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Storylines to watch for 2011 season
OK. We know the biggest, juiciest issue of the offseason. That of course is the CBA expiring and a work stoppage a true likelihood.
I’m a realist and understand the business season might not go ahead on schedule in March. But I’m also an optimist and hope the owners, commissioner and the players association realize how popular the game is and how a work stoppage in this economy will be flat-out moronic and irresponsible. Hey fellas -- did you see the ratings on FOX this weekend?
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Let’s assume we get a new CBA. You have 31 teams trying to chase the Packers, who will be primed and ready for another run at the Super Bowl.
We bring you the nine juiciest storylines of the NFL offseason, SCHEIN 9 style.
1. The Cincinnati circus
Carson Palmer wants to be traded. So the team fires offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski, who somehow forgot the offense was supposed to go through Cedric Benson. Jay Gruden gets the gig but won’t call Carson until Marvin Lewis says it is OK. Meanwhile, Chad Ocho Dope-o longs to be reunited with Hue Jackson, his old receivers coach, who is now with the Raiders. I bet Palmer rescinds his trade demand if the Bengals would cut the sideshow clown that is Ochocinco, who plays in Cincy by his own set of rules. Let’s see if the Bengals actually have the guts to do the right thing. But even as the Bengals try to make Palmer happy, they need to draft a quarterback of the future. Good luck with all that.
2. Who plays quarterback for the teams in the NFC West?
Think about it. Who do you like to win this division? There currently is no answer. It all depends on who stays and who goes at the most important position on the field. And the right move, especially in this pathetic division, could equal a home playoff game and a division title.
Larry Fitzgerald has reportedly told the Cards to get Kevin Kolb or Marc Bulger. I thought Bulger was the perfect fit last offseason. I could see the Cards signing the vet while drafting a quarterback. I’d trade a high second-round pick for Kolb. I’m not convinced that Kolb, with Michael Vick’s knack for getting hurt, is actually available.
Seattle could end up parting ways with longtime starter Matt Hasselbeck. If Charlie Whitehurst is the answer, I’d love to know the question. Thus, I’d select a quarterback at some point on draft day. And I would jettison Hasselbeck only if I could get my hands on someone concretely better.
Jim Harbaugh is going to run the West Coast system. There is a chance they re-up with Alex Smith. But if they don’t, I think the Niners should throw the kitchen sink at the Eagles to get Kolb.
3. The spring of Kevin Kolb
Move over summer of LeBron.
The Vikings, Titans, Niners and Cardinals need Kolb badly. I still believe in him as a potential big-time starter. The Eagles are rightly concerned about Vick, but if they could get a high draft pick, Andy Reid might have to listen.
4. Kolb’s old friend Donovan McNabb
He’s a goner, but where is McNabb going? Is he still a starter? I think he is. Oakland, Arizona and Tennessee could be fits. And I think whoever signs McNabb will get a super-motivated team leader with plenty of gas left in the tank.
5. Can the Jets reload?
As they stated all offseason and in-season, Rex Ryan’s loudmouthed outfit was built to win this year. Though the dream fell short in Pittsburgh, the Jets have a great young core, including Mark Sanchez, Darrelle Revis, David Harris (they will give the free-agent linebacker the franchise tag), D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold. But key cats like Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards, Antonio Cromartie, Brad Smith, Shaun Ellis and more are free agents.
This is what happens when you load up for a Super Bowl run. I think the Jets, managed in a savvy fashion by Mike Tannenbaum, can bring back key players if a labor deal is struck quickly. Keeping Holmes and Edwards (especially Holmes) are big keys for Sanchez’s development.
6. What’s the Patriots' plan?
Will Logan Mankins get a long-term deal? He deserves it with his play, but the All-Pro guard made his early season holdout very personal with the Kraft family. And it is going to be interesting to see if the Patriots will spend money in the offseason. You get the feeling from talking with people in the know that there was a bit of a divide in the organization last year on how to attack free agency, with some wanting Julius Peppers and others not wanting to pay.
7. The Nnamdi Asomugha sweepstakes
He’s one of the best players on defense in the NFL. Asomugha is an instant game-changer for almost any team but especially for a squad like Houston, Baltimore, San Diego or the Giants. Asomugha has a thirst to win after languishing in Oakland for so long.
8. Vince Young’s demand
I really don’t think anyone will offer him a starting gig. Minnesota will be in the quarterback business and the Vikes hired Young’s former quarterbacks coach. Oakland loves the big name and the big athlete. But I don’t think Young, who is not a trusted leader of a team, will get many offers.
9. Do the Titans have any clue?
How do you let Jeff Fisher go? Mike Munchak? Really? You don’t want to interview stronger, more legit candidates? I guess you don’t when you are paying the great Fisher to do nothing. The Titans have no quarterback, no legit head coach and they let the best defensive line coach in the business, Jim Washburn, leave for the same job with the Eagles. Can the Titans give their great fans any sign of progress this spring or summer? The educated guess is no.
Aaron Rodgers – We predicted in the preseason he would hoist the Lombardi Trophy, and he did. And Rodgers was masterful with 304 passing yards and three touchdowns in a game in which Pittsburgh knew the plan was for Rodgers to chuck the ball around. He is firmly and rightly entrenched in Packers history, and I couldn’t be happier for him with everything Rodgers has been through.
Charles Woodson – It was emotional talking with the Packers cornerback on Sirius NFL Radio on Monday morning after the Super Bowl. Woodson said he knew he broke his collarbone right away and that he could barely get the words out to his teammates at halftime, choked up by tears, urging them to finish the job and win the Super Bowl.
Ted Thompson – Did you see Howard Green’s rush on the Nick Collins pick six? That was a street free-agent pickup at midseason. No team in NFL history dealt better with a rash of key injuries than the 2010 Super Bowl champions. And that’s a credit to their brilliant general manager. Where are those Packers "fans" who wanted to run him out of town in 2008? Where are those misguided fools who ripped Thompson for not spending the money? The Packers are Super Bowl champs, and the average age on the team is 27!! They can do it again, thanks to Thompson.
Mike McCarthy – I love the fact that the usually reserved McCarthy fitted his team for Super Bowl rings the night before the game to inspire his team. And I love the fact that McCarthy didn’t try to establish balance against a great run defense, letting his great quarterback go out and win the Super Bowl. And give McCarthy credit for coaching up this team all season long and dealing with all of the injuries, including in the Super Bowl with Woodson and Donald Driver.
Clay Matthews – Pittsburgh had all of the momentum until big-play Clay stripped Rashard Mendenhall of the football to start the fourth quarter. It was the biggest play of the game.
Rashard Mendenhall – You cannot cough up the football.
Ben Roethlisberger – He made some awful decisions, resulting in throwing two picks. What was he thinking on the Jarrett Bush pick?
Dallas – If you know it is going to snow and there’s going to be an ice storm, and we knew this simply by checking the weather, invest in salt trucks and removal! I’ve been to Jacksonville. I’ve been stuck in the Lavonia Marriott in Detroit. Nothing was worse than Dallas. Dallas was ill-prepared for Super Bowl week and the game should never go back to Big D.
Christina Aguilera – Oh say can you know the words?
The NFL/Jerry Jones – There is nothing worse than being a fan walking into a Super Bowl holding a ticket and being told your paid ticket is no good. What an absolute embarrassment and disgrace. And while the league is trying to make it right with cash and tickets for next year, that doesn’t help the family that drove from Wisconsin to watch their Packers win a Super Bowl. This could’ve, and should’ve, been avoided.
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