New Year, New Me: NFL Edition (Part 1)

By Nick Moreno

We’ve all heard the saying before “new year, new me.” We’ve all been forced to listen to others tell us about their New Year’s resolutions. We smile, nod, then tell them how proud we are of them for changing their lives for the better. Even though we are 100 percent certain that they are going to crash and burn.

The first week will be full of trips to the gym. We will see the whole thing unfold on Instagram or Snapchat stories. (You know the pictures captioned “Working hard” “Fitlife” “New year, new me” or some other slogan.)

Week two the excuses begin. They miss two days at the gym. They have an extra cheat day. (Again we see the regression live on social media.)

Week three hits and its back to burgers and fries.

NFL teams are no different. Twenty teams are now eliminated and they all are looking to find the improved version of themselves in the new year. They all want to be a different team when the new year rolls around, but who can really stick to it?

 AFC West

Denver Broncos

“This year we are going to find a quarterback.”

Is John Elway capable of being fired in Denver? I won’t discount that in his tenure he drafted Von Miller and successfully lobbied Peyton Manning into joining the team. Both additions were necessary for their Super Bowl win in 2016.

Since the Super Bowl win, the Broncos have hired and fired a not-yet-ready-for-the-job head coach in Vance Joseph, and have started (in order) Brock Osweiler, Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch, Brock Osweiller (again), Trevor Siemian (again), and now Case Keenum who is on the books for $18 million next year.

They are 20-28 in the post-Super Bowl era with no real answer at the quarterback position, no coach, and a GM with no real history of proving he can find a QB (outside of recruiting a generational talent in free agency). They also have a defensive unit that is nowhere near where they were three years ago.

To top it off, the GM responsible is probably the most untouchable GM in the league. So, good luck in 2019. And beyond.

(Oakland) TBD Raiders

“Let Gruden build a dynasty.”

The Raiders and John Gruden will be synonymous for at least the next 7-10 years. The experiment was ambitious. We all know the franchise has been in the dumps since their 2002 Super Bowl loss. They have had one winning season in the era.

Their quarterback of the future now looks like a quarterback of the past after suffering multiple season ending injuries.

There is a bright spot. The Raiders now have five first round picks over the next two drafts, but they cost the Raiders Amari Cooper and Khalil Mack. The latter may be the best player in football. So, this year the Raiders are Gruden or bust because, lets face it, they have no other choice.

AFC East

New York Jets

“Build a dynasty around Savior Sam”

Bowles is out and Sam Darnold’s stock could not be higher (albeit the stock is volatile). Pundits and experts waivered back and forth on his future success. Some weeks he looked terrible. Recently he has looked much better. He only finished with two less interceptions then touchdowns.

His future will depend heavily on his next coach and the weapons he is given. The responsibility to find those assets is on GM Mike Maccagnan, who barely escaped with his job at the end of the season. His draft choices have been shaky and his only coaching hire to date has been Bowles.

So good luck in 2019 to the Jets faithful, and here’s to hoping your project quarterback can be rightly guided by your unproven general manager’s decisions.

Miami Dolphins

“Escape mediocrity”

My god, the Dolphins are mediocre. They are 23-24 over the last three years. The mediocrity was enough to get head coach Adam Gase canned, and just like the Jets, they  will be holding on to the GM that hired him.

The move out of mediocrity is going to include a quarterback not named Tannehill. He was just rated as Pro Football Focus’s worst quarterback of 2018. He is owed over $18 million dollars in 2019 and cutting him would take an over $13 million hit against the cap.

The Dolphins will need to add a quarterback despite not being particularly well positioned in the draft. Let’s see if things will pan out for the Dolphins in 2019

Buffalo Bills

“Let Josh Allen develop”

Well, the Bills finally have that quarterback they wanted. Sadly, he looks like he may be more serviceable as a tight end then a quarterback. He only has 64 less rushing yards then Lamar Jackson (631) on 58 less attempts (89). The man is an incredible athlete (some call him sneakily athletic (I wonder why???)), but he is not a great quarterback (even through rookie lenses).

Their defense is in win now mode. They ranked second in DVOA according to football outsiders, but the offense ranked 31st. There is good news. Unlike many of the other bottom teams, there is stability at head coach and in the front office.

The team will look to build the offense around Allen, but what kind of offense will they look to build? Allen seems likely to fit better into a run-heavy offense that takes advantage of his athleticism, but it appears the Bills are set on seeing him sling the ball. We will see how it all plays out.

AFC North

Pittsburgh Steelers

“We are still contenders, lets show them”

Oh my, is it fun to watch the turmoil of falling dynasties (if you want to call them that). It looks like it really might be over in Pittsburgh. It started with Bell holding out in the preseason (leading to a season long hiatus), and now Antonio Brown sat out the last game of the season where their playoff hopes were still alive. Brown has since requested a trade. Not to mention Big Ben (arguably one of the causes of the drama) has played poorly.

The end of this year was a far cry from their 13-3 record the previous year. The championship window may have just set on these Steelers.

So…What now?

The Steelers need to get it under control and gear up for next season. They are still contenders…right?

Cincinnati Bengals

“We are going to find ourselves”

I believe earlier in the column I called Miami the most mediocre franchise in the NFL… I forgot about the Bengals!

The difference between the Dolphins and the Bengals is the Dolphins have actually tried to improve their team. The Bengals have just fired Marvin Lewis who was the coach there for 16 years. He made the playoffs seven times in that stretch and lost the first game every DAMN (Stephen A. voice) time!

Now what??? The General Manager is the owner (the less boisterous Jerry Jones if you will). He has been in charge since 1991 and guess what… they haven’t won a playoff game since the year before he took over.

The best coach he ever hired was somehow Marvin Lewis. I don’t know what’s going to happen to the Bengals next year, but I’m sure it’ll be fun to watch.

Cleveland Browns

“We are going to hire the right coach”

Three years of Hue Jackson made Gregg (I spelled that correctly) Williams look like an oasis in the middle of the dessert. The season was great for the Browns. They won more games this year then they had in the previous four combined, but now the fun is over.

They now have expectations. Baker Mayfield, Myles Garrett, and Nick Chubb are enough to have any fan base excited. Now they need a coach. The list somehow includes Mike McCarthy and Adam Gase who just lost their jobs for their inability to win (one with the greatest quarterback of our generation).

We will now leave the decision in the hand of the team that believed in Jackson for three years.

Fortunately it appears John Dorsey will be making the call. Hopefully he can get this one right for a city in desperate need of some wins.

AFC South

Jacksonville Jaguars

“We just need a QB”

What could have been? The Jags were so close last year to going to the Super Bowl. The same team finished 5-11 and benched their up and coming quarterback halfway through the season.

Now they are trapped in the perils of needing a quarterback. They are not the only ones. QBs are limited.

The coveted defense was a different unit then their standout 2017.  Things are bleak.

I really don’t know what else to say.

Tennessee Titans

“Mariota is still our guy”

It had to be bittersweet watching the Titans lose last week.

Seriously.

Say…Kessler wins the game. The Titans are not a contender. Maybe, just maybe they could have beat the Texans, but it is likely they would have been en route for a big (revenge) loss in Arrowhead.

Will Marcus Mariota ever stay healthy? He has been better then average when healthy. He has already won in the playoffs.

Mariota needs to stay healthy for this team to have a chance moving forward. Period.

 

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