While the four remaining teams push toward a Super Bowl, four more are cleaning out their locker rooms and looking towards the 2018 regular season, 233 days away
Four teams are still standing in the NFL playoffs. Meanwhile, four others saw their season end last weekend and are now cleaning out their locker rooms and looking toward the 2018 regular season, 233 days away. The Steelers came to their facility Monday for exit interviews and to tell media members things like, "The things that happened this year can’t happen next year” (that one's from defensive end Cam Heyward)." The Titans' facility is also now empty, with the franchise announcing Monday that coach Mike Mularkey would not be back with the team. Here's a look at what each team needs to do to contend again next year, starting in Tennessee.
TITANS: Right now, the coaching candidates being tied to Tennessee are all over the map, from offensive assistants who've contributed to the development of Jared Goff (Rams offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur) and Carson Wentz (Eagles OC Frank Reich) to a defensive coach off the Patriots tree (Texans defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel; Titans GM Jon Robinson spent 11 years working in New England). Robinson inherited Marcus Mariota when he took over the team in 2016. Now, in selecting the QB's third NFL coach, he needs to nail it. The AFC South will be crowded for years to come if Deshaun Watson and Andrew Luck stay healthy and the Jaguars defense continues to play like it has this season.
STEELERS: It sounds like we can expect some internal shuffling among the offensive coaching staff with Todd Haley's contract expiring, but the bigger dilemma comes on defense. While supporting Ryan Shazier's long rehabilitation process, Pittsburgh has to come up with a replacement strategy for its linebacking corps. The Steelers gave up 133 rushing yards per game after Shazier went down. I'm betting they take a linebacker early in the draft.
FALCONS: Atlanta's offense was 15th in points per game this year, just above Washington, Houston, and Tampa Bay. Considering their record-setting performance in 2016, that's not the company it expects to keep. Steve Sarkisian seems to be sticking around as offensive coordinator. (Kyle Shanahan is certainly not walking back into that facility any time soon.) But maybe a rising defense can give this team a new identity in 2018.
SAINTS: That's pretty much what New Orleans pulled off this year, with a surprisingly tough defense (up until the season's final play, at least) finishing 10th in points allowed. If Drew Brees can continue his level of play at 39 years old—happy birthday, by the way—and the Saints add a few pieces to their front seven on defense, they should be in great shape next season.
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NOW ON THE MMQB: Albert Breer reports on the remaining coaching openings ... Conor Orr considers the ripple effects of Mike Mularkey's departure ... Andy Benoit provides the Jaguars a recipe to upset the Patriots ... and more.
LATER TODAY: Orr has a special report from Foxborough ... Robert Klemko considers all of the disses that have been directed at the Jaguars ... and more. Stay tuned.
WHAT YOU MAY HAVE MISSED: On the Vikings, Broken Hearts and Unfettered Joy by Steve Rushin ... Charles Pierce discussed Ricky Jean-Francois, Haiti, and the Patriots ... Peter King was in the perfect place to write a classic Monday column ... and more.
1. A quick coaching carousel refresher: New England DC Matt Patricia is likely headed to the Lions whenever the Patriots' season is over. Pats OC Josh McDaniels is reportedly getting a second coaching opportunity, this time in Indianapolis. And Vikings OC Pat Shurmur will most likely be the Giants' next coach.
2. Samantha Drake spent Sunday with an Eagle. No, like, an actual Eagle.
3. After 20 years in Cincinnati, veteran offensive line coach Paul Alexander is headed to Dallas.
4. This is such a fascinating offseason for John Elway. He's already chosen to stick with coach Vance Joseph after a 5-11 season. Now he needs to figure out the quarterback position and decide if he wants to keep paying 30-year-old Demaryius Thomas and 31-year-old Aqib Talib (remember, he cut 31-year-old safety T.J. Ward in a surprise move last preseason).
5. Buccaneers GM Jason Licht spoke with the Tampa Bay Times Monday, assessing the 2017 season and decrying the expectations that had been set last summer. "The whole year, just the expectations were just, not set by us, it was just something I cringed at,'' Licht said. "Of course, you want positive things written about us but when the expectations are that we've got these weapons now and we're going to score 50 points a game, it's just not that easy."
6. To preview the Norv Turner—Cam Newton experience, Joseph Person looked back at Turner's history and spoke with those that have coached with him or played for him. One thing to watch going forward, evidently: Newton's dropbacks.
7. Ben Roethlisberger reportedly wants to play three more seasons in Pittsburgh, but offensive coordinator Todd Haley's time in town might be running out.
8. If he coaches out his 10-year contract, a majority of Jon Gruden's time will be spent as the leader of the Las Vegas Raiders. Yet so far he's been hesitant to embrace the team's future home.
9. According to SportsBusiness Daily, the NFL Divisional Round drew the lowest ratings since 2009, despite having three close games.
10. Fire up the conspiracy machine: Sean Payton says his team did not have full access to replay monitors Sunday.
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Here's a comprehensive list of every act of frustration exhibited by Saints fans following Sunday's loss, courtesy of Reddit.
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