NEW YORK, N.Y.- Has Bill Belichick done it again? Is the evil empire pulling a line from Lee Corso and saying, “Not so fast my friend!” to all of those who are burying the Patriots dynasty? The legendary head coach, after departing from a quarterback who helped him win six Super Bowls this offseason, pulled a rabbit out of his hat with the signing of former MVP Cam Newton on Sunday evening. While the move is a flashy one with a big name set to fill the void left by Tom Brady, there’s little reason to believe Newton will have much of an impact for the Patriots this season and even less reason to believe he’ll even beat out Jarrett Stidham to win the starting job week one.
Health is still the most pressing question for Newton. Since taking the Carolina Panthers to the Super Bowl in 2015, the former Heisman Trophy winner has played a full 16-game season just once in the last four years. This is a player who missed the final 14 games of the 2019 season and two games in the prior season. As the old cliché in sports goes “The best ability is availability.” It’s impossible to deem the Patriots true Super Bowl contenders because their newest acquisition is far from a guarantee to step on the field.
While getting on the field is one concern, staying on the field is an even taller task. The good news for the Patriots is that Newton did pass a physical back in March, with both his shoulder and foot “checking out well,” according to a source who relayed that information to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. So while the Auburn product has checked the first box, it’s far from a foregone conclusion that this will equate to a healthy 2020 season. Cam’s body has taken a ton of abuse throughout his nine-year career. He’s had surgeries to his shoulder (twice), foot and ankle while also suffering back vertebrae fractures after a car accident.
As a Colts fan myself, I’ve witnessed first-hand how a player’s body gets worn down over time to the point where the slightest injury could end a career. Andrew Luck, while not as reliant on his legs as the 2015 NFL MVP, would still use his body to run over defenders while also being able to bounce back up after punishing hits. Years of exposure to big hits eventually took its toll, as Luck decided to retire in 2018 in part because of all of the punishment his body suffered.
While the Luck example is an extreme one, it highlights what happens if a team neglects to protect their quarterback. The wear and tear Newton’s body accrued over nine seasons doesn’t just go away because he’s healed from previous injuries. It will only get harder for Cam to keep himself healthy as his career elongates. If the former top pick wants to continue to play his physical, bruising style of football, it’s tough to imagine he’ll be able to make it through a full 16-game schedule, which would put a damper on the playoff hopes of the Patriots.
Putting health aside for a minute, the learning curve that the former Panther has to overcome in this unusual offseason is another reason to slam the brakes on the “Cam Newton will have a huge impact in New England” narrative. Signing on June 29th, Newton will have just about a month to learn the Josh McDaniels offense before training camp begins. The difficulty level increases due to the fact that the quarterback and offensive coordinator can’t meet in person until practices officially get underway. Taking it a step further, this also means Newton won’t be able to throw to any of his new teammates until training camp. Not exactly an ideal circumstance when you’re trying to beat out a player who already knows the offense.
2020 will be a season like we’ve never seen before. Two factors that will play a major role in the success or lack thereof from teams will be: continuity and familiarity. Minimal-to-zero offseason contact between players this offseason benefits those teams who are returning head coaches, quarterbacks and rosters from 2019. This gives Stidham a tremendous leg up on the competition. The former Auburn quarterback himself had all of last year to build chemistry with the skill position players and absorb McDaniels’ system, which will mean he’ll hit training camp full steam ahead. The familiarity that the second-year quarterback has with the offense could end up being the difference in him starting week one.
Another pandemic-affected aspect that will benefit the returning quarterback is that the preseason has been chopped in half, as there are only two preseason games scheduled. While teams have been valuing these glorified scrimmages less and less in recent years, it would have been the perfect opportunity for Belichick & Co. to see what they have in the former number one pick. The less preseason games, the bigger the advantage for Stidham to win the starting job.
Between injuries and learning a new playbook, it doesn’t add up to Cam Newton having success with the Patriots in 2020. To already hand New England the AFC East title or even going further to state this signing makes the six-time Super Bowl champions a legitimate contender for the Lombardi Trophy is premature to say the least. When all is said and done, it will be Stidham, not Newton, that will be under center by the time week one rolls around.
