INDIANAPOLIS -- A look at what's happening at the NFL scouting combine:
1. A quarterback pass? We're still nine weeks from the draft, but the preliminary sense I get is the New York Jets aren't looking to take a quarterback with their first-round pick. Obviously, that could change as they continue to evaluate Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, but the vibe close to the organization is that general manager Mike Maccagnan and Todd Bowles aren't in a quarterback-or-bust mode. Is it because they still believe Geno Smith can be salvaged or because they're not sold on Winston and Mariota? Hard to say; it's probably a little of both. Personally, I think it would be a mistake to pass on Mariota if he falls to the Jets at No. 6, assuming Winston already is gone. Maybe the Jets believe they can elevate Smith by building around him. It's risky. I talked to several scouts and personnel people at the combine, and none of them spoke glowingly of Smith.
2. Working man: By rule, the Jets aren't allowed to start their offseason program until April 6, but Smith already has been working out in Southern California. He eventually would like to invite teammates to join him for informal, on-field workouts, perhaps in his home state of Florida.
3. It takes a village: Because Maccagnan has no background in contract negotiations and cap management, the Jets have restructured the way they do business. Former GM John Idzik, a contract/cap guy, used to handle the bulk of the negotiating; now it's a committee approach. Maccagnan will oversee the operation, but the primary negotiators will be Rod Graves and Jacqueline Davidson -- the senior director and manager of football administration, respectively. Dave Socie, formerly of the league office, has been retained on a part-time basis to help with cap and contract philosophy. Hymie Elhai, the team's vice president/business affairs & legal counsel, also will be involved. From what I hear, the Muhammad Wilkerson negotiations were a one-man show (Idzik) last year. Once Idzik got fired, it caused the two sides to start from square one, basically.
4. QB hunting season: NFL Network draft expert Mike Mayock called this the best group of edge rushers since 2011, the draft that produced Von Miller, Aldon Smith, Robert Quinn and J.J. Watt, who can rush from anywhere. This year's crop could produce three in the top 10 -- Randy Gregory, Shane Ray and Dante Fowler Jr. The Jets, in the sixth spot, could have their choice.
5. A wide 'spread' of opinions: Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians wasn't shy about expressing his opinion on quarterback prospects from spread systems in college. Said Arians: "That ain't playing quarterback." Mayock agreed, saying, "It's a huge transition [to the NFL]. I try to give the analogy, you're talking about taking a kid that's in kindergarten and moving him to a college-level class almost overnight." True, but if you eliminated all the spread quarterbacks, there wouldn't be many names left on your draft board.
6. Mariota, Winston impress: From all accounts, Mariota and Winston didn't do anything to hurt their stock Saturday during on-field workouts. As expected, Mariota blazed the 40 in 4.52 seconds, faster than 10 of the wide receivers. Winston, nobody's sprinter, clocked a 4.97. Both passers threw the ball exceptionally well, especially Winston, according to reports. One of the underrated quarterback stats is hand size. Some teams, including the New England Patriots, put an emphasis on it. I remember Bill Parcells telling me once that he always preferred quarterbacks with big hands, for obvious reasons. For the record, Mariota (9 7/8 inches) has bigger hands than Winston (9 3/8). In 2013, Geno Smith (9¼) had one of the smallest hands at the combine.
7. Wide-receiver fever -- catch it: It's pretty much a lock the Jets will have their choice of one of these studs -- Amari Cooper, Kevin White or DeVante Parker. Cooper is considered the best receiver in the draft, and he didn't disappoint Saturday by running a 4.42 in the 40. But White made himself a lot of money with a 4.35 at 6-foot-3. He might have pushed his way into the top 10. (Cynics will bring up the cautionary tale of Stephen Hill.) Anyway, it could help the Jets. They can cut Percy Harvin knowing they have an excellent chance to replace him in the draft. They haven't used a first-round pick on a receiver since Santana Moss in 2001.
8. CJ fallout: Did some checking into Chris Johnson's claim that he was misled by the Jets about his role, and it turns out he's right. I'm told that Idzik and Rex Ryan promised him more playing time than he received, but that was at the time of his signing. Once the season began, the coaching staff believed Chris Ivory was more effective than Johnson, who averaged 9.6 carries per game. I don't think the Jets regret the way they used Johnson, especially because they finished third in rushing offense. If there's any internal second-guessing, it's how they under-utilized Bilal Powell.
9. Air Canada: Jets quarterbacks coach Kevin Patullo met with South Alabama's Brandon Bridge, one of the more interesting quarterback prospects. Bridge, a Toronto native, is a late-round prospect with a cannon for an arm. He started his career at Alcorn State, where he got the "Air Canada" nickname. No, he wasn't named after the airline or Vince Carter. It was Steve "Air" McNair, the former Alcorn State great. Coming from Canada, Bridge has a lot of doubters, including Mayock, who said Bridge has a lot to learn about the position. This might not endear him to Jets' fans, but he's a fan of Tom Brady.
"I love 'The Brady Six' story, how he was always overlooked and always had that chip on his shoulder," Bridge said. "I feel like I'm kind of doing that as well."
10. For Pete's sake: I'm impressed by how well Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll is handling the post-Super Bowl criticism stemming from his controversial play call at the goal line. He has embraced the adversity, hoping to make it a learning experience for his team. All coaches say that, but Carroll articulates it with such conviction. Speaking to a small group of reporters that included two scribes from New York, he compared the Super Bowl misery to that of the infamous Dan Marino Fake Spike in 1994, when Carroll coached the Jets.
"I’m never going to lose [the Super Bowl], and I'm never losing the game with Marino, when we were playing to be [7-5]," he said. "I don’t forget those. I don’t want to forget those. It’s part of the history. It’s part of the truth of the past. It’s important to understand the pitfalls and the pain, so you can be on the upside. We live on the other side of the spectrum. Everything I do is based on where we can possibly go, not where we’ve been and what we did wrong. I don’t live that way."
A wise-guy reporter from New York (yours truly) mentioned to Carroll that Super Bowl XLIX and the Fake Spike game have the same final score -- 28-24.
"You dog," he said, laughing. "Only you would know that."
11. Jay-Z and Ari-N: Former Jets cap/contract guru Ari Nissim, who worked alongside former GM Mike Tannenbaum, is now an agent for Roc Nation Sports. He already has landed a big client, Georgia running back Todd Gurley, so talented that he could sneak into the first round despite major knee surgery.
12. Best tweets from the combine: These came Saturday from Kent Somers, who covers the Cardinals for the Arizona Republic:
Elderly man rolling a wheelchair at indy airport. Young man, a stranger, offers help and starts pushing him. Nice move by Jameis Winston— Kent Somers (@kentsomers) February 21, 2015
Winston didn't do it to show off. No one was watching except me.— Kent Somers (@kentsomers) February 21, 2015