What’s ahead as next pro foot­ball cen­tury be­gins?

The News & Observer (Sunday) - - Sports - BY BARRY WIL­NER

The NFL’s cen­ten­nial sea­son con­cluded with a cham­pi­onship a half-cen­tury in the mak­ing.

Now that the Kansas City Chiefs have ended that 50-year drought and own their sec­ond NFL cham­pi­onship, the fo­cus will turn mostly else­where in what could be a very busy off­sea­son.

The NFL re­ally never goes away, so even as their fans will chant and do the Tom­a­hawk Chop when the Chiefs have their cel­e­bra­tory pa­rade, ques­tions will arise on all fronts.

Here are some things to con­tem­plate:


It starts – some might say it ends – with Tom Brady. For the first time in his six-ring ca­reer, the 42-year-old Brady is on the mar­ket. Maybe the fact the Pa­tri­ots went 4-4 in the sec­ond half of the sched­ule, blew a bye in the AFC play­offs with a last-week loss at home to the lowly Dol­phins, and then went out, also at home, to Ten­nessee in a wild-card game, made New Eng­land think twice about spend­ing mul­ti­mil­lions on a mid­dle-aged man whose skills just might be de­clin­ing.

While it still seems likely Pa­tri­ots owner Robert Kraft will pony up the bucks – say a two-year deal in which the sec­ond sea­son can be voided without too much cost to the team – it’s fun to think of other land­ing spots for pro foot­ball’s most suc­cess­ful quar­ter­back.

Try the Charg­ers if they are look­ing to make, uh, a charge into the new sta­dium they will share with the Rams. Brady would be an in­trigu­ing ad­di­tion down the road from Hol­ly­wood, par­tic­u­larly if Philip Rivers is done with the Bolts.

Or the Raiders to make a splash in Sin City, though Derek Carr isn’t ex­actly headed out the door.

Though wouldn’t Brady want to go to a po­ten­tial con­tender seek­ing a win­ning QB to push it to the top? Per­haps Ten­nessee, where former team­mate Mike Vra­bel is the coach? Chicago with its strong de­fense?

Brady and Rivers hardly are the only passers likely avail­able. Cam New­ton, Nick Foles, Joe Flacco, Mar­cus Mar­i­ota, Andy Dal­ton, Ryan Tan­nehill, and per­haps Jameis Win­ston could be out there.


The ad­just­ment to the pass in­ter­fer­ence rules that al­lowed video re­views was a flop. Coaches who were so adamant about need­ing a change af­ter the egre­giously botched call in the NFC ti­tle game a year ago got lit­tle to no trac­tion with their chal­lenges.

In­ter­fer­ence be­came an even murkier propo­si­tion.

Will the pow­er­ful com­pe­ti­tion com­mit­tee rec­om­mend more al­ter­ations? Or to drop the mod­i­fi­ca­tion al­to­gether?


Com­mis­sioner Roger Good­ell has been en­cour­aged by ne­go­ti­a­tions to­ward a new col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing agree­ment. The cur­rent 10-year deal ex­pires in March 2021, but the league in par­tic­u­lar is ea­ger to get a con­tract fi­nal­ized well be­fore that. In­deed, well be­fore next sea­son.

Union of­fi­cials are be­ing coy, but sim­ply the fact both sides have been meet­ing semi-reg­u­larly and reach­ing ac­cords on a va­ri­ety of is­sues is good news.

The pub­lic ex­pects the main stick­ing point to be ex­pand­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son by one game, which would in­clude re­duc­ing the pre­sea­son, prob­a­bly adding an­other bye week, and push­ing the Su­per Bowl back into mid-Fe­bru­ary. Player safety con­cerns need to be para­mount in any such dis­cus­sions.

But 17 games could be a done deal if the union gets, say, three or four more ros­ter spots per fran­chise. That’s any­where from 96 to 128 ad­di­tional jobs.


Cincin­nati doesn’t need to wait un­til April 23 to an­nounce LSU All-Amer­ica quar­ter­back Joe Bur­row as the top over­all draft choice. That’s a no-brainer, even for the Ben­gals.

And the sec­ond pick, bar­ring in­jury, is not a mys­tery ei­ther: Ohio State de­fen­sive beast Chase Young to Washington, which al­ready has its QB in Young’s former team­mate, Dwayne Hask­ins.

So where does Tua Tago­v­ailoa wind up? Does the pro­jected No. 1 guy just a few months ago fall in the first round? The Alabama left-han­der was side­lined in the ninth game with a ma­jor hip in­jury that could slow his de­but, per­haps un­til 2021.

So does Detroit de­cide Tago­v­ailoa can be the heir to Matthew Stafford? Does Mi­ami get Tua at No. 5 or need to move up for what could be its fran­chise quar­ter­back – or is that too much of a gam­ble be­cause Tago­v­ailoa could be an in­jury-prone player with an un­cer­tain med­i­cal fu­ture?

See what we mean about plenty of ques­tions in NFL 101?


Whether Tom Brady re­mains New Eng­land’s quar­ter­back is one of the big ques­tions as the NFL be­gins its sec­ond cen­tury.

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