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Why the Sean McVay-Jared Goff partnership fell apart for Los Angeles Rams

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Editor’s note: This story originally ran March 24. Jared Goff will return to play in Los Angeles for the first time since being traded to the Detroit Lions for Matthew Stafford when the Lions (0-6) take on the Los Angeles Rams (5-1) on Sunday (4:05 p.m. ET, Fox).

INGLEWOOD, Calif. — Inside the home locker room at SoFi Stadium, standing underneath a neon-glowing Los Angeles Rams logo, coach Sean McVay called out quarterback Jared Goff in front of players and coaches. It was a postgame scene many had never before witnessed.

McVay glared in Goff’s direction, shouting that he needed to play better and couldn’t continue to turn the ball over. McVay didn’t say the quarterback’s name, but those who were there said they knew to whom McVay was talking.

Minutes later, a heated McVay continued to call out Goff, but this time to reporters, the first time in four seasons as coach he took aim at a player rather than putting the blame on himself after a loss.

“Our quarterback has to take better care of the football,” McVay said about Goff, the player general manager Les Snead traded six picks to move up and draft No. 1 overall in 2016.

That was Week 12 of the 2020 season, and Goff had turned the ball over three times in a 23-20 loss to the NFC West rival San Francisco 49ers. But McVay’s frustration with the franchise quarterback had been brewing for some time.

In the span of two seasons, routine coach and quarterback sideline squabbles turned into one-sided shouting matches, with McVay no longer holding back. Two opposite personalities that once worked harmoniously — McVay’s hyper-focused drive to Goff’s cool-and-calm demeanor — no longer meshed. Goff’s thumb injury allowed McVay to start a different quarterback late last season. That, coupled with Matthew Stafford’s request for a trade from the Detroit Lions, proved to be the end for Goff in L.A.

Two weeks after the 2020 campaign, which ended with a divisional playoff loss at the Green Bay Packers, the Rams traded Goff, two first-round picks and a third-round pick to the Lions in exchange for Stafford.

It was a startling turn of events considering Goff won two NFC West division titles and an NFC championship and helped lead the Rams to Super Bowl LIII. For those accomplishments, he was rewarded with a four-year, $134 million extension, including a record-breaking $110 million guaranteed, only 17 months before the trade.

“Unfortunately, the way it ended is never how you envision it,” Goff said during an introductory news conference in Detroit. “But it’s the way it goes.”

“When you look back on the four years that we did have together, there’s a lot of times you can smile on,” McVay said a month after the trade was agreed upon. “I would say there’s a lot of things that when I self-reflect, I certainly wish I was better for him in some instances.”

The trade came together within 24 hours and was a move few could have predicted despite knowing the Rams’ quarterback situation for 2021 would be different than the previous four years. McVay and Snead made that clear in their season-ending news conferences when they provided no guarantees for Goff.

“Yeah, he’s our quarterback, right now,” McVay said after the loss to the Packers.

The following day, McVay would not guarantee Goff’s spot on the roster in 2021. A week later, Snead wouldn’t either.

“Jared Goff is a Ram right now,” Snead said. “So, what’s the date? January 26.”

The trade was agreed to on Jan. 30 but became official on March 18, a day after the start of the league year.

“There’s a lot of things that go into it, and most importantly, it’s a rare opportunity to acquire a player of Matthew Stafford’s caliber,” McVay said shortly after his new quarterback was introduced in L.A., despite Stafford’s 0-3 career playoff record. “To be able to acquire somebody like him was an opportunity that we wanted to be aggressive about pursuing, and it fortunately worked out.

“Jared Goff is a Ram right now. So, what’s the date? January 26.”

Rams general manager Les Snead, four days before the team agreed to trade Jared Goff to the Detroit Lions for Matthew Stafford.

“But by no means is it a reflection of not respecting and appreciating all the great things that Jared Goff has done.”

However, interviews with more than two dozen sources, including Rams players, coaches and front-office personnel, either on the record or on condition of anonymity, painted the portrait of a relationship between McVay and Goff that fractured in 2019 and slowly decayed throughout the 2020 season.

‘It will be a good marriage’

After seven winless starts as a rookie under former Rams coach Jeff Fisher, Goff played masterfully in his next two years with McVay as coach and a supporting cast that included All-Pro running back Todd Gurley II and All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald. The lanky quarterback passed for 8,492 yards and 60 touchdowns with 19 interceptions in 2017 and 2018 and earned two Pro Bowl selections. Meanwhile, his future successor passed for 8,223 yards and 50 touchdowns and 21 interceptions with Detroit during that span.

With a mega-payday looming for Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, the Rams wanted to get ahead of the market reset and re-sign Goff despite the two seasons remaining on his rookie contract.

McVay inherited Goff at quarterback when he took the job in 2017 but felt confident about what he had seen during their two seasons together. He signed off on the decision to give Goff the contract extension.

“Jared Goff, as long as I’m fortunate enough to be in this role, hopefully this guy is stuck with me for a long time,” McVay said a few months after the Super Bowl loss to the New England Patriots.

A day after the deal was announced, Goff smiled about his future with McVay.

“He’s joked that I’m stuck with him; I told him, ‘I think I’m OK with that,'” Goff said. “It will be a good marriage … I’m happy to be with him for a long time.”

However, in the two seasons that followed, the Rams’ offense steadily declined — going from third in scoring in 2018 to 12th in 2019 to tied for 22nd in 2020 — along with Goff’s production.

Along with it, the question began percolating inside the Rams’ building: Did we make a mistake?

