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RP: What’s next for Terrelle Pryor?

O'Brien Schofield chases Terrelle Pryor

Terrelle Pryor is on the move. Image via Wikipedia

Terrelle Pryor ended his Ohio State career on Tuesday, and the natural next question is where he will end up next. We’ve done some research looking at his options to see what his best path to being an NFL starting QB may be.

NFL Supplemental Draft

Pryor’s lawyer has already indicated that entering the NFL supplemental draft would be his preference. This is a little dicey in the midst of a lockout; while the CBA provides for a supplemental draft in a lockout, just as it did for a draft, none is currently scheduled. And with no opportunity to join a team immediately, being a supplemental draft pick could be even more tenuous than usual.

Amazingly, there have been just five quarterbacks taken in the supplemental draft since it began in 1977, and all five were first round picks. One, Bernie Kosar going to the Browns in 1985, was an unqualified success. The others – Dave Wilson to Saints in 1981, Timm Rosenbach to the Cardinals and Steve Walsh to the Cowboys in 1989, and Dave Brown to the Giants in 1992 – didn’t work out for player or team.

It’s hard to picture Pryor as a first-round pick, because even though he’s talented he has not been a consistent passer in his three years at Ohio State. But NFL Films’ Greg Cosell said he had heard Pryor connected with the first round. Would a team that needs a QB of the future (the Redskins come immediately to mind) take a shot at Pryor with an early-round pick? We could certainly see that happening.

The supplemental draft works like this: teams must submit “blind” bids on players – basically an email that indicates they would spend a certain round pick on the player. The winning team is the team that bids the earliest round, with ties broken by 2010 record. The winning team surrenders a 2012 pick in the equivalent round. Under this system, we could see Pryor being at least a third-round pick, and a team that falls in love with Pryor could take no chances and would have to spend an even higher pick to lock him up.

If Pryor were to enter the supplemental draft, 2011 would likely be a lost year, but he could be attractive to a team as a developmental project.

UFL

The UFL is only two years old, and only three QBs – J.P. Losman, Chris Greisen, and Richard Bartel – have moved from the minor league to the NFL. But the strategy has worked with other minor leagues – for example, Tommy Maddox used strong play in the XFL to become the Steelers’ starting quarterback. Playing the short UFL season would also lessen Pryor’s injury risk and potentially make him available to the NFL late in the 2011 season. Plus, several of the UFL teams are coached by ex-NFL head coaches. A good word from Marty Schottenheimer, Dennis Green, or Jim Fassel would make Pryor more marketable to the NFL, and spending time with such coaches would help Pryor’s development immensely. The UFL salary won’t be much, but the opportunity could be attractive to Pryor.

CFL

The CFL style of game favors running quarterbacks, so Pryor could absolutely tear up that league with his physical gifts. Could one amazing year in Canada set him up to move to the NFL? The path has been taken before – Warren Moon, Jeff Garcia, Doug Flutie, Joe Theismann, Erik Kramer, Joe Piscarcik, Sean Salisbury, and Dieter Brock are all quarterbacks who parlayed CFL success into an NFL shot. Moon, Theismann, and Garcia all turned those shots into significant success. (Props to this site for the CFL to NFL research.)

But the CFL season is an 18-game grind, and so playing there would present far more injury risk than the UFL. And most CFL contracts do not allow players to jump to the NFL until Jan. 1, which would put Pryor a couple of months behind the UFL timetable in terms of connecting with an NFL team. For those reasons, the UFL seems like a better fit for the future – even though in the present Pryor could be an immediate star above the border.

An FCS school

Pryor couldn’t transfer to another FBS (formerly I-A) school and play in 2011, but he could go down a level and play right away. That ploy has worked to get some players into the NFL in the past – most notably Joe Flacco, a first-round pick by the Ravens. Current Vikings third-stringer Rhett Bomar (who had a similar situation to Pryor at Oklahoma) also took this route. (Here’s a great blog on Bomar and Pryor.) But given the fact that Pryor already faces a five-game NCAA suspension and the possibility that he could be ruled ineligible for the whole year. And playing 6-8 games in the UFL would probably help him more than playing an equal number of games for an FCS squad. Still, this possibility should at least be on his radar.

The bottom line

If Pryor is going to be at least a mid-round pick, he should opt for the NFL supplemental draft. But that means he will be unlikely to see the field at all in 2011, and the lockout would also keep him from cashing in right away. Finding a way to work a one-year deal in the UFL or CFL would get Pryor on the field sooner, and if he played well he could actually advance his NFL draft stock for 2012. That’s a riskier way to go, but it would be a whole lot more fun for all of us to watch.

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Browns murmur Shurmur’s name

The Cleveland Browns settled their head-coaching question Thursday, hiring Pat Shurmur as their head coach. Below are some thoughts on the hire; you can see how it compares to other hires this offseason in this updated post.

Pat Shurmur

Shurmur, who has mentored Donovan McNabb and Sam Bradford, among other players, was Mike Holmgren’s choice to replace Eric Mangini as the head coach of the Cleveland Browns. Shurmur is different than Mangini – he’s an offensive coach, not a defensive coach, and he’s also got an extensive background in the West Coast offense under Andy Reid (another Holmgren protege). (Interestingly, both Shurmur and Mangini have ties to Bill Belichick, because Shurmur spent eight seasons under Belichick apprentice Nick Saban at Michigan State.) It’s clear that Holmgren was looking for a certain type of coach to take over the Browns. Shurmur faces a pretty tall task in Cleveland, because the offense has very few good pieces available. Peyton Hillis a workhorse running back, and the offensive line has terrific keystones in OT Joe Thomas and C Alex Mack. But the quarterback question is still open, as it’s impossible to know at this point whether Colt McCoy is a long-term answer. Holmgren believes Shurmur can find out, given Shurmur’s background developing quarterbacks with the Eagles and Rams. Shurmur was QB coach for the Eagles for seven years, not only helping McNabb perform, but also getting good performances out of lesser lights like an older Jeff Garcia, Koy Detmer, and A.J. Feeley. Then Shurmur became the offensive coordinator with the Rams, and this year he helped rookie Bradford develop very quickly. If Shurmur is to succeed in Cleveland, he must either develop McCoy or make a quick decision that he’s not the guy and move on. It seems like Shurmur is positioned to do that. But Shurmur appears to be Holmgren’s henchman in Cleveland, and the question is whether any head coach could survive with the walrus looming over his shoulder. Can Shurmur be his own coach, or will he be under constant pressure to make the decisions Holmgren would make? Perhaps a coach a with greater resume could, and maybe Holmgren’s family ties to Shurmur (Pat’s uncle Fritz was Holmgren’s long-time defensive coordinator in Green Bay) will aid the relationship. But we don’t feel great that Shurmur can be his own man enough to place his imprint on a Browns team badly in need of a long-term plan.

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FR: 2011 Coaching Changes

First-year Stanford Coach Jim Harbaugh led Sta...

