Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen waged arguably the greatest game ever played by two QBs, but their performance may be transcendent to the NFL’s future.
Last weekend was arguably the greatest Divisional round of the NFL Playoffs in history.
Combined, Allen and Mahomes passed for 707 yards, accounted for eight touchdowns, each led their teams in rushing, and neither turned the ball over … or came close to.
Inside a raucous Arrowhead Stadium with a trip to the AFC Championship Game on the line, Mahomes and Allen displayed for the world to see just how wide the chasm is between them, the Bengals’ Joe Burrow, Chargers’ Justin Herbert, and the rest of the league’s quarterbacks.
The clear takeaway; If you’re a team that doesn’t have an elite quarterback on such a level, it might be time to go shopping for a quarterback. Or at least question your commitment to the one you have.
“If a team has a Mahomes, Allen, Burrow, or even Aaron Rodgers,” former NFL Executive of The Year Jeff Diamond tells FanSided. “When the time comes, you’ll happily pay $40 million per year, but you aren’t paying close to that for Baker Mayfield or Ryan Tannehill. Perhaps the far better strategy is to keep trying, and trying again to get your quarterback.”
There have always been multiple ways to win in the NFL, but being led by an elite quarterback has been the surest path to hoisting the Lombardi over the past two decades.
Since the turn of the century, only seven Super Bowls have been won by quarterbacks not named Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Ben Roethlisberger, or Patrick Mahomes
“If you don’t have one of those quarterbacks, you better go build a top-five defense and a top-five offense around that guy,” an NFL personnel executive tells FanSided, on the condition of anonymity to be able to speak freely. “Certain teams, if you don’t have that guy, you have to build a team that is competitive, but the issue you’re going to run into is you’re going to invest a lot into all of those things, and it’s much harder to sustain being competitive.
“If you have a Mahomes, Brady, Allen, or Matthew Stafford, they hide a lot of deficiencies of a roster. You can miss in the draft, free agency, or make a mistake. If you don’t have that quarterback, you better make sure you hit on each and every one of those other picks in those other areas.”
Competitive teams around the AFC alone, who will have to get through Mahomes, Allen, Burrow, and perhaps Herbert to have any chance at a Super Bowl over the next decade, or longer, should be evaluating which formula they can best succeed with. Either moving forward and building around their quarterback or propping them up by trying to be elite in every other facet.
Take a team like the Cleveland Browns, who have a power-running game with Nick Chubb, a dynamic wide receiver in Jarvis Landry, and high-level tight end play from Austin Hooper, with a ferocious front-seven and very good secondary, they might be better off moving off Baker Mayfield than committing $30-plus million to the position right now.
In Baltimore, Lamar Jackson’s deficiencies in the vertical passing game have been well-documented. Especially prior to this season, and in the postseason.
But, Jackson has an MVP on his mantle, has some burgeoning young receivers, and might be closer to making a real run challenging for a Super Bowl than any team outside of the AFC’s final four.
“If I’m the Ravens, I’d absolutely pay Lamar,” an AFC South scout tells FanSided. “He was the MVP until he got hurt, and until this year he didn’t have anyone to throw to other than Mark Andrews. Lamar with weapons around him can absolutely push Mahomes, Allen, and the rest of those guys.”
Like the Olympic torch being passed on the road to Bejing, last weekend feels like the old guard; Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers — who both legitimately might retire this offseason, has passed the baton off to Mahomes, Allen, Burrow, and Herbert.
The quality of quarterback play may be on the cusp of elevating to a higher level than we’ve seen, simply because of the breadth and depth of elite quarterbacks at the top.
But, with the concentration of elite passers among a handful of teams, the rest of the league might be reconsidering how they address the position in the future.
“If it were me,” Diamond says. “I’d always try to get an elite quarterback and just keep trying until I land one.”
New York Giants finally beginning to turn their barge?
The New York Giants, one of the NFL’s heritage franchises, just wrapped a lost decade that featured 100 losses since the organization’s last Super Bowl victory.
Firday’s hiring of general manager Joe Schoen might finally be the turning point where the ship of mediocrity finally has the right captain at the helm.
No, a culture change and winning mentality doesn’t happen overnight.
It’s also a job that can’t be completed by just one man. It takes time, but it also takes the right team and brain trust to fix the feeble flaws that have hampered a team’s chance to improve.
Giants owner John Mara seems to be following this trend after hiring Schoen. Mara is accepting a fresh way of doing things while modernizing the operation of the organization that has been in his family’s hands since his grandfather, Tim, paid $500 to found it in 1925.
