Lots to get to in a chaotic week in the sport of football. You had questions. I had answers. Let’s dive in.
From Chris Cahill (@ChrisCjcahill): Will John Mara go outside the Giants’ family for a new GM?
Chris, this is a very important question, because it’ll help to define where the Giants are going, how seismic changes could get and the timeline on which the team is building. It’ll also give everyone in the league the Maras’ answer to a common criticism they’ve faced as an ownership group over the last few years—that the building has too many Giants lifers in it and could really use a shakeup. Let’s set up three scenarios, and point out how they'd impact Joe Judge …
Scenario 1: The Giants stay in-house for Dave Gettleman’s eventual replacement. This, without question, would be the least popular decision with the fan base, because it’d represent sticking with a status quo that’s gotten the team to the playoffs just once since the Super Bowl year of 2011. But there are good, well-respected names in the building, like assistant GM Kevin Abrams, who’d know well enough to affect some change. It’d also probably leave Judge largely unaffected. Or affected least, out of our scenarios.
Scenario 2: The Giants hire a Joe Judge–centric personnel man to become GM. Titans director of player personnel Monti Ossenfort and Patriots director of player personnel Dave Ziegler are two that come to mind as guys who might fit that bill, and this would be the best case scenario for Judge. If this happens, Judge is tied to the new GM. His timeline wouldn’t fully reset, but he’d be given more rope to prove that his program is right for the franchise going forward.
Scenario 3: The Giants bring in a name not tied to the team or its head coach. Maybe that’s someone like Bills assistant GM Joe Schoen, Cowboys VP of player personnel Will McClay or Colts assistant GM Ed Dodds—all guys who’ve been in the running for GM jobs in the past, and are well-respected in scouting circles. In this scenario, which would be the boldest, Judge would likely come out of it going into a season where he’s under evaluation (not unlike where Vic Fangio is under new Broncos GM George Paton this year).
The ripples in the latter two scenarios would likely hit stronger, with a better chance that the scouting department would be reworked, if not torn down and built back up. The final scenario would probably lead to the most widespread roster changes—and signal that Mara is alright with an across-the-board rebuild.
So sure, hiring a GM is hiring just one person. But the effect of the decision will go far beyond just whoever that one person is.
From Jeff Gauthier (@SauceCastieaux): Chances Saints go after Russell Wilson in the offseason?
Jeff, I think the Saints will keep their options open at quarterback heading in 2022, with two quarterbacks—or one-and-a-half, depending on how you look at it—under contract in Taysom Hill and Ian Book. Hill’s unique contract certainly leaves room for the team to spend at the position, but the salary cap itself may not. As it stands now, the Saints project to be tens of millions over next year’s cap.
Now, they could move money around to make space for a quarterback (and I think they’d have an interest in Deshaun Watson, too), but the question then becomes whether the cap gymnastics would make the situation around said quarterback so much worse that he wouldn’t want to go there. It’d be tricky, at best.
That said, Wilson not-so-discreetly showed interest in New Orleans during the 2022 offseason, and stylistically he could fit Sean Payton’s offense—he’s different than Drew Brees, but the coaches could set the offense up in a similar way to how it was for 15 years, with more option concepts worked in. So in summary? It’s a really fun idea. I don’t know that the timing here is going to work out.
From masshole413 (@masshole413): Will the Ravens pay Lamar Jackson when the time comes? Is he worth it?
Yes, I think the Ravens will pay him after the season and pay him near the top of the quarterback market, and I think Jackson’s earned it. Really, the concern with Jackson at this point of his career is whether he’ll hold up physically and be able to continue to facilitate Baltimore’s unique style of offense. He’s had double-digit carries in 30 of his 47 career regular-season starts, and has had nine or more in all four of his playoff starts.
