Jim Irsay

More Raiders Fallout: McDaniels, Ziegler, Davis, Harbaugh, Brady, Kelly

When the Raiders begin the search for a new head coach and general manager to replace Josh McDaniels and Dave Ziegler, they could have a difficult time attracting the most desirable talent. Per Jeff Howe of The Athletic (subscription required), owner Mark Davis vowed that he would give the duo a minimum of three years to return the Raiders to contention, but he fired them midway through their second season. Once seen as a patient owner, Davis has undermined his reputation in that regard, and most of the coaches and execs that Howe spoke with believe that the quick trigger will have a negative impact on his search.

One executive said, “I don’t know who you’re going to convince to take those jobs. I think Mark Davis made it harder on himself,” while another added, “[i]t definitely makes the jobs less appealing.”

To be clear, Davis will likely have plenty of candidates to choose from thanks to the desirability and rarity of a top job in the NFL coaching and personnel ranks. Still, it would not be surprising for the biggest fish in the upcoming hiring cycle to rebuff Davis’ overtures.

“If you’re only going to give me two years, just be upfront and honest with me,” a rival coach said. “I can handle that. It’d change the entire way you’d try to build the team. If you’re thinking about setting up to take off and win by Year 3, that’s how you’re going to manage your roster.”

McDaniels, of course, is a proponent of “hard coaching,” and it appears he alienated many Raiders players with his demanding style. As Ian Rapoport of NFL.com writes, players “ripped into” McDaniels during the team meeting in which he allowed his charges to air their grievances, and players were especially critical of (among other things) McDaniels’ micromanaging and the way he deflected blame for issues with play-calling. Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer adds that interim HC Antonio Pierce attempted to speak on behalf of McDaniels at that meeting, but Pierce’s use of the Super Bowl-winning Giants team he played on as an example of what a good locker room culture can do irked McDaniels, who was part of the Patriots squad that lost that title game to New York (video link).

At the following practice, McDaniels attempted to give the players what they wanted by being less involved and not “overcorrecting” by stepping in after every mistake. However, one source told Rapoport that the new approach did not suit McDaniels well, that the head coach looked like “a shell of himself,” and that it was clear McDaniels’ tenure was coming to an end. Ultimately, McDaniels was unable to recapture the team chemistry that Tony Pauline of Sportskeeda.com believes was destroyed when quarterback and team leader Derek Carr was released earlier this year.

The driving force behind Carr’s departure remains a bit unclear. Rapoport’s sources say that Davis “led the push” to replace Carr, with McDaniels and Ziegler eventually getting on board, while Pauline says McDaniels was the one who wanted to move on from the franchise’s longtime passer. Back in late December/early January, it was reported that the McDaniels-Ziegler regime saw Carr as a poor fit in McDaniels’ offense, and that while McDaniels was prepared to let Carr play out the remainder of the 2022 campaign, Davis — who had been “lukewarm” on Carr for some time — wanted the QB to be benched for the last two games of the season.

Even if, as Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports suggests, Davis and the McDaniels-Ziegler duo were aligned on the Carr situation, subsequent quarterback-related missteps accelerated this week’s firings (although it should be noted, as Rapoport writes, that former club president Dan Ventrelle agreed to include in Carr’s 2022 extension the no-trade clause that undermined the Raiders’ leverage when they tried to deal Carr this past offseason. Ventrelle entered into that agreement with Carr’s camp prior to speaking with other club officials). We already heard that McDaniels’ decision to start former Patriots QB Brian Hoyer over rookie Aidan O’Connell in Week 7 rankled Davis, and obviously the decision to sign another of McDaniels’ former pupils, Jimmy Garoppolo, proved to be a poor one, as McDaniels apparently overestimated the ease with which Garoppolo would reacclimate to McDaniels’ offense.

On the subject of Garoppolo, Rapoport reminds us that the Raiders were among the teams that tried to trade up for the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft, with quarterback Bryce Young the target. However, McDaniels reportedly did not want to “grow with” a rookie signal-caller, so the Raiders stood down while the Panthers catapulted up the draft board to claim the No. 1 spot before free agency opened. McDaniels & Co. acquired Garoppolo shortly thereafter.