Cracking the code

What the Patriots and coach Bill Belichick did to the Rams’ offense during the Super Bowl, holding it to 260 total yards, including 60 rushing yards, didn’t just ruin a game plan and the chance to return to L.A. with a title. It upended a scheme, exposed a quarterback and provided the NFL — the ultimate copycat league — a blueprint of how to grind McVay’s offense to a halt.

McVay knew getting back to the Super Bowl would not be easy, but he didn’t expect the offense to take a significant step backward, as the downtick in scoring resulted in the Rams missing the playoffs in 2019.

The offensive line underwent turnover. Sturdy left guard Rodger Saffold departed in free agency, the Rams declined an option on veteran center John Sullivan’s contract and right tackle Rob Havenstein was sidelined midway through the season because of a knee injury. Gurley, the 2017 NFL Offensive Player of the Year, had knee issues, and McVay struggled to consistently incorporate the run in the game plan.

With the infrastructure around him beginning to falter, Goff needed to take control.

McVay grinded at all hours, trying to solve the offensive issues. With no full-time offensive coordinator — a position McVay did not fill after current Packers coach Matt LaFleur departed following the 2017 season — it fell on McVay to right the ship.

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Ryan Clark explains why the Rams were not sold on Jared Goff after trading him to the Lions.

It became apparent to some inside the building that Goff had not developed into a quarterback who could thrive without a strong cast.

“The situation around him affected his game. If the O-line wasn’t always firing or if he was missing a wide receiver, things didn’t go well,” a team source said. “If he had a clean pocket and everything was going perfect, he’s a top-five quarterback.”

Shane Waldron — Goff’s fourth quarterbacks coach in four seasons (and now the offensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks) — manned the position room along with assistant Zac Robinson. McVay would drop in.

The Rams’ previous two quarterbacks coaches — LaFleur and Zac Taylor (now the Cincinnati Bengals‘ coach) — provided buffers between McVay and Goff.

McVay would be able to get his message, no matter how tough, to Goff through the quarterbacks coach, ensuring no disruption to the relationship.

“Sean is an amped-up guy; Jared was always calm and collected,” a team source said. “I thought they balanced each other out.”

But as the 2019 season progressed without the desired results, McVay began to coach Goff more directly and their dynamic began to slowly unravel.

“Sean got more involved, was tougher on Jared and didn’t realize that he wasn’t building him back up,” a league source said.

Goff complained to others about McVay and vice versa. The two wouldn’t sit down often enough to hammer the issues out, a league source said.

On the sideline, where emotional outbursts are not uncommon, “It gradually became more hostile, with McVay cussing out Goff, and Goff would feel crushed,” a league source said.

Despite those increasingly confrontational interactions, it appeared McVay and Goff successfully navigated a difficult stretch toward the end of the 2019 season. Though they missed the playoffs, the Rams won three out of five games to finish 9-7.

After averaging 20.6 points per game through the first 12 weeks, the offense upped its production to 27.6 points per game over the final five contests.

Goff was named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week after passing for 424 yards and two touchdowns in a Week 13 rout of the Arizona Cardinals. “I’m seeing a guy who’s been playing good football lately,” McVay said.

The following week, Goff passed 293 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions in a lopsided victory over the Seahawks. And despite losing 34-31 to the 49ers in a critical Week 16 game on a blown defensive coverage, Goff passed for 323 yards and two touchdowns with an interception.

McVay and Goff appeared to have their groove back.

Opposite personalities, increasing friction

Ultimately, the merger between the Type A, football-hyper personality of McVay and the laid-back Goff didn’t work.

Spend enough time around McVay and you’ll notice some common refrains. Among them, “Consistency is the truest measure of performance.” Throughout the 2020 season, McVay harped on Goff’s need to improve.

“Consistency is the biggest thing. I know it’s like a broken record, but it is the truth,” McVay said when asked what he wanted to see from Goff through the final quarter of the regular season.

“He was good this season,” a team source said about Goff. “Except when he was awful.”

With no Gurley, who was cut during the offseason, the Rams moved to running back by committee before rookie Cam Akers became the feature back late in the season. The O-line grew more cohesive after an uneven 2019, but after trading wideout Brandin Cooks to the Houston Texans, the offense lacked a deep-threat receiver to stretch a defense.

“At times, definitely we had the pieces,” Snead said when asked if he put enough talent around Goff to succeed. “But as a general manager, you’re going to always remember the losses or maybe the seasons that didn’t go quite as well as envisioned when the season started.”

Goff passed for 3,952 yards and 20 touchdowns, his fewest since his rookie season, with 13 interceptions.

Work ethic wasn’t an issue; Goff put in the hours. It was a matter of understanding, diagnosing and applying what was coached.

Goff struggled to recognize coverage disguises and didn’t consistently identify coverage post snap as the play developed. When a defense ran Cover Zero with no safeties deep, his decision-making process often didn’t happen quickly enough to hit the big play.

“As a quarterback, you can’t lose games,” a team source said. “We just needed him to manage it and do his part.”

The Rams had the NFL’s top-ranked defense in 2020 under first-year coordinator Brandon Staley, who is now the head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers. Led by NFL Defensive Player of the Year Donald and All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey, the Rams allowed a league-low average of 18.5 points per game.

For a second consecutive season — and despite hiring full-time offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell, who also served as quarterbacks coach — the offense was a glaring issue when coupled with a defense otherwise worthy of a Super Bowl run.

“It’s been a struggle of a year because we had a strong defense,” a team source said, “which put more pressure on our offense to play well.”

The lack of offensive productivity ate at McVay, who arrived in L.A. from Washington with an offensive acumen and proved to be an innovator in his first two seasons, constructing a high-scoring juggernaut behind 11 personnel (three receivers, a tight end and running back) and a lot of play-action.

