NFL Free Agency

Early NFL Free Agency: Sneaky Good Moves

The game of quarterback musical chairs is snagging the headlines early in NFL free agency like every year. If you do not have a quarterback who is at least competent, you have no chance in this league. However, every position matters. Here is a look at some sneaky good moves in the beginnings of the free agent frenzy.

Phil Dawson: Arizona Cardinals

Phil Dawson

Photo: sportsoutwest.com

Yes folks, a kicker. Arizona lost five games by one possession and tied another during last year’s seven-win campaign. Kicker Chandler Catanzaro missed 11 combined field goals and extra points. These things are not entirely unrelated.

Meanwhile, 42-year-old Phil Dawson missed just four total kicks for the 49ers. As crazy as it sounds, this may be a pivotal move in Arizona’s quest to return to the postseason in 2017.

 

 

 

Ronald Leary: Denver Broncos

Ronald Leary

Photo: hngn.com

Whoever winds up taking snaps for the Broncos next year will have much more protection. This is a heck of a start. Leary did not allow a sack while starting 13 games in Dallas last year. He has been a stalwart on the best offensive line in football since 2014.

Denver’s ability to sack the opposing quarterback in recent years is well documented. In 2016, the Broncos had just two more total sacks than their opponents. That is crazy considering the Broncos have both Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware.

Poor offensive line play is also one of the reasons Denver struggled to break 50 rushing yards in a game for parts of 2016. Do not be surprised if center Matt Paradis is the only starting offensive lineman that returns in 2017. Last year’s free agent offensive line signings of Donald Stephenson and Russell Okung proved to be disastrous for Denver.

To become legitimate Super Bowl contenders again, the Leary signing needs to be the first step in another massive offensive line overhaul in Denver. The Broncos have also added former Raiders offensive tackle Menelik Watson to the fold.

A.J. Klein: New Orleans Saints

A.J .Klein

Photo: zambio.com

As long as Drew Brees is in town, the Saints will always be able to score. However, they have finished outside the top 25 in total defense for three straight years. While a single player will not change that, Klein is a step in the right direction.

Playing behind Luke Kuechly limited Klein’s snaps in Carolina. When he did see the field, he was reasonably productive. Klein took part in 137 tackles in Carolina despite starting just 23 games in four seasons. Additionally, three years and $15 million is a fairly cheap price to pay a 25-year-old contributor from a division rival.

           

 

Kevin Zietler: Cleveland Browns

Kevin Zeitler

Photo: stripehype.com

It is no secret that the Browns need work everywhere, and the offensive line is no exception. Zietler was one of three early moves the Browns made up front. The former Bengal is now the highest-paid guard in NFL history.

While the contract numbers are eye-popping and the Browns have an alarming tendency to screw things up, signing a guard from a division rival who has given up just 11 total sacks in five seasons is never a bad move.

March is all about basketball. However, the NFL’s version of March Madness is certainly worth continuing to keep an eye on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Joe Montana

The Montana Three: Three QBs Drafted Before Joe Montana

Once next month’s NFL Draft is firmly in the rear view mirror, there will be plenty of sobering reminders of just how inexact a science NFL player evaluation really is. Thanks to a fantastic ESPN documentary, we all have become familiar with the underwhelming group of six quarterbacks taken before Tom Brady in the 2000 draft.

Despite being drafted three rounds higher, Brady’s stiffest competition for the title of greatest quarterback ever was also passed over numerous times in the 1979 NFL draft. Joe Montana was drafted by the 49ers with the last pick of the third round. We have met “The Brady Six”. Now, let’s meet “The Montana Three.”

Jack Thompson- “The Throwin’ Samoan” was widely viewed as the prize of the 1979 quarterback class. He ended his college career at Washington State as the NCAA’s all-time leader in passing yards. He also set conference records for completions and touchdown passes in what was then the Pac-10.

Joe Montana Draft

Photo: cincyjungle.com

The Bengals drafted Thompson with the third overall pick as the heir apparent to veteran signal caller Ken Anderson. However, Anderson played too well to be replaced by the youngster. Thompson started just five games in his Bengals career. He watched from the bench as Anderson led Cincinnati to the Super Bowl following the 1981 regular season.

Ironically, that Super Bowl marked the first of two occasions where Cincinnati would come up just short against their former assistant coach Bill Walsh and his quarterback Joe Montana.

Thompson was traded to the Buccaneers in 1983. He started 16 games over two seasons. Tampa Bay tallied a team record of just 3-13 in those games. Thompson retired after the 1984 season with 33 touchdowns, 45 interceptions, and just four wins as a starting quarterback. He now works as a mortgage broker and occasional high school and college quarterback coach.

Steve Fuller- Fuller was an All-American at Clemson. The Chiefs used their first round pick on him in hopes of ending the quarterback carousel the franchise had been on ever since the retirement of Super Bowl IV winner Len Dawson.

Joe Montana Draft

Photo: chiefs.com

Fuller ended up being just another guy on that carousel. Due to injuries and poor performance, Fuller never finished a complete 16-game season for the Chiefs. Fuller completed under 60% of his passes in Kansas City, threw ten more interceptions than touchdowns and went just 13-18 as a starter.

Fuller closed out his career as the backup in Chicago earning a Super Bowl ring with the 1985 Bears and retiring a year later. Eventually, the Chiefs did snag Joe Montana by acquiring him in a trade in 1993. “Joe Cool” spearheaded Kansas City to back-to-back playoff appearances before calling it a career.

