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NFL playoff picture 2021 – Week 12 standings, bracket, scenarios and outlook for the postseason



The clock was ticking toward midnight on Sunday when we got the official word: The Ravens are in the driver’s seat in the AFC bracket. Their 16-10 victory over the Browns elevated them to the top spot in the AFC, replacing the Titans and just ahead of the surging Patriots.

Are the Ravens the best team in the AFC? It’s way too early to say that. They might not even be there when they return from their bye in Week 14. But for one week, at least, we can say that the Ravens rose to the challenge.

In more ways than one, the NFL’s Week 12 playoff picture is a mess. It’s foolhardy to try identifying the top two or three teams in the AFC at this point, while on the NFC side it’s impossible to say whether there are seven legitimate playoff teams in the making. For now, the 5-6 Vikings are clinging to the No. 7 spot, among a total of six teams that have five or six wins. If Washington beats the Seahawks on Monday night, it will bring that number to seven.

Let’s take a closer look at where the league stands after all but one game of Week 12. As always, we’ll use ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI) and a a bit of our own gut instincts to guide us.

Jump to: AFC | NFC


FPI chances to make playoffs: 92%
FPI chances to win division: 65%

The quarterback of the AFC’s top seed threw four interceptions Sunday night — and his team still won. You can view that as a sign of strength for Lamar Jackson‘s Ravens, or the relative inability of the Browns to capitalize. But at the end of the night, the Ravens had supplanted the Titans atop the AFC.

Their presence at the top of the rankings reflects a conference that is truly up for grabs among a half-dozen teams. Can the Ravens truly hold off the Patriots, Titans, Chiefs and Bills? We don’t often say this, given the competitiveness of the rivalry, but the Ravens have a strong chance of advancing their quest when they play the reeling Steelers in Week 13.

Next up: at Steelers

FPI chances to make playoffs: 93%
FPI chances to win division: 33%

The Patriots keep giving us reasons to think they’re one of the best teams in the NFL. Sunday’s 23-point victory over the Titans was their sixth victory in a row. They’ve won by at least 18 points in five of those, and overall, they lead the NFL with a point differential of plus-144. And it’s wild that this has all come with rookie quarterback Mac Jones, who is playing well but isn’t among the league’s top 10 in Total QBR.

Amazingly, at least to some, the Patriots can begin the process of locking down the AFC East in Week 13 when they travel to Buffalo. FPI doesn’t like their chances of winning the division, much less earning home-field advantage, but they’re all legitimate possibilities for the Patriots. Had the Ravens lost on Sunday night, the Pats would have ended Week 12 with the AFC’s top seed.

Next up: at Bills

FPI chances to make playoffs: 99%
FPI chances to win division: 98%

The good news for the Titans is that a two-game losing streak hasn’t really damaged their standing in the AFC South, where they have a two-game lead with five games left to play. They’ll have a bye in Week 13 and then return to play the Jaguars and Steelers, two teams who are going in the wrong direction. The question with the Titans is not whether they’ll make the playoffs, but rather — given their health and the results of their past two games — whether they can be considered likely to make a deep run. At the moment, the answer is very much in doubt.

Next up: vs. Jaguars (Week 14)

FPI chances to make playoffs: 80%
FPI chances to win division: 56%

The Chiefs will return from their bye week with their playoff positioning unchanged. But they now have a full game lead in the AFC West, where the other three teams are all 6-5. With that said, the division remains very much in play. Four of the Chiefs’ final six games will be against AFC West foes, including two against the Broncos and one each against the Raiders and Chargers.

Next up: vs. Broncos

FPI chances to make playoffs: 62%
FPI chances to win division: 28%

The Bengals look like a different team than the one that lost consecutive games heading into their Week 10 bye. Since then, they’ve defeated the Raiders and Steelers by a combined 57 points. They’ve gotten themselves to the point where FPI likes their chances of at least making the playoffs, and they have a roughly one-in-four chance of winning the AFC North. Had the Ravens lost Sunday night to the Browns, the Bengals would have supplanted them atop the division. That’s how close they are right now.

Next up: vs. Chargers



Joe Mixon rushes for 165 yards with two touchdowns in the Bengals’ dominant victory over the Steelers.

FPI chances to make playoffs: 94%
FPI chances to win division: 67%

Will a convincing win Thursday in the Superdome be enough to pull the Bills out of a midseason spiral? They entered Week 12 having lost two of their past three games, including an inexplicable defeat to the Jaguars and a 26-point loss to the Colts. The Bills better hope they’ve figured things out, because they’re about to head into a brutal stretch of their schedule. They will play the red-hot Patriots twice in four weeks, with a game at the Buccaneers mixed in there, as well.