That’s an unheard-of workload for a quarterback, and maybe it will eventually catch up to him. But thus far, it’s hard to argue that it’s affected him. Since becoming the starter midway through his rookie year, he’s missed just three games. One was the team’s resting him with seeding locked up in the final week of his MVP season. Another came when he landed on the COVID-19 list last year. And the third was earlier this year, when an illness took him out of a game in Chicago. So at this point, he’s missed zero games due to wear-and-tear.
That, of course, doesn’t mean he’ll hold up this way forever. But he’s got great ability to avoid taking clean shots from defenders (an ability that kept the great Barry Sanders going into his second decade as an NFL player), and he’s evolving as a passer to where you’d think he, and the Ravens, may progressively lean a little less on him as a runner over time.
And as for whether he’s worth it, I think we’re all seeing his value this year. The Ravens have lost their starting left tackle and their top two running backs, and worked through a long list of injuries in their receiver room earlier in the year, and Jackson’s the guy that’s held the whole operation together. How’s it worked out? Baltimore is fourth in the NFL in total offense and second in rush offense, and holds the AFC’s No. 1 seed.
So yes, he’s worth it. Especially since, beyond the on-field value, he represents just about everything John Harbaugh, Eric DeCosta and all the guys in Baltimore want in their players.
You can feel good about paying him.
From Hovis Panther (@HovisMyers): Matt Rhule back to college?
Hovis, I’m not gonna channel Mike Tomlin here, but I think it’s highly unlikely. Will Oklahoma and Notre Dame call? They’d be out of their minds not to. And for the same reason Kliff Kingsbury deflected questions about the Oklahoma job, it’d be understandable if he let some rumors percolate for a bit (though Kingsbury’s in a contract year in 2022, whereas Rhule’s deal runs through ’26).
In the end, though, I think Rhule’s viewed himself as an NFL coach the whole time, going back to when he had jobs at Temple and Baylor, and is where he wants to be now. In fact, as I’d heard it, one reason you didn’t hear many complaints from players in Waco as Rhule worked to leave Baylor was because he was up front with everyone on his aspirations.
The other thing is that the college game will be there for Rhule, if things don’t work out in Carolina down the line. It’s the beauty of his situation. He was wildly successful in two places that weren’t the easiest to win at, and he’s still just 46. So maybe he’ll be in the NFL for good, and he’ll win big with the Panthers and that’s that. If not? You better believe some big-time college program will be waiting for him behind the wheel of a Brink’s truck.
From Andrew Dannehy (@ADannehy): Ryan Day to the Bears? Other candidates who could be interested?
Andrew, I’ll start by saying I think Day will, at some point, coach in the NFL. I don’t think he’s going to be at Ohio State for 20 years. And I also think the idea of coaching Justin Fields would appeal to him, and the relationship he has with Fields alone should be enough for Chicago to take a serious look at Day. So if Matt Nagy’s out, I think a tire-kicking could happen, and I don’t know that—after the last few days—it’d be smart to rule anything out.
That said, it feels like there’s a decent chance Day will get one of these 10-year megadeals from Ohio State soon, and I do think Day will wind up being in Columbus for a while as a result. The Buckeyes are right there with Alabama and Georgia in recruiting at the highest level of college football, and he’s right there with new USC coach Lincoln Riley in his ability to attract and develop blue-chip quarterbacks and skill talent.
So the NFL eventually for Day? Yeah, I think so. And, again, I’d imagine there’d be a lure to coaching Fields again. But I think he’ll stay in Columbus a while longer, especially with some business to settle from the way the last two seasons ended there.
As for other candidates, I think Josh McDaniels is one worth keeping your eye on, someone with a high-end résumé in quarterback development, and a coach who took a very hard look at Fields predraft last year. Or maybe the McCaskey family will take a big swing at someone like Sean Payton, who worked with GM Ryan Pace in New Orleans and is from Chicago.
Watch NFL games online all season long with fuboTV: Start with a 7-day free trial!
From BigBub (@Big_Bub): Albert what are your thoughts on Pat Fitzgerald as a potential HC for the hometown Bears?
