Topics this week include Drew Bledsoe weighing in on the developing situation in Dallas -- which is similar to the end of his time in New England, Brock Osweiler's return to Denver, a look at the Packers' offensive issues, and more.
Bledsoe has seen Dallas' QB situation before
Before Dallas Cowboys veteran Tony Romo ever was confronted with the idea that he could be losing his starting quarterback job to rookie quarterback Dak Prescott, Drew Bledsoe lost his to Tom Brady with the New England Patriots. Back in 2001, Bledsoe suffered a sheared blood vessel in his chest that sidelined him almost two months. While Bledsoe was out, Tom Brady filled in, posting a 5-2 record until coach Bill Belichick was forced to make a decision.
Now, heading into Dallas' bye week, Prescott has led the Cowboys to a 5-1 record, while being every bit as impressive as Brady. This is not to say that Prescott is the next Brady, or their talents are comparable. But their situations are. A heralded, high-profile, well-paid starting quarterback in New England once lost his starting quarterback job to an impressive, up-and-coming quarterback. Now Romo is about to do the same.
"The similarities are obvious," admitted Bledsoe, who now owns the award-winning Doubleback winery in the Walla Walla Valley. "It's a situation where you've been a quarterback of a team for a long, long time, and you plan to be there forever. Then all of a sudden you get hurt, some young kid plays well, and it becomes a tough situation. Once I was healthy, I thought I was coming back to go back on the field again to play. I was healthy, and Bill Belichick said, 'That's good, we're going to stick with the other guy.' The hard part for me was coming to realizing that you're not irreplaceable. That was a tough realization. But you learn the world keeps turning without you."
Eventually Bledsoe was traded to Buffalo, then later surfaced to finish up his career in Dallas, where he was eventually replaced by Romo. The Cowboys would not entertain the notion of trading Romo now, but it is an idea that could pick up some momentum after this season if Romo decides he wants to continue his career. It seems surreal to even suggest, but it is a stone-cold reality.
"Dak is playing really, really well," Bledsoe said. "The team is so good around him. There's also a similarity between those two situations, New England's with me and Dallas' with Tony. While Tommy was playing, our offensive line got right and the team started playing well around him. When that happens, sometimes there's some magic to a young kid being in there. The team steps up with the young kid in there. Once they do that, they keep playing that way.
"It's very, very similar to what's happening now in Dallas. That Cowboys team is set up to make a run, even with Dez [Bryant] on the sideline. That offensive line, that run game, they can make a real run here."
Romo has not reached out to Bledsoe for advice on how to handle this situation, but no one knows it any better.
"I don't know what decision they'll make, but it seems like they'll stick with Dak," Bledsoe said. "It seems like the obvious choice. Then Tony has to make some decisions. One will have to do with his long-term health. He has to decide how he wants to handle his long-term back issues, stuff that could affect you for a long time.
"But Tony has been an outstanding player, a good team guy, and if it comes to pass and they choose Dak, then you have to just go to work, play ball, get healthy, approach it like a job and do the right thing. Ultimately as long as you handle it the right way, you will have other opportunities, if that's what you want. I enjoyed those other opportunities. Ultimately, because I chose to be a team guy, I had the opportunity to move on to other places and have a great time.
"The unfortunate truth about the NFL is, it's a replacement business. You get hurt, and someone else comes in and plays well, particularly at a lower-salary cap number, and you end up finding yourself someplace else. It's not a fault of Tony's, just like it was no fault of mine."
-- Adam Schefter
Osweiler making return to Denver
Osweiler and the Texans won't yet be able to get around criticism for the four-year, $72 million contract the quarterback received as a free agent. He will need more moments like he had when he rallied the Texans to an improbable comeback for an eventual overtime victory Sunday night against the Indianapolis Colts.
People still will never get why the Texans paid Osweiler the big money, but Broncos general manager John Elway did offer his former second-round pick a contract that would pay the quarterback $16 million per year, which was actually was $1 million more than he was willing to pay Peyton Manning in 2015. So clearly the Broncos saw value in retaining Osweiler.
How big is Osweiler's contract with the Texans? He's only 19th in salary among NFL starting quarterbacks. In 2016, he takes up just 7.9 percent of the team salary cap. He had some quality starts in 2015 when Manning was injured, including a gut-check win against the Patriots. That's a better look than teams got when top quarterback draft picks were getting the big bucks before the rookie wage scale, such as the $50 million guaranteed Sam Bradford received from the Rams in 2010.
The question that has been asked frequently is why Osweiler would choose the Texans over the defending Super Bowl champion Broncos, who have a defense that either is the best, or one of the best, in the NFL?
The answers that have been consistently offered: The Broncos dragged their feet on their offer before free agency, giving Osweiler a taste to test the market; he wanted to establish himself with a franchise that didn't already have quarterback legends such as Manning and Elway; he wanted an offense that would provide him with more control under center, as he had learned with offensive coordinator Adam Gase once Manning came aboard in 2012.
Jury still out? Yes, but the verdict is far from in.
-- Chris Mortensen
Behind Packers' offensive issues
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers looks surprisingly average during the first six weeks of the 2016 season. The Minnesota Vikings, who won the NFC North in 2015, are considered the team to beat in their own division -- and maybe the entire NFC.
The slip for the Packers, even if it's temporary, has resurrected some scrutiny of the general manager Ted Thompson for his lack of aggressiveness in building the team's roster.
Thompson absolutely believes in building his team through the draft. Nothing wrong with that. The Packers have been highly successful under his tenure and have won a Super Bowl. Problem is, when you have Rodgers as your quarterback, multiple Super Bowls are the expectation.