Next up: vs. Patriots

FPI chances to make playoffs: 52%
FPI chances to win division: 25%

Sunday’s loss to the Broncos was the Chargers’ fourth defeat in their past six games. They’ve clearly turned in the wrong direction after a 4-1 start, but for now, they’re still among the AFC’s top seven thanks to their head-to-head victory over the Raiders in Week 4. As to whether they can stay here is another story. Had the Browns won Sunday night, they would have supplanted the Chargers at the No. 7 spot, and all told, the Chargers haven’t been playing consistent playoff-level football since mid-October. They’re teetering on the edge.

Next up: at Bengals

In the AFC hunt

Las Vegas Raiders (6-5)

We can do nothing but tip our cap to the Raiders, whose post-Jon Gruden slide seemed well underway during a three-game losing streak entering Thursday’s game at the Cowboys. But they went into AT&T Stadium and won a war of attrition and now have 10 days to prepare for a winnable home game against Washington in Week 13. FPI says they have a 21% chance to play beyond Week 18.

Denver Broncos (6-5)

The Broncos came out of their bye with a dominant performance against the Chargers, their third win in their past four games. It drew them even with the rest of AFC West and set them up to at least have a chance down the stretch. In fact, FPI has Denver at 32% to make the playoffs. Four of the Broncos’ remaining six games are against divisional rivals, starting in Week 13 at the Chiefs.

Indianapolis Colts (6-6)

The Colts’ three-game winning streak ended with an odd home loss that featured 27 consecutive pass plays from their offense, presumably in part to beat a Buccaneers defense that was geared to stop tailback Jonathan Taylor. We found out, to no surprise, that quarterback Carson Wentz can’t carry this team. They’ll have a chance to get back on track, however, in Week 13 against the Texans. Indianapolis still holds a 42% chance to make the playoffs, per FPI.

Pittsburgh Steelers (5-5-1)

Yeesh. The Steelers don’t look like anything close to a playoff team after a 41-10 loss to the Bengals, their third consecutive game without a win. FPI is giving them just a 10% chance to make the playoffs, and the path won’t get any easier in Week 13 against the Ravens.

Cleveland Browns (6-6)

The Browns had a golden opportunity to get back into the playoff picture Sunday night but couldn’t win in Baltimore despite intercepting Jackson four times. They would have finished Week 12 in the No. 7 spot if they had won. Instead, they’re heading into their bye with losses in two of their past three games, and they will face the Ravens again when they return in Week 14. FPI gives Cleveland a 19% chance of playing postseason football this season.


FPI chances to make playoffs: 99%
FPI chances to win division: 96%

The Cardinals entered Week 12 knowing they would also exit it at the top of the NFC, no matter what happened in between. And now comes the final playoff push, presumably with quarterback Kyler Murray and receiver DeAndre Hopkins back in the lineup.

They’ll need to be at full strength. The Cardinals’ strength of their remaining schedule ranks No. 18 in the NFL, based on FPI, but the eyeball test suggests it’s more difficult than that. Three of the five games are on the road, and two are against teams that currently have winning records (Rams and Cowboys). Plus, their Week 16 opponent (Colts) will be a tough out, as well. Fortunately for the Cardinals, they have the league’s best record on the road (6-0) through Week 12.

Next up: at Bears

FPI chances to make playoffs: 99%
FPI chances to win division: 98%

The Packers rebounded from a Week 11 loss in Minnesota to put themselves in great position heading into their bye. They’re right on the heels of the Cardinals, with whom they own the head-to-head tiebreaker. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers now has an extra week to rest his fractured toe — and possibly even have surgery on it — and injured left tackle David Bahktiari could potentially get back on the field.

And of their five remaining games, three will be at Lambeau Field, where the Packers are 5-0 this season. One of the two road games will be at Ford Field, where they’ll play the winless Lions. The Packers are very much in the running to be the NFC’s top team, both on the field and in the playoff standings.

Next up: vs. Bears (Week 14)



Aaron Rodgers beats Jalen Ramsey on the edge for the 1-yard touchdown to get the Packers on the board.

FPI chances to make playoffs: 99%
FPI chances to win division: 98%

The Buccaneers have now won consecutive games, scoring 68 points in the process, since a two-game losing streak had everyone around the NFL losing their minds. They got some help Sunday from the Colts, who tried to protect a 10-point halftime lead by ignoring tailback Jonathan Taylor and throwing the ball on 27 consecutive plays, but it’s hard to argue that the Buccaneers aren’t back on track. Their remaining strength of schedule ranks No. 22, and at the moment, it includes only one opponent with a winning record (Bills, Week 14).

