The Daily Briefing Thursday, June 22, 2017
AROUND THE NFL
Without comments from Colin Kaepernick to mull and chew, the voracious media is running out of fodder to make the case for him that he is being unfairly denied a contract. Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com, believed to be more the right than many scribes, wants Kaepernick quotes.
Most Niners people liked Colin Kaepernick last year. And that was different.
Often quiet and keeping to himself, Kaepernick’s season-long protest against police brutality opened discussions that allowed him to build relationships with teammates that he previously didn’t have. The San Francisco brass supported his effort, as did the coaching staff, and as a result his separation from the team that drafted him in 2011 was nowhere near as ugly as it would’ve been had it happened a year earlier.
And yet, this question from those who were there lingers: Does he still want to play?
So in the immediate wake of the most controversial thing he’s done since he started kneeling for the anthem, I’m ready to align with others who’ve said it: It’s time for Kaepernick to talk for himself. Doesn’t matter how he does it. It can be through the legion of reporters friendly to his efforts. It can be through a video released on social media. It can be through a Facebook page or a press conference.
Whatever. It’s just time for Kaepernick to talk.
The problem is in the vacuum that his silence has created. It’s been filled with speculation and tea-leaf reading. Meanwhile, teams unsure if Kaepernick was truly interested in continuing his NFL career (rather than focusing solely on his causes) are still wondering. And that’s so long as they haven’t been convinced by his most recent actions that he’s out.
I’m starting with Kaepernick, and that means starting with his tweet of last Friday, but not to assess its validity. We’re looking now at its implication, since the door back into professional football may be closing on him as a result.
A system that perpetually condones the killing of people, without consequence, doesn’t need to be revised, it needs to be dismantled!
It came in the aftermath of the Philando Castile verdict. Whether you agree with what Kaepernick tweeted or not, it was, without question, the most divisive public message he’s sent since last summer. But it’s not close to the first time he’s pushed buttons on social media in a way that would get the attention of his prospective employers.
On Sunday, two days after the Castile tweet, Kaepernick retweeted a story that blamed commissioner Roger Goodell for his unemployment. On May 10, he retweeted Shannon Sharpe’s take that teams were holding his anthem protest against him. On June 5, he retweeted Sharpe saying the Seahawks’ interest in him was a ruse. On June 2, he retweeted a tweet quoting ex-NFL player Eric Davis as having said the NFL told teams not to sign Kaepernick—and that tweet actually misquoted Davis.
So I look at all of this, along with the bomb Kaepernick dropped last Friday, and see one of two things. Either he doesn’t want to play anymore, or he’s so frustrated with the lack of interest in his services that he’s given up, and has just decided to take off any sort of governor on what he’s putting up on social media.
Ask yourself this: If you wanted a job that badly, would you be endorsing shots at employers publicly like that? And if you’d had to fall on the sword for a recent act (Kaepernick had to backpedal last summer after wearing socks depicting police as pigs), would you repeat that act in a most public way while you were looking for work?
These are questions being asked by NFL teams, and they bolster the aforementioned feeling that some Niners staffers held a year ago: Kaepernick’s interest in football isn’t what it once was.
As one Niners employee explained it, Kaepernick wouldn’t stay late at the facility during the season like many quarterbacks routinely do, saying he’d take work home. And there were examples where coaches saw what looked like shoddy prep surfacing in inexplicable mental errors in games. Another staffer, asked if he thinks Kaepernick wants to keep playing, answered, “I do think he wants to play—to stay relevant.”
Remember, these guys like Kaepernick, and felt like the distraction he brought to the team was very manageable after the initial surge of attention subsided. And these problems added to the deficiencies in his accuracy and consistency from the pocket.
Now, if Kaepernick’s trying to get back into football to help advance his cause, he wouldn’t be the first player to do that, and there’s even something admirable about it. If he fell out of love with the game and just wants to squeeze a few more bucks from the sport, there are plenty of guys who reach that point, too. And if he doesn’t want to play anymore, that’s obviously his right.
It’s also his right to say whatever he wants, but as most of us have learned the hard way—myself included—the first amendment doesn’t absolve anyone from resulting fallout. Kaepernick has to know how retweeting shots at the league and the teams would come off. And he had to know, after his experience with the pig socks, that his Friday tweet would be seen as generalizing cops with slave catchers.
Without hearing from him in the aftermath of any of this, we’re all left to speculate where his head is. Last month, his trainer, Josh Hidalgo, told our Peter King, that Kaepernick is “ready to lead a team.”
I’ve chronicled here what my reporting has told me. This starts with the erosion of Kaepernick’s playing value, then trickles elsewhere. Bottom line, he’s not seen as a starter, and so teams aren’t making scheme or off-field accommodations for him. That—which is far from a black-balling—has been hard for him to overcome.
No one makes a list of the best 64 or 96 players at any position and just hands out jobs. It doesn’t work that way. Back-half-of-the-roster jobs usually come down to fit.
But Kaepernick also has made it harder on himself, because we’re left to wonder why he keeps doing things unrelated or unnecessary to the movement he’s supporting that hinder his ability to find work. We’re left to wonder why there hasn’t been more aggression from his people in finding him a job. We’re left to wonder, as teams are, if he really wants to play.
If he does, it wouldn’t be that hard to let the rest of us know.
And this from Breer:
In the course of reporting the above lead to this week’s column, a coach articulated something to me that I think gets lost in all of the Kaepernick hoopla: The job of the backup quarterback is far from the same as the job of starter. And so I went looking for an example, and found the perfect one in Carolina, a place that, on paper, could be a fit for Kaepernick, given the scheme and veteran locker room in place.