NEW YORK, N.Y.- The Miami Dolphins are finally on the clock. After a year of “Tanking for Tua” and accumulating as many draft picks as possible, they can finally start addressing their needs, starting at the quarterback position. Holding the fifth pick, it seems destined that Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa will be sitting in their lap, waiting to put on the aqua and orange. But now that this day has finally come, the decision is harder than it seems. There is no doubting that the Crimson Tide quarterback has the talent to transcend a franchise. There is very little on the field that Tua does wrong, transforming the SEC powerhouse from a ground and pound team to one that slices and dices defenses with a lethal aerial attack. There is a major flaw with the 22-year-old and that is his health, more specifically, his durability. Which begs the question: Should the Dolphins trust Tua to be their franchise quarterback?
From a talent perspective, the answer to that question is a resounding yes. Normally, the biggest question marks surrounding quarterbacks heading into the NFL Draft are their physical tools. Do they have a strong arm? Are they accurate? Can they read defenses and analyze information quickly? Can they be a leader of men? At Alabama, he aced all of those questions. The two-year starter amassed 77 touchdowns to just nine interceptions while claiming numerous accolades, including 2018 SEC Player of the Year and was a consensus All-American that same season. He holds the single season touchdown record (43) and is the career touchdown leader (87) in Alabama history.
Equally as impressive as his stats are his leadership abilities. According to The Athletic’s Dane Brugler, Alabama head coach Nick Saban had a very glowing compliment of the quarterback’s effect on the university as a whole.
“Tua has probably had as much of an impact on our program as any player we have ever had,” Saban said. It’s tough to find a compliment that has greater weight than that.
While the on-field accomplishments and leadership say that the Hawaiian native can turn a franchise around, the injury concerns say he can’t be relied upon. The former Alabama star has had more than his fair share of nicks and bruises throughout his two seasons as the starter. During his three years in Tuscaloosa, there were five documented injuries that Tua suffered. Three of these injuries (broken finger in March of 2018, sprained right knee in October of 2018 and left ankle surgery in December of 2018) did not see the signal caller miss a game. The latest two injuries he suffered this past season saw the Heisman hopeful miss a total of four games, including a dislocated hip that ended his college career.
What’s even more alarming is that while five injuries in three years is significant, it’s possible that more setbacks occurred without anyone knowing. Former NFL executive Mike Lombardi reported that on top of the injuries listed above, Tua broke his wrist not once but twice. On the GM Shuffle podcast, Lombardi expanded.
“It’s not just his hip. It’s his ankle. It’s his wrist,” Lombardi said. “He broke his wrist the first day of spring ball one year. And then they fixed it and he came back and he re-broke it again.”
This is of major importance because it could be a precursor to what Dolphins fans could expect in the future if Miami tabs Tua to be their guy. At Alabama, Tagovailoa had great offensive lines in the two seasons he was the starting quarterback. Both in 2018 and 2019, the Crimson Tide were finalists for the Joe Moore Award, an honor given to the best offensive line in the country.
The junior was sacked just 10 times in 2019, while Alabama as a whole allowed the third fewest sacks in the country. In 2018, the Crimson Tide were tied for 12th with just 16 sacks allowed in 15 games. Despite having great protection throughout his college career, Tagovailoa still found himself injured. Looking at what the Dolphins possess on their offensive line, it’s worrisome that the injury-riddled quarterback will be subject to a ton of pressure and will be hit more in one year than his entire college career. Miami allowed the most quarterback hits (147) and tied for first in sacks allowed (58) in 2019, so it’s a stark contrast from the protection Tua was afforded in college to the kind of protection he’ll be dealing with in the pros.
The injury prone label that is being floated around isn’t hyperbole, as NFL teams are legitimately questioning whether the talent is worth the injury risk. Lombardi went on to say that two teams he knew of flunked Tua’s physical not just because of the questions surrounding his hip injury, but because of the total compilation of injuries suffered throughout his career. There is good news concerning his hip injury, as two doctors have said his hip is recovering perfectly and there should be very little worry that his hip will suffer the same fate of Bo Jackson’s. While the hip is encouraging, the fear for the Dolphins should be focused on his ability to stay healthy, not his current health to date.
