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It’s the National Football League’s 100th postseason, and while eight football franchises still have a shot at the Lombardi Trophy (and the sweet rings and checks that go with it), the other twenty-four teams have already started making their next moves in preparation for the upcoming 2020-21 season.
All playoffs aside, we’re going to take a quick look at the top 6 NFL news stories that are hot off the press right now so you can stay updated on what’s going on with the ‘also-ran’ teams of the NFL.
There are new NFL head coaches and GOAT free agents to discuss, as well as Browns deadlines and the suddenly shifting Cowboys, so have a look at these half dozen big NFL news stories that are making headlines and arm yourself with the latest news and a few water cooler nuggets to toss around.
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I just wanted to say to all of our fans, THANK YOU! After a few days of reflection, I am so grateful and humbled by the unconditional support you have shown me the past two decades. Running out of that tunnel every week is a feeling that is hard to explain. I wish every season ended in a win, but that’s not the nature of sports (or life). Nobody plays to lose. But the reward for working hard is just that, the work!! I have been blessed to find a career I love, teammates who go to battle with me, an organization that believes in me, and fans who have been behind us every step of the way. Every one of us that works at Gillette Stadium strived to do their best, spent themselves at a worthy cause, and prepared to fail while daring greatly (h/t Teddy Roosevelt). And for that, we’ve been rewarded with something that the scoreboard won’t show – the satisfaction of knowing we gave everything to each other in pursuit of a common goal. That is what TEAM is all about. In both life and football, failure is inevitable. You dont always win. You can, however, learn from that failure, pick yourself up with great enthusiasm, and place yourself in the arena again. And that’s right where you will find me. Because I know I still have more to prove.
In one of the bigger news stories of 2020, the New England Patriots greatest of all time (GOAT) quarterback Tom Brady becomes a free agent for the first time in his career, though the 42-year-old has zero plans of retirement if his comments to the media are to be believed.
He recently told Football in America’s Peter King:
“I love playing football. I still want to play football. I think I still can play at a championship level. I’ve just got to go do it. I’m motivated to get back to work and training.”
Brady did not have his best season in 2019 (his completion percentage of 60.8 was the lowest since 2013 and tied for the second-lowest of his twenty-year NFL career), but he’s not why the Patriots failed to make it past the Wild Card round for the first time since 2009 (that was due to their offense being flat and stuck without playmakers not named Edelman).
Of course, there are no guarantees that Tom Brady will remain a Patriot, but it seems pretty clear that if he does, he will be offering no hometown payroll discounts this time, unlike he’s been doing for the last decade or so of his career.
The big question is whether Patriots wealth owner, Robert Kraft, would actually allow general manager and head coach Bill Belichick and Brady to walk out the door, but that seems unlikely.
Kraft considers Brady and his loved ones “blood family,” so it seems doubtful he would force his pseudo son and loved ones to move to a new city and learn a new system of football at this point in his career.
If Brady stays a Patriot, he would have to work with a brand-new offensive coordinator, since the current OC, Josh McDaniels, will most likely become a head coach somewhere else (perhaps the Cleveland Browns, see below).
Then the question becomes, would Brady be happy (and willing) to start over in New England with someone totally new overseeing his offense (and maybe even calling plays)?
And more importantly, would the New England Patriots be willing to pay Brady more money while simultaneously figuring out how to surround him with more talented (and experienced) targets?
Tough questions to answer this early in the process.
Some experts predict that if Brady were to go anywhere, it would be to the Los Angeles Chargers for several reasons: he’s originally from California, that location would help him expand his brand, and the Chargers’ veteran quarterback Philip Rivers is also set to be a free agent in March.
The other possible options for Brady would be:
The other possibility is that Brady retires, but that seems unlikely since he has given zero indication that he is ready to hang up his cleats.
After finishing their highly anticipated (and hyped up) 2019 regular season with a sad 7-9 record, the Cleveland Browns have fired both their second-year general manager, John Dorsey, and their first-year head coach, Freddie Kitchens, opening the door (once again) for new leadership in Berea, Ohio.
That lack of success came despite a roster full of talent, including deep threat receivers Odell Beckham Jr., whom the Browns traded for in the offseason, and talented slot receiver Jarvis Landry, who has been in Cleveland for two seasons now and has proved to be a dependable target for young quarterback Baker Mayfield.