McVay told people around him he felt as though he had to call every play perfectly for Goff. And Goff felt increasingly micromanaged as McVay continuously ramped up the complexity of his offense in an attempt to outscheme the defense, a league source said.

“There’s a handful of times, every single game, that you’re not proud of it, and then there was a lot of times when you did feel like you were getting some looks that you would hope for; sometimes it worked out, and sometimes it didn’t,” McVay said about his playcalling after the season. “I have high expectations and standards for myself and for our offense.”

Goff’s natural throwing talent was not an issue, but his inability to consistently use it became one.

Through seven games and a 5-2 start, Goff — with O’Connell, his fifth quarterbacks coach in five seasons — showed progress in the face of changing voices. It was a similar dynamic to what three-time Pro Bowl quarterback Alex Smith, who had five offensive coordinators in five seasons after being the No. 1 pick of the 49ers in 2005, struggled with early in his NFL career.

But it all crashed down in Week 8.

Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores, who previously was part of the Patriots’ defensive staff that dismantled the Rams’ offense in Super Bowl LIII, dialed up the pressure.

The Dolphins blitzed Goff on 26 dropbacks, the most he faced in a single game in 2020.

Goff averaged 2.6 seconds from the time of the snap to throw the ball, which was his fourth-fastest time in 2020, and he passed for 355 yards and a touchdown.

However, too often Goff appeared confused and out of sorts, as he turned the ball over four times — two interceptions and two lost fumbles — and the Rams fell 28-17, losing to rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa in his first NFL start.

“Our execution has to be better. I have to coach better, and I have to put our players in better positions, and that’s the bottom line,” McVay said after the loss, adding later, “This is a sick taste in your mouth.”

In the aftermath, McVay remained convinced the game plan should have worked, while Goff thought differently, a team source said.

Throughout the building, tension rose in regard to McVay’s handling of Goff, whom some thought the coach did not hold accountable like others.

“We get our ass chewed out for f—ups,” a team source said. “But the stuff with the quarterback gets swept under the rug.”

Goff rebounded the following two weeks, with a solid performance in a win against the visiting Seahawks and then helping to put on a show on Monday Night Football, passing for 376 yards and three touchdowns with two interceptions in a road victory over eventual Super Bowl champion Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

But the wheels came off again a week later in a fourth consecutive loss to the Niners, who won despite starting backup quarterback Nick Mullens and playing without several other key starters. Goff sat alone on the sideline after two first-half turnovers. He finished with 198 passing yards and three turnovers — two interceptions and a lost fumble.

A ‘taste’ for a new QB

At some point amid the inconsistent season, sources said McVay contemplated whether the Rams would be able to return to the Super Bowl with Goff at quarterback.

Tension with Goff had grown. On the sideline, McVay would routinely yell at his quarterback, but some noticed there came a point when McVay wouldn’t circle back to apologize. Some chalked it up to the competitive environment, others to McVay’s inability to hide his frustration with Goff.

For Goff, it became increasingly difficult how often his coach took aim at him — whether on the sideline, in meetings or the practice field.

“Sean lost touch with how much he was breaking Jared down, but there’s got to be the build back up,” a league source said. “[McVay] was either unaware or disinterested in protecting Jared’s confidence.”

In the trade aftermath, McVay admitted to communication breakdowns with his quarterback.

“I could have been much better about those real-time communications,” McVay said. “I’m not going to make any excuses about it, but there’s a lot of things, even some of the decision-making in games, are you consistently putting him in the right positions to be a success?”

After routing the visiting Patriots on Thursday Night Football, the Rams suffered another inexplicable loss — this time a 23-20 home defeat in Week 15 to the previously winless New York Jets.

With a division title at stake in Week 16 in Seattle, Goff stumbled again in a 20-9 loss. He passed for 234 yards with an interception he called the among the worst plays of his career, and he made a glaring error when he slid short of a first down. To Goff’s credit, he finished the game after breaking the thumb on his throwing hand upon smacking it an opponent’s helmet in the final seconds of the third quarter.

“The worst thing for Jared is that [McVay] got a taste of John Wolford.”

Rams team source

Goff underwent surgery the following day and had three screws inserted in anticipation of recovering quickly enough for a playoff run.

In the meantime, McVay had the opportunity to make the change at quarterback, starting undrafted free agent John Wolford in Week 17. Some in the organization were convinced McVay wanted to do it earlier but didn’t because of Goff’s contract.

“He didn’t have the balls to sit Jared,” a team source said.

Wolford, who hadn’t played in a regular-season game since joining the Rams in 2019, would make his first NFL start in a must-win home game against the Cardinals to earn a playoff bid.

“The worst thing for Jared,” a team source said, “is that [McVay] got a taste of John Wolford.”

With a hired nutritionist, throwing coach and personal trainer outside of the Rams’ facility, Goff put in the work required of most starting NFL quarterbacks. But when compared to Wolford, whom some refer to as Baby Brees, it fell short.

Wolford arrived early during the week for practices — 6:30 a.m. — and stayed late, even when he was on the practice squad. “Just a different animal,” a league source said.

“He’s addicted like McVay,” a team source said.

The energy around the practice facility shifted when Wolford took over.

“It was just kind of an opportunity for John to breathe some life into the offense with his athleticism, intelligence,” a team source said.

Some players were excited about Wolford starting — not necessarily because they didn’t like Goff, but because they thought the mobile Wolford provided a spark.

Wolford overcame an interception on his first pass to throw for 231 yards in a 18-7 win over Arizona while rushing for a team-leading 56 yards.

With a wild-card playoff in Seattle up next, McVay decided early in the week Wolford would start, despite having yet to see Goff’s post-surgery recovery progress. Goff insisted he would be ready to play, but McVay’s decision was final, explaining a game plan would need to be installed to prepare Wolford.

