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Mailbag: Will Brian Flores Coach in the NFL Again?

What’s next for the former Dolphins coach as his litigation plays out. Plus, Russell Wilson’s 2022 home, the likely top-five picks, Joe Judge’s vague title and why Kirk Cousins will probably stay a Viking.

Hello from Los Angeles! Let’s take questions one last time before the big game …

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From Omicron survivor (@MaazAAbbasiMD): Will Flores coach again in the NFL? Would he take a coordinator job, like other coaches have after getting fired?

Survivor, I think Brian Flores will coach in the NFL again. I’m sure there are teams that wouldn’t hire him in any capacity right now, because of the pending litigation. I think there are others that probably would. But all this happened late in the hiring cycle, which means there are fewer empty chairs out there, and the ones that are left are filling up fast.

I think part of this will also come down to what Flores wants. Does he want to go back to being an assistant? Could he see himself in a role like Joe Judge is taking back in New England, with an ambiguous title, to stay involved? Or does he want to take the year off?

I don’t know the answer to that. What I do know is there are plenty of people in the circles Flores has run in for the last 15 years who have his back. So I’d think sooner or later opportunities will come his way. Maybe, because of the juncture in the calendar we’re at, it won’t happen this year. But if something good doesn’t come along between this year and next? Then, I’d say it’d be fair to wonder is something fishy is going on.

Because while he’s not faultless for his Miami firing, Flores is a really good football coach.

From Peter Paul Gualtieri (@TheEmeraldPiper): Yah where’s your mock draft? #mockdraftszn

Peter! How about I give you one off the cuff, one through five (I’m not prepared to go much beyond that, but I will be once I get my bearings on the class after the season ends) …

1) Jaguars: Evan Neal, OT, Alabama. Look at the formula Doug Pederson rode to a title and consistent contention with the Eagles. The foundation was along an offensive line that was anchored by dominant tackles. Neal’s potential is through the roof, though he still needs some technical work. So the Jags will bet on the come here.

2) Lions: Aidan Hutchinson, DE, Michigan. This is almost too easy. Hutchinson’s from the suburbs of Detroit. His relentless game fits Dan Campbell’s program like a glove. There’s a need to add pass rush to Aaron Glenn’s defense. It’s all right there. And sure, his upside isn’t that of a Chase Young or Myles Garrett. But guys like that don’t exist in this year’s class, and Hutchinson represents a safe pick at a premium position.

3) Texans: Ikem Ekwonu, OT, NC State. The Texans need to bolster both lines of scrimmage, and Ekwonu is like the offensive version of Hutchinson—a middle-of-the-fairway pick who should be a really good player regardless of where he lands positionally. Some teams think he’s a tackle. Others see him as a guard. And Houston has the flexibility to try him in both places.

4) Jets: Kayvon Thibodeaux, DE, Oregon. I started hearing the drumbeat in the middle of the college season that maybe, just maybe, Thibodeaux wasn’t the slam-dunk No. 1 pick people thought. Scouts who went to Eugene saw a prospect who wasn’t as physically big as they thought he’d be. He has a little bit of a different personality. That said, his explosiveness makes him a fit for Robert Saleh’s defense.

5) Giants: Sauce Gardner, CB, Cincinnati. The Bearcats’ star is a long, rangy, ascending young player, and this is the first time I’ve put him in front of LSU’s Derek Stingley Jr., who heads into draft season with a boatload of talent and questions to answer. I’m giving Gardner to the Giants because I think to at least some degree this will be a “culture” pick for GM Joe Schoen and coach Brian Daboll.

And, of course, it’s very early, so this is all subject to change.

From Sean Kenney (@18seakenney): Did Bill Belichick avoid the Rooney Rule by hiring Joe Judge as an offensive assistant and not naming a coordinator?

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Sean, I can tell you unequivocally that sidestepping the Rooney Rule was not the reason for Bill Belichick to give Judge a vague noncoordinator title.

This is more about how offsets in coaches’ contracts work (which our Andrew Brandt recently explained here). Judge still has three years left on his Giants deal, and that deal has offsets, which make what the Patriots pay Judge pretty much irrelevant to Judge himself. The only guideline the Patriots are working under here is that Judge is paid at a level commensurate to his title—so it’s blatant that New England is taking advantage of the Giants’ obligations to Judge. And if you give him a title like “offensive assistant,” that make it easier to stick New York with more of the bill.

That’s not unusual, by the way, in the NFL. It happens a lot, and often is a way a head coach can afford to pay others on his staff more.