It has been an open secret that Ziegler, despite his general manager title, took a backseat to McDaniels in terms of personnel matters. Indeed, Pauline called Ziegler a “glorified scout” and likened the McDaniels-Ziegler pairing to the Jon-GrudenMike Mayock partnership that preceded it. So while Pauline reports that Davis will be interested in hiring University of Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh, it is fair to wonder if that would be the best move for the owner to make. After all, Harbaugh would also want full autonomy over personnel decisions, and like Mayock and Ziegler, any GM brought in along with Harbaugh would be little more than a figurehead.

That is to say nothing of the fact that Harbaugh, who is currently dealing with allegations of an elaborate sign-stealing scheme after already having served a three-game suspension this year for alleged recruiting violations, may not be the hot NFL candidate he once was. Per Rapoport and NFL.com colleague Tom Pelissero, the NCAA has not ruled on the alleged recruiting violations or sign-stealing operation — the three-game ban was imposed by Michigan — and the NFL may force Harbaugh to serve any NCAA-ordered suspension should he return to the pros. Mark Maske of the Washington Post, meanwhile, says it is not certain that the league would go that route.

Still, in light of the failures of the two prior regimes, a Harbaugh hire could be a tough sell for Davis. In fact, Jones writes that Davis will be seeking a “player-centric” coach rather than a coach with the hard-nosed styles of Harbaugh, Gruden, and McDaniels. Jones also believes Davis will seek to hire a GM before hiring an HC.

In any event, Davis has promised a “comprehensive search” for a new head coach, and Vincent Bonsignore of the Las Vegas Review-Journal says Davis is being encouraged to hire a president of football operations to aid in the process. Ventrelle was replaced by Sandra Douglass Morgan in July 2022, and Jones writes that Morgan, along with longtime executive Tom Delaney and personnel man Ken Herock, will also offer counsel (though Pauline opines that most of Herock’s advice has led to “ruinous” decisions).

Jones echoes his recent report that Tom Brady will also influence Davis’ thinking. As expected, Brady’s would-be stake in the Raiders was not discussed at the league meetings last month, with Jones and Albert Breer of SI.com reporting that other owners take issue with the bargain price at which Davis is trying to sell a share of his club to Brady. Colts owner and finance committee member Jim Irsay told reporters, including Jori Epstein of Yahoo! Sports, “the number just had to be a reasonable number for purchase price.”

Breer adds that Brady’s broadcasting contract with FOX is also a hurdle to ratification of the purchase. Understandably, teams do not want anyone with an ownership stake in a rival outfit having the access and obtaining the inside information that broadcasters often enjoy, so much will need to change for Brady to be approved as a minority owner at the next league meetings in December.

Given Davis’ deep respect for Brady, it stands to reason that the all-time great will be an important voice in Davis’ ear regardless of his ownership status. And while much of the discussion about Las Vegas’ changing power structure has thus far focused upon who the next head coach will be, Pauline notes that there is a “groundswell” of support for interim general manager Champ Kelly to retain the GM post on a full-time basis. Kelly, a longtime Bears exec who has experience in both personnel and salary cap matters, has taken a number of GM interviews in recent years, and Davis recently admitted that Kelly might have gotten the Raiders’ GM job in 2022 if the package deal of McDaniels and Ziegler had not become available. Jones also names Colts assistant GM Ed Dodds as a candidate to monitor.

Despite Ziegler’s figurehead status in Nevada, Rapoport observes that McDaniels’ right-hand man nonetheless made strides in modernizing the personnel side of the Raiders’ operation, an effort that included hiring respected scouting minds, creating a scouting development program, and injecting “forward-thinking concepts on player development.” The next Raiders GM should therefore have something of a foundation to build upon.

Whether that person is Kelly or someone else remains to be seen, but in acknowledgment of their promotions, Davis reworked the contracts of both Kelly and Pierce, as Adam Schefter of ESPN.com reports. Those transactions added even more money to the whopping $85MM tab that Davis will have to pick up due to the McDaniels and Ziegler firings (though some of that amount will be offset should his former employees land new jobs elsewhere).

