Topics this week include an uptick in Deshaun Watson's draft value, the Chargers move to Los Angeles and a brief history on other franchise moves, the NFL's first millennial head coach, another new coach who is ready to take over in Buffalo, Atlanta's potential goodbye to the Georgia Dome and more.
Deshaun Watson?market watch
Not only did Deshaun Watson lead Clemson to a national title, he helped his draft stock. Dramatically.
Two NFL personnel directors and one NFL general manager each predicted this week, after Monday night's national championship win, that Watson has pushed himself into the top half of the first round. One predicted: "Cleveland could take him at No. 1 -- look who's coaching them." Another said Watson would be a top-five pick, while the third was supremely confident that Watson would go within the top 10.
"All I'm saying is this," one personnel director said this week, "if [ Robert Griffin III] and Vince Young and Marcus Mariota can go in the top couple of picks, there's no question Deshaun Watson can. He led his team against Alabama, one of the best defenses we've seen in a long time. He's done a ton of winning since he's been at Clemson. Absolutely do I think someone can take him in the top 10.
"He's better than Vince Young. He's a better kid, a better thrower. Would I take him there? No, I would not. But what gives the kid a chance is he's a tremendous kid, unbelievable competitor with a great skill set. But he's got inconsistent accuracy and throws a lot of interceptions. But this whole thing is momentum, like stocks. His stock is rising. Everything he does between now and draft, will build. He will look great, test great, interview great. Absolutely he'll be a top-10 pick."
Another personnel man predicted Watson will draw Cleveland's interest, even though many believe the Browns are focusing in on Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett. "The head coach will like him," the personnel director said of Browns coach Hue Jackson. "You can see that. He wanted to bring RG3 over -- this is a much better player than RG3, and RG3 went second in the draft."
In two national championship title games against Alabama the past two years, Watson threw for 825 yards, ran for another 116 and produced eight touchdowns -- seven through the air and one on the ground. Those performances have pushed him back up in the draft.
"Here's what you have with Deshaun Watson," one personnel director said. "He was the first pick in the draft in all mocks a year ago. He struggled some in midseason, so everyone got off him. But these last couple of weeks, he's skyrocketing up to the top 10 picks, with the two playoff game wins. Now people are going to say, 'Wait a minutes, he's played Alabama the past couple of years really well, he won a national championship, he can be a Mariota, he can be a [Dak] Prescott, great character, great kid.' People will not want to miss him. I think he's definitely going in the top 10."
-- Adam Schefter
A lesson in NFL history
The anger that ensued when the Cleveland Browns moved to Baltimore in 1996 still remains to this day. And there was outrage in the same manner when Baltimore was vacated by the Colts for Indianapolis in 1984.
The Browns left behind their brand in Cleveland, and became the Baltimore Ravens. The Colts, though, remained the Colts.?
Expect the Chargers to remain the Chargers, despite talk that the franchise could "rebrand" itself to start anew in Los Angeles.
In Cleveland's case, the NFL brokered a deal with then-owner Art Modell that he could take the players, coaches and any organizational personnel with him to Baltimore, but the Browns name and the team's historical records would remain with Cleveland. Modell's Baltimore team was rebranded as the Ravens, which obviously has worked. The NFL was committed to awarding Cleveland an expansion franchise as the Browns.
The Chargers are moving just two hours north to Los Angeles. Their first year as a pro football team in the former AFL was in 1960 was actually as the Los Angeles Chargers. Hall of Famer Sid Gillman was the coach and Barron Hilton was the owner. They played in the Coliseum, but despite a 10-4 season, the team struggled to draw support because the AFL was in its infancy while the Rams were a dominant presence in a more-established NFL. Hilton then moved the team to San Diego in 1961.
The team now plans to market itself as the Los Angeles Chargers. The lightning bolts plastered on their helmets are one of the more iconic images among the league's 32 teams, and that isn't going to change, per league and team sources.
There's a lot of sadness around the league that San Diego is no longer an NFL home. There had been a hope among owners that somehow a stadium deal would be worked out, and that San Diego would circulate back into the rotation as a Super Bowl host.
There is reason to doubt how well this will work in Los Angeles. Being a tenant to the Rams is not an ideal situation. Playing two years in a current 27,000-seat Stub Hub Stadium in Carson until Rams owner Stan Kroenke's Inglewood Stadium is ready for the 2019 season promises to be one of the strangest game day experiences in NFL history.
Here's what we know about the Los Angeles market: You better produce a sustainable winning product. That goes for the Rams and for the Chargers. It's actually very true of many sun-belt states, from the West Coast to the East Coast. Not many people remember that the Dallas Cowboys were struggling to fill Texas Stadium despite the glitz and glamour of being "America's Team" when losing beset the franchise before Jerry Jones bought the team in 1989. In fact, the Cowboys were reported to be financially "in the red."
Many people were waiting for sormeone to rescue San Diego. When the new stadium initiative generated just 43 percent approval on the November ballot, when it needed 60 percent approval, that was the sign that doomsday had eventually arrived. League sources felt if the initiative had even gotten 50 percent support, a new flame might have been lit to seriously reignite talks to keep the Chargers in San Diego.?Maybe that was foolhardy, but the San Diego Chargers are now the Los Angeles Chargers, and it's difficult to say whether that's for better or for worse. Right now, it overwhelmingly feels like the latter.
The first millennial head coach
Sean McVay became the youngest head coach in NFL history on Thursday, when the Los Angeles Rams hired the 30-year-old.
There's also this: The list of coaches who were identified at an early age as prodigies is fascinating. There are successes and failures, both.
