Inside this column
- Aaron Rodgers in Seattle?
- How Ugly Will the QB Market Be?
- 12 teams in Need of a QB
- Deion Sanders: Make It Harder to Make the Hall
- This and That
In what figures to be one of the most desperate offseasons of quarterback movement in NFL history, there is a possibility that Aaron Rodgers could be Seattle's answer to its Russell Wilson problem.
And, by extension, its Pete Carroll problem.
There are plenty of people, especially fans, who are holding on to some hope of a Seahawks revival that will somehow create the momentum for Wilson and Carroll to keep the band together. At 4-8, Seattle is in a precarious situation. At the same time, this is still a team with enough talent and a reasonable schedule to contend for the playoffs.
The final five games of the season for the Seahawks feature Houston, Detroit, Chicago, a season finale against an Arizona team that likely will be resting players for the playoffs, and one pretty difficult matchup against the Rams in Los Angeles. It's not absurd to imagine Seattle running the table or winning four of five to get to 9-8 or 8-9 and into the playoffs.
Beyond what that means for this season, there is the looming question about the future. While we can never truly know what moves highly competitive people, there are plenty of people in Seattle who believe this is the end of a great run. No matter what happens the rest of the way, the belief is that Wilson is gone. Between his desire for more say, a higher-profile for himself and his wife's desire to be in a bigger market for both of them, the divorce is coming.
"He's not the same Russell who came into the league trying to make everybody happy," said a long-time league source with knowledge of the Seattle dynamic. "He wants certain things. He wants to be in a place that puts his name up on billboards and makes him the center of attention. His wife wants that, too. They want to be in a place like New York or just a place that will make him the face of the organization completely."
Aside from the source, Seahawks General Manager John Schneider is among those who privately believe Wilson is gone. Obviously, it's Schneider's job to sort out what a post-Wilson team will look like and, transitively, wondering if this is also going to be a post-Carroll team. For years, Carroll has said within the organization that when Wilson is done, he's done.
With Carroll at age 71, that's obviously not far-fetched. Carroll is incredibly spry and energetic for his age, but it's hard to imagine him wanting to be part of a serious rebuild that would include a search for a new quarterback. Especially a search in a year when the crop of college quarterbacks is considered the worst in perhaps 40 years (more on that in a moment). Moreover, will the Seahawks want to rebuild with a coach who isn't going to be around long-term?
But there is one interesting hope and that revolves around Rodgers, who Schneider knows from their younger days with the Packers. The gregarious Schneider also has a deep understanding of just how prickly Rodgers can be to deal with. Additionally, Carroll is one of the few coaches Rodgers might respect enough to want to work for. Their shared Northern California roots might also be enough for a short-term partnership, which is fine. In football terms, neither Carroll nor Rodgers are buying a lot of green bananas.
Moreover, Rodgers is going to want good receivers. D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett qualify as a great start. Some people are wondering if Rodgers will try to bring Davante Adams along with him wherever he goes. Adams will be a free agent, although it's hard to imagine Green Bay letting their best receiver go as they transition to Jordan Love.
The bottom line is this: Seattle figures to go one of two ways this offseason. It's either going to be a huge overhaul that includes finding a new quarterback and likely a new coach or it's going to be a major play to replace the greatest quarterback in team history and a guy with near-Hall of Fame credentials with a guy who is one of the greatest quarterbacks in league history with established Hall of Fame credentials.
Which leads to the next point.
Teams Desperately Seeking a Quarterback
Let's put the next offseason in perspective: In the 2022 free agent market, don't be surprised if Jimmy Garoppolo gets a $25- or even $30-million-a-year contract. Likewise, Jameis Winston could be in line for a big payday this offseason after barely getting a sniff in the 2020 offseason.
Finally, Houston may finally get that mountain of draft picks they were seeking for Deshaun Watson.
Three team personnel men expressed extreme discomfort with those projections, thought about them for a minute and then agreed.
"If you need a quarterback, this is going to be ugly," one of them said.
The biggest culprit in this equation is the NFL Draft. When it comes to quarterback, this draft comes up way short compared to more recent years. In truth, it may be awful overall. But the glaring problem is quarterback, where there are currently three or four quarterbacks projected to go in the first round (Kenny Pickett of Pitt, Matt Corral of Mississippi, Carson Strong of Nevada and Malik Willis of Liberty).
"None of those guys should really go in the first round, but at least a couple will," one personnel man said. "I like Pickett the best, but it's going to take a while and you better be loaded around him...if all four of those guys go that high, it tells you something about how bad we need quarterbacks."
