Will the return of quarterback Aaron Rodgers propel the Green Bay Packers to the playoffs?
From 2009-2015, the Cincinnati Bengals made the National Football League Playoffs six times, but they failed to win a postseason game. And overall you have to go back to the 1990 NFL season to find the last time in which the Bengals won a playoff game. 2016 was an injury plagued year for the Bengals as they limped to a 6-9-1 finish for their first losing season since 2010. There was some optimism for the Bengals heading into a new season as players such as wide receiver A.J. Green who was limited due to a hamstring injury in 2016 were now healthy, but that positive vibe has left the Queen City.
The Bengals started off to a start of 0-3 this season, and it has never got better for them after that. The Bengals were the only team in the National Football League that didn’t score an offensive touchdown in their first two games as they were limited to a paltry nine points.
For Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis, he attempted to kick start his struggling offense as following the Bengals loss to the Houston Texans in Week 2, Ken Zampese was fired as the team’s offensive coordinator. Zampese was replaced by Bill Lazor who joined the Bengals last season as the team’s quarterbacks coach. And following Zampese’s departure, Lazor was expected to jumpstart an offense in Cincinnati that was 24th in the National Football League in total offense when he took over. But although that Zampese became the first casualty in Cincinnati this year, there is plenty of blame to go around for this organization.
Following the death of longtime Bengals owner Paul Brown in 1991, his son Mike began to run the team. Following that year the Bengals would only have one non-losing season for the remainder of the 1990’s as they were done in by poor draft decisions. That era for Bengals would see them use a pair of first-round draft picks on quarterbacks David Klingler and Akili Smith who combined to go 7-34 during their respective tenures as Cincinnati’s starting quarterback. But Brown then appeared to finally strike gold in 2003 when he hired Lewis to be the Bengals head coach.
In each of Lewis’ first four seasons with the Bengals, the team never had a losing season and in 2005, they won the AFC North for the first time in franchise history. Including this season Lewis’ record as the head coach of the Bengals in 121-111-3. Lewis had led the Bengals to seven playoff appearances, but he has yet to win a playoff game, and it appears that he won’t get another opportunity.
Following the home loss this past Sunday to the Chicago Bears in which the Bengals were dominated 33-7, all signs point to Cincy missing the playoffs for the second consecutive season. And once you factor in that Lewis is in the final year of contract while Brown has been known to be a cheap owner, the Bengals will more than likely be looking for a new head coach heading into next season, but will it really matter?
With Brown leading the way the Bengals have a culture that is not what you want to see out of a championship team. In recent years the stripes on the Bengals uniform can also represent the consistent run-ins with law enforcement that some of the team’s players have had. The Bengals have lacked accountability which has translated over to the football field where at times they’ve gone out of their way to lose games.
Even after Cincinnati’s slow start of 0-3, they entered play two weeks ago controlling their own destiny in order to make the playoffs. The Bengals were 5-6 and were set to host the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday Night Football. But in typical Bengals fashion they went out of their way to lose the game.
The Bengals squandered a 17-point lead to the Steelers which was followed up by their drubbing at the hands of the Bears. And things won’t get any better on Sunday for the Bengals when they’ll travel to face the Minnesota Vikings who are a victory away from clinching the NFC North.
Lewis is more than likely out the door once the season ends ,but Cincinnati still has a huge question mark which surrounds starting quarterback Andy Dalton. Dalton has been the Bengals starting quarterback since 2011 and he has compiled a record of 61-43-2. Dalton has a career completion percentage of 62.5%, but his 0-4 record in the playoffs is something that he cannot escape. In 2014, Brown gave Dalton a six-year, $96 million extension. And assuming that the Bengals will have a new head coach in 2018, the new person will have to work with Dalton because Brown is not going to allow him to part with the franchise’s starting quarterback who is still owed $47.2 million over the next three seasons.
The last ten years have seen a mild uprising in Cincinnati as the Bengals became competitive. But when the postseason rolls around, all of a team’s flaws are magnified. The Bengals lack of leadership which begins and ends with Brown always rises to the surface at the most inopportune which is something that you can ask cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones and linebacker Vontaze Burfict all about. Lewis attempted to make the Bengals a winner, but to no avail as he could not overcome the losing culture that the organization has. And regardless of who the next head coach in Cincinnati will be, his chances of bringing that elusive first Super Bowl Championship to Southern Ohio will be slim to none as well.