Image via Wikipedia

Each year, we review and compare new head coaches in the NFL. This year’s entries:
*Minnesota (Leslie Frazier, who was the interim, replacing Brad Childress)
*Dallas (Jason Garrett, who was the interim, replacing Wade Phillips)
*San Francisco (Jim Harbaugh, replacing interim Jim Tomsula, who replaced Mike Singletary)
*Carolina (Ron Rivera, replacing John Fox)
*Cleveland (Pat Shurmur, replacing Eric Mangini)
*Denver (John Fox, replacing interim Eric Studesville, who replaced Josh McDaniels)
*Oakland (Hue Jackson, replacing Tom Cable)
*Tennessee (Mike Munchak, replacing Jeff Fisher)

We put these hires through the theory of relativity. We’ll do it on a 10-point scale, with 10 being the best possible hire, and 1 being the worst possible hire. While the hires are pretty tightly bunched right now, we’ll still break them down on our scale.

10 – Leslie Frazier, Vikings – Frazier earned the Vikings’ permanent coaching job after going 3-3 as the interim head coach. Given the crazy circumstances Minnesota faced over the end of the year – a collapsed stadium, two postponed games, one rescheduled game, Brett Favre’s drama, and a third-string quarterback starting, 3-3 was a good result. Frazier has long been a respected defensive coordinator, and he had seven head-coaching interviews before finally landing a job. He’s an excellent defensive backs coach who has had success as a coordinator with the Bengals and Vikings. Frazier has what you want in a head coach – a steady hand, a great relationship with players, and good motivational skills. But he’s stepping into a difficult situation. The Vikings are getting old at a lot of key positions, and they don’t have a quarterback of the present or the future on the roster, unless Joe Webb’s development hits overdrive. Plus, the stadium situation in Minnesota opens the door to a lot of uncertainty and perhaps even a move by the team. So Frazier isn’t getting a plum job. But despite the negative history of interim head coaches over the last two decades, we believe in Frazier, and believe he’s positioned to succeed as a head coach.

9 – none

8 – none

7 – Jim Harbaugh, 49ers – Harbaugh was the hottest coaching prospect in America this year, with at least four NFL options – San Francisco, Denver, Miami, and Carolina – before him, as well as the high-profile job at his alma mater Michigan. After a series of interviews, Harbaugh decided that his gold mine was with the 49ers. It’s easy to see why Harbaugh was so highly regarded by NFL teams. After entering the NFL as a first-round pick, Harbaugh played for 15 years, starting 140 games for the Bears, Colts, Ravens, and Chargers. He’s also the son of the coach, and he acted as an assistant coach for his father at Western Kentucky during his playing career. After retiring, Harbaugh was a quarterback coach for the Raiders (including their 2002 Super Bowl season, in which QB Rich Gannon was league MVP) and then became a college head coach. At San Diego, a non-scholarship school, Harbaugh developed Josh Johnson into an NFL player, and then at Stanford he turned Andrew Luck into one of the best QB prospects ever. But despite his proficiency developing quarterbacks, Harbaugh has shown an old-school offensive approach featuring two running backs and a tight end. That pro style will move to the NFL far easier than a spread offense would. Plus, Harbaugh hired Vic Fangio, a long-time NFL assistant, as his defensive coordinator, and if Fangio moves with Harbaugh, he can take advantage of San Francisco’s talented front seven by continuing to use a 3-4 system and tuning up the aggressiveness. And Harbaugh’s charismatic personality will sell some tickets, even if it doesn’t play as well with pro players as it did with collegians. The question of whether Harbaugh can make the leap from college to the NFL is still a big one – history does not look kindly on coaches making the move – although Harbaugh’s 17 years of NFL experience as a player and assistant at least give hope. San Francisco is gambling big on Harbaugh, and while it’s easy to see why he’s flavor of the month, for some reason our hopes for Harbaugh aren’t as high as the hype suggests.

6 – Jason Garrett, Cowboys – Garrett took over the Cowboys as an interim head coach at midseason, going 5-3 over the second half of the season after the Cowboys had just one win in the first half. Garrett’s greatest skill is offensive design, but he showed good motivational skills and rapport with players over the second half of the season. Dallas’ offense thrived under Garrett in the second half, but the defense needed a ton of help after Wade Phillips’ departure. Garrett needs to find a defensive coordinator for 2011, and those kinds of hires can make or break coaches. The good news is that Garrett has a ton of talent on both sides of the ball, especially premium talent like DeMarcus Ware, Anthony Spencer, Jay Ratliff, Miles Austin, Dez Bryant, and Jason Witten. The problems are the mid-level talent, as Dallas needs dependable guys, especially on the offensive line and in the secondary. To succeed, Garrett must avoid the tendency some offensive-minded coaches have to obsess over play-calling and run the whole team, much like Sean Payton does in New Orleans. But the offensive-defensive split we saw in Dallas over the second half of the season shows that such an attitude isn’t natural for Garrett yet. That’s a reason to be skeptical of his long-term success.

5 – Hue Jackson, Raiders – The Raiders made a strange decision by letting Tom Cable’s contract option expire after the head coach led them to an undefeated AFC West record and an eight-win season, the organization’s first year with more than five wins since their 2002 Super Bowl season. Since then, it’s become apparent that Cable and Raiders maven Al Davis were butting heads, as Davis so often does with his coaches. So Jackson is stepping into the least stable head-coaching post in the league, and one in which his contract will likely be disputed whenever his tenure is over. Still, it’s a first head-coaching job for a coaching lifer. He was an offensive coordinator in the Pac-10 at USC and Cal before moving to the NFL in 2001, and since moving to the pros he’s been a coordinator in Washington, Atlanta, and Oakland. Jackson has also been a running backs, wide receivers, and quarterbacks coach in the pros, and he’s respected at all three positions. Now Jackson must prove he can make the leap from calling plays and teaching technique to running an entire team. That’s the biggest leap for any new head coach, but at age 56 it’s now or never for Jackson to prove he can do it. We’re optimistic, despite the circus-like atmosphere around the Raiders, that Jackson can continue the progress for a Raiders team full of talent but usually inconsistent when it comes to performance.

4 – John Fox, Broncos – After a largely successful nine-year tenure in Carolina that ended poorly, Fox gets an immediate chance of redemption in Denver. He’s completely different than offensive-minded coaches Josh McDaniels and Mike Shanahan that have led the Broncos in the recent past. Fox is a nuts-and-bolts coach who plays conservatively on offense, depending on a running game, and aggressively on defense. That defensive emphasis will serve the Broncos well, because their inability to get anything done defensively doomed both McDaniels and Shanahan. With Elvis Dumervil returning in 2011, Fox will have a top-end pass rusher, but Dumervil has been a 3-4 player, and Fox has stuck with the 4-3 most of his career. If the Broncos change their system, it will slow down progress, but the front seven is so bereft of impact players that rebuilding is necessary either way. Fox’s other big decision right off the bat will be what to do at quarterback. Kyle Orton is a Fox type of QB, but the past Broncos’ regime invested so much in Tim Tebow that he needs to get a shot to play. However, Fox’s tendency in Carolina was to eschew young players in favor of more reliable veterans, even if they were less talented. That decision at quarterback will only impede Tebow’s development. And that’s the place where Fox’s tenure could break down. He’s a solid coach, but he must be more about development in Denver to rebuild a mediocre roster. Inexperienced Broncos exec John Elway and GM Brian Xanders will have to encourage and/or strong-arm Fox into playing young guys. If he doesn’t, it’s hard to see Denver climbing from its decline.