Davis is one of the league’s most cash-poor owners, so these hugely expensive maneuvers underscore the strength of his conviction that McDaniels and Ziegler were not the right men to lead the Raiders. As Adam Hill of the Las Vegas Review-Journal writes, Davis also fired team COO Mike Newquist, whom he hired just three months ago. Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk concedes that Newquist’s post is unrelated to the football side of the team, but he believes the immediate firing of a key employee will further add to the perception of dysfunction that presently surrounds Davis’ franchise.

One way or another, Raiders fans are in for a fascinating few months.

Colts RB Jonathan Taylor Returns To Camp

AUGUST 14: Taylor has indeed returned to camp, per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport (Twitter link). He is not being activated from the PUP list, and the trade request remains in place, but the disgruntled back is at least on-site in case a resolution to his situation can be found in the near future.

AUGUST 13: The NFL’s 2021 leading rusher has been away from the Colts’ training camp as he rehabilitates his ankle. According to ESPN’s Stephen Holder, the team expects star running back Jonathan Taylor to return to camp this week. The ankle recovery combined with contract disputes that have been extremely public lead to a number of questions about what his return means moving forward.

Taylor has been away from the team now for almost a week, nursing the ankle injury that hampered most of his 2022 season. He missed six games last year due to the injury and failed to reach 1,000 rushing yards or double-digit touchdowns for the first time in his career. The team had placed him on the physically unable to perform list, so there is no penalty for his being away from the team, but most teams would prefer their injured players heal under the watchful eye of their own doctors.

The injury absence has served double duty for Taylor, allowing him to essentially hold out from training camp amidst the contract issues he’s been attempting to work through. Seeing the writing on the wall with how running backs have fared on the market this offseason, Taylor attempted to get ahead of things and start conversations towards his second contract. Soon after, owner Jim Irsay made it clear that the front office wasn’t at the point of considering that idea, shortly after making some concerning remarks about the running back group’s efforts to combat their falling value.

This led to Taylor requesting a trade, likely hoping to go to a team that is willing to start discussions towards an eventual extension. Again, Irsay vocalized that the franchise was not open to this idea, but the Colts didn’t seem to entirely dismiss the possibility as teams began to show interest. The situation was unresolved and seemingly a bit hostile as Taylor left camp, so what exactly is a return to camp going to look like for Taylor?

First off, we don’t know exactly when this return would come. New head coach Shane Steichen was the one who confirmed the team’s expectations, telling the media, “He should be back this week. Do I know the exact date he’ll be back? No, but he should be back.”

Secondly, even when he does return, he’s still on the PUP list. He will have to pass a physical with the team’s medical staff in order to be activated off of the list and return to the field for full participation. A source told ESPN that Taylor “has consistently made his intention clear to the team that he’ll return to the field when he is 100% healthy,” but given the lack of any sort of resolution in the contractual matters, it’s easy to wonder about the veracity of that claim.

Taylor’s ankle rehab has been a useful tool in his ability to dictate the flow of the contract conversation. If he returns fully-healed, he’ll be subject to the requirements of the CBA, which would penalize him for any further missed time, neutralizing that advantage. Regardless, the situation, which has been at a standstill for weeks, has to move forward at some point. It will be an intriguing situation to watch for this week as we wait to see how things unfold.

Colts Considering Placing RB Jonathan Taylor On NFI

9:45pm: The craziness continues straight out of the workhorse’s mouth as Taylor has weighed in himself on the recent reports, tweeting out that he “never had a back pain” and “never reported a back pain.”

This could be a case of reporters running amok with a story that got out of hand without confirmations or reliable sources. It could also be some damage control from Taylor, who likely realizes the financial ramifications of being placed on the NFI list.

If Taylor’s refutation is false, one would assume there would be medical records from the team’s training staff noting the back pain as a concern. And, in order to move him to the NFI list, one would assume there would need to be documentation detailing that it happened away from the team.

If Taylor never did report back pain, this could be an inside look at the tactics the team is willing to go to in order to gain leverage in a negotiation in which it already has all the power. Speculation aside, Taylor’s response through unmediated channels is further confirmation that this relationship may be deteriorating beyond repair. And fast.

8:30pm: In a wild continuation of a situation seemingly full of pettiness, the Colts have reportedly considered placing star running back Jonathan Taylor on the non-football injury list, according to Mike Chappell of FOX59/CBS4 Sports. Things have gotten rather contentious between Taylor and the organization lately, and if the team were to pull off this transaction, the situation would only get rockier.

