If you like following sports news off the field (Let’s be real, you do), then blockbuster trades are the most interesting off the field news imaginable other than your quarterback beating Roger Goodell in a legal battle. In the NFL, however, we never get trades. General managers value their high draft picks more than their children, low draft picks aren’t enough to pry a productive player away from his team (unless you’re the Bears and you need a firesale to have a shot at competency in a few years), and player-for-player trades are hard in a league that is based so much on schemes and continuity.
Luckily, the NFL is about to embark on a period of some very interesting trades that involve quarterbacks. None of these ones are sure things to happen of course, but there’s a real chance that all of the guys below could be dealt as early as next offseason. I’ll count down in reverse order of the most intriguing QBs that could be dealt.
(Dis)honorable Mentions: Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Geno Smith, Josh McCown
These guys aren’t very interesting, and nobody is winning the Super Bowl with any of them. Mallett has the most promise because he’s the most unknown, but quarterbacks generally show whether or not they have the ability to be a star much earlier than people think and well before they get their final handful of chances to finally prove themselves.
5. Johnny Manziel – Cleveland Browns
I don’t know why the Browns wouldn’t give Manziel a shot to prove himself, but coach Mike Pettine doesn’t seem to love Manziel. You can understand where Pettine is coming from, given that Manziel’s rookie year would have made Pettine pull out his hair if he had any left, but the fact is that the Browns have nothing to gain by playing Josh McCown. Pettine may be counting down the days until his team can deal Johnny Football for absolutely anything.
In fact, maybe Pettine is being savvier than we realize. Manziel’s’ value is the highest it’s been since his horrendous first start last December, and if Pettine knows that Manziel can’t be any better, why not hold him back and allow Manziel’s value to build through mystery, a concept that is a drug to NFL GMs? If and when he does get traded, an NFC team is most likely, because they Browns don’t want to have to face Manziel any more than once every 4 years if he actually does blow up.
Best Possible Trade Destinations: Rams (especially if they move to LA and need a guy for all the billboards), Saints because Sean Payton might be able to use his talents, Bears, Raiders, Texans, Jets for the media circus that would be impossible not to watch.
4. Robert Griffin III – Washington Redskins
This one is the most inevitable… unless he gets released and not traded given the $16 million he’s due next year. Ultimately though, I see some team taking a flyer on Griffin if they have nothing else, and I actually understand it. While Griffin needs a specific situation and a ton of breaks to work out in his favor, a 1% chance at a good quarterback is better than a 0% chance for some teams in the basement, and a team can’t win much without a good QB.
Best possible Trade Destinations: Eagles if there actually is something to Chip Kelly’s sports injury science, Texans, Rams, Jets. Texans are the best bet, because RG3 needs smaller media markets, and the Redskins won’t trade him to the Rams given the debacle of a trade that got him to Washington D.C.
3. Jay Cutler – Chicago Bears
I like Cutler more than the average NFL fan or talking head, and he could win in the right situation. Next year, $10 million of his $16 million salary is already guaranteed, and the Bears don’t have a shot at competing next year. I can’t see a reason for them not to trade him in Spring 2016. Otherwise, the Bears either eat $10 million next year or let him walk the following offseason and get nothing but a compensatory pick for him.
Best possible trade destinations: Jets to reunite him with Brandon Marshall yet again, and Cutler is confident enough with himself that the NY media won’t matter to him, Rams. Cutler needs a place that is at least good as every other facet of the game, requiring him to be merely good and not great.
2. Drew Brees – New Orleans Saints
Next year, Brees has a $30 million cap hit., and his dead contract number is $10 million. That dead money is nothing to sneeze at, but the Saints would be smart to save a million Andrew Jacksons and shp him somewhere else. They’ve already dealt Jimmy Graham and Kenny Stills, and their rough cap situation won’t get any better with Brees on the roster. He’s declining, so get what you can for him now and rebuild the team.
Best possible trade destinations: Jets, but they either won’t have the cap space or will have to get rid of other guys to get Brees, Rams, Texans.
1. Jimmy Garoppolo – New England Patriots
Yeah, that’s right.
