All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari will practice this week, according to Packers head coach Matt LaFleur (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport). This will trigger a three-week return window for the lineman now that his ACL is mostly good to go.
Bakhtiari, 30, opened the year on the PUP list. He’s served as Green Bay’s starting left tackle ever since his 2013 rookie season and has blossomed into one of the league’s best. Bakhtiari earned first-team All-Pro acclaim twice between 2018-2020 and his absence was clearly felt in the NFC championship game. Bucs edge rushers Jason Pierre-Paul and Shaquil Barrett had a field day with Green Bay’s healthy tackles, underscoring his importance to the offense.
Even though Bakhtiari will practice, LaFleur isn’t sure if he’ll be ready to face the Washington Football Team this week. “There is a ramp up period,” LaFleur cautioned (Twitter link via Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com).
With the Cowboys still on the hook for Smith’s $7.2MM base salary this season, the Packers landed the sixth-year defender for the league minimum. This amount to a recruiting competition instead of a bidding war, but Schefter adds Smith was interested in joining both the Panthers and Washington.
Smith’s relationship with Packers HC Matt LaFleur mattered here. Despite LaFleur coaching Notre Dame’s quarterbacks for just one season (2014, when Smith was a sophomore), Schefter notes he and Smith have kept in touch throughout Smith’s career and the relationship moved the needle. Smith did not suit up for Green Bay’s Week 5 game in Cincinnati, marking his first absence since Week 17 of his injury-redshirt rookie season, but will obviously be on track to contribute soon.
The Panthers have been busy on the trade front already, acquiring corners Stephon Gilmore and C.J. Henderson. They are looking for offensive linemen as well. Carolina moved Jermaine Carter into a three-down role alongside Shaq Thompson at this season’s outset. Washington used a first-round pick on Jamin Davis this year. He has played a part-time role thus far, with Cole Holcomb serving as a three-down ‘backer for the struggling WFT defense. The Cowboys had used Smith as a three-down player for years, but they reduced his snaps this season after making key offseason additions at the position.
A number of factors have contributed to Aaron Rodgers‘ frustration with the Packers: the selection of Jordan Love in the first round of the 2020 draft, the team’s overall approach to the wide receiver position, and Rodgers’ own contract situation are just a few of those factors. And, as Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk writes, Rodgers apparently believes Green Bay promised him he would be traded, only to renege on that pledge.
Hours before this year’s draft, veteran NFL broadcaster Trey Wingo reported (via Twitter) on the Packers’ alleged reversal, and now Florio is also hearing that Rodgers is under the impression the team has gone back on its word. If that really happened, his anger would be understandable, but as Florio observes, no one from Rodgers’ camp has communicated Rodgers’ belief to the Packers.
For their part, the Packers are adamant that they made no such promise to their star signal-caller, and they say that any reports to the contrary are “unequivocally false.” And in a press conference today, Green Bay head coach Matt LaFleur said nothing has changed with respect to the team’s view of the matter. “We still obviously feel the same way,” LaFleur said (Twitter link via Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network). “We want him back in the worst way. I know he knows that. And we’ll continue to work at it each and every day.”
We recently heard that the team is “deflated” about where things stand at the moment, which makes it sound as if the Packers are bracing themselves for a Rodgers departure. But Green Bay still has plenty of leverage here. If the club refuses to deal Rodgers, the 37-year-old passer would miss out on his $14.7MM salary for 2021 and the $6.8MM roster bonus that was earned earlier this offseason — but that hasn’t been paid out yet — and he would also have to pay back $23MM of unearned signing bonus money. Rodgers has earned $240MM from his Packers contracts alone, to say nothing of his endorsement deals, so it’s unclear if the financial ramifications of a holdout would be enough to make him change his mind.
In the meantime, the club has added Blake Bortlesto the quarterback room. Bortles could theoretically open the season as Green Bay’s starting QB if Rodgers is traded or refuses to play and if the team does not believe Love is ready to take the reins.
“Is that a trick question?,” LaFleur said (Twitter link via Ryan Wood of the Green Bay Press-Gazette). “Absolutely. There’s no doubt about it. You’re talking about the guy who’s going to win the MVP of the league. We’re not in this position without him.”
A new contract may help but, ultimately, Rodgers seems to be searching for a stronger commitment from the Packers as Jordan Love waits in the wings. Things haven’t been great between Rodgers and LaFleur, but the head coach’s latest comments may help smooth things out.