Taylor has been involved in the recent conversations pertaining to the decline of the running back market, and anticipating his future active role in the situation, Taylor made it clear that he wants to begin discussions on a new deal with Indianapolis. With team owner Jim Irsay making it clear that no extension offer has been made yet, nor does he have any current intention to offer an extension, Taylor formally requested a trade. Irsay has planted his heels in the ground, expecting Taylor to honor his rookie contract, but with no indication of good faith negotiations, Taylor felt the need to stay ahead of the eight ball.

Currently, Taylor is on the team’s physically unable to perform list. He’s still rehabilitating from an ankle surgery he underwent in January, and he came into training camp complaining of back pain. Because he began experiencing the back pain while working out on his own in Arizona, it was deemed to be a pre-existing issue, stemming from outside organized football activities. This grants the team the option of moving Taylor from the PUP list to the NFI list.

That may not seem super significant as you continue to see PUP and NFI placements here and there on our Minor NFL Transactions posts, but in a volatile situation in which money is a key point of contention, this move would be a clear escalation from the Colts’ brass. Once the season begins, if a player remains on the PUP list, the team continues to pay that player for time missed. If a player is instead on the NFI list, having suffered an injury away from team-organized events, the team is able to withhold any amount of pay it chooses, up to the player’s full base salary.

According to Nick Korte of OvertheCap.com, it may not end there. The current collective bargaining agreement reportedly “opens up a path for his contract to be tolled,” something only available for NFI players in a contract year. Taylor can avoid this by returning to action by the sixth game of the regular season. The CBA also “opens up a path (for Taylor) to fail to accrue a season in 2023.” This would mean that, instead of entering the offseason as an unrestricted free agent, he would be a restricted free agent.

Moving Taylor to the NFI becomes an immediate message to the young running back: Not only are we not sure we want to pay you in the future, we’re not even sure we want to pay you now. A year removed from having led the NFL in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns, it seems insane to be this dismissive to a player asking to work towards a future together. The team has yet to make the move, but it’s become clear that the two sides are nowhere near a path that leads to resolution anytime soon.

Colts Have Not Submitted Contract Offer To Jonathan Taylor

In the wake of the latest exchanges during the ongoing contract situation between the Colts and Jonathan Taylor, an interesting development emerged. Owner Jim Irsay noted that no formal offer has been made to the former rushing champion. It also appears that will not change any time soon.

Irsay drew criticism – from, among others, Taylor’s agent – for his remarks concerning the idea of running backs negotiating a separate agreement from the CBA all players are subject to. While clarifying his thoughts on the matter, he acknowledged that his social media post was not specifically aimed at Taylor, who is entering the final year of his rookie contract.

“The comment wasn’t really directed at Jonathan,” Irsay said during an interview with ESPN’s Stephen Holder“We haven’t exchanged any contract numbers with each other or anything like that. So, it’s not like we’re in the midst of that.”

Taylor and the Colts conducted extension talks last month, but as Irsay confirmed, no formal offer has been made. The former appeared to put himself in line for a sizeable second contract (as far as running backs are concerned) in 2021 when he comfortably led the league in rushing and scrimmage yards. As was the case with the team as a whole, though, things did not go according to plan last season. The Wisconsin product was limited to 11 games due to an ankle injury and his 4.5 yards per carry marked a career low. A return to his previous form will be needed for Taylor’s Colts career to continue.

“Our hope is Jonathan has an outstanding year and that we have a good year as a team and then we get his next contract done,” Irsay added. “That’s the hope. We think the world of him as a person, as a player. It’s just timing. When your time comes to get paid, then you get paid.”

The Colts have worked out extensions with the likes of All-Pro linebacker Shaquille Leonard and offensive line mainstays Quenton NelsonBraden Smith and Ryan Kelly before they began the final year of their respective rookie deals. The same will not be the case for Taylor, however, something which comes as little surprise given his down year in 2022 and, more generally, the nature of the financial landscape at the RB position.

