The Athletic (paywall)
Washington is expected to announce the full staff this week. Here’s what to know about Quinn’s coaches for the 2024 season. We will continue to provide updates following additional reports.
Tavita Pritchard, quarterbacks coach
The first known holdover is another teacher for a young quarterback. According to a team source, Pritchard impressed Quinn and Kingsbury in his interview. That’s unsurprising to those familiar with the engaging coach and Stanford’s starting quarterback before Andrew Luck.
Pritchard, who turns 37 on Feb. 20, joined last year’s staff to help develop Sam Howell. We know how the season concluded — an eight-game losing skid and Howell’s performance declining — but getting the 2022 fifth-round pick prepared to start all 17 games was an accomplishment.
Brian Johnson, offensive assistant
Life moves fast as an NFL coach. Johnson’s recent journey is quite an example. He became an apparent assistant on the rise as Jalen Hurts’ quarterbacks coach for Philadelphia’s 2021-22 seasons. That led to an offensive coordinator promotion before the 2023 season. The Eagles’ 10-1 start thrust the former University of Utah quarterback onto the list of potential 2024 head coach hires. Philly then lost six of its final seven games, including a wild-card playoff contest against Tampa Bay, and Johnson lost his job.
League-wide intrigue remains; Johnson interviewed for the Falcons’ and Titans’ head coach openings plus offensive coordinator opportunities before landing with Washington for a yet-to-be-determined title. Kingsbury’s NFL offenses rushed the ball more than assumed — the Cardinals were top-seven in carries in 2020 and 2021 with the mobile Murray — which may slot Johnson (his 37th birthday is Friday) into passing-game coordinator duties.
Bieniemy, Pritchard and senior offensive adviser Ken Zampese, now with Atlanta, were the primary quarterback tutors last season. Now it’s Kingsbury, Johnson and Pritchard.
Jason Simmons, secondary/pass-game coordinator
Intended or not, Quinn’s first two defensive coaching hires — Whitt and Simmons — have primarily focused on the secondary. This unit is patient zero for whether new coaches get more out of any returning players. The promise from a solid 2022 evaporated under first-year defensive backs coach Brent Vieselmeyer, who was fired the day after Thanksgiving with Del Rio. Whether free agents Kamren Curl and Kendall Fuller re-sign, there’s enough food-for-thought potential for Quinn, Whitt and Simmons to nibble on during planning meetings.
There’s the NFL playing experience for Simmons (121 games at defensive back with Pittsburgh and Houston from 1998 to 2007). Also, he had previous coaching reps with Whitt at Green Bay (2011 to 2018) and Washington senior personnel executive Marty Hurney in 2020, the GM’s last season in Carolina.
The Panthers ranked fourth in passing yards allowed during the 2021 season, Simmons’ last year in Carolina. With Las Vegas the past two seasons, Simmons’ 2023 secondary finished in the top 12 in passing yards and touchdowns allowed.
Graziano: I have been cautioned by multiple people not to jump to conclusions about the Commanders’ hire of former USC quarterbacks coach Kliff Kingsbury as it pertains to the Commanders’ interest in USC quarterback Caleb Williams. Yes, there are those in the Commanders organization who are fascinated with the idea of drafting D.C. native Williams, even if that means trading up from No. 2 to No. 1 to get him. But they also recognize that if the Bears are set on taking Williams at No. 1, there might be nothing they can do about that.
The sources I’ve talked to point out that North Carolina’s Drake Maye played in Phil Longo’s offensive system in 2022, which is a version of the Air Raid that Kingsbury knows how to coach. They also point out that LSU’s Jayden Daniels is a mobile quarterback and talented downfield thrower who could mesh well with Kingsbury, who has coached Kyler Murray and Mahomes. I would expect the Commanders to look into what it would take to draft Williams, but I’d caution against thinking they hired Kingsbury based on any belief or certainty that they were going to get him.
Could the hiring of Brian Johnson be a selling point to those who’ve worked with him previously?
Commanders could sign Olamide Zaccheaus
Another area where the Washington Commanders could look to strengthen this offseason is their wide receiver room. Terry McLaurin remains a consistent performer. Jahan Dotson should get another chance to shine despite not making the strides expected in ear 2 of his professional career. The others - including free-agent Curtis Samuel - might not be so lucky.
This is another tricky conundrum for general manager Adam Peters. He needs to ensure any incoming college signal-caller has the right tools around him to thrive immediately. Identifying a difference-maker through the draft should be considered. Signing a promising free agent or two is also something to ponder if the price is right.