Sources: Pro-football-reference.com, Spotrac.com
When the Washington Redskins selected quarterback Kirk Cousins in the fourth round of the 2012 National Football League Draft, he was an afterthought. The reason why Cousins became an afterthought was because in the first round of that same draft, the Redskins made a splash when they traded up to the second overall selection to pick quarterback Robert Griffin III. Griffin was expected to be the Redskins franchise player and he quickly lived up to it by being the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of Year, while also helping Washington win the NFC East.
But things would quickly change in Washington as a knee injury took away from Griffin’s effectiveness, while he never completely figured out what it took to be a quarterback in the National Football League. Cousins took advantage of Griffin not being able to be “the guy” and over the last three years he has had one of the better runs of any quarterback in the franchise’s history.
In 2015, the Redskins won the NFC East, while Cousins led the National Football League in completion percentage (69.8%). That season Cousins also became just the third quarterback in Redskins franchise history to pass for more than 4,000 yards. And in 2016, Cousins shattered the franchise’s single-season passing mark when he threw for 4,917 yards. But whereas Cousins has shown that he can be the guy and lead Washington to the postseason, the team’s front office has not done right by him.
Each of the last two off-seasons have seen the Redskins attach the franchise tag to Cousins, while the team’s two top wide receivers from last season in DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon were allowed to leave in free agency. There were rumors that Cousins wanted to be traded to the San Francisco 49ers in order to be reunited with his former offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan who had just been named as the Niners head coach. But that didn’t come to fruition as the Redskins would not budge in allowing Cousins to leave town. Cousins once again signed his franchise tender and although that Washington more than likely won’t make the playoffs this season, he is still putting up good numbers.
This season Cousins has completed 66.6% of his passes, while passing for 3,289 yards and throwing 21 touchdowns in spite of the fact that he’s playing behind a patchwork offensive line. And as there is not a glut of quality quarterbacks around the National Football League, Cousins could be set to strike it big in the off-season.
The Redskins still have the option to slap the franchise tag on Cousins once more. But at this point if Washington is unable to secure a long-term deal with Cousins, it is time to let him go as they’ve blown multiple chances to sign him to a long-term deal.
The upcoming National Football League Draft is expected to have some good prospects at quarterback which includes UCLA Bruins quarterback Josh Rosen, but every team that needs a new signal caller will not be able to draft one, and an experienced one such as Cousins could strike it big.
There are several teams in need of a starting quarterback, but the two that make the most sense for Cousins should he leave Washington would be the New York Jets and Denver Broncos.
The Jets are 5-7 this season and they have overachieved as they’re hanging around in the playoff picture in the AFC, while they’ve also managed to be extremely competitive. For years the Jets have had issues at the quarterback position. Currently the Jets have two young quarterbacks on their roster in Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenburg, but the fact that a 38-year old journeyman in Josh McCown has started all 12 games this season for New York lets you know that neither of the youngsters is the future for this franchise.
Since Mike Maccagnan has been the general manager of the Jets, this team has been held together will spit and glue and they need to solidify the situation at quarterback if they intend on being a contender.
After beginning this season with a record of 3-1, the Broncos find themselves on an eight-game losing streak as they are heading to one of their worst seasons in franchise history. Since the Broncos won the Super Bowl to culminate the 2015 National Football League season, they have had serious issues at the quarterback position.
This season the Broncos have used three different starting quarterbacks in Trevor Siemian, Brock Osweiler, and Paxton Lynch. Combined this trio has only been able to complete 57.5% of their passes which is 31st in the National Football League. This is a stark contrast from the Broncos defense which is fifth in the NFL in yards allowed, but defense alone cannot win games.
Broncos executive vice president of football operations John Elway knows what it takes to put a championship team together, but he has not succeeded in being able to draft and develop a quarterback. And after the Broncos have endured this disappointing season, I expect Elway to leave no stone unturned in regards to once again making the Broncos a contender.
It was nearly a year ago that I mentioned that the ‘Skins were playing with fire by not locking up Cousins to a long-term deal. It’s nearly a year later and nothing has changed in Washington. It’s time for the Redskins brain trust of owner Dan Snyder, president Bruce Allen, and head coach Jay Gruden to read the team’s history books in order to evaluate the franchise’s situation at quarterback over the last 25 years. It is not pretty and playing Russian roulette with Cousins could once again set the Redskins back at the most important position on the field.
To say that the last two weeks have been eventful for the New York Giants could be the understatement of the year. The Giants are in the midst of one of their worst seasons in the history of their franchise and for the first time since 1976, they fired a head coach during the season. This past Monday, Ben McAdoo was fired as the head coach of the Giants along with general manager Jerry Reese. McAdoo who was not a fan favorite became immensely unpopular with the Giants fan base when he announced that quarterback Eli Manning would not be in the starting lineup when the team took the field against the Oakland Raiders this past Sunday. This marked the first time since Week 10 of the 2004 National Football League season that a quarterback other than Manning would be under center to start the game for the Giants which came with immense uproar.