A strong showing from the former second-rounder will no doubt boost his value with the Colts or other suitors, if he is allowed to hit the open market. Taylor will enter the 2023 season with plenty to be determined knowing that his financial future will remain unresolved until the campaign has finished.

Latest On Colts’ Jonathan Taylor, Shaquille Leonard

Plenty of attention will be paid to rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson heading into the 2023 season. However, much of the Colts’ success will ride on the health of running back Jonathan Taylor and linebacker Shaquille Leonard.

Owner Jim Irsay provided an update on each of the latter two players during an appearance on the Pat McAfee Show (video link). Taylor’s recovery from offseason ankle surgery has been a key talking point, given his importance to the team’s offense. He has remained optimistic about his ability to return to full health in time for the start of the regular season, if not earlier.

Irsay stated that Taylor is indeed “healed up,” a development which should do wonders for the Colts’ ground game. A healthy 2023 campaign from the former rushing champion would also have signficant financial consequences, of course. Taylor has one year remaining on his rookie contract, and negotiations for an extension began last month. Arriving at agreeable contract terms could be difficult for player and team, considering the time Taylor missed last year and the stagnant nature of the RB market around the league.

As for Leonard, the situation is notably different. The three-time All-Pro was limited to just three games in 2022, as he dealt with a recurring back ailment. He underwent a second surgery aimed at addressing it, and later made positive remarks with respect to its effectiveness compared to the first. Still, there is no timetable for his return to the field, and a patient approach would come as no surprise considering Indianapolis’ financial commitment to him. Four years remain on Leonard’s $98.25MM extension signed in 2021.

“He’s working hard,” Irsay said when asked about the status of Leonard’s recovery process. “We’ll see. He has a chance, he’s working really hard. He’s getting a little better each day.”

A season at full strength for both Taylor and Leonard would boost the Colts’ chances of rebounding from a disastrous 2022 campaign, though expectations may be tempered during Richardson’s acclimation to the NFL. At the onset of training camp later this month, the health situation the Colts find themselves in will become clearer, but general optimism on the injury front is certainly noteworthy.

Colts’ Jim Irsay, Cowboys’ Jerry Jones Address Commanders Sale

One of the key topics of conversation during the first day of the current league meetings was the sale of the Commanders. Despite the fact that a deal is in place for Josh Harris to replace Dan Snyder as owner, ratification from the league may not come for some time.

Harris and Snyder entered into a signed, exclusive agreement earlier this month. As a result of that deal, the franchise is on track to sell for a record-breaking $6.05 billion, though issues have arisen given the structure of the agreement. Specifically, the Harris group’s ability to stay under the league’s $1.1 billion debt limit to finance the purchase is a hurdle which has yet to be cleared.

As a result, no timeline is currently in place for the league’s finance committee to produce a recommended course of action, and, subsequently, for owners to vote on the sale. At least 24 owners would need to approve the deal, something which has long been considered a formality due in large part to the widespread desire to have Snyder’s tenure at the helm of the Commanders come to a conclusive end. Whether or not this process will be completed before the fall remains an open question, though.

When speaking on that point, Colts owner Jim Irsay said, via The Athletic’s Ben Standig, “we’d like to see it get done. But, we’re not there yet” (subscription required). Irsay added that “probably several more weeks of discussions” will be necessary to finalize the transfer of ownership to Harris, who has a controlling stake in the Philadelphia 76ers, New Jersey Devils and English Premier League club Crystal Palace.

Adding to the optimism that this deal will cross the finish line, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said, “I would anticipate it being done. These are outstandingly qualified owners” (video link via Jori Epstein of Yahoo Sports). Jones added that he does not foresee the agreement’s structure – which includes support from numerous investors, including NBA legend Magic Johnson – as being enough of an issue to prevent an ultimate approval.

“To have a new ownership group in there before the season opener, that would be a goal,” Irsay said. “It’s not an impossibility. There would be a special meeting after July 4 for something like that to happen. I know that the commissioner will continue to look and see what our schedule is going to be. But there’s work to be done.”

As the sale of the Broncos last offseason showed, a gap in time can exist between a winning bid emerging and final ratification taking place. Plenty of time remains for that to happen in this case, and the league will likely work with increased urgency to allow for Harris to be installed as owner in time for the regular season as the summer moves along.

