Looking Forward in the NFL


With the 50th addition of the Super Bowl behind us, football fans can now turn their sights to the 2016 season. And after a brief period of final breakdowns of the campaign past, fans will certainly begin pondering 2016 by the first week of March, if not sooner.

The 50th Big Game was a dud. The Carolina Panthers, the National Football League’s supposed best team, certainly didn’t look like an established professional franchise. And Denver certainly didn’t look great offensively either. The Broncos, however, overcame enough stupid penalties and made enough big plays (especially on defense) to notch a lackluster 24-10 win.

But enough about that. Let’s look forward to 2016.

Question 1: Will Peyton Manning mimic his boss (John Elway, Denver’s president) and leave the game while he’s on top?

Well to answer a question with a question, who knows? Peyton, who likely won’t be back in the Mile High City, says that he’ll make a decision soon. Should Manning return, look for him to possibly land with the Los Angeles Rams. The Rams are looking for a superstar (faded as he may be) to help them make an impact in their return to Hollywood after more than two decades in the Midwest. But if you ask us, and that’s kinda what you’re doing here, he’s done.

Question 2: Will The City of Angels support a team that abandoned it over 20 years ago?

Answer: Probably not in the long term. L.A. has never consistently supported a losing team — or one that chronically underachieves. The Rams have been both, except for a brief period in St. Louis in the early 2000s. The Rams beat the Titans in the Super Bowl following the 1999 season. St. Louis returned to the Big Game two years later and lost to Tom Brady and the Patriots, who then became a dynasty.

The Rams left already apathetic fans bitter when they left for St. Louis in the mid-1990s. (I know because I was there). The sports scene in Shaky Town is fickle at best. Of L.A.’s professional teams, only the Dodgers and Lakers draw consistently whether they win or lose.

Sure, the Rams will get a new stadium eventually. But in the meantime, they’ll have to play in the Coliseum, which is sorely in need of a facelift. The Rams once called the Coliseum home but they left for the suburbs of Orange County when the Raiders moved in.

The Rams will draw at first but if they remain mediocre, fans will leave again. The NFL wants a team (or two) in Los Angeles. But why did it approve the Rams to go back and make St. Louis the first city since Atlanta to lose two professional franchises in the same sport? Atlanta lost the NHL’s Flames in 1980 and more recently, the Thrashers left to become the second incarnation of the Winnipeg Jets.

Question 3: Will the Chargers also return to Los Angeles?

Answer: Probably so. The Chargers plan to leave San Diego once the new stadium is built up near Interstate 5. They’ll play in San Diego in 2016, and the city is still in negotiations to keep the team in San Diego.

But their current home is old, and that’s what has the Chargers pondering a move back to L.A., the place they called home during the early days of the American Football League.

Question 4: Where will the Raiders go?

Answer: Again, who knows? The Raiders returned to Oakland when the Rams departed for St. Louis. They’ve never been happy anywhere. For now, they’ll remain in Oakland. But San Antonio or Las Vegas may be future homes for the league’s outlaw franchise.

Let’s look at some personnel.

With Manning’s future in doubt and his place in NFL history secure, one other question looms about another – younger quarterback.

Question 5: Where will Johnny Manziel land?

Answer: Who cares? No matter where he ends up, he has wasted his talent up to this point. The Browns have a new front office and head coach. Hue Jackson has made it clear that he doesn’t want Johnny Football around and owner Jimmy Haslam agreed.

Manziel has been released and may find himself without a job come August or September, but it’s doubtful at this point. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was once infatuated with Manziel but that doesn’t appear to be the case anymore.

One last question concerns new coaches. Tampa Bay hired Dirk Koetter to mentor Jameis Winston. Miami, which moved on from its disastrous situation at midseason, has hired Adam Gase, one of the sharpest minds in the league. Doug Pederson replaces Chip Kelly in Philadelphia, and Ben McAdoo inherits the Giants from his former boss, Tom Coghlin.

Here’s the biggest head-scratcher: What were the Tennessee Titans and San Francisco 49ers thinking with their coaching hires?

In Music City, the Titans fired Ken Whisenhunt during the 2015 season. Mike Mularkey took over and Tennessee actually got worse. Months after his interim tag as placed, he’s named permanent head coach. He’s a known loser from his days as a head coach in Buffalo and Jacksonville. Tennessee’s ownership group has been a mess since the death of Bud Adams. It appears that there simply isn’t a quality football mind in the front office. Perhaps the league should mandate a sale of the Titans. Or maybe the team has other plans that we are unaware of. Either way, 2016 looks like it will be a long year for the Titans.

Meanwhile, San Francisco couldn’t wait to part ways with Jim Harbaugh after the 2014 campaign. The Niners hired Jim Tomsula, who promptly destroyed what Harbaugh built. Tomsula is gone and he’s been replaced by Chip Kelly.

Yes, the same Chip Kelly who couldn’t survive three years in Philadelphia, thanks to his moves as general manager. Kelly ran the Eagles into the ground in that time and struggled with various PR problems as much as he did getting wins on the field in a terrible NFC East.

The only apparent upgrade here is that it took Kelly three years to destroy a once-proud franchise. Tomsula did the same amount of damage in one year. The Niners could’ve coaxed Coughlin out of retirement and been much better off.

Moving ahead, each Super Bowl participant should stay relevant. Look for repeat playoff appearances from Pittsburgh, New England and Seattle as well.

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