Next up: at Falcons

FPI chances to make playoffs: 95%
FPI chances to win division: 89%

Uh-oh. The Cowboys were expected to take off once they got quarterback Dak Prescott back from injury. Instead, they have lost three of their past four games, most recently to the Raiders on Thanksgiving Day. As we have said often in recent years, the NFC East leader is protected by poor competition from their division rivals. The Eagles’ loss Sunday to the Giants means no one is within two games of the Cowboys. But it remains an open question whether the Cowboys will head into the playoffs as a genuine contender or will be in the postseason simply because they’re the least-flawed team in a weak division.

Next up: at Saints

FPI chances to make playoffs: 91%
FPI chances to win division: 4%

At this point, it’s fair to ask if the Rams are going to make the playoffs at all. They have now lost three games in a row, with quarterback Matthew Stafford throwing a pick-six in each of them, and appear in significant disarray. Even coach Sean McVay seemed overwhelmed by the moment Sunday at Lambeau Field, making an inexplicable decision on run on third down with no timeouts on their final possession, forcing a hurried field goal attempt as the clock ticked.

They’ll get the best chance they could to regroup in Week 13, with a home game against Jacksonville, but overall, their remaining schedule is the fourth-most difficult in the league.

Next up: vs. Jaguars

FPI chances to make playoffs: 76%
FPI chances to win division:

The 49ers are figuring things out at just the right time. They have won three consecutive games and four of their past five, and Sunday’s victory over the Vikings will supply them with an important head-to-head tiebreaker should it be needed at the end of the regular season. The strength of their remaining schedule ranks No. 24, and an argument could be made that they’re playing better right now than all but one of their final six opponents (Bengals in Week 14). At this rate, they’ll overtake the Rams in the NFC West and the playoff standings in a matter of weeks.

Next up: at Seahawks

FPI chances to make playoffs: 48%
FPI chances to win division: 2%

The only thing keeping the Vikings in the playoff picture is a complex set of tiebreakers that ultimately broke on their conference record (4-3), which is better than the Falcons (2-5). Washington could knock them out of the top seven on Monday night with a victory over the Seahawks.

The Vikings’ loss to the 49ers on Sunday illustrated most of the reasons why the Vikings have some work ahead to get into the postseason, much less make a run. Their defensive personnel is decimated; they played Sunday without their starting defensive line and then lost linebacker Anthony Barr during the game. Running back Dalvin Cook appeared to suffer a significant shoulder injury Sunday, and quarterback Kirk Cousins can’t be trusted to play consistently well in pressure situations. The Vikings are fortunate to have road games coming soon at the Lions and Bears, but wins in both of those games might not be enough if someone below them catches fire.

Next up: at Lions

In the NFC hunt

Atlanta Falcons (5-6)

The Falcons started 1-3 and then went on another 1-3 bender before holding on for a seven-point victory Sunday over the Jaguars. As improbable as it might seem, the Falcons are one game out of the sloppy NFC wild-card situation, thanks to a head-to-head tiebreaker with the Saints. Stranger things have happened, but they have a pretty significant obstacle in Week 13 when they host the Buccaneers. FPI has Atlanta at just 5% to qualify for the postseason.

New Orleans Saints (5-6)

That’s now four consecutive losses for the Saints since starting quarterback Jameis Winston suffered a season-ending knee injury. Their offense had zero punch Thursday night against the Bills, and they’re now looking up at the NFC playoff field. They’ll play the Cowboys in Week 13, but the one bright spot is that four of their final six opponents have losing records. FPI says New Orleans has a 35% chance to make the playoffs.

Philadelphia Eagles (5-7)

There’s no way to sugarcoat it. The Eagles flunked a pretty basic test of playoff worthiness on Sunday, scoring just seven points in a loss to the equally anemic Giants. Had they won, the Eagles would have put themselves squarely in the wild-card mix while also putting some pressure on the Cowboys in the NFC East. Instead, it’s fair to ask if they’ll squander one of the NFL’s easiest remaining schedules, which continues in Week 13 at the Jets. Philadelphia still has a 24% chance to make the playoffs, per FPI, but their division winner likelihood fell to 5% this weekend.



On the Eagles’ final play, Jalen Hurts lets it fly to Jalen Reagor. Reagor can’t haul in the catch, sealing the win for the Giants.

Carolina Panthers (5-7)

The Panthers have now lost seven of nine games since a 3-0 start. Their fade from the playoff picture is nearly complete, but they’ll have a bye week followed by a winnable game in Week 14 against the Falcons to delay the inevitable for a little longer. FPI is giving them 3% of hope.