“There are different layers of league policy that exist beyond just that acquisition and that sort of thing,” Irsay added. “So it’s just trying to make sure deals comply with that… In the end, we’re hopeful that we can work towards getting a deal done.”

Colts Investigating Potential Tampering Over Commanders’ Andrew Luck Inquiry

9:47pm: Washington is not believed to have contacted Luck, his father (former NFL quarterback Oliver Luck) or his uncle, who has served an agent figure, according to Mark Maske and Nicki Jhabvala of the Washington Post. The Colts are seeking to confirm if an inquiry emerged through an intermediary. Despite the report of the Commanders contacting Luck emerging a year ago, Irsay appears to be pursuing this in earnest now.

12:46pm: The Commanders are firmly committed to Sam Howell as their starting quarterback in 2023, but they faced a pressing need at the position last offseason. That ultimately led the team to make an interesting – and perhaps controversial – inquiry.

Washington made a wide-ranging effort to secure a veteran signal-caller in 2022, and that included talks with the Colts over two quarterbacks. One was Carson Wentz – whom the Commanders ultimately acquired via trade – and the other was Andrew Luck. Conversations concerning the latter were very brief and didn’t make a difference with respect to his lack of a playing future, but they re-surfaced recently and caught the attention of the Colts.

ESPN’s John Keim – who detailed the Luck-centered discussions last March – referenced those talks this past weekend in a piece detailing the Commanders’ confidence in Howell, their 2022 fifth-rounder. The specifics regarding Luck inquiries could reveal whether or not tampering occurred, something Colts owner Jim Irsay acknowledged in response to the Washington news coming up again.

“If any NFL Team attempted to contact Andrew Luck [or any associate of him]… to play for their Franchise,” Irsay wrote, ” it would be a clear Violation of the League’s Tampering Policy” (Twitter link).

Luck has been retired since 2019, but three years remained on his contract when he made the surprising decision to walk away from the game. The 33-year-old’s pact tolled, and as a result the Colts still hold his rights, as detailed by Keim’s colleague Stephen Holder. Indianapolis would thus need to be made aware of any attempts made by other teams to lure him out of retirement, though that remains all but certain not to happen. Luck is focused on his post-football life and is not eyeing a return to playing.

Holder adds that the Colts are currently “unclear about the nature of the conversations” Washington had regarding Luck, and are “seeking to learn more about what exactly transpired and whether any tampering occurred.” While that takes place, Washington will continue to move forward with Howell in place as Wentz’s successor, after the team made the expected move of releasing the latter following a disappointing one-and-done campaign in the nation’s capital.

Interestingly, Keim notes that Washington would have considered selecting Hendon Hooker in this year’s draft had he still been available by their third-round pick. That wasn’t the case, so the Commanders remain set with Howell and veteran backup Jacoby Brissett as their top two signal-callers. It will be interesting to monitor what developments, if any, take place after the Colts’ investigation into their Luck inquiries is completed.

Front Office Notes: Ballard, Elway, Raiders, Eagles, Lions

The Colts have three winning seasons and two playoff appearances during Chris Ballard‘s six seasons as the team’s general manager. Even in the midst of a 4-12-1 campaign that featured the firing of head coach Frank Reich, Colts owner Jim Irsay continued to endorse his top decision maker. However, fast forward a few months, and Irsay is now hinting that the Colts will have to perform better on the field if Ballard hopes to keep his job.

“Everyone has to be successful to keep their job, if you’re a general manager or head coach,” Irsay said (via Zak Keefer of The Athletic). “I really feel that he’s not on some quick, hot seat. But the expectations are there.”

As Keefer notes, Irsay has always been fond of his GM, admiring the executive’s drafting prowess and roster-building ability. The owner has also been willing to take part of the blame for the team’s recent inconsistencies, but Ballard was given full control of the recent head coaching search and will be fully responsible for making the Colts’ selection at No. 4 later this month.

In other words, if Ballard fails, it will be on him, and any struggles in 2023 could ultimately lead to the GM’s firing. As Keefer writes, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the Colts have to be a playoff contender; rather, Irsay will be looking for “hope, optimism, [or] tangible proof that Ballard can fix the mess he’s made.”