The majority of the Giants fan base, former players with the team as well as the media in New York City were on the verge of going after McAdoo with pitchforks and torches once news broke that Manning would not be starting. Radio personalities in New York City such as WFAN’s Mike Francesca were incensed, while some Giants fans paid to have a billboard on the New Jersey Turnpike placed near MetLife Stadium which stated “Big Blue Shame On You”. People are upset that the Giants organization attempted to make Manning the scapegoat for the team’s disastrous season as they sought out to bench him in favor of former New York Jets starting quarterback Geno Smith.
Giants co-owner John Mara smelled blood in the water as three of the Giants final four games this season are home which includes their meeting with the Dallas Cowboys this Sunday. And sensing the unrest among fans, Mara decided to make McAdoo and Reese the lambs that he was throwing to the slaughter as MetLife Stadium was set to become a crime scene if they were still around.
In parting with Reese and McAdoo, the Giants are in the midst of searching for a new general manager and head coach. Typically the combination of a new head coach and general manager will seek to begin their tenure together by starting fresh which means drafting a quarterback that fits their system, while also becoming the new face of the franchise. But for the Giants, they have themselves a dill of a pickle.
Manning will be 37-years of age in January and the Giants must ask themselves if it is time for them to move on from arguably the best quarterback in the franchise’s history, or can they make another Super Bowl run with him.
There are some people who feel that Manning is done, while others still think that he still has something left in the tank. But either way it is very difficult to determine whether or not that Manning can get it done since he was deprived of having his top wide receivers this season, along with not being protected by a solid offensive line, or having a decent running game which makes the upcoming off-season very interesting. But if the Giants do decide that Manning is still their guy, there is a coach who could make things right for the future Hall of Famer.
In 1998 when Jon Gruden was hired to be the head coach of the Oakland Raiders, he was the youngest head coach in the National Football League at the age of 34. Gruden was deemed as the “wonder kid”, and the league’s next offensive genius. By 2000, Gruden had led the Raiders to their first AFC Championship Game appearance in a decade, but his relationship with team owner Al Davis was eroding.
After the 2001 National Football League season, Gruden was traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for a pair of first-round draft picks. And in Gruden’s first season in Tampa, he led the Bucs to their first Super Bowl Championship.
In 11 seasons as a head coach in the National Football League, Gruden compiled a record of 95-81 which included having more wins that any other head coach in the franchise history of the Buccaneers.
Since Gruden was fired by the Bucs in 2009, he has done color commentary for ESPN’s coverage of Monday Night Football, and he’s been successful at it which has included him being nominated in each of the last six years for a sports Emmy. Several times Gruden’s name has come up in regards to head coaching vacancies which included the current opening at the University of Tennessee. But being that Gruden is a master salesman, while he also loves the attention that comes with being courted by a team, he would only leave his cushy job in ESPN’s broadcasting booth if the right opportunity came along. And that opportunity could be the Giants head coaching vacancy.
The Giants are tailor made for Gruden as he is at his best with teams who possess veteran quarterbacks. With the Raiders, Gruden made quarterback Rich Gannon a household name, and by 2002, he was the National Football League’s MVP. And in Gannon’s MVP season, Gruden led the Bucs past his former team in Super Bowl 38 with Brad Johnson as his starting quarterback.
For the longest time Gruden has been extremely fond of the Manning family which includes Eli’s older brother Peyton as well as his dad Archie. And if there is someone who still believes that the younger Manning can still get it done in the National Football League, it is Gruden.
The Giants are attempting to save face with Manning as he will once again be the team’s starting quarterback this Sunday. Manning still has two years left on his current deal and has publicly stated that he wants to remain with the Giants. But Manning will not remain with the Giants just to keep the seat warm for someone else.
Had the Giants decided to part with Manning in the off-season, things would be different. But since Manning was benched in favor of Smith which was a move that Mara was okay with, there might be a high level of brown nosing going on by the team’s front office to the franchise quarterback which means that he now holds all of the cards.
The Giants got a front row seat to the public backlash of parting with Manning as many people still feel that he can get it done. The Giants will have a top five pick in next year’s National Football League Draft which could be used on the offensive line, or a running back “if” they feel that they can squeeze a few more years out of Manning. And if that “if” is strong enough, Gruden could be their guy.