Tell me why this shouldn’t happen. If you know anything about Tom Brady, you know that the way he takes care of his body is absolutely insane. He also said in his leaked emails that he had another 7 to 8 years left, and that was only last year.
Maybe most importantly, the Pats have to move one way or the other with Jimmy Garoppolo quicker than people realize. After this season in which Jimmy G is very unlikely to play anything more than garbage time, he’ll only have 2 years left on his rookie deal, and no quarterback who’s worth anything ever plays out their contract. That means that Belichick will have to make a decision on Garoppolo by Spring 2017 at the earliest, and I highly doubt that Tom Brady won’t be the QB of the Patriots in 2016.
At that point, what do you do if you’re Belichick? Let’s assume Brady plays well in 2016 but not as well as he’s shown during these first 3 games. Even if he’s 2012 Brady, let’s say, that’s still tremendous value at just $16 million. His contract does expire after 2017 just like Garoppolo’s, but if Brady is willing to continue to take discounts, what would you rather have? Tom Brady at $20 million of less, or Garoppolo at the $15 million that it’d probably take to keep him?
And Belichick will have to make the move in Spring 2017, likely without having seen Garoppolo start a game. Are you really gonna hitch your wagon to Jimmy G at that point, knowing that his price will shoot up the following offseason, or are you gonna go with Tom Brady at the hometown discount that he always gives the Patriots? And Belichick would get a king’s ransom for Garoppolo given that the NFL loves Tom Brady’s backups, even if they don’t actually turn out to do much besides Matt Cassel’s 1 good year in Kansas City.
Trade Jimmy G for a ton, have Brady play as long as he wants, and build his statue outside. Exactly what all Patriots fans want.
Best possible trade destinations: Everyone except the Packers, Colts, Seahawks, Panthers, and maybe the Titans and Buccaneers. Oh, and the Jets. No chance Belichick trades his best movable asset in a while to the team he hates the most. Unless Garoppolo sucks, in which case we should write his name in ink as the starter of the Jets in 2017.
In Bill We Trust
For the 4th year in a row, Bill Belichick has acquired a defensive player during the season with a trade. Today, they picked up
The Bears are in a fire sale now, also trading Jared Allen to the panthers for a 6th rounder. From their perspective, I love the moves. Why not get as many lottery tickets for players who won’t be a part of the team’s future on a horrible football team?
That’s good news for teams like the Patriots, who will happily take a guy like Bostic. He was a 2nd rounder in 2013 and the Pats liked him, and now they’re getting him for a 6th rounder. His contract runs through 2016, as does the Dont’a Hightower’s and Chander Jones’. if Bostic plays even close to that level, the Pats will have very interesting decisions to make at linebacker. Jerod Mayo is due for an $11.4 million cap hit next year, which isn’t gonna happen, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens to him in the offseason.
Another reason I like the trade is because Bill Belichick knows what he’s doing with in-season acquisitions. Since 2012, the Patriots have acquired 4 defensive players. In 2012, it was Aqib Talib; in 2013, it was Isaac Sopoaga; in 2014, it was Akeem Ayers and Jonathan Casillas. You’ll notice that those trades were huge in 2 of those 3 years, especially the Talib acquisition. Sopoaga wasn’t a great get, but that was for injury. Essentially, when Belichick trades for guys in season for reasons other than being bone dry at some positions due to injury, he hits on those acquisitions. The Pats have no injuries at linebacker right now, I expect Jon Bostic to be a great acquisition for the Pats, especially with a bye week to learn the defense before playing.
P.S. How great would it be to be traded from the Bears to the Pats right now? Obviously Bostic is an incredibly hard working guy to make the NFL, but that’s gotta give the guy a little extra motivation that he wouldn’t have had on a horrendous team like Chicago.
Even thought there was a fan petition to keep Don Orsillo with over 62,000 signatures because people loved him that much, NESN decided to be themselves and not air the Don Orsillo tribute video that the Red Sox played yesterday. John Henry’s management has always been about the smear campaigns, and they ran videos for Larry Lucchino and Orsillo yesterday. When even the Red Sox are way, way more in favor of honoring those who are leaving Boston, you know you’re in the wrong.