Schoen arrives in East Rutherford, having been instrumental alongside general manager Brandon Beane of the Buffalo Bills. Acting as the team’s No. 2 man, he’s helped construct a young roster of playmakers around MVP-caliber quarterback Josh Allen, leading the Bills to three consecutive trips to the postseason.
Hired by the Giants, Schoen’s first — and arguably most important task — will be evaluating what exactly the franchise has in quarterback Daniel Jones. More specifically, can the right coach transform him into Allen-light at best in 2022?
Allen has passed for 8,951 yards with 73 touchdowns to just 25 interceptions and a 3-2 postseason record over the past two seasons. Is the fourth-year quarterback ready to take the next leap, or has Schoen seen enough of Jones in the past to know the Giants must move on.
“Don’t forget, Josh Allen makes them dominant,” an AFC scout tells FanSided. “In exactly the same way the greats make their teams dominant; like Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, and Patrick Mahomes.
Schoen’s scouting skill sets should help identify talents in all rounds of the 2022 NFL Draft. His ability to micromanage deals should also help dictate the value of free agents entering the offseason while sticking to a philosophy Mara and the New York Giants finally seem to be importing a modern approach to their evaluation.
Under Dave Gettleman, the Giants infamously seemed to adopt a philosophy of trying to add the biggest named free agents, regardless of cost. That strategy drove New York to a 19-46 during Gettleman’s tenure.
Mara’s main priority in the coming months should be to sit back and listen. He’s hiring a new front office that comes from a franchise with the seventh-most wins since 2018.
Schoen’s job is to navigate cap restrictions to build a winning product, from the ground floor. Something he’s shown he knows a thing or two about.
“The one thing the Bills have done exceptionally well is putting together a defense,” the scout explains. “That’s really hard to do when you have so much money tied up in the quarterback position.”
The Giants, effectively have one more season to determine whether Jones — with the right head coach, can become a franchise quarterback.
Schoen has zero ties to the former Duke signal-caller, meaning the team could elect not to pick up his fifth-year option and risk going into the 2023 season looking at reaching a long-term deal.
None of this matters if the Giants can’t protect the quarterback and rush the team’s opposing gunslinger. New York’s offensive line allowed 38 sacks, but it also left Jones, Mike Glennon and Jake Fromm constantly under pressure. Thanks to weak protection, New York finished 31st in total offense and scoring while also leading the league with 30 turnovers.
Schoen was instrumental in the Bills drafting Allen, who many viewed as a project ahead of the 2018 draft. The hirings of offensive coordinator Brian Daboll and quarterback coach Ken Dorsey helped, but so did an emphasis on investing in the offensive and defensive lines.
It shouldn’t be a surprise if Schoen and the Giants use some of the Bills’ tendencies to fortify the defense, and build the line in front of Jones, and running Saquon Barkley from the ground up.
Working alongside Beane, Schoen and the Bills consistently have hit on offensive and defensive linemen in the first two rounds of the draft, just take a look:
Round 1, pick No. 7: Josh Allen, QB
Round 1, pick No. 16: Tremaine Edmunds, LB
Round 3, pick No. 96 Harrison Philllips, DT
Round 1, pick No. 9: Ed Oliver, DL
Round 2, pick No. 38: Cody Ford, OT
Round 3, pick No. 96: Dawson Knox, TE
Round 2, pick No. 54: A.J. Epenesa, DE
Round 3, pick No. 86: Zack Moss, RB
Round 1, pick No. 30: DE Greg Rousseau, DE
Round 2, pick No. 61: Boogie Basham, DE
Round 3, pick No. 93: Spencer Brown, OT
That’s seven starters from this year’s team alone, including five along either the front seven or offensive line. All seven players remain on Buffalo’s roster. The Bills also invested at least one pick in the first three rounds each year along the line of scrimmage during Schoen’s time in Buffalo.
While the Giants are unlikely to be bit players in free agency, if they partake in the market at all, Schoen is armed with two top-10 picks in April’s draft. That gives him the opportunity to mirror what the Bills built along both lines of scrimmage for his new team that will likely need to replace four starting offensive linemen and add at least one edge rusher for next season.
It’s not as if Schoen doesn’t have the skills and even some of the pieces in place to jumpstart an overdue New York Giants’ rebuild, right?
“What people don’t talk about the Bills enough,” an NFL personnel executive tells FanSided. “Is that Buffalo can threaten the entire field with Stefon Diggs.”
Buffalo only improved once the team elected to invest in Allen. It started by solidifying the offensive line before adding weapons to his disposal. In New York, the supporting cast is there for Jones or the quarterback of the future. Former first-round pick Kadarius Toney can take the top off of defenses with his vertical speed. Free agent acquisition Kenny Golladay has size in the red zone. Sterling Shepard offers value in the slot on third down similar to that of Cole Beasley.
