Skip to main content

Mailbag: Remembering Dan Reeves; 2022 Quarterback Movement

Patriots center David Andrews remembers his uncle, a player and coach who made it to nine Super Bowls. Plus, answering your mail on Aaron Rodgers, Kenny Pickett, Matt Ryan, Kirk Cousins and which QBs will end up where next year.

David Andrews was sitting out the 2019 season after being diagnosed with a pulmonary embolism and happened to be out at Patriots practice on this day. As he stood there, minding his own business, he saw Bill Belichick turn and start to come his way.

The two-time Super Bowl champion center figured he must be in trouble—for something.

But that wasn’t it at all.

“That was the 100th year of the NFL, and obviously Bill’s such a historian, such an ambassador of the game, how much he loves the game, and that year, they were putting more people into the Hall of Fame as contributors,” Andrews recalled on Monday. “And we had never really talked about my uncle. Obviously, he knew who he was and they obviously competed against each other, but we never addressed it really, never talked about it, and he just came up to me during warmups at practice and he just starting going on about my uncle.

“How great of a player he was and how his whole contribution to the NFL is not like a lot of people’s, he goes, ‘There’s a lot of great players, there’s a lot of great coaches, but for someone to do all of that in a career is really impressive.’ And that really meant a lot to me.”

Andrews’s Uncle Dan, ex-NFL player and coach Dan Reeves, died Friday at 77.

dan-reeves-falcons-sports-illustrated

We’re going to get to this week’s mail in a minute. But first, I thought it was important to give Reeves’s legacy the space we gave John Madden’s last week—because while the impact each had on football was distinct, the stamp Reeves left, like Madden’s, was uniquely his own.

What Belichick said to Andrews that day two years ago really just scratched the surface on Reeves’s impact on football, and we’re going to get to that. But in talking with Andrews about his great uncle—he and Reeves were family through Reeves’s wife, Andrews’s Aunt Pam—it was clear there was a lot more to who Reeves was as a person than what his stats as a player, his record a coach or all those Super Bowls in both capacities could tell you.

To people in the league, Reeves will be remembered as one of the great gentlemen of pro football, and that’s the man Andrews grew up knowing. In fact, among his earliest memories of his uncle was hearing how his Aunt Pam would make Dan wear a suit, or at the very least a collared shirt and tie, on the sideline, because she worried about his losing his cool during games on TV, and figured being dressed up would be a reminder for him to act right.

“That was a funny story to me, because I never really saw that side of him,” Andrews said. “Anytime he dealt with the media, he’s got that Southern drawl, he was just so calm and collected, and when he dealt with me he was so gentle and kind, everyone just loved him. So I would hear those stories, and I would just laugh, because I never saw that, even when I was a kid growing up around it.”

A couple of decades later, Andrews calls it “God’s timing” that Reeves was coaching his hometown Falcons during his formative years, from 1997 to 2003, when he was a little league football player going through elementary school. “If he was in Denver or New York, we might’ve gone to a game or two, but it just worked out in a weird way where it was all right there.” And Andrews got to take advantage of it.

In the summers, he’d drive up with his mom or dad to morning sessions during Atlanta’s training camp at Furman in Greenville, S.C., then hustle back for his own practices later in the day. In the fall, he’d get picked up at school some days and drive over with his dad to see the Falcons’ practice at Flowery Branch. And he had great memories from those times that prepared him, without his knowing it, for his life’s work.

He can remember getting linemen’s gloves, seeing how big they were and thinking how cool it would be to be one of them, which helped encourage a young kid coming up playing positions that are short on glory. He can remember Ray Buchanan giving him a ride in his tricked-out golf cart at camp, before playfully throwing him in the ice tub. He can recall Keith Brooking picking on him, then quietly leaving signed gear behind for him. He can remember his mom finding him eating Cheetos with Jessie Tuggle in Tuggle’s basement.

All that was possible because of Reeves. And for Andrews, what ties it all together is how Reeves’s players treated him, like one of their own, which was a reflection of how Reeves treated everyone. It wasn’t like Reeves was trying to set an example for Andrews when he was around him, either. It was just who Reeves was. Andrews can even remember seeing it when he’d go to his uncle’s radio show on Monday nights in Buckhead, which was another sign, to the young kid with big dreams, that Reeves was simply like that all the time.

“I couldn’t tell you one thing about his offensive scheme or what he ran at that age,” Andrews said. “But watching how, at those coaching dinners, or even at training camp, how he was with people, how he treated people, how respectful he was to people, and then a lot of his players and how they treated me—I think that had a bigger impact on me, more than anything football, it’s how you treat people being in that position.