NESN has been absolutely pathetic in the way that they’ve handled this. Orsillo has no reason to go given that he’s one of the best local play by play guys in the league, maybe the best, according to my own viewing of other teams’ broadcasts and what I’ve heard from many media members. He never should have been let go, but nobody deserves to be let go AND be spit on when they walk out the door.
What NESN doesn’t realize is that they’re shooting themselves in the foot. Many young baseball fans today, which is almost an oxymoron in and of itself, follow baseball without actually watching the games. Fangraphs, Baseball Reference, and tons of websites can give fans a great rundown of who’s doing well in baseball, the ultimate statistical sport.
Don and Jerry are one of the most entertaining tandems in baseball, and they bring fans to their TV sets to watch even when the team is out of the race by July, as has been the case each of the past 2 years.
If NESN is gonna keep pulling this crap and have an overall negative conotation around Boston, which is already does, then they’re gonna lose viewers. In fact, I’ll bet you they already have by the way they’ve treated Don Orsillo, but their head is too far in the sand to notice it.
Here in Boston, we’ve been spoiled this century. We’ve gotten to watch our teams win championships 9 times in 14 years across all 4 of our sports teams, an unprecedented run. And no one believes that the run is over.
Now, if you ask me which of the 4 biggest Boston pro teams is my favorite, I’ll respond with the same answer every time: I can’t choose, because asking me which of these teams I love the most would be like asking a father of 4 which of his children he loves the most. And unless you’re Don Corleone and you clearly love Michael the most, no father should ever choose.
But that doesn’t mean that I have the same amount of desire for each of my teams to win a title presently. The team’s title window, whether or not they’ve won before, and the attachment I have to certain players are all factors that play into how much I want each team to win.
As of the Fall of 2015, here is the order that I most want each of the 4 main Boston sports pro teams to win. Let me know if your list is different, either by commenting on the blog itself or on Twitter.
Yeah, so this goes against one of my main criterion, which was “How long it’s been since the team last won.” But here’s the thing: The Patriots of recent memory are unlike any other team that’s existed, with some rare, rare exceptions like the San Antonio Spurs under Gregg Popovich. Given that the NFL is the league of parity, the fact that the Pats have 4 Super Bowls, 6 Super Bowl appearances, 9 (!!!) first round byes, and 12 AFC East titles in the past 14 years is just astounding.
And we don’t want that run to end. When this run is finally over, even if that’s gonna be awhile, we’re gonna miss this unprecedented streak of success. Last year, it felt so important for Brady and Belichick to get the 4th ring. Now, even with the 4th ring that solidified and bookended the best run ever, we want the Pats to make this run the greatest it can possibly be. And that desire shoots the Patriots to the top of this list.
There is a huge dropoff after the Pats, as I want them to win definitively more than the Celtics now. But the C’s come in at number 2 because they haven’t won since 2008, which is somehow the longest it’s been since one of these teams won. That I ranked the Celtics is somewhat surprising, even to me, because it’s clear that they can’t win next year and maybe not the year after — so why are they ranked number 2? I think it’s because we all want Danny Ainge’s masterful on-the-fly rebuild to be worth something in the end, and that’s because it damn well better be. When a team’s rebuilding effort comes up short to the point that they’re only a playoff team and not a contender, it’s crippling to the franchise’s title hopes for years to come, because being in no-man’s land in the NBA is the worst situation there is.
All of this means that we need to root for the Mavericks’ pick next year to fall at number 8 (it’s protected 1-7) and we NEED the Nets to suck the next 3 years, when the Celtics are drafting in their spot. Next summer’s draft could be the big one, because the Nets have lost Deron Williams and Billy King recently admitted that this year was a gap year because of the past moves they’ve made. If Brook Lopez gets injured as per usual and Thaddeus Young comes down from his contract year level of play, the Nets could very easily give the Celtics a top 5 pick next June, which would be a humongous asset to the team. And Marcus Smart’s development is the most important story for Celtics fans to watch going forward.