Why would the Panthers choose to stick with 34-year-old Derek Anderson over someone like Kaepernick, who may have a higher ceiling? It’s because being a backup quarterback isn’t just about how good a player you are. It’s about how you fit with the starter. In many organizations, the backup is as important a resource to the starter as a position coach or coordinator, and Carolina is one of those places. Anderson played for Rob Chudzinski in 2007 and ’08 in Cleveland, and Chudzinski brought Anderson to Carolina after Ron Rivera hired Chudzinski as offensive coordinator in 2011. That means Anderson has a decade of background in the offense. So when Anderson and Newton meet on Monday to look back at a game, or come together on the players’ day off to look forward to the next Sunday, Anderson can give Newton a different perspective and another set of eyes and ears that are on the level of a coach, but with the experience of having run the offense on the field. On top of that, with all that experience, Anderson doesn’t need many practice reps during the week to be ready play in a pinch, which allows the coaches to give them all to Newton. As I understand it, for every 100 reps given to Newton in-season, Anderson may get 5 or 10.
Simply put, there’s value in all of this, and it illustrates why, again, you can’t simply list the top 64 or 96 players at the position and yell from the mountaintops that they all should be employed. As we’ve said forever now, part of the problem Kaepernick has—in addition to the newsworthiness of his social stance—is how he fits into the tapestry of individual teams as a backup.
Left unsaid is the fact that a QB with a shaky commitment to football becomes shakier when idling about as a backup.
It’s not like the warning signs weren’t there for the Rams with Auburn tackle Greg Robinson in 2014. Heck, his college coaches told NFL scouts at Robinson’s Pro Day that the Tigers were really only running a handful of run plays, less than a handful of protections, and there were concerns about whether or not the athletically-freakish tackle prospect would be able to learn a complex pro offense. The Rams figured they could teach him anyway, and took him second overall.
Three years later, Robinson has been dealt to Detroit (desperate for left tackle help after Taylor Decker’s injury) for a sixth-round pick, and that was after the Rams paid 35-year-old ex-Bengal Andrew Whitworth $12 million per year to take the spot Robinson was supposed to fill. And it’s yet another story proving how much harder it’s become to get it right with offensive-line prospects in this era of the college spread.
It used to be that there was no surer thing than a highly-drafted left tackle. That’s changed. Baylor’s Jason Smith, the second pick in 2009 (also to the Rams), was really the first high profile spread-specific washout. Since then, Robinson and ex-Jaguar Luke Joeckel fit into the spread-offense bust category. And you could argue this trend was a factor this offseason in how teams valued veteran NFL linemen (six free agents got deals worth $10 million or more per year) and not rookies (the first linemen drafted went 20th overall). And it’s tough to see where this ends, since the offseason rules limit contact to a pretty insane degree. Plus, backup linemen don’t play the way backups at other positions do (meaning young linemen who aren’t starting aren’t hitting much in-season), and colleges won’t stop running the spread anytime soon. What’s not hard to see is the frustration a lot of teams have felt on this over the past few years.
DT LETROY GUION picks up a DUI. Richard Ryman in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:
Letroy Guion’s future with the Green Bay Packers is even more in doubt after he was arrested Wednesday in Hawaii and charged with driving under the influence.
Guion, who is under suspension for the first four games of the 2017 season for violating the NFL policy on performance-enhancing substances, was found to have a blood alcohol level of .086 during a routine traffic stop. The legal limit in Hawaii is .08.
“The Packers are aware of the matter involving Letroy Guion,” a Packers spokesman said. “We will refrain from making any further comment as it is an ongoing legal matter.”
Honolulu Police said Guion was pulled over at 4:20 a.m. Honolulu time during a routine traffic stop.
The Packers had not indicated how long they would keep Guion on the roster after his second suspension in March, but because he would be suspended without pay for those four weeks, it would cost the team nothing to retain him as an insurance policy in the event it needed a defensive lineman.
The 2017 suspension was Guion’s second with the Packers, who signed him as a street free agent in 2014.
Guion’s first suspension came after he was stopped in February 2015 in Florida because his truck was swerving across the center line. Officers found a gun, three-fourths of a pound of marijuana and $190,000 in cash. He pleaded no contest to possession of marijuana and paid a $5,000 fine.
As a result, he served a three-game suspension at the start of the 2015 NFL season.
His legal troubles began before he joined the Packers. He had been charged in criminal cases three times, including a stalking charge and two domestic violence incidents that resulted in three counts of battery. In one case, he was charged with hitting the mother of his child in the jaw.
The Packers signed Guion to a three-year deal in February 2016 worth up to $11 million. The contract was heavy on incentives and contained only $500,000 in guaranteed money. According to an ESPN report, Guion and the Packers agreed to move two offseason roster bonuses of $400,000 into the regular season, helping the team put off a decision on whether to cut Guion loose.
If Guion stays on the roster, it will mark the third consecutive year the Packers would have a defensive lineman suspended for the start of the season. Guion and Datone Jones (one game) were suspended in 2015 and Mike Pennel served a four-game suspension in 2016 before being released.
Jordy McElroy of FanRagSports.com thinks that RB EZEKIEL ELLIOTT is going to be a better pass catcher going forward.
Ezekiel Elliott is ready to take his game to the next level after having one of the all-time great rookie seasons with the Dallas Cowboys in 2016. There is much to improve on, even for an All-Pro running back that ran for 1,631 yards and 15 touchdowns.