It all starts with protection. Second-year tackle Andrew Thomas should be set at left tackle, but the remainder of the offensive line is under construction. Schoen’s goals entering his first offseason will be upgrading the trenches in free agency. After that, the same plan should be used in the draft with multiple linemen being selected on Days 1, 2, and 3.
Hit those benchmarks, and perhaps Schoen will be the captain of a speedboat in a very winnable division. At minimum, his hiring shows the Giants are finally headed into friendlier waters.
“When it’s grim, be the grim reaper.”
– Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid’s message to Patrick Mahomes, ahead of furious final 13-second comeback to send Sunday’s game into overtime.
There’s a chance that if a team is building a team from scratch there might not be a better selection at quarterback than Joe Burrow, who will square off against Mahomes in the AFC Championship Game Sunday.
At least an argument can be made that at age 25, having already completed 68.2 percent of his career passes for 7,299 yards with 47 touchdowns to 19 interceptions and leading the Bengals to his first conference championship game in just his second season, that Burrow has the most upside and is best positioned to deliver sustained success over the next 15 years.
There’s no argument, however, when it comes to which quarterback one would want with the ball in his hands inside of a minute to play to go down and tie or win the football game. At least not anymore, after Mahomes’ heroics over the final 13 seconds of Sunday’s overtime win over the Buffalo Bills.
Mahomes has now completed nine fourth-quarter comebacks and led ten game-winning drives while also orchestrating a pair of fourth-quarter comebacks and game-winning drives in the postseason (Sunday night, and Kansas City’s victory over the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LIV).
There’s clutch, and then there’s otherworldly gifted.
After Sunday night, it is clearer than ever that Mahomes belongs in both categories.
Kansas City’s win underscores just how difficult it is to beat the Chiefs, who are 8-2 in the playoffs with Mahomes behind center. Mahomes’ only two losses in the postseason? To Tom Brady.
Allen and the Bills played a nearly flawless performance, scored 36 points, but somehow even 13 seconds was enough time for Mahomes to lead the Chiefs to kick a game-tying field goal and ultimately win in overtime.
As long as Reid and Mahomes are paired together in Kansas City, with explosive playmakers like Tyreek Hill, future Hall of Famer Travis Kelce, and now an emerging Yards After Catch weapon like Mecole Hardman in place, it is going to take perfection for 60 minutes to beat this team.
Anything less, if Mahomes has the ball in his hands with any time on the clock, and a team will be hard-pressed to avoid a similar fate to the Bills.
Sean Payton’s departure Tuesday from the New Orleans Saints has the chance to dramatically shape the head coaching searches of teams across the league in coming years, and perhaps shake up the broadcast booths next fall.
Any team looking for a head coach should at least pick up the phone and gauge Payton’s interest in their opening, and if Jerry Jones hasn’t already had backchannel conversations about hiring him to replace Mike McCarthy after the Dallas’ gutless performance in the fourth quarter of an NFC Wild Card loss to the 49ers he would be doing the Cowboys a disservice.
But, after compiling a 161–97 career record and delivering a Super Bowl to the city of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Payton easily has the track record to be a home run hire to lead a turnaround of the Chicago Bears, Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Giants, or perhaps finally guide the Cowboys to the NFC Championship Game or further since the Clinton administration.
According to league executives, Payton stepped away from the Saints “with at least one eye” on the Dallas, and there is mutual interest from Jones and the Cowboys.
The Cowboys, or any other team, would need to compensate the Saints if they hire Payton this offseason, the final year of his contract, which could open another very intriguing door for the 58-year-old in the meantime.
Payton, in addition to being one of the more successful NFL coaches of the past two decades, also has the personality and pedigree to make a smooth transition to the broadcast booth, in an offseason that could prove chaotic for network executives.
As Amazon enters the fray as the exclusive home for Thursday Night Football games beginning next season, there are several dominoes that could fall.
It wouldn’t be the least bit surprising if Payton winds up in one of the top booths calling games next season.
In addition to the Thursday night package, Amazon is the clubhouse leader to become the home of NFL Sunday Ticket, at the end of DirecTV’s $1.5 billion annual contract, which expires following the 2023 campaign.
There could be some shuffling of the top broadcast chairs coming.
Troy Aikman’s name has been floated as a possible lead analyst for Amazon this upcoming season, and given Payton’s experience in the NFC, his temperament, and personality, would make an ideal pairing alongside Joe buck in FOX’s top booth.
Likewise, if Romo ultimately replaces Aikman if he departs FOX, it isn’t difficult to envision Payton sliding in alongside Jim Nantz at CBS.
Payton’s New Orleans exit sent shockwaves through the NFL this week but could pale in comparison to the impact of his next move.