All of these injuries and serious concerns are enough for me, if I were the Dolphins, to pass on drafting Tagovailoa. There are already examples in the NFL of talented quarterbacks getting drafted to be the franchise leader only to have injuries derail their career. The last thing the Dolphins can afford is to have another Robert Griffin III or Sam Bradford situation. While Tua’s upside is higher I believe than both of those players, the risk is even greater as well. Andrew Luck’s career arc should be enough to give the Dolphins a peek into the future if they draft Crimson Tide star and aren’t able to protect him adequately enough. Even just a year or two behind this extremely porous offensive line could be enough for the already brittle quarterback to never fully recover.
It’s an old cliché, but a very fitting one when it comes to the decision of finding the next elite quarterback. A player’s best ability is his availability, and for Tua, that’s his most questionable feature. It’s why I believe the Dolphins would be better off drafting Oregon’s Justin Herbert or even bypassing the position completely and drafting an offensive tackle. While they might not be getting the player they dreamed of drafting back in September, the good news for the Dolphins is that there are other fish in the sea.
NEW YORK, N.Y.- After months of speculation, Tom Brady made it official on Tuesday morning that his time in New England was done and he would play elsewhere in 2020. The Buccaneers seemed to come out of the shadows and land Brady’s services. The six-time Super Bowl champion taking his talents to Tampa should provide for some high-octane offensive play. While the highlights should be abundant, Brady didn’t sign with the Bucs to only throw touchdown passes and have a good time. His goal of winning hasn’t changed, and he wouldn’t have signed up if he didn’t believe the team that went 7-9 last year were just a few pieces away from being legitimate contenders in a deep NFC. Will Brady be right?
Before we look ahead at what could be in 2020, we must first
look back at 2019 to try and figure out what led to the Patriots offense
becoming pedestrian, especially in the second half. The final eight games of
the regular season, New England averaged just over 21 points per game, compared
to 31 points per game they average in the first half of the season. While it’s
easy to point to the trigger man as the main reason for the two score drop off,
it goes deeper than that. The Patriots offensive system, guided by offensive
coordinator Josh McDaniels, is predicated on reading the defense and adjusting
routes based on what they see. Reading the defense doesn’t just start and stop
at the quarterback position though. It extends to the running backs, tight ends
and wide receivers. Everyone has to be on the same page and the timing must be
exact, or else the entire play is thrown off.
The rotating cast at the skill positions, which saw first
round pick N’Keal Harry miss the first nine games of the season, Mohamed Sanu traded
for halfway through the year and an extra reliance on rookie Jakobi Meyers, not
to mention both Antonio Brown and Josh Gordon coming in and then going out,
Brady wasn’t able to trust his targets. The lack of trust stemmed from not
being on the same page, which led to bad throws and a stagnant offense. Last year
wasn’t a hint that Father Time is finally catching up to the ageless wonder,
but instead a reassurance that Brady can no longer make chicken salad out of,
well, you know.
Looking ahead now to the upcoming season, the new toys Brady has at his disposal jump right off the page. Tampa boasts arguably the best wide receiver tandem in the league, as Chris Godwin and Mike Evans both surpassed 1,100 receiving yards last season. Brady hasn’t had two players both go over 1,100 yards in the same season since 2011, when Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski combined for 2,896 yards. On top of those two on the outside, the future Hall of Famer also has two solid tight end options in Cameron Brate and OJ Howard. While there’s still work that has to be done at the running back position, this is already shaping up to be one of the best supporting casts ever assembled around the soon to be 43-year-old.
Brady also gets the pleasure of working with pass-happy head coach Bruce Arians, whose aggressive mindset allowed former Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston to create the infamous 30-touchdown, interception club. Arians worked his magic with the likes of Ben Roethlisberger, Andrew Luck and Carson Palmer, so it will be intriguing to see what he can do with an all-time great chasing his seventh Super Bowl victory. The biggest question mark with this new marriage is how Brady, who is known more as an underneath to intermediate passer, will integrate into the vertical passing system that Arians runs.