The Bruins would have been 2nd on the list if you had asked me before the Dougie Hamilton trade when the Bruins could have been contenders this year, but now my hopes for them winning in 2016 are shot. Unless they have a historically good trade deadline, Chara is 2011 Chara, and Tuukka stands on his head, this team’s defensive corp is going to be the death of it.
When your team loses it’s chances of contending the next year, it cuts into your need for them to win it that year, ya know? And with Zdeno Chara turning 39 in March and Patrice Bergeron and Loui Eriksson at 30 years old now, i don’t see the team competing without a major revamp that I’m not sure they can realistically pull off. Don Sweeney may be faced with the decision to sell off his expensive, aging parts and regroup with the David Pastrnak and Malcolm Subban generation, with Dougie Hamilton anchoring the blue line — damn it all. At least they won in 2011, and that will always be a happy thought for us Bruins fans.
4. RED SOX
Again, I love all these teams equally, so please don’t pretend that me ranking them 4th here means that I don’t love the team that historically has owned Boston more than any of the others. This ranking revolves around the fact that a “rebuilding process” isn’t a “process” in Major League Baseball. You can win 69 games in 2012 and then win the World Series in 2013 without having to play a Game 7 in the playoffs. Teams are constantly building their farm systems in the MLB rather than taking years to focus specifically on their young guys and not their veterans like in the NBA or NHL. That difference creates a little bit less urgency in my eyes for Boston’s professional baseball team to win it over our basketball and hockey teams, because there’s no “championship window” that the Red Sox have to hit perfectly to win the World Series. And compared to the Patriots, well, the Red Sox don’t have the best coach and player ever together for only a handful of years after this one.
Again, let me know your thoughts either by commenting on the blog or on Twitter.
When Dave Dombrowski said that he didn’t want to shake up and drastically change the front office but rather to guide it, I guess he was telling the truth. Rumors circulated that Dombrowski would hire his good friend Frank Wren, who teamed up with the Dombrowski with the Florida Marlins in the 1990s.
Instead, the Dombrowski simply chose to promote Hazen from Assistant GM status, and we should all be happy about this. Hazen has come up through the Red Sox school of managing a team, He started with the team in February 2006 as the Director of Player Development, and he obviously worked under Theo Epstein and Ben Cherrington.
I love this move, partly because I didn’t want Frank Wren. Wren is a fine general manager, but he may have been too quick to trade prospects for older major leagues, as his past would show. And analytics aren’t as much his thing as compared to a guy like Hazen.
Having Dombrowski and Wren together would suggest that the team would be altering their ways of managing the franchise from a more analytical one to a much more old school approach. Now, the Sox imply that they’re trying to improve on their ways. Hazen is familiar with the organization’s players up and down the roster, and he knows that the best way to build a consistent winner is through proper player development (which is his background) and smart ancillary moves to craft a mold a team, both from an analytical and old school perspective. To me, Hazen represents the analytical approach that should be the backbone of the organization, and Dombrowski represents the ability to bridge the gap between a smart approach and a perennial winner.
On the day that the Patriots opened the NFL season with the best pregame ceremony ever and a win over the Steelers, there was some other news in the sports world that very few people realized in this market. The Buffalo Sabres agreed to a 2 year contract worth $6 million with Cody Franson, the last remaining good free agent.
For his entire career, Franson has had great CorsiRel stats with subpar actual Corsi numbers, which means that he’s exactly what he’s perceived to be: A defenseman who can hold his own but who’s been stuck on bad teams and in bad situations. That’s what being on the Toronto Maple Leafs for the 2013 and 2014 seasons will do to you.
I have had a Tom Brady jersey since 2001, and it means a ton to me, as you might expect. But I will personally mail it to anyone who can convince me of a legitimate reason why the Bruins didn’t sign Franson, assuming that Franson didn’t turn down a contract in Boston or ask for the B’s to give him way more than the Sabres did.
Don Sweeney is working with about $4.75 million in cap space, depending on which roster filling guys make up the 23 man team for opening night. The market for top 4 defensemen is rising by the day, as the Bruins learned when they supposedly paid the market price for Dennis Seidenberg at $4 million a year. Franson is 28, meaning this Sabres contract won’t expire until he’s 30. You’re telling me he’s not worth $3 million in each of those 2 years?
