Jon Gruden's gone and he's not coming back. That much was obvious as soon as the New York Times published its report Monday evening, and his departure was a matter of time.
Aside from the obvious denunciation of what Gruden said, I am fascinated by how folks outside of Washington are catching strays but Dan Snyder continues on as owner of the Washington Football Team.
Two thoughts, the first of which I shared Monday night on CBS Sports HQ: the league has access to 650,000 emails from over the years. We've seen a tiny fraction of those emails. The league has no interest in disclosing those emails and it likely never will, despite calls from all over to do just that.
On top of the Gruden leak, a separate batch of emails found their way to the New York Times Thursday night showing an unusually chummy relationship between NFL top lawyer Jeff Pash and former team president Bruce Allen. There's nothing wrong with the two being friends or even sharing political opinions, but the emails do open up Pash to questions of whether he could have used his position at the league to help a friend at an embattled franchise.
It's logical to assume there are other emails among the thousands that are as bad or worse than what Gruden sent. I don't find the Pash emails to be in that category, but the slow drip from some unknown source (or sources) shows that there's enough unsavory material in there to cause worry among those who may have befriended Allen. I know of a few journalists who called up some of the emails in a court filing this week to ctrl-f their name and see if they showed up.
"Everybody's freaking out because Bruce hung out with everybody," one source told me this week.
These hundreds of thousands of emails could equate to what the Russians call kompromat. This black box of sensitive information could be used at any time or no time at all.
Of course, the league is stating it did not leak the emails. It's certainly possible the league did not, and there's little reason the league would want to embarrass its top lawyer. But now it raises a whole new issue. If someone outside the league or Washington has access to 650,000 emails, then kompromat in some anonymous person's hands is even more dangerous!
Second thought: Folks I speak with around the league — as well as a basic understanding of how these things go historically in pro sports — think the next head coach of the Raiders will be a Black man.
The Raiders organization has a history of diverse hirings and the stain left by Gruden could motivate owner Mark Davis to make a diversity push. It's also the thought that Black folks regularly get the clean-up jobs.
"You know what's next," a source said this week. "Hire a Black head coach. Hire a Black GM. Hire a female executive."
I look forward to speaking about this more with Amy Trask, the former Raiders CEO and first woman to hold such a position in league history, on Sunday morning on CBS Sports Network's "That Other Pregame Show."
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Here in Philadelphia, you can feel the anticipation building. Three first-round picks in 2022? Three in the top 10?!?
OK, you can't really feel it in the air. But Eagles fans have reason to be excited about the future with their pick, Miami's pick and possibly -- maybe -- Indianapolis' first-round pick.
The Eagles will get the Colts' first rounder if Carson Wentz plays 75% of the regular-season snaps. If Indy makes the playoffs, that drops to 70%. So far this season, Wentz has played 99% of the snaps despite foot surgery during camp and two bum ankles during the season.
As one of my new favorite Twitter accounts notes, he's covered about 30% of all the Colts' expected snaps this season.
Week 1: 76/76 (100%)— Wentz Snap Count (@WentzSnaps) October 12, 2021
Week 2: 62/67 (93%)
Week 3: 61/61 (100%)
Week 4: 71/71 (100%)
Week 5: 67/67 (100%)
Season: 337/342 (99%)
30% of the expected 2021 Colts snaps
That means we're inching closer to Decision Time in Indianapolis with head coach Frank Reich and GM Chris Ballard. If the 1-4 Colts continue down this losing path, I believe they absolutely have to sit Wentz later in the season to preserve their first-round pick. The decision is obvious if the Colts are mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, but in the AFC South that may not be determined in time.
"Painful, painful loss," Reich said earlier this week after Indy fell in overtime to the Ravens. "We're early in the season. It's not as early as we'd like anymore, but it's still early.''
The Colts have the lowly Texans on Sunday. A win there would bring them to 2-4 on the season and second place in the division, a game or two behind the Titans depending on what Tennessee does against Buffalo.
What's the cutoff point? A chart from NFL Football Operations shows a team starting 1-4 in a 17-game season has a 13% chance of making the playoffs. A loss to the Titans in Week 8 would hurt Indy's chances of winning the AFC South since they'd lose the tiebreaker to the division leader. If they go 3-2 over the next five games and head into Buffalo in Week 11 at 4-6, they'd have a projected 16% chance at making the postseason. Is it worth it?
Further complicating matters is that Wentz is playing well this season. He's coming off one of the best games of his career Monday against the Ravens, throwing for 402 yards and two touchdowns. He's battled through aforementioned injuries that normally would sideline a QB for at least a week. After being one of the league's worst quarterbacks last year, he's solidly in the middle of the pack this year.
Once we get to mid-November, the Colts will be near their deadline. Either they go all-in on making the playoffs for the third time in four years and see their first-round pick go to Philly, or they pack it up with Wentz and let Jacob Eason take control after Thanksgiving.
