Wrapping up Week 14 heading into Monday night …
1. In the end, the big blowup so many expected between Raiders coach Jon Gruden and GM Reggie McKenzie never came. I circled back with a couple Oakland staffers Monday afternoon—after McKenzie was fired—and got the same thing I have for a few months now. Gruden liked McKenzie personally. The relationship was cordial. It was never going to work long-term, not with how McKenzie’s authority had been curtailed, and not with how Gruden viewed the roster McKenzie built over his seven years as GM. But their working relationship has been, mostly, fine.
2. Say this for McKenzie, too: He worked the trade market. A lot of other teams became frustrated with him as he shopped players he’d spent high draft picks on, some going so far as to say he was sandbagging deals because he didn’t really want to deal his guy. But holding a hard line wound up positioning the Raiders with three first-rounders in 2019 and two more in 2020, as a result of the Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper deals. The flip side? Players like Karl Joseph weren’t dealt.
3. As for what to look for in Oakland’s next GM, it sounds like the team will seek someone with the chops to push back on Gruden. That indicates previous GM experience would be a plus for candidates.
4. Keep an eye on the Cardinals finding coaching help for QB Josh Rosen, whether it’s a new head coach or, if Steve Wilks survives, a new offensive coordinator in 2019. That, by the way, doesn’t mean current coordinator Byron Leftwich, elevated after Mike McCoy’s October firing, wouldn’t stay on staff in some capacity if there is change.
5. The hits keep coming up front for the Cowboys. EVP Stephen Jones said on the radio Monday that guard Zack Martin’s MCL injury is just an aggravation of the knee problem he was already dealing with. But I’m told the idea that he misses a week or two to get himself right is on the table.
6. The idea that the Ravens could play both Lamar Jackson and Joe Flacco is on the board now, with coach John Harbaugh saying Monday that he expects Flacco to be part of the gameplan on Sunday. Here’s where we remind you that last spring the coaches put together a plan, which Harbaugh presented to GM Ozzie Newsome, on how they could build a scheme for both quarterbacks, ahead of making the call to pursue Jackson in the draft.
7. Another thing from my conversation with Kenyan Drake in MMQB last night: When I asked him if he’d ever been involved in a play like the Miami Miracle, he actually said he had. “I’ve been on the losing side of that, in the ‘Kick 6’ game against Auburn my sophomore year, back in 2013,” said the Alabama alum. “It feels good to be on the winning side of it.” I found a shot from the 2013 Iron Bowl with the then-Tide backup tailback on the sideline as kicker Adam Griffin lined up.
8. Keep an eye on the Vikings’ ability/effort to get Kirk Cousins into a rhythm tonight against Seattle. The rap on him has forever been that if his timing is where it needs to be, and he can play on schedule, he’s lethal. When things go haywire, he’s less effective. It makes sense that he had all that success behind Washington’s all-star line, and has had issue playing with the Vikings’ patchwork front. The Seahawks, on paper at least, should be able to test him.
9. Here’s something else to watch: The Seahawks offensive line. Pete Carroll deserves credit for pulling the plug on long-time assistant Tom Cable and going to veteran line coach Mike Solari, whose run scheme is more versatile and suited to the bigger, mauling type linemen (DJ Fluker, Germain Ifedi) on that front. This area was a huge weakness of Seattle’s for years. It isn’t anymore, and it will be interesting to see how that group does tonight against a loaded Vikings front seven.
10. There is a league meeting in Dallas on Wednesday. On the agenda: The competition committee will set priorities for 2019 and give an injury data report; there will be sessions on social justice, work-place diversity, international (they’ll set a framework and objectives for the 2019 games), and Super Bowl. They’ll also talk about the future of sports betting and potential for casino sponsorships.
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