So we’re back with another year of the Weekly OC. The NFL offseason is about to come screeching to a halt when we get into live action at training camp.
Speaking of training camp. Let’s get on with our first topic…
It’s that time of year again when the greatest PR tool for an NFL franchise rears its head. Coaches, players, front-office guys, cleaners and rookies act as though they think the cameras aren’t on them and we get to see the highs and lows of training camp. The Browns have already ruled themselves out of the running for HBO’s annual series and Shad Khan continues to up the offer to get the Jags some of the spotlight by building a pool just for the crew. Here’s the top five teams I’d like to see on this year’s edition.
5) Detroit Lions – Don’t sleep on the Lions. They’ve got a new owner, new coach, a poster boy quarterback, the college phenom, the all-time greatest receiver and the misunderstood defensive tackle. They have everything HBO and the audience could ask for. Not the team that first springs to mind, but think about it for a while and it makes perfect sense.
4) Dallas Cowboys – How can they not make the list? Love them or hate them (most of you will fall under the latter) they make great TV. We once again get to see the head honcho promise a championship season, the head coach show his ineptitude, see the coordinators schmoozing to become the next HC and of course, one of America’s most divisive talents: Mr Tony Romo.
3) Miami Dolphins – Talking of inept coaches. How about we go back to South Beach and check out just what Joe Philbin is (or isn’t) doing. It’s a perfect full circle for HBO who featured the Dolphins a few years back when they breathed ‘new life’ into their franchise. We got to see the beginning of the Philbin/Tannehill tenure, why not see the end? Oh and they also have a lot of PR ground to makeup.
2) Philadelphia Eagles – This is a truly selfish pick. I just want to see what Chip Kelly is cooking up in his football lab.
1) New York Jets – Why? Because it’s the Jets. Because they have Rex Ryan, Geno Smith, Michael Vick, Sheldon Richardson, Joe Namath and everything that went into making the Jets series the best we’ve ever had!
Top College Quarterbacks
Within five minutes of the draft completion I got a message from a Bengals fan tentatively titled ‘Next year.’ After being disappointed by his club not opting to replace Andy Dalton in the first round he wanted to know a little about next year’s incoming class of QBs. So here’s my top five QB prospects heading into 2014. *note* the rank is based on projection to the pros, not their college ranking and includes all eligible underclassmen.
5) Kevin Hogan*, Stanford – it’s a big year for Hogan. He has another dominant O-line, a really talented defense and a plethora of pros who can catch the ball. He’s a good, if not great, athlete who has a funky release and a crank shaft wind up. He needs to work on quickening his release time and movement within the pocket but all the skills are there.
4) Bryce Petty, Baylor – What Art Briles is doing at Baylor is nothing short of remarkable. Petty put up ludicrous stats last year with one of the most prolific college offenses in modern history. He’s a reliable player who rarely turns the ball over (32TDs – 3INTs) and has operated in a complicated zone, motion offense. He has things to prove heading into his senior year but again has all the skills physically and mentally. He’s a great prospect.
3) Brett Hundley, UCLA – I really was surprised by Hundley’s decision to return to LA rather than pursue his pro-potential last year. He’s a smart player who finds ways to move the ball downfield. He has a cannon for an arm and can hit every type of throw. He still needs to work on his foot placement, command of the offense and precision but he’s a really intriguing player.
2) Jameis Winston, Florida State – The reigning Heisman trophy winner and National Champion has a way to go to prove he is worthy of the #1 overall pick many have already slated him into. He needs to step up his on-field and off-field leadership, his on-field and off-field decision making and anticipation. There’s no doubting he has everything a franchise is looking for in a quarterback but I do have concerns.
1) Marcus Matiota, Oregon – I’d have taken him with the number one pick in 2012 were he eligible, I’d have taken him with the first pick again in 2013 had he declared for the draft. And heading into the year I’d take him with that pick, whoever holds it, in 2014. He has rare anticipation skills, size, athleticism, ball-placement and versatility. I compare him favourably to Cam Newton and Andrew Luck. You can slot him into any offense.
If I were the Commissioner
Recently on our podcast over at UKEndZone.com, our roaming reporter ‘Robbo in the field’ asked me what I’d do if I were the commissioner? What ensued was a lifelong ambition to move the game of football in the direction I want and I drew up the blue prints. I’ll note down some quick thoughts on my points but make sure you head over to Episode 58 to hear the full discussion.
Give back some cash
Get this: Roger Goodell made $30m in salary from the NFL last year. That doesn’t include TV/speaking events. That’s a heck of a lot of wedge in a year that skewed towards a negative for the NFL (concussion suit, Dolphins scandal, Aaron Hernandez, Jim Irsay etc.). I’d never tell a man how to spend his money and I’m sure Goodell’s charitable contributions aren’t published but is it right that last year, which was relatively bleak, the commissioner made more money than ANY player in the league?
