Every week, I open up the mailbag for anyone to send me their questions on the current college football season, the NFL, or the 2020 NFL Draft. This week, the mailbag includes questions on the Freddie Kitchens and the Cleveland Browns, Sam Darnold’s status with the New York Jets, and whether the Indianapolis Colts or Tampa Bay Buccaneers could be in the QB market in next April’s NFL Draft. But we start with the big game this weekend in college football – Alabama vs LSU, or rather how the performances of quarterbacks Tua Tagovailoa and Joe Burrow on Saturday in Tuscaloosa might impact their respective draft stocks.
Do you have a question you want to send to me? Send it to [email protected], and we’ll be sure to include it in an upcoming mailbag column.
The Tony Pauline Mailbag
Some are pitting the LSU Tigers vs. Alabama Crimson Tide game as not only the battle as to who will be the favorite for the national title but also who will be the favorite as QB1 in next year’s draft – Tua Tagovailoa or Joe Burrow. Is there a shred of credibility to this?
No. This is not just my opinion, but rather from people I’ve spoken with around the league. The billing between Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa is a nice media headline, but it’s never a good idea to base player rankings on a single game. In fact, scouts will tell you it’s insanity.
Burrow is having a tremendous campaign. He’ll be in the conversation for the Heisman Trophy and he’s definitely boosted his draft stock. But people are getting a bit ahead of themselves with the talk that he’s a top-five pick at this point. If Burrow finishes out the season strong and then attends the Senior Bowl and performs well in Mobile, he could move into the top half dozen picks – just look at Daniel Jones last year.
In my opinion, this will be a tougher test for Tagovailoa on Saturday as the LSU secondary is talented, deep and NFL ready. You could replace the New York Jets secondary with the five guys LSU lines up on Saturday and it would be an improvement.
Speaking of which…
Tony…do you think the New York Jets will look at another quarterback to replace Sam Darnold?
No, not at all.
I’ve seen and heard Jet fans recently make the claim that Sam Darnold is a bust and the Jets need a new quarterback. That’s just knee-jerk craziness as far as I’m concerned. Remember – just a few weeks ago everyone was over the moon when he returned to the field, beat the Cowboys, and was awarded AFC Offensive Player of the Week.
I was never as high on Darnold as many were prior to the 2018 NFL Draft. I never branded him to be an automatic “franchise quarterback” as others did. I was consistent during interviews on his next level future – Darnold had more upside than any quarterback in the draft but also had more downside risk than any of the other quarterbacks. His poor mechanics and poor ball security in college were big red flags for me and something which needed development.
He made strides in those areas last season and I was blown away by his resiliency, decision making, and the way he’s able to pull a rabbit out of a hat at times.
You can’t throw a guy under the bus after three or more poor games when you look at the entirety of the situation – an offensive line that’s beyond awful, mediocre receivers, a starting tight end who, though playing well this season, was never anything more than the second guy on the depth chart the prior six years.
Then, of course, there’s the head coach.
With the loss against the Miami Dolphins, have you heard anything new on Adam Gase? What will it take to turn this organization around?
I’ve heard nothing credible the past few days that makes me steer away from what was posted in last week’s mailbag – I don’t expect Gase to be fired. If he does, it wouldn’t be until late in the season or when the season ends.
The only two ways this could change would be:
1) Gase loses the locker room and players start complaining.
2) Chris Johnson has an epiphany one morning while someone is pouring his coffee.
The situation with the Jets is getting worse by the week and as I tweeted Sunday, one general manager is not going to turn the organization around considering the present structure. The Johnsons must be willing to cede power and bring in someone who has complete control to run the entire football organization, versus hiring a general manager who must report to whichever Johnson brother is in the building. It worked for Leon Hess when he hired Bill Parcells in 1997 and had a positive effect on the franchise for almost a dozen years.
I mentioned this in early September when it happened, but it is worth repeating – the promotion of Hymie Elhai from within the organization to the role of team president after Neal Glat stepped down is telling. Rather than bringing in a strong personality from the outside who could identify problems within the franchise, the Jets promoted someone from within because he was well-liked in the organization. This tells me the Jets, and primarily Chris Johnson, are not willing to make the changes necessary to turn the organization around.
In the short term, the franchise would be better off if Woody Johnson returned and took control. I know there’s a lot of dislike for Woody among fans, but you must be fair about it and give credit where credit is due – the Jets had a good degree of success when Woody was in charge.
Looking ahead to the 2020 NFL Draft, should more hype start building up for teams like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Indianapolis Colts to select a quarterback in the first round?
I don’t believe there’s any reason for Colts GM Chris Ballard and head coach Frank Reich to select a quarterback in round one unless a top-rated prospect does an Aaron Rodgers like fall. Jacoby Brissett is a solid starting quarterback, can lead a team, and should only get better in time.
Tampa Bay is a different story. When he’s on his game, Jameis Winston can be a dominant quarterback. But that infrequently happens and all too often he looks rather pedestrian. Unless he plays every game the rest of the season the way he played against the Seahawks on Sunday, the Bucs must consider a quarterback in the early rounds of the 2020 NFL Draft. And don’t forget that as of now Winston is a free agent after the season.
Tony, the Cleveland Browns are a mess. This year was supposed to be different but it hasn’t been. Is this due to head coach Freddie Kitchens not wanting to give up play-calling or is there a lot more going on there?
I think there are a lot of different problems feeding into this.
Kitchens going from associate head coach/running backs coach to offensive coordinator to head coach in the span of less than a year has proven to be too much. Baker Mayfield has not progressed and might be more of a novelty than a long-term quarterback in the NFL. And they never figured out their issues at left tackle.
That said – if I’m a Cleveland Browns fan, I would have faith in John Dorsey. He is a good football mind and I believe he can get it sorted.
Tony Pauline is Pro Football Network’s NFL Draft Analyst and Insider. Follow him on Twitter @TonyPauline. Follow PFN on Twitter @PFN365. Also, be sure to join us on Saturday for the PFN College Football Game Day Blog as we give the latest analysis and inside scoop on the day’s games. We’ll also be providing plenty of analysis on the matchup between Joe Burrow (LSU) and Tua Tagovailoa (Alabama).