Phil Simms- Here is where this short list gets saved from its own documentary. Phil Simms was no Joe Montana, but he was pretty darn good. The Giants raised more than a few eyebrows by taking the largely unknown Morehead State product in the top 10. A 14-year career, two Super Bowls and a league MVP later, no one remembers that.

Joe Montana Draft

Photo: sbnation.com

While people in the Chiefs and Bengals organizations still lose sleep over passing on Montana, the Giants came out just fine. Like many things in life, hindsight is 20/20 when it comes to the NFL draft. Both Montana and Brady were not full time starters in college.

Even so, it is hard to imagine what scouts were looking at when they came across two of the all-time greats.

Stories like that of Montana and Brady are shining examples of the fact that some guys cannot be defined by just a sheet of paper with a bunch of numbers on it.

 

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More Than Just Football: If Colin Kaepernick Goes to the Chicago Bears

The Colin Kaepernick saga is coming to a close in San Francisco on March 9. The 49ers want to go in a new direction that won’t include the last 49ers quarterback to make it to a Super Bowl since Hall of Famer Steve Young.

Where will he go? Hopefully to another historic franchise on the downslide. More than just football, Colin Kaepernick to the Chicago Bears is a match made in heaven.

The Bears have been shopping Jay Cutler since the end of the season. Cutler has been the starting quarterback for the Bears for eight seasons. Chicago is expected to either trade or release him once he is healthy.

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Cutler is due $13 million for next season. Whenever he passes the medical clearance, the Bears will do what they have to do.

The move to San Francisco could bring Cutler closer to the Shanahan family once again. Newly acquired head coach Kyle Shanahan is the son of Mike Shanahan. Mike Shanahan coached and drafted Cutler in Denver. Mike and his offense produced arguably the best Jay Culter we have seen in 2008.

In 2008, Cutler produced career highs in attempts, completions and yards. Why wouldn’t he want to go San Francisco?

Now back to Kaepernick.

Marcio Jose Sanchez/ AP

Kaepernick’s involvement in activism would be perfect for the Windy City. A city that is riddled with crime and violence and disappointing football seasons needs a person and a quarterback like Colin Kaepernick. It is also a good move for Kaepernick on the field.

The Bears have an upcoming defense and a good bit of offensive players that suit what Kaepernick can do. They have two big and shifty running backs in Jordan Howard and Jeremy Langford.

They possibly have two big body deep threats on the edge with Kevin White and Alshon Jeffery. He also has a big and fast tight end in Zach Miller. It is similar to the roster he had in his early years in San Francisco.

The move that could bring Kaepernick to the Bears would be for so much more than football. This is one of the times where politics and sports do mix.

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John Lynch

Lynch Trying not to Join Infamous List of NFL Head Scratchers

The San Francisco 49ers raised more than a few eyebrows at the end of last month when they hired John Lynch as their new general manager. Despite a borderline Hall of Fame playing career, Lynch has no relevant front office experience to speak of. In fact, he is coming straight out of the television broadcast booth.

While it is much too early to pass judgment on Lynch’s hiring, there have been a few other peculiar NFL coaching and front office hires in recent years. For the most part, they have not worked out.

Art Shell: Raiders head coach (2006)

Art Shell

Photo courtesy of USA today

Raiders fans will not enjoy the first part of this article. Up until very recently, Oakland spent almost a decade as the NFL’s top dumpster fire. For some reason, late owner Al Davis thought it would be a good idea to bring Art Shell back as head coach after a 13-year hiatus.

The game changes in 13 years and it left Shell behind. Shell was a Hall of Fame offensive lineman for the Raiders, but his second tenure as head coach is best left forgotten.

His first big hire to his staff was offensive coordinator Tom Walsh. Walsh had been out of football for six years and was running a bed and breakfast.

Walsh is also infamous for saying that the skills of wide receiver Randy Moss were “diminishing.” After being traded to the Patriots, Moss had a record-breaking season in 2007.

Unsurprisingly, Shell’s Raiders stumbled to a 2-14 finish and he was let go after a single season. Somehow, Oakland’s next head coaching hire was even worse.

Lane Kiffin: Raiders head coach (2007-2008)

Lane Kiffin

Photo courtesy of sfgate.com

Lane Kiffin is well known to football fans now. When Davis first hired him to resurrect the Raiders in 2007, Kiffin was a 31-year-old who had never been a head coach at any level of football.

The friction between Davis and Kiffin was almost immediate. The Raiders still had virtually no talent on the roster. To make matters worse, they drafted quarterback JaMarcus Russell who went down as one of the most spectacular draft flops in NFL history.

Davis fired Kiffin during the 2008 season in an epic press conference that resulted in Kiffin taking legal action against the Raiders. He posted a record of just 5-15 and has since bounced around the college ranks.

Matt Millen: Lions President and General Manager (2001-2008)

Matt Millen

Photo Courtesy of Seattle Times

This is the story that makes 49er fans most nervous. Much like Lynch, Millen was hired straight from broadcasting after a really good playing career in 2001. The result was disastrous. Under Millen’s direction, the Lions best single season record was 6-10.

While no one in the NFL fails all on their own, Millen’s biggest gaffe was using a first-round pick on a wide receiver three straight years. Moreover, the Lions passed on guys like DeMarcus Ware to draft Roy Williams, Mike Williams, and Charles Rogers.

After years of losing and fan protests, Millen was put out of his misery in September 2008. The Lions had just begun what would become the only 0-16 season in NFL history. Millen has since returned to broadcasting.

Paul DePodesta: Browns Chief Strategy Officer (2016-present)

Admittedly, the jury is still out on this one. However, that does not make hiring a former MLB analytics guru for a major executive role in the NFL any less odd. The Browns have been a laughing stock since returning to the league in 1999. Maybe they know something the rest of the world does not, but I doubt it.