When speaking with Ed Werder and Matt Mosley on the Doomsday Podcast, Elliott claimed he was tailoring his game after NFL Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk. No, Faulk never ran for as many yards in a season as Elliott did last year, but then again, Elliott has never eclipsed 1,000 yards rushing and receiving as a running back.
“One of the guys I looked up to growing up playing football was Marshall Faulk,” said Elliott. “You hear stories about him about how he was kind of like a second quarterback back there with Kurt Warner. So this offseason, I’ve just been focusing on kind of learning the offense outside of roles. I’m just kind of being able to be back there and be helpful to [quarterback] Dak [Prescott] and just kind of … learning what everyone else is doing and how I fit into my job.”
Faulk was one of the most versatile running backs in NFL history.
There was a five-year stretch in Indianapolis and St. Louis when he averaged 80-plus catches a season. These are insane numbers for a running back even by today’s pass-happy standards. Elliott may never double-up with 1,000 yards rushing and receiving, but he has the kind of talent and the right elements in Dallas where it’s possible he can come close.
All of the focus seems to linger on Elliott’s rushing totals. Rarely do we ever hear about his production last season as a receiver. He caught 32 passes for 363 yards and one touchdown. Granted, those numbers are a long ways off from all-purpose running backs like David Johnson and Le’Veon Bell, but they do highlight some level of versatility in Elliott’s game.
He can be more than a downhill runner if the Cowboys need him to be.
Opening up the playbook to Prescott in his second season might yield more opportunities for Elliott to work in as a receiver. He had significantly fewer targets than Bell and Johnson, but this newfound dedication to being cognizant of what the quarterback is seeing could put him in a better position to see more balls thrown his way.
Imagine the fear in NFL defenses when they realize this 21-year-old phenom still hasn’t hit his prime yet. “Zeke the Freak” can be so much more.
Sonny Jurgensen will continue in the Redskins radio booth for at least one more season, but only work home games in 2017. Michael David Smith at ProFootballTalk.com:
Sonny Jurgensen was a Hall of Fame quarterback whose NFL career spanned 18 seasons, and now his career calling football on the radio in Washington has doubled that length. But at age 83, Jurgensen is not ready to call it quits.
Jurgensen told the Washington Post he’ll still be calling games in Washington this season, after initially thinking he was going to retire from broadcasting.
“I had thought about hanging it up because I’d been doing it 35 years,” Jurgensen said. “I came to Florida, and I thought about it. I said, ‘I’ve got to have something to do. I was somewhat bored. So I went back to ‘em and said, ‘You know, I’m a little bored.’”
So Jurgensen, who turns 83 in August, agreed with the team that he’ll work the eight home games in Washington but not travel to any road games. Team President Bruce Allen told Jurgensen the team would let him work whatever schedule he liked.
“It’s very nice of them,” Jurgensen said. “I’m looking forward to it, I really am.”
Jurgensen was drafted by the Eagles in 1957 and was a first-team All-Pro for them in 1961. He was traded to Washington in 1964 and played there until 1974. He is in both teams’ halls of fame as well as the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com notes that RB DEVONTA FREEMAN is still wrestling with what happened in Houston.
When we had the opportunity last month to have a 70-minute conversation with Falcons G.M. Thomas Dimitroff (the video is embedded in this item), one of the areas of inquiry focused on the presence of players on the roster who may have a hard time getting over the devastating manner in which Super Bowl LI ended. Dimitroff expressed confidence that they’ll have no issues in this regard.
He may want to now revisit that.
The recent appearance by running back Devonta Freeman on SiriusXM NFL Radio, some of which was chronicled a day ago in this spot, contains clear traces of Marshawn Lynch, post-Super Bowl XLIX.
Said Lynch on (where else?) Turkish TV in the aftermath of the Seattle loss to New England fueled by a fateful decision to throw a pass at the goal line: “To be honest with you, I would be a liar if I didn’t tell you that I was expecting the ball. I think it was more of a — how do I say this? When you look at me, and you let me run that ball in, I’m the face of the nation. You know, the MVP of the Super Bowl, that’s pretty much the face of the nation at that point in time. I don’t know what went into that call. Maybe it was a good thing that I didn’t get the ball. I mean, you know, it cost us the Super Bowl.”
Said Freeman on SiriusXM NFL Radio earlier this week regarding not only the decisions to pass and not run while in field goal range and leading by eight points late but also his curious second-half disappearance from the running game, via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “I hate to go there but I was supposed to be the MVP this year of the Super Bowl, but it’s all good, we got another shot. . . . I don’t want to make this no competition thing with me and my quarterback. I’m just talking about from based off that game. Let’s [say] it like this: if I would have kept getting the ball, if I would have stayed in the game, I don’t know why I got out of the game actually. But if I would have stayed in the game, I would have got MVP. I’m looking at my stats and I see my numbers didn’t lie. Look at my numbers.”
Freeman had six carries for 71 yards in the first half of Super Bowl LI. In the second half, he had five carries for four yards.
Making Freeman’s remarks even more stunning was that they came in the wake of quarterback Matt Ryan declaring that the team has put Super Bowl LI behind it.
“When we started as a team in April, we got together before that as players down in Miami,” Ryan said. “It was time to move on. It was time to look forward. Anytime that we kind of dwell on that is wasted time. We have to focus on trying to become the best football team that this group can be.”
Freeman clearly hasn’t moved on. At a time when Freeman is clamoring for a new contract, it’s hard not to wonder whether the Falcons will move on from him.
