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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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