Green Bay has gone into damage control mode, with team CEO Mark Murphy declaring emphatically that Rodgers would be back in 2021, and that “we’re not idiots.” But despite all that, coaches and execs around the league remain “convinced a bitter divorce is pending” between the two sides, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports writes. La Canfora reports that head coaches and GMs told him this, which would obviously be interesting to say the least.
La Canfora’s sources contend there is tension between Rodgers and head coach Matt LaFleur, with one NFL head coach saying “it’s never really been good between him and the coach. It’s been a long feeling-out process, and it looks like it’s over.” If true, it’s a pretty remarkable turn of events considering Rodgers is coming off a season that will see him named league MVP shortly.
One assistant coach said Rodgers’ unhappiness is “the worst kept secret in football” and that he was “sending a signal to the rest of the league” with his comments. One long-time NFL exec says “trust me. The quarterback wants out.” Rodgers’ contract runs through the 2023 season, but La Canfora speculates he could force a trade by threatening to retire if one isn’t granted.
The Packers, if you’ll recall, brought a lot of this drama upon themselves by drafting Jordan Love in the first-round last April. As the Eagles learned the hard way after drafting Jalen Hurts in the second-round, it’s nearly impossible to avoid controversy when drafting a quarterback high with one already on the roster.
The Love pick clearly stung Rodgers at the time, and he responded with by far his best season in years. It’s likely the Packers weren’t expecting that kind of late-career resurgence when drafting Love. It’s rare for there to be this much talk about blowing things up on a team that is coming off back to back NFC Championship Game appearances, but here we are.
Buckle up, because this surely isn’t the last we’ve heard on this situation as we enter a wild offseason where seemingly everything is up in the air.
We heard earlier today that the Packers were eying Texans wideout Will Fuller, but there were reportedly disagreements among high-level Packers officials on whether they should make a play for a receiver. While head coach MattLaFleur said he was unsure if “anything ever got that serious,” he was sure that he’s on the same page with general manager BrianGutekunst.
“I have no idea where anything like that would ever come from,” LaFleur said of the reports (via ESPN’s Rob Demovsky). “We’re in constant communication, we’re on the same page and there is no truth to that. I promise you that.”
While receiver Davante Adams expressed confidence in his teammates, he previously acknowledged that he’d welcome some help at the position.
“I wouldn’t say we necessarily need to, because I think we’ve shown what we can do,” Adams said. “When I went down, guys stepped up and did what they had to do. Stepped up big. I wouldn’t say it’s a need. Obviously, I’ve said this before, I don’t think it’s any secret that could help us potentially. I wouldn’t be opposed to it. It could help us. But I definitely got full faith and trust in my guys here to be able to get it done.”
As Demovsky notes, the Packers could be getting some reinforcement at the position, as receiver Allen Lazard could return this weekend. The 24-year-old had eight catches for 146 yards and one score in Week 3, but he’s been sidelined since undergoing core muscle surgery.
Some more trade notes from around the NFL:
The Falcons were seeking a fourth-round pick for defensive end Takkarist McKinley, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL Network (via Twitter). We heard last week that the former first-rounder was on the trade block, but the 25-year-old declared last night that he wasn’t going anywhere. McKinley has compiled only eight tackles and one sack in four games this season, and he hasn’t played more than 40-percent of his team’s defensive snaps since Week 1.
After acquiring defensive end Yannick Ngakoue in a preseason trade with the Jaguars, the Vikingstraded the veteran to the Ravens back in October. ESPN’s Adam Schefter notes that the trade conditions from the conditional fifth-rounder that Minnesota sent Jacksonville still apply. That fifth-rounder will turn into a fourth-rounder if Ngakoue goes to the Pro Bowl (with the Ravens). It’s worth noting that the Vikings received a conditional fifth-rounder in their trade with Baltimore, and there’s a good chance that selection contains many of the same conditions.
The conditional fifth-round pick that the Saints sent the 49ers in the Kwon Alexander trade has a bit more intrigue. The MMQB’s Albert Breer tweets that it’s a 2022 pick that’s heading to San Francisco, although that could turn into a 2021 selection based on “play-time markers.”
Cowboys receiver Michael Gallup was presumably never on the block, as VP StephenJones said last week that the organization wouldn’t be trading the 24-year-old (via The Athletic’s Jon Machota on Twitter). Following a breakout 2019 campaign, Gallup has disappointed a bit in 2020, hauling in 26 receptions for 432 yards and one score through eight games (seven starts).