If nothing else, Freeman’s comments are a sign that, despite the proclamations of Ryan and others in the organization about everything being OK, someone needs to have a candid conversation with Freeman regarding his current attitudes and beliefs, and whether those attitudes and beliefs will impact the team in a negative way in 2017 or beyond.
Given their volume of picks—five in the Top 103—the Saints knew they needed to nail this draft. And they feel good about it after spring. Marshon Lattimore and Marcus Williams look like cornerstones in the secondary, and running back Alvin Kamara, linebacker Alex Anzalone and defensive end Trey Hendrickson have flashed promise.
Adam Schefter hears that the Raiders have agreed in principal to a huge deal with QB DEREK CARR. Derek Carr responds on Twitter.
Raiders and Derek Carr are close to finalizing a deal expected to pay their quarterback about $25 million per year, per league sources.
Derek Carr fell to 2nd round and started his NFL career 0-10. Now on brink of becoming one of highest, if not highest, paid player in game.
Nothing done yet… trust me you will hear it here first.
Adam Schefter Retweeted Derek Carr
Key word here: yet.
Deal in place; getting done, soon. Only language remains.
Announcement still could be this week. Congrats in advance.
Any Raider doing long-term deal in future – Carr, Khalil Mack, Gabe Jackson, Amari Cooper – will structure it w/ Nevada’s tax rate in mind.
Because there is no state tax in Nevada and California’s tax rate is 13.3 percent, Derek Carr could backload his new deal and save millions.
More from Albert Breer:
Derek Carr is on the verge of becoming the highest paid player in league history—ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Wednesday that the quarterback and the Raiders are “close to finalizing” a $25 million per year mega-deal. And you can bet there are more than a few prominent players, and not just quarterbacks, who will be paying close attention to the details.
So where are things right now? As I understand it, the sides aren’t quite to the point where a deal is imminent but it is expected to be done soon, and the contract will be different in how it’s set up. What does that mean? So last month, we laid out the landscape here, and the challenges that the Raiders and Carr had to overcome. More than anything else, the big one was that this deal stood to extend past the 2021 expiration of the collective bargaining agreement, and the player’s side was wary to do a contract that might look outdated under whatever the economic realities of the next CBA. One potential answer there was to structure his numbers over the coming years as percentages of the cap. Another was to do something shorter, maybe a three-year extension that would go to the end of the old CBA, with protections for the team in case the parameters of the franchise tag change.
However this shakes out, you can bet that Kirk Cousins and Matthew Stafford and their people will take note. And it’s a good bet that a couple of Carr’s teammates—Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper—could benefit as well.
Albert Breer with whispers from Cleveland:
I would not ignore DeShone Kizer’s strong spring in Cleveland. My sense is he’s proven to be the most talented quarterback on the roster and is right in the thick of the competition to be the team’s Week 1 starter.
David Steele says the signing of LB DAVID HARRIS cements the Patriots as an unstoppable “Superteam”:
So, are “superteams” bad for the NFL, the way everyone thinks they’re bad for the NBA?
That depends. No former MVPs have signed with the Patriots this offseason. But if one did, how surprised would anyone really be? And if one came over from another AFC East rival, wouldn’t that just be business as usual?
On Wednesday, another Patriots signing was reported, giving Jets fans a collective stroke.
Former Jets LB David Harris has reached agreement on a two-year deal with…the New England Patriots, source tells ESPN.
Rage, bitterness, envy, misplaced screeds about loyalty directed at a player the Jets dumped after 10 years for cap purposes — it spanned the whole spectrum.
None of that changes the bottom line, though: The Bill Belichick dynasty found a way to add a player some other poor group of schlubs couldn’t figure out how to keep.
That’s why they’re the Bill Belichick dynasty. And why everybody’s chasing them, with teams like the Jets among the teams burning it down and rebuilding once again.
To recap who the Patriots have picked up since the big comeback in Super Bowl 51:
Wide receiver Brandin Cooks, from the Saints for a first-round pick.
Defensive end Kony Ealy, from the Panthers for a second-round pick.
Running back Mike Gillislee, from the Bills as a restricted free agent (and a fifth-round pick).
Cornerback Stephon Gilmore, from the Bills as a free agent.
Tight end Dwayne Allen, from the Colts for a fourth-round pick.
Running back Rex Burkhead, from the Bengals as a free agent.
Defensive lineman Lawrence Guy, from the Ravens as a free agent.
Wide receiver Andrew Hawkins, from the Browns as a free agent.
Now Harris, from the Jets as a free agent.
Oh, and they still have linebacker Dont’a Hightower, beating out, yes, the Jets, who reportedly offered more money and, apparently, more cupcakes.
They still have Malcolm Butler. They still have Jimmy Garoppollo. They extended Julian Edelman.
LeGarrette Blount and Martellus Bennett, among others, got away. They’ll be missed. Maybe. Or not. Not after all this.
Taken separately, spread out across the last three months, it looks impressive, like a champion trying to keep pace and handle the inevitable attrition.
Taken all together, it’s a rout.
The chronic fury re-ignited among Jets fans with the Harris signing is something every fan base, in the division and elsewhere, also feels when they look as how easily the Patriots reloaded. (To be fair to the Jets, of course, at least they haven’t lost two players to their East nemesis the way the Bills did; and they’re still further along than the Browns, who had no need for Hawkins, even though they haven’t figured out who would have thrown to him yet.)
There’s no reason to talk about an NBA team, like the Warriors, doing something “unfair” like how they bolstered their team with Kevin Durant last offseason, without asking how fair it is that the Patriots are doing this now.