A 1-15 debut was not encouraging for DePodesta and the rest of the Browns revamped front office, but next year will tell the tale. The Browns have five of the first 65 picks in the 2017 NFL draft and are among the league leaders in salary cap space. That should mean a significant improvement. If not, it may well be back to the drawing board yet again in Cleveland.

What you do not see in this article is as important as what you do see. Generally, the teams who make these type of moves are bad for a decade or longer. Teams like the Patriots, Packers, Steelers, Seahawks and Broncos do not go outside the box very often. Those are the teams in contention year in and year out.

Given the current state of the 49ers, Lynch will be fighting the odds not to join the likes of Millen, DePodesta, Kiffin and Shell.

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Spectacular Super Bowl Blunders

The Super Bowl has many great plays throughout its history. James Harrison’s 100-yard interception return, John Elway’s helicopter run, and David Tyree’s helmet catch all spring to mind. There are several others, but this piece is not about those plays. Here are some of the most spectacular single play blunders in America’s biggest sporting event.

First, there is one blunder you will not see here. Even though it makes every other list like this, Scott Norwood’s missed field goal in the closing seconds of Super Bowl XXV is not really a blunder by him. Shady clock management and play calling by the Bills down the stretch left Norwood facing a career long outdoor field goal attempt. How one could have expected Norwood to suddenly do something he had never done before on the biggest stage the sport has to offer has always baffled me. Anyway, let’s get down to business.

Rocket Screen- Super Bowl XVIII:

Redskins head coach Joe Gibbs and quarterback Joe Theismann did not expect to find themselves trailing the Los Angeles Raiders by 11 in the final seconds of the first half. The Redskins put up 541 points in the 1983 season, an NFL record at the time. Even so, the smart money was on the Redskins taking a knee deep in their own territory and heading to the half.

Instead, Gibbs called “rocket screen,” a play Washington had ran with great success when the two teams met in the regular season. This time, the result was disastrous. LA linebacker Jack Squirek picked off the pass and walked in to the end zone with 12 seconds left in the half. The play kicked a Raiders blowout into overdrive. You can watch the play below on the NFL’s YouTube channel.

Garo Yepremian- Super Bowl VII:

When kickers have to throw, bad things tend to happen. Here is the earliest evidence of that. Trying to finish off an undefeated season, the Dolphins sent out Garo Yepremian to attempt a field goal that would have made it a three possession game with just over two minutes to go. The kick was blocked.

After a subsequent comedy of errors, the Redskins ended up scoring a touchdown on the play to make it a 14-7 game. Fortunately for Yepremian, Miami held on to complete their perfect season. Fear not, the NFL’s YouTube channel has us covered on Yepremian’s misery.

Lewis Billups- Super Bowl XXIII:

This is a nod to the pain of my family and Bengals fans everywhere. It may not have directly decided the outcome of the game, but it sure was big. Leading Joe Montana’s 49ers early in the fourth quarter, Bengals defensive back Lewis Billups dropped an easy an interception a player could ever come across. The 49ers got the game-tying score on the next play and mounted another fourth quarter scoring drive to win the game and championship in come-from-behind fashion. This play is the ultimate sports “what if” in Cincinnati. See it below from Michael Schiefer on YouTube.

Leon Lett- Super Bowl XXVII:

Leon Lett was actually a borderline Hall of Fame player. Unfortunately for him, that is rarely remembered. What is remembered is Lett costing Dallas a Thanksgiving game in 1993 by gifting Miami another shot at a game winning field goal. However, this mishap from about a year earlier happened on the grandest stage of all.

Lett recovered a fumble in the fourth quarter of a Cowboys blowout and there was nothing but green grass between Lett and the dream of every defensive linemen. Bills wideout Don Beebe had other ideas while Lett rumbled and showboated down the sideline. The result is one of the most recognizable pieces of video in NFL history. See it below on the NFL YouTube channel. For the sake of the players involved, let’s hope nothing is added to this list in Super Bowl LI.

 

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Assembling the Ultimate NFL Dogdeball Team

NFL Dodgeball

With the Super Bowl matchup set, the two-week long waiting game has begun. The NFL Pro Bowl will take place in Orlando on Sunday. The game itself has become mostly unwatchable. However, a dodgeball challenge between select players from the two conferences could be somewhat entertaining.

It also got me thinking which players from the NFL’s past would make up the ultimate dodgeball team. I am talking about these guys in their prime. I am by no means a dodgeball expert. This is meant to be a somewhat lighthearted and imaginative piece. Please take it as such.

Photo Courtesy of philly.com

Randall Cunningham– Natural athleticism is a plus for any sport. Why not lead off the ultimate NFL dodgeball team with one of the greatest pure athletes the NFL has ever seen? With a career completion percentage under 60, accuracy was always an issue for one of the original dual-threat quarterbacks. However, his career rushing yardage total is good enough for second all-time among quarterbacks. That kind of speed and elusiveness would be well-suited for dodgeball.

 

Bill Romanowski– This is all about intimidation. In the NFL, rules were merely guidelines for the four-time Super Bowl champion linebacker. The altercations involving Romanowski are countless. From spitting in opponents faces to openly admitting to trying to injure former teammates, controversy always followed Romanowski. A self-admitted product of “roid rage,” he was no doubt a scumbag during his career. I do not advocate cheating, but I do advocate trying in a hyper aggressive manner. The original “Romo” always walked that fine line. Romanowski is the kind of guy I want on my side in any competitive endeavor. Listen to the guy talk in a short clip below from CBS news. That kind of energy would dominate the dodgeball court if harnessed correctly.