3 – Ron Rivera, Panthers – Rivera has long been a coaching bridesmaid – he’s been connected to at least 12 openings since 2006 – before he finally landed a head-coaching perch in Carolina. It’s easy to see why Rivera has drawn interest. He has been a successful defensive coordinator both in a 4-3 system (with Chicago) and a 3-4 (with San Diego). He’s learned from the hyper-aggressive Jim Johnson in Philadelphia and the conservative Lovie Smith in Chicago. So from an Xs and Os standpoint, he’s as versatile as defensive coaches come. He also has a strong personality who gets along with the media – he once was a Bears TV analyst – and should connect with fans. The question is whether he can fix the offensive problems that plague the Panthers. Carolina has decent defensive talent, and Rivera should help to unleash guys like Jon Beason and Everette Brown. But can Rivera fix the Panthers’ offensive problems? Can he hire the right offensive coordinator to either develop Jimmy Clausen or find a true quarterback of the future? These are questions that only time will answer. Rivera’s staff will be key to his success, and until those hires go through, Rivera’s uphill battle against Sean Payton, Mike Smith, and Raheem Morris in the NFC South looks even steeper. This is a solid hire by the Panthers, but the organization must let Rivera hire the offensive staff he needs or else success won’t be flowing Rivera’s way.

2 – Mike Munchak, Titans – Munchak, a Hall of Fame offensive guard, has been a part of the Titans organization since the Houston Oilers days. He was a top-10 pick, and in his 11-year career he made the Pro Bowl nine times. His No. 63 jersey is retired by the club. And since his retirement in 1993, he’s spent 17 years in the organization, the last 14 as the offensive line coach. He’s developed offensive linemen like Michael Roos, and the Titans have had stud offensive lines despite spending no first-rounders at the position. So he’s a good coach, and he’s a legend to owner Bud Adams. But can Munchak fill Jeff Fisher’s shoes? Fisher brought stability and toughness to the Titans, and that identity made them a strong defensive and running team throughout his tenure. Munchak should keep the same identity; the question is whether he can get better quarterback results than Fisher has since Steve McNair’s departure. And the leap from position coach to head coach skips the coordinator role, which is where coaches add and learn to manage many of the administrative duties that choke out many successful coaches. There will be an adjustment period for Munchak. So that begs the question:  how will Adams deal with Munchak’s struggles? The head-coaching role will take the luster off of the greatest legend, and Munchak is risking his status in Adams’ eyes. If Adams is willing to be patient, Munchak has the traits to be a good head coach. But being under the thumb of an aging owner and not having a good quarterback answer don’t seem to be a recipe for success.

1 – Pat Shurmur, Browns – Shurmur, who has mentored Donovan McNabb and Sam Bradford, among other players, was Mike Holmgren’s choice to replace Eric Mangini as the head coach of the Cleveland Browns. Shurmur is different than Mangini – he’s an offensive coach, not a defensive coach, and he’s also got an extensive background in the West Coast offense under Andy Reid (another Holmgren protege). (Interestingly, both Shurmur and Mangini have ties to Bill Belichick, because Shurmur spent eight seasons under Belichick apprentice Nick Saban at Michigan State.) It’s clear that Holmgren was looking for a certain type of coach to take over the Browns. Shurmur faces a pretty tall task in Cleveland, because the offense has very few good pieces available. Peyton Hillis a workhorse running back, and the offensive line has terrific keystones in OT Joe Thomas and C Alex Mack. But the quarterback question is still open, as it’s impossible to know at this point whether Colt McCoy is a long-term answer. Holmgren believes Shurmur can find out, given Shurmur’s background developing quarterbacks with the Eagles and Rams. Shurmur was QB coach for the Eagles for seven years, not only helping McNabb perform, but also getting good performances out of lesser lights like an older Jeff Garcia, Koy Detmer, and A.J. Feeley. Then Shurmur became the offensive coordinator with the Rams, and this year he helped rookie Bradford develop very quickly. If Shurmur is to succeed in Cleveland, he must either develop McCoy or make a quick decision that he’s not the guy and move on. It seems like Shurmur is positioned to do that. But Shurmur appears to be Holmgren’s henchman in Cleveland, and the question is whether any head coach could survive with the walrus looming over his shoulder. Can Shurmur be his own coach, or will he be under constant pressure to make the decisions Holmgren would make? Perhaps a coach a with greater resume could, and maybe Holmgren’s family ties to Shurmur (Pat’s uncle Fritz was Holmgren’s long-time defensive coordinator in Green Bay) will aid the relationship. But we don’t feel great that Shurmur can be his own man enough to place his imprint on a Browns team badly in need of a long-term plan.

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Football Relativity: QB quandaries

After a training-camp season full of quarterback stability (only Arizona made an in-camp change), a whopping eight teams ran into quarterback issues by Week Two. Below, we compare the significance of these quarterback issues, given how close teams are to contending and how good the quarterback options are. We’ll do this using Football Relativity, with the 10 level noting the most pressing QB quandary and the 1 level marking one that doesn’t change a team’s fortunes at all.

10 – Philadelphia Eagles (Kevin Kolb or Michael Vick) – Kolb missed Week 2 due to the after-effects of a concussion, and Vick had a big game against the Lions. Vick has completed 64 percent of his passes and thrown for three TDs without an interception, and he has run for 140 yards. He looks revitalized after a disappointing return to the NFL in 2009. At first, the Eagles said they’re sticking with Kolb, who became the franchise quarterback when Philly traded Donovan McNabb. But then the Eagles reversed field (a Vick-ian maneuver) and named Vick the starter not just for Week 3 but going forward. It’s shocking that the Eagles pulled the plug on Kolb after just one half on the field, but Vick’s solid performance won the day. The question is what happens if Vick’s two good games turn into inconsistent play. Philly is a talented team, but unless Vick really is back, the way they’ve handled their QB situation could end up scuttling the season.

9 – none

8 – Tennessee Titans (Vince Young vs. Kerry Collins) – After three turnovers, Vince Young was yanked out of the Titans’ loss to the Steelers, and Collins came in to lead Tennessee’s only TD-scoring drive. Of course, Collins also had two turnovers as well. Jeff Fisher has said there’s no question that Young is the starter, but Collins is a capable quarterback who proved in 2008 he can step in for Young and lead the Titans to the playoffs. (Of course, in 2009 Young replaced Collins and led the Titans from an 0-6 start to an 8-8 finish.) So Young needs to perform well in the next couple of games, or else the clamor for Collins will really pick up.

7 – none

6 – Carolina Panthers (Matt Moore vs. Jimmy Clausen) – The Panthers are making the switch from Moore, the December superstar in ’07 and ’09, to the rookie Clausen after Moore turned the ball over six times and failed to generate much offense in his first two starts. Clausen is polished for a rookie, but he’s still just a rookie who will make mistakes. Given the talent Carolina has elsewhere on the field, quarterback play that rises from putrid to mediocre could help, but the question is whether Clausen is wily enough at this point to be even that small of an upgrade over Moore.

