The Daily Briefing Wednesday, October 10, 2018
AROUND THE NFL
Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com on the NFL’s passing explosion:
At one point in the life cycle of this media outlet, we’d periodically keep track of which quarterbacks were on the wrong side of the Kordoza Line — the career 70.7 passer rating of mostly-mediocre-with-flashes-of-really-good quarterback Kordell Stewart. Times have definitely changed.
This year, only one full-time starter is on the wrong side of the Kordoza Line: Bills rookie quarterback Josh Allen, who has a passer rating of 60.4. That’s because plenty of quarterbacks are throwing the ball better than ever before.
According to the NFL, the average passer rating currently is 93.4. (From 2002 through 2017, the average passer rating was 84.2.) Average completion percentage has moved to 65.0, and yards per attempt have spiked to 7.5.
Total yardage is up as well. From 1966 through 2017, the league saw 300-yard passing performances once every 3.8 games. This year, the average has fallen to once every 1.4 games, with 57 300-yard performances in 78 games.
Eleven quarterbacks already have more than 1,500 passing yards. Six have thrown at least 12 touchdown passes through five weeks.
Ten starting quarterbacks has passer ratings higher than 100, with Saints quarterback Drew Brees racking up an eye-popping 122.3. Perhaps the best news for the NFL is that eight of those 10 are 30 or younger, with three of them 24 or younger.
That bodes very well for a future consisting of quality quarterbacks and, in turn, quality games. That’s why the NFL is trying to keep all quarterbacks healthy. If the guy who is responsible for distributing the football can continue to do it at a high level, fans will be far more interested in pro football.
We picked a season at random – in this case 1999. Here are the top passer ratings:
1. Kurt Warner • STL 109.2
2. Steve Beuerlein • CAR 94.6
3. Jeff George • MIN 94.2
4. Peyton Manning • IND 90.7
5. Brad Johnson • WAS 90.0
6. Rich Gannon • OAK 86.5
7. Ray Lucas • NYJ 85.1
8. Charlie Batch • DET 84.1
9. Gus Frerotte • DET 83.6
10. Chris Chandler • ATL 83.5
Not a list of Hall of Famers (okay, two of them are), but note that the “2018 NFL average” of 93.4 would be 4th.
Here is a list of bigger names from 1993 where the NFL average of 2018 would have been 3rd between a pair of Hall of Famers:
1. Steve Young • SFO 101.5
2. Troy Aikman • DAL 99.0
3. John Elway • DEN 92.8
4. Phil Simms • NYG 88.3
5. Joe Montana • KAN 87.4
6. Vinny Testaverde • CLE 85.7
7. Bubby Brister • PHI 84.9
8. Boomer Esiason • NYJ 84.5
9. Scott Mitchell • MIA 84.2
10. Bobby Hebert • ATL 84.0
As the Monday ESPN crew rattled off the usual suspects who might be better than MICHAEL THOMAS of the Saints (Odell, Julio, Nuke) there was one name missing. Courtney Cronin of ESPN.com makes the case for ADAM THIELEN to at least be in the conversation:
Adam Thielen reached another career milestone in Week 5, becoming the first player in the Super Bowl era to have 100 or more yards receiving in each of his team’s first five games. In the Minnesota Vikings’ 23-21 victory over the Eagles, Thielen caught seven passes for 116 yards and a touchdown, including a 68-yard bomb from quarterback Kirk Cousins that flipped field position for the Vikings at a crucial point in the third quarter.
Yet that achievement pales in comparison to coming through for his team on the most important play of the game.
When the Eagles attempted to get the ball back after capping off a 75-yard drive with a late touchdown that got Philadelphia within two, it was Thielen who ended up at the bottom of the pile upon recovering Jake Elliott’s onside kick attempt, allowing Minnesota to move into victory formation the next play.
“The good thing is our coaches do a phenomenal job of putting us in good positions, and we knew all week he was going to come to my side and we saw plenty of tape,” Thielen said. “He’s a really good onside kicker and he kicked a phenomenal kick. That was one of the nastiest kicks I’d ever seen. It wasn’t easy but we got it done.”
That type of play speaks to Thielen’s impact across the board for the Vikings. Given his workload on offense, the Pro Bowl receiver isn’t often a part of special teams during games, but is a constant presence in meetings that don’t require his attendance. Special-teams coordinator Mike Priefer lauded Thielen this past week for the time he puts into knowing his assignments just in case he’s needed, and credited the wide receiver as the best backup long-snapper on the team.
So when the Vikings needed to pull out two crucial special-teams plays late in the fourth quarter (Thielen also fielded a punt at the 11-yard line after the Vikings defense stopped the Eagles at Minnesota’s 45 yard line with 9 minutes, 17 seconds to play), they knew who to turn to.
