If it weren’t for the 100 million people who watched it, would Super Bowl 53 even exist? Well, yes, and that’s still a lot of people making it likely that once again the Super Bowl will draw more than twice as many viewers as any other program this year, but it won’t stop plenty of people from pointing out two things: it was the lowest-rated Super Bowl in 10 years, and more importantly, it was boring.
You can point to the game being tied in the fourth quarter and remark that it was “a defensive standoff,” but really, the Super Bowl was mostly controlled throughout by the New England Patriots, who simply blew some early opportunities on the Los Angeles Rams’ side of the field that could have put the game away much sooner. The 13-3 final score did a better job of reflecting New England’s mistakes than anything else, and the result was a game that felt like it should be relegated to a random Thursday night. Now, we all get eight months off before the next season.
Luckily in this league, there’s always something on the horizon. Here are eight things to look forward to over the offseason that will hopefully do a better job of satisfying your football needs than Jared Goff did.
Watch the Nick Foles sweepstakes
This will almost certainly be the fourth time in the last five years that Foles has changed teams, but now having gone 10-2 as a starter for the Eagles in the last two seasons and winning a ring, this transition will actually be noteworthy. There’s been plenty of speculation on how Philly will get the most out of this opportunity, but it looks certain that the Carson Wentz era will continue and Foles will seek greener pastures.
Despite his stellar record, the return on Foles is expected to be around a third round pick. Chris Mortensen has mentioned the Jaguars, who have a need at quarterback and Foles’ former QB coach John DeFilippo as the offensive coordinator, as a potential destination. Foles is an okay quarterback, but given the rarity of any starter becoming available, a bidding war could break out and make it more interesting, even if the Eagles did wait a year too long to get a return on their Super Bowl-winning signal caller.
Watch what Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock do with three first round picks
In his first draft back with the Raiders, Gruden traded down from 10 to 15 and selected tackle Kolton Miller, perhaps the worst first rounder of 2018. Gruden added a third rounder in the deal that the team then used to obtain receiver Martavis Bryant, who caught 19 passes for 266 yards and no touchdowns last season.
Gruden next dealt Khalil Mack to the Bears and Amari Cooper to the Cowboys, acquiring two additional first round picks in this year’s draft, but those players also did plenty to make sure that those picks wouldn’t be in the top 20. Still, Gruden has three first rounders to work with — 4, 24, and 27 — plus a new GM in Mayock, a former NFL Network draft expert who has never worked in a front office and was last employed by a team as a player for the Giants in 1983.
Will they attempt to move up to one in order to secure a quarterback? Will they trade a pick for a veteran quarterback like Foles, who Mayock called a “franchise quarterback” in 2014? It’s a situation to keep an eye on from March to late April, even if it could end up being another Raiders disaster.
Watch the best defensive line draft ever
Most drafts have at least one compelling storyline, but it seems as though 2019 is all set up to be historic when it comes to defensive linemen. While there are a handful of quarterbacks who could potentially make a team panic and move up to the top, none of those prospects appear to be as uniquely talented as the defensive linemen we’re about to see join the NFL next season: Nick Bosa of Ohio State, Quinnen Williams of Alabama, Josh Allen of Kentucky, Rashan Gary of Michigan, Ed Oliver of Houston, Christian Wilkins, Dexter Lawrence, and Clelin Ferrell of Clemson, Brian Burns of Florida State, and Montez Sweat of Mississippi State are already getting top-10 buzz.
We might see defensive linemen go 1-2-3 at the top of the draft, be at least half of the top 14, and the league could see a record number of defensive players go in the first round. At the very least, this should make for one of the most interesting combines in that event’s history.
Watch the end of a quarterback era
The 2019 offseason could also mark some of the most dramatic changes at quarterback that we’ve seen for some time. Eli Manning’s future in New York is up in the air; Joe Flacco is all but out the door after 11 seasons with the Ravens as they start to build an offense around Lamar Jackson; Ryan Tannehill has spent seven years with the Dolphins but new head coach Brian Flores may look for an option who could have a higher ceiling. There are also the quarterbacks we’re all pretty sure aren’t returning as starters — Blake Bortles seems like a lock to be out the door, Alex Smith’s season-ending injury has his future in doubt, and no one is sure what to make of Derek Carr in Oakland.
Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, and Drew Brees are all nearing (or well beyond) retirement age, while Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston have been underwhelming with their fifth-year options approaching. There are a lot of interesting names on the way out and an inordinate number of starting jobs available, which will make for a fascinating March free agency period.