5 – Arizona Cardinals (Derek Anderson vs. Max Hall) – The Cardinals opted for Anderson, a scattershot quarterback with a big arm, over the cautious check-down man Matt Leinart in training camp, but Anderson’s inconsistency has outweighed his potential thus far. Hall, a rookie out of BYU, lurks as a potential replacement. Hall is more of a quick-hitting trigger man who doesn’t have the big arm but might be better equipped to get the ball to Arizona’s strong stable of receiving targets. So if Anderson struggles and the Cards start to fall behind in the lowly NFC West, Hall will get a shot.

4 – Oakland Raiders (Bruce Gradkowski vs. Jason Campbell) – The Raiders brought in Campbell to bring stability to the QB position in place of JaMarcus Russell, but Campbell lasted six quarters until he was benched. Campbell has talent, but he makes enough mistakes to offset his ability to throw the ball downfield. Gradkowski is a Jeff Garcia-type of scrapper who doesn’t have a big arm but does find ways to move a team. The question is whether Gradkowski would be exposed if he played 3-4 games in a row. But for now, the Raiders should try to keep the spark Gradkowski lit last week aflame.

3 – Pittsburgh Steelers (Charlie Batch vs. Byron Leftwich) – Dennis Dixon won the Steelers’ September starting job in training camp, but he suffered a torn meniscus against Tennessee that will sideline him at least until Ben Roethlisberger returns. So now Pittsburgh must choose between Batch, the ultimate placeholder, and Leftwich, who had some good games for Pittsburgh back in 2008 but looked awful for the Bucs last year. Leftwich may have a little more upside, but he’s got such a slow delivery at this point that Batch might actually be less of a liability. But the bottom line is that the Steelers will win the next two games because of defense, not Batch or Leftwich, and so in the end it really doesn’t matter much which guy starts.

2 – Jacksonville Jaguars (David Garrard vs. Todd Bouman) – Garrard threw four picks against the Chargers and was replaced by Luke McCown, but McCown blew out his knee at the end of the game and will miss the rest of the season. Jacksonville brought back Bouman to be Garrard’s backup, but the injury means there’s no question that Garrard is the guy.

1 – Buffalo Bills (Ryan Fitzpatrick vs. Trent Edwards) – The Bills made the switch from Edwards to Fitzpatrick, but both quarterbacks have frankly proved that they’re not good enough to be regulars on the NFL level. No matter who plays, the Bills are among the league’s worst teams in terms of QB play, and they have few hopes of winning.

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The Raiders do something right

Amidst the transactions wire in the NFL this week, we discover that the Oakland Raiders did something right. They signed QB J.P. Losman, a former Bills first-round pick who played under Jim Fassel for the UFL’s Las Vegas team this season. Oakland inked Losman for the final three games of 2009.

Losman never performed consistently in Buffalo, but he has good skills including the kind of strong arm that Raiders boss Al Davis has always coveted. Plus, unlike most late-season signees, Losman has gotten plenty of snaps this season (if at an inferior level of competition), and he also interned under a renowned quarterback guru in Fassel. None of those factors guarantee success, but they do fall on the plus side of the ledger.

That makes this low-cost look-see a nice gamble for the Raiders. At the least, the Losman signing lets bonus baby JaMarcus Russell know that the team isn’t happy with his performance. That message apparently hasn’t gotten through, as neither the Jeff Garcia preseason experiment nor the Bruce Gradkowski ascension seemed to enhance Russell’s performance or work ethic. And since Gradkowski is out with a knee injury, most likely for the rest of the season, the Raiders’ choices were to give Russell a free ride over the rest of the season or start Charlie Frye, which is all but a death wish. So if all this signing does is tell Russell that he needs to light a fire under his own behind, it’s worth it.

But this three-week flier could pay off even bigger. If Losman truly has grown as a quarterback in his time in the NFL, he has the pure talent to start in the NFL. Talent is far from the only determinant of a quarterback’s success, but it does matter. There’s a chance that Losman could emerge as a starter, much like Jim Plunkett did a couple of generations ago. That’s a gamble that some team with quarterback quandaries – teams like Carolina, St. Louis, Cleveland, or even Seattle (which has an aging quarterback and no heir apparent) – needed to take. So credit to the Raiders for taking this chance. Even if it doesn’t pan out, it’s a smart move.

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Thanksgiving leftovers

A few thoughts from the three Thanksgiving Day games, in which…
The Packers thumped the Lions 34-12
The Cowboys beat the Raiders 24-7
And the Broncos beat the Giants 26-6

*The Packers, who have now won three in a row, are a dangerous team. The Pack’s biggest shortcoming, the offensive line, seems to be improving a bit, and that allows a dangerous offense to show its explosiveness. Aaron Rodgers has premium targets in the ageless Donald Driver and Greg Jennings, and there is depth at receiver and tight end as well. If the Pack can protect – which will be a stern test against strong fronts like Minnesota has – it can put up enough points to pull an upset against a really good team. At 7-4, the Pack still has a chance to make some noise.
*On defense, Charles Woodson of Green Bay is still a premium player. It’s hard to believe he’s been a top corner for a decade already. His stat line on Thanksgiving – seven tackles, a sack, a forced fumble, two interceptions, and one fumble – should win him player of the week honors.
*Detroit doesn’t have many premium players, but rookie S Louis Delmas probably is going to end up being one. He and Brandon Pettigrew, who was hurt in this game, both look to be high-pick hits from this year’s draft. Detroit needs a bunch more of those to make up the talent gap left by the Matt Millen disaster.
*Dallas isn’t a great team, but it’s a very good team that has the potential to scare some people. The X-factor is Miles Austin, who is a reliable target with explosive ability. That’s something not even Terrell Owens brought to Dallas last year. With Austin emerging, Tony Romo has a chance to avoid the late-season collapse that has plagued him thus far in his career.
*Felix Jones had a long touchdown, but I still don’t believe in him as more than a bit player. Tashard Choice may be the best back Dallas has, because Marion Barber isn’t quite the barbarian he was two or three years ago. The bigger problem for Dallas is the offensive line, which is big but is slow and getting slower. Oakland’s front got some good pressure on Romo, especially from second-year defensive end Trevor Scott, who had two sacks.
*Oakland has some good players. TE Zach Miller is a big-time player, as is stud CB Nnamdi Asomugha. The linebacker crew is decent, as is the front seven. But there is no consistency from many of the consistent players, and the quarterback play is so subpar that the team really doesn’t have a chance. If Jeff Garcia had really gotten a shot to start this year, he could have gotten six or seven wins out of this supporting cast. But too many guys in Oakland aren’t willing to compete on the level that Garcia would. Still, there are guys on this roster I’d take on my team.
*The Broncos caught a huge break from the schedule makers by getting a home game on a short week. That kind of home-field advantage was just what they needed to break their four-game losing streak. Credit goes to them for taking advantage, but don’t think this win solves all their problems. They still need to perform better week to week to make a playoff run. But if Kyle Orton gets healthy with a few extra days off, and if the defense can play more like it did Thursday night instead of how it played the four previous games, Denver still has a shot.
*The Giants have serious problems. Like the Cowboys, the Giants’ offensive line is declining. This group of five used to be an asset, but the guys up front are either getting old or have just been too beaten up, because they simply aren’t a top group anymore. That unit is going to need an infusion of youth via the draft or free agency in the offseason, and it may end up being a critical flaw for the Giants’ playoff hopes this year.