“Functionality was going to be an issue with the thumb,” a team source said. “But I think it was probably that combination of, ‘Holy cow, we just saw John play, we got in rhythm, we kind of had a new game plan.'”

“The Arizona-Seattle weeks, those were our best weeks of practices,” another team source said. “The confidence of the team was high.”

Goff, 12 days removed from thumb surgery, was the only active backup against the Seahawks in the wild-card contest, a game-day decision that left some players confused about Goff’s availability should Wolford need to come out.

With 5:40 remaining in the first quarter, Wolford suffered a neck injury, and Goff was inserted. He proved — despite limited opportunity to practice the game plan throughout the week — he could lead the Rams to another playoff victory, closing out a 30-20 upset at Lumen Field.

Despite Goff’s improbable effort versus the Seahawks, questions again began brewing about who would start ahead of a divisional playoff at Green Bay.

Wolford ended up being ruled out late in the week because of the injury, but he did travel to Wisconsin; Goff would start.

However, if it were not for Wolford’s injury, several sources said McVay would have started him against the Packers.

When asked if Wolford would have started if he were available, McVay avoided answering the question.

“[McVay] was totally all-in 100 percent on starting Wolford over Goff,” a league source said.

“When we found out John couldn’t go,” a team source said, “we felt defeated.”

The desire for Wolford wasn’t unanimous, as Goff retained some supporters in the locker room.

“Jared was our starting quarterback,” another team source said.

Goff played well, completing 21 of 27 passes for 174 yards and a touchdown without committing a turnover inside freezing Lambeau Field, but the Rams’ defense couldn’t slow quarterback Aaron Rodgers, and the Packers won 32-18.

“My job is to win the game,” Goff said afterward, in what would become his final news conference as a Ram. “Thought I was able to do some good things out there today, but no, my job is to win the game; there’s absolutely no moral victories, especially in the playoffs.”

‘We are going to take big swings’

Opinions throughout the building on Goff — the football player — fluctuated. Some fully supported him; others thought a change would be beneficial.

In the trade aftermath, McVay reflected on their success, while taking responsibility for some shortcomings. McVay also made clear the two had communicated since the trade, something Goff told the Los Angeles Times had not happened after the deal.

“I’m not going to run away from the things that I could have been better for him as a leader and as a coach,” McVay said, adding, “We have had good conversations that were healthy, and I think we were able to communicate open and honestly with one another.”

Together, McVay and Goff won 42 games over four seasons — tying Goff with the Seahawks’ Russell Wilson for total wins and putting Goff second only to Brady over that span.

But the Rams’ chance to acquire Stafford, who turned 33 in February, was too great of an opportunity to get the offense back on track.

“Put simply, chance to bet on going from good to great at that position,” Snead said. “Especially from where our team was, our core group of players, where they were in their career, the coaching staff we have, felt like it was just too good of an opportunity to pass up.”

Goff, who turned 27 on Oct. 14, admitted he took the initial news of the trade personally.

“At first, absolutely,” Goff said. “I think it builds that chip on your shoulder a little bit. I won’t lie about that. There is that little extra motivation and chip that you do feel.”

After the trade was agreed on, McVay and Stafford — who both were vacationing in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, according to Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer — celebrated their partnership with a dinner.

The Rams felt it was better to admit a mistake on a contract extension and move on than to make no changes and try to make another season work after two inconsistent seasons with Goff under center.

“Some decisions work; some don’t,” a team source said. “We are going to take big swings.”

“It’s disappointing and unfortunate the way it ended.”

“I had so many great memories, made so many great friends, have so many great former teammates from there,” Goff said. “There’s so much I learned there and there’s no ill will. I want to move forward with my life and my career, and this is my next chapter.”

Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp wrote on social media: “Four years of growing and learning from each other. Appreciate Jared for more than just who he was on the field, but I owe him a debt of gratitude for any success I had while out there with him as well.”

In the end, the opinion that ultimately mattered belonged to McVay.

ESPN’s Michael Rothstein contributed to this report.

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Do the New York Giants need an experienced head coach to pair with rookie GM? – New York Giants Blog

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — During his first season leading the New York Giants in 1983, Bill Parcells said he was trying too hard to be a head coach.

He believes it almost cost him his job. In 1984 he decided to be himself. The new easygoing head coach was gone. The gruff taskmaster with that trademark mean streak that everybody came to know and ultimately appreciate took over. That suited him and the results followed. The Giants won nine games in his second season after winning three in his first, and hoisted a Super Bowl trophy two seasons later.

Even for the great ones (Parcells was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2013), there is a learning curve. The same applies to the general manager position, and the Giants hired first-time GM Joe Schoen on Friday.

That makes their upcoming coaching hire more intriguing, especially after what has transpired in New York for the better part of the past decade and particularly the past few years. Do the Giants really want to have a first-time GM and coach learning on the job? Or does one of the most conservative franchises in the NFL prefer a known quantity amidst the overhaul?

The Giants just watched up close and personal as first-time head coaches Ben McAdoo and Joe Judge had it fall apart in Year 2 after promising debut seasons. Co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch didn’t have the patience for them to learn from their mistakes. And that was with veteran general managers Jerry Reese and Dave Gettleman, respectively.

“For me, I’m going young. I’m going ascending on the GM front. But I’m getting some experience [at head coach], because I think in this market your best chance for success is to bring in somebody who has had success and has experience,” former NFL general manager and current ESPN analyst Mike Tannenbaum said recently on ESPN New York. “If I owned the Giants, given what has happened over the past six years, I’m getting a guy that has done it. Done it at a high level. I don’t need any guesswork or projections.”