SI Recommends

“It’s the respect you give people.”

He got examples of it to the end, too.

dan-reeves-broncos-sports-illustrated

Broncos coach Dan Reeves with Cowboys coach Tom Landry.

In the spring of 2019, Andrews went to get lunch with his uncle at the Atlanta Athletic Club, where Reeves had long been a member. In that place, it was basically like sitting with a dignitary, and Andrews saw that as member after member came to the table. How you doing, Coach? At that point, Andrews was 26 and going into his fifth NFL season, but he was still taking lessons from his uncle, seeing Reeves engage in real conversation with every last person that approach the table.

And those lessons that Andrews took would continue to come up. One more recent one resurfaced when Andrews saw Belichick’s signature for the first time. He noticed you could make out the letters—it wasn’t just the scribbled mess that most of us leave—and it reflected another life lesson that Reeves gave him.

“As a little kid, you get signatures, right? And professional athletes, you can’t read any of our signatures,” Andrews said. “Everybody looks for, O.K., that’s a T, that’s an E, an A, and there’s a 60, whatever it is. J-10, whatever it might be. And he always wrote his signature out. He said to me once, David, it’s an honor when somebody asks for your signature. You should always give them the time and respect to write your name so they can see who it is.”

At one point, Andrews was able to return the favor for all those autographs that Reeves helped him get, too. When he was still in little league, his team had novelty trading cards made, and Andrews gave one to his uncle, signed with a message: Hold on, I’m coming. It was while Reeves was still coaching, with Andrews dreaming of playing for him in the pros. Reeves later joked he couldn’t hold up his end of the bargain, as Andrews had held up his.

Of course, Andrews says now that couldn’t be further from the truth. It was Reeves, in fact, who kept encouraging Andrews through an up-and-down rookie year, and told him he’d done the right thing in signing with New England as an undrafted free agent in 2015, even though the Patriots had drafted a center the year before who had started in the Super Bowl. Reeves knew, Andrews says, that it was the place he’d be developed best, and the place he fit best, and as usual Reeves was right.

So yes, there was a football impact here too in the relationship that started with those days getting to hang out with Mike Vick, Warrick Dunn, Roddy White and Alge Crumpler, which buoyed “my love for the game, my appreciation of it. Those guys were heroes to me growing up.” And to be sure, Andrews is proud of his uncle’s football résumé, and happy to champion his case for the Hall of Fame.

“There’s two people who’ve been to more Super Bowls than him, do you know who they are?” he asked. The answer: Only Belichick (with 12) and Tom Brady (with 10) have made it more times than Reeves (nine).

But mostly, Andrews will remember who Reeves was, not what he was. And if there’s something lasting, he hopes it’ll be in what the random person who comes up to him walks away thinking—because he knows how they all remembered his uncle.

“I definitely try,” Andrew said. “And there’s days I catch myself, whether you’re pissed off about a performance or a loss, and it’s hard to let that go somedays, and it’s hard to not let it get to you. And I’m sure he probably let it get to him at times, the story I told earlier about my Aunt Pam, his wife, wanting him to wear a tie so he was calmer on the sidelines, I’m sure there were times. But I don’t remember those.

“I think more people than not remember the other side of him, how gracious he was with people. That’s definitely something I try to emulate every day. It’s definitely hard, but it’s how you treat people, how you carry yourself, that’s gonna go on with you after, sometimes a lot more than what you’ve accomplished.”

For those who knew Reeves, it very clearly has.

On to your mail for Week 18 …


aaron rodgers (2)

From Jerrad Wyche (@JerradWyche): Given his recent comments, if Aaron Rodgers wins the MVP and a Super Bowl this year, how likely is it he does retire? He seems like the type that wants to go out while he’s still elite.

Jerrad, I don’t think anyone is safe to guess at this point what Rodgers is going to do after the season—he very clearly marches to the beat of his own drummer, and I don’t think you can totally rule anything out. That said, I can recall a conversation I had with him over the summer of 2018 about how long he wanted to keep going. He told me he’d bought Tom Brady’s book, changed his diet and saw himself playing for some time to come.

“I can’t really rely on the chips on my shoulder, whether it was actual or perceived, that motivational stuff you use,” Rodgers said. “So you look for different ways to challenge yourself. For me, it’s that longevity now. We play at a high level. And 40 is an interesting number for quarterbacks. There haven’t been a lot of guys that have gotten there. Tommy was obviously incredible last year at 40, but there aren’t a lot of guys who can do that.”