Chuck Bednarik– Some of the same things I said about Romanowski are also true of Chuck Bednarik. Bednarik played in an era where players got away with a lot more. He played his entire career with the Eagles and is a member of the NFL’s 1950s all-decade team. He was the last player to play both offense and defense on a regular basis. He did so as a linebacker and a center. In the video below from the Graham Smeaton YouTube channel, Bednarik describes knocking Giants quarterback Frank Gifford out cold. Watch it and then imagine the kind of damage this guy could do if he was given a ball to throw at your head.

Barry Sanders– I am still mad this Lions’ legend retired so young. If there was ever a guy that could run between rain drops it was Barry Sanders. The NFL’s third all-time leading rusher would have had every record imaginable had he played a few more years. Defenders could never tackle him. Nabbing him with a ball would be a tall task. His historically low key personality would be an interesting counter to guys like Bednarik and Romanowski. Even though they rarely got it done, it is fun to watch defenders try to tackle Sanders. Enjoy ten of his finest masterpieces from the NFL’s YouTube channel.

Steve Largent– At under six feet tall, durability would be a concern for Seattle’s all-time leading receiver. However, there is a place on the dodgeball court for anyone who can make catches like the undersized Seahawk did. The video below from the NFL’s YouTube channel gives you a small taste of his greatness.

 

 

Photo Courtesy of the Seattle Times

Bo Jackson– Simply put, Bo Jackson is one of the most athletically gifted people the world has ever seen. You can count on one hand the number of people that have played two sports at the highest possible professional level. Prior to getting derailed by injuries, Jackson always looked like the best player on the football field or baseball diamond. He is the kind of athlete that would have translated well to any sport, dodgeball included. The same can be said for Deion Sanders, but this team already has enough strong personalities.

 

Well, there you have it. The fiercest NFL dodgeball team my twisted mind can come up with. Who would make your ultimate NFL dodgeball team?

 

 

 

 

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The Best Wide Receiver of All Time

The best fans of any sport know stats don’t tell the whole story. Stats play a huge role in judging which players are good, bad, or legendary. If stats were the only thing to judge a player by then the man who scored the most points in NBA history, Kareem Abdul-Jabar, should be the best right? Most would answer that with a no. Well if stats don’t determine who the best of all time is, maybe it is championships that determine the best of all time. Bill Russell won 11 NBA championships, but you won’t find any basketball fan who thinks he is the best of all time. It is a consensus that Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player ever.

(http://www.thedailybeast.com)

How about in baseball? What do you use to determine the best baseball player of all time? Do you go by home runs or strikeouts? Do you look at how many championships a player has won? Is Hank Aaron, Nolan Ryan, Babe Ruth or Barry Bonds the best baseball player ever?

How about in football? How do you determine who was the best of all time? Is it how much you ran for, threw for, or how many yards you caught passes for? Or are championships how you determine who the best of all time is?

(Detroit Lions-Associated Press)

There is no way to definitively determine who the best of all time is, it’s subjective. That is why there are sports debates about who the best is. Stats and championships don’t tell the entire story, which is why the eye test is so important when judging sports. Circumstances, such as teammates or coaches, affect who the best ever is as well.

There are issues with the eye too. A 13-year-old can’t possibly have seen how great Barry Sanders was without watching the film. Players from the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s don’t have a lot of film on them to show people growing up now how great they were. When you bring stats, championships, circumstances, and the eye test all together, then it is possible to determine who the best really is.

So with all that said, who is the best wide receiver of all time?

 

Who Most Would Say

(Mandatory Credit:) Jed Jacobsohn /Allsport

No matter how old you are or how long you have been a fan of football, if someone were to ask you who the best wide receiver of all time is, who would you answer? Jerry Rice, without hesitation. Nobody even thinks about it because it has been the answer for such a long time. How could it not be Jerry Rice? Rice had one of the greatest careers in NFL history. He played for 20 seasons in the NFL. Rice is a 13-time Pro Bowler, a three-time Super Bowl champion, and a Super Bowl MVP.

Six times Rice led the NFL in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. Rice still holds recordings for most receptions all-time (1,549), most receiving yards all-time (22,895), most receiving touchdowns all-time (197), and most all-purpose yards all-time (23,546). Perhaps the best season of Rice’s career came in a shortened 1987 season. In just 12 games, Rice finished with 65 receptions, 1,078 yards, and an astonishing 22 touchdowns. That is impressive to say the least. Rice has the stats, the championships, and the eye test as good as anyone in history. He also was always in the best of circumstances.

(AP Photo/Al Golub)

Rice came into the league with an established two-time Super Bowl Champion quarterback, Joe Montana. He played with Montana from 1985 until 1990. Once Montana was gone, Rice began catching passes from another Hall of Fame quarterback, Steve Young. From his rookie season in 1985 until 1998, Rice was fortunate enough to play with these all-time greats. Towards the end of Rice’s career, he caught passes from both Jeff Garcia and Rich Gannon. These quarterbacks were good as well.

Jeff Garcia was a four-time Pro Bowler and in his two seasons with Rice compiled 6,822 yards, 42 touchdowns, and 21 interceptions. Rich Gannon was also a four-time Pro Bowler and in his three seasons with Rice compiled 9,791 yards, 59 touchdowns, and 23 interceptions. Rice has never had an inadequate quarterback and was blessed to play with two Hall of Famers in his career.