Big Bub, this is another one where I’m not sure the timing works out great. I’ve heard for years, like a lot of other people have, that the one job Northwestern’s coach might consider leaving his alma mater for is the Bears’ job. And so if it comes open, if the Bears approached him, I think he’d have to really consider the idea of it—especially if he likes Fields, whom he coached against twice when the quarterback was at Ohio State.
But another thing I’ve heard on Fitzgerald is that he’d like to coach his sons, and one of them in a high-school junior this year who’s a pretty accomplished prep player in the Chicago area. Is he good enough to get a Northwestern scholarship? I don’t know. But I’d say if you’ve always wanted to coach your kids, and one is that close to having a shot at it, where you might be able to do it in the fall of 2023, it might be enough to stay where you are.
So we’ll see. One thing’s for sure: Fitzgerald has not been in any rush to leave, or even sniff around much. There was talk that he could’ve gone to Detroit last year, if the Lions had hired George Paton (with whom Fitzgerald shares an agent); and that talk has led some to speculate that Denver might be in play there (though my sense is, based on what I know, that the Broncos would be more likely to hire an offensive coach).
Bottom line, he’s one of these guys who’s probably going to have more opportunity in the years ahead, and doesn’t need to hurry anything.
From CS (@CScarpaglia): What were your thoughts on Michigan blowing out OSU?
I guess I need to answer this. My thoughts: Ohio State had a lot of issues exposed over the course of the season. The team’s overall physicality showed up as a problem against Oregon. The red-zone offense was a problem against Penn State. The third-down defense was a problem against, of all teams, Tulsa. And all of the problems got covered up by the nation’s best offense making huge plays and running the team out to 20- and 30-point leads on a regular basis.
Really, it took a team’s taking a game into the second half to reveal that the problems were not truly fixed, and Michigan got a couple of red-zone stops in the first half that allowed the Wolverines to do that. Good for them. They had a good game plan. The problems got exposed. The weather prevented a track meet. And Ohio State played its worst game of the year, which is also a credit to Michigan for having a good plan to take the Buckeyes out of their comfort zone, and then simply blocking and tackling better than the visiting team did.
Anyway, that feeling sucked. Really, it was the first time in 18 years I’d come out of The Game feeling that way—the 2011 game was close (If DeVier Posey doesn’t lose a ball in the sun, the Bucks win), but that was the post-tat-gate team with Luke Fickell as interim coach and a 6–5 record coming in. Meaning 2003 was the last truly legit loss. I was there in Ann Arbor for that one. If I hadn’t been, I’d have had to watch it in standard def.
It’s been a while.
From FL_PIRATE (@FLPIRATE40): Who will coach the Raiders next season?
Pirate, I think the Raiders have a great opportunity with this one. Whoever comes in will enter into a building where the coach has had a lot of say in the construction of the team, there’s a veteran quarterback in place, the cap is healthy and there are good young players at every level of the roster. There’s also the fact that you have a chance to be the face of an iconic franchise in a new city—and with so much having gone wrong in 2021, you’ll get the shot to remake the brand as you see fit (which is more of an ego play, but still …).
It’s also important to note that Raiders owner Mark Davis, right or wrong, has chosen not to get an early jump on his coaching search, preferring to give interim coach Rich Bisaccia time to prove that the team won’t have to look far to find its next guy. We’ll see how that turns out.
Whenever the actual search starts, one name I think is intriguing would be ex-Eagles coach Doug Pederson. Given the scope of what’s gone down in 2021, and the makeup of the team, it’d make sense for the Raiders to go with someone who’ll bring experience. And Pederson, of course, coached in the AFC West over his three years in Kansas City.
From Blitz Alerts (@BlitzAlerts): IS JALEN HURTS THE FUTURE IN PHILADELPHIA?