There’s always the chance that the Bruins trade for him in February when the Sabres are likely out of the playoffs and would welcome a good young asset for Franson in all likelihood, and while not having him on the team for the first 4 months of the season would save a lot in salary cap room, it’d also cost whatever asset that may be. And the Bruins are gonna be in a battle for a playoff spot from the moment the puck drops vs. the Jets on opening night, and having a guy like Franson as your 2nd best defenseman rather than Torey Krug would have been a humongous boost to a team going into the season with a horrible cast of blueliners.
And at the risk of making you bang your head against your keyboard, remember that Adam McQuaid signed for $2.75 million per year. If the Bruins wanted to preserve this $4.75M they have in cap space, they could’ve simply let McQuaid walk and signed a much better player for a quarter million more. Or they could’ve signed Franson, let McQuaid wait out the market and realize no one else would have paid him nearly that much money, and take One Tough Hombre back for the 1 year, $1.25 million deal he deserves on a good day.
Dennis Seidenberg is getting back surgery today, putting him out 8 weeks. I’ve seen a lot of Bruins fans on the internet freak out over this, and it’s clear that they have no idea who Dennis Seidenberg is as a player anymore.
Seids is no better than a 5th or 6th defenseman now, and 5th is probably pushing it. While his stats show that he was actually better last year than his shortened season the year before, he still had awful corsirel numbers and is nowhere near the player he was in 2011. But it still might seem like a stretch for me to say that it’s a good thing for the Bruins that he got injured. Well, it actually is for 2 reasons.
First, it’ll give Claude Julien and Don Sweeney a full 6 or so weeks of game action to see some unproven guys get more minutes. They can come to a quick judgement about how good their overall defensive corp is, although I could save them a lot of time by telling them “It’s really bad.”
Secondly and more importantly, Seidenberg’s $4 million cap hit can now go on LTIR for a little while. Unfortunately it will not help for before the season, as the Marc Savard contract taught us that all salary stays on the books no matter what until the day the season starts, but once the campaign has begun, Seids contract is off the books until he’s back.
He’ll probably miss $15-20 games, which means that up to a million dollars will be saved through the LTIR provision. That doesn’t sound like a huge deal, but the Bruins have no way of winning the Stanley Cup this year without a great showing at the trade deadline. None. And given that the trade deadline is pro-rated in terms of the amount of money you can take on, the Bruins can take in way more than a million for that extra million that’s opened up at this point in the season. Those extra dollars will come in handy if Don Sweeney is to get the blue line back in good shape after how it is now – abysmal. And if you’re thinking that having Seidenberg on the ice is worth that loss of $1 million on the salary cap books, then you’re forgetting that we’re not talking about 2011 Dennis Seidenberg anymore.
You gotta give Mike Florio credit. For a guy who has consistently been aligned with the NFL because of the inside scoops he gets from the league, in the past few months Florio has objectively looked at the Deflategate BS and called out how ridiculous it is. He knows that the NFL drummed up a controversy that was not only insanely stupid but also made the league look insanely stupid.
Earlier today, Florio wrote that the Bills clearly went over the line in terms of when their PA system blasted a train horn in the stadium. He explains the rule and how the Bills broke it perfectly, and his opening paragraph sums up the state of the Patriots standing in the league thanks to the pettiness in the NFL:
“In the aftermath of the odyssey known as #DeflateGate and the short-lived phenomenon known as #HeadsetGate, two things were clear: (1) anyone who loses in Gillette Stadium can try to blame it not on their own failure to perform but on cheating; and (2) anyone who hosts the Patriots can take liberties with the rules and there’s nothing the Patriots can say about it.”