So then we talked about a hit he took from Anthony Barr the year before, the injury it caused and how it informed him on why players keep going.

“It’s that time that tells you, ‘Am I kind of over it? Are the injuries, that type of injury, too much? Are you worried about your future? Or do you miss it so much? Do you miss the camaraderie? Do you miss the competition so much that you can’t wait to get back?” Rodgers said. “And mine was obviously the latter. I love this game, and I’ve given a lot to it, and it’s given a lot back. I want to keep rolling as long as I can. …

“Minimum is 40. I’d love to be a starter at 40, so that’d be 40 turning 41. That’d be awesome because not many guys have been able to play really well to that age.”

Now, with the caveat here that at the time Rodgers wasn’t getting married, and he’s always subject to change his mind, the math above brings you to Rodgers’s playing through the 2024 season. Will he play three more years? Like I said, I have no idea. But one thing that certainly won’t deter him from trying to follow through on that old goal at this point is a lack of ability to play at a high level. He clearly still can.

I’d agree, by the way, that he won’t want to keep playing while he’s declining. But I don’t think he’s at that point yet at all. And so I’d bet if wins the MVP, and then the Super Bowl, he and the Packers will do a new contract and go forward together.

From Free Agent Naron (@theTNShow): Was there a specific head coaching target that Nick Caserio had his eye on that he was unable to land that made him decide on bringing Culley back in 2022???

Naron, I’ve heard that Caserio has an idea who his long-term answer as head coach would be, if and when a change comes. I don’t know that he actually knew last January (maybe he did, maybe he didn’t) when he hired Culley. I do think Culley was hired with the knowledge that the Texans, eventually, might revamp things.

That said, I think Culley’s done a really nice job this year. First and foremost, for a franchise that seemed like it spent the months before his arrival pointing a garden hose at a five-alarm fire, having an experienced, likable and positive leader in front of the team on a day-to-day basis was what the doctor ordered. Having Deshaun Watson on the roster through the season could’ve been a nonstop circus, and that it wasn’t is a credit to Culley, who managed the situation as well as anyone could’ve hoped.

All that puts the Texans in a stronger position headed into 2022.

From here, I think Caserio should—and this is me talking—reset, and ask the same question he did a year ago, and that question is, simply: Which coach is the best one for our organization right now? This offseason, the Texans will be executing the Watson trade, should have a ton of draft capital to work with, project to have, after the Watson trade, over $60 million in cap space, and have a nice core of 2021 rookies to develop. I’d say all of that makes the next six months crucial for the progress of Caserio’s operation.

There’s merit to the idea that giving the building some stability for a second year would make the most sense. There’s also merit in the feeling that, for such a big offseason, you’d want to have your long-term coach in Caserio’s ear. We’ll see which way this goes.

From Mike Liddle (@mliddle17): Please tell me the Panthers take QB Kenny Pickett with their first-round pick?? Or will they let another QB go bye bye and be a star somewhere else???

Mike, honestly, it’s too early for me to definitively say where Pickett will land in the pecking order come April—I have a lot of calls to make, and Pickett has a lot of time to move up or down in the minds of the 32 teams. That said, I’d say right now he’s the leader to be the first quarterback taken, though I’m saying that with the caveat that this is probably going to be the worst class at the position since 2013.

The question then is whether Pickett is truly a franchise quarterback, or if he’s going that high due to a lack of supply in a place where there’s absolutely always a ton of demand, a la E.J. Manuel in 2013 or Christian Ponder in 2011. And that’s a determination that quarterback-hungry teams like the Panthers are going to have to make between now and April.

As to Carolina’s specific situation, my guess is they’ll look hard at the idea of acquiring a veteran before then. Remember, last year they offered the eighth pick, a fifth-rounder and Teddy Bridgewater to the Lions for Matthew Stafford; made runs at Watson before and after his legal situation surfaced; and wound up trading for Sam Darnold. I’d think Watson will be in play, and maybe Russell Wilson will be, too.

Failing that? Then, it’d either be another reclamation like Darnold was last year (Jimmy Garoppolo? Baker Mayfield?) or a rookie. Overall, they’re in a little bit of a tough spot.

From Not who you think I am (@DonRidenour): Matt Ryan in ATL next year?

Don! So to set this up, let’s look at the Falcons’ options the next two years for separation with their 36-year-old quarterback (who’s kept them competitive through a rebuilding year).

• If they were to cut him after this season, they’d have to deal with $40.525 million of dead money on their salary cap. Given his cap number for next year stands now $48.663 million, that’d be a difference of about $8 million on where Atlanta projects next year, and you’d have to fit in a new quarterback contract.

