Home Featured NFL Offseason Week 1: The Combine, Football Love Lessons and Houston’s Big Problem

NFL Offseason Week 1: The Combine, Football Love Lessons and Houston’s Big Problem

by Jonas Clark

Has the Super Bowl LV hangover disappeared yet? I know for me personally, it’s still lingering a bit with a strange sense of disbelief of how it all went down, and maybe the reason for it is that the night really wasn’t that memorable to stand out from the rest of the NFL season. The build-up to the party was more fun than I remember the event actually being.

The commercials were “meh”, the halftime show was “meh”, and even the game was “meh” since it wasn’t much of a contest after halftime. The Super Bowl didn’t feel like the climactic event of the season that it usually is, and it’s rather frustrating to be honest. At least we have drunk Tom Brady to remember this championship game by, I guess.

Alas, the game did happen, and with the end of the season comes a new opportunity for the sport to impress us all with the offseason. Free agency, scouting and mock drafts… the race for the offseason championship is officially underway!

Welcome to the first “Three Things” of the offseason. There were some things that happened this last week that made me consider the deeper elements beneath the surface of the stories.

Three Things I Learned In Week 1 of the Offseason

1) Learn To Love the One You’re With

OK, I’m going to get on my soap-box here for a second and speak to NFL ownership here.

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day, and between the posts from lovebirds about loyalty, commitment and loving significant others, imperfections and all, were posts of fans tweeting about wanting to drop their quarterback for that of another team. As a born and raised Browns fan, I believe that I’m uniquely qualified to tell y’all that you should try harder to love the one you’re with.

Names are being tossed around right now that include Carson Wentz, Tua Tagovailoa, Sam Darnold, Alex Smith, Baker Mayfield, Mitchell Trubisky, Cam Newton, Matt Ryan, Deshaun Watson and Dak Prescott. Of these ten quarterbacks, three of them played in the postseason this year, and eight of them have past playoff experience, the only exceptions being Tua and Darnold, of which the Miami Dolphins were eliminated from the playoff race in Week 17 of the regular season, and Sam’s Jets were the second-worst team in football.

This list of quarterbacks being passed on, even in consideration and fan circles, is far too long. If I’m being honest, none of these signal-callers should be on the move, including and especially Deshaun.

There are only three situations that I fully support a team moving on from their quarterback. The first is any situation that is bad PR or has become legal (before you ask it, no, Colin Kaepernick doesn’t fall into this category for being released) and becomes bad for the organization. The second is when any coaching change takes place (which too happens too often, but that’s another conversation), because they should have an opportunity to get personnel to fit their system. Finally, one of the only times a team should move on from their signal-caller is when they already have the replacement groomed in waiting like Rodgers, Mahomes or Brady, even if just in one year.

I understand that the quarterback market price is inflated, and I understand that a change of scenery would be welcome for a number of these players for a number of reasons. Ownership of these franchises should be doing what they can to mend relationships, improve rosters and keep their talented quarterbacks. Don’t look at them for who they aren’t, but work with what they are. 

A number of these players were a top selection in their draft class, so they aren’t scrubs, they have the measurables. Instead of dumping them, take a look in the mirror and ask yourself what you can do better, how your team can better work with them, rather than taking a flier on another player to try a new relationship with, or a rebound/placeholder because your relationship with your last quarterback crumbled. You want a Super Bowl team? Build around your quality quarterback, and groom the next one. This quarterback swingers party is getting old.

2) Houston Has A SERIOUS Problem Coming

It’s hard to believe at times that the Houston Texans have only been in existence since 2004. Part of that’s due to the moderate success that the franchise has had in such a short time, and some truly amazing talent has been a part of those runs. Andre Johnson, Arian Foster, Brian Cushing, Matt Schaub, Mario Williams, Brian Cushing, DeAndre Hopkins and J.J. Watt. Those are some timeless names, and it’s somewhat of a travesty that the last name on that list, one of the all-time greats on the team and in the league, wants out.

One of the ripple effects from the quick collapse of a team that was on the cusp is J.J. Watt’s disapproval of the direction of the state of the organization enough to request his release, which was mutually agreed upon and executed by the front office. Just last postseason, the Houston Texans upset the Buffalo Bills and had a roster with Hopkins, Watson and Watt, fresh off their sixth division title in nine years. Now Hopkins is gone, Watson has requested a trade, and Watt, the longest-tenured Texan, could see the storm on the horizon that’s going to shake up the organization.

With Bill O’Brien no longer running things, the biggest problem starts all the way at the top with ownership, and their subsequent management decisions. For the first time since the team’s return, there will be a new team president, which is a start, but there’s a long way to build the reputation with players on the team and around the league as far as being a franchise that seems disconnected from the athletes. The McNair family needs stability within the team, and more importantly, accountability.

If the team does in fact grant Watson’s request to be traded, the team that finished 4-12 with him may be set to weather some rough years, especially with a lack of draft capital to pick from the cream of the crop in the spring. This is a rebuild, and coming from a guy who has seen 12 rebuilds in 21 seasons with the Browns (considering each new coach as a rebuild since they bring in staff and talent to fit their vision), there’s nothing wrong with sticking with something mediocre to steady the waters and build a culture again. The goal is to win, but give the personnel a four-year window to make progress. It’s hard, but it keeps you from finding yourself in this spot again in two years. Buckle up Texans fans and be patient; This process is gonna take some time to get it done right.

3) Adjusting To A New Offseason

Speaking of ripples effects from the storm of the past, it has already become quite apparent that this offseason still won’t feel like “normal”, even though the distraction of the season almost made it feel like it on Sundays. I said almost.

In the continued adjustments to the “new normal” that living during the pandemic has forced us to adopt, one of them is the modification of the NFL Combine. This is nothing new, but now that we would usually be preparing for it to start next week, it feels weird that in the absence of athletes having the NFL stage to perform their skill tests, pro days are already being held. One of the early showcases to take place was that of Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, the presumed first overall pick in the upcoming draft, who wanted to knock his out before getting shoulder surgery.

While the absence of the traditional NFL Combine might not register as a loss for a lot of football fans, it will definitely be felt. According to an article from last February on Pro Football Talk, an average of 322,000 viewers tuned in to the first day of the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine, the event’s first time a primetime spot. For the casual fan on social media, however, this means no highlights from the bench press, the high jump, or everyone’s favorite, the 40-yard dash.

Personally, I’m setting expectations for an NFL Draft that features a lot of guys that a large portion of NFL fans will barely be familiar with, somewhat similar to how I felt the 2020 NBA Draft went for a number of basketball fans. Like the March Madness Tournament for basketball, the NFL Scouting Combine is an engaging event for fans of professional teams to see guys who might be sleepers in the draft that they’d like to see on their team, either that of their fandom, or their fantasy roster in the fall.

It’s almost as if the lack of a combine starts the offseason off with a “meh” too. I can only hope the NFL Draft or even mini-camps can make up for it.

These three things by no means are the only things going on around the NFL, just the three big ones that really stood out to me. Does something else have your attention? Is there anything that I should keep on my radar? Let me know on Twitter @JarkClonas, and be sure to tag @110Sports.

Before I wrap this week’s piece, I’d like to express my condolences to the family of former San Diego and Tampa Bay wide receiver Vincent Jackson, who passed away Monday at the age of 38. For anyone who looked up to him, or just enjoyed watching his talent on Sundays, it truly is a sad loss in the football world.

Photo by Victor Araiza / Flickr

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