As for the coordinator question, I don’t know exactly what Belichick is going to do. But if he does hand off the coordinator title, I’d think it’d have to be to someone like Bill O’Brien, who has some skins on the wall. Otherwise, I could see the coordinator duties being split up—it’s worth noting that the staff shuffling might not be over, and New England is still in play to add or lose another assistant or two—with tight ends Nick Caley a name to watch.

From Lundar (Jason) (@MadCityViking): What do you think happens with Cousins? Thanks!!

Lundar, I don’t know this for a fact, but I think the new guys coming in have some good feelings for Kirk Cousins. New GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah spent seven years with the Niners, his last three with noted Cousins fan Kyle Shanahan. And new coach-to-be Kevin O’Connell was Cousins’s position coach in Washington in 2017.

Here’s the other thing: It would be really hard for the team to move on from him. His $35 million base for 2022 is fully guaranteed. Which means the only way they can chip into his $45.167 million cap hit for next year is to trade or extend him (a trade would leave the Vikings with $10.167 million in dead money to deal with). And given that any team acquiring him would need $35 million in cap space, and would only have him sign for one year, it’s hard to imagine he’d bring much back in trade.

So the easier thing to do, to me, would be to stick with Cousins for the time being. You’re probably not winning a championship next year. I’d guess Adofo-Mensah and O’Connell, with an already good roster, would probably reset to try to get younger in a few areas—and I think you can easily argue that, with some transition, having a steady hand at quarterback would invaluable (à la Tyrod Taylor for Sean McDermott in Buffalo in 2017).

Which is why I’d say Cousins will be the quarterback in 2022, with the Vikings out there actively looking for his successor and continuing to develop Kellen Mond behind him.

From FLIIEagles52 (@FLIIEagles52): What are your thoughts about media people getting hired for GM positions? Looks like twice now it happened (as much as I can remember).

FLII, my thoughts are that we all need to be open-minded, more so than ever before, about these positions, because the job’s so much more than just scouting now. Mike Mayock’s situation was unique, in that he was actually employed as an evaluator, it was just for a cable network rather than a team. And in that media job, he was able to get perspective from teams across the league on what works and what doesn’t.

Obviously, Mayock was fired after three years. But I think if you drill down on the situation in Oakland/Vegas and consider what he had to navigate, he actually did O.K. for himself.

And I think teams taking a broader look is what led to Adofo-Mensah’s name getting hot, which eventually positioned him to win a job, and I also think more teams looking for GMs will go into searches with that approach going forward. Considering all that goes into the job in this era, looking at people like, say, Packers exec Chad Brinker or Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy (or his predecessor, Phil Savage) has merit.

From h2o (@dog_bg): Any chance Scott Pioli comes back or will Bill also not name an official GM and pocket that salary too?

h2o, I think it’s possible that Pioli could wind up back on the team side—I always thought the Giants’ GM job would appeal to him, and was a little surprised he wasn’t move involved in the last couple searches. But my sense is he enjoys what he’s doing in the media, and in the social justice arena, so I don’t think he’s going to be falling over himself looking for a new job.

Could Belichick entice him to return to Foxboro? Now, that’s an interesting question. His family put down in roots in Massachusetts long ago, so from a comfort standpoint, it’d make sense. Also, if Belichick walks away in, say, four or five years, Pioli could serve as a bridge to the next era for the franchise. And the Patriots just lost their scouting chief for the second straight year (Nick Caserio last year, Dave Ziegler this year), and have had a bevy of evaluators (Monti Ossenfort, James Liipfert, Pat Stewart, DuJuan Daniels) bolt of late.

That said, I think Eliot Wolf and Matt Groh are capable and worthy of promotions. The trouble, I think, could be with the sheer number of people moving up because of the exodus of the last few years, which is where having a steady veteran hand like Pioli could come into play. Belichick actually once employed that sort of idea, back when Pioli himself left in 2009—when the Patriots brought in ex-Titans GM Floyd Reese to ease Caserio’s move up.

Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson stand on the field together.

From David Kromelow (@dkrom59): Where would you expect Russell Wilson to play in 2022?

David, my sense is all of that remains in flux, and Wilson is open to exploring his options.

As I see it, Seahawks owner Jody Allen is the X-factor. I’ve heard she’s for keeping Wilson—which wouldn’t exactly be a wild train of thought for an owner. The question has been how badly, and what it’ll mean if Wilson, eventually, becomes more forceful about seeking a new home. Meanwhile, from a team-building standpoint, it’s fair to surmise that this might actually be an ideal time to move Wilson, while he’s still relatively young (at 33) and has two years left on his contract (that’s what Matthew Stafford had left when he was traded).

