Now, this is weird. Normally, the combine would be a week or two away. Instead, there’s no combine, and we have more than a month until free agency starts. Which leaves us all in this interesting sort of void, waiting for trades and cuts to come, and the cap to be set. That’s our backdrop for today’s MAQB...
• I really like what Washington is doing with its front office—stocking the personnel staff with a ton of experienced hands. To me it is, in a way, taking advantage of inefficiency in the way the NFL does business. It’s been a pretty open frustration of people on the personnel side forever that fired GMs don’t get second chances the way that fired coaches do. Usually, a fired coach slips back into a coordinator or assistant head coach role elsewhere and can start rehabbing his career right away. For some reason, it rarely works that way in scouting. And that means there are a lot of quality guys available. Along those lines, Washington’s personnel department is now led by three guys who were fired as general managers (GM Martin Mayhew, EVP Marty Hurney and director of pro scouting Chris Polian), and another who was ousted as an assistant GM (senior director player personnel Eric Stokes). And since both Stokes and Polian worked with Hurney in Carolina, and Mayhew has a relationship with Ron Rivera, this isn’t a random collection of names either. I like the strategy. Bottom line, if you’re a believer that coaches benefit from experience the second time around, then that should go for scouts, too—and, accordingly, the WFT operation now has a lot of institutional knowledge in-house.
• The consummation of the television deals can be seen as a formality. What will be interesting is seeing what becomes of the Thursday Night Football package. It’s something the league’s been working on with streaming services—Amazon has simulcast the TNF games for a few years—as a sort of test to make sure it holds up. It has, and there’s a belief that the NFL is ready to make the leap to sell rights to a streaming partner. But I’ve heard the last few months that Disney was a viable contender for TNF too, with the idea that it could put MNF on ESPN and TNF on ABC, or vice versa, which would allow for the media giant to use the NFL as a subscription tentpole for ESPN on one hand, and as event programming on its over-the-air network. (That would also likely get Disney into the Super Bowl rotation.)
• During my lengthy conversation with Ndamukong Suh, for our MMQB lead on the Tampa defense, he and I did touch on his future. He was crystal clear that, with his contract expiring, he wants to keep playing, and keep playing in Tampa. “My goal is to come back and have an opportunity to go win another championship,” Suh told me. “Me and Tom [Brady] spoke the other day about that opportunity, as well as with Jason Licht. I don't know if you saw our parade celebration on that podium, Coach B.A. [Bruce Arians] said I'm not going anywhere. And he's usually a man of his word. So I look forward to the opportunity to continue to play, especially for Tampa. And I honestly believe I have a lot of elite, great talent left in me to play. I'm not ready to hang them up yet. And my wife has given me the O.K.—that’s first and foremost, I got that permission.” He was laughing as he said it, but serious in the sentiment that his passion for football is still burning, after 11 years in the league, and even now with a championship ring secured. And there’s family considerations too. “Along with being able to still have that energy, that fire to go out there, I think the biggest thing that pushed me throughout this season was knowing I have twins on the way,” he says. “Being able to have them come into this world as champions, but then also me play a couple years, maybe five, who knows? That they get to see me on the football field and experience that at a certain age, obviously they’re going to be super young, going back this year. But just for them to be able to experience and be around that environment [would be great].” In short: Suh might be around a while.
• One other thing from Suh that was leftover, and is interesting: the benefits he saw of being Brady’s teammate as a defensive player. “If you watch and go back and look at all his teams, and this is one of the things I was excited about when he signed with us, those defenses are typically well-rested,” Suh says. “Dinking and dunking, making big plays, moving the ball downfield and scoring points, it gives you opportunities to one, rest, but also come out fresh and rush the passer. And get sacks and not really have to play the run. Because a lot of the time, teams are either playing from behind or it’s neck-and-neck and they have to find ways to score. And most teams in this league want to pass it. So I was excited about him coming. And obviously his competitive edge and the knowledge that he has and brings to the team. I got to learn a lot of stuff from him during camp, which was great. And we got to get to know each other on a whole different level versus me always trying to chase him down.”
• We’ve known he’d be there for a while, but I wouldn’t overlook the Jaguars’ hire of Ryan Stamper as director of player assessment. He was assistant athletic director for player development under Urban Meyer at Ohio State, and played for Meyer at Florida, so he’s in the innermost of inner circles with the new Jacksonville coach. And he’ll be the one who’ll backstop Meyer’s decision-making on who’s coming into the building (he was the guy people went to with thoughts on coaching staff and front office moves in January). Which is to say, ultimately, once he acclimates to the NFL, I’d bet he becomes the guy who helps Meyer avoid situations like the one he stepped into with strength coach Chris Doyle. Like I said this morning, I can’t say whether or not Doyle deserves another shot. But it was plain to see Meyer couldn’t be the one to bring him back.
• One thing unsaid in J.J. Watt asking for his release—in the cap conscious climate of 2021, it’s highly unlikely he’ll wind up making the $17.5 million he was on the books for in Houston this year. So in asking for his release, and not to seek a trade partner, he probably left money on the table. Maybe a lot of it.
• I thought it was interesting to hear new Bears defensive coordinator Sean Desai say the unit needs a “tune-up” in 2021, and not a remake. “We’ve got a good defense,” Desai told reporters. “We’ve got good players. There was some regression, and we’re going to overcome that.” You’d have to think that was a selling point for coach Matt Nagy and GM Ryan Pace, given the pressure on both this year.
• Jalen Hurts is a pretty self-aware dude, and he’s been in awkward quarterback situations before. So my guess is that he didn’t arrange to have Philly’s receivers meet him in Texas to work out (h/t to NBC Philly’s John Clark for the initial report on that) without giving the Eagles brass a heads up first. And if they signed off on it, it’s another sign that they’re well past the point of no return with Carson Wentz.
• The Cardinals hired Kelly Jones to be their chief people officer on Monday. And while that title sounds a little funny, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it pop with other teams soon. The NFL has one in Dasha Smith, and with the racial reckoning we’ve been through as a country over the last year, and the workplace diversity issues that have been front-and-center in the NFL, the need for someone in that sort of role is there for most organizations.
• RIP, Vincent Jackson. The ex-Chargers and Bucs receiver was a freakish talent but also one of the rare football players willing to go to the carpet with a team on the business side of the game. Jackson sat out most of the 2010 season when the team tried to use a CBA mechanism to keep him on the cheap, played on the franchise tag in 2011, and signed a five-year, $55.5 million deal with Tampa in 2012. Jackson was quiet with the media, but was known as someone who stood on principle. Best to his family and loved ones.