“[Raiders owner] Mark Davis told me he loved me and appreciated all that I did to get this program going to right direction,” said Del Rio. “But, [he also] that he felt he needed a change.”
Davis hired Del Rio in 2015 and saw the team improve from 3-13 to 7-9. That Raiders team didn’t necessarily set the world on fire, but they were at least in the playoff hunt, up until a Week 15 loss to the Packers. In 2016, it appeared that the Raiders were on the right track. With Del Rio at the helm and Derek Carr under center, the Raiders finished 12-4 to earn their first playoff spot since 2002.
Unfortunately, Carr didn’t make it to the postseason after suffering a broken fibula in Week 16. Then, when Matt McGloin suffered a shoulder injury the following week, rookie Connor Cook was thrust into action. Oakland’s long-awaited playoff appearance ended abruptly with a loss to the Texans. Had Carr been on the field, it’s possible that things could have gone differently for the Raiders and JDR.
So, after a cumulative 25-23 record, the Raiders dismissed Del Rio and immediately set their sights on Jon Gruden. Del Rio, meanwhile, spent the next few years away from football, up until 2020 when he became Washington’s defensive coordinator.
When Del Rio crossed paths with his old team a few weeks back, he had an opportunity to mend fences with Carr. Previously, Del Rio had some unflattering things to say about Carr’s ability to perform in cold weather. Fortunately, with 2021 drawing to a close, they were able to bury the hatchet.
“I talked to him afterward,” Carr said. “We had a good talk, obviously I wish it was better for me, but we just expressed our love for one another and how thankful we were for the times that we had.”
December 31st, 2021 at 6:04pm CST by Zachary Links
Lions linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin is winding down his walk year. But, if Lions head coach Dan Campbellhas his druthers, he’ll be staying put in 2022.
“There’s a number of guys, but I mean certainly one of the first ones that pops in my head is, Jalen Reeves-Maybin pops up,” Campbell said (via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press). “I know he missed a couple of games here due to injury, but when he’s been out there on defense and on special teams, he just, he makes plays. He’s a football player. And that doesn’t go unnoticed.”
Reeves-Maybin, a 2017 fourth-round pick, has spent his entire career in Detroit. Last offseason, after losing Jarrad Davis to the Jets in free agency, the Lions brought him back on a one-year, $2.38MM deal. Since then, he’s responded with a pair of forced fumbles and 57 tackles, tied for fifth on the team. Not too shabby for a player who spent much of his previous years as a special teamer.
“He will have his chance to be our starting inside linebacker,” Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn said earlier this week. “He’s had a great year. Still has a ways to go, but we’re excited about that player.”
Of course, there hasn’t been much excitement in Detroit outside of Reeves-Maybin, but the Lions will have plenty of draft ammo to work with this offseason. Now stationed at 2-12-1, they’ll wrap up the year with games against the Seahawks and Packers.
Additionally, the Broncos could also be without Courtland Sutton. Vic Fangio said the recently extended wideout could soon be moved to the team’s virus list, though that has not happened as of Friday afternoon (Twitterlinks via 9News’ Mike Klis). If Sutton ends up being shelved, the Broncos will likely be down to Kendall Hinton as their top wide receiver in Los Angeles. The team placed Tim Patrick on its virus list Wednesday.
Thirteen Broncos have been placed on the virus list over the past three days. Defensive line coach Bill Kollar also will miss Sunday’s game after a positive test. Chubb and Jeudy have each missed extensive time this season. A second 2021 ankle surgery sidelined Chubb for much of the year, while Jeudy missed most of the season’s first half because of a high ankle sprain sustained in Week 1.
The NFL moved three Week 15 games to new dates but has since altered its protocols twice in order to limit player unavailability. No games have been moved since, with the NFL playing Dolphins-Saints as scheduled despite New Orleans’ run of positive tests, and it should be expected the Broncos-Chargers rematch will be played Sunday.
While the Broncos are not technically eliminated, their losses to the Bengals and Raiders all but buried them in the AFC wild-card race. The Chargers have a 35% chance to qualify for the playoffs, per FiveThirtyEight.com.
The Bengals will not have their highest-paid cornerback available against the Chiefs on Sunday. Trae Waynes is now on Cincinnati’s reserve/COVID-19 list.
This will mark yet another absence for Waynes, who has struggled to stay on the field since signing a big-ticket contract with the Bengals last year. Waynes missed all of last season because of a torn pectoral muscle and was down nearly three months this year due to a hamstring injury.
The former first-round pick has played in just four games since signing a three-year, $42MM deal with the Bengals in March 2020. Waynes returned from injury in Week 15 and started against the Broncos. However, Eli Apple started over him against the Ravens, with Chidobe Awuzie back after missing the Denver trip due to a positive coronavirus test. Waynes is due to count $16MM against the Bengals’ cap in 2022.
Wide receiver Trenton Irwin also landed on Cincinnati’s COVID list. Other than this Friday news, the Bengals are fairly healthy going into their matchup against the Chiefs. Backup quarterback Brandon Allen resides on the team’s virus list but has a chance to clear protocols by Sunday.
According to a tweet from ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Vikings’ quarterback Kirk Cousins has tested positive for COVID, moving him to the COVID-19/reserve list and ruling him out for this weekend’s matchup in Green Bay. Tom Pelissero, of NFL Network, was told that Cousins experienced symptoms, self-reported, and test positive (Twitter). Because Cousins is symptomatic, he is not affected by the new rule change shortening the isolation requirements for players who test positive but prove to be asymptomatic. The rule change will make it easier for Cousins to return to the facility once his symptoms subside, though.