If I had to guess, I’d say he’ll eventually get moved. And I’d have said the destination was going to be the Saints a month ago. Now that Sean Payton’s gone, let’s put him in the NFC East … to the Eagles. In a way, it’d be a sort of redemptive move for Howie Roseman, who was part of a front office that planned to take Wilson in the third round in 2012, only to have Seattle scoop him up earlier in the round.

(The Eagles did wind up with Nick Foles with that third-rounder, so it wasn’t all bad.)

From EH (@ChavieHalpert): With Mike Kafka the Giants’ new OC, do you see the Giants implementing a combination of a Chiefs and Bills type of offense? Also, do you think they will prioritize the type of guys that could fit that type of scheme? Isaiah McKenzie quickly comes to mind as someone I would like.

EH, I think it’s interesting that we’re seeing a little more of this sort of thing now. Packers coach Matt LaFleur did it in 2019, in hiring Nathaniel Hackett, who came from outside the Shanahan orbit, to be his OC in Green Bay, while retaining quarterbacks coach Luke Getsy and creating a hybrid offense. And that’s how I think this one will play out—it’ll be Brian Daboll’s offense, with Kafka bringing a fresh set of eyes and ideas to the mix as they build something new to fit the players that are there.

And yes, I could see Daboll importing some Bills players. It’s worked for the Bills team he’s working for now early in Sean McDermott’s time there, with guys like Kurt Coleman, Star Lotulelei, Derek Anderson and Daryl Williams serving as messengers for the program that McDermott was looking to build. So, yes, someone like McKenzie could be in play.

From Keith Horton (@KeithKhorton): Will the Wilkinson report be released? Will Snyder be divested? At what point is current coaching/front office compelled to confront Snyder similar to Doc Rivers and Don Sterling?

I’ve given up hope on Beth Wilkinson’s report being released. If it was going to happen, it would’ve happened, and no it’s not a coincidence that hundreds of pages were released on Ray Rice, Richie Incognito and Tom Brady, and zero has been made public by the league on the findings in the Snyder case. Remember, the NFL also didn’t put out anything on Jerry Richardson either—the public information in that case came from Sports Illustrated.

My sense is the Snyder situation will be handled the way a lot of other situations involving ownership are, with the hope that, over time, people will move on and it’ll go away.

From Josh Hurst (@HurstyGolf): Have you heard anything about the Raiders extending or trading Derek Carr? What do you think Josh McDaniels does?

Josh, I can say that McDaniels really likes Carr and made the effort, right away, to reach out to Carr and start building a relationship with him. And if you listen to how McDaniels has spoken about Carr publicly, both in his introductory presser and in my Monday column this week, it’s pretty clear that the Raiders are planning to go forward with him.

For how long? That’s harder to say. From a plainly logistical standpoint, having Carr going into a contract year isn’t a bad spot for McDaniels and GM Dave Ziegler to be in. It gives them a chance to evaluate Carr for a year, while also getting a good look at what else will be out there, in the draft and on the veteran market, over the next two offseasons. The issue there would be if Carr is dead set on the Raiders making a decision on his future now.

I don’t know if he is. But it’s obviously worth watching to see whether the Raiders start working on a Carr extension, and what might happen if they don’t.

From Mitch Beiter (@MitchBeiter91): How long do team execs/coaches spend at the combine? Do they even stay the whole time? I’ve heard it’s more of a convention than a scouting trip.

Mitch, it’s absolutely not just a scouting trip anymore—it’s probably the closest thing the NFL has to baseball’s winter meetings. Key decision-makers from every team are in Indianapolis, as are hundreds of agents, and the combine comes just before the new league year, and free agency, begins. So there is a ton of business being done in those hotels and hallways. (As an aside, this is why it’d be a shame to take it out of Indy, which is set up perfectly for all of this.)

Most execs are there for the duration, eight days or so. Traditionally, head coaches have stayed the whole time, too, with offensive and defensive coaches coming in for four or five days, when players on their side of the ball are going through the process. More recently, some teams have pulled the plug on coaches being there (which I think is unfortunate, since it’s always been a tremendous networking event for them), citing that declining value in the in-person experience with technology advancing as it has.

Oh, and believe it or not, the combine starts two weeks from Monday.

From I'm a Bengals Fan Now! (@DonRidenour): Do you think Daboll brings in Mitch Trubisky to compete/back up Daniel Jones?

Don, you can reference my earlier question. The answer is yes. The Bills loved what they got from Trubisky in 2021. So Daboll bringing him to New York would make a ton of sense. And it’d make sense for Trubisky—Jones slipping early could lead to an opportunity for him to change the narrative on his career, and in a system he’s obviously familiar with. 

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