The Buccaneers upcoming 2020 schedule also adds to the fun,
as there are a few very sexy matchups that are sure to put Tampa Bay in
primetime more than they’ve ever been. The former Patriot (still so weird to write)
will go against his former defensive coordinator in Matt Patricia, battle Drew
Brees twice and gets a shot against the only other team that made an offer for
his services in the Los Angeles Chargers. There are also some awesome
quarterback matchups slated for the 101st NFL season, as the Michigan
alum will take on Aaron Rodgers, Kirk Cousins and Patrick Mahomes. These games
will bring the most eyes and attention that have been on this franchise since
their 2002 Super Bowl season.
While the weapons, head coach and schedule present some great opportunities for fireworks this upcoming season, the main question surrounding this team is whether they will be legitimate contenders not just in the conference, but in their own division. The Falcons are gearing up offensively to match the firepower of Tampa Bay, signing Todd Gurley to add to the collection of talent they possess that includes Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, Hayden Hurst and Matt Ryan. The Saints return Drew Brees and most of the weapons that helped power New Orleans to a 13-3 record. Both of those teams already pose bigger threats than most of the competition the Patriots have rolled over in the AFC East for the last 20 years. The Panthers don’t appear to be a pushover either, as the signing of Teddy Bridgewater will keep them competitive in 2020.
Outside of just a more challenging division, the NFC poses a deeper road to the Super Bowl than the AFC. Before the breakthrough of the Chiefs this past year, the Patriots controlled the conference for two decades, going to 13 AFC Conference Championship games in that span. While Brady navigated the AFC littered with young, up-and-coming gunslingers, the NFC is filled with established, championship-winning signal callers. Standing in the way of a seventh Lombardi Trophy are the likes of Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees.
In addition to those star quarterbacks, the NFC also boasts
the defending conference champion in a young and physical 49ers team, the
Vikings, who pulled off an impressive playoff upset over the Saints, a talent
loaded Cowboys team that is armed with a head coach who doesn’t specialize in clapping
and the Eagles, who barring catastrophic injuries, will be a tough out.
While the road may be tough, there is promise that the
Buccaneers can turn it around from a losing season to right in the thick of it this
year. Ironically enough, it’s on the defensive end where the Brady signing could
show the biggest dividends. Last year, Tampa Bay’s defense, especially their
secondary, struggle mightily. But was is truly all their fault? The answer lies
on the other side of the ball. In 2019, the defense was credited with allowing
449 points, which was the fourth most in the league. Part of that was due in
part to Winston’s record setting seven pick-sixes thrown that directly added 49
points to their total points allowed tally. You take away those 49 points and while
it’s still not pretty, it’s improvement as they move from fourth to 10th
worst in total points allowed.
That’s not where the optimism for a defensive turnaround in
2020 ends. Of the 23 interceptions thrown by the former number one overall pick
that weren’t returned for touchdowns, 16 occurred in the Buccaneers’ own end of
the field, putting the defense in a tough spot to succeed. The overall efficiency
numbers reflect the notion that the defense, led by defensive coordinator Todd
Bowles, was a lot better than the scoreboard indicated. According to Football
Outsiders, Tampa Bay was fifth in defensive DVOA, which is a collection of
data that measures the overall efficiency of the unit. So, despite the Buccaneers
struggling statistically, the simple addition of Brady and subtraction of
Winston should automatically give them a boost.
The path to a 10th Super Bowl appearance seems as tough as it’s ever been for Brady. The positive is that despite is age, he’s insulated with a supporting cast that can pick up him in a way the 2019 Patriots couldn’t. Barring injuries, it’s tough to bet against the man who’s only known winning his entire career. The playoffs are very attainable, and frankly expected, especially with the addition of an extra wild card team. 2020 will be simultaneously both the same and different. It will take some getting used to seeing the Boston icon wearing the pewter and red. The quest though, remains the same and the final destination is a familiar one, as Raymond James Stadium will host the upcoming Super Bowl. The end goal of raising that Lombardi Trophy doesn’t change, but for once, the journey will be a fun one.
