It’s been a busy and somewhat crazy week as we prepare for Week 15 games. A number of comments have been made by the various combatants this week, whether they came from individual players, front offices or ownership around the league. if you read between the lines, or have a bit of inside information, these quotes either fascinate me or make me shake my head. If this column was a Friday podcast, these subjects would have to be addressed.
I love the honesty and straight forwardness of Packers QB Aaron Rodgers.
Most media outlets debated where the league’s MVP race stood at this point. When Rodgers himself was asked about it, he didn’t hesitate where he stands on the topic. It’s clear the league MVP award means a lot to him. Rodgers referenced having won the MVP twice, but he also felt he’s been left out of the conversation in other deserving years. I love the fact that he addressed it and didn’t run from his prior disappointment of not winning it in certain years. Rodgers rubs some people wrong. It’s said by some that he can be difficult and is definitely not afraid to share his opinion. I happen to think he is authentic and real. He puts his feelings out there. Rodgers says what he thinks. He's not looking to build “his brand”, or save the world, like some other top QB's in the league. I’ll let you fill in the names of those. I just truly think he just wants to win. When he’s frustrated, you know it. When he plays bad, he’s accountable. When others screw up, he might comment on such. But the fact of the matter is that Rodgers doesn’t hide feelings or his thoughts most of the time. I also think he is way more calculating and aware than he gets credit for. Rodgers is a smart, well-read, multi-topic, conversationalist who I really find interesting on multiple levels. I also find this refreshing when compared to some of the canned answers of other leaders around the league.
We need to accept that Aaron Rodgers is one of the all-time greats and one of the most talented to ever play the quarterback position. Soon after his departure from the game, he will be going into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. His arm, his release, and his ability to improvise and process information quickly in both pre- and post-snap situations is rare. I realize that most already know this, but let’s not wait until he’s done to appreciate him both on or off the field. If I had an MVP vote this year, he’d be getting it.
Bucs coach Bruce Arians said what?
After 14 weeks of ups and downs and criticism, some direct and some cryptic, by Bruce Arians toward his QB Tom Brady, the Bucs head coach changed gears. “I don’t know why anybody is criticizing Tom,” Arians told reporters this week. When I read this, I was dumbfounded. Was he serious? Arians has blamed Brady all year long for everything from his decision making, his lack of running HIS offense, and the team's less than acceptable job of taking practice execution to the game field. I thought Arians' comments almost insulted our intelligence and his response shows that he can be thin skinned.
Brady has had to endure a more different approach in Tampa than he ever had in New England. For 20 years, he was coached by the consistence of everything in the building, and there were painstaking details behind every decision in New England, I often wonder what Brady would say, if he were under oath or given a truth serum, about these first 14 weeks as a Buccaneer in 2020. In my opinion, Arians and Bill Belichick could not be more opposite. The inconsistencies of the messages that come out of Arians' mouth and sometimes the nonsensical things he throws out there, make me shake my head. Arians might say anything, anytime, and that has to drive a disciplined and calculating player like Brady crazy, especially after 20 years of the Patriot way. Unless they make a serious run in the playoffs, and I don’t see it, I can’t see this marriage lasting more than this one year.
If I were the New Orleans Saints this week, I would not play Drew Brees. They have no chance to make a deep playoff run if he is not able to play. Why would you risk that? Home field advantage without fans in the stands has never meant less.
I think the Giants made a mistake playing QB Daniel Jones last week. He needs his legs. Jones does not make throws without his lower body and obviously his underrated athletic ability was not what it usually is. Jones not being 100% healthy attributed to turnovers. The Giants offense has to play a certain way for them to win. I’m still buying stock in their defense, but I think Colt McCoy is a better option right now.
I too am worried about the Steelers. Their injuries on defense are obvious, but their lack of explosiveness, especially at the RB position, is a concern. I just don’t think James Conner is the answer. They need a back that is quicker, can make people miss, and be a factor in the passing game.
In handicapping the Lions’ GM search, I don’t think this is a job that can go to anyone below the VP of Player Personnel level. Experience and proven decision-making matters more with the Lions right now than it does with other teams who may be looking for a GM. There are several more names under review, but if I were hiring, these are the top three guys I would consider in Detroit:
1. Jerry Reese, former Giants GM who has two Super Bowls in his back pocket to go with a 23-year career in New York. He’s known for being a solid personnel guy with an even-keel personality. I like a veteran guy for this job who needs no “on the job training”. Reese probably needs a “go to” evaluator with him as his #2 guy that comes from outside the Giants structure. I think Reese fits here even though he's been out of football for the last two years. I think his biggest negative was hiring Ben McAdoo as the Giants’ head coach.
2. Tom Dimitroff, former Falcons boss who was fired in Week 5. Dimitroff is well respected in the football world. He has come up through the ranks of scouting and put together a Super Bowl team in Atlanta. His personnel additions in Atlanta went south over the last couple of years but Dimitroff is confident, personable and not afraid to hire people that know more than him on his staff.
3. Ryan Cowden, VP Player Personnel with the Tennessee Titans. Cowden has 21 years of experience in the NFL and learned from Brandon Bean (Bills GM), when he was in Carolina and Jon Robinson, the Titans GM, who has rebuilt that roster into a playoff contender. Cowden has been high enough up the food chain to be involved in high-level decisions of team building and managing people. He seems to have the personality and skill set to lead an organization.
I will give you my “best fits” for the other General Manager jobs over the next couple weeks. I have no agenda, which is hard to find in the lists of candidates put out by some in the media.