“I think his deal is all heart,” coach Mike Zimmer said. “No. 1, he’s got the biggest heart there is. No. 2, he’s always talking about how he can get better. He comes up to me during the week and says, ‘I’m doing this and I just need to run, or I need to do this,’ and I said, ‘I’ll remind you,’ and even the long one he caught he said, ‘Man, I’m faster than that. I should have scored on that.’ That’s the kind of guys he is. The onside kick went to him and I told him, ‘Catch it the first time next time, would ya?’ He’s a great competitor.”
This isn’t the first time Minnesota has called on Thielen for special teams. During the NFC North-clinching 2015 regular-season finale against Green Bay Packers, the Vikings ran a fake punt with Thielen, who took the ball 41 yards to set up a field goal.
Thielen currently leads the NFL with 589 receiving yards through the first five weeks of the season. The chemistry Thielen has built with Cousins is paying early dividends for the Vikings, as is the production Minnesota is also getting from Stefon Diggs.
Cousins was 17-of-21 for 207 yards and a touchdown when targeting Thielen and Diggs against the Eagles, bringing his completion percentage to 70 percent on the passes the duo has caught, on which they’ve totaled 955 yards, six touchdowns and zero interceptions.
Thielen and Diggs combined for 108 yards after the catch Sunday, their second-most as teammates, according to ESPN Stats & Information data.
The competitive fire Thielen displays has taken him from undrafted Division II star to one of the league’s best receivers. It’s an edge Cousins noticed soon after becoming teammates with the 28-year-old and speaks to the impact he’s made for the Vikings on a consistent basis.
“He loves to compete,” Cousins said of Thielen. “He didn’t want to take a day off in OTAs or in training camp. When he isn’t involved in the offense for any amount of time, he gets frustrated because he wants to help the team. As a competitor, he wants to contribute. I am learning more and more about my teammates every week, but you certainly saw that in him from practice since Day 1.”
Todd Archer of ESPN.com thinks that the Cowboys are growing tired, finally some would say, of Jason Garrett.
A day later, Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett still would have punted from the Houston Texans’ 42 on the first possession of overtime instead of going for it on fourth-and-1.
“It just made sense to us, to me at that time, to go ahead and play field position,” Garrett said Monday.
The Cowboys never got the ball back and fell to 2-3 with the Jacksonville Jaguars, who made it to the AFC Championship Game last season and have a punishing defense, coming to AT&T Stadium on Sunday.
Questions about Garrett’s job security haven’t stopped since the end of the 2017 season. Before the first padded practice of training camp in Oxnard, California, this year, one fan yelled, “Coach Garrett, I love you, but this is your last year.”
The calls on social media grew louder after the 19-16 loss to the Texans and will grow louder still if the Cowboys are unable to put together any kind of winning streak.
Garrett is 70-58, including 1-2 in the playoffs, as Cowboys head coach. In 2016, he was named the NFL’s Coach of the Year. He has won two NFC East titles. He has the second-most wins in franchise history to Tom Landry, but the decision to punt is viewed by some as the last straw.
Owner and general manager Jerry Jones has been steadfast in his support for Garrett, even though he critiqued the decision to punt. He has long viewed Garrett as his Landry.
Jones opened camp by succinctly stating Garrett was not on the hot seat, but even he has a breaking point.
Here are factors to consider:
Why is this season different from others for Garrett?
Start with the financial ramifications. Owners don’t like to pay coaches not to coach.
Garrett is signed through 2019 at $6 million per season. Only wide receivers coach Sanjay Lal has a contract that goes past 2019.
After the Cowboys went 4-12 in 2015, there was some talk inside the organization that Garrett could be in trouble a year after a 12-4 record and the controversial loss to the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field in the divisional round of the 2014 playoffs.
Garrett was in the first year of a five-year, $30 million contract then, meaning Jones would have had to have eaten more than $20 million. Plus, quarterback Tony Romo started and finished two games that season because of a twice-broken left collarbone, offering up a good reason/excuse for the poor season.
The decision to stick with Garrett looked like a wise one in 2016, when the Cowboys finished 13-3 with a fourth-round pick in Dak Prescott substituting for an injured Romo. At the time, it looked like Jones’ willingness to stick with Garrett through the three consecutive 8-8 seasons in 2011-13 was going to pay dividends with a young team on the rise.
The Cowboys still have a young team, with only one position player older than 30, but they appear destined for another playoff-less season without a quick turnaround.
Would Jerry make an in-season move?
He has made one in-season coaching change since becoming the owner and general manager in 1989, elevating Garrett from offensive coordinator to take over for Wade Phillips after a 1-7 start to the 2010 season.
Garrett was viewed as a head-coach-in-waiting before Jones even hired Phillips as head coach in 2007.