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Week 3 moves

We do a weekly update on major NFL transactions. We’ll include signings, releases, and also players who are put on injured reserve, because they are lost for the year. You can check out the Week 2 transactions here.

Additions

Dolphins (trade for QB Tyler Thigpen) – With Chad Pennington out for the year, the Dolphins needed some QB help. They traded for Thigpen, who showed potential last season but fell to the No. 3 spot in Kansas City this year. Thigpen has been running a similar Bill Parcells-inspired system in K.C. that he’ll run in Miami, which will help his transition into the No. 2 QB role. He also provides insurance in case Chad Henne shows he’s not going to be able to start in the league. The trade was for an undisclosed draft pick that may depend on how Thigpen plays or how much he plays.

Eagles (add LB Jeremiah Trotter) – Trotter, who played for the Eagles from 1998 to 2001 and from 2004 to 2006 and made four Pro Bowls in his two tenures, came back to his first team for a third time to try to help bolster a linebacker corps that is still trying to fill in for injured MLB Stewart Bradley. Trotter hasn’t played since 2007, which makes it unlikely that he’ll make much of a contribution, but this endgenders good will with the fan base and puts the other linebackers on notice. Both are minor positives.

Patriots (add DL Terdell Sands) – Sands got a big contract from the Raiders in the offseason, and then promptly got cut before the season. Now he’s nothing more than a rotation guy whom the Patriots hope will help to bolster the middle of their defense with Vince Wilfork hurting. Given the success the Pats have had with ex-Raiders, Sands is worth a shot. He can be a fill-in and could end up being more. To make room for Sands, the Patriots cut LB Prescott Burgess, whom they traded a late-round draft pick to get from Baltimore just last week.

Chiefs (add TE Leonard Pope) – Pope is a huge, physically gifted tight end who never reached his potential with the Cardinals even though he started many games. But his size can help in Kansas City, which has too few elite athletes on its roster. Pope may not make a huge splash, but he is undoubtedly an upgrade.

Panthers (add DT Hollis Thomas) – Thomas, who was cut by the Rams earlier in the week, lands in Carolina to help a team that has put three defensive tackles on IR so far this year. Thomas can make plays when in shape, but he’s not always in shape. Still, he’s a veteran and a body who can help, and Carolina is desperate right now.

Bears (add LB Darrell McClover) – Chicago, which is playing without Brian Urlacher and has injury issues with Hunter Hillenmeyer and Pisa Tinoisamoa (The Tower) right now, needed LB depth, so they brought back McClover, who knows the system and has performed adequately in the past.

Steelers (add RB Carey Davis) – After putting Frank Summers on IR, the Steelers brought back Carey Davis to fill in at the fullback position. A good performance from Davis would help a running game that is not on track right now.

Lions (add DT Chuck Darby) – Darby is a long-time veteran tackle who adds depth for the Lions. Detroit also cut CB Marcus McCauley and WR Yamon Figurs this week as they continue to try to upgrade the back half of their roster, which still is lacking compared to just about every other NFL team.

Subtractions

Dolphins (put QB Chad Pennington on IR) – Pennington hurt his throwing shoulder in Week 3 vs. San Diego and will miss the rest of the season. The injury is considered career-threatening given Pennington’s age and injury history. The Dolphins were already planning to give the keys to the offense to Chad Henne in 2010, so they’re moving that timetable up to try to replace Pennington now. But this injury severely damages the Dolphins’ flagging playoff hopes.

Eagles (cut QB Jeff Garcia) – Now that Michael Vick is eligible to play, Donovan McNabb is getting healthier, and Kevin Kolb has proven he can play at least a little, Garcia is an insurance policy the Eagles no longer need. He may hook on elsewhere as a backup or a fill-in, but his chances of starting are all but gone at this point.

Saints (put OT Jammal Brown on IR) – Brown isn’t well known, but he’s a two-time Pro Bowl left tackle who has protected Drew Brees’ blindside beautifully. But a training-camp hip injury slowed him, and the Saints pulled the plug and sidelined Brown for the season instead of waiting for his return. New Orleans brought back Nick Leckey, who was with the team the first two weeks, for depth, but Jermon Bushrod is the guy on the spot to try to replace Brown for the rest of the year.

Chiefs (cut LB Monty Beisel and Ricardo Colclough) – The Chiefs continue to churn their roster looking for better talent. Beisel and Colclough at this point are marginal veterans who weren’t going to be long-term solutions in K.C., and that made them expendable.

Rams (cut DT Hollis Thomas; put WR Laurent Robinson on IR) – Robinson, who was emerging as one of the Rams’ few positive surprises this season after coming over via trade from Atlanta, now is done for the year. That’s a big blow to St. Louis’ already punchless offense.

Titans (put P Craig Hentrich on IR, cut RB Chris Henry) – Hentrich, a long-time veteran, suffered a hip injury that may end up being career-ending. Henry was a second-round pick who never panned out, but the Titans are OK at running back because their first-round pick the next year – Chris Johnson – is an emerging star. To replace Hentrich and Henry, the Titans added veteran S Kevin Kaesviharn and returner Mark Jones. Jones could immediately replace Ryan Mouton, who had two incredibly costly muffs on return chances last week against the Jets.

Bills (put CB Leodis McKelvin on IR) – McKelvin, Buffalo’s ’08 first-rounder, was an emerging corner and a good returner despite his gaffe at the end of the opener against the Patriots. But his season was ended by a broken fibula.

Raiders (put CB John Bowie on IR) – Normally, a player like Bowie, who has played five games in three seasons, wouldn’t merit a mention. But because Bowie was acquired with the draft pick the Raiders got in exchange for Randy Moss, this transaction seems to be a greater statement on the continued organizational failings of the Raiders.

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Week 1 Moves

As we did in the preseason, we’re going to do a weekly update on major NFL transactions. We’ll include signings, releases, and also players who are put on injured reserve, because they are lost for the year.

Additions

Panthers (add QB A.J. Feeley) – Given the quarterback crisis they have going on right now, the Panthers needed a veteran hand, and they thought Feeley was the best guy out there. He’s been a solid performer in the past for the Eagles, and he started some games for Miami back in the day again.

Eagles (add QB Jeff Garcia) – With Donovan McNabb suffering from a broken rib and Michael Vick ineligible until Week 3, the Eagles needed a quarterback who’s at least good enough to back up immediately in case Kevin Kolb gets hurt or just stinks out loud. Garcia had good success with the Eagles a few years back, and he can still move an offense. Given Garcia’s locker-room personality, don’t be surprised if he’s cut when Vick and McNabb are available again, but for right now he can help Philly.

Chiefs (add WR Bobby Wade) – The Chiefs, who have been looking for veteran help at wideout all offseason, picked up Wade, who had 50 catches each of the last two seasons in Minnesota. Wade isn’t a great receiver, but he’s a tick above average, and he can be a solid No. 3 wideout for the Chiefs. This move won’t put the Chiefs over the top in the playoff chase, but it will help.

Colts (add WR Hank Baskett) – Mr. Kendra has had his moments in Philly, but as the Eagles have upgraded their receiving corps via the draft in recent years, Baskett’s limited speed moved him down the depth chart. He still has good size and good hands, so he can help the Colts. Indy has some talented young receivers but very little experience behind Reggie Wayne, and so Baskett can help in that area. But Indy must realize that Baskett is going to be a bigger reality-TV star than football star at this point in his career.