Those words were about as accurate as this pass from Tom Brady yesterday. While Patriots Twitter is up in arms over the fact that the Bills should be docked a draft pick, that’s not the big takeaway from Florio’s analysis, if only because Pats fans are mainly calling for the Bills to lose a pick so that they can whine, which is honestly kind of annoying. The big deduction that we can take from Florio goes back to Bill Belichick’s intentions with all the “rampant” cheating that the Pats have supposedly done over the years.
in Don van Natta and Seth Wickersham’s Outside the Lines report on the rule bending that broke the relationship between the NFL and the Patriots, they shed light on two points that received way too little media attention:
“The shared view of Belichick and [Ernie] Adams, according to many who’ve worked with them, is this: The league is lazy and incompetent, so why not push every boundary?”
“He had spent his entire adult life in professional football, trying to master a game no coach could control. Since he entered the league in 1975, Belichick had witnessed the dark side of each decade’s dynasties, airbrushed away by time and lore. Football’s tradition of cheating through espionage goes back to its earliest days, pioneered by legends such as George Halas. And so when it came to certain tactics — especially recording signals of a coach “in front of 80,000 people,” Belichick would later say, a practice that he claimed other teams did and that former Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson once confessed to trying himself — Belichick considered it fair game.”
You may remember past press conferences when Belichick had been asked about whether or not the Patriots deserve a cheating legacy, and Belichick responds in a semi exasperated manner because he thought that what he did wrong wasn’t that much of a big deal and anyone could have done it.
In all of this, we find the context that nobody was willing to try and find since the AFC Championship game last year. Throughout the history of the league, there have always been teams pushing the envelope in small ways. The Bills didn’t turn off their horn yesterday. The Falcons pumped in fake crowd noise recently, and the Chargers used grip-improving towels that earned them a fine. Jerry Rice admitted to using stickum, and his defense was that all players did it. John Madden said during a live broadcast that almost all teams did exactly what the Patriots were punished for in 2007:
The Patriots did a lot of rule bending through 2007, and anyone who denies that is a Patriots homer to a fault. They may have even pushed the envelope to a higher degree than other teams. But that’s all we’re talking about — a matter of degree. They were better and more sophisticated at it, according to the OTL piece itself. Because of that, and because the Pats were winning all the time, the NFL took notice and demanded that teams stop with little tricks like videotaping the NFL signals, which they have every right to do. But when something is a matter of degree, don’t try to tell me that only one team is the sole problem. Teams often break rules in dumb, minor ways, just as the Bills showed yesterday. Bill Belichick knew that, and tried to do the same. Bill Belichick is a trailblazer in many ways, but this isn’t one of them.
This column is gonna be come a weekly thing, because last week I felt it encompassed exactly what this site is about: Taking an objective look at everything around the league, but always with the backdrop of how it will affect the Patriots.
- As I said last week, the Broncos are not a team to write off, no matter what the talking heads or fans who think they’re outsmarting everyone say. Their defense is still awesome, and Peyton Manning and the run game is a viable offensive attack at this point. And they’re 2-0, so they have a head start on being a contender deep in the season. I still love the Pats in a matchup vs. Denver, but the Broncos are a very good football team.
- …But i may have been off about the Ravens. Losing to Oakland is horrendous, even if it’s the 2nd road game in a row to start the season and they easily could’ve won. It’s one thing to be hit hard by a West trip for 2 weeks during the heart of the season, it’s another when you had all Summer to prepare. But the Ravens do make their bones by winning at home, and they have 3 straight divisional games in a division that might wind up being pretty weak. If they get the 6 seed and travel to Foxboro like last year, they still worry me a lot, but they definitely might not get there. Let’s hope not.
- The Bengals are good. I have them at 16-1 to win the AFC and 50-1 to win it all from bets I made during the Summer, and I feel pretty happy about that. To be a real contender, Jeremy Hill needs to become the running back that he was against the Raiders, AJ Green needs to be 2013 AJ Green, and Andy Dalton needs to improve from being Andy Dalton. But they’re legit.
- And the Dolphins probably are not. Losing to Jacksonville? Please. Have fun when 1 or 2 defensive starters go down and the Suh contract makes it so that they don’t have any depth late in the season. Good thing Suh’s cap hit doesn’t jump TWENTY-TWO POINT FIVE million dollars next year.