Olamide Zaccheaus might not be the biggest name set to hit the market, but he’s a solid option with versatility and worked with Brian Johnson last season. The 5-foot-8 wideout is a dynamic force with the football in his hands. Even if this wasn’t enough to earn prominent targets following his move to the Philadelphia Eagles in 2023.
Before that, Zaccheaus was a decent performer on the Atlanta Falcons, gaining 97 receptions for 1,328 receiving yards and eight touchdowns over his first four seasons in the league. Expecting him to be a prolific starter is a stretch, but the Commanders might need replacements for the likes of Byron Pringle, Jamison Crowder, and Dyami Brown if the latter becomes surplus to requirements.
Bleacher Report recently previewed the offseason with a trade guide for all 32 NFL teams. There were three trade scenarios listed for the Commanders. We’ll look at each one and assess if it’s possible or not for Washington.
49ers cornerback Charvarius Ward
Ward has one year remaining on a three-year, $42 million contract he signed in 2022. He’s been excellent for the 49ers, but could San Francisco look to move him if it doesn’t think they could re-sign him? Peters knows Ward well, and he’d know if this is a risk worth taking. The salary wouldn’t be a problem, as the Commanders have plenty of cap space, and top cornerbacks are being paid more than Ward in 2024. Bleacher Report says a possible third-round pick to the Niners for Ward. That seems high for Peters, who will build through the draft. Ward would be an excellent addition, though.
Patriots EDGE Matthew Judon
Judon was an excellent player before he tore his bicep in Week 4 and missed the rest of the 2023 season. He has one year remaining on a four-year, $56 million contract he signed in 2021, which he has outplayed. In his first season with New England, Judon finished with 12.5 sacks. He followed that up with 15.5 sacks in 2022. He had four sacks in four games before his injury last season. The negative with Judon is he will be 32 this summer and coming off a major injury. But, for Quinn, who gets the most out of pass rushers, Judon seems like a perfect buy-low target (in terms of compensation) to help rebuild Washington’s defensive end room in 2024.
Trading for someone like Judon could be a better option than signing someone in free agency, where it’s expected the top pass rushers will be franchised.
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Bleeding Green Nation
Philadelphia’s top edge rusher might not return next season.
The phrasing there is important. It’s obviously not like the Eagles are trying to dump Reddick because he’s a liability. The guess here is that they’d prefer to have him back next season.
But the complication is that Reddick, who turns 30 in September, is entering the final year of the three-year, $45 million contract he signed back in March 2022. He already didn’t seem to be thrilled with his contract situation last year; the Camden, New Jersey native did not attend voluntary OTAs. He did not miss mandatory activities but he did say the following when asked if he felt underpaid:
“You all see it. You all see what’s going on. I’m worried about being the best version of myself, and then everything will sort itself out.”
Reddick has a right to feel like he deserves more money. There are currently 16 edge rushers who rank ahead of him in average salary. Reddick, meanwhile, has the fourth-most sacks generated (51) in the NFL over the last four seasons. (He might even have more sacks if Matt Patricia wasn’t obsessed with dropping him into coverage all too often at the end of last season.) Only T.J. Watt (62), Myles Garrett (58), and Trey Hendrickson (53) have more. Those guys rank second, fourth, and 10th, respectively, in average salary.
One would guess the Eagles and Reddick have talked about what a contract extension to keep him in Philly could look like. But that Reddick has been given permission to seek a trade indicates the two sides are not close to agreeing on new terms. This development could be part of the negotiation process with Reddick now potentially able to gauge what kind of money he can get from a new team willing to trade for him.
Blogging the Boys
Do not forget that Tyler Biadasz is set to hit free agency.
Despite being just a fourth-round pick in 2020, the Wisconsin product came to Dallas with high expectations. The last Badgers center that Dallas drafted, Travis Frederick, was an immediate star and saw his career tragically end due to a neurological disorder. Almost unfairly, Biadasz was tagged as the guy to fill those big shoes.
Biadasz should be able to get over $10 million a year, still just 26 years old and with a good résumé. That’s a huge jump from the $2.87 million he counted against the salary cap in 2023.
There isn’t exactly a “next man up” option here, either. The only other listed center on the roster is Brock Hoffman, a third-year undrafted prospect who’s seen some playing time due to injuries but is hardly a proven commodity. It’s hard to imagine Dallas will just hand the job to Hoffman given their lofty goals for next season.