Secondary coach and passing game coordinator Kris Richard would be the most obvious candidate to take over if Jones made that kind of move. Richard has interviewed for head coaching vacancies in recent years while he was the Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator, but how would that help the offense?
How would a coaching change affect Prescott’s development?
The Cowboys entered this season hoping Prescott would play the way he did in the first 24 games of his career, when he had 39 touchdown passes and eight interceptions. In his past 13 games, he has 10 touchdown passes and 13 interceptions.
The Cowboys can look to sign Prescott to a contract extension after this season, but there has been nothing through the first five games of this season to suggest they should. At present, their priorities would be signing DeMarcus Lawrence, Ezekiel Elliott and Byron Jones to long-term deals before Prescott.
Garrett and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan are the only voices Prescott has had in his three years. A new coach can bring fresh ideas, perhaps incorporating more creativity that has allowed young quarterbacks like Patrick Mahomes, Jared Goff and Carson Wentz to excel early in their careers. Of course, that new coach might want to bring in his own quarterback, but in 2003 Jones convinced Bill Parcells to go with Quincy Carter and Chad Hutchinson to see what those young signal-callers could do. He could do the same with whomever he chooses as Garrett’s successor.
Is this all on the head coach?
Of course not. Contrary to popular opinion, Jones has always been heavily influenced in personnel by the coach. Always. He did not draft Randy Moss 20 years ago, in part, because then-coach Chan Gailey did not want Moss.
The perception Jones picks the players and tells the coach to make do is flawed. He will make decisions that might run counter to the coach’s wishes at times, but the majority of the organization’s decisions come from a group that includes Garrett, Jerry Jones, executive vice president Stephen Jones and vice president of player personnel Will McClay.
So far it looks as though the Cowboys went with a flawed approach at wide receiver and tight end in trying to replace Dez Bryant and Jason Witten by committee. Tight end Geoff Swaim has three of the Cowboys’ 10 pass plays of more than 20 yards on the season to lead the team. DeAndre Hopkins had nine catches for 151 yards for the Texans on Sunday, including the 49-yarder that set up the winning field goal. The Cowboys’ receivers combined for six catches for 80 yards.
The Cowboys tried to sign Sammy Watkins in free agency, but he opted to join the Kansas City Chiefs. Given the construction of the passing game, would Watkins have made that big of a difference?
Garrett has coached a team that will follow one of his mantras and “fight,” but the Cowboys haven’t been able to follow another of his mantras and “finish.”
NEW YORK GIANTS
Darin Gantt of ProFootballTalk.com tries to explain how QB ELI MANNING got crossways with fellow New Orleans product, Li’l Wayne:
In the music world, beefs between rappers are nothing new, in fact they’re practically part of the business model.
Having Eli Manning and Lil Wayne involved in one is definitely new, however.
Via Tom Rock of Newsday, the Giants quarterback has found himself in the crosshairs of the New Orleans rapper, in a story that only needs a Donald Trump tweet to make it the most 2018 thing ever.
Things started innocently enough, with Weezy was sitting next to Giants wideout Odell Beckham Jr. during his interview with ESPN. When Manning was asked about his receiver’s comments, he tried to sidestep the issue by saying he didn’t follow Lil Wayne.
So Tuesday, the rapper posted a video on Instagram which defended Beckham, and seemed hurt that Manning wasn’t a fan.
Citing their shared New Orleans background, Lil Wayne said he was a longtime defender of Manning, who was able to win two Super Bowls long before his big brother did.
“I’m the first one to back you up and be like ‘He got two rings before his brother,’” he said. “Here you are talking about how you don’t watch Lil Wayne much. That’s fine. I’m cool with you. I don’t care what you watch or what you listen to or nothing like that. But hometown love, . . . You don’t have to do me like that.
“I didn’t say anything bad about you, man. Dang! So I ain’t going to say anything bad about you now. You still hometown love. I still [expletive] with you Eli. It’s all good.””
Lil Wayne was smoking something while recording the video (there is no substance abuse testing in rap), and offered Manning a suggestion: “You probably need to bang some ‘Carter V’ before a game. Just a consideration.”
“Carter V” is the name of his new album (which we just effectively promoted), and it’s probably not a coincidence that there were songs from it playing when the Giants take the practice field this morning.
And I’ve got to be honest, I now want to know if Birdman has any thoughts on Peyton Manning, just to bring this thing full circle.
Is it a “beef” if Eli hasn’t fired back?
The shoulder injury sustained by RB ADRIAN PETERSON is said to not be serious. John Keim of ESPN.com:
An MRI backed up running back Adrian Peterson’s confidence that he wouldn’t miss any time for the Washington Redskins with a shoulder injury, a source said Tuesday night.
Peterson was injured late in the first half of Monday night’s 43-19 loss at the New Orleans Saints, leaving him on the bench for all but two offensive snaps in the second half. But the MRI showed no further damage.
