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NFL Insider Notes: What Urban Meyer will do for Jaguars and owner Shad Khan, plus division round picks

Less than a week after interviewing Urban Meyer on his yacht, Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan has landed the big fish.

Meyer will soon agree to a deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars to bring them back to relevancy with future franchise quarterback Trevor Lawrence. He becomes arguably the most high-profile college-to-pros coach in NFL history since Barry Switzer, bringing with him three national championships and a reputation of being able to build powerhouse programs.

The impending Meyer hire gives immediate legitimacy and relevancy to a moribund Jags franchise that not even the 2017 AFC title game appearance could earn it. No doubt Meyer will command a salary in the top five of all NFL coaches, but the billionaire Khan has considered that as an investment he will immediately get a return on via ticket sales.

Make no mistake: Meyer will have full control of the operation. He’s been assembling his coaching staff the last few weeks, as our Jason La Canfora has reported. And it’s thought that he won’t flip the insides of the team too much early on.

Meyer won’t try to bite more than he can chew in Year 1, and that includes hand-picking a GM. As of now, the expectation is Trent Baalke, who has been the interim GM since Dave Caldwell was fired and who has been coming into work every day since Doug Marrone was fired, will remain as the GM. Baalke has more than 20 years of NFL experience as a scout and personnel chief. He ran the 49ers from 2011-2016, where he and Jim Harbaugh took San Francisco to three consecutive NFC title games and one Super Bowl appearance.

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Along with interviewing Baalke, the Jags also interviewed Jerry Reese, Louis Riddick, Rick Smith, Ray Farmer and Terry Fontenot.

If Year 1 isn’t as successful as those in Jacksonville want it to be, Meyer can pull the plug on Baalke. Then, with a year of NFL experience under his belt, he can go after the GM of his liking.

But one thing that Meyer should demand—or, better, what the gravity of Meyer’s hire should demand—is more resources poured into football operations. Sources around the league told me in December the Jags have been on the cheap side when it comes to salaries and perks for members of the football operations staff. Longtime Jags defensive lineman Arby Jones petitioned Thursday for improved facilities for the entire operation.

Again, the money being spent on Meyer and football upgrades pales in comparison to the money Khan stands to make from Meyer simply being there, much less becoming a consistent playoff contender in the AFC South.

For years, Khan has been efforting Jacksonville’s local government for taxpayer funds for developments throughout the city. Just this week, the city council rejected a proposal for an entertainment district Khan is trying to build in Lot J outside of TIAA Bank Field. The deal would have seen the city give the private developers $208 million in cash, and the city council’s auditors believed the return on investment wouldn’t come anywhere close to a dollar-for-dollar deal.  

No matter what you think of public-private partnerships as they relate to local governments and sports franchises, there’s little argument that it’s easier for a winning franchise to get tax dollars than one that’s about to pick in the top-10 of the NFL draft for the 13th time in 14 years.

Haskins’ next stop

When the Washington Football Team released Dwayne Haskins less than three weeks ago, I braced for a waterfall of anonymously sourced stories ripping the 23-year-old quarterback. But they never came.

As it’s been told to me, Haskins isn’t a bad person. He’s simply immature and didn’t take his job duties as seriously as he should have. Staying close to home probably didn’t help, and his father, Dwayne Haskins Sr., had been a thorn in Washington’s side from the beginning. I also think it speaks well to the new culture at Washington’s facilities under Ron Rivera. The team, under its previous name and previous regimes, would have been quick to bury someone like Haskins.

So I wasn’t shocked when the Panthers kicked the tires on Haskins earlier this week, especially since that team should be evaluating every option at quarterback for the next four months. Whether he fits into Matt Rhule’s “culture” is something Rhule has to figure out.

One league source said he wouldn’t at all be surprised if Haskins winds up with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2021. Along with Pittsburgh’s obvious need to bolster its QB room, Haskins feels an affinity for head coach Mike Tomlin and hired Tomlin’s agent after parting ways with his own agent following his Washington release.

Someone will scoop up Haskins before the start of the 2021 season, and his future will depend wholly on his preparedness to be an NFL quarterback and all that comes with it.

The numbers are in… sort of

From the start of Week 1 of the 2020 NFL regular season to the day of the final game, the NFL saw 240 players test positive for COVID-19 and another 408 team personnel staffers test positive.

Those numbers come from the joint statements released by the league and NFLPA weekly, beginning with Sept. 6 and ending on Jan. 2. But fully contextualizing that can become tricky.