Normally, a GM with Ballard’s resume probably would have been fired a few years ago, but Irsay also indicated that the organization is still reeling from Andrew Luck‘s sudden retirement decision in 2019.

“I’m not gonna make excuses for (Chris) or anyone else, (but) you know, the Andrew Luck card’s never been seen by a general manager before,” Irsay said. “I mean, that’s a tough one, guys. I’d like to see how other teams would respond when you have a 29-year-old who was supposed to be there for the next 10 years and win two Lombardis just walks away, two weeks before the season starts. I mean, that’s a hard one, you know?”

More front office notes from around the NFL…

  • After spending more than a decade in the Broncos front office, John Elway is stepping away. After serving as an outside consultant to GM George Paton in 2022, Elway and the Broncos have decided to part ways. “I’ve enjoyed the relationship with the Broncos for a long, long time,’’ Elway told Mike Klis of 9News in Denver. “I told Greg I’d be happy to be a resource for him and help in any way that I can. I just wanted the flexibility. They’re in great hands. I still plan on being around to watch and be a resource for Greg or George (Paton) if I can.’’ The Hall of Fame quarterback was the Broncos general manager for 10 years before transitioning to President of Football Operations in 2021.
  • Raiders senior vice president and chief of staff Marcel Reece resigned last month, according to Tashan Reed and Vic Tafur of The Athletic. The former Pro Bowl running back joined the team’s front office in 2020, earning a promotion to his last role in 2022. As the writers note, Reece follows a number of long-time executives who have recently left the organization, a group that includes former team presidents Marc Badain and Dan Ventrelle.
  • The Eagles will be heading into the draft with a new front office structure. They’ll no longer be relying on a vice president of player personnel like former execs Andy Weidl or Joe Douglas. Instead, Eagles GM Howie Roseman is going to be completely responsible for running the show. “The responsibility is mine,” Roseman said (via Zach Berman of The Athletic). “I don’t say that in any way other than that I take that very seriously and I think we have a process that has spanned different front offices. Hasn’t always been perfect, but we do have a process and a way of doing things. At the same time, if someone comes in and has an idea that can make that process better, let’s do that. Best idea has to win. … At the end of the day, it’s my job to outline a vision of what we’re looking for, whether it’s at the All-Star games, the combine, free-agent process, the draft process. I think the lines of communication have been great. There are a lot of really great, talented guys we have in our front office, and I’m looking forward to working with them.”
  • Chris Spielman has spent three years in the Lions front office, officially serving as “special assistant to the owner and CEO.” Justin Rogers of The Detroit News has provided some insight into the former Pro Bowl linebacker’s role, with the executive having his hand in draft preparation, weekly opponent scouting, and helping to hire the team’s GM and head coach. “I’ve been given the freedom to define the role, but in order to do that, the one thing I had to get, because it’s a paranoid business by nature, I had to make sure I had everybody’s trust, that I have zero agenda other than winning,” Spielman told Rogers. “Zero. I tell everyone, ‘I’ve already done my thing, man. I have zero agenda. I don’t want another role. I’m not looking for another role.’ My goal is to help everybody succeed to their highest level. When that happens, I feel like I win.”

Jim Irsay Addresses Potential Colts Lamar Jackson Pursuit

Lamar Jackson provided the latest update to his contract standoff with the Ravens yesterday, revealing that he asked for a trade earlier this month. That could open the door even further to outside teams pursuing him, with many pointing to the Colts has a potential destination.

Owner Jim Irsay was asked about the subject during the league meetings, and his responses highlighted his hesitancy to commit to Jackson on the type of contract he is said to be seeking. To little surprise, Irsay noted the matter of guarantees as the primary obstacle with respect to the Colts attempting to secure the former MVP.

“For me, for the good of the game, boy, I don’t believe fully guaranteed contracts would be good for our game at all,” Irsay said, via Zak Keefer of The Athletic (subscription required). “I’ve seen what it’s done to other sports leagues and I just don’t think that it’s a positive… Our game is great and it’s great for a number of reasons, but I don’t think guaranteed contracts make our game greater, I think it makes it worse.”