- Neither the Seahawks nor Packers look as good as the teams that fought last January, and that matters if the Pats get to the Super Bowl against them. Of course, I’m getting ahead of myself, but can I really help it when the Pats win this often?
- Julio Jones is an ANIMAL. Watch this catch, then watch it again to prove to yourself that you’re not hallucinating. Good thing that the Pats and their suspect secondary doesn’t face the Falcons for 2 more years.And here are the two most important observations from Week 2 Sunday:
- The Pats are still the toast of the AFC. The Bills were supposed to be way better in their home stadium against the Pats, and their fearsome defense was supposed to shut down Brady. Nope. Gonna be the 13th AFC East crown in 15 years.
- The fact that Tony Romo and Dez Bryant are out is humongous for the Patriots. New England’s weakest point, by far, is its cornerbacks. In fact, it was Bradley Fletcher who was roasted vs. Dez Bryant on Sunday Night Football last year even worse than Tharold Simon was roasted in the Super Bowl. The Pats play the Cowboys Week 5, well before either player is back. And the Pats’ front 7 can scare Brandon Weeden in a way that they couldn’t scare a mobile QB like Romo. That’s probably an easy victory now where as it would’ve been a coin flip given that the game is in Dallas. Pats play Jacksonville, then bye, then Dallas, then Indianapolis in the ultimate revenge game. Probably a 5-0 start with games against 3 (maybe 4) good teams out of the way (PIT, maybe BUF, DAL, IND). Everything coming up Patriots.
Peyton Manning is in decline. We all know that very well by now, but the reason that I’m already sick of this topic isn’t just because it’s been discussed a ton for the past 4 days. It’s because people aren’t talking about the issue with the specificity that they should be, which you would expect when it’s been a top story 4 days in a row.
The Denver Broncos offensive line is in shambles. Their guards, Evan Mathis and 2013 Pro Bowler Louis Vasquez are very good, but their left tackle, center, and right tackle is 2nd round rookie Ty Sambrailo, 2014 6th rounder Matt Paradis, and Ryan Harris, who was a part of a pretty dismal offensive line in Kansas City last year.
And tonight, those guys get Justin Houston and Tamba Hali. That’s gonna be fun to watch in the same way that it’s fun to watch a car crash in a movie — utter chaos.
And talking heads and fans are gonna blame Peyton Manning for not dealing with his offensive line woes like he could back in Indianapolis, when he got around whatever weak links or injuries that affected the offensive line by getting the ball out of his hands in .00000089 seconds with tons of zip on the ball.
But we already know that he can’t do that anymore. He couldn’t do it last year, either, but he still managed to put up great numbers in the first half of the season. And we need to realize that that’s where Peyton Manning is now. He’s a great quarterback when he has a situation that suits him well — great receivers, good offensive line, and a running game that at least keeps defenses honest. (And I think CJ Anderson and co. are better than “keeping the defense honest.”) But Manning isn’t the Manning of old when he can cover up for those mistakes.
So why are we holding him to that standard? Why is it all or nothing with Manning? Either he’s the 2009 Peyton Manning who can be the best player by FAR on a team that could’ve gone undefeated if they hadn’t rested their starters late in the season, or he’s now a joke.
Nope, he’s actually somewhere in the middle. Whether he’s a B+ quarterback or a C+ quarterback remains to be seen, and that’s what we’re all trying to determine tonight. But he’s not an A or F QB, contrary to what talking heads and fans are saying. He can’t make up for the offensive line woes, so we need to stop expecting him to do that and instead judge him primarily on how he can maneuver his way around the O-line woes, such as screen passes to Thomas or Sanders. He won’t be able to react quickly to a 7 man rush and fire the ball downfield without having a ton of time to prepare, so we can’t expect him to. But he can still time his passes perfectly, so we need to judge him on how well he can do that and how well that strategy can lead his team to victory.
None of us know exactly what kind of grade that Peyton Manning deserves for his current level of play, and that’s what hte 2015 season will tell us as he gets older. But tonight, remember to grade him on a curve when you account for his offensive line. Watch how much time he has to throw and react, and then come to a decision about whether or not he’s done.