Plus the Browns had a killer running crew in Nick Chubb (the league’s second-most productive runner this season) and blocking/pass-catching/tackle evading back Kareem Hunt, who only played half the season due to a suspension but contributed like a full year player.
The Cleveland Browns have not made the playoffs since the 2002 season, meaning it’s been 17 years of no football in January, but it was still a surprise to most Browns fans that they didn’t make the playoffs since their division was relatively weak and their roster was so full of talent.
Except with Freddie Kitchens as head coach, the Browns finished with a sub .500 record for the 12th year in a row, a disappointing finish after all the hype they received last offseason.
And with Freddie leading the way, the Browns received the 6th most penalties in the NFL and seemed overall undisciplined, including players yelling at him on the sidelines during the games and mouthing off on social media despite few wins to show for it.
Right now, the Cleveland Browns are interviewing multiple candidates for the head coach position, with a half dozen candidates either already interviewed or on the books for the rest of this week.
The plan is to have the new Browns head coach hired by Saturday of this week, and then a general manager would be brought on, presumably with the new head coach’s approval/recommendation.
According to a Tweet from ESPN Senior NFL Insider Adam Schefter, the Browns have a busy week ahead of them (but what else is new in Cleveland?”):
Browns’ upcoming interview schedule:
?Wednesday: Eagles DC Jim Schwartz.
?Thursday: Vikings OC Kevin Stefanski.
?Friday: Patriots OC Josh McDaniels.
Already interviewed: Eric Bieniemy, Greg Roman, Robert Saleh.
Browns want to have a deal in place by Saturday, per sources.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 7, 2020
After going 0-5, head coach Jay Gruden was fired by Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder and replaced with interim coach Bill Callahan, who finished the 2019 season with a 3-8 record, bringing the team’s overall record to 3-13, keeping them from the postseason for the fourth season in a row.
Hired to fill the void in Washington was Ron Rivera, a former NFL linebacker who has spent the past nine seasons as the head coach for the Carolina Panthers.
Rivera was recently fired by Carolina after they went 5-11 this last season and failed to make the postseason for the second year in a row.
Ron Rivera will be the first defensive head coach in Washington since the team was run by Marty Schottenheimer in 2001 when the Redskins went 8-8 and Schottenheimer only lasted for that one season.
Apparently, a big influence on Rivera was John Madden, who he met when he was just 15 and whose “famous rules” he adopted from when Madden was the head coach of the Oakland Raiders.
Rivera’s nickname is ‘Riverboat Ron’ (it’s even in his Twitter handle, @RiverboatRonHC) which is based on the fact that he is aggressive in his play-calling, something the Redskins can apparently use.
According to Rivera himself, he is “ready to roll” and (despite being fired) has been getting up every morning at 4:45 am in order to get ready for the interviews he knew he was about to have.
Under Rivera’s watch, the Carolina Panthers made the postseason in four of his nine years, including an appearance in Super Bowl 50 where his team lost to the Denver Broncos by a score of 24-10.
As far as how his players feel about him, once he was gone from Carolina, his team had nothing but great things to say about him.
Including this sincere Tweet from his star tight end, Greg Olsen:
On the day I was traded to the @Panthers in 2011, every player who played for Ron in Chicago said the same thing to me on my way out. “You are going to play for a great coach, but a better man”.
I am so proud to have shared this 9 yr journey together with you @RiverboatRonHC
— Greg Olsen (@gregolsen88) December 4, 2019
After going 5-11 during the 2019 NFL season and finishing in last place of the NFC South, the Carolina Panthers have fired head coach Ron Rivera (see above) and hired former Baylor head coach Matt Rule as their new head coach for the upcoming 2020-21 season.
Rivera went 76-63 during his nine years as the Panthers head coach and had a difficult time adjusting to a change in quarterbacks after franchise man Cam Newton went down with a foot injury (Lisfranc fracture) in Week 3 of the season.
Rhule is coming off an 11-3 season at Baylor and was 19-20 overall in his three seasons thereafter starting outgoing 1-11 during his first year in 2017.
Yes, the New York Giants, who had been shopping around for head coaches after firing Pat Shurmur, who took the team to a 4-12 finish in 2019, the team not making the playoffs for the third season in a row.
Panthers owner David Tepper apparently snagged Rhule before he could meet with the New York Giants, who later had a chance to match Carolina’s deal but declined.
Given how many NFL teams have been in the hunt for legitimate head coaching candidates, it appears that Tepper was smart to snag Rhule when he could.
