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NFL Mailbag: Matt Rhule Will Almost Definitely Be an NFL Coach Next Year. But Where?

With just three weeks left in the NFL season and plenty of teams already eliminated from the playoffs, there’s plenty of talk about the coaching carousel, quarterback movement and more. Buckle up for this week’s mailbag!
Matt Rhule

The Week 15 schedule … is not great. Rams-Cowboys is intriguing. Bills-Steelers and Titans-Texans are, as well. But as is the case every December, there’s plenty of coaching and offseason talk to discuss in this mid-December mailbag. Let’s go...

From Michael Pagano (@michaelpagano71): Does (Cowboys’ head coach Jason) Garrett get fired in the offseason, and if so, who replaces him?

Michael, if the Cowboys don’t win at least one playoff game, I think Garrett is out. And part of this is logistical. The team doesn’t actually have to fire Garrett since his contract is up in January. If they let him go, they don’t owe him a dime. If they go forward with him, it’ll likely mean a four- or five-year deal and a financial commitment of more than $30 million guaranteed.

There won’t be any half-stepping this one. And while I know Dallas really loves top assistants Kris Richard and Kellen Moore, I think it’d be tough to go forward based on the season has gone without a full reset. The Joneses do believe both will eventually be head coaches, but individual performance is part of this too. Richard’s defense has had tackling and discipline issues. Moore’s offense has had problems adjusting of script of late.

You’ve heard the names the Cowboys will look at, and I believe there are two aspects of the next hire to watch: the prominence and prior success of the coach, and the development of Dak Prescott. So Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley and ex-Ohio State coach Urban Meyer top the list, and I’d think that Baylor’s Matt Rhule and Florida’s Dan Mullen (Prescott’s college coach) would also merit consideration.

From Tom Brennan (@thomasbrennan23): If Shurmur and Gettleman both go who are likely candidates to replace them?

Tom, if Pat Shurmur and Dave Gettleman are gone, I’d put Baylor’s Rhule at the very top of the list. But after what Rhule went through last year with the Jets, I’m told that Rhule is going to be very careful about where he goes in pursuing his goal of becoming an NFL head coach—which means the Giants’ job might take some convincing. Rhule worked for the Giants in 2012, so he knows what’s right and what’s wrong about that place.

I also believe it’d be hard for Rhule, as a native New Yorker, to say no to the Giants—similar to my thinking that it’d be hard for Lincoln Riley to say no to the Cowboys. If it’s not Rhule, I’d tell you that the Giants value head-coaching experience and some level of familiarity with a candidate. That’s why Jason Garrett’s name will come up—and the Maras haven’t been shy about how much they personally like their former backup quarterback, though I’m not sold that they’d move quickly to hire him.

From Yeshua, The Great (@Yeshthagr8): Do you think Marrone and the front office get the ax in Jacksonville at end of season? And who do you think would be on our priority list for coaching replacements?

Yeshua, the word going around right now is that this will likely start with a decision on Tom Coughlin. Then the question becomes who’s making the decision on Doug Marrone. If Coughlin’s out, and owner Shad Khan hires his replacement, does he let that replacement make a call on Marrone? Or does he just perform a clean sweep, which would probably allow for a wider-reaching coaching search?

I do know that Khan and Marrone have cultivated a very solid relationship and that Khan really likes his coach. That doesn’t mean he’s keeping Marrone —especially if there are more no-shows like the one we saw Sunday against the Chargers at home—but it’s something to consider as he considers his options.

From Kyle Gilleney (@KDG1229): What’s the likelihood Philip Rivers leaves or retires? If so, will Los Angeles be a tempting destination for Brady?

I know Rivers wants to coach his eldest son when he gets to high school, and I suspect that will be back in his home state of Alabama. That particular son is in the fifth grade, putting the cap on Rivers’s career at three more years. I also know the Chargers are in a win-now spot with a lot of really good players (Russell Okung, Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Joey Bosa, Melvin Ingram, Derwin James) entering, in, or getting to the back end of their primes.

Because of that, franchising Rivers in 2020 would seem to make the most sense for the Chargers, allowing them more time to find his successors while continuing to give the guys there the best chance he could. But if Rivers winds up a free agent, wants to get closer to home, and goes to, say, Tennessee? I’d say Brady would make some sense for the Chargers.

For Brady, I think there are some appealing elements about going to L.A.—he’s from California, would have the chance to add to his legacy with a talented crew out there, and maybe even help create a new fan base for a team that’s struggle to find one since moving there. Scheme might be an issue. I don’t think he’d want to start over, but another team could potentially meet him halfway on that like the Broncos did Peyton Manning.

With all that said, I think there are family considerations that would make staying on or closer to the East coast preferable for the time being. We’ll see what happens.

From Scott Nowak (@scottnowak65): Which team do you think Andy Dalton will end up playing for next year?

Scott, it’d be fun to throw a team like the Bears out there—maybe they could have him come in and compete for playing time with Mitchell Trubisky—but I still think staying put makes the most sense.

Dalton will be in the final year of his deal in 2020, making $17.5 million (a $17.5-million base and $200,000 workout bonus), which is actually a pretty affordable rate for a starting-level player at his position. Nick Foles and Joe Flacco, for example, average nearly $5 million more than that on their deals. So it’d be easy for Cincinnati to justify keeping him on as a bridge to Joe Burrow or Justin Herbert or Tua Tagovailoa.