It’s entirely possible that Dallas will work out a multi-year deal with Biadasz, which would give them the flexibility to convert salary into bonus money and keep the cap hit low. But again, Biadasz isn’t an All-Pro talent. The Cowboys could get better at center, especially with pass protection, and may not want to tie make a long-term commitment to Biadasz.
[H]e’s been a fixture on the offensive line for the last three years and presents the team with one of their tougher choices. Do the Cowboys risk trying to find an upgrade with limited resources, or do they take the safe route and pay Biadasz to stay?
Big Blue View
NFL insiders think Joe Schoen might want to move up for a successor to Daniel Jones
We know, though, that Schoen was assistant GM for Brandon Beane with the Buffalo Bills when Beane engineered a pair of trades to move from No. 21 in the 2018 NFL Draft all the way to No. 7 to select quarterback Josh Allen.
That has worked out pretty well for the Bills.
If the Bears don’t trade the first overall pick, there is an expectation at this point that quarterbacks could go 1-2-3 in the draft. The Bears, Washington Commanders and New England Patriots, with the top three picks, could all be looking to reset with new rookie quarterbacks.
There has been some speculation that the Patriots, with the third pick, might be willing to move off that spot if the quarterback they want goes to Chicago or Washington. If someone like wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. breaks up the run on quarterbacks, the Arizona Cardinals will be in an enviable position with the fourth pick. They have Kyler Murray at quarterback and could earn a draft windfall for moving back with a quarterback-needy team.
Big Blue View
Can Paul be molded into a starting tackle?
Houston’s Patrick Paul is both athletic and incredibly long — two traits that get coaches and scouts excited.
Weight: 333 pounds
Arm length: 36 ¼ inches
Hand size: 9⅜ inches
Paul projects as a developmental tackle at the NFL level. To take that a step further, teams should probably attempt to develop him at left tackle given that all of his collegiate experience is at that position.
Paul will likely be viewed as a big lump of clay despite having started more than 40 games over the course of his college career. He has all of the traits that gets scouts drooling and coaches excited to mold: He’s incredibly long, has evident athleticism, and good competitive toughness.
The problem is that while he was able to succeed based on those traits at Houston, there are obvious weaknesses in his game. His hand usage is poor and limits much of his length advantage, will make him vulnerable to NFL caliber pass rushers, and could open him up to penalties. His footwork is confused and can lead to lunging at defenders, further limiting his effectiveness. And finally he currently has limited utility in the run game and could be a “zone only” blocker.
There are flashes of the player he could be, however. Paul is smooth and athletic when he’s forced to play instinctively to pick up late pressure from blitzers or loopers. He has the competitive toughness to fight and stalemate defenders even if he’s initially beaten. Teams will want to work with him and believe they’ll be richly rewarded if they can unlock that potential. The ideal situation would be for him to land on a team with a veteran left tackle who will need to be replaced in two years.
Final Word: A mid-round developmental prospect.
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Washington Post (paywall)
“I mean, we all hurt,” Shanahan began. “... I don’t have a lot of words for it.”
As he detailed his sideline decisions in San Francisco’s 25-22 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, the play of his quarterback, the mistakes, the big plays and everything in between, a voice on the loudspeaker drowned him out to announce the arrival of Mecole Hardman, recipient of the Chiefs’ game-winning touchdown pass, into the press area.
As if Shanahan needed another reminder, another twist of the knife.
“I don’t care how you lose, when you lose Super Bowls, especially ones you think you can pull off, it hurts,” Shanahan said. “When you’re in the NFL, I think every team should hurt, except for one at the end. We’ve come pretty d--- close, but we haven’t pulled it off.”
For much of the past week, Shanahan fielded questions about his team’s second Super Bowl appearance in four years — and about his own legacy as an offensive mastermind who had never closed out a championship. He was asked about degrees of pain — “Kyle, which one hurt more? And how much did it hurt?” — that forced him to think back to his first Super Bowl loss, as offensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons after the 2016 season, and his second, as head coach of the 49ers in February 2020.
“Obviously, it sucks, man. You want to win it for that kind of guy,” quarterback Brock Purdy said of Shanahan. “He’s a great coach. Everybody wants to go to war with that guy, the way he handles himself, carries himself. We want to win for him. … It’s tough. I’m still trying to wrap my mind around it.”