He is expected to play when the Redskins host the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.
Peterson twice said after Monday’s contest that he had dislocated his shoulder at the end of a catch-and-run, telling reporters he had popped it back into place. Washington coach Jay Gruden had called it a strained shoulder.
Peterson carried four times for six yards and caught two passes for 36 yards in Monday’s defeat. For the season, he has 242 yards rushing on 60 carries.
QB BEN ROETHLISBERGER stands up for the guy who is actually playing – RB JAMES CONNER.
The most recent report about running back Le’Veon Bell‘s plans for the remainder of the season have been that he plans to report to the Steelers during their Week Seven bye and play out the rest of the season with the team.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said on Tuesday that he hasn’t spoken to Bell and does not know if that is his plan, but he does know that he doesn’t think Bell should get all the work in the backfield when and if he does show up for work. During an appearance on 93.7 The Fan, Roethlisberger said James Conner should not go “on the shelf by any means.”
“Now granted, I think Le’Veon’s one of the best in the business, I think we all understand that and can agree on that,” Roethlisberger said, via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “But what James needs to understand — and he’s gonna say the right things, and he should [as] a younger guy with a veteran, awesome football player ahead of him — but when Le’Veon comes back, in no way, shape or form should James just say, ‘OK, it’s all yours. I’m gonna sit back and when you need me, use me.’ And I will push for James to get as much run as we can because we’ve seen some great things from him in all phases of football. He’s picking up blitzes, he’s catching the ball, he’s running hard and making plays and playing with a passion, so we need to keep using that.”
Conner has 84 carries for 342 yards and five touchdowns and 22 catches for 239 yards this season. Given that production and Bell’s long layoff, it would seem likely that he’d continue to play a role on offense should Bell decide to rejoin him on the depth chart.
Doesn’t sound like Ben wants Bell to have to worry about a super-heavy, use-him-up workload.
– – –
This could be a first in NFL bad behavior. WR ANTONIO BROWN was apparently tossing “items” of his Florida balcony in April to ill effect. Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com:
Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown faces two lawsuits from an April incident during which Brown allegedly yelled at security and threw items from inside a South Florida apartment and off a balcony, according to documents obtained by ESPN.
Both lawsuits are for “damages in excess of $15,000, exclusive of” attorney fees and interest.
A guardian of a 2-year-old boy is suing Brown for “intentional infliction of emotional distress and assault” after items flung from the 14th floor of The Mansions at Acqualina nearly hit the child, according to Miami-Dade County court filings. The child was with his grandfather near the pool area of the complex when large items — including two vases, an ottoman and other pieces of furniture — fell close to them, according to the filings, which say the child has experienced anxiety and trouble sleeping since.
The owner of the multimillion-dollar condo Brown leased also has filed a case against Brown for damages and breaching the apartment agreement.
Brown called Sunny Isles Beach Police at 10:08 a.m. on April 24 and was “very agitated” upon the arrival of two officers, yelling at security that he thought set him up to be blamed for theft from the day before, according to the police’s incident report. The alleged items stolen include $80,000 and a gun, according to TMZ.
“Apparently when Mr. Brown got upset he started throwing things in the apartment and the coffee table glass was broken along with a few other minor objects,” the Sunny Isles incident report states. “He also threw some objects from the balcony into the pool area causing minor damage there as well.”
The officer eventually calmed Brown, who promised there would be no other issue, the report states.
But much damage was done, including previous complaints of “all kinds of parties and disturbances,” according to George A. Minski, the lawyer representing the condo owner.
“The apartment was in shambles,” Minski said. “Mirrors were smashed, tables were destroyed, there were holes and damages to the walls. Countertops were lifted off the deck. The unit is furnished with leather couches and love seats, and there were burn holes and black magic markers. It looked like they had rumbled. We tried to resolve it amicably and it got nowhere so we filed a lawsuit.”
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said at his Tuesday news conference that he has no knowledge of Brown’s situation. The organization will not be commenting on the matter, according to a spokesperson.
Brown’s attorney, Darren Heitner, who has filed a notice of appearance and a motion for extension on the case, declined to comment.
Ophir Sternberg, the child’s guardian who filed the distress suit, issued a statement Tuesday.
“Mr. Brown’s out of control and inexcusable behavior could have killed my son. His reckless tantrum displayed complete disregard for the safety of others,” Sternberg said. “We intend to hold Mr. Brown accountable, to hopefully ensure that something like this never happens again.”
Joshua Rhett Miller of the New York Post gets more into the mindset that brought out Brown’s rage:
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown told cops in April that someone stole $80,000 and a handgun from his upscale south Florida apartment, according to police reports.