Those executives compared this draft to among the worst in recent years, including 2013, when only E.J. Manuel went in the first round. There was 2007, when JaMarcus Russell went No. 1 and Brady Quinn joined him in the first round. There was 1997, when only Jim Druckenmiller snuck into the late part of the first, and 1996, the last time no quarterback went that early.
"Somebody is going to go (in the first round) and I think those guys (Pickett, Corral, Strong and Willis) can all be decent, but I don't see any stars in that group. Look at it this way, Pickett was considered a fifth-round pick by most people a year ago at this time. Doesn't that tell you that his talent is just so-so?" one executive said.
What that means is that the chase for veterans is going to be stronger than ever. Rodgers, Wilson and Watson head the class of veterans who will likely be on the market. But upwards of 12 teams could be looking for quarterbacks.
That means that guys like Garoppolo and Winston may be in high demand. And here's a look at the teams that could be looking at them.
Pittsburgh: Perhaps when the Steelers start to get a really good sense of the market, they might change direction on Ben Roethlisberger and ask him to return for one more hurrah. That's how bad things could get. If not, the Steelers aren't the typical team that would make some giant splash at quarterback in free agency or via trade. Thus, if you're a Steelers fan, you could easily be looking at the team searching in the draft. Given the lack of talent this year, you could be staring down the second-coming of Mark Malone.
Carolina: That Cam Newton reunion was fun while it lasted, even if it didn't last as long as the Sam Darnold Experience.
Houston: The Texans may end up getting the five picks and players they were hoping to get for Watson last offseason, which is amazing under the circumstances. However, they still need to find a quarterback of the future.
Denver: Teddy Bridgewater was a nice Band-Aid to get them through this season. But the Broncos have spent a lot of resources to build the offense, including new contracts for Courtland Sutton and Tim Patrick and first-round picks on Jerry Jeudy and Noah Fant. They need a serious trigger man and all signs point toward a play for Rodgers.
Seattle: As discussed, the Seahawks will need somebody new if/when Wilson leaves.
Washington: Taylor Heinicke is fun to watch because it's like the football version of Let It Ride. The dude is playing on house money and having fun. But the reality is that he just doesn't really look like a long-term answer.
Cleveland: Baker Mayfield deserves a lot of credit for playing hurt. But that doesn't mean he's playing particularly well. He still has trouble getting to the second and third reads and those reads are there. You don't develop a running game like the Browns have and not have open receivers.
Philadelphia: Jalen Hurts has flashed plenty of good and bad, but the sum total of what he is doesn't look like a franchise quarterback and there's nothing that owner Jeff Lurie and GM Howie Roseman want more than a franchise quarterback. And they make the decision.
New Orleans: Taysom Hill? Eh. Jameis Winston return for another make-good deal? The Saints are in a bad position of having a bunch of options that all look mediocre.
Atlanta: The thinking before this season was that team would play out this year with Matt Ryan and move on. That's going to be really difficult to do now given the circumstances. Still, the future beckons.
New York Giants: There are still plenty of people on the Daniel Jones hype train. Not sure why, but they're out there. That said, if Wilson is available, the Giants should move heaven and earth to get him.
Miami: Tua Tagovailoa is a quick decision-maker and very accurate. But there's nothing explosive about him and probably never will be. He hasn't regained the speed he had long ago at Alabama, so he gets hit a lot. There's a reason the Dolphins were chasing Watson at the October trade deadline and there's a reason they will chase him again this offseason.
Is Less More For the Hall of Fame?
Deion Sanders was blunt.
"There should be less guys, not more," Sanders said after being asked about how to deal with the backlog of players who seem qualified to enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It is, of course, a little easy to say that when you're already in the club.
And especially when you are as singularly as good as Sanders, who was either the greatest cornerback in NFL history or not more than a couple of spots from that perch. Sanders is a Hall of Famer by any standard and probably on a short list of the greatest athletes in American history with his baseball and track exploits.
So, for Sanders to shut the doors -- or at least ask an extraordinarily high cover charge to the greatest club in sports -- seems a bit dismissive. But as the 49 selectors work to whittle the list of 26 semifinalists to 15 finalists and then a likely five enshrines for next year's Canton class, Sanders might have a point.
This will be the 10th year that I have had the honor of being a selector for the Hall. It is perhaps the greatest project I do each year. My method of research includes my own research, discussions with plenty who have been around the game for decades and, finally, a survey of 400 people who either played, coached and/or were executives in the league for at least 25 years.