Jackson has long been thought to be seeking a fully guaranteed deal similar to the one Deshaun Watson signed with the Browns last offseason (five years, $230MM). It has become clear – between QB extensions signed after that pact, and the tepid market Jackson has seen for potential offer sheets – that the rest of the NFL is intent of keeping the Watson accord an exception, rather than the start of a new trend.

As has been the case since Andrew Luck retired, Indianapolis is searching for a long-term answer at the QB spot. Irsay’s comments have made it clear that a repeat of the team’s veteran acquisitions (including Carson Wentz and Matt Ryan) should not be expected in 2023. The Colts own the No. 4 pick in the upcoming draft, but are likely to have seen two signal-callers come off the board by that point. Veteran Gardner Minshew represents a relatively high-upside backup, but he is not considered the Week 1 starter at this point.

That could steer the Colts towards an aggressive pursuit of Jackson. Irsay’s latest remarks confirmed that the door remains open to such action, though the impact of the financial commitment which will be necessary to secure the 26-year-old remains front of mind for him.

“It has nothing to do with actual dollars,” Irsay said. “I mean, paying a contact like that is not a problem… the issue is, what’s the right thing to do for the franchise, in terms of what helps us win in the long run? I mean, you need more than just a quarterback.”

Their draft situation could still lead the Colts to take the draft route to secure their next franchise signal-caller. With a tag-and-trade (rather than strictly an offer sheet) now firmly available as an option to acquire Jackson, however, Indianapolis remains a team to watch as his playing future unfolds.

Colts Unlikely To Conduct Third HC Interviews; Team Pivoting Away From Jeff Saturday?

The Colts have delivered this hiring period’s top non-Sean Payton-related headlines. Both the team’s steady interest in retaining Jeff Saturday and its connection with a third round of interviews have injected confusion into a drawn-out search.

As this process (presumably) hits the homestretch, neither may be in the equation any longer. Saturday is not expected to be named the full-time Colts head coach, Zak Keefer of The Athletic notes (subscription required). The Colts are also unlikely to follow through with the rumored third sets of interviews. With the Colts’ second round of meetings lasting between 10 and 12 hours, it would seem unnecessary for the team to buck tradition and bring in candidates for third summits.

[RELATED: Who Will Become Next Colts HC?]

Jim Irsay‘s fondness for Saturday has kept the interim coach in the picture, with Keefer not completely ruling out another surprise decision from the owner. Nearly three months after GM Chris Ballard and others attempted to dissuade Irsay from naming Saturday interim HC, the owner heard more pitches against removing Saturday’s interim label. No team has promoted an interim coach to a full-time position since the Jaguars did so with Doug Marrone in 2017.

Saturday, who went 1-7 after moving from an ESPN analyst role to coaching his former team, being out of the running would ensure a more experienced coach leads the Colts in 2023. Among a host of finalists, one name might be worth monitoring. Irsay is believed to have flown to Philadelphia to meet with Eagles OC Shane Steichen ahead of his interview with Ballard the next day, Keefer adds. Steichen cannot be hired until after Super Bowl LVII. With the Colts not expected to make a hire until after Sunday’s season-ender, Steichen should probably be considered a true finalist. The Colts are believed to have winnowed down their list to a few candidates this week.

Steichen is likely one of the candidates who would plan to retain DC Gus Bradley. The Colts have prevented Bradley from exploring outside opportunities due to multiple candidates wanting to retain him. Several, in fact, want to keep not only Bradley but his defensive staff, according to Keefer. Steichen coached alongside Bradley with the Chargers from 2017-20, with the duo finishing that stay as an OC-DC combo. Raheem Morris coached with Bradley with the Buccaneers from 2006-08 as well, though Morris being a defensive coach would make Bradley an interesting fit, and was with Bisaccia last season in Las Vegas.

The prospect of leaving much of their defensive staff intact would be an interesting call for a team that went 4-12-1, though Bradley’s unit obviously presented fewer problems than the offense this season. While Eric Bieniemy interviewed with the Colts — the Chiefs OC’s lone meeting thus far in this process — Steichen and Brian Callahan are the only former offensive coordinators to have interviewed for the Indianapolis gig twice. Among those two, only Steichen has called plays previously. Fellow finalists Morris, Rich Bisaccia, Aaron Glenn and Don Martindale have expertise on the defensive side.