The reports, which were obtained by TMZ Sports, shed new light on a civil lawsuit first reported earlier Tuesday regarding Brown and a man who claimed his 22-month-old toddler was nearly killed when the All-Pro wideout tossed furniture from the 14th-floor balcony of his Sunny Isles Beach apartment on April 24.
One day earlier, Brown told police upon returning from an 11-day trip that he noticed $80,000 in cash missing from a bag he previously hid in the closet. Brown’s 9mm handgun was also gone, according to the police report.
Investigators later obtained surveillance video that showed a cleaning crew had entered Brown’s apartment at The Mansions of Acqualina on April 13. After tracking down the women seen in the footage, the female workers told police they were hired by someone claiming to work for Brown, TMZ Sports reports.
The workers denied stealing the cash and gun, telling investigators the culprits could have been other people in Brown’s apartment during the days before he left town.
Police in Sunny Isles Beach returned to Brown’s apartment a day later on April 24 after getting reports of the Miami native throwing large objects — including two vases and an ottoman — off his balcony, nearly hitting and killing a toddler and his grandfather, who were nearby, according to a civil lawsuit filed by Ophir Sternberg.
Brown was not arrested in connection to the incident, but officials at the apartment complex told him they would start eviction proceedings against him.
Brown also caused extensive damage to his own unit at the apartment complex “in a fit of rage,” Sternberg’s lawsuit alleges. Sternberg is suing for assault and intentional infliction of emotional distress, claiming Brown acted “without regard for human life” during the alleged incident.
TMZ Sports reports that police were called back to Brown’s apartment for a third time in as many days on April 25 after Brown reported his black Rolls-Royce had been stolen. But Brown slammed the door when cops arrived, according to a police report.
When you’re a fringe receiver like WR NICK WILLIAMS, you can’t afford even one drop. Eric Bacharach of The Tennessean:
After one bad game, Nick Williams is out.
The Titans released the veteran wide receiver on Tuesday after his disastrous outing in western New York on Sunday. The Titans on Tuesday also announced they released third-string quarterback Austin Davis, whom they signed two weeks ago, and promoted linebacker Robert Spillane from the practice squad to the active roster.
Williams dropped a wide-open pass near the end zone that would have given the Titans the lead in the fourth quarter of their 13-12 loss to the Buffalo Bills.
Nick Williams’ drop highlighted a day of self-inflicted errors by the Titans in their loss to Bills.
His thoughts below.
“Marcus (Mariota) made a great play, keeping the play alive, scrambling, like he typically does,” Williams said after the game. “Threw a great pass. That’s all on me. 100 percent. It’s pro ball. Quarterbacks throw it; receivers catch it. You’ve got to make that play.”
For a guy like Williams, it could be the last pass he ever sees.
THIS AND THAT
Adam Teicher of ESPN.com with a long piece on how this week’s foes, the Chiefs and Patriots, as well as other teams, are playing college ball.
Washington State head coach Mike Leach watches as much pro football as he can. And Leach can’t remember the last time he failed to see a team using concepts and sometimes exact plays from the Air Raid offensive system he became famous for first at Texas Tech and then Washington State, a system he has used even before that when he was an offensive coordinator.
“I’m watching a game and all of a sudden I see something we ran just the other day,” Leach said. “It’s every team and every game now.”
Two of the biggest practitioners of the college concepts meet Sunday night, when the New England Patriots host the Kansas City Chiefs. Expect a lot of shotgun formations, spread fields, option plays and other college concepts.
It hasn’t always been that way across the league, though, with coaches criticizing quarterbacks from college spread offenses.
But while others complained about the difficulty of teaching a spread quarterback an NFL offense, Chiefs coach Andy Reid embraced it. Last year the Chiefs drafted Patrick Mahomes in the first round, a spread quarterback in college at Texas Tech who rarely took a snap from under center.
“I think the one great thing about college football today is that these kids are throwing the ball,” Reid said. “So it used to be you’re getting kids that weren’t throwing the ball, and we complained about that as coaches. Heck, now they’re throwing the ball and we’re still complaining. I’m going ‘Hey, bring it on.’
“We went through the option phase and then the I‐formation phase. Now guys are spreading them out and they’re throwing it. That to me is a positive. They’re having to read things, get the ball out of their hand, move in the pocket a little bit and learn things they would have otherwise had to learn here. I think they’re a step ahead, although it’s a different system.”
The Patriots have been using the spread for years as well. Last year’s Super Bowl between the Patriots and Eagles featured two teams heavy into college concepts.
The fast pace, as the teams ran 143 plays and totaled more than 1,151 yards, and the final score — 41-33 in favor of the Eagles — showed it.
“We’ve done it here off and on for a long time,” Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said. “Honestly, I think every game is its own game and every opponent, as you study and prepare to play against the next opponent, you’re really looking at the best ways you can to try to move the football and be productive on offense and score. And so, some weeks, that may or may not be the best thing to do.