Things move fast in today’s NFL and the old adage of “coaches are hired to be fired” has seemingly never been more true. For the most part, teams change their coaches like they change their underwear.
A head coach can take his team to the Super Bowl, or win the Super Bowl, or win multiple Super Bowls, but they’re never immune to scrutiny. Just ask Tom Coughlin, who captured his second ring with the Giants after the 2011 season, only to receive his pink slip after the 2015 campaign.
There are also exceptions. Just look at Bill Belichick, who just wrapped up his 20th season at the helm in New England. You’ll also see a few others on this list, but, for the most part, most of today’s NFL head coaches are relatively new to their respective clubs. And, history dictates that many of them will be elsewhere when we check in on this list in 2022.
Over one-third (12) of the NFL’s head coaches have coached no more than one season with their respective teams. Meanwhile, less than half (15) have been with their current clubs for more than three years. It seems like just yesterday that the Cardinals hired Kliff Kingsbury, right? It sort of was – Kingsbury signed on with the Cardinals in January of 2019. Today, he’s practically a veteran.
Here’s the list of the current head coaches in the NFL, ordered by tenure, along with their respective start dates:
Bill Belichick (New England Patriots): January 27, 2000
Sean Payton (New Orleans Saints): January 18, 2006
Mike Tomlin (Pittsburgh Steelers): January 27, 2007
John Harbaugh (Baltimore Ravens): January 19, 2008
Pete Carroll (Seattle Seahawks): January 9, 2010
Andy Reid (Kansas City Chiefs): January 4, 2013
Bill O’Brien (Houston Texans): January 2, 2014
Mike Zimmer (Minnesota Vikings): January 15, 2014
Dan Quinn (Atlanta Falcons): February 2, 2015
Doug Pederson (Philadelphia Eagles): January 18, 2016
Sean McDermott (Buffalo Bills): January 11, 2017
Doug Marrone (Jacksonville Jaguars): December 19, 2016 (interim; permanent since 2017)
Anthony Lynn (Los Angeles Chargers): January 12, 2017
Sean McVay (Los Angeles Rams): January 12, 2017
Kyle Shanahan (San Francisco 49ers): February 6, 2017
Matt Nagy (Chicago Bears): January 7, 2018
Matt Patricia (Detroit Lions): February 5, 2018
Frank Reich (Indianapolis Colts): February 11, 2018
Jon Gruden (Las Vegas Raiders): January 6, 2018
Mike Vrabel (Tennessee Titans): January 20, 2018
Kliff Kingsbury (Arizona Cardinals): January 8, 2019
Zac Taylor (Cincinnati Bengals): February 4, 2019
Vic Fangio (Denver Broncos): January 10, 2019
Matt LaFleur (Green Bay Packers): January 8, 2019
Brian Flores (Miami Dolphins): February 4, 2019
Adam Gase (New York Jets): January 11, 2019
Bruce Arians (Tampa Bay Buccaneers): January 8, 2019
Ron Rivera (Washington Redskins): January 1, 2020
Matt Rhule (Carolina Panthers): January 7, 2020
Mike McCarthy (Dallas Cowboys): January 7, 2020
Joe Judge (New York Giants): January 8, 2020
Kevin Stefanski (Cleveland Browns): January 13, 2020
Head coach Matt LaFleur was asked about those issues on Saturday, and as expected, he tried to downplay the drama as much as possible.
“Aaron is a pro, and he’s the leader of our football team, and I anticipate that for a really long time,” LaFleur said (via Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com). “I have so much respect for him not only as a player but the person, and some of the stuff that nobody sees. So I can’t tell you how much I like working with him.”
LaFleur, though, declined to say what he meant by “a really long time.” Rodgers, 36, is under contract through the 2023 season, and while he experienced something of a decrease in production in 2019, he was still effective and continues to look the part of a top-tier signal-caller. He has yet to speak publicly on the Love pick, but given that Green Bay made an aggressive move to select his potential successor and did little to upgrade his cadre of pass catching weapons, you can be sure that he is none too pleased.
Of course, Love is now in a very similar situation to the one that Rodgers was in when A-Rod was selected in the first round of the 2005 draft: a surprise pick who will be groomed behind a curmudgeonly legend with the unenviable task of ultimately replacing said legend. It obviously worked out for Rodgers, but we probably won’t know how it will work out for Love for a couple of years.
