Is it time for the Titans?
ESPN’s pro football insider Adam Schefter says a team to look out for this next year is…the Tennessee Titans. “For having so many weakness on its roster, Tennessee sure is operating from a position of strength,” writes Schefter. The Titans sputtered to three wins this year, which allowed them to secure the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft. Schefter’s well-sourced informants predict that the Titans could draft offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil — who, along with current Titans offensive tackle Taylor Lewan, would give quarterback Marcus Mariota a formidable wall of protection. However, what really makes this interesting, notes Schefter, is that the Titans don’t necessarily need the No. 1 pick. They can trade it to a team seeking a quarterback — like Cleveland, San Diego or San Francisco — and still get their lineman, along with another high first-round pick. If the Titans can add a blocker and a playmaker, then Mariota will have the proper personnel to fully display his future Pro Bowl skills.
The coaching carousel continues to go round and round
With the exception of Bill Belichick, does it really matter anymore who the head coach of an NFL team is? Every year, coaches seem to jump around from team to team, regardless of their win/loss records. Take Chip Kelly. He went 10-6 in his first two seasons leading the Philadelphia Eagles, then slipped to 6-9 this past year. Despite compiling a 26-21 regular season record in three years, he was still let go with one game remaining this past season. He now goes to the San Francisco 49ers to replace their coach Jim Tomsula, who was kicked out after one 5-11 season. And then the Eagles nearly hired former New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin, despite his 19-29 record over the past three seasons. Sure, Coughlin has two Super Bowl victories (the most recent in 2011), but the reality is that a coach’s win/loss record doesn’t really matter all that much in the NFL these days. If you lose as a coach, you’ll probably get fired and then land a job elsewhere. And if you have a winning record? Watch out. You could be let go next.
Will two once high-flying quarterbacks regain their winning form?
Robert Griffin III and Johnny Manziel were both expected to shake up the league when they arrived in 2012 and 2014. And each has done that — in quite unexpected, unpredictable ways. Griffin never evolved into the immediate playmaker in Washington, dogged by injuries and hampered by a tense relationship with team coaches. And Manziel has gone off the rails via his off-field behavior. This year is a critical one where each player can turn around his young but unfulfilling NFL career. Reports include the possibility of either going to…Dallas. The Cowboys have been interested in both, though it’s more likely that Manziel ends up in rehab before he plays again. However, this could be the new beginning for Griffin. With Kirk Cousins firmly established as the starting QB in Washington, Griffin needs a new environment to prosper. If he can get his body healthy, he has the mental fortitude to lead a team (should Tony Romo falter) and regain his old Heisman Trophy form.
The NFL returns to Los Angeles
The country’s second-largest TV market will finally get what it hasn’t had for the past two decades: its own NFL team, when the former St. Louis Rams take up residence in Inglewood. What is crazier is that L.A. could be the future home to another NFL team. The San Diego Chargers have a one-year option to also make Inglewood their new home, in a $3 billion football palace set to officially open in 2019. And if the Chargers don’t exercise their right to move to Inglewood by Jan. 15, 2017, the Oakland Raiders will have a one-year option to join the Rams. The overlap in fan bases should make Los Angeles the most interesting, diverse home to an NFL team in the league.