Jerry Rice is one of the greatest players of all time and this is not to take away from his greatness. His stats are remarkable and are a testament to his longevity. There is just one receiver who was a better football player and had he been fortunate enough to have 14 seasons with Hall of Fame quarterbacks, such as Rice, he would be unequivocally considered the greatest receiver of all time.

 

Who is Really the Best WR of All Time?

(http://www.footballsfuture.com)

To describe the best wide receiver of all time, one would say he was, “straight cash homie”. That’s right, Randy Moss was the best receiver to ever set foot on the gridiron. He was so great his name became a verb. Anytime someone out-jumped a defender for a ball, the saying was, “he got mossed.” It takes a special kind of greatness for the world to turn your name into a verb like that.

Moss ranks 15th all-time in receptions (982), third all-time in receiving yards (15,292), and second all-time in receiving touchdowns (156). The stats are pretty remarkable over a 15-year career. He also holds the record for most receiving touchdowns in a single season with 23. Statistically speaking, he has been one of the best of all time. As far as championships go, Randy Moss never won a Super Bowl. It is one of the major accomplishments missing from his career.

The eye test is one of the areas Randy Moss excelled at above all. The man could flat out burn anybody and had some of the best hands in NFL history. This video shows how Moss revolutionized the game and became a defense’s worst nightmare.

Moss has the best eye test of any receiver in the history of football. His explosion, hands, and speed are unmatched. As mentioned before, one of the biggest flaws is the fact that he never won a Super Bowl. Moss was also rarely in a good quarterback situation. In his rookie season, he had both Randall Cunningham and Brad Johnson under center. The following year in 1999, Jeff George took most of the snaps. There was a bit more stability from 2000-2004 with Daunte Culpepper, but once Moss was traded to the Raiders, the instability continued.

(http://www.sacbee.com/sports/article31643531.html)

In Moss’ two seasons with the Raiders, he had three quarterbacks: Kerry Collins, Andrew Walter, and Aaron Brooks. Before ending up with Tom Brady and the Patriots in 2007, Moss had played in the NFL for nine seasons and had seven different quarterbacks.  To compare that with Jerry Rice’s first nine seasons, Rice only had two quarterbacks. Both are in the Hall of Fame.

Moss only spent three seasons with a quarterback of the same caliber as when Rice had Montana and Young. In those three seasons with the Patriots, Moss played in 48 games and amassed an amazing 422 receptions, 3,765 yards, and 47 touchdowns.

 

Better Circumstances

(http://gifsoup.com/view/4485570/randy-moss-td.html)

This makes you wonder, what if Moss had 14 seasons with Brady, a Hall of Fame quarterback like when Rice had with both Montana and Young? Moss didn’t play as long as Rice so it is hard to speculate. How about if Moss just had seven seasons with Brady? What would his all-time numbers look like then? For the sake of argument, let’s assume that after Moss left Minnesota he went straight to New England and finished his career there for seven seasons.

His stats after leaving Minnesota were 574 receptions, 9,142 yards, and 90 touchdowns. Moss averaged 83 receptions, 1,255 yards, and 15.7 touchdowns with Brady. Over 7 seasons, based on what he averaged with Brady for his three years in New England, his career stats would have finished with 1,155 receptions, 17,927 yards, and 200 touchdowns. Those numbers are absolutely ridiculous to think about.

(https://www.pinterest.com/pin/573646071256029480/)

Now for the sake of more argument, let’s say he spent 14 seasons in the NFL with Tom Brady, similar to Rice’s 14 seasons with Montana and Young. Moss’s career stats would be 1,162 receptions, 17,570 yards, and 220 touchdowns. The receptions and yards don’t change significantly, but the touchdowns sure do. 220 is unthinkable and Rice finished with 197. Had Moss spent more time with a Hall of Fame quarterback, more people wouldn’t hesitate to call Moss the best of all time. Longevity also really helped out Rice’s overall numbers as well. 20 seasons is a long time and it is rare for a player to last that long in such a violent sport.

The stats don’t tell the entire story of who is really the best. Super Bowl trophies tell the story of how a team did, not an individual. Looking at the eye test, and given the circumstances Moss had to deal with, it is clear to see that he truly was the best wide receiver of all time.

 

 

 

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The Underwhelming Crop of New NFL Head Coaches

With it all but confirmed that Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan will be taking over as head coach of the 49ers when Atlanta’s season ends, all six of the NFL’s head-coaching vacancies are now filled. Some are stepping into better situation than others, but I find all but one of the head-coaching hires underwhelming. Quite frankly, that is putting it mildly. Here is a look at each:

Doug Marrone (Jacksonville Jaguars)

Of all the hires, this is the one that has a chance to work long-term. Marrone is an experienced coach at both the college and pro levels. He did a very respectable job for two seasons as the head coach of the Bills in 2013 and 2014 before a mutual parting of ways. In 2014, he guided the Bills to just their second winning season since 1999. EJ Manuel was his quarterback for most of his time in Buffalo. Not many coaches could get nine wins with EJ Manuel as their quarterback. He has barely seen the field since Marrone left. Marrone also turned Syracuse football into a competitive program during his time there ending a bowl game victory drought of nearly a decade

Photo courtesy of Jacksonville.com

The hiring of two-time Super Bowl winning head coach Tom Coughlin as an executive to oversee all aspects of the Jaguars organization is the biggest thing working in Marrone’s favor. Coughlin knows what it takes to win and will bring instant credibility and discipline to Jacksonville. These have been lacking ever since Coughlin left as head coach following the 2002 season. The Jaguars roster is not terrible at the moment and will have chances to improve through the draft and free agency. Whatever they have to work with, Coughlin and Marrone will get the most out of it. They both have done that for their entire careers in football.

