if NFL organizations thought he had the skills to play quarterback at a high level, he would have been a first-round pick. My working theory with quarterbacks is that the league is generally awful at evaluating passers and that success depends much more on the infrastructure surrounding a quarterback than we think. Moncrief aside, Rudolph seems to have above-average infrastructure around him as he begins his starting career. Most rookie quarterbacks would kill for this offensive line and a receiver as good as Smith-Schuster.

 

What happens next is up in the air. Roethlisberger, who has flirted with retirement in years past, issued a public statement suggesting he intends to rehab his injury and return to the team in 2020. Plans change, of course; nobody expected quarterbacks such as Peyton Manning (Colts) and Tony Romo (Cowboys) to leave their franchise when they went down injured before a season began, but their departures seemed inevitable by the time those seasons were over.

 

The best thing for the Steelers, naturally, would be for Rudolph to play like a superstar. If that happens, Pittsburgh will face a difficult decision. Roethlisberger is due a $12.5 million roster bonus on March 20, and his $8.5 million base salary for 2020 already is guaranteed for injury. The Steelers could choose to bring back Big Ben as their starter and keep their quarterback of the future as a backup, but once teams find their new quarterback, they tend to stick with that guy.

 

Realistically, if Rudolph plays well, the Steelers will have to decide on Roethlisberger’s future on March 20. If they found a trade partner, they would be off the hook for paying him that $21 million in 2020. But if they trade him — or if he retires — they also would simultaneously owe $25 million in dead money on their 2020 cap, which would see the team set the single-season dead money record for a player for the second consecutive season.

 

If the Steelers chose to designate Roethlisberger as a post-June 1 release, Pittsburgh would owe as much as $33.5 million in dead money, depending on the offset language in his contract. They would be able to spread that money over two years, but it still would be an enormous sum of money for him to go play somewhere else.

 

AFC SOUTH

 

INDIANAPOLIS

Even as the Colts proclaim that PK ADAM VINATIERI is still their kicker, behind the scenes they were preparing for the next stage.  Nat Newell of the Indianapolis Star:

 

Indianapolis Colts coach Frank Reich said Adam Vinatieri will be the team’s kicker on Sunday vs. Atlanta despite a tough start to the season, but that doesn’t mean the team isn’t doing its due diligence. Elliott Fry, Cole Hedlund, Younghoe Koo, Greg Joseph, Chase McLaughlin and Cody Parkey worked out for the Colts on Tuesday, according to ESPN. IndyStar Colts Insider Joel A. Erickson has confirmed the workouts by Fry, Koo and Joseph.

 

What, no Carly Lloyd?

 

 

JACKSONVILLE

It looks like CB JALEN RAMSEY will play his farewell game for the Jaguars on Thursday.  Could he then play for someone else like the Chiefs on Sunday?

 

A tweet from Ian Rapoport:

@RapSheet

With the #Jaguars playing the #Titans tomorrow night, a trade of Pro Bowl CB Jalen Ramsey prior to the game is unlikely. Friday is the most likely target date, sources say.

 

More from the AP:

 

Jalen Ramsey’s exit appears imminent and awkward.

 

Without saying why or providing much insight, the star cornerback confirmed Tuesday that he wants out of Jacksonville and said he doesn’t want to be a distraction as Jacksonville prepares to host Tennessee (1-1) on Thursday night.

 

Ramsey, who arrived at Jaguars camp in a brinks truck amid a contract dispute, is failing at not being a distraction.

 

He said his angst has nothing to do with the franchise declining to offer him a contract extension before this season, but hinted that the coaching staff has failed to use him properly.

 

Two other teammates told The Associated Press the trade request had as much to do with the direction of the franchise than anything else. The players spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the conversations.

 

They said Ramsey is one of several players currently questioning front-office decisions since Tom Coughlin was hired as the team’s top football executive in 2017.

 

AFC EAST

 

NEW YORK JETS

QB SAM DARNOLD hopes to be back from mono after missing two games, thanks to an early Jets bye.  Rich Cimini of ESPN.com:

 

New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold, diagnosed last week with mononucleosis, said he feels better and hopes to return to the lineup in Week 5 against the Philadelphia Eagles.

 

“That’s the goal for me and that’s what the doctors are estimating,” Darnold said Tuesday during his weekly spot on ESPN New York’s The Michael Kay Show.

 

That timetable would mean he’d have to miss only one more game, this Sunday against the New England Patriots. The Jets (0-2) have their bye in Week 4.

 

Speaking publicly for the first time since he got ill, Darnold sounded in good spirits, saying doctors allowed him to return to the Jets’ facility on Tuesday. He can attend meetings with his teammates and coaches, but he’s not allowed yet to participate in physical activity.