Blitz, no need to yell at me! I don’t think, quite honestly, any decisions have been made on that, but I do think Hurts’s progress gives the Eagles some level of flexibility in how they handle the quarterback position going forward. And I think Philly coach Nick Sirianni deserves credit here too, for being flexible on offense, and incorporating concepts that worked for Hurts at Oklahoma (which is one reason the run game has blown up of late).
My guess is Hurts will play well enough the rest of the year to where the Eagles go into the offseason with their options open. They’ll have three first-round picks, but this is the sort of quarterback class where Howie Roseman & Co. will look at their options and believe earnestly that Hurts is a better one than any of the kids coming out (I’d bet my mortgage there’ll be teams this spring without a first-round grade on any of the quarterbacks).
That’d leave the Eagles with the veteran names we’ve all heard. I don’t think they’d necessarily be a suitor for Aaron Rodgers. Russell Wilson? Maybe, since he’s the one who got away—Roseman, Andy Reid and Philly planned on taking him in the third round in 2012 before the Seahawks got him 13 picks in front of them (the Eagles wound up with Nick Foles instead). Then, there’s Deshaun Watson. That one, I think, would be a real possibility, especially if there’s more clarity on his legal situation in a few months.
And if not, then Hurts would get another year to prove himself worthy of being the guy there. Really, overall, it’s not a bad spot for the Eagles to be in—with a guy they like in house, and on a rookie contract, with the ability to go get an upgrade if they see one they like.
From Robert Lafleur (@RobbyL90): Where would you rank this receiver class compared to others from the last 10 years?
Robert, I think the receiver position is interesting in the sport in general. In part because of the proliferation of 7-on-7, in part because of spread offenses, and in part because of the NFL’s economics, an outsized percentage of the best athletes who play football wind up at the receiver spot. That, I think, has led to incredible depth going into, and coming out, of college football at the position. And that’s been reflected of late.
In 2019, Deebo Samuel, A.J. Brown and DK Metcalf were available in the second round, and Diontae Johnson and Terry McLaurin were drafted in the third round. In 2020, Tee Higgins, Michael Pittman and Chase Claypool went in the second round. Last year, Elijah Moore was sitting there for the Jets at the top of the second round. And none of those guys were diamonds in the rough. All except for Johnson played at a big-time programs. All simply got pushed down the board by the strength of the group at their spot.
So how does that factor in this year? Well, as was the case the last couple of years, just because of the talent at the position in the sport overall, I believe teams will have good options all over the place, and beyond just the first round.
The only thing is I’m just not sure that there’s going to be a Ja’Marr Chase this year. That’s not to say there won’t be really good players. I’m no scout, but I think Ohio State’s Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson, Arkansas’s Treylon Burks, Alabama’s Jameson Williams, Penn State’s Jahan Dotson and USC’s Drake London all have a chance to be excellent pros. It just wouldn’t surprise me if those guys don’t start coming off the board until we get to the back half of the first round.
Which is to say there’ll be plenty of opportunity for NFL teams to find help at the position in April, but maybe not the singular no-doubt-about-it types like Chase, or Julio Jones and A.J. Green a decade ago.
From D.I. (@SurferJag11): Best DE in upcoming draft. Does Urban go after the ND job?
D.I., we’ve still got a long way to go until April, so let me put that caveat on all that I’m about to say here: I think Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson will probably emerge as the guy, and might wind up being the first pick in the draft. He’s not the athlete that Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux is. But I’ve heard a lot of concerns from scouts who have gone through Eugene this fall on Thibodeaux’s size.
He’s simply not built like the Bosas, or Chase Young, or Myles Garrett, or Jadeveon Clowney, and we’ve seen what’s happened with smaller edge guys who go high up in the draft, like Dion Jordan and Vic Beasley. Which, of course, isn’t to say he isn’t a really, really good player. He is. It’s just a little easier to project Hutchinson as a more complete player in the pros, if one with a ceiling (I’ve heard Chris Long and Ryan Kerrigan as comps for him).