The Drake Maye vs. Jayden Daniels Debate

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We’re in the thick of it now—both with the playoffs and carousel. And you had questions …

From BackBone985 (@BBone985): Are Drake Maye and Jayden Daniels that close skill wise from those around the league to be saying Daniels is considered a better prospect than Maye?

BackBone, we’ll see. I know a lot of people are really high on Maye, the North Carolina redshirt sophomore, and believe he’d be worthy of the No. 1 pick in a lot of years (maybe even this one). But I’ve run into a few who think Daniels, the fifth-year senior out of LSU, will wind up being the better pro and have him ahead of Maye for now.

Daniels could pull ahead of Maye once the evaluation process heats up before the NFL draft.

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The “for now” part is important, because the process is just getting started. The college scouts and top execs have a good feel for these guys, but they haven’t had the chance to sit down and talk to them, which is more important at quarterback than any position. The coaches also haven’t had time to dive into the evaluation process, which will be crucial.

So, be patient, but I think Daniels has seriously closed in on Maye.

From JH (@everydayliner): Why is Brian Flores not getting any interviews? Is the suit to blame?

JH, I’d say it’s definitely one reason for Flores not getting any traction.

Now, to be fair to the teams with openings, this is a market that has big-name options that’d be received by fan bases as home runs (Bill Belichick, Jim Harbaugh, Mike Vrabel). We’re also in an era when there’ll always be at least a percentage of owners who go to the market having already decided that they’re hiring an offensive coach.

So Flores is in a position similar to a lot of his peers that coach defense—part of a bottlenecked pipeline of guys who’ve been passed over again and again: Dallas’s Dan Quinn, the Rams’ Raheem Morris, Detroit’s Aaron Glenn, Baltimore’s Mike Macdonald, Cleveland’s Jim Schwartz, Kansas City’s Steve Spagnuolo, Las Vegas’s Pat Graham, Denver’s Vance Joseph, Tampa Bay’s Larry Foote and San Francisco’s Steve Wilks all merit a look.

Now, try to run off big names on offense. You can’t. Because year after year, those ranks have been picked clean to the point where it’s actually tough to find many that you’d stack up against all of those defensive coaches I listed. And, so, that’s part of what Flores is up against.

You know what else that logjam does? It makes it easier for an owner who may not be good with Flores’s decision to sue the league to dismiss him. Which stinks, of course, because Flores has done a good job in Minnesota. Plus, he’s had a chance to learn from his failures with the Miami Dolphins working under Mike Tomlin with the Pittsburgh Steelers and now Kevin O’Connell with the Minnesota Vikings.

From Richard Ito (@rich_ito): Jaguars GM Trent Baalke has been notoriously difficult to work with. Doug Pederson gave the keys to the offense to Press Taylor and they regressed this year despite adding Calvin Ridley. Given Pederson’s steadfast belief in the OC, any signs of a power struggle in Jacksonville?

Richard, it’s funny you ask because there was at least some buzz the past few weeks of the season that the Jacksonville Jaguars’ front office, led by Baalke, was looking hard at where the offense is under Taylor. And if you remember, Pederson’s loyalty to his coaches is what, in the end, wound up leading to his firing with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Obviously, there will be staff changes on offense, and now they’re looking for a new defensive coordinator. But it’s certainly worth paying attention to where this goes next because the Jags have a lot invested in Trevor Lawrence. And if he doesn’t break through in his fourth year, it’s fair to think bigger-picture questions are asked.

From Bleeding Burgundy in The Bunker (@Jessys24): Next #Commanders head coach?

Bleeding Burgundy, since new GM Adam Peters just got there, I’d say it’s wide open. There’s also not an obvious natural fit from his background—maybe Houston Texans offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik would be the easiest connection to draw on.

So I think Josh Harris, Rick Spielman, Bob Myers, Mitch Rales, David Blitzer, Magic Johnson and Peters will go and run a real search, one without a predetermined outcome. And if I had to pull one hint out of all that Peters dropped at his press conference, I’d say that it’d have to be how he said he’d be looking for a leader rather than someone specifically from one side of the ball or the other.

Remember, while Peters was around Kyle Shanahan the past seven years, he also saw Robert Saleh and DeMeco Ryans embody that sort of leadership quality. Which actually made me think that maybe this job is a good fit for Mike Vrabel. And it just so happens, for what it’s worth, that Peters got his start in the NFL with six years of scouting in New England (2003–08) while Vrabel was a player.

Stidham is under contract for next year, so Payton and the Broncos do have time to decide on the future of the position. 

Isaiah J. Downing/USA TODAY Sports

From Mr. Screw (@corkscrew49): Does Sean Payton handpick his QB this year or next year?

Mr. Screw, I think it’s too early to determine that, and I’m not dodging the question. Here are the top available veterans: Kirk Cousins, Baker Mayfield and Jacoby Brissett. And with the Broncos picking No. 12, it’s tough to forecast who will be available to them (though it’s safe to say that Caleb Williams and Maye won’t be) in April, much less when the other top players come off the board.

O.K., now that we have that out of the way, there is a bright side for Denver, and that’s that they don’t necessarily have to do anything right now. Jarrett Stidham is under contract for next year. Maybe, if the price is right, they can sign someone such as Mayfield, who Payton really liked coming out of the draft. Either way, they have a way to tread water for a year, and keep building the roster if they aren’t absolutely in love with a quarterback at 12.