Washington Football Team (4-6)

It’s not often that a four-win team is in the playoff picture in Week 12, but if it beats the Seahawks at home Monday night, Washington will have the same record as the Vikings, Falcons and Saints. FPI thinks Washington has a 14% chance of finishing in the NFC’s top seven.

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Why the San Francisco 49ers’ defining trait is mental toughness – San Francisco 49ers Blog



GREEN BAY, Wis. — When the Green Bay Packers jumped out to a quick lead and just about everything that could go wrong did, the San Francisco 49ers barely batted an eye.

“There was a calmness, honestly,” said quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who helped the Niners to a 13-10 victory in the NFC divisional round Saturday. ” … Even when they had the lead, I felt like we were in control of the game as crazy as that sounds. You could feel it on the sidelines and we were waiting for that one play to spark us.”

Of course they were. For all the talk about identities and the Niners’ desire to be the more bruising team in any game they play, their defining trait is a mental toughness that somehow exceeds the physical kind.

This is a team that lost four straight games early in the season. A team that was 3-5 after a blowout loss to an injury-riddled, junior varsity version of the Arizona Cardinals in Week 9. A team that failed to put away multiple games because of a flurry of self-inflicted mistakes. A team that trailed the Los Angeles Rams by 17 in a win-or-go-home Week 18 game before rallying to win in overtime.

At every turn, it would have been easy for the 49ers to relent and call it a season. Instead, these Niners seem to take pleasure in the elevated blood pressure they create for their faithful fans as they deliver harrowing victory after harrowing victory.

“It was only a matter of time before things started clicking, and we have been in some really tough games but we’re not standing here with a win if we didn’t go through what we did in LA against the Rams,” linebacker Fred Warner said. “I think going through that kind of win and taking it in to Dallas [in the wild-card round], winning that game and then obviously here [in Green Bay]. It’s all kind of just a storybook.”

Saturday’s win might have been the most dramatic chapter yet. On a night when the offense was snowed under, the Niners’ defense limited Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers to the worst QBR of his playoff career (19.3) and held Green Bay to a lone field goal on nine possessions following an opening-drive touchdown.

Then, as has so often happened in the second half of the season, the Niners got significant contributions from the place it’s least expected. This time, it was special teams coming up with a blocked field goal, a big kickoff returns to setup a field goal, a blocked punt for a touchdown and another Robbie Gould field goal for the to win.

All of this against a Packers team that was arguably the best in football all season while managing wind chills at kickoff of zero degrees and a second-half snow shower.

In San Francisco’s locker room, the result was expected. It’s almost never pretty but the results have been.

“I feel like we are under pressure every week,” free safety Jimmie Ward said. “If we don’t win, people call us trash. If we do win, we didn’t win the style, the way that y’all wanted us to win. So, at the end of the day, we can’t please everybody but a win is a win.”

Where does this Goonies-esque “never say die” attitude come from? Ward points to the work the team puts in during the offseason and training camp plus the lingering memories of Super Bowl LIV slipping away to the Kansas City Chiefs in the fourth quarter.

Warner believes it starts with the type of players the franchise looks to add — “guys who love football.”

This isn’t a coincidence. When Shanahan arrived in 2017, he told ESPN a story about how as a redshirt freshman he skipped a final at the University of Texas so he could participate in a December scrimmage for redshirt players.

Seven of Shanahan’s teammates took the final. Shanahan was there for football first and never pretended otherwise. It’s the same love of the game he now seeks in every player the 49ers acquire.

“Our team has been through so many different situations this year that we just never overreact to anything,” Shanahan said. “We just keep playing football. We have a bunch of guys on that team that I just like to call ‘true football players.’ They really enjoy it. They enjoy watching it. They enjoy practicing. And they love playing. Those guys, they just don’t get discouraged. They don’t get frustrated at the other side of the ball. Guys just keep working and trying to have each other’s backs.”

Legendary boxer Mike Tyson famously said everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth. The 2021 Niners’ plan seems to be to stand in the middle of the ring, dare the opponent to punch them in the mouth and then come back swinging harder than ever. It’s a sort of football rope-a-dope that borders on insanity but is just crazy enough to work.

It’s got them one more victory away from the Super Bowl as the No. 6 seed in the NFC. They’ll be underdogs the rest of the way — first in the NFC Championship Game against the Rams — which is fine by them.

Because to know where they’re going, these 49ers never forget where they’ve already been.