Bears (add LB Tim Shaw) – After Brian Urlacher and The Tower were hurt in the opener against the Packers, Chicago needed to add some linebacker depth. Shaw played basically a full season with the Panthers in 2007 and had a cup of coffee with the Jags last season. He won’t start, but he can provide depth and help fill the special-teams void left by new MLB starter Hunter Hillenmeyer.

Buccaneers (add OG Sean Mahan and DE Tim Crowder) – Mahan, who was cut just before the opener, came back after Week One in what looks like a ploy by the Bucs to keep his entire ’09 salary from being guaranteed. He’s a veteran backup but not much more at this point, but he can still help. Crowder, a former second-round pick in Denver, was lost in the Broncos’ move to a 3-4 this year, but he still has enough promise that he’s worth a look for a team like the Bucs that runs a 4-3.

Lions (add DL Turk McBride via waivers) – McBride, a second-round pick back in 2007, didn’t fit as a linebacker in the Chiefs’ new 3-4 defense, making him a bust in two systems. He’s another in a long line of failed Chiefs defensive line picks in recent years, which is a huge reason that the Chiefs are in such a rebuilding mode right now. But ex-Chiefs defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham, who is now in Detroit, thought McBride is worth a shot in a 4-3 set. Given the Lions’ lack of talent, it’s worth a shot for them.

Seahawks (add LB D.D. Lewis) – Lewis, an eight-year vet who was cut late in training camp, came back to provide depth for Seattle with OLB Leroy Hill hurting. Hill will miss a couple of games, and Lewis can provide depth behind fill-in Will Herring and add some special-teams stability as well.

Giants (add RB Gartrell Johnson off waivers) – With Danny Ware injured, the Giants needed to beef up their backfield depth. Johnson, a fourth-round pick of the Chargers from Colorado State, is the kind of young back who’s worth a look.

Saints (add WR-RS Courtney Roby) – Roby played for the Saints last year but didn’t make the opening-game roster this year. But the Saints brought him back, likely as much for special teams and returns as anything else.

Rams (add LB Paris Lenon and WR Ruvell Martin) – Lenon was a full-time starter the last three years in Detroit, and he brings experience if not pizzaz to St. Louis’ LB corps. He can replace the veteran wile that Chris Draft provided before he was cut just prior to the opener. Martin, who had 52 catches and 6 TDs in three years in Green Bay, adds depth to a receiving corps that has little of it.

Bears (add CB DeAngelo Smith) – The Bears have had major injuries and upheaval in the secondary, and that has kept them from estabishling a rotation there. This week, they cut McBride and replaced him with DeAngelo Smith. Smith was a higher draft pick than McBride two years ago, and the Bears thought his physical skills made the switch worth it. But neither Smith nor McBride is the ultimate answer to the dilemma the Bears have in the secondary right now.

Subtractions

Bears (put LB Brian Urlacher on IR) – We cover the Urlacher injury in more depth in this blog entry on Most Valuable Network’s Football Wire.

Chargers (put NT Jamal Williams on IR) – One of the biggest keys to any 3-4 defense is the nose tackle’s ability to anchor against the run and free the linebackers to run around and make plays. For more than a decade, Williams has been one of the best at that, but now the Chargers will have to make do without him. This is a huge injury that deals a significant blow to the Chargers’ championship hopes. Williams won’t be easily replaced.

Panthers (put QB Josh McCown on IR) – McCown was the Panthers’ No. 2 quarterback, but he quickly got hurt after he took over for Delhomme in Week One. The injury was a six-week injury, but the Panthers needed quarterback help stat, and so they shelved McCown to make room for Feeley.

Eagles (put ORT Shawn Andrews on IR) – Andrews, who was supposed to team with his brother Stacy this year to provide the Eagles massive beef on the right side of the offensive line, instead will miss the season. Winston Justice, who is much lighter and less accomplished than Andrews, will try to fill his massive shoes.

Jaguars (put DE Reggie Hayward on IR) – Hayward broke his shin in Week One and will miss the year. The long-time Jaguar’s pass-rush ability will be missed, and his absence will force second-year men Quentin Groves and Derrick Harvey to step up.

Giants (cut OG Tutan Reyes) – Reyes is a big man who is a passable backup guard but not much more at his career. Given how solid and sturdy as the Giants’ offensive line has been in recent years, Reyes wasn’t going to see much playing time. At least he was on the roster long enough to get his 2009 salary guaranteed.

Lions (cut DT Orien Harris) – Harris was traded twice this offseason, from Cincinnati to St. Louis to Detroit, but he lasted just one game with the Lions before being replaced by Turk McBride. He is a borderline rotation player at this point who should find work as injuries pile up throughout the league.

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Training Camp Moves – Last week

This post is a compilation of additions NFL teams made during the fourth full week of camps. The timetable for this post opens on September 4 and continues through the regular-season opener on September 10. You can read a summary of the first week of training camp moves here; the second week moves here; the third week moves here; the fourth week of moves here; the fifth week of moves here; and the sixth week of moves here. Because moves will be coming fast and furious throughout training camp, we’re going to use quick analysis of moves each week during this time instead of creating a massive Football Relativity comparison.

Additions

Raiders (add DE Richard Seymour) – There are plenty of thoughts on the trade for Seymour in this post.

Broncos (add DE Vonnie Holliday) – Holliday, a 12-year veteran who played for Miami the last four years, signed to provide solid DL play for Denver and its new 3-4 defense. Holliday is a solid player who can anchor against the run but won’t provide much pass rush. Still, he’ll be an asset because he fits the new defense much better than most of the returning personnel in Denver does.

Seahawks (add S Lawyer Milloy) – Milloy, the long-time Patriot who played for Atlanta most recently, returns to his hometown to play for the Seahawks. He has basically been a full-time starter for 13 years in the NFL now, but he’ll have to beat out Jordan Babineaux for the free safety job in Seattle. Still, at the least he’ll provide pressure that makes Babineaux better, and his veteran influence will be an asset as well.

Jaguars (add OG Kynan Forney and S Brian Russell) – Given the massive offensive line injuries that doomed their season last year, it makes sense for them to add a veteran like Forney for insurance. Forney has started before, but he fits better as a backup in Jacksonville. Russell isn’t great, but he can play corner or safety at an average level, which makes him a solid backup.

49ers (add OT Tony Pashos) – Pashos was sent to the bench in Jacksonville by the additions of Tra Thomas, Eben Britton, and Eugene Monroe, and he chose to be released instead of taking a pay cut. He landed in San Francisco, where he’ll have a chance to start at right tackle after Marvel Smith retired during training camp.

Patriots (add OG Kendall Simmons) – Simmons, a long-time Steeler, provides depth for New England’s interior line. He basically replaces Russ Hochstein, who was traded for Denver for a draft pick, on the roster.

Eagles (add TE Alex Smith) – The Eagles let veteran L.J. Smith leave as a free agent in the offseason, so it makes sense that they grabbed Alex Smith after he was cut by the Patriots. Alex Smith is a good pass rusher who provides a nice complement and insurance policy behind new starter Brent Celek.

