As we enter the final six weeks of the NFL regular season, let’s explore the NFL news and rumors involving some of the league’s top teams, plus take an inside look at a story that emerged on Sunday due to a reported issue between a head coach and his defensive coordinator.
NFL News and Rumors: Week 13
Buffalo Bills interim offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Joe Brady was once seen as a hot coaching commodity around the NFL.
It was just seven years ago that Brady was a graduate assistant at Penn State, then hired by the New Orleans Saints in 2017 and worked two seasons with them as an offensive assistant before becoming a passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach at LSU in 2019.
That LSU job was considered to be high profile, and word around in coaching circles was that this young coach in his late 20s could be on the fast track soon up the coaching ranks in the NFL.
Brady, because he was seen as a protégé of then Saints head coach Sean Payton, was a highly coveted assistant coach, as teams wanted access or a better understanding of Payton’s high-powered offense. So Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule hired Brady as his offensive coordinator for the 2020 season.
Brady had limited play-calling at LSU, a coaching source said, and he wound up being fired by Rhule before the end of the 2021 season. It came as a big surprise around the league because Brady was seen as a potential head coaching candidate coming into that season — even though he was in his early 30s.
A source with knowledge of the situation told Pro Football Network that Rhule let Brady go because he “had trouble getting their playmakers the ball consistently, and scheming them open from week to week became an ongoing challenge.” The source added that Brady is very smart but was given too much responsibility too soon.
Brady was hired by the Bills as their QBs coach just two months after being let go by the Panthers. He replaced Ken Dorsey, who was promoted to offensive coordinator after Brian Daboll was hired to be the New York Giants head coach.
But with head coach Sean McDermott deciding to part ways with Dorsey two weeks ago, it left some personnel evaluators from around the NFL to wonder what would be different with Brady calling the plays considering how it ended for him with his previous team.
However, through two games with Brady calling the shots, there have been some noticeable differences.
There’s much more of a commitment to run the ball (61 carries by running backs), which has resulted in a huge time of possession advantage (nearly by 27 minutes over the two games), more use of pre-snap motion, fewer turnovers (just two), and as a personnel source told us Sunday evening, QB Josh Allen looks really comfortable and much more decisive behind center.
While it has only been two games, Brady is off to a good start running the Bills’ offense and during his second go-around as an NFL offensive play-caller.
New York Giants
On Sunday, Fox Sports reported that there was tension between Giants head coach Brian Daboll and defensive coordinator Wink Martindale.
"When I talk to people inside that organization they're saying the tension between these two, you could feel it." @JayGlazer has more on the tension building between #Giants HC Brian Daboll and DC Wink Martindale ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/vXjJ4KdpYe
— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) November 26, 2023
Daboll was asked about the situation after the team’s 10-7 victory over the visiting New England Patriots and was also asked if he expected Martindale to be back since the report from Jay Glazer stated that “there could be a mutual parting of the ways (during the season).”
“I’d say the biggest argument that Wink and I have had is who has the last piece of pizza. I got a lot of respect for Wink. He’s done a good job. I’ll leave it at that,” Daboll responded.
When asked a follow-up question about whether there was truth to the report, Daboll didn’t confirm or deny that there was an issue.
“I got a lot of respect for Wink. He’s a heck of a coach. I’m glad he’s on the staff,” the head coach said.
A league source with ties to the coaching staff told Pro Football Network, when asked for a reaction on the situation Sunday evening, that “Daboll is an in-your-face coach, and he will always challenge them (his assistant coaches), and no one is spared. He’s on them constantly about improvement and wants answers.”
What’s interesting is that amid all of the speculation of issues between the two coaches, after the game, Martindale received a game ball from Daboll.
When Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin parted ways with offensive coordinator Matt Canada last week, it was hardly surprising considering how badly the offense has underachieved, given the talent level at several key skill positions.
Pro Football Network talked to multiple league sources who have graded the Steelers’ offensive tape this season and cited the following issues with Canada’s offensive scheme: too many college concepts, poor spacing created, lack of an intermediate passing game, and lack of identity.
But even with those issues, the biggest problem was the lack of development from second-year QB Kenny Pickett, who team sources said had “an outstanding offseason.”
In fact, we noted in this space prior to the start of training camp how Pickett’s arm strength improvement was noticeable during their OTAs, and from all accounts, he seemed to be ready to make a big jump after having a strong training camp and pre-season.
But once the season started, sources said from game-tape evaluation that Pickett’s arm-strength issue returned, and he wasn’t “driving the ball down the field” and “he wasn’t playing with a lot of confidence.”
With quarterbacks coach Mike Sullivan calling the plays during Sunday’s victory over the host Cincinnati Bengals, the deep ball returned and the badly needed intermediate passing game featuring tight end Pat Freiermuth (nine receptions, 120 yards) was in full force.
While Pickett wasn’t great and the team only scored 16 points, this was clearly a step in the right direction. This coming Sunday, he’ll face a very beatable Arizona Cardinals pass defense at home.
San Francisco 49ers
After a surprising three-game losing streak (Weeks 6-8), the San Francisco 49ers have righted the ship and have now won three games in a row — all in convincing fashion.
San Francisco’s three losses happened prior to this season’s NFL trade deadline. With some struggles in the secondary around that time, league sources said the 49ers called around and looked to not only add a quality pass rusher, which they did with the acquisition of DE Chase Young, but they also tried to add a possible upgrade at cornerback.
Just like they did at defensive end/edge rusher by calling around to check in about on bunch of them (Young, Panthers OLB Brian Branch, and others), San Fran looked into several coverage players, including Bears CB Jaylon Johnson and other recognizable names such as Raiders versatile CB Nate Hobbs.
The Raiders see Hobbs as one of their best defensive players and wouldn’t entertain any trade discussions, a source said. Hobbs, who was drafted to play the slot initially in 2021, has shown the ability to play inside and outside over the last two seasons.
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