Tis the season of NFL change, from coaching and players to even teams changing this season has had some exciting changes going into next season. Even in the way that the NFL teams evaluate college players has changed, Soon we may not even be able to recognize football as we know it, but that is probably still many years away.
First the changes at the top, six teams had an opening at head coach, the Buffalo Bills, Jacksonville Jaguars, Los Angeles Rams, Los Angeles (formerly San Diego) Chargers, San Fransisco 49er’s and Denver Broncos, after this year’s Black Monday. Every team except the Chargers and 49er’s has hired a replacement. All but one, the Jaguars Doug Marrone, have no head coaching experience before now and most are younger than 40. Obviously, this number could change after the other openings close, but that is non-likely based on who the top candidates are. What does this mean for the league? More inexperience at key positions, not just on the field but also on the headset, most of the play calling will be fresh, and maybe this could be a significant change in the way the game is played philosophy wise.
Moving on from coaches to players, although the free agency period has not happened yet, it still is fun to look ahead and see who could change teams. Many players on the free agent market want a big deal, lead by Washington QB Kirk Cousins. Some of the big name players that may move are Cousins, Alshon Jeffery of the Bears, Eric Berry of the Chiefs, Jason Pierre-Paul of the Giants, and DeSean Jackson among others. Even older former stars are available in DeMarcus Ware, Lawerence Timmons, Julius Peppers, Robert Mathis and more. Some players will stay on their teams, Berry, Pierre-Paul, and Jackson, while others retire, such as Peppers, Ware, and Mathis. What we do know now is that a few of the principal players on this list, Cousins, Jackson, and Jeffery among others, want a bigger payday than their current team has cap room for currently.
Although one of the most significant changes, for the second straight season, is that L.A. will have a new team. Today January 12, the San Diego Chargers officially became the LA Chargers and introduced a new logo which looks like the LA Dodgers, and Tampa Bay Lightning logos had a baby. It is dreadful, and Colin Cowherd said it best today when he said that the Chargers owners had this planned by showing off a new logo only an hour after their relocation. This whole news story broke to unexpected ears today as no one was expecting this to happen this early in the year, plus the logo on top was very unexpected. Eventually, LA will grow into a football city and get both the Chargers and Rams to fill in their stadium; the only problem is that neither team is good enough warrant any fans to watch them.
Lastly, I touched on this subject a few weeks ago in a post about how Christian McCaffrey and Leonard Fournette sat out their bowl games as to not get injured. Their actions have not gone unnoticed as UNC running back Elijah Hood also skipped the Sun Bowl to prepare for his future. How will all three, and others, be viewed in the eyes of the NFL? In my eyes, this does not matter as much as it would have years ago because of one thing. The Ed O’Bannon case, if that case wasn’t a thing and college athletes weren’t aware of them being exploited as means for making money, then this never would have happened. Now that these athletes are more self-aware thus making this a protest against not being paid as college athletes and bringing in money for the school. I think that as long as the big name players aren’t in big games, then there is a greater chance of them skipping that game.
On the other hand, the NFL may view these players in different ways depending on the philosophy of the team. First, if they value talent over off-field issues, then they may be a higher draft pick while also playing at a high level and having “red flags.” How long will those players with “commitment to the game” issues last? That is to be determined and a huge risk by the teams drafting them the value that. Another way is if they value commitment to football and talent on a similar level, and that would place similarly skilled players at different levels, but what about user-talents like McCaffrey and Fournette? Nothing should change in their analysis as they have performed admirably but overall, whether you play at the college level for three years or four years no matter your “commitment to the game” if you have the talent any NFL team will draft you if they have a fit.