 

Sean McDermott (Buffalo Bills)

While McDermott’s stints as defensive coordinator in Carolina and Philadelphia were largely positive, his Panthers defense took a major step backward last year. They fell out of the top 20 in almost every statistical category after being one of the most dominant units in the league for the better part of two years. Some will point to the loss of Josh Norman. While it certainly did not help, I do not think it explains the entirety of Carolina defensive decline. No one player should mean that much to defense. If he does, there is something wrong with the system.

 

Combine this with the traditionally dysfunctional Bills front office and fairly new ownership that seems to think the roster is better than it actually is, and I see no way for McDermott to lead this team beyond .500, which is almost exactly the same record Rex Ryan had during his just under two years in Buffalo.

 

Sean McVay (Los Angeles Rams)

 

 

Here is your classic case of too much too soon. Unlike most of the new hires, the unit McVay coordinated last year was quite good. The Redskins offense had the fewest three and outs in football last year. Even so, he is the youngest coach in league history. Moreover, he is inheriting a mess. Other than the defensive line, there is almost nothing here to work with. Additionally, this is another franchise struggling to find its relocation groove. That only makes McVay’s job more difficult. There are a lot of 60-year-old coaches who could not handle this job.

Photo Courtesy of nbclosangeles.com

 

While the Rams have done a great job surrounding McVay with quality assistant coaches, unless he can walk on water, it will be an extremely difficult task for him to get this franchise turned around. The one thing working in his favor is that the Rams gave Jeff Fisher plenty of time to get things going in the right direction. It did not work out, but McVay will need that same luxury to build a winner.

 

Anthony Lynn (Los Angeles Chargers)

This is the real stunner to me. Lynn spent most of last year as the offensive coordinator in Buffalo. While the Bills were the top rushing team in the league, it is impossible to be a legitimate contender in the modern NFL averaging under 200 yards passing a game like Buffalo did. Regardless of who is playing quarterback, you have to find a way to get more from your passing game than that. It certainly does not merit being hired as head coach.

 

Buffalo wanted to get an early look at Lynn. Thus, he was named interim head coach replacing Rex Ryan for the season finale. Not only were the bills routed by the Jets, but they were on the wrong end of a football folly for the ages. Watch it below thanks to the NFL’s YouTube channel. I have no words just watch.

 

After allowing a play like that to happen on his watch, under no circumstances would I hire Lynn as the head coach anywhere. Much less head coach of are relocating franchise trying (and mostly failing) to ingratiate itself to a new city. For those that will say a career of a coach should not be defined by a single play, fans and media do it with players all the time. Why should coaches not be held to the same standard? There is no way Lynn’s time in LA the lasts long or ends well.

 

 

Vance Joseph (Denver Broncos)

 

Strangely Joseph is the least qualified candidate of the new head coaches. Yet, he landed the best job with one of the NFL’s most consistent franchises over the last half decade or so. Following the sudden resignation of Gary Kubiak, Joseph has been handed the keys to a franchise that won a Super Bowl less than a year ago.

The Broncos roster is loaded with talent and ready to win now. The objective is to win Super Bowls. In theory, this is the objective for all NFL teams every year, but for most teams it simply is not realistic. It certainly is for the Broncos. They missed the playoffs this year for the first time in five years and still managed to post a winning record.

Given that standard of success, I just do not see how hiring a guy who spent one year as an NFL defensive coordinator and oversaw the 29th-ranked defense last year is going to accomplish that goal. I have no clue why multiple teams were interested in this guy as a head coach. He is clearly well thought of around the league. However, there is a difference between that and being a good head coach.

Joseph will likely be the most successful of the new head coaches early on based solely on the strength of his assistant coaches and general roster talent. Eventually, he will likely follow the same path as former Broncos and current Bears head coach Jon Fox who won a lot of games in Denver but was let go for not being able to get over the hump.

 

 

Kyle Shanahan (San Francisco 49ers)

 

Of the five hires who will be first-time head coaches, Shanahan was most deserving of a job. The work he has done with Matt Ryan and the Falcons offense this year is amazing. Unfortunately for him, he got the one job that nobody short of Vince Lombardi or Bill Belichick could make work right now. Shanahan will be San Francisco’s fourth coach in as many seasons. There was never any talent on the roster for Chip Kelly and Jim Tomsula to begin with. Shanahan is the same boat. Kelly and Tomsula were given just a single season.

How any candidate could trust ownership with a track record like that is beyond me, but there are only 32 head coaching jobs to go around. So, I do not blame Shanahan for taking the gig. Ultimately though, his success or failure hinges on the 49ers finding a general manager who knows what he is doing and Shanahan being given enough time to figure out the quarterback position and the rest of the roster. I do not trust ownership to do either.

Every year when new head coaches are hired, I find myself asking the same question. Are these the best guys the NFL can come up with? Even the less glamorous franchises like the Jaguars are worth over $1 billion according to Forbes. Why a team does not offer someone like Nick Saban enough money to make him the highest-paid coach in the league is baffling to me.

 

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Franchise Analysis – San Francisco 49ers

For more than 60% of the NFL fan base, the season is over. Whether it was a key injury or an inept GM, there is a reason why your team didn’t make it. Fear not, because you may have heard of an event in May that allows teams to accumulate new players and renew faith in your franchise, the NFL Draft. This will be the first of an ongoing series in which I will perform an in depth analysis to assess the strengths, weaknesses, and needs of every NFL team, including what positions need to be addressed in the draft and free agency, starting with the San Francisco 49ers.