It'd be a naked admission that the team is playing for the future and not the present, and I'm not convinced Reich or Ballard would be able to make that move. But it's a move that a GM and head coach fresh off contract extensions could have the comfort in making.
My first thought when looking at the early MVP race is... man, we have some great quarterback play this season already. We know this award is a QB award nowadays, and I'm mostly OK with that. If I had a vote, which I don't, and I had to vote today -- which no one has to -- and if you could do rank-choice voting -- please, Associated Press, make it happen -- this is what it'd look like.
When you lead the league in completion percentage, rank fourth in passer rating (113.0) and are the quarterback of the last remaining undefeated team in football, you get to be at the top of this list.
The 44-year-old is on pace to eclipse the 6,000-yard passing mark. It's insane.
Jackson is throwing the football better than he ever has. His league-leading rushing attack has been erased by injuries. His offensive line has been pieced together and his defense is middle of the road at best. Jackson's at No. 3 because of his value to this Baltimore team.
He shook off a slowish start by 2020 Josh Allen standards to be playing at an even higher level than last year. He'll probably climb in the coming weeks as Buffalo continues to mow down opponents.
Herbert has made some clutch throws on fourth down thanks to head coach Brandon Staley trusting his sophomore prodigy.
You can haggle over Dak being below Herbert here when he won in the head-to-head, but I'd say a dominant ground attack plus a much improved defense weighs against Prescott in the battle with Herbert for this award.
DeMaurice Smith's time as NFLPA executive director is coming to an end, but who will be his successor?
Smith's contract goes through March, whereby he'll likely serve one one-year term and exit in March 2023. That gives the player leadership group ample offseason time to identify the next executive director.
"He was transparent with us about his interest in moving on after this term, and for the stability and security of our union, he will work with our player leadership to ensure we have a succession plan in place for the next leader," the NFLPA said in a statement last week after Smith got the necessary 22 votes to prevent an open election in March 2022.
The CBA vote last spring was about as close as you can get, with 1,019 votes to ratify and 959 saying no. Since then, it seems players have decided this wasn't as good a deal for them as it could have been. The union's stance -- and it's correct -- is that if it didn't get the deal done when it did just days before the world shut down due to the pandemic, it would have been much worse for the players. That doesn't absolve Smith of not working to secure a better deal in the 18 or so months before the vote, but it's a legitimate point that has to be considered.
Nevertheless, I'm told the sentiment is players wish to get a former player back in the executive director post. Smith was hired as an outsider to follow Hall of Famer Gene Upshaw, and the thought is it's time to go back to the former player well. It's too early to say there's any leader in the clubhouse, but a few names were tossed my way this week as potential candidates should they be interested.
- Trace Armstrong, a super agent for coaches with Athletes First and 15-year NFL veteran, served as president of the PA from 1996-2003 and was in the running for the executive director job in 2009 when Smith was tabbed.
- Tony Gonzalez, the Hall of Fame tight end, was another name mentioned. He left FOX Sports this year to focus on an acting career.
- Anthony Gonzalez, who played for the Colts from 2007-2011, has opted not to run for re-election in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2022. The Ohio Republican was one of 10 in his party to vote to impeach Donald Trump following the Jan. 6 insurrection.
- Troy Vincent, a 16-year veteran who is now the NFL's EVP of football operations, served as president of the PA from 2004 until 2008. Vincent joined Armstrong on the short list back in 2009. He's one of few Black EVPs with the NFL, and he's considered to be a potential candidate for commissioner whenever Roger Goodell retires.
Week 6 picks
Week 5 marked my best week yet. I went 13-3 last week, with only the Raiders, Jets and Panthers letting me down. I'm now at 53-27 on the year, and let's try to be even better this week in what is a hard one to project. I, of course, took Tampa Bay on Thursday night.
Sunday, 9:30 a.m. ET
TV: CBS | Stream: Paramount+ (click here)
I don't trust either one of these teams. I certainly don't trust Urban Meyer to have his team prepared for the flight across the pond. But I really like the way Trevor Lawrence has improved since the first three weeks of the season. And when in doubt, go with the better quarterback.
The pick: Jaguars
Chargers at Ravens
Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
TV: CBS | Stream: Paramount+ (click here)
There are seven 1 p.m. games this week, and I usually watch all of them from CBS Sports HQ's setup in Stamford, Conn. I may keep both eyes on this game alone. I can't wait to see how many fourth downs the Chargers try in this one, and how Don "Wink" Martindale counters with his blitzing of Justin Herbert. As great as Herbert is playing right now, Lamar Jackson is playing even better.
The pick: Ravens
Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET
TV: FOX | Stream: fuboTV (click here)
As soon as I saw Chandler Jones was out of this game, I switched my pick. I had a bad taste in my mouth from Arizona last week in its close home win against the Niners, and I think Cleveland is much, much better than their 3-2 record indicates. Get ready to pop bottles, '72 Dolphins.
The pick: Browns