Daryl Johnston

Extra Points: Cousins, 49ers, USFL, Europe

While Kirk Cousins has been the Vikings’ starter for four years now, his status came up constantly ahead of his 2018 free agency bid. Kyle Shanahan confirmed the 49ers would have been in play for Cousins in 2018 — for what would have been a reunion between he and the QB he coached while Washington’s OC — but San Francisco’s Jimmy Garoppolo extension preempted such a pursuit. Washington’s head coach at the time, however, believes the 49ers would have coughed up a considerable trade package for Cousins prior to October 2017’s Garoppolo trade. Jay Gruden said Washington could have obtained two first-rounders and perhaps two seconds for Cousins ahead of the 2017 deadline, and the then-WFT HC said — during an appearance on the Kevin Sheehan Show, via the Washington Post’s Jake Russell (Twitter links) — Daniel Snyder and Bruce Allen effectively killed such talks due to not wanting to reunite Shanahan and Cousins.

The 49ers gave up only a second-round pick for Garoppolo, though Cousins was a far more established starter at the time. The 49ers were mentioned in trade rumors regarding Cousins ahead of the 2017 draft, prior to his second Washington franchise tag, but Shanahan has only confirmed the team was planning to go after him in free agency. Gruden suggested Washington still had hopes of re-signing Cousins then; the team walled off this path after trading for Alex Smith in January 2018. Washington has long since moved on, firing Gruden during the 2019 season and Allen at its conclusion, though a notable void still exists for the franchise at QB.

Here is more from around pro football:

  • The XFL is not planning to launch its latest reboot until 2023, but another spring football attempt is in the works. Fox Sports is aiming another effort at establishing the United States Football League and has slated the effort for April, Ben Fischer of the Sports Business Journal reports. The USFL represents the best effort yet of a spring league in America; its ill-fated plan to move to the fall in 1986 led to its demise after three seasons. Fox employees Daryl Johnston and Mike Pereira, along with The Spring League co-founder Brian Woods, are set to be involved with this latest spring effort. Games would be televised primarily on FS1. Details are scarce at this point, but the recent Alliance of American Football and XFL 2.0 forays illustrate the uphill battle spring football presents.
  • The NFL’s push to play a game in Germany is expected to come to fruition by Super Bowl weekend, with Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports noting plans for the league’s future in Germany will become clear by February. The league is set to begin playing games in Germany annually either next season or in 2023, depending on COVID-19 restrictions, JLC adds. This would up the total of international games to at least four — two in London, one in Mexico City and one in a to-be-determined German city. With the NFL having sent more than two games to London in several previous seasons, it is possible the number of international games will surpass four.
  • Additional COVID testing is on tap for the post-Thanksgiving week. The league will require masks for all players, regardless of vaccination status, from Nov. 25-Dec. 1 at team facilities, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets. All players and staffers will be tested twice the week following Thanksgiving.

Extra Points: XFL, Giants, Vikings

The AAF may have imploded in spectacular fashion, but that doesn’t mean people are done taking cracks at spring football leagues. Vince McMahon’s XFL is gearing up to start play early next year, and they’ve already made some big hires. They’re now moving on to filling out the rosters, and some recognizable names are resurfacing. We heard a couple days ago that Landry Jones, Aaron Ripkowski, and Christine Michael would be auditioning, and now we have even more names to report. Trevone Boykin, Lance Dunbar, Kony Ealy, and Ahmad Dixon were at a showcase yesterday as well as a handful of other ex-NFLers, per Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News (Twitter link).

According to a tweet from Optimum Scouting’s Erik Galko, former Seahawks receiver Kasen Williams will also be among those trying out. Finally, a tweet posted by the XFL Houston account shows that NFL veterans Will Hill and Robert Meachem also participated in a camp. Meachem is 34 and last played in the NFL with the Saints back in 2014, so this would be quite the comeback. While the XFL will still be facing an uphill battle, they do appear to be in better position than the AAF. McMahon seems fully invested in the league, and the TV deal the league has is far superior. It’ll be interesting to see how it pans out.