2016 Evaluation

Any competent 49ers fan knew that this year had the potential to be rough. Of course, Chip Kelly and his unique offense brought potential and excitement, but also an element of uncertainty. On the season, the 49ers ranked 27th in points and 31st in yards. Clearly, those rankings are not the hallmark of Chip Kelly’s offense. However, they were first in situation neutral pace. This means that the 49ers ran plays faster than any other team when the game was within one possession. Sadly, when your team can’t run or pass effectively and consistently, being the fastest team works against your defense.

Despite the offensive rankings, the 49ers do have assets at the running back and the left tackle position. According to Pro Football Focus, Carlos Hyde had a 71.4 player rating, which is average. So why would an average running back be an important asset moving forward? Because of the offensive line he’s playing behind. At season’s end, the average rating of a 49ers offensive linemen was a 58.08.

If you remove Joe Staley, their other offensive asset, they average is a 52.25 rating. The fact any running back could be considered average running behind this atrocity indicates talent. Also, if you happened to watch any of their games this year, they often were playing from behind, meaning, Hyde’s ability to run the ball is incredibly limited, as they need to make up ground. There aren’t many players that will entice potential head coaching candidates, but Hyde is certainly one.

San Francisco 49ers Analysis

Joe Staley was one of the few players the 49ers could consistently rely on this season at left tackle. (Courtesy of: USA Today)

As a linemen, Staley is the highest rated offensive player with an 81.4. This makes him a top 25 player at his position among qualified players. Sadly, his age and injury concerns decrease his value. Given that he is under contract, there is no reason to believe that the new 49ers general manager will let him go. Look for Staley to return next year as a top 15 tackle.

I’ll try to keep this brief. The 49ers defense was horrific this season. They were the absolute worst in terms of points and yards. Specifically, the 49ers were one of worst defenses against the run in NFL history. Of course, injuries to key defensive players attributed to this statistic.

However, there is clearly a scheme issue here. There are multiple players on defense that are not a fit for their 3-4 style defense. I won’t elaborate on which players, because the next coach may run a completely different defense, making some of those out of position players more valuable.

The only redeeming players on this side of the ball, outside of the injured NaVorro Bowman, are Tramaine Brock and Gerald Hodges. Brock is just outside of being a top 25 cornerback and Hodges is a top 20 inside linebacker. If the next head coach decides to stay with the 3-4 scheme, they will have a good pair of inside linebackers in Bowman and Hodges.

Divisional Analysis

You hear analysts and former coaches say it all the time, you build a team to win your division. There are a few things the 49ers have to do if they want to compete for a division title in 2017.

First, they have to be better against the run. When a team can run the ball effectively, they control every aspect of the game. The 49ers will never be able to compete if they can’t contain running backs like David Johnson and Todd Gurley the four times a year they play. But where do the 49ers need help most?

San Francisco 49ers Analysis

Deforest Buckner will look to improve upon his rookie campaign, but will a new coaching staff help or hurt his development in year two (Courtesy of: USA Today)?

In order to compete, they need to address the defensive line position in the draft or free agency. Their best interior or edge defender was DeForest Buckner. Buckner is a young, ascending player, but his strength is rushing the passer. The 49ers need to pair him with an interior defender who’s biggest strength is stopping the run.

Next, this team needs to address their offensive line. As stated, Joe Staley is an above average tackle. The 49ers absolutely have to acquire a tackle to pair with Staley on the right side. Their right tackle this year was Trenton Brown, who received a 53.7 rating. If the 49ers can find even an average tackle, they will see a dramatic increase in their ability to run and pass.

If this team can be better against the run and be more efficient on offense as a whole, they will find themselves in a position to win more of their games in 2017.

Don’t worry, I didn’t forget. This team, like most NFL franchises, has to address the quarterback position. There’s a reason Seattle and Arizona have been battling atop this division- consistency at quarterback. I sadly don’t have much to offer in this area, as free agent quarterbacks don’t often work. At this point, there isn’t a quarterback worthy of their 2nd overall pick in the upcoming draft with prospects like Myles Garrett and Johnathan Allen that could help address their putrid rush defense.

Of course, there are more positions that the 49ers need help at, but these are the positions they must improve with the focus on competing in their division. That’s not to say they can improve by upgrading other positions, rather, these are the most important to their success.

Postseason Prospects

Moving forward, I will include what a franchise needs to do compete in the playoffs. However, this is one of the few cases where I simply won’t. This team just has too many holes that can’t possibly be addressed in one season. Here are the most critical metrics that determine whether or not a team will make the playoffs.

On offense the important categories are points, yards per attempt, 3rd down conversion rate, sacks allowed, and time of possession. On defense the following metrics that determine playoff viability are points allowed, yards allowed, 3rd down efficiency rate, sacks, and turnovers.

Here are all the categories previously mentioned and how many playoff teams are within the top 15 in that respective category, in order from highest to lowest ranking.

Offensive Metrics

Points

  • Atlanta, New England, Green Bay, Dallas, Oakland, Pittsburgh, and Kansas City

Yards Per Attempt

  • Atlanta, New England, Dallas, Seattle, Miami, Pittsburgh, and Detroit

3rd Down Conversion Rate

  • Green Bay, New England, Detroit, Dallas, Atlanta, and Pittsburgh

Sacks Allowed

  • Oakland, Pittsburgh, New York, New England, Dallas, Miami, Kansas City, and Houston

Time of Possession:

  • New England, Green Bay, Pittsburgh, Dallas, Miami, Houston, New York Giants

Defensive Metrics

Points Allowed

  • New England, New York, Seattle, Dallas, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Houston, and Detroit

Yards Allowed

  • Houston, Seattle, New England, New York Giants, Pittsburgh, and Dallas

Turnovers

  • Kansas City, Oakland, New York, Green Bay, Miami, New England, Pittsburgh

3rd Down Efficiency

  • New York Giants, Miami, New England, Houston, Seattle, and Dallas

Sacks

  • Miami, New York Giants, Seattle, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Dallas, and New England

I’m sure you’ve noticed a trend. These teams made the playoffs because, for the most part, they don’t have any glaring holes in their game. That’s why the threshold was the top 15 teams. It proves that to make the playoffs you don’t have to be elite in every category. However, you can’t be terrible either.