 

“I’m back doing normal things,” he said. “It’s just not being able to work out or get my blood pressure up in any way.”

 

Darnold, 22, confirmed that his spleen is enlarged, a common symptom of mono. Another is weight loss, but he has dropped only two pounds because he started eating extra meals and snacks as soon as he learned of the diagnosis. That, he believes, will allow him to stay in relatively good football shape during his layoff.

 

With QB TREVOR SIEMIAN done for the year with his broken ankle, QB LUKE FALK makes his first start this week against New England.  Nice headline at ESPN.com on the new QB signing:

 

When all else Fales: Jets add QB to back up Falk

 

The New York Jets signed quarterback David Fales to back up Luke Falk for Sunday’s game against the New England Patriots, the team announced.

 

The Jets (0-2) have been left to scramble at the quarterback position with starter Sam Darnold sidelined with mononucleosis. He missed Monday’s 23-3 loss to the Cleveland Browns and will miss Sunday’s game at New England as well. He said Tuesday during his weekly spot on ESPN New York’s The Michael Kay Show that he is feeling better and his goal is to return for the Jets’ Week 5 game against the Philadelphia Eagles. The Jets have a bye in Week 4.

 

Trevor Siemian started Monday night’s game but was lost for the season when he suffered torn ligaments in his left ankle on a late hit by the Browns’ Myles Garrett. Falk, who had been elevated from the practice squad before that game, went 20-for-25 passing for 198 yards in relief and will start against the Patriots.

 

Siemian was placed on injured reserve Wednesday, which opened the spot on the active roster for Fales.

 

Fales, as well as Falk, played for Jets coach Adam Gase in Miami and are familiar with his offense. Fales last played in a regular-season game in 2017 with the Dolphins; he is 31-for-48 passing for 287 yards with one touchdown and one interception in three games in his career.

 

So, along with QB GARDNER MINSHEW of Washington State, the last two Mike Leach-Washington State quarterbacks are starting this week.

 

Jayson Jenks of The Athletic talked to some of Leach’s QBs for this story from back in August:

 

First disclaimer: This is a story about Washington State coach Mike Leach.

 

Second disclaimer: While some of the details and anecdotes in this story might sound too strange to believe, the 10 former Washington State quarterbacks who spoke to The Athletic about Leach and his QB meetings insist that they are all true.

 

Austin Apodaca, 2012-13: It’s something you can’t really fabricate. All this stuff is true. You can ask any of us who have been in the room with him.

 

Connor Halliday, 2012-14: His first meeting, he had just gotten there and I was expecting him to install the offense. Everybody had their notebooks out ready to go. I think we got there at like 6 o’clock at night and were there until 9:30. He didn’t speak one word about football.

– – –

Apodaca: Every single day there was some shit that popped off that you were like, “What in the world?”

 

Brink: Did you see our Christmas card photos we took as a quarterback group this year when we were holding Leach up? Other programs don’t have stuff like that. Nobody is having that much fun.

 

Brink: Everything with Leach at first glance is crazy, right? But then you’ve got to unpack it and be like, “OK, but is it that crazy?”

 

Brink: Our No. 1 rule was: Never say or ask or do anything that would get him talking about anything besides the film.

 

Apodaca: We would get pissed at people in the meeting room if they asked a question toward the end of the meeting. We would have these fall camp meetings that went until 9:30 at night and if there was a young freshman in there asking questions, we were all looking at him like, “Oh my God, dude, shut up because we will be in here for an hour and a half more on this subject alone. Stop asking questions, damn it.”

 

Brink: We’d have people sit in our meetings all the time, and it got to the point that our quarterbacks would say to the guys coming to the meeting, “Look, we’re glad to have you here. But don’t. Say. Anything. Because the second you do, that’s going to be the focus of this meeting, and then we’ll all be here all night.”

 

Tyler Bruggman, 2013: There was one time Connor, a veteran, made a rookie mistake. Sundays are typically long days, and we had finished the film from the game before. We were ready to head off to dinner. And then Connor made a rookie mistake and asked about the economy crash. I just remember Coach Leach putting the film clicker down and saying, “You know, it’s kind of a long answer, but it’s worth talking about.” So at that point, I knew we were going to be stuck in there for a while.

 

Jorgensen: There were definitely games going on within the quarterbacks. Leach would cycle through stories and then you’d get guys trying to trigger certain stories. They knew what to say in order to get him to go off on a tangent.

