Lawrence: Carousel Ride

From coaching hires to quarterback questions, the NFL's wild and crazy reality-show ride never stops

Amy Lawrence
January 08, 2019 - 7:19 pm

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January always creates a strange dichotomy in the NFL. After Wild Card weekend, eight teams are still vying for the Super Bowl. But even as those franchises prepare to kick off in the Divisional round, eight other teams are working to find and/or integrate new head coaches. Throw into the mix another handful of teams making critical resolutions about their starting quarterbacks, and the league generates a flurry of activity in the first month of 2019.

The coaching carousel is already spinning full tilt. The Packers and Browns got a head start on their wish lists, and they were first to conduct a rash of interviews. With Green Bay plucking Matt LaFleur from the Titans, the Buccaneers luring Bruce Arians out of retirement, and the Cardinals taking a flyer on former Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury, the dominoes are dropping. Cleveland remains in the throes of decision-making, while Denver considers a pair of finalists. However, any interested party can strike New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels off the list. He says he's staying put after his one interview with the Pack.

Far more intriguing to most football fans is the annual rendition of QB musical chairs. After the Eagles' fourth straight postseason win, complete with a go-ahead touchdown in the final minute, Nick Foles is at the center of the 2019 quarterback carousel. Eleven months after he sparked Philadelphia to the first Super Bowl title in franchise history, he's at it again. Since taking over for an injured Carson Wentz in Week 15, Foles has been at the helm through four consecutive wins, three of them against division winners by seven points or fewer! His poise and ability to stay in the moment are uncanny; his character and leadership set the tone for his locker room. His love for his teammates and Philadelphia makes him unique and also muddies the future.

With his success over the last two seasons, Foles could land a starting job elsewhere in the league. The Dolphins, Jaguars, Redskins, Broncos and Giants *may* all be in the market for new quarterbacks. And with a draft that's not heavy on potential, free agency is the easier fix for any team swapping starters. Foles' success under pressure on football's grandest stage certainly creates a dilemma for the Eagles. They can pick up his $20 million option for next season and keep the NFL's best back-up on their roster. But with the team committed to Carson Wentz as the starter and already facing salary cap concerns, how does the front office justify that price for the "second" quarterback? They can attempt to trade him, though most other teams will see right through that strategy; or they can release him and allow him to dictate his own path. After everything he's meant to Philadelphia in the last two years, Foles has EARNED the right to choose! There is no Vince Lombardi trophy without Foles; there is no return trip to Divisional weekend without him. If he wants to stay, the Eagles should pay him. If he wants to play somewhere else, the Eagles should let him walk without making him repay his $2 million signing bonus. It's also worth noting the special relationship and trust between Foles and head coach Doug Pederson that stretches back to 2012 when Pederson was part of Andy Reid's staff. He was the only QB coach who traveled to Arizona to see Foles work out. Their bond is a major factor in Foles' success. Will he find the same compatibility if he moves on? Whatever the future holds, it should be HIS choice to make.

Of course, the other NFL teams with quarterback questions are watching carefully and considering the various options. The Giants have Eli Manning under contract through next season, though they could ask him to restructure. Manning has zero desire to play outside of New York, which means he'd likely take less money even as the team tries to find its next QB with the sixth overall pick. The Jaguars are reportedly planning to part ways with Blake Bortles. They're slated to choose seventh, but will they chase a quicker veteran fix? The Broncos are still deciding if they want to ride with Case Keenum into the second year of his deal. And how will the new coach factor in?

In Miami, owner Stephen Ross fired coach Adam Gase in part because of his commitment to the oft-injured Ryan Tannehill. If the QB remains on the Dolphins' roster for 2019, he's owed $26 million  a steep price for a guy who's missed 25 games in the last three years. Ross is in rebuild mode, and Miami holds the 13th pick in the Draft. The Redskins face a ton of uncertainty after the gruesome broken leg suffered by Alex Smith. He still has three years left on his contract, but he may never play again. Joe Flacco will either be traded or cut, so he and his 11 years of experience are available.

Even as the postseason drama unfolds and intensifies toward a climactic ending, the plot thickens behind the scenes for the best reality show in sports. With teams catapulting from worst to first in their divisions every year, the groundwork laid in the spring and summer months are the first steps toward success in the fall and winter. Hang on for a not-so-relaxing carousel ride!

A well-traveled veteran of sports radio and television, Amy is the passionate host of CBS Sports Radio’s late-night program, After Hours with Amy Lawrence, from 2-6am ET on the nation’s largest 24/7 major-market radio network. Listeners can tune in from Canada and overseas, thanks to SiriusXM, cbssportsradio.com and the CBS Sports app. Amy has also handled basketball play-by-play and color duties for various radio and TV outlets over the past 15 years. Amy graduated from Messiah College with bachelor’s degrees in Communications & Accounting before earning her master’s in TV & Radio from Syracuse University. She is a native of Concord, NH.

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