Football fans and WWE fans – remember the XFL? Shockingly, it debuted 19 years ago, back in February 2001. The NFL is king of football, as we know. There have been somewhat successful alternative football leagues before. We currently have leagues like the CFL (Canadian Football League), and the AFL (Arena Football League); and other failed leagues like the USFL (United States Football League), the AAF (Alliance of American Football), and even NFL Europe. Then of course, we had the colossal failure that was the XFL. I can still recall Vince McMahon’s voice screaming, “THIS…IS…THE XFL!” Vince McMahon failed miserably in his first attempt to create an alternative football league for many reasons.
For starters, McMahon only gave himself one year to prepare for the launch of the league. Another problem was the way people could consume the product; some games were on NBC, others were on networks most football fans hadn’t heard of. Let’s face it – the league was way too gimmicky. It had too much of a WWE feel, from the presentation of the games to the announcers calling them. Whether it was the “He Hate Me” jerseys, the radical rule changes, or simply the lack of a quality product, the league quickly lost viewers and ultimately failed after just one season.
But all hope was not lost. We know Vince McMahon is a very driven, successful businessman. The WWE was founded in the 1950s, and is currently as popular as it has ever been. The WWE is responsible for stars like Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant, Jesse Ventura, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and John Cena, to name a few. Amazingly, the company has a net worth of $3.2 BILLION! He obviously knows how to operate and grow an entertainment product. This time, he’ll learn from his mistakes, right?
After watching the first week of the XFL reboot, I think it has potential to be around for a very long time. The one thing the NFL is lacking is a place to develop their talent. Sure, I guess that’s what the NCAA is for… but is that really enough? These kids are entering into the NFL not even old enough to legally drink alcohol, and going up against grown men on the biggest stage with hardly enough time to prepare, both mentally and physically. There are only 32 NFL teams, with only 53 roster spots. But there are far more than 1,696 football players and coaches. Wouldn’t it make sense for there to be a developmental league for the NFL?
Since there are so few roster spots and coaching openings, it makes perfect sense to have a league for fringe level NFL talent. The possibilities are endless. If every NFL team had an XFL team, players and coaches can get actual game experience to work diligently to improve their skills. Theoretically, a team could install a minor league program, where potential players and coaches could learn a team’s system, and be ready to jump onto the pro team fully prepared to run the team’s schemes. Think about the depth that would create for teams, and how ultimately the quality of play could increase with all this extra preparation! Not to mention, the XFL could be used to experiment with rule changes, safety features and camera angles.
Week 1 definitely showed potential. It actually resembled real football. The production was top notch, there were compelling stories, familiar names (players, coaches, even announcers), and there was genuine excitement surrounding the games. For the sake of the NFL, we should all hope that the XFL takes off for the reasons mentioned above. The NFL needs a minor league system, and Vince McMahon seems to have created just that. Enjoy a few more weeks of grid-iron battles, football fans!
By all accounts, the San Francisco 49ers had a tremendous season with a window wide open to win a Super Bowl despite their bad loss in Super Bowl LIV to the Kansas City Chiefs. The team is young and talented, but now in the aftermath of their Super Bowl loss, questions seems to be focused on their quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Garoppolo is bearing most of the blame for their loss to the Chiefs after a bad 4th quarter performance, but it’s not just the blame he’s getting, Garoppolo is getting talks of being replaced by the public after just three years as the starter.
With the 49ers being where they are, many believe they can’t win a championship with Garoppolo at quarterback. That he’s to limited and relies heavily on a defense, running game and a tremendous head coach in Kyle Shanahan. Some even bringing up that Tom Brady, a 49ers fan growing up and a free agent this offseason, should be signed by the 49ers to win a Super Bowl with this San Francisco team. This chatter about Garoppolo is a far cry from where we were with him just three years ago.
Before Garoppolo became the starter after he was traded from the New England Patriots to the 49ers, San Francisco was sitting at 1-10 until Garoppolo was put in Week 11 against the Chicago Bears, helping them to a 15-14 victory. This was the beginning of a 5-game winning streak to close the season for the 49ers and Garoppolo finished the season undefeated while throwing for 1,560 passing yards, 7 touchdowns, 5 interceptions, completing 67% of his passes, and a 96.2 passer rating. Things looked good for Garoppolo. He was heralded as the new face of the league and the next big thing while being compared a lot to his former mentor, Tom Brady.