The known coaching candidates for the Giants are Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, Bills assistant head coach/defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, former Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores, Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo and Patrick Graham, who ran the Giants’ defense the past two seasons.

Frazier, Flores and Quinn have been NFL head coaches — Frazier with the Minnesota Vikings (2011-13), Flores for the past three seasons with the Dolphins and Quinn with the Atlanta Falcons (2015-20). Daboll, Graham and Anarumo have not.

Daboll, Frazier and Anarumo all had a first interview via videoconference with the Giants over the weekend. Quinn was interviewed Monday, Daboll gets a second interview Tuesday, and Flores and Graham are expected to interview this week.

While hiring a candidate with previous experience as a head coach has some obvious advantages, Schoen comes from Buffalo, where they hired a first-time head coach (Sean McDermott) and general manager (Brandon Beane) in 2017. They built the Bills rather quickly and effectively into a Super Bowl contender.

“Joe has seen how Sean and I work here,” Beane said. “And neither Sean nor I walk through the building [saying] that we got all the answers or that it’s my way or Sean’s way. It’s collaborative. We listen to our coaches, we listen to our doctors, our trainers, our scouts. Whatever the decision needs to be made, we listen and then try to make an informed decision.

“Joe will ultimately have to make some decisions, whether it’s a draft pick or that final decision of paying a player on that team or a free agent somewhere else, but he’s going to value everyone’s input.”

That will have to include the coach. It’s imperative they’re on the same page, which is why sources say Daboll is considered the favorite for the Giants. He and Schoen have worked together previously in Miami (2011) and for the past four seasons in Buffalo.

And if everything the Giants are saying is true, Schoen is driving this coaching search. Not ownership, as it had in the past.

The Bills aren’t the only recent example of a first-time coach/GM combination working. The San Francisco 49ers have also experienced success with Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch. They will be playing in the NFC Championship Game for the second time in three years on Sunday.

“It’s all people-dependent,” a veteran NFL general manager said about whether it can work with a first-time coach and GM. The belief is it can — as long as it’s the right individuals with a shared vision and philosophy.

It’s what Schoen needs to find with his new coach, whether it be a first-timer or someone with experience.

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Patriots’ 2022 plans could be impacted by Raiders’ searches for GM, coach – New England Patriots Blog

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The way the New England Patriots‘ season ended made it clear what coach Bill Belichick’s No. 1 priority needs to be when he looks ahead to 2022.

It’s defense with a capital D.

That will surely come, but from a pure timing standpoint, there is something else that looms large: offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels’ future and his integral role in the development of second-year quarterback Mac Jones.

There are currently eight head-coaching vacancies in the NFL, and the Las Vegas Raiders‘ opening is the main one to watch if McDaniels, 45, ultimately departs. The “tell” will be whom the Raiders hire as their general manager.

If it’s Patriots director of player personnel Dave Ziegler, who interviewed in Las Vegas on Friday, the odds of a McDaniels departure likely increase. Sources have told ESPN that McDaniels has relayed to interested teams that aligning with someone he knows well on the personnel side is a top priority, and he brought Ziegler — a fellow alum of John Carroll University — into the NFL in 2010 with the Denver Broncos.

Belichick previously had paid McDaniels one of the highest compliments, comparing him to his longtime friend Nick Saban in terms of his understanding of what every player is doing on the field. And in his season-ending videoconference, Belichick noted the unpredictability of what’s ahead with his staff.

“We have a lot of good coaches. It’s not surprising that other teams would be interested in talking to them, or other staff members,” he said. “If there’s an opportunity for somebody that’s at a high level that we can’t provide here, I understand that they would have to consider that. So we’ll see what happens on that.”

At the same time, it’s not like McDaniels is aggressively pursuing an exit from New England.

He made it clear how much he enjoyed working with Jones and other newcomers when he said in December: “This year’s team has provided a lot of new energy. The ability to really pour into them and create a foundation for a lot of them in our offense and our culture here in New England — and then see them take to it, adapt to it, and really grow and learn, how they fit into the bigger piece of the puzzle — has been really a great experience for all of us.”

In November, Jones said: “Josh is a great coach, and he’s been close with me ever since I got here. He wants me to be the best player I can be … and he’s done a great job putting me in a position to lead the offense.”

Building on that foundation in 2022 — and possibly giving Jones a dynamic No. 1 receiving option like the Cincinnati Bengals did for Joe Burrow with Ja’Marr Chase this season — would be a coup for Belichick and help him dedicate attention to the defense while also restoring the special-teams units to their once-dominant standing.

Among the bright spots for the Patriots’ offense in 2021, with the rookie Jones at the helm, was scoring touchdowns on the opening drive more frequently than all but two teams in the NFL. They were also 11th in the red zone based on touchdown percentage (39 TDs in 63 trips), and fifth in explosive rushing plays (65 rushes of 10 yards or more).

A McDaniels departure could potentially stunt future growth, especially because there might not be a clear-cut successor on staff.

Tight ends coach Nick Caley and receivers coach Mick Lombardi are among those in the pipeline. Lombardi’s thoroughness and intelligence were highlighted by McDaniels this season, who said Lombardi “sees the game very similarly to myself in terms of the passing game.”

In a reflection of that, Lombardi was responsible for preparing the offense for the red zone as part of game plans this season, according to McDaniels.

Former Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien, set to enter his second season at Alabama, could be a target in the event McDaniels departs. But would that even be something O’Brien entertains?

It isn’t overstating things to say the next week, or however long it takes the Raiders to finalize their GM/head coach decisions, has an added level of significance for the Patriots.

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NFL free agency 2022 – Biggest signing decisions for all 32 teams, including Odell Beckham Jr., Davante Adams, Chandler Jones

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The NFL playoffs are down to just four teams, which means the 28 others are giving a hard look at their rosters and planning to make some decisions regarding free agents in 2022.