Remove the draft age limit
Here’s one that might not make Ted happy, but it’s got more layers than to just make high schoolers eligible for the NFL Draft. Why can’t we have a system whereby the teams draft an exceptionally talented high schooler e.g. Adrian Peterson and then they red-shirt him? Maybe Andrew Luck didn’t have a body ready for the NFL when he first arrived at Stanford but could you not have a situation where a team invests in a first-round pick and he doesn’t suit up before he’s ready. Put the onus on the teams to make the decisions. I’m all in if you want an age limit on playing in the league, to protect players from restless organisations, but not in the draft.
I’m sure by now Ted can’t stop shuddering. I know the argument is that college football is a D-League and that players may incur injuries in a league that means nothing but my idea isn’t for a fully competitive league. It’s for what it’s named: player development. We could have a situation whereby any high-schooler drafted must serve three years at his clubs D-League affiliate. He then has an OPTION (something the NCAA can’t stand) whether to pursue that career, or go and play college ball and be immediately eligible after his three years. It’s all about giving players and franchises options.
In this fantasy world, my D-league would consist of 7-7 games that resemble the senior bowl. Not full contact but not touch. Players learn about technique without getting NFL licks on their body. We also expand rosters, get more players, coaches and a good outlet for former players to hone their own coaching skills.
Super Bowl Winner
Now my first idea for the Super Bowl winner was to host BOTH the following years Super Bowl and NFL Draft. As my co-host Tom pointed out to me logistically the Super Bowl one would be impossible. But the Draft would be cool another reward for a team’s success.
100% guaranteed medical insurance
The NFL makes billions of dollars. Billions with a B. They need to protect their players and offer full medical insurance to all participants whether it be one year or a twenty-year vet. Draw a fee out of their pay check (across the board) and guarantee them full insurance for life.
I’d love the league to move to a baseball style ‘qualifying offer’ system. The system would be in place as opposed to the ‘franchise tag.’ A team would offer their pending free agent a one year contract (set by the league), any other team can also offer the player a contract and if the player moves the former team are compensated with a set 1st, 2nd or 3rd round pick (depending on the Q-offer). It removes the grey area of the league’s current compensatory pick system that still have no set guidelines. It allows a team like the Bills who just lost a big talent in Jairus Byrd, to get fairly compensated and stops a team like the Patriots losing Aqib Talib, who they didn’t cut (eligible for comp pick), signing Darrelle Revis, who was cut (not eligible for a draft pick) and coming out of that summer; trading in Talib for Revis and gaining a third round compensatory draft pick.
Player and Coaching Fines Panel
This is a must. It should have been set up a decade ago and it’s a shame that it’s not. A panel of former players, coaches and front office personnel including the likes of: Tony Dungy, Joe Montana and our own Ted Sundquist should preside over the weekend’s citations and incidents before handing out fines, bans or whatever punishment/non-punishment they see fit. Take the power out of the autonomy of a commissioner and set up a panel of people who have been there and seen it from all aspects of the game.
Address the Drug Issue
I don’t care what your thoughts on pot is. I don’t care what state the player lives in. The NFL is its own private entity and if it bans marijuana, it bans marijuana. Personally I think it can do a lot to help players with the stress and pain relief. But right now it’s giving the NFL and image problem. Players like Ryan Clark are openly declaring they and their teammate’s smoke, a violation of the league drug policy, is it banned or not? Chose a lane and get into it. I’d take in all the medical advice and make a ruling. But players consistently failing tests and saying ‘it’s just weed’ when they know its banned is a sham.
Kyle Shanahan: the biggest Browns addition
The Browns added a ton of new pieces this offseason. A new marquee quarterback and a new head coach were the biggest headline grabbers. But the key to their success is in the hands of new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan.
Shanahan has been handed Johnny Manziel, Brian Hoyer and the complete Browns offense by new head coach Mike Pettine and he needs to install one style of offense that fits both players. Shanahan has two polar opposites in his quarterback room. Hoyer, is a pro-style 3, 5 and 7 step drop QB from under center. Manziel is a player who needs space starting out of the gun. When I hear Shanahan’s quotes that Manziel and Robert Griffin are ‘similar’ I get very worried. One is an elusive, special player and the other is a flat-out track star who gets north to south with power and in a hurry.
The answer is a motion-based zonal offense, similar to Chip Kelly’s last year. The Eagles showed that in a match-up zone-blocking system you can win with different types of quarterbacks and numerous offensive weapons. Foles and Hoyer are great anticipators who make great decisions and get the ball out quickly to players in space. Manziel and Vick are players who excel in the space themselves. The two offenses can be one and the same. Chip Kelly made a smart move last year when they installed the one offense that he knew both players could run. It would be an egregious waste of a training camp if the Browns attempt to install two type of offenses one for Hoyer and one for JM2 when each could succeed in one.
The Browns have talent in abundance and a rookie head coach who’s been waiting for his chance but the key to their season lies in what the team’s number two decides to do once the training camp doors open.
Well usually we’d do the mailbag here but with it being the first of the new year we have no questions! Reach out to me via email or twitter. Make it known it’s for the mailbag and it’ll be answered in overtime next week.
Until next time…
You can find Oliver Connolly on Twitter where you can find more of his writing as well as hear him yapping about sports on his podcasts