“Some of the stuff that we have went through this year that I don’t ever want to happen, but I think that is kind of what has made us who we are,” Shanahan said. “And I think that’s why we are the team we are right now. That is why we are still standing.”

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Who’s responsible for Green Bay Packers’ special teams debacle this time around? – Green Bay Packers Blog



GREEN BAY, Wis. — Matt LaFleur might change special teams coordinators for the second straight year. And most probably think the Green Bay Packers coach has to after the debacle that wasn’t just Saturday night’s 13-10 divisional playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers but also a season filled with special teams catastrophes.

But will it really do any good?

Maybe Maurice Drayton was the problem. And Shawn Mennenga the problem before that. And Ron Zook before that. And Shawn Slocum. And Mike Stock. And John Bonamego. And on and on.

The previous seven special teams coordinators in Green Bay have seen their end come in one of two ways: fired or forced into retirement. The most recent with a different fate was Johnny Holland, but even he didn’t retain his position. He ran the special teams in 1998, but when Mike Holmgren left to coach the Seattle Seahawks in 1999, Packers coach Ray Rhodes moved Holland to coach linebackers — the position he played in the NFL.

If it’s not scheme and coaching, then why are the Packers so repeatedly substandard on special teams?

“Ted never prioritized special teams and neither does Gutey,” said a longtime NFL agent who has had several players — including many who have played on special teams — with the Packers.

That’s in reference to the past two Packers general managers, the late Ted Thompson and current GM Brian Gutekunst. It was especially surprising with Thompson, who made a decade-long NFL career out of being a special-teamer. But perhaps it’s not as surprising that Gutekunst has a similar approach — although in 2018 he did draft a punter and a long-snapper, neither of whom are still on the roster — given that he worked under Thompson.

Thompson gave up on a pair of players who would be among the top special teams players in the league. In 2016, he cut safety Chris Banjo, who has been a core special teams player for the New Orleans Saints (2016-18) and now the Arizona Cardinals (2019-present). Before that, safety Anthony Levine, who spent two years on the Packers’ practice squad (2010-11) before he was cut at the end of the 2012 training camp, signed with the Baltimore Ravens. He was a core player on special teams units that ranked in the top six in the NFL annually from 2012 to 2018. Levine is still on their roster.

While neither likely would have had much of a role on defense, and two players over the course of a decade don’t make special teams better or worse, they’re just two examples of how the Packers’ approach to special teams has impacted their units over the years.

Coincidentally, the last two teams that eliminated the Packers from the postseason had long-snappers who once were in Green Bay: Taybor Pepper with the 49ers and Zach Triner with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Packers moved on from both. Meanwhile, they tried two different long-snappers this season, which might have contributed in part to kicker Mason Crosby’s struggles.

ESPN’s Football Power Index ranked the Packers 31st among the 32 teams in special teams efficiency during the regular season, so expecting the playoffs to be different was unrealistic.

But this seemed excessive even by their standards.

The 49ers blocked a field goal and a punt, making the Packers the first team in 33 years to have both happen to them in the same playoff game, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. It last happened to the Houston Oilers on Jan. 1, 1989, against the Buffalo Bills.

The blocked field goal, a 39-yarder, came on the final play of the first half and would have given the Packers a 10-0 halftime lead.

The second block came with the Packers punting from their own 12-yard line in the fourth quarter. The 49ers returned it for a gimme touchdown to tie the game at 10-10 with 4 minutes, 41 seconds to play.

“You could argue that was the difference in the game,” LaFleur said. “But I think it was more than just that play.”

Oh, there was more on special teams.

In between the two blocked kicks, Deebo Samuel returned the opening kickoff of the second half 45 yards to set up the 49ers’ first score, a 29-yard field goal that made it a 7-3 game.

And the final ignominy came when the field-goal-blocking unit that Drayton sent out as Robbie Gould lined up for the game-winning 45-yarder included only 10 Packers players. Based on alignments and personnel the Packers used against the 49ers previous two kicks — the third-quarter field goal and the fourth-quarter extra point — it appears that linebacker Tipa Galeai was the one who didn’t take the field.

“That can’t happen,” LaFleur said. “It’s unacceptable. Again, that’s on me.”

It’s not like LaFleur didn’t see it coming. Special teams was a problem when the season started and a problem when it ended.

Drayton seemingly spent all season trying to get it right.

Six weeks into the season, he said: “When I go back to Week 1 and I go to now, I see a progression of us getting better. The untrained eye may not see it. The stats column doesn’t see it, but I see it. As long as I see it and those young men see it, we will be where we need to be when it truly, truly counts in November, December, January.”