And as I surveyed the 26 semifinalists that were announced last week, I was left to ask a lot of questions about narrowing the field to 15. This might be the deepest group of semifinalists I have ever seen, each man having a good argument for them. At the same time, almost all of them have some type of flaw.
To me, the only sure-fire candidate in the lot is DeMarcus Ware, the great pass-rusher who was more of a one-man wrecking crew at the height of his career in Dallas and then helped Denver win a Super Bowl toward the end of his career. While there are plenty of guys on the list I have spoken up for in previous meetings (Tony Boselli, Zach Thomas, Torry Holt and Richard Seymour) and there are others I feel strongly about (Steve Smith, Vince Wilfork, Patrick Willis and Fred Taylor), the reality is that I know that none of those guys are slam dunks.
So, while I'm left to think that one day perhaps all 26 players on this list might be enshrined in Canton, I also wonder if whether that's a good thing. In the process of honoring the greatest players in the history of the game, are we somehow eroding the standard of what a Hall of Famer should be?
Is Deion right?
New England coach Bill Belichick has, in his own way, wondered the same thing. In my conversations with Belichick, he always asks, rhetorically, what is the standard for the Hall? He knows full well there isn't one. There are some benchmarks, like TD passes, sacks or rushing yards. But there is nothing empirical. As long-time football reporter and former selector Len Pasquarelli once said, figuring out who is a Hall of Famer is more like a "smell test."
Does Ricky Watters smell like a Hall of Famer? It's close. Eddie George? If you saw him play in that ridiculous division with the likes of Pittsburgh and Baltimore at the time, you could make a great case.
Steve Tasker? Maybe the greatest gunner in special teams history. Devin Hester? If he was about the return a kick or punt, you didn't dare take your eyes off the field.
At the same time, if you let in Watters or George, does that open the door for LeSean McCoy or Corey Dillon? If Tasker gets in, does that mean that Matthew Slater one day gets in as well.
Last year, the selectors put in former Dallas great Drew Pearson in the Hall. I maintain that if you let in Pearson, men like Harold Jackson start to have good arguments. Same goes with us letting in Harold Carmichael. Carmichael was excellent. Was that enough?
That's where Deion's voice keeps nagging at me in my head. Are we, as a group, lowering the standard?
"We've got guys who are getting in who were good. Really good. But you have to be more than just really good to get in," Deion said. "If you get in the Hall, there shouldn't be some debate."
It's hard to argue with a man who defined greatness over his entire career.
This and That
- Patriots wide receiver N'Keal Harry took some deserved criticism for his fumble punt on Monday night. At the same time, Harry deserves a lot of credit for his blocking in that game. Harry completely bought into the game plan to block anybody who lined up on the edge for Buffalo. In fact, he was so into it that on at least two occasions, Harry had his feet lined up pointed at the end of the line rather than downfield before the snap. I'm not sure I've ever seen that before on a regular basis.
- This has been a rough statistical season for Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson. His touchdown percentage has cratered to less than half of his breakout 2019 season and he has already set career highs for interceptions and sacks. His missed throw on the two-point attempt against Pittsburgh was rough. This is all extremely troubling, but not unexpected given all the injuries the Ravens have had at running back. However, what this also points out is that Jackson's success is completely tied to the system around him. It exists in a careful balance. If opposing defenses can continue to keep him in the pocket the way they have this season, Baltimore is going to have to come up with a counter punch to help Jackson.
- Granted, Miami rookie defensive end Jaelan Phillps has faced Carolina, the New York Jets and Giants in the past three games, but he has six sacks and eight quarterback hits in those games. He has 8.5 sacks on the season. It's early, but he looks serious.
- Rumor out of Las Vegas is that owner Mark Davis is extremely disappointed with how many opposing fans are showing up at Allegiant Stadium. Davis was particularly upset when the Chiefs came to town and turned the place into Arrowhead West. A big problem is that many season ticket holders are selling tickets because of the huge markup to fans who want a weekend in Sin City. The Raiders are now 5-10 at home since moving to Vegas. Coupled with the off-field issues, things aren't going well so far.
- Speaking of the Raiders, they currently are the worst in the league in penalty ratio, having been called for 23 more penalties than their opponents. Ugly.
Jason Cole has covered the NFL since 1992 and has been a selector for the Pro Football Hall of Fame since 2012. He is the author of seven books, including the biography of John Elway (Elway: A Relentless Life).
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