Unfortunately for the 49ers, they are nowhere to be found in these categories that determine playoff viability. But, that doesn’t mean they can’t improve in 2017.

2017 Prediction

San Francisco 49ers Analysis

With Chip Kelly and Trent Baalke out in San Francisco, the Niners are looking for new faces to lead this franchise in 2017 (Courtesy of: Inside the 49ers).

There’s too much unknown to make an honest prediction about who the 49ers will select in May. They still have to hire a general manager and head coach. They could go a variety of different ways depending on their scheme and philosophy.

If I had to guess, I would see them addressing their defensive line position given the number of premiere players in the draft. Rather, I could see them trading back with a team like Tennessee who has multiple first round picks, courtesy of the Rams, in order to just accumulate as much talent as possible.

Barring something incredible, this team as it’s currently constructed will not win the NFC West. However, I do think they will finish 3rd and improve their record to 5-11.

The Rams were as dysfunctional as the 49ers, but now that they have cleaned house officially, they will be more stable moving forward. The decision on who will lead the 49ers on the field and in the front office will have a huge impact on their success over the next decade. So, choose wisely San Francisco.

 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

What is Next for Tony Romo?

Following last Sunday’s thrilling win in Pittsburgh, the Cowboys made it official that rookie quarterback Dak Prescott will remain the starter over long time signal caller Tony Romo. Prescott deserves a ton of credit for giving the Cowboys no choice, but Romo is the fascinating part of the story. Barring an unforeseen injury, he has likely thrown his last pass in Dallas. What lies ahead for one of the NFL’s most polarizing figures in terms of performance?

 

Romo seemed to indicate that he is healthy and wants to keep playing in a very classy statement to the media on Tuesday. His .600+ career winning percentage will make him a hot commodity to the many quarterback needy teams in the league. Whether it comes via trade or his release from the Cowboys, several destinations are being thrown around by fans and media alike. I have narrowed the list to five. Two bad ideas and three more sensible options.

 

Bad Ideas

Cleveland- At the very least Romo would bring them to instant respectability, but Romo is 36 with a lot of miles on his body. It is reasonable to speculate he would want to go to a team that is ready to win now. No matter who the quarterback is, the Browns are at least three years away from being contenders. He is not Peyton Manning. He cannot turn them into contenders all on his own. If he has a choice, Romo should avoid Cleveland like the plague.

Denver- This would not be a bad idea for Romo because Denver is loaded with talent. However, it makes no sense for the Broncos organization. All you have to do is listen to one of Gary Kubiak’s press conferences to know that the entire organization is coaching the hell out of two young quarterbacks, Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch. Also, they are staying quietly competitive while doing it. Bringing in Romo for a few years would make all the time and effort invested in the two youngsters a waste. The Broncos do not do business that way. Unlike when they brought in Peyton Manning a few years ago, the Broncos have other viable options on the roster and seemed pleased with their progress.

Best possible fits

49ers- This is a long shot, but could be a better fit than people realize. As is the case with the next two teams, San Francisco’s quarterback for 2017 is not on their roster, barring a miracle. While I am very bullish on the University of Miami’s Brad Kaaya, the 2017 quarterback draft class is underwhelming. A veteran like Romo will have his share of suitors.

photo from Miami Herald

photo from Miami Herald

 

The 49ers are in the middle of a dismal season. The quarterback play from Colin Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert has been so bad that it makes the rest of the team look awful. Neither quarterback can distribute the ball to the skill positions. Thus, they are last in the league in time of possession, and the defense is on the field for well over half the game. Unsurprisingly the defense is in the bottom five of every major statistical category. Romo could at least keep the offense on the field. Who knows what the defense or the rest of the team would look like with capable quarterback play? No, an injury prone 36-year-old quarterback probably isn’t the best fit for Chip Kelly’s offensive system, but as far as I can tell that “system” is hot garbage. Maybe Kelly looks in the mirror and decides to change things, but I doubt it.

NY Jets- This makes a lot of sense. Matt Forte and Brandon Marshall still have some big plays left in them. The front seven on defense is as good as you’ll find anywhere. All the Jets need is someone to not make the game changing mistakes that their quarterbacks have made this year. Say what you will about Romo, but he can certainly get a team to the playoffs. Ryan Fitzpatrick’s success of last year appears to be a one year wonder. The young signal callers in New York do not seem to be ready yet. Romo would make this team an instant contender.

Chicago- This would be another ideal fit. Chicago appears destined to move on from Jay Cutler. That weak draft class may force them to bring in a veteran like Romo. It’s unlikely they would hitch their wagons to current veteran backup Brian Hoyer. John Fox is rebuilding that defense. If given one more year, his track record says he will get it done. The Bears have three solid young running backs that could be a quarterback’s best friend. Also, the addition of a guy like Romo may be enough to convince troubled star wide receiver Alshon Jeffery to stick around long term.

photo from nfl.com

photo from nfl.com

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