Little had changed by Dec. 12 against the Chicago Bears, when the Packers had no fewer than nine special teams plays that went against them, and Drayton said: “Right now we’re just trying to fix, fix, fix and we’ll judge it in the end.”

The end is now here, and LaFleur is the judge. Maybe he won’t make a change because no head coach wants the reputation of firing assistants left and right; that makes it harder to attract good coaches.

Or maybe he will decide to shake things up and bring in someone from the outside.

Drayton was promoted from within, having served as an assistant to both Mennenga and Zook (who worked under previous head coach Mike McCarthy). Zook got the job the same way, stepping in after Slocum was fired following the botched onside kick recovery in the 2014 NFC Championship Game.

“These are things I’ve got to do a better job, obviously, in being more involved to make sure that those types of things don’t happen, that we’re putting those guys in the right position and coaching them the right way,” LaFleur said. “And ultimately, it all falls on me.”

A dominant defensive performance against the 49ers led by budding star outside linebacker Rashan Gary couldn’t make up for the special teams blunders and another mediocre playoff performance by quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

“We just would like to play even — make some plays [and] kinda have a wash in the special teams,” Rodgers said. “That’d be good. But in crucial, critical situations, we had obviously some issues. But offensively, you score 10 points, you’re not going to win a lot of those games.”

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Denver Broncos’ coaching search goes coast-to-coast as 10 candidates (so far) have made their case – Denver Broncos Blog



ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Denver Broncos have finished the first round of interviews for the team’s head-coaching job.

They covered four time zones — five cities and seven interviews this past week alone — and got almost all of them done face-to-face. Now they’ll decide if any of the 10 people they’ve interviewed gets a callback as they move toward the selection of the kind of leader general manager George Paton has said he wants to replace Vic Fangio.

A couple of big-picture items to remember: Since Mike Shanahan was hired in 1995, the only Broncos head coaches to take the team to the playoffs had been head coaches before: Shanahan, John Fox and Gary Kubiak. None of the three first-time head coaches during that span (Josh McDaniels, Vance Joseph and Fangio) made it past three seasons.

Here’s a rundown of whom the Broncos spoke to, the biggest football questions those coaches had to answer and any potential hurdles they face — in the order they were interviewed by the team:

Aaron Glenn

Age: 49

Current job: Detroit Lions defensive coordinator

Why Broncos interviewed him: Glenn played 15 seasons in the NFL with four different teams. A three-time Pro Bowl selection as a player, he made the transition to coaching after first working as a scout with the New York Jets for two years.

He worked in both the Jets’ pro personnel department as well as college scouting. Couple that with his work as a secondary coach with the Browns (2014-2015) and Saints (2016-2020), and Glenn has the job diversity in his background Paton has said he wants.

Football questions he had to answer: He’s been a coordinator for one season. And in that season the Lions finished 29th in the league in total defense, 31st in scoring defense, 29th on third down and 31st in the red zone.

His work down the stretch with a depleted depth chart got noticed by some in the league. Yes, the Seahawks did pile on 51 points in Week 17, but five of the Lions’ final nine opponents scored 20 or fewer points.

Bottom line: He has played at a high level in the league, worked in scouting, been one of the best position coaches in the league during his time with the Saints and players have responded to him at every stop.

His plan for the offense as well as his ability as a first-time head coach, to assemble a staff would be top priorities.

Luke Getsy

Age: 37

Current job: Green Bay Packers quarterbacks coach/passing game coordinator

Why Broncos interviewed him: He has plenty of responsibility in one of the league’s best offenses with the quarterback poised to win back-to-back league MVP awards.

Paton spent enough time around the NFC North during his 14 years with the Minnesota Vikings to have scouted the coaching staffs of the other teams in the division as well as the rosters for well over a decade.

Football questions he had to answer: It’s an enormous jump from a position coach to a head coach, especially for a coach who has had no playcalling responsibilities in the NFL. Packers coach Matt LaFleur has let his assistants call plays in the preseason at times, but calls them in the regular season.

He, too, had to outline how much reach he would have in the league to assemble a staff to help him in his transition and not slip too much defensively.

Bottom line: Getsy, in the right scenario, could also be a candidate for the Broncos’ offensive coordinator, but in terms of the head-coaching job, he would have to roll out a very specific, and doable, plan for his coordinators, starting with who he could actually hire.

Nathaniel Hackett

Age: 42

Current job: Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator

Why Broncos interviewed him: Of the offensive assistants the Broncos interviewed, Hackett has the deepest résumé as a former playcaller for both Buffalo and Jacksonville before his time with the Packers.