“Spreading teams out has become much more the norm in the National Football League than it isn’t, and we certainly want to be able to do a lot of things well and right offensively. When we choose to do that, there’s a lot of people that have to do a lot of things right in order for it to go and be productive. When you spread out, the offensive line doesn’t have a lot of people in there near the tackles. You sometimes tell the defense what types of protection systems you’re using. So, there’s a lot of things that go into it.”
Reid also brought his offensive system to Mahomes as opposed to making his quarterback fit into the offense he was operating. Mahomes, for instance, in his first season as the starter has been under center only 68 snaps, the fourth-lowest total in the league.
With the proliferation of college games on TV and easy availability of college video, teams can watch a play or see a concept they want to borrow and have it in their playbook within days. The Chiefs, in fact, have done just that.
Offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy described how the Chiefs go through their usual Saturday night offensive meeting, when the coaches fine-tune the game plan and go through any other eve-of-the-game scenarios. And often during those meetings they’re also watching college football.
“While we’re having those discussions, whatever Saturday night football game is on, we’re watching and saying, ‘Hey, did you see that play?'” Bieniemy said. “You’re looking at all these different college games and you see certain offenses and seeing teams doing certain things. You can’t help but notice some of the ingenuity that’s being used at that particular level.
“It has an influence. Everybody’s looking at the college game. At the college level, they’re making sure you have to defend every inch of the grass. We want [opposing defenses] to defend every blade of grass.”
Reid was an early innovator. He used some option plays when he coached the Philadelphia Eagles, first with Donovan McNabb at quarterback and later with Michael Vick. Reid was forced to use the shotgun formation for the first time in 2005, a year after the Patriots beat the Eagles in the Super Bowl by consistently blitzing up the middle with McNabb constantly under center.
“The shotgun was one of the solutions for that,” said Brad Childress, then the Eagles’ offensive coordinator. “You didn’t want the quarterback to be standing next to the line of scrimmage.”
Reid’s idea was to find plays and concepts his quarterback would be most comfortable with. He increased those things in 2013, when he joined the Chiefs and acquired Alex Smith as the quarterback. Reid even hired Childress as an assistant coach and gave him the title of “spread analyst.”
Smith by that time was a veteran, but up to that point his greatest success had come in college at Utah, where he played in the spread for Utes coach Urban Meyer. The Chiefs with Smith became early NFL adopters of run-pass options, or RPOs.
“I went back and pulled all his college stuff [and found] out what he is most comfortable with,” Reid said. “I know Urban Meyer … kind of through all that conversation and film review, we gave [Smith] a handful of things and said, ‘Hey, what do you think about this?’ The longer he was with us, the more he had input to where, towards the end, he would tell you, ‘I’m lukewarm on that,’ or ‘I love this,’ type of thing.
“Now we were into the RPO stuff. So we started incorporating that in. I tried to find his best stuff, what he felt most comfortable with, and we started off with that and we put it in, and we just grew it from there.”
It’s difficult to predict where all of this is heading, but the spread is in the NFL to stay. Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton called defending the traditional NFL formations of two backs, two wide receivers and a tight end “batting practice.” Things get more difficult when defenses are required to defend the entire field and deal with concepts like motion and misdirection.
Whatever NFL offenses come up with next, it will probably come from college coaches like Leach.
“The hardest thing in football isn’t in getting a good idea, because there are good ideas everywhere,” Leach said. “There are more good ideas than you could ever manage or have the privilege to run. The hardest thing is selecting the ones that complement each other and having the discipline to not do too much.”
He’s all in for social justice, but if he makes a little money on the side…
Darren Rovell of ESPN.com:
Colin Kaepernick’s company Inked Flash has filed for the trademark to a black and white image of his face and hair.
The filing, which showed up on the website for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Wednesday but was filed last Friday, says the intent is to use the image on everything from shampoo and hairspray to jewelry and lampshades.
Colin Kaepernick has filed to get a trademark of his image. U.S. Patent & Trademark Office
The filing also says the image could be used in association with “providing classes, workshops, seminars and camps in the field of self empowerment and awareness to properly interact with law enforcement” as well as in association with “production of television shows and films.”
Carlos Fleming, who handles Kaepernick’s business deals, did not immediately answer a request for comment.
Kaepernick, who hasn’t played in the NFL since the 2016 season, re-emerged as a marketing icon last month when Nike started using him in the company’s “Just Do It” campaign. Using him caused polarizing reactions, with some saying they were more encouraged to buy Nike items, and others saying they would now stay away.
“I think it’s very smart,” trademark attorney Josh Gerben of Washington-based Gerben Law said of Kaepernick’s filing. “Nike made him relevant. Now he can monetize that and promote his movement more.”
Kaepernick had been with Nike since 2011, but the company recently re-signed him to a new deal that sources say includes a small apparel collection.