Gruden has been around some of the game’s best quarterbacks which includes Brett Favre, Joe Montana, and Steve Young, and he would not have an issue in regards to trusting Manning with his offense. Gruden also has the cache needed to keep players such as wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. who has been known to be a diva in line. Gruden possesses that rare niche in regards to motivating good players to be great, and great players legendary.
Aside from fixing the Bucs offense in 2002, Gruden challenged the Bucs great defense to be greater, and they took him up on the challenge. En route to winning the Super Bowl, the Buccaneers had the top ranked defense in the National Football League which included holing nine opponents to 10 points or less, while also scoring 5 defensive touchdowns.
Gruden also has the personality that is built for New York City which is something that was possessed by former Giants head coaches Bill Parcells and Tom Coughlin who each won a pair of Super Bowl Titles with the organization.
This will be a very important off-season for the Giants as the moves that will be made by this franchise will affect them for at least the next decade. And for a franchise that is desperate to have some positive headlines about them on the back pages of the local newspapers, hiring Gruden would be very interesting for business.
For years the National Football League has found itself near or at the top of the charts in regards to American entertainment. There is no event in television history that has been more watched than the Super Bowl as it has grown into an international event. But when you bring basic physics into the equation, what goes up must come down and the NFL is not immune to that.
The National Football League’s television ratings are down from last season with a portion of that being attributed to some fans being upset with players using the national anthem to protest police brutality and social injustice in the US. But as the media wants to spin the anthem protest into being the main or only reason that the television ratings being down, think again.
The National Football League has become a victim of its own success. The NFL pulled in $14 billion last season which includes profit from merchandise sales as well as revenue from advertising. But the NFL is spreading itself too thin.
The National Football League is focused on putting a franchise in England and to do so, it is attempting to force its fan base in the United States to watch games that begin at 9:30 AM Eastern Standard Time. The National Football League is also hell bent on force feeding Thursday Night games down our throats each week which for the most part have been unwatchable. There is also a lack of quality play coming from the quarterback position while tackling on defense is optional. And with growing concern over player safety, the unbreakable facade of the NFL is beginning to crack with the best way to sum it up is that they are now victims of their own arrogance.
The owners of each National Football League team are a part of very elitist group of billionaires. The majority of these men are self made, and in order for them to make it to this point in life, they became accustomed to getting their way and taking no for an answer. As a whole the NFL owners not only view the players as mere employees that can replaced at the drop of a dime, but also as highly compensated muscle in shoulder pads. And because of that there is a huge disconnect between the owners and players.
Right now it is safe to refer to Dallas Cowboys team owner Jerry Jones as the “lead” owner. Jones purchased the Cowboys in 1989 for $140 million after attaining success in the oil industry. Jones entered the ownership circle as a very wealthy man, but he was very low on the totem pole in regards to the respective team owners in the National Football League. At the time there were iconic owners around the NFL such as Wellington Mara of the New York Giants, Art Modell of the Cleveland Browns, and Al Davis of the Los Angeles Raiders. Mara and Modell played a big hand in the NFL’s merger with the American Football League in 1966, while Davis never backed down from battling the league office and former commissioner Pete Rozelle.
But since then these iconic owners have passed away along with other team owners and now Jones has become the senior man in the room. And after Jones spent years humbling himself, he is beginning to extend his influence.
Jones was influential in bringing the National Football League to Los Angeles after a 22-year hiatus in the second largest media market in the United States, while also being one of the mastermind of the league’s lockout of the players in 2011. When the NFL was attempting to suspend New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady for his alleged role in under inflating footballs for the 2014 AFC Championship Game, it was Jones who acted as one of the owners that forced the hand of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to drop the hammer on the star quarterback. Goodell would suspend Brady for the first four games of the 2015 NFL season; but this suspension would be appealed by the National Football League’s Player’s Association on behalf of Brady and the decision was overturned. Brady would play the entire 2015 season, but the NFL would take its case to another court where the decision was reversed. Brady would serve his suspension during the first four games of the 2016 season, however it would not prevent the Patriots from winning the Super Bowl this past February.
Jones forced Goodell’s hand in suspending Brady as he felt that no player is above the game, but now the shoe is on the other foot and the longtime owner of the Cowboys is not a fan of it.
In 2016, the National Football League opened an investigation into domestic violence accusations against Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliot that were made by his former girlfriend. The Columbus Police Department opened an investigation of their own and found that Elliot’s ex-girlfriend was not credible which resulted in no charges being field against the running back. This past August however, the NFL decided to suspend Elliot for six games after it was deemed that he violated the league’s personal conduct policy. What has ensued since then was a back and forth in the court of law where the NFL continuously fought to uphold Elliot’s suspension, while the NFLPA continued to counter in order to get it overturned. Each party continued to seek out a court that would listen to their case as Elliot’s eligibility to play was being decided on week-to-week basis until the NFL won out which resulted in the Pro Bowl running back beginning his suspension on November 5.