When his father, Paul, was on Marty Schottenheimer’s Kansas City Chiefs staff, Hackett was a ball boy for the team and even filled in as a long-snapper during drills at times. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has lauded Hackett’s preparation and ability to break down, as well as deliver, the information to players.

Football questions he had to answer: Hackett had to detail how he would make the transition to running the entire team as well as the construction of the defensive staff. Also, how he would keep his game day organized if he, as a first-time head coach, was also going to try to call plays.

Bottom line: Hackett is a football lifer who is at the stage of his career when a head-coaching job is the next step. He has the background in an offense the Broncos clearly want to play, has worked with quarterbacks at all phases on the developmental curve. Construction of the staff will be the biggest item on his to-do list.

Kellen Moore

Age: 33

Current job: Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator

Why Broncos interviewed him: The Cowboys finished the regular season as the league’s scoring leader — 31.2 points per game — and one of only two teams that topped 500 points.

He played six years in the league after a record-setting career as a Boise State quarterback.

Football questions he had to answer: He’s coached four seasons overall and all four of those years have been with the Cowboys since he started as the team’s quarterbacks coach in 2018. There isn’t much vocational diversity that comes with that and he’s seen one team’s infrastructure along the way.

He’s been in the highly visible role as a playcaller for one of the league’s most high-profile teams so he understands pressure, but it’s a big step to run the whole show. And it likely didn’t come up specifically, but it is a little strange the Cowboys may have been the only opponent the Broncos dominated on both sides of the ball this season and yet Paton chose to interview both Dallas coordinators.

Bottom line: He’s the youngest candidate among those the Broncos interviewed or slightly older than McDaniels was — three months shy of his 33rd birthday — when the Broncos hired him in January of 2009.

And while age is just a number, Moore would have had to show the Broncos a maturity regarding how he would run the day-to-day operations of the team as well as how he would construct his staff with a limited background outside of the Cowboys.

Dan Quinn

Age: 51

Current job: Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator

Why Broncos interviewed him: Paton and Quinn were both with the Miami Dolphins previously and many in the league have said Paton has eyed Quinn since taking over the Broncos last January. Quinn is the only one of the 10 interviewed who has been a head coach in the league — he was 43-42 with the Atlanta Falcons when he was fired five games into the 2019 season.

Football questions he had to answer: Essentially explain what happened when Kyle Shanahan left the Falcons — he was the offensive coordinator — after the 2016 season and the team went 10-6, 7-9, 7-9 and 0-5 under Quinn before he was fired in 2019.

In Atlanta, Quinn had a solid quarterback in place — Matt Ryan — and a respected general manager in Thomas Dimitroff. Answering why success was elusive, for the most part, after Shanahan’s departure should have been covered.

Since guiding the fabled Legion of Boom secondary in Seattle — the Seahawks were the league’s No. 1 scoring defense in 2013 and 2014 — just one of Quinn’s defenses has finished in the top five in scoring (this year’s Cowboys team) and five have finished 19th or worse over the past seven seasons.

Bottom line: Quinn has been considered the front-runner because of his previous work with Paton as well as his Super Bowl appearance with the Falcons. But he would need a big-time plan for the offensive staff to fare better than the Broncos’ last two head coaches with defensive backgrounds.

Jerod Mayo

Age: 35

Current job: New England Patriots inside linebackers coach

Why Broncos interviewed him: He has spent 11 years in the winning culture in the NFL over the past 25 years — eight as a player and the past three as a coach for the Patriots.

He also has some business-outside-of-football perspective, having worked in finance for a health care company before he started his coaching career. Mayo’s players have spoken highly of him and Mayo said last week Patriots coach Bill Belichick has been an “open book” for him “whether we’re talking about X’s and O’s, or structuring a team or anything like that.”

Football questions he had to answer: McDaniels was a former Patriots assistant who had no head-coaching experience, too. McDaniels didn’t last through his second season as Broncos head coach.

Mayo will have had to show what would be different during his tenure and how he would make the substantial jump from just three seasons as a position coach to head coach.

Bottom line: Those who know Mayo in the league say he is smart, driven and understands how to communicate with those around him. He also has the benefit of actual business experience, outside of football, in terms of organization and a big picture assessment of things. So much so, even with just three seasons of coaching experience, many in the league were not surprised the Broncos interviewed him.

Jonathan Gannon

Age: 39

Current job: Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator

Why Broncos interviewed him: Paton was the Vikings’ assistant manager during Gannon’s four seasons as an assistant defensive backs coach with the team (2014-17). Gannon, like Glenn, has a background in scouting with one season as a college scout for the Rams to go with two seasons in the team’s pro personnel department.