Yes, but it’s limited.
At this point, Rhule, who is 44 years old, has had NFL experience as the assistant offensive line coach for the New York Giants in 2012.
During that season, the Giants went 9-7, finished 2nd in the NFC East and failed to make the playoffs after winning Super Bowl XLVI over the New England Patriots the season prior.
Under head coach Pat Shurmur, the New York Giants had a poor 2019, ending the season with a 4-12 record, a third-place NFC East finish and with huge question marks as to who the leader of the team is both as head coach and under center.
As of this week, the struggling New York Giants have hired Joe Judge (the former New England Patriots’ special teams coordinator and wide receivers coach) as their new head coach for the upcoming 2020-21 season, according to recent reports.
Now it becomes a matter of assembling Judge’s coaching staff in order to prepare the franchise for the upcoming offseason, including the NFL combine, the draft and the free agency period that could help the Giants fill in their missing links.
Judge initially had a decent career as a college coach, spending time as the linebackers coach at Birmingham-southern and as a special teams assistant for Nick Saban in Alabama.
In 2012, Judge became part of New England Patriots’ Bill Belichick’s staff, first as special teams assistant and then as the special teams coordinator.
Last season, he also became the New England Patriots’ wide receivers coach.
Not exactly, since the Giants had expected to meet up with Baylor’s head coach Matt Rhule on Tuesday, but the Panthers beat them to it (see above).
Other candidates that Giants fans were looking forward to were Dallas Cowboys former head coach Jason Garrett and Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
And then on Tuesday, January 7th, a Tweet from ESPN Senior NFL Insider Adam Schefter announced the deal:
New York Giants are finalizing a deal to make Patriots’ wide receivers coach Joe Judge their next head coach, league sources tell ESPN. Deal was in the works as of last night, which is another reason Matt Rhule took the Panthers’ HC job.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 7, 2020
After waiting until what seemed like the last possible moment, Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones let head coach Jason Garrett go after his tenth season and after the team failed to make the playoffs with an 8-8 final record and a second-place finish in the NFC East.
Now the Cowboys have hired their ninth head coach in franchise history – former Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy, who brings a lot of experience with him, both during the regular season and the playoffs.
McCarthy was fired by the Packers in 2018 after 13 seasons following a 4-7-1 start to 2019 and after bringing his team to the playoffs in eight of those seasons.
McCarthy is fully prepared to take over the talented but struggling Dallas Cowboys thanks to his year off from professional football, a time when he created what he calls the “The McCarthy Project.”
This unique approach to an ‘off’ year included him and other coaches spending every working day updating his antiquated playbooks and preparing for whatever job would inevitably come their way.
The idea of “The McCarthy Project” was to be ready to jump in the moment a new head coaching job was offered to him and his team, something that must have appealed to a desperate Jerry Jones.
Well, he sure could win in Green Bay while he was there.
In 13 seasons as the head coach of the Green Bay Packers, McCarthy went 125-77-2, plus he took the team to the playoffs nine times, his postseason record 10-8.
In the ten times his Packers faced the Dallas Cowboys, he beat them seven times, including a win in the NFC Divisional Round in 2014, the game when receiver Dez Bryant’s reception was controversially ruled an incompletion.
That’s the big question since it’s been reported that one of the (many) reasons he was let go from the Green Bay Packers was his inability to get along with quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Nobody is exactly sure of the source of those problems in that relationship, but it was rumored that the two had a rocky relationship from the get-go.
Now his job will be to breathe life into the Cowboys’ quarterback, Dak Prescott, who despite seemingly unlimited talent and targets (and without a long term contract as of yet) seems to be struggling to bring his team to the postseason.
At this point, the situation is new so it’s hard to tell, but if you read certain Tweets that have come out, it doesn’t appear that Cowboys fans very split.
Cowboys fans seem to be excited about Mike McCarthy. I guess if I was eating bread for 9 years, a bagel would slightly excite me too. But it’s still bread.
— Thugfruit (@thugfruit) January 6, 2020
Mike Lukas is a retired standup comedian turned freelance writer now living in Dallas, Texas, originally from Cleveland, Ohio. His love for the game of football and all things Cleveland Browns turned Mike into a pro blogger years ago. Now Mike enjoys writing about all thirty-two NFL teams, hoping to help football gamblers gain a slight edge in their pursuit of the perfect wager. Email: [email protected]More info on Mike Lukas
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