Here’s more from around the football universe:

  • Speaking of the XFL, one of their big hires was when they named Daryl “Moose” Johnston the director of player personnel for their Dallas franchise. Johnston was the GM of the AAF’s San Antonio Commanders, so he has experience in this type of league. Most players in the AAF and XFL were looking to get back to the NFL, and it’s no different for coaches and execs. Johnston wants to be an NFL GM one day, per Machota. Johnston spent all 11 years of his pro career with the Cowboys as a fullback, winning three Super Bowls with the team. He made the Pro Bowl twice and has done a lot of broadcasting work for FOX since retiring.
  • Evan Engram missed the Giants’ recent minicamp, which raised some eyebrows. But thankfully he’s not dealing with anything serious, as Engram said today at Landon Collins‘ charity softball game that the Giants were just being “cautious” by holding him out, per Ryan Dunleavy of NJ.com (Twitter link). He also writes there’s “nothing lingering from last season.” Engram had a breakout rookie season in 2017, but took a step back last year while dealing with injuries. Hamstring and knee injuries limited Engram to just 11 games last year, but he finished strong down the stretch. In each of his last four games he finished with at least 75 yards, so he should be poised for a bounce back 2019 campaign.
  • 2018 first round pick Mike Hughes got off to a solid start last year. The Vikings cornerback had a pick-six in the first game of his career, but his rookie season ended in devastating fashion. The UCF product had his season ended by a torn ACL after just six games, and has been rehabbing ever since. Things appear to be going well, but the team is being cautious with him. To that end, Minnesota coach Mike Zimmer recently said that he wouldn’t get any practice in until training camp at the earliest, per Andrew Kramer of the Star Tribune. We heard recently the Vikings were listening to trade offers for both Trae Waynes and Xavier Rhodes, which would seem to indicate they’re optimistic about Hughes’ recovery.

Extra Points: Goff, Rams, AAF, Ryan, CFL

It’s been a rollercoaster of a ride for Jared Goff these past few years. The first overall pick back in 2016, a lot of people wrote him off as a bust after his disastrous rookie season. But Goff came alive once he was paired with head coach Sean McVay, and has now made the Pro Bowl each of the last two seasons. This past season, the Rams made it all the way to the Super Bowl but Goff had a terrible performance in the big game. There’s been a lot of debate the past couple of years about how much of Goff’s improvement was due to his own natural development versus how much of it was due to McVay’s coaching.

As such, there have been some rumors that the Rams aren’t completely sold on Goff as the longterm answer. McVay openly stating last month that the team wasn’t in any rush to extend Goff did nothing to quiet those rumors. But during a recent appearance on The Rich Eisen show, McVay pushed back on that perception, saying Goff doesn’t have to prove he’s “the man.” “I think he’s already the man. I think he’s had a lot of moments,” McVay said. “His teammates believe in him, his coaches believe in him. I think it’s just continuing to do what you do at a higher level. It’s ‘can I continue to make great decisions? Can I continue to make throws with accuracy and anticipation?’ I think the thing that was great about him really from the first year we were together to last year is the ownership. We talk about the quarterback being an extension of the coaching staff and I think he did that.”

McVay made it clear he’s happy with Goff’s progression, and tried to extinguish any talk about the team potentially moving on down the line. It would be a major surprise if anything other than Goff getting a huge extension happens.

Here’s more from around the football universe:

  • We have some more fallout from the demise of the AAF. Daryl Johnston, the former Cowboys fullback and commentator, was the general manage of the San Antonio Commanders, and now he’s dishing on what went down. Johnston said during a recent appearance on ESPN Radio that he and others were “misled” by the league’s founders about the financial stability of the startup, per Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com. “There were several people who took jobs with the Alliance because they were told they had two years, and they’re in a very difficult spot now at this stage. This was something that caught me totally by surprise,” Johnston said. Johnston also said there are multiple San Antonio businesses who have so far been stiffed on payments they’re owed, and that Bill Polian called him out of the blue on the day the league ceased operations and told him to immediately shutdown practice.
  • As much as Johnston might want to put the chapter behind him, it might not be that simple for him. In a follow-up to that piece, Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com writes that Johnston could now become a “key witness” in the multiple lawsuits that have been filed against the league. Florio writes that Johnston’s comments seemed to confirm the crux of the lawsuits, that the league’s founders lied about their financial standing. This surely isn’t the last we’ve heard of this process.
  • Free agent punter Jon Ryan might be getting back into professional football, but not in the NFL. The Seahawks’ punter for ten years from 2008-2017, Ryan had a workout with the Toronto Argonauts of the CFL this past week, according to Rod Pedersen, the team’s announcer (Twitter link). Ryan was released by Seattle last August and signed with the Bills, but couldn’t crack Buffalo’s roster.