Eagles coach Nick Sirianni has said Gannon will make “a great head coach.”

Football questions he had to answer: Gannon would have had to explain how he would make the jump from a short run as a playcaller to leading a team. He has been the Eagles’ defensive coordinator for one season — they finished 18th in scoring defense, 10th in total defense.

The Eagles were much better during their 7-2 stretch to close out the regular season as they allowed 16.6 points per game in Weeks 8 through 17 against a long list of backup quarterbacks. Philadelphia lost, 31-15, to Tampa Bay in the wild-card round of the playoffs.

Bottom line: Another candidate with a shorter coaching résumé who fits the leader-communicator profile Paton outlined the day Fangio was fired. And like the rest of those candidates the construction of his staff, and especially the construction of staff and playbook on offense, are enormously important.

Brian Callahan

Age: 37

Current job: Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator

Why Broncos interviewed him: Callahan has the most history with the Broncos among those interviewed. Callahan was such a good assistant coach with the Broncos he survived two coaching changes and worked on the staffs of McDaniels, Fox and Kubiak, including the Broncos’ Super Bowl 50 winner.

As a quarterbacks coach or offensive coordinator he’s worked with Matthew Stafford, Derek Carr and now Joe Burrow. His father, Bill, is a long-time, and well-respected offensive line coach (he’s currently with the Cleveland Browns).

Football questions he had to answer: He’s in his third year as a playcaller for the Bengals with a 25-year-old superstar behind center in Burrow so Callahan figures to now be on the “hot” list for jobs in the foreseeable future. He has the luxury of patience, so more than any other, Callahan had to show how much he really wanted the job with the Broncos.

Because more than one general manager in the league has crossed a guy off a list for the old didn’t-seem-like-he-wanted-the-job assessment.

He would also need to show how the Broncos would not take a step back on defense.

Bottom line: His history in the offense the Broncos want, his success in working with some of the game’s best quarterbacks and his overall view of the game make him one of the most well-rounded candidates even though he is one of the youngest.

Kevin O’Connell

Age: 36

Current job: Los Angeles Rams offensive coordinator

Why Broncos interviewed him: He played in two games during an NFL career that spanned five seasons, five teams and three practice squads. Coaches with that kind of background often do well communicating with players worried about their standing or future.

He’s worked in the Mike Shanahan-rooted offense the Broncos want to run, especially during the past two seasons as Sean McVay’s offensive coordinator with the Rams. And while he doesn’t call plays for the Rams — McVay does — O’Connell oversees game preparation, meetings and does plenty of the heavy lifting before game day each week.

Football questions he had to answer: Like the others on the offensive side of the ball, O’Connell had to not only outline his plan for the team’s struggling offense, but outline what kind of defensive staff/playbook he would assemble in a division that contained two of the league’s top five scoring teams this season.

Bottom line: O’Connell has drawn raves for his work in the Rams’ offense, as well as his work with quarterbacks since he began coaching. The move to the big chair is in his future, but the Broncos have to decide if they believe enough in his overall vision at this point on the developmental curve.

Eric Bieniemy

Age: 52

Current job: Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator

Why Broncos interviewed him: He played nine seasons in the NFL, has coached in college and was with the Vikings for five seasons when Paton was with the team as well, including Bieniemy’s time as Minnesota’s assistant head coach. And the Broncos have seen the quality of his recent work up close given the Chiefs haven’t lost a game to the Broncos since Sept. 17, 2015.

The Broncos offense needs points and Bieniemy has been part of an offense that has scored plenty of them on the way to two Super Bowls over the past three seasons. Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes has publicly said, multiple times, how important Bieniemy has been to his development into both a league and Super Bowl MVP.

Football questions he had to answer: Bieniemy is on the hasn’t-called-plays list of candidates for the Broncos. Any time an assistant works for a head coach like Andy Reid, who has such a pronounced presence on one side of the ball, that assistant coach is always going to have to outline his responsibilities when he’s interviewed for another job.

He would also have to outline his staff construction. Any team looking to hire Bieniemy — like Hackett, Getsy, Callahan and O’Connell — will have to decide how much of the success comes from the uber-talented quarterback running the plays and how much is from the plays themselves.

Bottom line: Bieniemy, with his 11th interview for a head coaching job in the past four years, may have been through the job search circuit more than the rest of the candidates combined. The past two offensive coordinators for Reid who were named head coaches — Doug Pederson and Matt Nagy — didn’t call plays with the Chiefs either.

Reid and Mahomes have heartily endorsed Bieniemy to be a head coach and given he was the last of the 10 to interview, he had the closing argument of sorts.

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