By David McDonnell
Welcome back to the ‘Six Points for a Touchdown’ column.
This week I am going to bang on about three quarterbacks, two of which are almost certainly heading to free agency and I’ll also give my opinion on some of the more recent coaching hires in the NFL.
So lets get to it.
- Test driving Derek Carr
Derek Carr is taking the Saints for a test drive in New Orleans today.
It made me chortle when it broke last night that the Las Vegas Raiders gave Carr ‘permission’ to speak to the NFC South franchise, considering in seven days they have to release him as a free agent or pay him $41 million dollars.
Even though they excluded him from football duties for the last two weeks of the regular season, it was spun by both camps that him sitting on the bench would be a distraction for the team, as if benching a player or even a quarterback at that was somehow uncommon in the NFL.
The Raiders showed him the door and they they won’t be paying him next week. Carr is out because he had an average season and was evidentiary a poor fit for Josh McDaniels’ offence. He couldn’t spin gold with Josh Jacobs excelling at running back and a host of talented receivers.
H did get the ball with regularity to Devante Adams, but it was mainly off play action, and he particular missed the talent of Hunter Renfrow in the slot and tight end Darren Waller in the red zone for large chunks of the season.
Carr will have plenty of suitors. I would also add the Bucs, who need someone to step into Tom Brady sized shoes in Tampa Bay as well as the aforementioned Saints. If Carr goes to the Saints, it leaves the Bucs in a similar pickle to where New Orleans have been since Drew Brees retired. I can also see the Commanders and the Jets being two others with a preference for a veteran under centre.
It will be interesting, which way the Raiders will approach the quarterback position in the off season.
If they stump for a rookie QB with the seventh overall pick in the draft, it will allow the franchise to build up a roster over four or five years that has a lot of holes on both sides of the ball. Or they might pluck for one of the next two veterans on this list.
- Rodgers joins the Dark Side?
The Green Bay Packers have a similar decision to make regarding Aaron Rodgers.
Will they push their chips into the middle of the table once again with the future Hall of Famer or is this when this oft rocky marriage is parked once and for all?
When I read that Aaron Rodgers is spending a number of nights attending a darkness retreat to figure out whether to play for the Packers, retire or to play somewhere else next season, I thought it was an obvious joke. However, it seems to be true and I think all three are viable possibilities and I would guess in that order.
I am not sure if the decision will be solely his to make.
The Packers need to make a decision this offseason on whether to pick up the fifth-year option on Jordan Love, the QB they surprisingly took in the first round in 2020. He has been a forgotten man in the NFL save for a nine-minute cameo this season against the Eagles where he found Christian Watson for an impressive touchdown.
Should Green Bay not pick up his fifth year, then it will be a public admittance of wasting a first round pick on a player without really giving him much of a chance to play. This decision could also leave the Packers entering the 2024 season without a QB.
I think it’s least likely Rodgers will play for another team but should he do so I could see him picking the Raiders and pairing up again with Davante Adams. Rodgers in a Raiders jersey would be a sight to behold. Another AFC team that would be interested in his services are the Jets, who have his former QB coach in Nathaniel Hackett installed as offensive coordinator and more importantly, a Superbowl-ready defence.
- Jimmy to make a few G’s
I have never been a huge fan of Jimmy Garoppolo, but he will get a starting job in the NFL next season and he will get well paid to do so too, after coming off arguably the best season of his career.
He has previous connections to Josh McDaniels, having played under his tutelage in New England, while two former 49ers Defensive Coordinators are head coaches in Robert Salah and DeMeco Ryans in New York and Houston respectively. Especially if Carr ends up in New Orleans, I wouldn’t be surprised if Garoppolo comes in to replace Tom Brady at the Buccaneers.
However, if I was to call it, I think Jimmy G ends up at the Jets.
- DeMeco Ryans
I believe the Texans knocked it out of the park with the hiring of DeMeco Ryans as head coach. It is a great fit for both for a number of reasons.
He is young, smart and energetic, with a boatload of NFL experience and he is coming off being the defensive coordinator for the best defence in the NFL this season with the San Francisco 49ers.
He also knows the Texans franchise intimately, as one of their former outstanding players, where he won Defensive Rookie of the Year as a linebacker in 2006 before securing All Pro honours in 2007.
The Texans, especially in the prime JJ Watt years, were regarded as having one of the best defences in football and it has become a part of the fabric of how the club is viewed around the world. Having a defensive emphasis at the head coaching position suits how they want to play football.