Thompson has had a few golden opportunities that he passed on, dragging his feet on a trade to acquire Marshawn Lynch from Buffalo in 2010 a year after he missed on a chance to land future Chiefs All-Pro tight end Tony Gonzalez, who instead was traded to Atlanta.
It's worthwhile to mention the absence of a dynamic tight end, especially in a West Coast-based offensive scheme. Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young once said he preferred a Pro Bowl tight end like he had in Brent Jones over a Pro Bowl receiver, though he had a good laugh when he was reminded he played with Jerry Rice.
Thompson has tried to get Rodgers a tight end through the draft. He has selected Jermichael Finley (third round, 2008), D.J. Williams (second round, 2011) and Richard Rodgers (third round, 2014). This year, the Packers had to continue to stock their defensive line and, with the 27th pick, Thompson chose UCLA defensive tackle Kenny Clark, who has shown promise. But the Chargers took Arkansas tight end Hunter Henry with the 35th pick, and he looks special.
Said one veteran personnel man who admires Thompson: "When you watch them on film, you don't see anybody special, no speed on the outside, nobody special at tight end. But what does Bill Belichick really have at receiver? He has Gronk at tight end. It's not totally fair to criticize Ted. Belichick is head and shoulders above everyone else in this league. [Packers coach] Mike McCarthy is no Belichick, but then who is?"
-- Chris Mortensen
Vinatieri is still kicking -- and making history
Adam Vinatieri is making his case -- or maybe already has done it -- as the greatest kicker in NFL history.
When the Colts play the Titans on Sunday, Vinatieri will carry a streak of 41 consecutive made field goals with him into Tennessee. Should he make two more, Vinatieri will pass former Colts kicker Mike Vanderjagt for the most consecutive made field goals in franchise and NFL history.
And it just is a validation of what most have come to realize, that Vinatieri will one day join the only full-time kicker currently in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Jan Stenerud, in Canton, Ohio. What's also interesting is that Vinatieri has been a free agent a couple of times in Indianapolis, and no other team has made a real competitive run at him. Others might have feared his age; Vinatieri turns 44 in December. But his age has turned into an asset, and Vinatieri has gotten better over time.
Before he signed with Indianapolis, Vinatieri kicked in New England, which has uncovered kickers like the Steelers have wide receivers. But this year, for one of the rare years, a Patriots kicker is struggling. Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski already has missed three field goals this season, as many as he has had in any full season since 2012. He also has missed an extra point this season, his first extra-point miss since 2006.
So while Gostkowski looks to get on track in a tough kicking venue in Pittsburgh, Vinatieri is on the verge of making even more kicking history.
-- Adam Schefter
Favre has been bad luck in Green Bay
Even though the two sides have repaired their relationship, forgive the Packers if they never invite Brett Favre back to Green Bay again. It seems like they do not react well to his presence -- at all.
Last season the Packers retired Favre's No. 4 on Thanksgiving night, only to later get upset at home to the Chicago Bears 17-13. Then Sunday, the Packers honored Favre for getting into the Pro Football Hall of Fame last summer, and Green Bay lost to Dallas 30-16. Maybe Green Bay's opponents -- at Atlanta on Oct. 30, at Tennessee on Nov. 13, at Washington Nov. 20, at Philly Nov. 28, at Chicago Dec. 18, at Detroit Jan. 1 -- should consider honoring Favre for this year's Hall of Fame induction.
Unlike when he played quarterback for the Packers, Green Bay seems to wilt when he shows up.
-- Adam Schefter
What Redskins' win means
Washington's victory over Philadelphia last weekend might have even greater ramifications than in the NFC East. Each of the previous nine times the Redskins won their final home game prior to the presidential election, the incumbent party won the election.
Emptying out the notebook
Strange as it might seem to imagine, the schedule sets up for Tennessee to challenge for the AFC South title. The Titans host Indianapolis, host Jacksonville, play at San Diego, host Green Bay, at Indianapolis, at Chicago, host Denver, at Kansas City, at Jacksonville, and then are home vs. Houston. The last game of the season very well could be the game that determines the AFC South winner. And 9-7 probably wins the division.
At least one and possibly two colleges are closely looking at Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner as a head-coaching candidate, per a league source. Whether he would be interested is an entirely different issue, but colleges do have interest.
Just a friendly reminder: the NFL's trade deadline is Nov. 1. Teams already have begun making exploratory phone calls in a league that doesn't value trading the same way that baseball and basketball do. But with the NFL's new breed of young general managers, there could be a few more trades made than usual -- which isn't saying much.
Nobody should be talking about whether the Cowboys should trade veteran quarterback Tony Romo this year. The salary-cap acceleration on a trade is prohibitive. Moreover, the Cowboys have no desire to trade Romo. They sense the opportunity they had just two years ago -- a chance to make a run at the Super Bowl. Rookie Dak Prescott and Romo give them the quarterback insurance to do so. The same components of a strong running game and strong pass protection that Romo enjoyed with a great season are evident with the 2016 edition.
Yes, for all the offseason stories about Eddie Lacy following a more strict diet regimen, his weight definitely has returned to the 2015 frame when team sources say he was anywhere from 255 to 265 pounds. But unless somebody ties his latest foot/ankle injury to his extra pounds, it has been difficult to argue with the results this season. Lacy is averaging 5.1 yards per carry in 2016.
Eli Manning felt compelled to clarify his comments on The Michael Kay Show on ESPN Radio New York about Odell Beckham Jr. because he truly has been internally protective of the receiver. One source said, "Odell has been playing his ass off for Eli and the team. [Eli] doesn't want anybody messing with his head."