Here’s what we’ve got going on around the league with less than two weeks left in offseason programs …
• This quote from Trevor Lawrence caught my eye—the Jaguars’ quarterback said it in response to a question about having stability year over year for the first time in his career, which allowed him to hit the ground running this offseason.
“To have the same staff, to have a lot of the same players, to have that carryover, and the system [being the same], that feels good having that and being able to focus on little parts of my game instead of just making sure I got the installs and know the plan coming into practice,” Lawrence said. “Not having that stress of just learning the playbook, I can just really focus on my game and my mechanics.”
That got me thinking: How common is it, in today’s NFL, for a young quarterback to have the same coaching straight through the early part of their career?
I dug into it, looking at the quarterbacks going into their third, fourth and fifth seasons this fall, and what I found was really interesting. Over that period, covering the 2019, ’20 and ’21 classes, 12 quarterbacks were selected in the first round. Five of the 12 haven’t been through a head coaching change. Those five are Joe Burrow, Jordan Love, Zach Wilson, Trey Lance and Mac Jones. Of those five, four have been through a coordinator change.
That leaves Burrow as the only one who hasn’t lost either a head coach or an offensive coordinator. And remember, we’re talking about guys drafted in the last five years, so it’s not like this is going down over some extended period of time. Go a year further back, to 2018, and you’ll see three guys (Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen) who saw their rookie-year coaches fired before Year 2, and then two others (Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson) who just underwent their first OC change and have the same HCs, and the picture is pretty clear.
And good on Lawrence for overcoming his circumstances.
• Monday morning was momentous for the Buffalo community, so I was sure to touch base with Bills president Ron Raccuia later in the day to get his perspective on it. Raccuia is a Buffalo native, and his was one of the shovels digging as the team broke ground on the new $1.54 billion Highmark Stadium.
A decade ago, the idea of this happening and the Bills’ staying long-term in Western New York, was murky at best, with the franchise having experimented with putting games in Toronto and one potential ownership group looking to move the team there.
So when it comes to what Monday meant, there’s an easy place to start.
“It means all those fears are gone,” Raccuia says. “The new stadium is one thing, physically. But the commitment the Pegulas [Terry and Kim, owners of the Bills and Sabres] have made, being able to get this deal done secures the franchise here in Buffalo for at least the next 30 years. It’s a great accomplishment and it was the No. 1 thing we were all trying to do. The stadium was the vehicle to get that done.”
The upshot, from a business standpoint, is, as Raccuia told me, “We play in a small market, but we’re not looking at ourselves as a small-market team anymore.” He contended that that’s proved out by the team having 11 national-television games in the fall (six prime time, four at 4:25 p.m. ET and a morning London game), and by the national corporate partnerships the team can pursue now—which isn’t unlike the renaissance the Packers enjoyed a generation ago when Brett Favre and Mike Holmgren brought the team back to prominence.
And that piece of all this, the impact the on-field product had on the business folks’ effort, wasn’t lost on Raccuia either. Some people may call the new place The House That Josh Allen Built. Raccuia won’t stop them.
“To quantify it, I can’t, because it was instrumental in making this happen,” Raccuia says. “When you have a player like Josh on and off the field, it certainly rallies and galvanizes an entire community. And having him here as the face of our organization, during a very difficult negotiation, was a great benefit to us—make no mistake about it. A lot of people deserve credit for what we just accomplished. Put Josh Allen on that list, for sure.”
So no, last year didn’t end like people in Buffalo wanted. But there’s still a lot to be excited about for a fan base that didn’t even know whether it’d have a team anymore a short time ago.
• Colts CB Isaiah Rodgers isn’t the only player the NFL is investigating on the gambling front—rumors have swirled for weeks now that the league’s latest probe into sports betting could implicate a healthy number of guys from across the league.
As you might imagine, Park Avenue is taking this very, very seriously, knowing that it’ll set a tone for how these matters are handled going forward. It’s also a lot more complicated than it used to be, with the league now heavily involved in the business of gambling, with gaming partnerships left and right, and a casino’s name right there on a stadium in New Orleans that’ll host the Super Bowl just 20 months from now (12 months after Las Vegas hosts one).
• With the NBA Finals ongoing (and we’re going to do more on this), I went through some of my notes over the years to take a look at how often Heat coach Erik Spoelstra has been referenced—either through someone admiring his work or coaches bringing him in to trade ideas. It was a lot. And I found one quote that was interesting, from then Falcons coach Dan Quinn, after his staff’s visit with Spoelstra on handling the pandemic in 2020.
“Erik Spoelstra, from the coaching side, developing players, he had such a good way with their players, G League players, they’re taking young players from high school, and how are they developing,” Quinn told me in June 2020. “Spo must’ve spoke for 90 minutes with us, back and forth on topics, where we’re at and how the guys are doing. It was cross-sport, cross-player, and, as difficult as this offseason was, I grew a lot. You don’t have the same fun, the locker room, on the field and talking s---, and all the stuff that goes on in the spring. …
“But there was a lot of growth in some other ways.”
It’s interesting now to look at that quote. Among the bottom-of-the-roster, undrafted guys developing in that difficult environment for the Heat were Duncan Robinson and Gabe Vincent, guys who weren’t playing much then who have grown to become integral pieces of Spoelstra’s operation. Which is a pretty good reminder about how simple player development, regardless of the circumstances a team is facing, is as vital to the job a coach does as anything, even at sport’s highest level.
• Speaking of reminders, Antonio Callaway’s being in trouble again (he was reportedly arrested due to an outstanding warrant for driving with a suspended license) is a good one on the fact that predraft red flags usually don’t surface because someone wants a player to fall in the draft. Most of the time they’re legitimate. In Callaway’s case, they certainly were.
• The Bills’ signing of Leonard Floyd this late in the offseason is a good sign that Buffalo wants to make sure what it views as a team strength remains that way while Von Miller works his way back from a torn ACL. The Bills have three young guys in the holster, in Gregory Rousseau, A.J. Epenesa and Boogie Basham, and Floyd can give them a veteran presence on the edge should Miller need more time.
As for the next questions, Floyd’s $7 million base, with $2 million in upside, to me does to the Bills what Donovan Smith’s deal did to the Chiefs in the DeAndre Hopkins sweepstakes. It doesn’t eliminate them completely, but it probably limits even further how far they’d go financially to get Hopkins.
• Chase Young’s reporting to Commanders minicamp on Monday again highlights the situation Washington is in with its edge rushers. The Commanders have already paid Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen on the interior of the defensive line, and giving two more pass rushers, in Young and Montez Sweat, big contracts might be tough. So as Young tries to prove he can get healthy and back to himself again, he and Sweat might be competing for the last spot.
• Teams coming out of the spring thinking they need more help may make trade calls on Young (it seems unlikely the Washington brass would move him ahead of a must-win year, but I know they’d be open to listening), and there’s a pretty surprising number of accomplished pass rushers still on the market, with Jadeveon Clowney, Justin Houston, Yannick Ngakoue and Frank Clark among the biggest names out there.
All those guys would likely be looking at one-year deals at this point, and Floyd’s deal might help set the market for the rest of them.
• The Jets’ decision to cancel minicamp has to be taken as a good sign of where Robert Saleh sees his team heading into the summer break and training camp. But also, there’s only so much you can do because of the rules, and my sense is the Jets got to where they’d done enough. So everyone gets an extra week off.
• RIP, Norma Hunt. Few qualify as pro-football royalty, but Chiefs founder Lamar Hunt is certainly in that category, and his wife is right there with him. The impact they had on the sport, primarily through the creation of the AFL, is immeasurable.