It really seemed from the outside that the Texans head coaching position looked like a poison chalice after the last two head coaches were fired after only a year in the job. I thought in particular Lovie Smith being fired a few hours after the season ended was unfair considering the Texans were highly competitive in most games this year with a relatively poor and unbalanced roster.
The GM Nick Caserio worked in building a squad in New England with Bill Billichick so working with a coach with a penchant for defensive players is something already in his wheelhouse and it’s encouraging that Ryans has signed a six-year contract, which should hinder him being shopped after a year or two.
Additionally, there is a lot of defensive talent on the Texans roster that Caserio has brought to Houston since his arrival.
Roy Lopez is a very competitive D-Tackle, who was drafted in the fifth round in 2021, while Houston added Derek Stingley Jr and the outstanding Jalen Pitre to their defensive backs in the first two rounds as well as linebacker Christian Harris in the third round during the 2022 NFL draft.
This is a good core of excellent young players to build a defence around.
They will need to add talent to their D line, but with the second overall pick. I would not be surprised if they go defence if and when a team leaps ahead of them to trade for Alabama quarterback Bryce Young.
I think this is how the draft is likely to play out as the Chicago Bears already have an impressive young QB in Justin Fields and they could acquire a king’s ransom by trading down.
Should that happen, that second overall pick could go to Young’s Alabama teammate Will Anderson, who had 207 total QB pressures during his three years playing for the Crimson Tide. For a recent comparison, the second overall pick last year Aiden Hutchinson had 128 QB pressures during his four years in Michigan.
- Payton’s fits the Broncos
Sean Payton certainly looks a step in the right direction for the Broncos and I think for Russell Wilson as well.
Denver is stuck with Wilson, coming off the worst season of his NFL career, for at least another two seasons with his salary guaranteed. Payton will suit Russ because just like Wilson, he is used to working with a smaller sized QB in Drew Brees.
Let me extrapolate this point.
Payton likes his QBs to get the ball out quickly and Russ earlier in his career used brag about playing like a point guard in basketball. This is how Payton will want him to play with the addition of being comfortable throwing the deep shot downfield, which was certainly in Wilson’s wheelhouse in Seattle.
Payton was great at scheming lanes for Brees to throw down the centre of the field which should help a smaller QB like Wilson. Expect young tight end Greg Dulcich’s targets to go up in this scheme next season.
Another trait of Payton is to have talented pass-catching running backs who can line up as a wide receiver. Think Darren Sproles or Alvin Kamara and he also uses a varied screen game to allow the QB to dump the ball off in the backfield.
A worry I have about Wilson is his conditioning.
In my opinion, and I have wrote this during the season, Russ is carrying too much weight for a quarterback under six feet. He is too built up and is built like a linebacker.
This knock on effect is that he is slower to move in the pocket and he can’t get away from opposing pass rushers. When he was starting his career in Seattle, he great at extending plays by his movement and was a weapon at picking up first downs with his legs.
An improvement in his mobility could see him return as one of the top QBs in the league, but for this to happen he needs to spend less time in the gym and more time on the track.
- Steve Wilks and Brian Flores
I will be rooting for Steve Wilks, who has taken over as Defensive Coordinator in San Francisco. For me, he earned the shot to be the head coach in Carolina after turning the ship around last season as interim coach. He may have to wait a year to get his just desserts on that front.
Brian Flores has a good opportunity to show the NFL what a great coach he is as well after being named DC at the Vikings. Again this seems to me a great hire but it is a much more difficult challenge to get the Minnesota defence to put fear into the opposition like he did with his former Miami Dolphins.
If he can achieve this over the next year or two, then we can expect the Vikes back in the playoffs next season and hopefully Flores will get another turn as an NFL head coach.
This week I’ll kick for one.
7. Jim Harbaugh to the Colts?
I want to see Jim Harbaugh back in the NFL.
He is another excellent coach who has been missed in the National Football League.
I can see the Colts tipping their hat to Harbaugh. He has an advantage being a former player but I also think he is the type of coach, Colts owner Jim Irsay would strive to have prowling the sideline with his explosive and combative disposition.
Harbaugh was a hell of a coach during his time with the 49ers and they mirrored his super competitive nature. He is box office entertainment at times and the NFL is a more fantastic place with him in it.
If I was an owner and needed a head coach, Jim Harbaugh would be at the top of my shortlist.