Never mind fair; this almost doesn’t seem legal. After all, at least the Warriors were driven by losing in the championship round. The Patriots, apparently, are getting everybody back just for almost losing.
Nothing is guaranteed this year, still, even with this haul. Lightning could strike along the way. It would have to be literal lightning, though, because this is the team that won it all after four games without Tom Brady, and 11 (including the postseason) without Rob Gronkowki.
These guys looked Super in March, and they look even more Super in June. It could be all over long before February. But, is this “bad” for the league?
Just for the other 31 teams in it.
NEW YORK JETS
Jets LB LORENZO MAULDIN has been charged with misdemeanor assault after reacting poorly upon having some champagne spilled upon him. This from the New York Post:
A Jets linebacker was charged Wednesday with assault for pummeling a much-smaller Queens man who accidentally spilled champagne on him at a Manhattan club, cops said.
Lorenzo Mauldin, 24, turned himself in to 10th Precinct police in the case over the April 2 incident at the Highline Ballroom in Chelsea, cops said.
The misdemeanor charge against Mauldin carries a maximum sentence of one year in jail. He was released without bail pending arraignment on Aug. 16.
Earlier this month, The Post exclusively reported that victim Jean Lopez, 22, had filed suit against Mauldin, accusing the 6-foot-4, 259-pound bruiser of drunkenly attacking him “without just cause.”
A photo obtained by The Post shows Lopez — who told cops he was socked twice — with a huge black eye and severe swelling to the left side of his face.
Lopez’s lawyer, Glenn Race, said Mauldin’s arrest had been “expected all along,” but declined to comment further.
Race previously said that Lopez, who is 5-foot-7 and 145 pounds, was leaving the club when he was attacked without warning by Mauldin, leaving Lopez with “multiple” facial fractures.
The incident took place during a “Cirque Saturday” bash where a bottle of bubbly was poured down a young man’s bare chest as a young woman lapped it up off his abdomen, according to video posted online.
Mauldin’s defense lawyer didn’t immediately return messages, but the Jet — who overcame a troubled childhood that included stints in 16 foster homes while both his parents were in and out of prison — seemed to allude to the case Monday on Instagram.
“There’s a long road I took to get to this point in my life, I’d never mess that up, it’s just too much hard work and dedication. #GodsGift,” Mauldin wrote next to a photo of him wearing his No. 55 Jets jersey.
A Jets spokesman said the team was “aware of the situation” but declined to comment further.
THIS AND THAT
Former Ravens safety Matt Elam skates on Florida justice after an altercation with his girlfriend over a cell phone, but he still faces drug charges. Jeff Zrebiac in the Baltimore Sun:
Grand theft and domestic battery charges against Matt Elam were dismissed Wednesday, clearing the former Ravens safety who was arrested after an altercation with his girlfriend on May 22 in South Florida.
Elam, who is an NFL free agent after his rookie contract expired with the Ravens following the 2016 season, is still facing drug charges related to his arrest in Miami in late February. That was the first of two arrests within a three-month span for the Ravens’ 2013 first-round draft pick.
According to court records, the state attorney’s office dropped the charges from May because “insufficient evidence exists to prove the charge beyond a reasonable doubt due to an incooperative victim and lack of independent evidence.”
According to the police report from May, Elam and his girlfriend were involved in an altercation over a cell phone. They both ended up on the ground trying to gain possession of the phone and Elam’s girlfriend sustained small cuts on her finger and foot during the altercation.
After Elam got the phone and left the area on foot, the Delray Beach Police were called in reference to an assault. Elam was questioned and arrested at a nearby residence.
Along with the charges being dropped, a no-contact order between Elam and his girlfriend was also rescinded.
2018 COACHING MARKET
Jason LaCanfora of CBSSports.com looks ahead to next year’s hires and thinks we will see re-treads hired after last year’s run on first-time hires:
The NFL is running out of qualified coaches.
The annual churn among coaches continues, and the chasm between the haves and the have-nots in the league appears more gaping than ever. Seven months from now the cycle will begin anew, with close to a quarter of the league’s 32 teams inevitably seeking new leaders and the pool of those ready to take the reigns already picked through and tattered.
At some point the situation will hit critical mass, as some older coaches simply won’t be coming back to the job and others are going to get very comfortable with the broadcasting booth and be in no rush to return to the sidelines. The run on young talent — now in its apex with the Los Angeles Rams hiring Sean McVay as the youngest head coach in NFL history — has made an impact, with coordinators getting head jobs in some cases years before many anticipated. Just think how short, relatively, the rise was for a guy like Jay Gruden going from the Arena League to coaching one of the NFL’s signature franchises.
An entire wave of rising offensive coaches have already reached the pinnacle of the sport — McVay, Adam Gase, Kyle Shanahan — and the Broncos’ hiring of Vance Joseph indicates how quickly the phenomenon can occur on the other side of the ball as well. In the past, many of these men would still be plying their trade as play-callers. But the league can’t keep pace producing first-time coaches like that, and the turn away from the NCAA seems as sweeping as ever given the failures of Chip Kelly in recent years, so I’m anticipating a market correction come the end of the season.
Things go in cycles, and this quickly becomes a copycat league. I fully anticipate 2018 to be the year of the retread coach.
Frankly, I don’t like that term, as the connotation is less-than-flattering, but the reality is this will be a year when men with former head-coaching experience rise back to the head of the class. Especially if guys like Jon Gruden and Bill Cowher stay on the post-coach path they are on, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.