 

Brink: One of the great stories on that was early on my first year. Luke (Falk) was getting so perfect at his craft, and Luke loved making sure he got out to the practice field early enough to get his full warm-up in. So we would be in there waiting for Leach, and Luke would put on this serious face and be like, “I don’t care what you guys do, no matter what, nobody say shit, nobody ask anything, just let him come in and do his thing because I need to get on the practice field.” Classic Tyler Hilinski, he would wait until there would be maybe five or 10 minutes left in film and he would just be like, “So, Coach, what do you think about …”

 

Connor Neville, 2017-18: You could see Luke losing his shit in the corner. Just like, “Come on, I just want to get the fuck out of here.”

 

Brink: Luke would be staring daggers across the table, and Tyler would be covering his mouth because he would be cracking up.

 

Brink: Sometimes they’re literally out of nowhere. We’ll be watching film and he’ll be like, “Throw it to this guy here. On this play, we could have checked to this play. And you know what? That reminds me …” And now we’re on some story that happened in Key West and some guy with one eye and a peg leg that he met at whatever bar.

 

Apodaca: I remember one story in particular. I can’t remember where he was at, but a neighborhood dog kept going up to him and barking at him or something when he was a small kid. To get this dog to stop barking, he apparently went up to it and peed around it or something so the dog wouldn’t bother him. Since that story, I was like, “This dude is another level of different.” He was just so happy to tell that story.

 

Bruggman: One of the quarterbacks at Texas Tech took notes on Leach’s stories, and he would quote Leach but he wouldn’t say the F word and he wouldn’t write the F word. He left his notebook behind one day and somehow Leach got a hold of it and was looking at it, so the next day in the meeting he said, “I want you to get up on the board and write the word ‘fuck.’”

– – –

Jorgensen: We didn’t really have playbooks.

 

Brink: Any high school, any junior college, no matter where you were, your playbook gets simpler when you get to Washington State.

 

Tuel: Literally as simple as humanly possible.

 

Apodaca: I remember I threw a pick or something, and I remember asking him what coverage that play is good against. And he goes, “Well, you should have just thrown it to this fucking guy because he’s standing there wide-ass open.”

 

Halliday: I said to Leach, “What do I need to do to get the ball there on time?” He was like, “Well, just throw it to the guy who’s fucking open.” I was like, “Yeah, no, I get that dude, but what do you want me to do to get there quicker?” And he was like, “I don’t give a shit what you do. Just throw it to the guy who’s fucking open.”

 

Tuel: You expect someone with that reputation, with that many successful quarterbacks under his umbrella, to have some secret sauce or special way of calling plays or reading defenses or just some scheme that’s better than everyone’s…He just found a way to make it as simple as he can.

 

Brink: Every week we’d look at what the defense was going to do inside the red zone. So every week Coach Leach would lean back and be like, “All right, guys. When we’re down in the red zone, they’re going to do one of two things. They’ll be in man or they’ll be in zone.” Early on, you look around at the other quarterbacks like, “Are you serious? That’s what I came to play college football to learn?”

– – –

Tuel: This guy’s the guru. He is the Air Raid. I remember at BYU our first game, we’re watching the film the next day and he says, “How many plays did you change?” I said, “Probably two or three.” He’s like, “What do you mean two or three?” I said, “I called the play, and I ran the play. That’s kind of how it’s worked for me here.” He’s like, “Well, when Graham (Harrell) was playing, those guys were checking seven out of 10 plays. I was like, “Well, you never fucking told me that!” He’s like, “Well, you’re the one who sees it. I’m just giving you a suggestion.” I’m like, “Fucking A, good to know.” There are some things you just have to figure out going through it with him.

 

Halliday: By the end of my junior year and all through my senior year, I was probably calling 70 percent of the plays. He would give me a formation and then I would call the play. His coaching philosophy is, you’re out there on the field, you can see the way the defense is lined up better than I can. So it’s my job to get you to the best point of believing in yourself and believing in your ability to call the plays. That’s the way he coaches. He does it in a roundabout way sometimes, but it’s his philosophy to get the quarterback to run the entire show.

– – –

Halliday: Our film sessions kind of became more of a hang-out situation. He had this Cuban coffee maker that he called Bucci. It’s really, really, really strong Cuban espresso. I don’t know why, but he called it Bucci.

 

Apodaca: Dude, I was like the Bucci slave my redshirt year. The Bucci was huge.

 

Tuel: He had a Bucci guy when I was there. Certainly.

 

Apodaca: I had to learn how to make the Bucci. I didn’t know how to do it, so I’m up there asking questions, nervous and shit, like, “What the hell? I don’t know how to make this shit.” I finally learned how to do it. Once I learned how to do it, Leach was like, “Oh, man, Apodaca, you make a real mean Bucci.” From then on, I had to go up and make the Bucci for him every single day before meetings. I was like, “Dude, if it gets me out of some crazy ass story, I’m going to go make this shit.”