The league began its testing program on Aug. 1 during training camp, and since then they’ve administered more than 900,000 tests. If you include the positive cases from camp and the 25 total positives from players and personnel during wild-card weekend, you’d get a positivity rate of .075% when looking at total positives against tests.

If you want to look simply at how many players and staff tested positive for COVID-19 relative to how many are in the league, that percentage gets closer to double digits.

Each week, about 2,400 players and 4,600 personnel staff members were tested daily. The personnel group would have remained mostly unchanged, save for some coaching changes throughout the season and random firings and hirings of lower-level positions. The 2,400 player group changed plenty, though. Teams culling the bottom of their roster and practice squads makes finding exactly who got tested every day of every week very difficult. Were there 3,000 people who ultimately got tested in the player pool, with a few hundred coming and going from team to team or getting cut? More? Less?

Additionally, we don’t know how many players and personnel contracted the virus from March until the start of camp. We don’t know for sure how long the antibodies last, so we can’t safely assume someone catching the virus in June couldn’t catch it later in the year.

But just taking the round (and probably low) number of 7,000 players and personnel tested daily from the start of Week 1 to the end of the season, the 648 positives represent 9.2% of the league catching the virus. The 240 player positives out of 2,400 players would be 10% and the 408 personnel out of 4,600 staffers would be 8.9%. But again, it’s likely those percentages are slightly lower.

Odds and ends

  • Did you also have to stifle laughter when Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie talked Monday about his recent involvement in football decisions? “I would say my involvement has been the same for about 25 years. I think that what I tend to do is to ask a lot of questions and to understand where we’re coming from strategically and performance-wise.” Ask former offensive coordinator Mike Groh and former wide receivers coach Carson Walch, both of whom were fired last season shortly after Doug Pederson met with Lurie at the end of the season, whether Lurie just asks a lot of questions.
  • The Washington Football Team has put in requests to interview 49ers VP of player personnel Martin Mayhew and Titans VP of player personnel Ryan Cowden. Along with internal candidates Eric Stokes and Kyle Smith, WFT will likely also interview former Texans GM Rick Smith if he’s still available. Former Panthers GM Marty Hurney would be the leader for the job today.
  • In normal years the NFLPA releases the projected salary cap figures for the next season around the time of the Super Bowl. That’ll probably be delayed a few weeks as both sides try to figure out the financial fallout from the pandemic. We know the cap floor is $175 million, and the union will soon be releasing the cap rollover numbers. For planning purposes, a prudent team shouldn’t expect anything more than $175 million plus their carryover for 2021.

Division round picks

Rams at Packers

4:35 p.m. ET, Saturday, FOX

I’m salivating at this matchup between the Packers offense and Rams defense. QBs have a 61.9 passer rating when throwing at Jalen Ramsey this season, so Aaron Rodgers beware. But the Pack were playing amazing football in December, had a week off and get to play at home against a team with an injured quarterback and injured defensive tackle.

The pick: Packers

Ravens at Bills

8:15 p.m., Saturday, NBC

I want to pick the Bills so badly. I actually think they’re the better team, and if they win I’ll hardly be surprised, especially if they get to play in wintry weather. Josh Allen is a much more accurate quarterback than he was in 2019 when he completed just 43.6% of his passes against a suffocating Ravens defense, and he has Stefon Diggs now to help make the Baltimore D play more zone. But I was let down by Buffalo’s rush defense in the fourth quarter against the Colts, where they gave up three runs of 20-or-more yards. That won’t do against the best rushing offense in the league.

The pick: Ravens

Browns at Chiefs

3:05 p.m., Sunday, CBS

Spoiler alert: I won’t be picking against Patrick Mahomes this postseason. What the Browns did last week was astounding, but Pittsburgh was waiting to be knocked out of the playoffs. The Chiefs are built for January, and as long as they take care of the football (which they haven’t done so well in the closing weeks of the season), they’ll win this one by 11-plus points.

The pick: Chiefs

Buccaneers at Saints

6:40 p.m., Sunday, FOX

This is the 33rd time a 2-0 team faced the loser a third time in the playoffs, and that winner has gone 20-12 in the previous matchups. That’d bode well for the Saints if this was the same Bucs team from Weeks 1 and 9. But Tom Brady has his deep ball now. Tampa has to be better on second downs to avoid impossible third-and-long situations against this Saints defense, but I think they can pull off the upset in the Superdome.

The pick: Buccaneers




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