Until McVay's hiring, Lane Kiffin was the youngest NFL coach ever hired; he was 31 at the time. Starting in Oakland with Al Davis' famous opaque-projector news conference, no one has ever had his coaching jobs end with more drama than Kiffin. The Raiders also once hired John Madden when he was 32, while the Broncos hired Josh McDaniels at age 32 and the Bengals hired David Shula at age 32.
The Colts hired Don Shula at age 33 and the Raiders brought Al Davis on at age 33. The Steelers hired Mike Tomlin and Bill Cowher at the age of 34, the same age Jon Gruden was when the Raiders hired him.
Most coaches hired at such a young age have gone on to justify the decision. Now McVay gets his chance.
-- Adam Schefter
It's McDermott's time
There are few coaches in the NFL who don't carry some scars, and new Buffalo Bills coach Sean McDermott got one of his after the 2010 season, when he was fired as the Philadelphia Eagles' defensive coordinator after just two years on that job.
For Andy Reid, the Eagles' coach at that time, it was a painful move. McDermott had been on his staff since 1999 and he rose through the organizational ranks to succeed a coaching legend in Jim Johnson, the Eagles' defensive coordinator who died of cancer before the 2009 season. McDermott's defensive units came under criticism in a tough media market. Reid backed McDermott at the end of the 2010 season only to reverse field a few days later to dismiss him.
Reid felt it was unfair for McDermott to fill the shoes of Johnson at that stage of his career. McDermott eventually caught on with Ron Rivera in Carolina.
"For Andy, letting Sean go was a tough decision. Sean grew up in the area, he was a good coach and he worked his rear end off, but it was a tough situation in a tough city," said Rivera, who was a linebacker coach under Reid for five seasons.
Rivera believes McDermott's time has come after a successful run as the Panthers' defensive coordinator.
"Sean has been preparing to be a head coach for years," Rivera said. "He pays attention to detail. He takes impeccable notes. If he'd ever show you his notes through the years, you'd be amazed at just how much he prepared not just as a coordinator, but as a guy with aspirations to be a head coach. And I have a process here where I give our coaches like Sean, Steve Wilks and Mike Shula during OTAs where they take over the team on a specific day, where they stand in front of the whole team and run practice. You could see Sean was ready."
Rivera has offered himself as a resource to McDermott, as well as given a vital piece of advice as the 42-year-old takes over the Bills.
"I've advised him to hire someone with head-coaching experience to his staff. That's the biggest mistake I made here in Carolina and I was up and down and all over the place those first two years," Rivera said. "[Now he has] a guy with that head-coaching experience on staff in Leslie Frazier, but Sean will be his own man. He's unique in his own way. The players will see that he has a pretty good sense of when to be a hard ass and stern. But he can be self-deprecating and surprise you that way. I think the Bills made a heck of a hire."
-- Chris Mortensen
Georgia (Dome) isn't on anyone's mind
The stadium has lived some life. When it opened in 1992 at a cost of $214 million, it was the largest covered stadium in the world. Others have since passed it, but it does not change the history that has played out under its roof.
The Georgia Dome was the site of the Falcons' memorable Super Bowl run during the 1998 season along with many of the magical runs Michael Vick unleashed before he was brought down by a dog-fighting scandal that changed his life and NFL career. It hosted NCAA Final Fours in 2002, 20007 and 2013, along with the basketball competitions during the 1996 summer Olympics.
If the Falcons lose to the Seahawks, or if the Cowboys beat the Packers on Sunday, it would eliminate the chance of Atlanta hosting the NFC Championship, effectively ending the life of the Georgia Dome. But if the Falcons win Saturday, and the Cowboys lose, then the NFC title game would be played in Atlanta, in what would be the ultimate going-away party for the Georgia Dome.
But no one knows whether this is the end, or just the beginning of the end. If there weren't enough of a reason for the crowd to be frenzied on Saturday, there is one more: It could be saying goodbye to its home of the past 25 years.
-- Adam Schefter
Emptying the notebook
- All four divisional-round matchups will be rematches from the regular season, which is not all that unusual of an occurrence. It will be the fifth time in the past 15 seasons that this has happened (also in 2004, 2005, 2008 and 2010).
- There's a reason the Patriots are prohibitive favorites over the Texans on Saturday night. New England has won five consecutive games against Houston, outscoring the Texans by a 171-79 margin. In the past two games alone, New England has outscored Houston 54-6.
- How good has Le'Veon Bell been? Since his return from suspension in Week 4, Bell has been among the best backs in the league. He has been even better in the second half of the season, as seen with his Steelers' postseason record of 167 yards in the team's wild card win over the Dolphins.
- The well-acclaimed decision from Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan to hire Tom Coughlin as executive vice president of football operations came together rapidly on Monday after Coughlin reached out in an effort to have one more discussion beyond their previous eight-hour meeting about the head-coaching job. Two phone conversations took place, and within a five-hour window, a deal was struck with Coughlin as the front office football boss.
- There were not dramatic changes in the Bills' structure when they hired Sean McDermott as head coach. League sources say GM Doug Whaley will have final say on the 53-man roster, while McDermott will determine the active game-day roster. One source says McDermott will report directly to owner Terry Pegula.
- Bill Parcells has enjoyed the success of good friend and former longtime assistant Romeo Crennel, the defensive coordinator of the Houston Texans' stingy unit. And while Jadeveon Clowney's breakout season has drawn much attention, Parcells noted that he really likes what he sees from outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus, who is a pretty imposing presence at 6-foot-4, 265 pounds. Mercilus was the team's first round pick in 2012.
--? Chris Mortensen and?Adam Schefter