And if they do fall in love with, say, Daniels? They could get aggressive and make a short move up to go get him. Maybe if they really like Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy, he’s there for them at 12. At the very least, they have some flexibility, which is a good thing in a year in which they’ll be carrying the financial residue of Russell Wilson’s monster contract.

From Ryan (@ryanj835): Do the Jets trade up from No. 10 to get into the QB mix at the top of the draft?

Ryan, I don’t hate the idea. But this is a very tackle-rich first round, with Notre Dame’s Joe Alt and Penn State’s Olu Fashanu considered potential franchise cornerstones at the position, and a few others (Georgia’s Amarius Mims, Alabama’s JC Latham) seen as among the top 20 or so prospects. And the Jets have a pressing need at the position, both short term and long term.

So, yeah, if they were head over heels for someone at quarterback, and had a way of addressing tackle in free agency, I guess they could do it. But I just think the more likely, and more intelligent, decision is to address the tackle spot, and gear up for Aaron Rodgers’s reboot season.

From James (@jc333333333): Will this year be Patrick Mahomes’s most impressive Super Bowl victory?

James, I love you calling your shot. And I’d agree that winning with the roster around him now would be the most impressive of his Super Bowl wins, and probably show what separates a guy like him.

It’s really as simple as this: There are a good number of quarterbacks that NFL teams can win with, and far fewer teams that win because of that player. There’s no shame, of course, in being a “win with” quarterback. It just means that you need the right teammates, right system, right coaches, right everything around you to win a championship. To be clear, there are a lot more of those than “win because of” quarterbacks, who are able to single-handedly make up for roster weaknesses.

To be that guy, you have to be able to play different ways. If there’s a line deficiency, you have to unload the ball quicker. If your receivers aren’t that good, you have to be able to fit the ball into tight spots. If your defense is deficient, you have to be able to outscore your opponent in a shootout. Mahomes has already shown he can be that guy. But winning with the group he has now—with no Tyreek Hill, an over-the-hill Travis Kelce, and no true No. 1—would add new context to it.

All signs point to Pierce getting the head coaching job in Las Vegas.

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From Shedrick Carter (@shedrickcarter2): When do you expect the first coach to be hired? Bonus: What team and what coach?

Shedrick, if we’re being technical here, I’d say it’s Jerod Mayo. Because the New England Patriots already hired him with a press conference Wednesday to formalize it.

But I’ll cut you some slack, and dive into the spirit of your question, and go with the Las Vegas Raiders. They’ve already satisfied the Rooney Rule, talking with Leslie Frazier and Kris Richard, who were allowed to interview in-person because they aren’t currently employed by NFL teams. They’ve really listened to the players, and owner Mark Davis, in particular, has consistently taken the counsel of Davante Adams, Maxx Crosby and Josh Jacobs.

So all signs there point to Antonio Pierce. At one point, it sounded like this would come down to Davis taking a swing on a big fish, or sticking with his interim coach after regretting not doing so with Rich Bisaccia two years ago. Well, he’s sniffed around a little on the biggest names, and I think he will ultimately hire Pierce.

From First Time Listener, Long Time Caller (@TheBigSTD): Champ Kelly or Ed Dodds for Vegas GM? Who would be Dodds’s preferred head coach candidates if hired?

Well, First Time Listener, it sure sounds like you’re on it. Indianapolis Colts assistant GM Ed Dodds and Raiders interim GM Champ Kelly are the names most people believe Davis’s decision will come down to. Separate from that, I’ve also been told that Pierce and Kelly aren’t a package deal, and that it’s certainly possible that Davis, along with his search committee (Richard Seymour, Larry Delsen, Sandra Douglass Morgan, Ken Herock, Tom Delaney), land on Pierce as coach and pair him with Dodds as GM.

Dodds, for what it’s worth, interviewed well in 2022, which is what led the Raiders back to him. And while there was a perception that his connection to Jim Harbaugh is part of why there’s been interest in him from Vegas, and that’s certainly part of it, Dodds has distinguished himself with Davis as an individual. That said, Kelly did a nice job helping Pierce steady the ship this season, and is well liked in the building, too.

From Sideshow (@Grotepass): Are there any useful centers available in the next free agency? Asking for the Chicago Bears.

Sideshow, I think there are three: Denver’s Lloyd Cushenberry, Miami’s Connor Williams and Vegas’s Andre James. And it’s a good question, Sideshow, because every indication is that Matt Eberflus wants a Shanahan family offense, and if he gets it, that offense relies heavily on the center to make calls, and take some of the mental burden off the quarterback.

So that’s why, again, if I were you, I may focus on Williams, who played in that type of offense last year in Miami, and who could be invaluable to someone such as Williams acclimating to the NFL.

Sirianni has a good shot at sticking as head coach in Philadelphia.

Kim Klement Neitzel/USA TODAY Sports

From Swapnil Vats (@iamswapnilvats): Will Nick Sirianni be flipping pizzas in Philly next year?

Swapnil, I’ll just say that I think he has a good shot at making it, and that Jalen Hurts’s feelings on Sirianni could be a factor. That said, with Sirianni’s return, I’d expect the front office pushing, or even requiring, staff changes. In the end, the Eagles really wound up feeling the losses of coordinators Shane Steichen and Jonathan Gannon, and my feeling is that GM Howie Roseman and owner Jeffrey Lurie will want that addressed.

Now, could Sirianni’s loyalty to his assistants push him over the edge? We’ll see. It happened with Doug Pederson, so you can’t rule that out.

But, for now, I think you’ll see Sirianni back with a remade staff.


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