– – –

Brink: We had our position meeting at 2 o’clock, so we had to all be in there by 2 o’clock. The thing is, during my three seasons, I think he was on time maybe once or twice.

 

Anderson: He was usually fashionably late for whatever reason.

 

Brink: And then 15 or 20 minutes in, Coach Leach would walk in, but he would have his ear buds in and he’d be talking on the phone to someone. That’s another thing about him: He’ll pick up the phone for anyone, and no matter who you are, he’ll talk with you.

 

Jorgensen: He’d stop the meeting and take a half-hour phone call to talk to some ESPN Radio show. I know he talked to Donald Trump on the phone one time. He wouldn’t say anything. He’d just grab his phone and just take it for half an hour.

 

Brink: So he’d be on the phone for another five or 10 minutes and then he’d say, “Hey, I’ve gotta go. I’ve got a meeting to run here.” Now it’s 2:25 and we’ve started. If he was talking about something especially interesting on that phone call, then we’d start the meeting with a story. At that point, all bets were off. You didn’t know when you were going to get to film. You might not.

– – –

Apodaca: Leach doesn’t change, and he’s not going to change for people.

 

Brink: Leach will be Leach daily. That’s another thing I love and respect about him. He’s the same guy every day. There’s something to be said for that.

 

Anderson: I would go back and sit in a meeting again just to enjoy it.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

AIKMAN RATINGS

 

Anecdotally, the four best teams in the NFL are the Patriots, Chiefs, Cowboys and Rams, but after two weeks the Ravens and 49ers have pushed into the top four (although their caliber of opposition may have something to do with that).

 

The Aikman Combined Ratings for the first two weeks of 2019 do show the nine undefeated teams at the top.

 

The Ravens and Cowboys have the best offenses so far in Aikman Offense while the Patriots are substantially ahead in Aikman Defense.

 

Interesting to see Green Bay’s Aikman Defense running well ahead of the Offense to this point.

 

 

2019 Aikman Efficiency Ratings Through Week 2                                                                                                                      

                                                                                                                       

                                                        Aikman                                        NFL    

Rank   Record            Team               Com    Off       Def                  Off       Def      Comb.

1          2-0-0    Patriots            209.9    97.1   112.8                 5         1          6

2          2-0-0    Ravens            198.8   112.2     86.6                 1          2          3

3          2-0-0    49ers               176.1     86.7     89.3                 7          9        16

4          2-0-0    Cowboys         175.5   111.2     64.4                 2        18        20

5          2-0-0    Packers           175.3     75.5     99.8               29        13        42

6          2-0-0    Seahawks       165.7     90.8     74.9               24        16        40

7          2-0-0    Chiefs              165.6     93.7     71.9                 3        19        22

8          2-0-0    Bills                 161.3     94.2     67.1                 9          6        15

9          2-0-0    LA Rams         160.9     90.6     70.3               13          5        18

10        1-1-0    Titans              158.3     91.4     66.9               27        11        38

11        1-1-0    Eagles             157.3     83.3     74.0               14        22        36

12        1-1-0    Buccaneers     156.9     64.3     92.6               26          8        34

13        1-1-0    Texans            156.9     93.6     63.3               21        23        44

14        1-0-1    Lions                156.6     82.1     74.5                 8        27        35

15        1-1-0    Vikings            154.0     81.6     72.4               20        15        35

16        1-1-0    Raiders            152.2     85.5     66.8               22        26        48

17        1-1-0    Browns            151.4     78.2     73.1               15          7        22

18        1-1-0    Colts                151.2     92.4     58.8               22        14        36

19        1-1-0    Bears               150.6     66.2     84.5               30          4        34

20        1-1-0    LA Chargers    147.2     82.5     64.7                 4        17        21

21        0-1-1    Cardinals         140.6     77.9     62.7               12        31        43

22        0-2-0    Jaguars           139.6     79.1     60.5               18        21        39

23        1-1-0    Saints              137.9     82.0     56.0               10        24        34

24        0-2-0    Panthers          135.0     73.8     61.2               19        12        31

25        1-1-0    Falcons           133.4     65.6     67.8               17          3        20

26        0-2-0    Steelers           133.0     75.4     57.6               28        29        57

27        0-2-0    Redskins         131.8     88.1     43.7               25        30        55

28        0-2-0    Broncos           130.6     76.3     54.3               16        10        26

29        0-2-0    NY Jets           128.3     59.3     69.0               31        20        51

30        0-2-0    NY Giants       122.5     81.8     40.7                 6        28        34

31        0-2-0    Bengals           115.6     62.2     53.4               11        25        36

32        0-2-0    Dolphins            75.0     42.0     33.0               32        32        64

                                                                                                                       

                        NFL Average: 150.2   81.8       68.4