Packers GM Brian Gutekunst was also asked about a potential Rodgers-to-Love succession. “The reason that back when we moved from Brett [Favre] to Aaron was because of what Aaron had done his first three years here, and that’s got to happen with Jordan,” Gutekunst said. “He has to be able to do the work and he has to do that for us to make us believe that he can be a starting quarterback in the National Football League. We drafted him in the first round, we certainly think he has that kind of talent. But that’s not enough in the National Football League. You’ve got to work, you’ve got to earn it, you’ve got to become a good enough player.”
Rodgers is scheduled to carry a cap charge of over $39MM in 2022. Although Green Bay would have to absorb a significant dead money hit by releasing him prior to that season, it would also save about $22MM of cap space by doing so. So if Love progresses as the Packers hope, it would not be surprising to see them make the same difficult, but possibly necessary, transition at that time.
“Again, we have one of the best to ever lace them up, and we’re shooting for championships for as long as he’s here, and we expect him to be here for quite a while,” Gutekunst said. His definition of “quite a while,” and LaFleur’s definition of “a long time,” may be about the same: two years.
Norv Turner will not be returning to the Panthers coaching staff, according to Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic. Turner had served as a special assistant to former Panthers head coach Ron Rivera. Rivera, of course, was recently replaced by Matt Rhule and has since taken over in Washington. While nothing has been reported, it would not be a surprise to see Turner follow Rivera to the nation’s capital to work with young quarterback Dwayne Haskins.
At the same time, Carolina blocked running backs coach Jake Peetz from interviewing for other positions, per Albert Breer of SI.com. Breer adds that Rivera wanted to take Peetz with him, but Carolina general manager Marty Hurney valued Peetz and the team decided to reward him with a promotion to quarterbacks coach.
Here’s some more notes from coaching staff’s around the NFC:
The Cowboys hired Texas A&M cornerbacks coach Maurice Linguist to serve as the team’s defensive backs coach alongside Al Harris. Linguist did not have a history with either head coach Mike McCarthy or defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, but his personality impressed the pair so much that they offered him the job on the same day of his interview, according to Dallas Cowboys reporter Lindsay Cash Draper. Harris had been an assistant with Kansas City, but more notably, played under McCarthy during his tenure in Green Bay at cornerback.
Harris’ former team will be making a change at wide receivers coach. According Rob Demovsky of ESPN, the Packers have let Alvis Whitted go and have begun the process of searching for his replacement. Whitted was hired just a year ago to join Matt LaFleur’s staff, but it appears LaFleur will be going in a different direction.
November 27th, 2019 at 9:15am CST by Marc Delucchi
Ben Volin of The Boston Globe dives into the tape of the Patriots 13-9 victory over the Cowboys on Sunday to explore the ways New England shutdown one of the most prolific offenses in football. Pats head coach Bill Belichick has long been one of the best defensive minds in football and Dallas tight end Jason Witten explained how Sunday’s scheme caused problems,“Even though it’s cover 0, it’s really not. When you think cover 0, you think all-out pressure and man-to-man [coverage]. But they’re dropping out to play whole help, so they have help coming inside. As receivers and quarterbacks, it puts a lot of pressure on you.”
The Pats defense may be one of the most aggressive units in the NFL, but that aggressiveness does not come with the greater risk we have come to expect. Volin notes that while New England has the tenth highest blitz rate in the league, their creative defensive scheme, which includes intricate decoys, limits an opponents ability to take advantage.
The Packers have one of the younger assistant coaching staffs in football under rookie head coach Matt LaFleur, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Tom Silverstein and LeRoy Butler of the Milwaukee Sentinel debate whether that could explain the inability for such a talented unit to really dominate opponents and get shutdown by the 49ers this past week. Silverstein opines that a more experienced staff might be better equipped to scheme their team advantages.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones once again offered strong public comments surrounding Dallas head coach Jason Garrett. This morning on Good Morning Football, Jones was asked about Garrett and responded, “I don’t have to win the Super Bowl in business every year. I can come in 6th and have a hell of a year. But in this business, you gotta come in first. I want Jason to get it done.” While the statement does not say anything definitively, it does suggest a certain level of ultimatum for his head coach: win the Super Bowl or else.