No Rest For Decision Makers In NFL
Just because your team may have lost this weekend does not mean the time has come for some rest and relaxation. For most general managers in the NFL, their life is just kicking into high gear at this time of the season. I remember on a flight home from Minnesota in 2000, after losing in the divisional round of the playoffs to the Vikings, I was busy working on a “things to do list” so I could literally hit the ground running when we returned to New Orleans. Here are some bigger type decisions that loom after these teams lost this weekend.
What do the Baltimore Ravens do with their offense going forward?
Fresh off another playoff loss, the Ravens again failed to execute in their passing game when it mattered most and throughout the year, they were really a one-dimensional team yet again. What HC John Harbaugh and GM Eric DeCosta decide to do with the direction of their offense will have an effect on many in the Ravens organization. At some point in the near future they have to decide whether to secure Lamar Jackson and his services going forward, or not.
Is their lack of development in the passing game a flaw of design, which is a referendum on OC Greg Roman or a referendum on Lamar Jackson’s skill set? Should we add perimeter players with speed to threaten all levels of the field and if so, can Jackson effectively make all the throws to make the investment pay off?
Have the Ravens maxed out what they currently do on offense or is there another level? They are no doubt asking themselves, can Jackson operate in the same fashion as say, Browns QB Baker Mayfield, in a run-oriented, play-action, passing offense that is defined by one or two specific reads to be effective? This team no doubt still needs Jackson to be Jackson with his rare athletic ability. I do not know the answer to these questions from 30k feet but suffice it to say, they have got to figure it out. Ravens fans are dying to know.
The Rams have a QB decision as well
In his post playoff “state of the union” Rams HC Sean McVay said, “He is our quarterback for NOW”. Not exactly a firm vote of confidence for his $35 million a year QB, Jared Goff, who was for all intent purposes, benched at the start of the Seattle Seahawks game in Week 1 of the playoffs. The Rams instead started that game with John Wolford, a 5’10’’ QB from the Alliance of American Football. At that time McVay, who has no problem sharing his feelings publicly, said, “I’m impressed by how he (Goff) handled things this week”. "In other words, Goff was cleared by doctors to play but the coach chose to not start him and Goff accepted it. I cannot think of another franchise QB who has started all year only to have his coach choose not to start him in the team’s biggest game of the year, even though he was cleared medically.
Franchise QB’s live and shine for these moments. Now it’s clear that his long-term job status is up for debate. McVay “had to be” consulted when the Rams elected to pay Goff the $35 million to originally re-up/sign him to this big money deal. He was also undoubtedly part of the decision when Goff’s deal was renegotiated to clear cap room for signing others. He has to be accountable for some of this blame if it doesn’t work out. This would frustrate me as a GM if the coach had already signed off on the Goff extension. He’s been the same player since he was a Cal. But for now, Goff’s NAME/CARD goes up on the free agent board and draft board in the Rams offices when discussing players who are available at that position. The decision becomes, where does that card land when we line up all the available QB’s? Free agency first, then thru the whole draft process. Such is life in the NFL. These decisions get made at many positions when players become free agents or their play makes them worthy of discussion on job status going forward. It’s just another day in professional football.
How I’d handle the Houston situation
I don’t claim to know the full story within the walls of the Houston Texans organization. I do, however, claim to know that a QB of DeShaun Watson’s level is very hard to find. I have spent 30 years in the business and never had one to work with that has Watson’s skill set. I don’t disagree with Watson’s lay of the land but we all have to make it work. So, needless to say, I am finding a way to repair the toxicity and mistrust that has romped through this franchise for quite some time now. Good luck trying to find another franchise QB. As we sit here today, this is what I would do if I were newly hired GM Nick Caserio:
I’m making it clear that Watson is not going to be traded. If he wants to withhold his services, so- be it. Trading him is not in the best interest of the Texans football team — end of story. What we have heard has only come from Watson’s side so far. Let’s take a cooling off period and go back to our corners. If he wants to come talk, the door is always open and I’d gladly listen to his thoughts on the hiring of a new head coach if he wanted to meet face to face.
I’m dealing with the giant in the room that is Jack Esterby. Life is not fair. Perception has become reality in this case. This business at the NFL level is about the players. No coach or front office executive, whether they asked for it or not, should stand above the players. The trust factor has to be reestablished within the locker room. If it means changes have to be made to improve our culture (in the big picture), then we have to make those changes. I don’t know Esterby at all, but I do know that he can’t function in any role under present conditions. None of us are bigger than “what’s best for the franchise”.
Hire the best head coach I can who gets respect in the locker room, regains trust, can lead men, build culture, and HAVE THE PLAYERS BACK at the same time. It doesn’t have to be a coach for five or six years either. Age should not matter. Let’s get through one or two years and then re-evaluate. We can find top notch coordinators to run the X’s and O’s on both sides of the ball so let’s make this hire a team builder.