• If they keep him on the roster in 2022, and at that current cap number, then cut him in 2023, his dead money then would be just $15.613 million—that’s still not ideal, but it’d hardly be back-breaking.

So let’s say the Falcons draft Kenny Pickett out of Pitt or Matt Corral from Ole Miss in the teens. In all likelihood, you’d want a veteran quarterback on your roster to start if the kid isn’t ready, and help bring the kid along in the offense and as a new pro. Couldn’t Ryan be that guy? Wouldn’t Ryan be ideal, since he now has a year in Arthur Smith’s system and has 14 years of experience as a starter?

And if you don’t want to draft one this year, because you think the class is shaky, and you want to use your draft capital elsewhere? Having Ryan would allow to effectively tread water to 2023.

Either way, I actually think—and maybe this won’t be popular with Falcons fans who want a big swing at the position—there’s merit to keeping Ryan around for another year.

From Corey (@cvickery14): Do you think any NFL teams would be interested in trading for Kirk Cousins, and if so, what would be the estimated return for the Vikings?

Corey, short answer is probably not. And it’s because of his contract. His $35 million for 2022 is already fully guaranteed. Franchising him in 2023 would run 144% of his ’22 cap number (so that’s $50.4 million if he’s traded, around $65 million if he’s not). He can’t be transition tagged. Which basically adds to up to this: A team trading for him would either have to have space to fit that $35 million lump sum on its cap next year knowing there was no way to stop him from walking in ’23, or be willing to give him a monster extension.

So my guess is he’ll play out his contract in Minnesota.

From Not_DB_Cooper (@_Not_DBCooper): Zac Taylor had a bunch of bad results in his first two seasons and now the Bengals are getting rewarded for their patience. Should more teams follow this approach, even though it hasn't always worked for Cincy (Shula and Coslet)?

Not DB, it’s a great point, and you can look to my MAQB to see Taylor’s detailed answer on how owner Mike Brown’s patience with the staff has benefitted his team in 2022. And it’s not just that Brown stuck with Taylor. It’s that he was allowed to stay with coordinators Brian Callahan, Lou Anarumo and Darrin Simmons—most head coaches, after missing the playoffs their first two years, would at the very least be told to shake up the staff.

Taylor wasn’t, which allowed the Bengals to hit the ground running in the spring and summer, and set the stage for this year’s breakthrough.

I think it’s something for the Panthers and Giants to look at when assessing where Matt Rhule and Joe Judge are going into Year 3 with the coaches they’ve assembled (though both already fired offensive coordinators). I think both have made progress in those places, and letting them carry out their plans into a critical third year could have the sort of benefits the Bengals have gotten in sticking with Taylor.

From José Miguel Fernández (@MigueBrutus): Are the Jaguars firing Trent Baalke?

Jose, I don’t think so. As we explained last week, ownership in Jacksonville doesn’t believe Baalke is at fault for what transpired over the last 11 months, and thus believes there’s justification in keeping him. I’ve said my piece on it.

Could Baalke still be gone? I think that depends on where they go with the coach, what the coach wants and how much leverage the coach has to get what he wants. The one example I’ve given all of you to illustrate that has been Kansas City in 2013—the Chiefs hung on to Scott Pioli as GM through their coaching search, but things escalated quickly with Andy Reid thereafter, and with the Cardinals also bidding on Reid, K.C. gave Reid the GM that he wanted (John Dorsey) and Pioli gracefully stepped aside.

(Where that could become real is if the Jags were to make a run at Jim Harbaugh, who doesn’t have a very good relationship with Baalke, to say the least.)

From Tyler DeSena (@TylerDeSenaNFL): What’s the plan for Miami and the Tua/Flores/Grier regime?

Tyler, I think 2022 is playoffs or bust for the Dolphins, and that means Brian Flores and Chris Grier will tie their job security to whomever they have playing quarterback—and while they like Tua Tagovailoa, he hasn’t played well enough to shut the door on the idea that Miami’s brass might revisit looking for an upgrade after taking a swing on Watson before the trade deadline.

Also, I think Watson wants to be in Miami. So if I had to guess, and this is just a guess, Flores and Grier will be back for a do-or-die year, and Tagovailoa won’t.

More NFL Coverage:

MMQB: Teams Clinch As Playoff Field Takes Shape
The Buccaneers Enabled Antonio Brown Until the End
Madden’s Revolutionary Impact, Style Will Never Be Replicated
Brady Says Antonio Brown Needs Help. We Should Listen.