A lot to do, with 18-team seasons over and 14 more gearing up for the playoffs …
• Over the past few weeks, there were rumors that the Dolphins could shake up what had become a somewhat dysfunctional setup, but few bet Brian Flores would be the one to take the bullet. So why has he done it? Well, my feeling is that if organizational alignment was the goal, ownership would seek stability on the exploration side and stability on the coach’s side, and make a decision from there. In the first, general manager Chris Grier worked at the organization for 22 years, and his exploration staff has been fairly static since he took over the reins three years ago. In the latter, Flores had gone through three offensive coordinators and three offensive line coaches, and even had multiple offensive plays on points this year (quarterbacks coach Charlie Frye handled it early on, OC George Godsey later in the season. season). Now the other side of that? In the past two years, Flores’ defense was one of the best in the NFL, and the tweaks on offense were, in part, to overcome some personnel errors and the deficiencies of quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. So, ideally, I’d give everyone another year, unless I think the situation is unworkable, and that’s the point, obviously, that Dolphins owner Stephen Ross got to.
I was told that communication was poor in the last few months, and there were many things that Flores and Grier disagreed on, with feelings about the long-term future with Tagovailoa as part of that. And that’s where, for the past month, Ross felt the need to pick a side, with foreboding signs showing up at Sunday’s season finale at Hard Rock Stadium (former Dolphins executive Dawn Aponte, now in league office and with a role in identifying coach and general manager candidates from across the league, he was in the game; and Flores walked off the field along with Bill Belichick, and spent time with his former boss on the near goal line. of the tunnel, which caught the attention of others), and the result validating what was illustrated for everyone. Flores leaves with a good record and a good chance to get a job elsewhere. Obviously, his offensive coordinator choice, when he gets another chance, would be looked at elsewhere, but Flores accomplished a lot in his three years in South Florida.
• Speaking of second chances, I think former Bears coach Matt Nagy will get his eventually, based on a solid record: He made the playoffs twice in four years in Chicago, and had only one losing record (Bears went .500 twice), and that his team remained engaged during what amounted to a coach death march later in the year. It’s fair to look at Nagy and wonder if things would have been a bit more stable as a quarterback, and if he could have stayed with Vic Fangio for over a year, if the bottom line would have been different. How are the things going? Well I’d say that if Andy Reid retired sometime in the near future, Nagy would rank high on the Chiefs’ roster to replace him. Nagy, for those of you who don’t know, was a college teammate with Kansas City general manager Brett Veach and has had many good relationships in the organization. And obviously, it was on the ground floor of the Patrick Mahomes development.
• We mentioned this last week, but it’s worth reiterating that teams don’t seem to be looking for a specific type of head coach candidate early in the process, and that should be good news for a league office that has been looking. teams to be more open-minded in how they approach these things (the belief is that this will help teams consider more diverse candidates). The Broncos (Dan Quinn, Jerod Mayo), Bears (Leslie Frazier) and Jaguars (Quinn, Todd Bowles) have already reached out to defensive-minded coaches as well as guys on the offensive side of the ball. And some college names – Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh, Ohio State’s Ryan Day, Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald, Iowa State’s Matt Campbell – have been discussed, even after Urban Meyer’s outbreak in Jacksonville. Which is good for long-term teams making big decisions like these, and good for coaches who don’t necessarily fit into the offensive trend of recent years.
• Since we’re on the diversity issue, with the firing of Flores, the NFL now has three minority head coaches (Mike Tomlin of the Steelers, Ron Rivera of Washington and David Culley of the Texans). The good news? There’s a crop of new names that I think have a chance to gain momentum in the coming weeks, with New England linebackers coach Jerod Mayo as the obvious one, and 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans and coordinator. The Bucs offense, Byron Leftwich, will probably get good looks. Add to that a nice pool of potential second chance candidates (Bowles, Frazier, Vance Joseph, Raheem Morris), and there’s a very healthy pipeline in place.