Jones has expressed frustration publicly over the case as he feels that this was an attempt by Goodell to make an over correction after the debacle of the Ray Rice suspension in 2014. This along with the anthem protest by some players has the full attention of Jones. Jones wants the players to stand as he feels that it is “good for business”, while he also believes that the kneeling players are turning fans off. And if less fans are attending games as well as watching them on television, it is messing with the bottom line for Jones which is the almighty dollar.
This has led Jones to attempt to block Goodell’s opportunity to receive an extension from the National Football League and he has the support of some team owners on this issue as well. Jones has even threatened to sue the NFL if he does not get his way. However Jones’ power play has blown up in his face as there was a contingency of team owners who countered by threatening him by forcing him to sell his beloved Cowboys if he continued to impede the talks with Goodell as his actions were deemed as “conduct detrimental to the league”. Jones was not a member of the compensation committee and he drew the ire of Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank who is leading that charge. And although that Jones is the senior man in the room, he is now seething as he isn’t getting his own way on the matters of Elliot or Goodell.
But Jones is not the only National Football League team owner that Goodell or the league must worry about. At a recent meeting between some players and owners, there was an attempt to find a resolution that each side has over the issue in regards to the anthem. During that meeting Houston Texans owner Bob McNair was quoted as saying “we can’t have inmates running the prison”. This statement by McNair caused immense public outcry which also included several Houston players walking out of practice. McNair has since apologized for his remarks, but in the eyes of many people, the ship has already left the port. And McNair’s comments led to the majority of the Texans team taking a knee in their next contest versus the Seattle Seahawks.
Aside with issues of the anthem, the National Football League has also alienated some fan bases. Prior to moving back to Los Angeles, Rams owner Stan Kronke rebuffed several offers from the City of St. Louis to build a new stadium on the waterfront. And now that the folks of St. Louis have now had two NFL franchises leave town on them within less than 30 years, I doubt that we’ll ever see another franchise there again. For more than 50 years the Chargers called the City of San Diego home, but once team owner Dean Spanos was unable to secure public funding for a new stadium, he decided to pack up his team and move to Los Angeles. What ensued was a bitter divorce as lifelong Chargers fans poured out into the streets with outrage which included the act of some folks burning and destroying their beloved team merchandise. Like the Rams and Chargers, the Raiders are ready to bid farewell to their longtime home. The Raiders are in the midst of their second stint in the City of Oakland. And like Kroenke and Spanos, once Raiders team owner Mark Davis didn’t get what he wanted, he decided to move his club to Las Vegas. But the real kicker in the case of the Raiders is that they will continue to play in Oakland until there new stadium is built in Vegas which is a real slap in the face to the Raiders fans in the Bay Area.
Issues in regards to player safety are not going away anytime. There is a growing concern in regards to CTE as this is a medical condition that has been found in numerous former players as the years of heavy blows to the brain have debilitated some of these men. The National Football League continues to claim that its all about player safety. However having a Thursday night game each week as well as travelling to London has cut down on the opportunity for players to rest and recover physically and it is only going to get worse.
There are solutions for the National Football League to recover from this myriad time that they are currently in, but I doubt that the team owners will check their egos enough to do it. The NFL should on only have one Thursday game in the months of September-November with the month of December dedicated to having games on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. By doing so it would make Thursday Night Football a more marquee event, while it would also give the league an opportunity to showcase its marquee teams. The first Thursday of the season is focused on having the defending Super Bowl Champion open up at home, while the rest and recovery aspect doesn’t come into vogue then since all 32 teams are fresh out of training camp.
But having a Thursday night game each week has taken away from another marquee day for the National Football League which is Thanksgiving. The NFL had three games on Thanksgiving Day this year and for the most part they were all boring. The Cowboys are not the same team without Elliot, while the injuries that both the New York Giants and Washington Redskins have had to deal with this season meant that somebody was going to win their meeting by accident.
The National Football League needs to go back to what made their brand successful which was quality over quantity. There was a time when Monday Night Football was reserved for the marquee teams, but now everyone gets a crack at the honey pot. The NFL has also gone overboard in turning its draft into a glorified circus that is only missing P.T. Barnum as this event that was once a two-day affair, is now drug out over three days with constant features that nobody cares about.
But things will never get better for the National Football League as more than ever today’s team owners only cares about their respective bottom line which is making money like a true capitalist. And at some point in my lifetime, this naive approach will ultimately be the undoing of the shield.