There are no shortage of story lines and interesting things going on in the NFL this week. I’ll let others tell you who is going to come out on top of the SIX wild card weekend games. I’m going to stay in my lane and give you my take on several other topics from around the league from a former GM’s perspective.
THE MESS THAT HAS BECOME THE HOUSTON TEXANS
The question is not whether they have issues but rather how many issues does this organization actually have? Where do we start? Let’s begin with a disgruntled star player who claims he was promised a seat at the table when it came to having input on potential GM and head coach hires. This one falls directly on owner Cal McNair. Obviously, he should have never opened this door unless he truly was going to follow through. Communicating is hard. Every word that gets said can be a problem, especially if it doesn’t come to be. There is nothing wrong with your best player being heard. Listening is a skill that a good leader MUST have and I see nothing wrong with having a sit down with DeShawn Watson and JJ Watt, maybe even together? Why not gather some information from your two leaders? Perhaps the decision makers, Cal McNair and his right-hand man Jack Easterby (who clearly is still pulling strings), could have heard what was important to these two popular players in the locker room. I don’t think it shows weakness. I don’t think its shows indecision. I think it shows humility and helps to build culture. I think it absolutely addresses the reason that Watson tweeted out a “some things never change” quote. The culture established by former GM/HC Bill O’Brien has proven to be toxic. Because he came through the Patriots “car wash”, Watson sees “more of the same” with the hiring of the next general manager and a status quo situation with Easterby.
These two together have led to repercussions and mistrust in the process which has created skepticism around most in the NFL. Matt Eberflus, the defensive coordinator for the Indianapolis Colts, recently turned down a chance to interview for the head coaching position with the Texans. The team’s new GM, Nick Caserio, might be the greatest GM in the history of the league, but his tenure has started under a giant gray cloud. There have been positive things said about Caserio, however, New England’s recent drafts can’t be used as positive examples and insiders throughout the league all have seen this. There is more to these jobs than sitting in a room and picking players. Communication, trust, culture and building consensus with player acquisitions are all traits that will determine the Texans future. Caserio has a big job, made harder by the owner’s lack of leadership and communication skills. However, McNair isn’t going anywhere. Caserio has to decide who he surrounds himself with going forward and if the perception of his new organization is going to change. I’ll let you, the reader, figure out what that means.
THE COURTSHIP OF URBAN MEYER
We have recently heard of the back-channel communication between the Jacksonville Jaguars and former Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer. Now we read of a face to face sit down meeting between both parties. I think most in the NFL want to see how that’s going to go. I think it’s interesting that his candidacy has been championed by a team without a “named GM” and by ownership. Having visited Ohio State many times while Meyer was at the helm, suffice it to say there will not be a lot of NFL scouts and executives that will be jumping on board and welcoming him into the NFL family. Very few school visits were anywhere near as miserable as when I went to Columbus on many occasions. Unlike Nick Saban, who opens his doors at Alabama every day to NFL people, the Ohio State experience was much different, it has been met by most NFL people with the same excitement as finger nails scratching a chalk board or undergoing a root canal.
Having said that, the fit in Jacksonville probably is as good as it will ever get for Meyer. He will no doubt be given total control, answer only to the owner, and be a big fish in what is really a great city more oriented towards the collegiate ranks. Jacksonville is the type of place where the head coach of the Jaguars can be king if he’s winning, just like in college. He can easily control the local media there, similar to what happens in most college towns. The biggest difference for head coaches who come from college is they must learn quickly that the professional game is all about the players. People pay to see the players perform, as it should be, and they really don’t care who the coach is, as long as the team is winning.
The reality is it’s a totally different game. Sure, a leader of men is just that, no matter what level of football. However, professional football players are a bit different and all expect to be treated like men. You only have 53 scholarships (not 85 like college) at the NFL level, so really there are tough roster decisions that loom every day, not just on signing day. If Meyer enters the league, he is going to need others around him that he trusts. One guy cannot make all the decisions for an NFL team. That’s a fact, not my opinion. Let’s see how this one plays out.
Chicago Bears- Having dipped into the film room to see what all the hub-hub is about regarding the resurgence of QB Mitch Trubisky, I found it’s actually much of THE SAME from earlier this year. The Bears offense has been reduced to doing things aligned with his skill set and that has limited them to roll outs, half field throws, predetermined routes and the equivalent of playing offense with one hand tied behind your back. If GM Ryan Pace and HC Matt Nagy survive this crazy season, they have no choice, in my opinion, but to move on from Trubisky. The Bears literally have to play perfect on both sides of the ball to have any chance to win and that’s very, very, very hard to do at the NFL level. Trubisky’s play just gives them no margin for error. If ever a team needed a reset in evaluating talent going forward, it’s this team.
LA Rams- A lot of nice stuff was said last week about fill-in QB John Wolford in a Week 17 playoff-clinching performance against the Arizona Cardinals. I’m here to say that Wolford’s effort is nowhere near good enough to win a playoff game on the road in the NFL. The best thing he did was use his legs to run for several first downs on designed QB runs. Wofford lacks an NFL arm and can’t make the necessary downfield throws. He also missed most of the throws that would have allowed the Rams offense to convert chunk plays. Ram fans better warm up to Jared Goff fast. He’s their only chance to advance going forward.
WFT- The fact that HC Ron Rivera has acknowledged needing an alternate package for backup QB Taylor Heinicke should tell you everything you need to know for this weekend about their chances to compete vs Tampa Bay. The Alex Smith story is unbelievable, but he has really struggled in his play. I feel bad for him. Heinicke is not an NFL QB by normal standards or skill set. This TB defense will eat him up.
Well, don’t let me be Debbie Downer, I’m just trying to keep it real. Enjoy the other three games this weekend. ☺