Kaepernick began selling #ImwithKap items on his website last month, including jerseys, which the site says are currently out of stock. All profits are said to go to Know Your Rights Camp, Kaepernick’s self-empowerment youth charity.
These are from ESPN.com:
1. Los Angeles Rams
2. Kansas City Chiefs
3. New England Patriots
4. New Orleans Saints
5. Jacksonville Jaguars
6. Cincinnati Bengals
7. Chicago Bears
8. Carolina Panthers
9. Philadelphia Eagles
10. Baltimore Ravens
11. Minnesota Vikings
12. Pittsburgh Steelers
13. Green Bay Packers
14. Los Angeles Chargers
15. Tennessee Titans
16. Miami Dolphins
17. Washington Redskins
18. Cleveland Browns
19. Atlanta Falcons
20. Seattle Seahawks
21. Denver Broncos
22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
23. Detroit Lions
24. Houston Texans
25. Dallas Cowboys
26. Indianapolis Colts
27. New York Jets
28. New York Giants
29. Buffalo Bills
30. San Francisco 49ers
31. Oakland Raiders
32. Arizona Cardinals
ESPN.com also ranks the difficulty of each team’s remaining schedule (so of the NFL’s “bad” teams at the moment, the Texans might be the one to watch for a turn around):
The Saints’ most difficult remaining game comes in Week 7, when they travel to Baltimore. FPI gives New Orleans a 38 percent chance of winning.
The Browns’ toughest remaining game is Week 8 at the Steelers, where they have a 16 percent chance to win, according to FPI. Cleveland already has tied the Steelers this season, and they are the only team in NFL history to be tied at some point in the fourth quarter of each of their first five games in a season.
The Panthers’ toughest remaining game, according to FPI, is a Week 10 matchup in Pittsburgh against the Steelers. FPI gives Carolina a 30 percent chance to win, and has been on point for the Panthers as it has correctly predicted their past 13 games.
The Steelers’ toughest remaining game is Week 9 at the Ravens, where they have a 38 percent chance to win, according to FPI. The Steelers lost by 12 points to the Ravens in Week 4 this season, and have been swept in the season series three times by Baltimore, most recently in 2015.
The Cardinals’ toughest remaining game is Week 12 at the Chargers, where they have a 14 percent to win, according to FPI. That begins a six-game stretch for Arizona to end the season where they are the underdog in each game.
The Eagles’ toughest remaining game, according to FPI, comes in Week 15 when they travel to Los Angeles to play the Rams. FPI gives the Eagles a 20 percent chance to win, and it is part of a stretch in which the Eagles are not favored to win three of four games.
The Broncos’ toughest remaining game comes in Week 8 at the Chiefs. They currently have just a 20 percent chance to win that game, according to FPI, which is their lowest percentage since the 2011 divisional round against the Patriots. Denver had just a 6 percent chance to win that game and lost 45-10.
The Redskins’ toughest game this season is at Jacksonville in Week 15, where they have a 35.5 percent chance of winning, according to FPI.
The Lions’ toughest remaining game is a Week 13 home game versus the Rams, where they have a 26.5 percent chance to win, according to FPI. Detroit already has won two home games this season in which they were not favored — Week 3 versus the Patriots and Week 5 versus the Packers.
The Vikings will travel to New England in Week 13 for their toughest remaining game, in which they have a 30 percent chance to win, according to FPI. This is part of a four-game stretch in which the Vikings face their toughest tests of the season. Minnesota has a 45 percent chance to beat Chicago in Week 11, a 57 percent chance to win against Green Bay in Week 12 and a 41 percent chance to beat Seattle in Week 14.
The Raiders’ toughest game of the season, according to FPI, will be in Week 12 at the Ravens, where they have a 17 percent chance to win. The Raiders are 1-5 all time in Baltimore, but won the last meeting in 2016 behind Derek Carr’s four touchdown passes.
The 49ers’ toughest remaining game is a Week 17 matchup at the Rams, where they have a 11 percent chance to win, according to FPI. The last time these two teams met without Jimmy Garoppolo playing was Week 3 last season, when the Rams won 41-39.
The Bengals’ toughest remaining game is Week 11 at the Ravens, where they have a 28 percent chance to win, according to FPI. The Bengals eliminated the Ravens from playoff contention in Week 17 last season with a 31-27 win in Baltimore.
The Cowboys will travel to Philadelphia in Week 10 for their toughest game of the season, followed by a trip to Atlanta for their second-toughest game of the season, according to FPI. The Cowboys have a 28 percent chance to beat the Eagles, and a 34 percent chance to beat the Falcons the week after.
The Buccaneers’ toughest remaining game falls in Week 15 at Baltimore, a matchup that Tampa Bay has a 20 percent chance of winning, according to FPI. That game is third in a stretch of six to end the season in which Tampa Bay is not favored to win.