The 49ers signed Garoppolo to a massive 5-year deal worth up to $137.5 million. Unfortunately, 2018 saw Garoppolo suffer a torn ACL in Week 3, costing him his season. Despite that, Garoppolo came back to put up a real solid year in 2019 for San Francisco throwing 27 touchdown passes, completing 69% of his throws, and achieving a 102.0 passer rating. San Francisco won 13 games this year all with Garoppolo as the starter which puts his overall record in San Francisco at 19-5. While he wasn’t great in the postseason, he was still their quarterback on the road to the Super Bowl. So, what’s the rush now to get rid of him?
Due to the way his contract is structured, the 49ers can release or trade him before April 1st, but they really don’t have a reason to. Finding a quarterback is one of the hardest things to do in sports. If San Francisco somehow gets rid of Garoppolo, there is no guarantee the next guy will step in and be better. Especially compared to what Garoppolo has already done. With the talk that the 49ers should sign Brady, we just got to ask why would the 49ers let a 28-year old potential decade long quarterback who has done nothing but win so far for their organization and just helped them get to a Super Bowl, would replace him for maybe one year of Brady? Even if Brady is the best quarterback ever, the move wouldn’t make any sense.
Garoppolo had a bad 4th quarter in Super Bowl LIV, which is a shame because for 3 quarters he outperformed the eventual MVP of the game, Patrick Mahomes. However, if we are going to say the 49ers should replace him because he lost a Super Bowl, then the Los Angeles Rams should’ve looked for a new quarterback after Jared Goff had a terrible performance in their Super Bowl loss the season before. Which would’ve been insane to suggest. Garoppolo has been solid and consistent so far for the 49ers, and for franchise quarterbacks, that is enough to win you a Super Bowl.
We all know Andy Reid is one of the greats in this era, but now we have to start considering him as an all-time best. Andy Reid has been 0-6 in conference championship games leading up to this superbowl win, which might I add had to be his greatest achievement of all.
Reid has always been focused on the people around him. He deflected all talk about his legacy leading up to Super Bowl LIV by saying it was about the team. But Reid’s players did not shy away from how important it was to them to win it for Big Red.
Patrick Mahomes said after the game “ He’s one of the best coaches of all time, he already was”.
Reid was already considered one of the greats of his era before winning the Super Bowl, but his legacy was complicated by numerous playoff losses in occasionally baffling fashion. The Super Bowl win removes the butfrom Reid’s coaching legacy. Now with the trophy in hand and a ring to come, we can look at just where Reid fits among the all-time greats.
Vince Lombardi, Bill Walsh, and John Madden coached for 10 seasons. Reid has 10 division titles. He already has 21 years as a head coach under his (large) belt, and Reid has made the playoffs in 15 of those 21 seasons. He has more total wins than Madden and Lombardi combined. He has won more playoff games than every coach in NFL history except Bill Belichick, Don Shula, and Tom Landry. Reid has made only two Super Bowls, but he has made seven conference championship games, or one every three seasons he has been a coach.
Reid’s turnaround in Kansas City was remarkable for its speed, totality, and flexibility. He inherited a dark situation in Kansas City when he took over in 2013. The year before, the Chiefs went 2-14 and allegations arose that the front office had wiretapped phones in the Chiefs headquarters to spy on coaches. In December 2012, Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher shot and killed Kasandra Perkins, the mother of his child, then drove to Arrowhead Stadium and shot himself in the head in front of general manager Scott Pioli and head coach Romeo Crennel. With the organization at rock bottom, owner Clark Hunt let Pioli and Crennel go and hired Reid, who had just been fired after 130 wins in 14 years with the Eagles.
If Andy Reid is not one of the all-time greats, he will be in the coming years with this lethal Kansas City team especially with Patrick Mahomes at the helm. Hats off to the guy whose IMO was someone who can never win the big game, well ladies and gentlemen I introduce you to Andrew Walter Reid your superbowl 54 winning coach, I’m sure this won’t be the last time we see him in this type of game.. Well done Andy, Well done!!