The most in-demand coaching candidates and the guys who will be getting flown around by owners come January are very likely to be people you are already quite familiar with. They may have had middling-at-best success in their previous stint as NFL coaches, but that won’t make them any less attractive if they continue to do quality work as assistant coaches in 2017. There just aren’t that many other options out there, and this will be their time, again, to get another shot to display what they can do leading an NFL franchise.
Maybe one of them will turn out to be the next Bill Belichick — and if there is one in the bunch I’d go looking right back in New England for him — and maybe some will have a better time of it with this opportunity, but regardless I’d anticipate a majority of the hot names getting interviews in 2018 to come from this list.
Josh McDaniels, Patriots offensive coordinator: He’s had numerous opportunities to run teams again in recent years and will wait for the right opportunity to emerge. This year it could very well go down. He remains highly coveted, and his work with young Jimmy Garoppolo has only aided his cause. He learned from his time in Denver, and if he isn’t a coach in 2018 it will only be because he didn’t find a situation that felt right.
Jim Schwartz, Eagles defensive coordinator: This unit will get better in the second year under Schwartz and he, like McDaniels, could be the rare coach from the Belichick tree to fully flourish. Great football mind. Like McDaniels, he learned from past mistakes in Detroit. Very organized. I like his chances to relaunch his career next year.
Mike Smith, Bucs defensive coordinator: Smith probably gets a job last year if he doesn’t sign an extension with Tampa, but the kind of jobs he gets a crack at in 2018 stand to be better. That defense really took to him in the second half of 2016, and I don’t see that trend changing this season. Had great success in Atlanta, and if he can assemble the right staff, he might not need much time to make an impact at his next stop.
Steve Spagnuolo, Giants defensive coordinator: OK, so it went really, really bad in St. Louis. But I ask you, since the Mike Martz regime’s decline in St. Louis, who has it gone well for? Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but some of the micro-managing and sweating the small stuff is out of his system now. And that Giants defense is ready to feast again in 2018 and could lead a nice postseason charge. Spags will be in the mix if so.
Mike Munchak, Steelers offensive line coach: He looks the part, he understands the job, he can make an impact at the micro level with his position group. And he can be the corporate face of a franchise. College might make sense for him as well, but the strides that unit has made since he arrived in Pittsburgh are significant, and I don’t expect him to get overlooked in this next hiring cycle.
Mike McCoy, Broncos offensive coordinator: Bad luck, unreal injuries and a franchise on the brink of moving did him in in San Diego. Untenable circumstances to some degree. But McCoy is a QB whisperer, and those guys are always in demand and always jump to the head of the class in coaching searches. Should he get Paxton Lynch going — this dude won with Tebow, after all — and get the Broncos offense humming along after stumbling under others the past two years, then McCoy’s time as a coordinator could be very short.
Pat Shurmur, Vikings offensive coordinator: Taking over play-calling duties in-season last year, with very limited talent on offense, wasn’t going to be easy. A full offseason under his belt will help, and if the Vikings’ defense holds up more of its end of the bargain, then this team could surprise some people. Shurmur got short shift during his brief stint as the Browns coach — um, who wins in Cleveland? — and he got the best out of Sam Bradford a year ago.
Todd Haley, Steelers offensive coordinator: Probably not corporate enough for some. Definitely not much of a politician or a climber. But he can coach up an offense, and the Steelers will have the best unit in football if they can stay healthy. Maybe Haley will get another crack at it. Working under Scott Pioli in Kansas City was never going to work.
Scott Linehan, Cowboys offensive coordinator: Another former Rams coach on this list, and, yeah, no one won there. Linehan had a particularly rough time of it, and I wasn’t surprised he didn’t get as much traction in coaching searches a year ago as others predicted. But if Dak Prescott avoids a sophomore slump and this offense continues to thrive, he’ll be a more viable candidate this time around.
The NFL’s desire to hire experienced head coaches could improve if Tennessee under Mike Mularkey (in his third job) and Tampa Bay under Dirk Koetter (in his second job if you count Arizona State) are among the teams with breakout seasons. Same too with Jacksonville under Doug Marrone. Jim Caldwell in Detroit is another veteran hire who seems to have stabilized a franchise.
RANKING THE HEAD COACHES
Elliott Harrison ranks the NFL coaches 32 to 1. New head coaches naturally tend towards the bottom. We have somewhat edited his comments. The full notes are here.
So take a gander at the head coach pecking order, and then, if you wish, hunt and peck to enter your take on a keyboard … @HarrisonNFL is the place for feedback.
32) Anthony Lynn, Los Angeles Chargers
Someone has to be 32nd on the list. Unfortunately, that’s Lynn, who has the least amount of experience as both head coach and coordinator.
31) Vance Joseph, Denver Broncos
Joseph inherits a much more tenable situation than Lynn, though like the Chargers’ rookie head coach, Joseph will also be trying to keep pace with Jack Del Rio’s Raiders and Andy Reid’s bunch out in Kansas City.
30) Sean McVay, Los Angeles Rams
While everyone annoyingly points to McVay’s age — as if they were never 31 years old — people should check themselves before becoming armchair ageists. McVay ran the Redskins’ offense for the last three seasons.
29) Sean McDermott, Buffalo Bills
Worth noting here that McDermott’s lack of experience as a head coach does not make him unqualified for the post. … He just wrapped up eight straight seasons as a defensive coordinator (for the Eagles and Panthers), fielding a top-10 defense in half of them. Five of those teams made it to the postseason.
28) Todd Bowles, New York Jets
Last season was a nightmare for the Jets. The ending? Ugly, particularly for Bowles, who absorbed much criticism for the give-up look of his team.