It may seem like the regular season just finished, but we are a mere month and change away from March 16 — the opening of free-agency season.

Between now and then franchises have to decide how different, or similar, their rosters will look in 2022. Will Green Bay have a rebuild on its hands? How will the Dallas Cowboys sign all their free agents amid cap pressure? Will someone new be at quarterback for the New Orleans Saints and Denver Broncos?

To get an early look at the market, we asked our NFL Nation reporters for the biggest looming free-agent decision on every team. Will playmakers Odell Beckham Jr., Jadeveon Clowney and Mike Williams return to their respective teams? Can Chandler Jones, Davante Adams and Dalton Schultz find better offers on the market? Here is where each team stands as of today.

Let’s start by looking at the NFC East.

Jump to:
ARI | ATL | BAL | BUF | CAR | CHI | CIN
CLE | DAL | DEN | DET | GB | HOU | IND
JAX | KC | LAC | LAR | LV | MIA | MIN
NE | NO | NYG | NYJ | PHI | PIT | SF
SEA | TB | TEN | WSH

NFC EAST

Free agent: TE Dalton Schultz

Schultz had 78 catches for 808 yards and 8 touchdowns in 2021 after putting up 63 for 615 and 4 in 2020. He has developed into a highly dependable option for Dak Prescott, but will he be out of the Cowboys’ price point? Look at the contracts Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith received from New England; Schultz could get that much on the open market. Would the Cowboys have the type of room to keep him? Maybe. The franchise tag could be an option as well but that might be earmarked for Randy Gregory. — Todd Archer


Free agent: OLB Lorenzo Carter

The Giants need to add pass-rushers this offseason, not lose any useful players at the position. Carter proved to be effective by finishing this season with five sacks in the last four weeks — after not getting to the quarterback the first 14 weeks. His fate likely lies in what system new general manager Joe Schoen and the next coach plan to run. If he fits, Carter could return on a one-year prove-it deal, unless another team is willing to take the risk on a long-term contract based on a handful of games. — Jordan Raanan


Free agent: S Rodney McLeod

McLeod returned from ACL rehab in Week 4 and finished the season on a high note, posting key interceptions in back-to-back games to help the Eagles secure a playoff berth. McLeod, a team leader, will be 32 next season and has dealt with his share of injuries of late. But with safety Anthony Harris and cornerback Steven Nelson also projected to be free agents, it’s worth trying to get McLeod back on a reasonable one-year deal in the name of back-end stability. — Tim McManus


Free agent: G Brandon Scherff

The five-time Pro Bowl guard has played on the franchise tag the past two seasons. Washington GM Martin Mayhew confirmed that last offseason the team offered him a deal that would have made him the NFL’s highest-paid guard. It’s uncertain how it was structured, but regardless it did not get the two sides closer to an agreement. Scherff is an elite guard, but the problem comes with health — he has not played more than 13 games in a season since 2017 and has missed a combined 24 games the past five seasons. — John Keim

NFC NORTH

Free agent: DT Akiem Hicks

The great run-stopper might be a luxury the Bears can’t afford. There’s no doubt their defense looks different when he is in the game, but the problem has been too much time missed because of injury over the past few seasons. Combined with the amount of money the Bears have committed to their front seven — among the most in the league — Hicks might end up with a new address in 2022. The team has to build around quarterback Justin Fields and the savings on Hicks could provide an avenue to help in that goal. — Jesse Rogers


Free agent: OLB Charles Harris

After a 3-13-1 finish, the Lions certainly don’t have many must-keep players on the roster, but Charles Harris is one of the guys they should re-sign. Under a new coaching staff, in a new situation, Harris enjoyed his best season as a pro with a career-best 65 tackles, 10 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks. Detroit needs as much depth as possible and he’s already comfortable in the position so it would make sense to bring him back. — Eric Woodyard


Free agent: WR Davante Adams

Adams wants to be the highest-paid receiver in the league, but he surely also would like to continue playing with Aaron Rodgers. There has to be a reason — beyond just the money — that Adams didn’t sign an extension during the season. That reason could be Rodgers. If Rodgers decides he wants to play elsewhere next season, then perhaps the Packers’ only option to retain Adams will be to use the franchise tag. — Rob Demovsky


Free agent: CB Patrick Peterson

The Vikings will again be tasked with retooling their secondary in the offseason. Peterson came to Minnesota as a free agent on a one-year deal and was the most experienced, put-together corner the Vikings fielded in 2021. Though he expressed a desire to remain in Minnesota, Peterson will soon be 32. The team cannot afford to pay him a contract that guarantees $8 million, nor should they for a cornerback nearing the final years of his career. If he’s willing to stay for less, the Vikings should consider re-signing him while also eyeing a cornerback with their first-round pick. His guidance paid dividends in helping young defensive backs develop last season and would be a benefit for a defense that’s about to undergo a major transition with a new coaching staff. — Courtney Cronin

NFC SOUTH

Free agent: LB Foyesade Oluokun

Oluokun was a force for Atlanta this season. He led the NFL in tackles (192), had a career-high three interceptions and became a leader of Atlanta’s defense. Falcons coach Arthur Smith called Oluokun an “ascending player,” and general manager Terry Fontenot made it clear he would like to retain some of the Falcons’ free agents, even with salary-cap constraints. Oluokun, for his part, said he would like to return, but it’s possible a team covets him highly. It’s too soon to tell what will shake out here, but there appears to be interest from both Atlanta and Oluokun to continue working together. — Michael Rothstein