Falcons (add CB Brian Williams) – Atlanta has spent much of training camp looking for secondary help. They traded for CB Tye Hill and then signed Williams, a veteran who has good size but not great speed. If one of these two shots pays off for the Falcons, they’ll be very happy because they’ve met a real need.

Vikings (add WR Greg Lewis) – Lewis is an inconsistent deep threat who lost out to Joey Galloway for a roster spot in New England after going there in a trade from Philly. But Minnesota thought that Lewis’ deep speed was a better fit for them than the possession game of Bobby Wade, whom the team released. Lewis is ideal as a No. 4 receiver and can be a No. 3, because he’s capable of making huge plays but also capable of dropping his share of balls and then some.

Cardinals (add OG Jeremy Bridges) – Arizona cut Elton Brown and replaced him with Bridges, who is a good interior player who has had trouble staying out of trouble off the field. Still, he provides a nice backup if he behaves.

Jets (add TE Ben Hartsock) – Hartsock, the Falcons’ starting tight end last year, lost his spot in the ATL to Tony Gonzalez. He now moves to New York, where he will be the No. 2 tight end behind Dustin Keller. The Jets have been shuffling tight ends all offseason looking for stability in that spot, so Hartsock is a good find for them.

Subtractions

Raiders (cut QB Jeff Garcia) – Oakland signed Garcia to be its backup QB, which was a bad idea because Garcia has always refused to accept a backup role. That became obvious to Oakland, and Garcia’s performance wasn’t good enough to make them overlook his personality. This release will end up benefiting JaMarcus Russell in the end.

Bills (cut OT Langston Walker and RB Dominic Rhodes) – The Bills have had a lot of offensive upheaval late in training camp, and it continued in making the roster. Walker was starting at right tackle, but he’s not in good shape, and the Bills decided to go with rookie Demetrius Bell instead. Rhodes was slated to be the Bills’ backup running back in the first three weeks with Marshawn Lynch suspended, but he didn’t perform well enough to merit a roster spot.

Rams (cut LB Chris Draft) – Draft was expected to be a starter at outside linebacker for the Rams this year, but the Rams released him right before the season in what looks like a move to keep his salary from becoming guaranteed. Draft is a solid linebacker who is the definition of average. He has proven that he won’t hurt a team, but he won’t make many big plays either. Don’t be surprised if the Rams try to bring him back after Week One, but Draft may choose to move to a better team as a backup or injury fill-in.

Giants (cut WR David Tyree) – Tyree, one of the big heroes of the Giants’ Super Bowl 42 win, was released after he fell behind New York’s cadre of young receivers (like Mario Manningham, Hakeem Nicks, and Ramses Barden). Tyree missed the entire season last year with injury, and so he might not be healthy enough to be a big contributor anywhere else. But he’s a veteran and a good special-teams player, so he could end up being a nice midseason addition somewhere before long.

Vikings (cut WR Bobby Wade) – Wade had 50 catches in each of the last two years in Minnesota, but with Sidney Rice healthy and Bernard Berrian arrived, Wade became too expensive for his production. He was cut just before the season because his salary would have been guaranteed for the year on Sunday. He’s good enough to play elsewhere, but it won’t be for anything near the money he was slated to make in Minny this year.

Packers (cut QB Brian Brohm) – Brohm was a second-round pick just two years ago, but his performance has been so bad that he was beaten out for the backup job by Matt Flynn, just a seventh-round pick that same year, and then was cut. He cleared waivers and landed on the practice squad, which means no other team thought he was worth a flier. That’s a huge fall for a guy once considered a nice prospect.

Patriots (cut QB Andrew Walter) – Walter, the former Raider, came over to New England early in training camp, and it looked as if he would be the No. 2 QB there after the Pats cut ’08 draft pick Kevin O’Connell. But Walter too was beaten out by undrafted rookie Brian Hoyer, who seized the backup job and played well enough that New England will keep just two QBs to start the season.

Eagles (cut QB A.J. Feeley) – The ultimate loser in the Michael Vick experiment in Philly was Feeley, who has proven he can be a solid backup but got caught in a roster crunch. He should land elsewhere as a No. 2 quarterback at some point, because he’s better than many teams’ backups.

Chiefs (cut S Bernard Pollard, C Eric Ghiaciuc, OT Damion McIntosh, and CB Travis Daniels) – Pollard started all year last year, famously hitting Tom Brady’s knee in the first game, but he lost his starting job to Mike Brown and eventually lost his roster spot. Ghiaciuc came over from Cincinnati to compete for the Chiefs’ starting center job, but he obviously didn’t get the job done. McIntosh is a nine-year vet who started 31 games for the Chiefs the last two years, but he too lost not only his starting gig but his job with K.C.’s new regime. Daniels, a former Dolphin who played for Cleveland last year, couldn’t hook on to continue his career.

Titans (cut WR-RS Mark Jones) – Jones had a good year in Carolina as a return specialist last year, and Tennessee gave him a small signing bonus to fill the same role there this year. But Jones can’t really play elsewhere, and the Titans decided to let rookie Kenny Britt contribute on returns, which made Jones expendable. He’ll end up somewhere else, at least for a look, given his ’08 success.

Bears (cut CB Rod Hood) – Hood, cut by Cleveland just days ago, latched on in Chicago but didn’t look good enough there to stick around. He could still get another look during the season, but being released multiple times must be a shock after starting for a Super Bowl team last year.

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Fantasy Football: Regime change survivors

One of the biggest factors of a player’s fantasy football success is the offensive system he plays in. So as a service, we thought we’d go through the teams that are changing regimes this season and analyze how these changes should affect the relevant fantasy performers on each team. Where we’ve discussed players in more detail, we’ll include a link to our previous discussion. These offensive regime changes include teams with new head coaches as well as some teams with new offensive coordinators.

As always, you can read all sorts of other fantasy football analysis in our fantasy football category tag. And we have to give thanks to this site for a current list of offensive coordinators.

In this post, we’ve made some intentional omissions:
*With the Jets, Brian Schottenheimer survived the coaching change, and so that offense will look quite similar
*The Saints replaced Doug Marrone (now the Syracuse head coach) with Pete Carmichael Jr. but should run the same system
*The Patriots didn’t replace Josh McDaniels as offensive coordinator, but Bill Belichick and his lieutenants will keep the same offensive system in place
*The Seahawks, moving from Mike Holmgren’s regime to Jim Mora’s, will still run a similiar West Coast style of offense under coordinator Greg Knapp.

Arizona (from Todd Haley to Ken Whisenhunt/Russ Grimm/Mike Miller) – Now that Haley has gone to become the head man in Kansas City, Whisenhunt will probably look to become a little more proficient running the ball in Arizona. Grimm, like Whisenhunt an ex-Steelers assistant, will be the run-game coordinator, and Miller is the passing game coordinator. This shouldn’t affect the numbers of QB Kurt Warner or WRs Larry Fitzgerald or Anquan Boldin much – call them floats– but WR Steve Breaston’s numbers will likely sink a little, while rookie RB Chris “Beanie” Wells, who will surpass Tim Hightower as a fantasy option, looks like the main beneficiary of this regime change.
*More on Fitzgerald here
*More on Boldin here
*More on Breaston and Hightower here
*More on Wells here

Cleveland (from Rob Chudinski to Brian Draboll) – This change is hard to quantify, but it probably pushes the Browns just a bit more conservative. It’s hard to know what to think of the Browns anyway, because QBs Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson are fighting for a job. But this should cause WR Braylon Edwards’ numbers to sink a bit, and could help RB Jamal Lewis’ numbers rise if he’s not in too much physical decline.