The problem? While that works on paper, you need to have Dalton on board with the plan in order to create the right environment for the young quarterback. And I think whether he’d do it or not would likely ride on what his options may be outside on Cincinnati, and it’ll be up to his reps to ferret that part out.

From Jack (@NotaTreeStump): What are you gonna do when Drew Lock goes into Arrowhead and beats the Chiefs?

Haven’t made plans for the occasion yet, Jack, but I’ll keep you posted.

From drexler 222 (@drexler_222): Why do the Patriots constantly do shady stuff? If they’re so good then there’s no need for this.

Drexler, I’m going to take the Patriots’ word for now—which basically makes them dumb, but not conniving. And make no mistake, it has to be one or the other in this case. Either the Patriots knew and were gathering information in an illicit way (making them conniving) or they messed up and opened the door for this (making them dumb in the moment).

I said this on social media—this would be like a USC assistant walking into a car dealership with a recruit after the Reggie Bush scandal. Or Barry Bonds popping up at a pharmacy in Tijuana. When you get caught doing something, or even accused of doing something, the rules change for you. You have to have heightened awareness of your own actions. And if you don’t, that’s on you, because it’s not hard to tell when the benefit of the doubt is gone.

From TouchdownBuctown33 (@buctown33): What will the Bucs do with Jameis in the offseason?

We saw the full gamut of Jameis Winston during the Bucs’ win over the Colts —the gunsliging, the turnovers, the big plays and the excitement—and it was a reminder of how much Bruce Arians wants to make it work with the former Heisman winner. He’s stuck with him this year to the point where he even had the out of the hand injury (it kept Winston out for a series) on Sunday and didn’t take it to sit his quarterback down.

Financials will be a question, of course. But I don’t anticipate, with a fairly deep veteran market for quarterbacks coming in March, that there’ll be this land rush to give Winston a blank check. So I could certainly seem him back on a short-term, prove-it type of deal.

From Russell in North Carolina (@Russell_in_NC): Where is Ron Rivera most likely to be coaching next season?

Good question, Russell. The logical landing spot would be with the Giants. If Gettleman survives and Shurmur doesn’t, Gettleman has the background of having worked together with Rivera for four years, and Rivera is in so many ways what the Giants need, as a stabilizing force that could get the train back on the tracks in East Rutherford. If not the Giants? There’s no natural connection, but certainly you could look at certain places—like, say, Jacksonville—that could use Rivera’s level nature and ability to reach players.

That said, after last year, I wouldn’t speak in absolutes. I was sure that Mike McCarthy would find his way back in after being fired in Dec. 2018, and he didn’t really come close to getting one. McCarthy’s spent 2019 out of football with hopes of landing a head coaching spot in ’20.

The lesson there is simple. There are only 32 of these jobs, and they aren’t easy to land.

From Jorge F Hinojosa (@FranciscoHinoPe): What is the perception now around the league about the Dolphins and particularly what Coach Flores has been able to accomplish?

Jorge, most people I talk to are really impressed with what Flores has been able to accomplish in Year 1 in Miami, mostly because the challenge was enormous. The roster, as you know, was stripped down, future draft picks were accumulated, and talk of the team tanking became impossible for anyone, players included, to ignore.

That meant Flores had to motivate a bunch of players who watched some of their best teammates get dealt off the roster, had no assurances that they would make it much longer than the departed had in Miami, and endured four straight losses by 20 or more points to start the season. And he had to motivate them to buy into a program that’s very, very demanding in an era where places like that have become scarce.

That he made the team competitive first, then started winning in that spot is pretty astounding. The Dolphins started 0-7. They’re 3-3 since. Suddenly, the future looks kind of … Bright? Now all they have to do is nail all those draft picks.

From Matt Ramas (@matt_ramas): In your opinion, who is the best NFL broadcast team and why?

There are lots of good crews out there, and the No. 1 teams (Joe Buck and Troy Aikman on FOX, Jim Nantz and Tony Romo on CBS and Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth on NBC) are all terrific.

Here’s a hat tip to a college crew I followed closely through the fall. FOX’s Gus Johnson and Joel Klatt were amazing on all the Ohio State broadcasts, and they did a great job covering the Big Ten in general. I always learned stuff listening to them. Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit have been incredible calling college games for years now, but Gus and Joel are one reason why FOX is nipping at ESPN’s heels now.

From T.A. (@2foottackles): Favorite OSU bar?

Great question, T.A.! This is an easy answer for me—Out R Inn on 18. I don’t have my plastic mug anymore, but that’s where I’d go if I wanted to show someone the kind of bars I went to back then.

Too’s was my bar in college, but it got bulldozed by developers trying to turn anything that had character on High Street into Faux Disneyland. I also loved Zig’s, which became Four Kegs before I graduated. I enjoyed O Patio, where the idea that you were going to study on a sunny Wednesday afternoon in the spring went to die, but that amazing place is gone, too.

As for gameday, no question, it’s Varsity Club.

See you guys from Dallas with the GamePlan tomorrow!

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