Watch and see if the NFL finally makes changes to instant replay
If Goodell had a complaint box for fans solely dedicated to officiating, it’d have to get emptied out every few seconds. Despite this, the NFL will gladly tell you that 98.9 percent of plays don’t get reviewed and most commonly they are just trying to figure out “What is a catch?” Just 37 percent of plays are overturned, but when the refs blow the most obvious pass interference in postseason history and there is no option to challenge, instant replay gets instant replayed again.
Fans say they want teams to be able to review obvious judgment calls like these, although former Cowboys executive Gil Brandt says that more changes like that could extend the games by too many minutes. “The biggest thing we’re trying to do is make the game better and yet make the game three hours and 10 minutes,’’ he said.
Goodell says that expanding replay will be discussed in the offseason, but didn’t make it sound like any drastic changes would be likely just because of the non-call in Saints-Rams, saying “our coaches and clubs have been very resistant, and there has not been support to date, about having a replay official or somebody in New York throw a flag when there is no flag.”
Watch non-NFL football
Want to actually watch live football this offseason? The league that will likely get the most attention is the Alliance American Football, because it will have a few recognizable names attached and they plan to be as close to the NFL rules as possible, with the hope being those players get opportunities to catch on again or for the first time.
Coaches include Steve Spurrier, Mike Martz, and Rick Neuheisel. Running back Trent Richardson attempts a comeback in the state of Alabama, where he’s playing for Birmingham’s AAF team. Michael Vick is the offensive coordinator for Atlanta. Jeff Fisher, Bill Polian, Charlie Ebersol, Hines Ward, and Troy Polamalu are all working as executives. And you don’t have to wait long to start watching football again: The inaugural season starts on Feb. 9 on CBS.
There’s also the National Gridiron League, a spring indoor league that begins on March 30, as well as the Fan Controlled Football League, which has partnerships with big NFL stars like Marshawn Lynch and Richard Sherman (as team owners), and an upcoming “community” oriented league called the Freedom Football League. Plus the Spring League opens on March 28.
Watch to see how much Le’Veon Bell signs for
2018 saw the NFL’s best running back get shut out of a long-term deal in the same year that an average QB got $84 million guaranteed, receivers Allen Robinson, Sammy Watkins, and Jarvis Landry all got around $15 million annually, and a 30-year-old Nate Solder got a record deal for offensive linemen. The league has made it very clear that, for the most part, they see all running backs as replaceable; the Rams gave Todd Gurley a four-year, $57.5 million extension and his near-total absence at the end of the year and Super Bowl hurt backs more than it helped them.
Bell reportedly turned down a deal worth $66.5 million over five years. In a 2016 song titled “Focus“, he said he wanted “15 a year and they know this” — keep in mind that Gurley is now at $14.3 million annually. The only other back who makes over $9 million annually is Arizona’s David Johnson, another contract signed in 2018 that looks regrettable.
So what is Bell worth and what’s he willing to accept now that he’s had a year to think about it? There’s no other way around it: By not playing on the franchise tag, Bell is out $14 million and it is highly unlikely he’ll get a deal near what he wanted.
Watch the Kyler Murray draft watch
There’s so much to be intrigued by when it comes to Kyler Murray, the Gatorade Player of the Year in 2014 after a career in which he went 42-0 with three state championships in Texas before enrolling at Texas A&M to play baseball and football. Murray eventually transferred to Oklahoma after one season, citing then-offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley as a big reason why.
He spent two years waiting for his turn, and in the meantime, the Oakland A’s drafted Murray with the ninth overall pick in the MLB Draft. The idea of Murray even having the option to walk away from that seemed unfathomable, because at 5’10 and 195 pounds, he’d be small even next to Russell Wilson. It’s not as though his NFL prospects were impossible, but could he really have a senior season that would put him in contention as a first round pick? It turns out he could.
Murray had a year on par with predecessor Baker Mayfield, throwing 42 touchdowns, seven interceptions, and winning the Heisman while leading the Sooners to a 12-2 record with a spot in the College Football Playoffs. All year long, Murray and agent Scott Boras said he was committed to the A’s, but as Boras later said, “When you win the Heisman Trophy, you’re going to have a lot of information come to you and be looked at.”
Murray will be the most exciting prospect to watch in 2019, from the scouting combine that begins on February 26 to the first round of the draft on April 25.