Denver (from Mike Shanahan to Josh McDaniels/Mike McCoy) – This is a pretty significant change from Shanahan’s more wide open West Coast style offense to a more mixed New England-style offense. McCoy comes from Carolina, where he was QB coach in a run-run-run offense. This (plus the change from Jay Cutler to Kyle Orton at QB) will cause the numbers of WRs Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal to sink just a bit. TE Tony Scheffler will see an even bigger sink in his numbers. The beneficiary is rookie RB Knowshon Moreno and, to a lesser degree, ex-Eagle Correll Buckhalter.
*More on Orton and Buckhalter here
*More on Marshall here
*More on Royal here
*More on Moreno here
*More on Scheffler here

Detroit (from Jim Coletto to Scott Linehan) – The Lions’ offense was pretty much a train wreck last year, as was everything else in an 0-16 season. In comes Linehan, who bombed out as a head coach in St. Louis but who has a good record as a coordinator in Minnesota and Miami. He’s more prone to pass than Coletto was, and that should help the numbers across the offense work well. At quarterback, neither Matthew Stafford or Daunte Culpepper is a great prospect, because neither will likely play all 16 games. But Calvin Johnson remains a stud whose numbers will float, and one of the receiver additions, Dennis Northcutt or Bryant Johnson, could see his numbers rise if he can seize a starting job. Plus, Kevin Smith’s numbers, which weren’t terrible fantasy-wise in ’08, could rise at least a little.
*More on Smith here
*More on Calvin Johnson here
*More on Bryant Johnson and Northcutt here
*More on Stafford here

Indianapolis (from Tom Moore to Clyde Christensen) – The Colts should run the same system – Christensen has been on the staff for years, and Moore did a runaround on the NFL’s new pension system for coaches by becoming a consultant. So the changes here will be minor. You can expect the numbers of QB Peyton Manning, WR Reggie Wayne and TE Dallas Clark to basically float. RB Joseph Addai’s numbers will sink because of the addition of Donald Brown, while WR Anthony Gonzalez’s numbers will rise because of the departure of Marvin Harrison.
*More on Manning here
*More on Wayne here
*More on Clark here
*More on Addai here
*More on Brown and WR Austin Collie here

Kansas City (from Chan Gailey to Todd Haley/Gailey) – Gailey survived the coaching change in K.C., but with Haley now serving as head coach we should see a little different offensive system for the Chiefs. By the end of the year, Gailey was basically running a spread-type system that used the running talents of QB Tyler Thigpen and also let him fling the ball around. If the Chiefs are better this year, you have to think they’ll play it a little more conservatively, which would bode well for RB Larry Johnson. If Johnson plays the full year, his numbers should rise from his 874-yard, 5-touchdown campaign in 2008. WR Dwayne Bowe’s numbers should continue to rise just a bit, if for no other reason than the fact that import Matt Cassel is better than Thigpen. Look for Mark Bradley’s numbers to rise a little bit as well, and we’ve already predicted that free-agent addition Bobby Engram’s stats will float. Engram actually could fill the reliable role that Tony Gonzalez held for so many years in K.C. Cassel’s numbers should float in Haley’s pass-friendly system as well. All in all, the Chiefs should be a fantasy-friendly team this year.
*More on Cassel here
*More on Engram here 
*More on Bowe here

Oakland (from Lane Kiffin/Greg Knapp to Ted Tollner) – Good luck trying to describe the Raiders’ offense last year – best I can tell, it was more or less a West Coast offense approach, given Knapp’s history. And good luck trying to even identify the offensive leader this year – Tollner is passing game coordinator, Paul Hackett is quarterback coach, and there is no run game coordinator. But given the fact that head coach Tom Cable is an offensive line coach, and given Al Davis’ history, we can expect a run-friendly offense with deep passing. That means Darren McFadden is ready for his numbers to rise, especially if he stays healthy. McFadden’s just too good not to get a bunch of carries. If he does, as we expect, then Michael Bush and Justin Fargas will see their numbers sink. Passing wise, don’t expect too much out of JaMarcus Russell, who could lose snaps to Jeff Garcia. That could cause Russell’s modest numbers to sink even a bit more. Meanwhile, TE Zach Miller’s numbers should rise a little bit – he won’t have just one touchdown again – and Darrius Heyward-Bey actually has good fantasy potential for a rookie receiver.
*More on Miller here
*More on Heyward-Bey here

St. Louis (from Scott Linehan to Pat Shurmur) – Linehan is a quality offensive coordinator, but his head-coaching tenure was a disaster. Now the rams are under the system installed by Shurmur, who was the Eagles’ QB coach. His pedigree (his uncle Fritz was a longtime Mike Holmgren aide) indicates a pedigree in the West Coast offense. The Rams have completely reworked their offense, letting stalwarts Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce go. It should center around RB Steven Jackson, whose numbers should at least float. QB Marc Bulger is coming off a horrendous season, and if he can stay healthy his numbers will rise, but not enough to make him a fantasy starter. He’s not even really a feasible backup in most fantasy leagues. The only other Ram who is draftable is WR Donnie Avery, who had a decent first season and could see his numbers rise if he can up his touchdown total from the three he tallied in ’08.
*More on Jackson here

San Francisco (from Mike Martz to Jimmy Raye) – The 49ers had a pass-happy system under Martz last year, at least until Mike Singletary took over. Now Singletary will revert to a more old-school, pro-style offense that will feature lots of running and short passing. That means that RB Frank Gore’s numbers should float and that rookie Glen Coffee is worth a look late in the draft. The quarterback situation is still a battle between Shaun Hill and Alex Smith, so watch to see who wins the war before investing in one of them as a sleeper. At receiver, Michael Crabtree is a draftable prospect (as long as he doesn’t hold out too long) and either Josh Morgan or Brandon Jones could emerge as a quality fantasy backup. And while TE Vernon Davis isn’t draftable at this point, he’s a fantasy sleeper to watch if he finds more of a role in the 49ers’ new system.
*More on Gore here
*More on Crabtree and Coffee here

Tampa Bay (from Jon Gruden to Jeff Jagodinski) – Gruden fancied himself an offensive guru who used a high-flying offense, but new coordinator Jeff Jagodinski will likely be a bit more conservative. That means that breakout WR Antonio Bryant’s numbers will likely sink, and newly acquired TE Kellen Winslow’s numbers will rise only because he missed time with injury last year. At running back, both Derrick Ward and Earnest Graham are draftable, but the fact that they’re splitting carries is nettlesome for fantasy owners. We expect Ward’s numbers to sink and Graham’s to sink as well given the new split, which should be almost 50-50. QB Byron Leftwich’s numbers will rise because he should start some games, but don’t rely on him too heavily because rookie Josh Freeman is in the wings and could see time in the second half of the season.
*More on Bryant and Ward here
*More on Leftwich and Mike Nugent here
*More on Graham here
*More on Winslow here

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