Free agent: Edge Haason Reddick

The team’s sack leader (11) signed a one-year prove-it deal because there were those that doubted the 12.5 sacks he had at Arizona in 2020 would be the norm. He’s proven on and off the field to be an asset. The question is: Do the Panthers invest in Reddick, better suited for a 3-4 scheme, or in getting bigger on the edge to play more 4-3? Defensive coordinator Phil Snow would like to get bigger up front, so that could decrease Reddick’s value. The market price likely will decide this one. — David Newton


Free agent: QB Jameis Winston

Quarterback is by far the Saints’ top priority when it comes to personnel decisions. All options should be on the table, including a blockbuster trade or the draft. But Winston might have the best combination of affordability and upside if the Saints feel good about his recovery from a torn ACL. He went 4-2 in the six games he completed in 2021 and finished with a TD-INT ratio of 14-3. — Mike Triplett


Free agent: G Alex Cappa

Since quarterback Tom Brady isn’t technically a free agent — and the decision to retire rests solely with him — we can’t choose him. But no doubt, he’s the glue that will keep this roster together. After Brady, the Bucs have 23 players set to become unrestricted free agents, and coach Bruce Arians said Monday that the team will prioritize its own free agents in March. I don’t think there’s any way they let wide receiver Chris Godwin out of the building, even coming off a torn ACL. Center Ryan Jensen also had arguably his best season, as did safety Jordan Whitehead. Carlton Davis remains their best cornerback. They also need to consider the returns of Rob Gronkowski and Leonard Fournette. So where does that leave the starting right guard, Cappa, when there’s only so much money to go around with their projected cap space currently below $15 million? — Jenna Laine

NFC WEST

Free agent: OLB Chandler Jones

Jones continues to establish himself as one of the best pass-rushers in the NFL, but there’s a distinct possibility he plays for another team in 2022. He wanted an extension before this season and when he didn’t get that he asked for a trade and didn’t get that either. He played for $15.5 million in 2021 and turned in 10.5 sacks — the sixth time in the last seven seasons he recorded double-digit sacks. It’s likely he doesn’t get the type of contract he wants from the Cardinals and tests the free-agency waters before deciding whether to return or, more likely, sign elsewhere. — Josh Weinfuss


Free agent: WR Odell Beckham Jr.

The Rams signed receiver Beckham and traded for outside linebacker Von Miller in November as half-season rentals to make a Super Bowl run. Now both are pending unrestricted free agents and the Rams must determine if there’s space on the roster and in the budget for them to return. Beckham has revived his once-stellar career in L.A., catching 27 passes for 305 yards and 5 touchdowns in seven regular-season starts, while Miller has five sacks and a forced fumble in eight starts. Because of salary-cap restraints, it is unlikely both will be able to return but watch for the Rams to find a way to keep at least one of them around. — Lindsey Thiry


Free agent: G Laken Tomlinson

Tomlinson has quietly been one of the Niners’ most consistent and reliable players for a few seasons now and forms a dynamic combination with Trent Williams on the left side. Tomlinson is due to cash in on a deal that should exceed the $5.5 million average value of his last contract, probably by a lot. After the Niners gave Williams a record-setting deal last offseason and with right tackle Mike McGlinchey due for an extension soon, will the Niners want to make another significant investment on the line? That could depend on how far along 2021 second-round pick Aaron Banks is in his development. — Nick Wagoner

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Ryan Clark looks ahead to the NFC title game matchup between the 49ers and Rams.


Free agent: S Quandre Diggs

The Seahawks did not want to extend Diggs last offseason, presumably in part because they gave a record-setting deal to their other main safety, Jamal Adams. But Diggs was arguably their team MVP in 2021. He led the Seahawks with five interceptions and was as big a reason as any why they were among the best defenses in the NFL in limiting explosive passing plays. The question is whether they’ll gamble and let him hit free agency, where his market could be tempered by his broken leg from Week 18, or lock him up beforehand. The franchise tag, at a projected cost of around $13 million, seems possible. — Brady Henderson

AFC EAST

Free agent: CB Levi Wallace

After losing cornerback Tre’Davious White for the season with a torn ACL, the Bills needed Wallace to step up as their top corner. He played well in that role and the Bills would be wise to bring him back after his efforts. They lack depth at corner and could use a variety of solid defensive backs on the roster. Re-signing him, however, is not a guarantee given the team’s cap situation and his role on the roster. He may be on a path to getting more money for a bigger role elsewhere. — Alaina Getzenberg


Free agent: DE Emmanuel Ogbah

Miami will keep Ogbah, who has 18 sacks in his past two seasons and is a critical component of its pass rush. He signed a two-year, $15 million deal with Miami in 2020 and is likely to get a pay increase with his next deal — which Spotrac estimates will be around the three-year, $30 million range. With roughly $70 million in cap space, it’s a move the Dolphins can afford before focusing on the other side of the ball. — Marcel Louis-Jacques


Free agent: CB J.C. Jackson

A deal likely won’t be cheap, but Jackson seems to have an affinity for New England, so if it’s close to another offer, the tiebreaker seemingly goes to the team that initially gave him a chance as an undrafted free agent in 2018. But one factor to consider is how Jackson’s poor playoff performance against the Bills — as part of a complete defensive dud — alters the team’s evaluation of the fifth-year pro. — Mike Reiss


Free agent: WR/KR Braxton Berrios

The Jets really want to re-sign Berrios, a hardworking football devotee who had a strong finish (four touchdowns in the final three games) that endeared him to the fan base. Not only did he make first-team All-Pro as a kick returner, but Berrios proved to be a dependable slot receiver with the ability to run jet sweeps. The question is whether the Jets are willing to pay him as a full-time player on offense. If they see him as just as part-time gadget player, he probably will hit the open market. — Rich Cimini