27) Kyle Shanahan, San Francisco 49ers
Shanahan ranks the highest of the first-time head coaches.
26) Doug Marrone, Jacksonville Jaguars
Marrone toils in the weirdest coaching environment among all the first-year guys. The expectations for the Jags always seem to measure inversely with the subsequent results. The confidence in the (franchise?) quarterback wavers — at best. And the word on the street is that Tom Coughlin’s footprint is all over the Jaguars operation. Thus, Marrone must produce wins with a successful former head coach looking over his shoulder and a quarterback whose recent play has been erratic (and no other QB waiting in the wings), all against the backdrop of what has been a losing culture in Jacksonville.
25) Doug Pederson, Philadelphia Eagles
Although Pederson falls below Hue Jackson (who has more experience and was an outstanding offensive coordinator in Cincinnati) in these rankings, don’t take that as a harsh judgment on the relatively new head coach.
24) Hue Jackson, Cleveland Browns
Jackson only won one game last season — but then, I’m not sure Vince Lombardi could’ve coaxed even three wins out of those Browns.
23) Mike Mularkey, Tennessee Titans
What can I say about Mularkey that hasn’t been said 1,000 times? Actually, now that I think of it, I’m not sure anyone has said so much as 1,000 words about the Titans head coach. Either way, a 9-7 record and the continued ascendance of Marcus Mariota under the tutelage of Mularkey and staff say enough for the moment. The key is to keep this young roster from “taking the cheese,” as Bill Parcells would say. Put another way: Mularkey must keep the enthusiasm going in Nashville without letting his unaccomplished outfit think it’s already Super Bowl material.
22) Dirk Koetter, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Koetter seemingly deserves better than a double deuce, given that he darn near pushed Tampa to the playoffs in 2016. But he has only one year as an NFL head coach under his belt, so it’s difficult to place him higher among the more experienced.
21) Jay Gruden, Washington Redskins
Three years in, and Gruden has been up some and down some — up 21 (wins) and down 26 (losses), to be exact (with one tie thrown in). To Gruden’s credit, Washington has managed to be more than a bystander in that time.
20) Ben McAdoo, New York Giants
Heckuva head-coaching debut in 2016 for McAdoo, who faced a difficult task in replacing a man who won two Super Bowls for Big Blue.
19) Jim Caldwell, Detroit Lions
Tough to gauge Caldwell’s career. He was the head coach when the Colts went to Super Bowl XLIV — but some observers attributed that trip to Peyton Manning’s MVP performance. That’s not entirely fair, but the idea is not without merit, either, given that Indianapolis went 2-14 under Caldwell when Manning was hurt in 2011. Caldwell has seen the Lions to a couple of playoff performances over the last three years. Yet, when Matthew Stafford sustained a finger injury late last year, Detroit dropped three straight to finish the regular season. As the quarterback goes, so goes the head coach, at least in this case.
18) Bill O’Brien, Houston Texans
The Texans are still unsettled at quarterback, yet O’Brien keeps getting them to 9-7. That’s the sign of a coach who knows what he’s doing. So why not place him higher? Given that his background is on offense, it seems that developing a quarterback should be within his reach, but no less than Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett and Brock Osweiler have flamed out in Houston.
17) Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals
For a man who has taken the Bengals to the postseason seven times, this ranking might seem unfair. Consider, though, that none of those trips resulted in a playoff win.
16) Adam Gase, Miami Dolphins
What a feat Gase pulled off in Year 1. Whether the Dolphins were barely beating the Browns at home amidst a 1-4 start or ripping off nine wins over the last 11 regular-season games of 2016, Gase stayed the course, not changing his tune with players or reporters. The feel you get watching Gase is that he is the smart guy in a room, someone who knows what he has to work with and what he doesn’t.
15) Chuck Pagano, Indianapolis Colts
How the Colts got to eight wins in each of the last two years is anybody’s guess… YOU try coaching when your star quarterback is at less than 100 percent, you have no defense to lean on and your job security is scant.
14) Jack Del Rio, Oakland Raiders
Del Rio earned all of the Coach of the Year praise that came his way last year. After all, it was his game-winning go-for-two call in Week 1 that propelled the Raiders to a fast start that only let up when Derek Carr went down in Week 16. Del Rio connects with his players better than most coaches, even if he isn’t considered an Xs-and-Os “genius.” Don’t buy it? Take a look at the I’m joking but I’m not Twitter exchange with his Pro Bowl left guard. How fun is it that the Raiders are relevant again? Give the head coach credit.
13) Jason Garrett, Dallas Cowboys
In August, the season appeared lost following injuries to Tony Romo and backup Kellen Moore. By January, Garrett had his guys in the playoffs. Offensive Rookie of the Year Dak Prescott and NFL rushing leader Ezekiel Elliott had much to do with the overall success, but you can’t take credit away from Garrett, who lets his assistants coach. That includes offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, who worked wonders with Prescott. Garrett’s steady hand and experience as a journeyman quarterback should serve Prescott and this Dallas team well going forward.
12) John Fox, Chicago Bears
While the last couple of years have not been kind to Fox, it would be awfully difficult to rate him lower at this point.
11) Dan Quinn, Atlanta Falcons
Quinn proved himself in 2016.
10) Mike Zimmer, Minnesota Vikings
Although the Vikings went 8-8 last season, Zimmer did his job. Remember that the Vikings’ two most important players — Teddy Bridgewater and Adrian Peterson — were non-factors.
9) Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints
That win in Super Bowl XLIV seems farther and farther away — as does the idea of the Saints in the playoffs. Three straight 7-9 finishes don’t seem to have affected Payton’s reputation, with most observers blaming the slump on a paltry defense. Of course, defense is under Payton’s purview, making the free pass unusual, if nothing else.
8) Ron Rivera, Carolina Panthers
The two-time AP Coach of the Year looks to bring the Panthers back to their familiar spot atop the NFC South. Last season’s 6-10 mark (an aberration?) brought with it a last-place finish after three straight years in first. To his credit, Rivera seems to handle tumult well, whether he’s rebuilding a Carolina team that won two games the year before his 2011 arrival or staying the course with a 3-8-1 team in 2014, ultimately stringing together enough wins to earn a playoff berth.
7) Bruce Arians, Arizona Cardinals
Arians has been rated highly, including in this space, both for his diligent work in making the Cardinals contenders and for his brilliant effort as AP Coach of the Year filling in for Chuck Pagano in Indy in 2012.
6) John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens’ late-season stumbles in 2016 shouldn’t obscure what has been one of the most successful runs among NFL head coaches. Baltimore bounced back from the organization-wide frustration stemming from the 2015 campaign, when the team went 5-11 (with nearly every loss coming via a one-score margin), to finish 8-8. That is Harbaugh’s only losing season to date, as the Ravens have made six playoff appearances, competed in three AFC Championship Games and won a Super Bowl in his nine seasons on the job. Not bad.
5) Andy Reid, Kansas City Chiefs
As consistent as any coach or player in the NFL, Reid might be the most successful head coach in the Super Bowl era to never hoist the Lombardi Trophy. He has certainly joined the Dan Reeves and Marty Schottenheimer stratosphere in that regard. Can Reid get the Chiefs there? If so, analysts and fans alike might discuss him as a Hall of Fame-level leader. If he can’t, 173 regular season wins (nearly 10 per season), five championship game appearances and one Super Bowl loss (which might’ve turned out differently if a certain receiver had spent a bit more time in the hyperbaric chamber) will have to do.
4) Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers
Perhaps the AFC version of Pete Carroll … Like Carroll, Tomlin seems to have a way with his players that other teams can’t emulate. Like Carroll, he owns both a Super Bowl ring and a Super Bowl loss. And like Carroll’s Seahawks, Tomlin’s Steelers tend to drop some “gimme” road games people expect them to win. Thus, Tomlin isn’t always considered a top-shelf head coach. But that’s rubbish. His guys play for him, and at the end of the day, that’s what counts.
3) Mike McCarthy, Green Bay Packers
McCarthy has earned the respect accorded a premier head coach, although the process has been lengthy. Apparently, winning a Super Bowl ring and making the playoffs eight years in a row is not enough for some folks. Some people try to attribute that success all to Aaron Rodgers, but can you do that, really? Don Shula didn’t make the playoffs eight years in a row with Dan Marino. Nor did Bill Walsh with Joe Montana. All four of those guys are in the Hall of Fame, by the way.
2) Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks
Carroll’s handling of players has been top-notch since he returned to the NFL as head coach in 2010. Look no further than his ability to get Eddie Lacy to eat a few more salads on the way down to 250 pounds. Even the reported issues between the offense and defense that have surfaced the last two years haven’t stopped the Seahawks from making (and winning in) the playoffs.
1) Bill Belichick, New England Patriots
You’ve probably done the math by now: Belichick once again graces the top of the charts (although for some fans, his leadership has been none too graceful). Whatever you think of his bottom-line approach or the controversy surrounding the Tuck Rule or Spygate, Belichick has five Super Bowl rings. And that’s not accounting for the two he won while serving as a top-notch defensive coordinator under Bill Parcells.
The DB thinks John Fox is a bit high on this list, certainly shouldn’t be ahead of Del Rio at the moment.
BROADCAST NEWS – JAWS UPDATE
In the new world of ESPN, Ron Jaworski doesn’t know where he stands. Michael David Smith at ESPN.com:
Ron Jaworski’s name has been included in some reports about ESPN’s recent round of layoffs, but Jaworski himself says he doesn’t know if he’s done at ESPN or not.
Jaworski appeared on a podcast with Matt Mosley and Ed Werder and said he isn’t sure if he’s going to be part of ESPN’s NFL coverage in 2017.
“I wish I could give you a definitive answer but I don’t have one,” Jaworski said. “I’m absolutely very grateful and thrilled to have worked at ESPN for 27 years. I still may continue to work at ESPN. I do not know what the future is going to hold. I still have a contract with them until May 31st of 2022, and if they choose to want to use me in some other areas, that is being talked about with my agent basically as we speak. So I’m a guy in limbo right now. But I do want to continue some broadcasting. I love what I do.
I still maintain my office at NFL Films and the film wonk that I am, I try to give the audience something that they normally don’t get. It may be a little bit drilled down football, but I think there’s far too much football on TV that doesn’t scratch the surface and I try to drill down and give the viewers and the listeners something they don’t get anywhere else.”
Jaworski has long served as one of the analysts on NFL Matchup. ESPN has confirmed that Matchup will return in 2017, but there’s no word on who the analysts will be.
“The Matchup show was on the air before I started at ESPN. If I do it or not in the future it will still be a great show,” Jaworski said. “There was a time when people said, ‘The fans don’t care about Xs and Os.’ That is bull. People care about football.”
People care about football analysts, too, and ESPN still hasn’t told people who the network’s analysts will be this year. Jaworski might be on the air, but right now he’s in the dark.