The Rams’ toughest remaining game is Week 9 at the Saints, where they have a 57 percent chance to win, according to FPI. The Rams are the only team in the NFL favored to win all of their remaining games.
The Jaguars’ toughest game left on the schedule is actually this Sunday when they travel to face the Cowboys, where FPI gives Jacksonville a 44 percent chance to win. The Jaguars are 5-2 since the start of last season, including the playoffs, in games as the FPI underdog.
The Titans’ toughest remaining game, according to FPI, will be in Week 12 at the Texans, where Tennessee has a 34 percent chance to win. That makes sense, given the Titans have lost their past six road games at the Texans by an average of 19.7 PPG, including a 57-14 blowout last season
The Packers’ toughest remaining game is Week 8 at the Rams, where they have a 24 percent chance to win, according to FPI. Their next toughest game happens to be the following week, when they play on the road at the Patriots, with a 32 percent chance to win.
The Chargers’ toughest remaining game will be in Week 13 at the Steelers, where FPI gives Los Angeles a 35 percent chance to win. Last time these teams met in Pittsburgh was in 2012 when the Chargers led by as many as 24 points in their 34-24 win. That remains the Steelers’ largest deficit at any point in a home game in the past 10 seasons.
According to FPI, the Falcons’ toughest remaining game is a Week 12 Thanksgiving night matchup against the Saints, where they have a 35 percent chance to win. That will begin a stretch of six games to end the season for Atlanta where they are favored to win just two of those matchups.
The Bears’ toughest remaining game is a Week 17 road game against the Vikings, where they have a 40 percent chance to win, according to FPI. This is actually just one of the Bears’ two remaining games in which they are not projected to win. The other is Week 14 against the Rams, where Chicago has a 41 percent chance to win.
The Chiefs’ toughest game of the season, according to FPI, will be Sunday night at the Patriots, where they have a 33 percent chance to win. The Chiefs are the fifth team to enter a road game at the Patriots with a record of 5-0 or better since Bill Belichick became head coach in 2000. Two of the previous four such teams lost. — Joey Koontz
The Jets’ toughest remaining game will be in Week 17 in New England, where they have a 17 percent chance to beat the Patriots, according to FPI. The Jets have lost nine straight regular-season meetings at New England, their longest road losing streak against a single opponent in the Super Bowl era.
According to FPI, the Giants’ toughest game left on their schedule falls in Week 12 in a matchup against the Eagles in Philadelphia. FPI gives the Giants a 28 percent chance to beat the Eagles, something they’ve done only once in their past eight tries.
The Vikings will travel to New England in Week 13 for their toughest remaining game, in which they have a 30 percent chance to win, according to FPI. This is part of a four-game stretch in which the Vikings face their toughest tests of the season. Minnesota has a 45 percent chance to beat Chicago in Week 11, a 57 percent chance to win against Green Bay in Week 12 and a 41 percent chance to beat Seattle in Week 14.
The Dolphins’ toughest game of the season comes in Week 10 in Green Bay, where they have a 20 percent chance to win, according to FPI. The Dolphins earned an OT victory in their most recent trip to Green Bay, in 2010, improving to 4-2 all time at Lambeau Field. Only the Redskins (3-1-1) have a better all-time road record against the Packers.
The Seahawks’ toughest remaining game is also at the Rams, in Week 10, where they have a 19 percent chance to win, according to FPI. Following that game Seattle finishes with five of its final seven games at home. Russell Wilson is 6-7 in his career against the Rams, his most losses against any team.
The Patriots’ toughest remaining game will be in Week 15 in Pittsburgh, where FPI gives them a 45 percent chance to beat the Steelers. Tom Brady is 11-2 in his career against the Steelers, including the playoffs. That is the best record by a starting quarterback against the Steelers in the Super Bowl era (minimum 10 starts).
The Bills’ toughest remaining game will be in Week 16 in New England, where FPI gives them a 13 percent chance to beat the Patriots. However, the Bills upset the Vikings in Week 3 despite having just a 9 percent chance to win, the biggest NFL upset since 2009, according to FPI.
The Colts’ toughest remaining game will be in Week 13 at the Jaguars, where FPI gives Indianapolis a 32 percent chance to win. The Colts have already won a game this season in which they had worse odds to win: In Week 2, FPI gave them a 30 percent chance to beat the Redskins on the road, but they won 21-9.
The Texans’ toughest remaining game comes in Week 16 at the Eagles, where FPI gives Houston a 34 percent chance to win. Last time they faced a defending Super Bowl champion was just last year in Week 3, when they hung tough with the Patriots but ultimately lost 36-33 thanks to a Tom Brady touchdown pass to Brandin Cooks with 23 seconds remaining.