AFC NORTH

Free agent: C Bradley Bozeman

Bozeman has been a dependable starter for the past three seasons, playing left guard before moving to center. The sides haven’t been close on a new deal, and Bozeman recently said he doesn’t know whether he has played his last game in Baltimore. The Ravens recently re-signed Patrick Mekari, who started at right tackle this season but could prove to be a fallback option at center if Bozeman doesn’t return. Baltimore also has Trystan Colon, who has filled in at center over the past two seasons. — Jamison Hensley


Free agent: S Jessie Bates III

Even before the start of the season, Bates was trending toward a franchise-tag designation for 2022. Cincinnati opted to not give Bates the long-term deal he was looking for before this season started. A franchise tag gives him one year of a strong salary. Then we’ll see how willing both sides will be to negotiate when 2023 rolls around. — Ben Baby

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Ryan Clark looks back at the Bengals and Chiefs meeting earlier in the season and is eager to see their matchup in the playoffs.


Free agent: DE Jadeveon Clowney

Clowney proved to be a terrific complement to Myles Garrett rushing the pass from the other side. After a banner season, Clowney is likely going to ask for more than just a one-year deal this time around. But even if it costs them, the Browns would be wise to keep the Clowney/Garrett pairing together moving forward. — Jake Trotter


Free agent: WR JuJu Smith-Schuster

For the second season in a row Smith-Schuster will likely return to Pittsburgh, the team that drafted him in 2017. This seemed improbable even a year ago, but the Steelers found a way to bring him back on a one-year deal for 2021. And they have even more cap space in 2022. Once Smith-Schuster went down in Week 5 with a significant shoulder injury, it was obvious how much the Steelers missed his physicality and energy. Smith-Schuster will undoubtedly keep an eye on the quarterback situation, but don’t be surprised if he’s back in a Steelers uniform next season. — Brooke Pryor

AFC SOUTH

Free agent: S Justin Reid

Reid, a third-round pick in the 2018 draft, is one of the best players on the Texans defense — but he is not expected to re-sign in Houston. Reid will command more than what the rebuilding Texans will want to play on the open market. He was suspended for one game this season for violating team rules after he challenged David Culley’s coaching in a team meeting. — Sarah Barshop


Free agent: WR T.Y. Hilton

Hilton is one of general manager Chris Ballard’s favorite players. But the receiver has made it no secret that he is thinking about retiring after 10 seasons in the NFL. Hilton, who has missed 16 games over the past four seasons, is coming off a down year statistically with 23 receptions for 331 yards. The issue the Colts face is they lack depth at receiver beyond Michael Pittman Jr. That’s why the possibility of re-signing Hilton is a priority. That’s if Hilton wants to play another season. — Mike Wells


Free agent: LT Cam Robinson

The Jaguars have many decisions to make along the offensive line and they start with Robinson, who played the 2021 season on the franchise tag. He played well enough for the Jaguars to consider signing him to a new contract, but they also could use the franchise tag again at roughly $17 million.

Rookie Walker Little was solid in the final two games of the season with Robinson out. But was that enough evidence that he could slide in and be the starter in 2022 and beyond? Probably not. Plus, the Jaguars have a major issue at right tackle with Jawaan Taylor, who has really struggled the last two seasons (17 penalties, tied for the NFL lead). Bringing Robinson back and moving Little to right tackle makes a lot of sense. — Michael DiRocco


Free agent: OLB Harold Landry III

Landry’s 12 sacks on the season marked the first time a Titans pass-rusher finished with a double-digit total since Brian Orakpo had 10.5 in 2016. Tennessee simply can’t allow a pass-rusher it developed to leave via free agency after the many swings and misses it has had in free agency and the draft. The Titans will find a way to re-sign Landry but it will come at a high cost because his position holds a four-year, $70 million market value. — Turron Davenport

AFC WEST

Free agent: QB Teddy Bridgewater

The Broncos have several prominent players poised for free agency, guys like RB Melvin Gordon III, S Kareem Jackson, CB Bryce Callahan, LB Alexander Johnson and LB Josey Jewell. But Bridgewater is part of the team’s biggest offseason decision — what happens at quarterback. Drew Lock is under contract for the 2022 season, but once the Broncos’ new coaching staff is in place a decision needs to be made. With limited options in free agency and the draft, especially for an immediate upgrade, the Broncos need to try to make a blockbuster trade or they’ll have to decide whether Bridgewater is part of the stopgap strategy for at least one more season. — Jeff Legwold


Free agent: S Tyrann Mathieu

Kansas City wants to retain the nine-year veteran and he would like to finish his career with the team, so eventually the sides will reach an agreement. The Chiefs have no reasonable way of replacing all that Mathieu brings, both as a player on the field and a leader in the locker room. He is too valuable in both areas for the Chiefs to let him go. — Adam Teicher


Free agent: QB Marcus Mariota

Yes, an underused backup quarterback whose greatest skill set is in an area that’s an Achilles’ heel for the Raiders — red zone efficiency — is the biggest looming free-agent decision. Because with so many dominoes still to fall with the Raiders — from a new general manager to potentially a new coach — starter Derek Carr‘s status also bears watching. And if Las Vegas was to bring back Mariota, it would likely not be as a backup again. — Paul Gutierrez


Free agent: WR Mike Williams

Williams is coming off his most NFL productive season, as he put up a team-high 76 catches for 1,146 yards and 9 touchdowns. He has great chemistry with quarterback Justin Herbert. At age 27, Williams would be coveted in the offseason free-agent market, and it might be tough for the Chargers to keep him. If it comes down to it, a franchise tag could cost more than $18 million for one more year of the Herbert-to-Williams connection. — Shelley Smith

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