Backup quarterback Sean Mannion was on the COVID-19/reserve list after testing positive on Sunday. The remaining quarterbacks on the roster are Kyle Sloter and the rookie out of Texas A&M, Kellen Mond.
Neither quarterback has seen playing time in the NFL. Kellen Mond was drafted in the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft and has been sitting on the active roster as a reserve. Kyle Sloter went undrafted in 2017 and was signed by the Denver Broncos. In the preseason, Sloter impressed completing 31 of 43 pass attempts for 413 yards while throwing 3 touchdowns and no picks. His passer rating of 125.4 in the preseason led a rookie class that included Mitchell Trubisky, Patrick Mahomes, and Deshaun Watson. Sloter was nonetheless cut before the season started and has since bounced around on multiple NFL practice squads. He spent the tail-end of the 2019 NFL season on Detroit’s active roster, but never saw a down of football. Sloter was signed to the Vikings’ active roster only three days ago, when Mannion was placed on the COVID list.
The silver lining for the Vikings comes from a tweet by ESPN’s Minnesota Vikings’ Reporter, Courtney Cronin, who is expecting Mannion to be activated off of the reserve/COVID-19 list today and start this weekend with Mond backing him up. This was confirmed by NFL Network reporter Ian Rapoport as the move was made official.
Tyre Phillips‘ season has most likely come to an end. The Ravens placed the offensive lineman on injured reserve today. Phillips will be out for the rest of the season unless Baltimore makes a playoff run.
The Mississippi State product quickly established himself as a viable starter during his rookie season, starting eight of his 12 games. Phillips was expected to serve as the team’s starting left guard in 2021, but he’s battled a number of injuries throughout the season. He was carted off the field during Baltimore’s Week 1 loss, forcing him to miss four games.
He’s appeared in the each of the Ravens’ last nine games, but he’s seen inconsistent playing time. Phillips has started four games since his return, filling in for Patrick Mekari at offensive tackle. However, in his other five appearances, he’s been limited to only 92 offensive snaps. Pro Football Focus hasn’t been particularly fond of his performance this year, ranking him 78th among 84 eligible offensive tackles.
Phillips suffered a knee injury in mid-December that forced him to miss Week 16. He’ll likely return to full health and should compete for the starting left guard gig with third-round rookie Ben Cleveland (per Ryan Mink of the team’s website).
Careful what you wish for. On December 30, 2018, Jets fans were overjoyed when they learned head coach ToddBowles was canned. Fast forward three years, and fans have endured at least one head coaching failure and may be questioning whether they should have kept Bowles after all.
Bowles made a name for himself as a defensive backs coach, and following a two-year stint as the Cardinals defensive coordinator, he was hired by the Jets to replace RexRyan in New York. The organization clearly had high hopes for their hire; they gave Bowles a four-year pact despite his lack of heading coaching experience (he had a brief stint as interim HC with the Dolphins in 2011).
The Jets new on-field leader was inheriting a team that had dropped to 4-12 in 2014 … their worst record in seven years. Thanks to a reinvigorated defense that emerged as one of the best in the NFL (and thanks in part to Geno Smith‘s broken jaw, which thrust veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick into the starting lineup), the Jets improved to 10-6 during Bowles’ first season at the helm. However, the entire squad took a major step back in 2016 when they finished 5-11, and Bowles was firmly on the hot seat heading into the 2017 campaign.
The Jets had an identical record in 2017, but the Josh McCown/Bryce Petty-led offense wasn’t completely incompetent and bought Bowles another year. There was some optimism with first-round QB Sam Darnold taking over under center in 2018, but the Jets finished with only four wins, the worse showing of Bowles’ tenure and the organization’s worst record since, well, Ryan was fired. So, on this date three years ago, the organization fired Bowles and began their search for their 19th coach.
“After carefully evaluating the situation, I have concluded that this is the right direction for the organization to take,” Jets CEO Christopher Johnson said in a statement. “I would like to wish Todd, Taneka and their family only the best.”
We all know how this worked out. The organization initially decided to hang on to general manager MikeMaccagnan, and the organization settled on AdamGase to replace Bowles. After allowing their GM to hire a new head coach, run the draft, and deal with the early wave of free agency, the organization curiously fired Maccagnan before the offseason concluded. Gase managed to improve the squad to a 7-9 record in 2019, but following a 2020 season that saw the Jets win the second-fewest games in franchise history (two), Gase was fired.
While the Jets are still trying to land on their feet, Bowles has made out pretty well for himself. The coach was hired as BruceArians‘ defensive coordinator in Tampa Bay in 2019, and Bowles has helped turned the Buccaneers’ defensive line into one of the best in the NFL. The Bucs ranked first in rushing yards allowed in both 2019 and 2020 (they’re third in 2021), and the defense has been top-10 in points allowed since the beginning of the 2020 season. Of course, Bowles also helped guide a defense that won a Super Bowl championship last season.
Bowles was a hot name on the HC circuit last offseason, as he was connected to gigs with the Lions, Falcons, and Eagles. He ended up getting an extension from Tampa Bay last offseason, but there’s still a chance he moves on; Bowles will interview for the first vacancy that’s opened in the NFL in Jacksonville.
While Bowles has clearly rehabilitated his image following an ugly few years in the New York, it remains to be seen whether he’s actually a viable NFL head coach. Similarly, following a COVID-filled year that saw the Jets turn to a rookie QB and an ancient Joe Flacco at QB (at least Mike White was fun!), it’s difficult to make any determination on Jets head coach Robert Saleh.
Sure, it’s plenty easy to second guess the Jets for how everything unfolded. However, until Bowles emerges as a capable HC (or New York beats him to the punch by returning to the playoffs under Saleh or someone else), it’s hard to be too critical of the Jets.