• The Bears ‘and Vikings’ decisions to clean up the house, after many in the league hoped that rivals in the NFC North would keep their GMs in some way, could indicate greater ownership involvement. Recent searches of both teams were conducted by the team’s general managers and / or executives, and as such the change in those cases turned out to be a mixed measure. What Chicago and Minnesota did on Monday opens the possibility of a larger-scale change at both venues, and that’s why no one should be surprised that the Bears brought in a seasoned NFL executive, Bill Polian, to help lead the game. process.
• I had an amazing talk with Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence on Sunday afternoon, and you can see most of it in the morning column. But there was one thing I left out, and that’s how he responded when I asked him how he would rate his own performance during his first season in the NFL.
“Yeah, I think I need a couple of weeks to do that, to be honest,” he said. “But it has been a crazy year, something I never imagined. I didn’t think it would go this way. I wouldn’t change it now. I’ve learned a lot. I learned a lot about myself, a lot about soccer, a lot about my teammates, all those things. Right now, I’m most happy and excited for the future, and really proud of this group. But yes, there will definitely be a lot of reflection in the coming weeks because there are some important things this year that I have learned that have gone well, they have not gone well. I’m really going to take all of that and use it. “
It’s easy enough to tell, just by talking to Lawrence, how he was able to navigate an odd start to his NFL career and come out playing like he did Sunday. He’s very, very balanced, something that has been shown in recent months, as things around him got worse.
• Raiders general manager Mike Mayock isn’t getting much credit for the work he’s done building the roster in Las Vegas. Should he? Drafted Josh Jacobs (26 carries, 132 yards Sunday night) in the 2019 first round; landed Bryan Edwards, Hunter Renfrow and Foster Moreau in the middle rounds; picked up Zay Jones from the junk heap; rebuilt offensive and defensive lines on the fly; and found star pass rusher Maxx Crosby in the fourth round. Yes, it has its flaws. And without a doubt, Clelin Ferrell and Damon Arnette are greats. But for the most part, the Raiders don’t have major weaknesses and are well positioned for the future without a lot of bad contracts on the ledger. There’s merit in staying the course for owner Mark Davis. Of course, where Davis goes with the coaching position will likely dictate what happens specifically with Mayock, and the general manager position generally.
• Part of hiring coaches is knowing they’ll be able to fill out strong rosters, and Nick Sirianni absolutely opened some eyes in that department with the work he’s done in Philadelphia. He was able to lure defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon there with him (Gannon was one of the most sought-after coordinator candidates in the NFL last year) and leaned on his past to select Shane Steichen to be his offensive coordinator on Anthony Lynn’s staff. , after Lynn was fired by the Chargers. Gannon has quickly evolved into the coordinator role and is already attracting the interest of Denver’s head coach. And Steichen was a vital part of implementing and ordering a new running game to suit Jalen Hurts’ skill set. The lesson? Pay attention to who the new coaches will bring to their new teams in the coming weeks.
• On that, I’ve been meaning to point this out for a few weeks: The assistants that Josh McDaniels had identified for his staff when he interviewed in Cleveland, Indianapolis, and Philadelphia are quite remarkable. McDaniels’ defensive coordinator at Indy was to be Matt Eberflus, who ended up going to the Colts from the Cowboys to be DC even after McDaniels decided to stay in New England. Eberflus has been outstanding in that role, good enough to attract the interest of the head coaches of other teams. And when McDaniels interviewed in Cleveland two years later, his plan was to have Gannon and now Chargers coach Brandon Staley as his defensive co-coordinators. Which also looks pretty good in a couple of years. For me, this is the kind of thing that should get the attention of owners (but often don’t).
• Give me Alabama Monday night, 30–24. (And for more on how to view the game through an NFL lens, be sure to check out the morning column.)
• Conclusions from Week 18: Niners Save Season; Jaguars Ruin Colts
• Near Tie provides drama as Wild Season heads to the playoffs
• Game 17, for the First Time
• Why Sean Payton should consider walking away from the Saints
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.