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Thoughts & Jots: From Hue Jackson to Joe Flacco to Aaron Rodgers

Things on my mind

Miami Dolphins v New York Jets Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

1. The Cleveland Browns offense is quite bad while the defense is quite elite. Not solving the QB situation has been a season-long issue. If and when Joe Flacco starts, that would be their fourth starting quarterback this season.

Last year the NFL broke the record for the most starting quarterbacks in a full regular season. The record was 64 set in 2007 and was tied last year. But going into the final week, the Bears started Nathan Peterman while Sam Howell of Washington got his first start to up the mark to 66. Just 11 of the NFL’s 32 teams started the same quarterback in every game last year.

However, the 66-QB mark wasn’t the most in any given NFL season. The strike-impacted 1987 campaign is the only season that saw more quarterbacks earn starts. That number had 87 different quarterbacks who started at the position.

2. Speaking of Flacco, here are some stats that you may not be aware of. He is 10-6 in playoff games including winning an AFC Championship Game and a Super Bowl. Tom Brady had 82 career losses compared to Flacco’s 81. Brady’s lifetime completion percentage is 64.3%, Patrick Mahomes is 66.0%, and Flacco’s is 61.6%. With yards gained per completion, Mahomes comes in at 12.3 yards, Brady had 11.5 yards to Flacco’s 10.9 yards. Mahomes’ completion percentage in the playoffs is 67.9, Brady’s was 62.5% and Flacco’s is 56.6%.

Flacco took first-team reps on Wednesday. Browns’ OC Alex Van Pelt stated this to Scot Petrak of Browns Zone:

“I think there’s still a lot left in the tank. Yesterday would solidify that for me. Just watching him with the accuracy and the velocity, the footwork, and everything that he showed yesterday.”

Van Pelt then added that he thought Flacco still had an elite arm.

“If you put it on a scale of one to five, I’d say he is a five. His ball flight and his velocity on the ball at every level of the field are very impressive. He threw some balls on the scout team last week and the guys in the back were kind of fired up.”

3. The Arizona Cardinals have released veteran TE Zach Ertz. Should the Browns try to get him? He will go through waivers and if not claimed will become a free agent and can sign with any team. He has stated he wants to go to a playoff contender. Ertz is in his 11th season with 106 starts, 7,247 yards on 682 receptions with 45 touchdowns. He is also a good blocker and has lost four fumbles. He is a Three Time Pro Bowler and owns a Super Bowl ring.

A quick peek at the current stable of tight ends for Cleveland reveals a sad tale indeed. Neither Harrison Bryant nor Jordan Akins has done anything to write Grandma about. David Njoku leads the team in receptions but has been pass drop-happy lately. Harrison’s stats this year five starts, five receptions for 12 yards, and two touchdowns. As far as Akins, he has three starts, six receptions for 45 yards and zero scores. Ouch. Akins makes $1.035 million, Bryant $1.01 million, while Ertz brought in $4.4 million for the rest of this season if he is claimed. If he becomes a free agent, his contract disappears. At the same time, the Cardinals dumped Ertz, they signed former Browns DE Ben Stille to their practice squad.

4. Did you see where former Browns head coach Hue Jackson was fired as the head guy at Grambling State? Yes, he had all those losses while with Cleveland, but what ended my respect for him was as a well-known quarterback whisperer, he had his pick of rookie QBs and drafted QB DeShone Kizer from Notre Dame in the second round. One disastrous season later, he traded him. I thought his QB-guru status was that he knew which quarterbacks were good and which weren’t, and at least the bad ones he could solve. He went 8-8-0 with the Oakland Raiders, 3-35-1 with the Browns, and then had seasons of 3-8-0 and 5-6-0 with Grambling. His total head coaching record is a paltry 19-58-1. Maybe he was instructed to lose those games. Ha!

5. Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic recently shut out the Vegas Golden Knights 3-0. In the post-game interview in the Pens locker room, a fairly large gathering was around his locker after the home win. He answered questions - in a Myles Garrett jersey. As he talked about the shutout, it should be noted that he plays for a Pittsburgh franchise, so what’s the deal? A bandwagoner? Digs Myles Garrett? He grew up in Parma, Ohio, and has been a lifelong Browns fan. He was the 37th pick overall in the 2014 NHL draft by the Carolina Hurricanes.

6. An arrest warrant has been issued in Dallas for Buffalo Bills player Von Miller for allegedly assaulting his pregnant girlfriend. This was confirmed by the Dallas Police Department where Miller was from. Police responded to a major disturbance call, with the preliminary investigation showing that Miller and the woman got into a verbal argument and that he allegedly assaulted her. Details of the alleged incident can be found here.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Buffalo Bills Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images

After Miller’s junior year at Texas A&M, he could have come out and would have been a first-round pick. But he chose to stay and help his alma mater attempt to win a National Championship instead. He accepted an invitation to the Senior Bowl with a grade of the 10th overall pick. Usually, the Top-15 do not participate in the Senior Bowl because a week of poor play will only drop their status. So, him being at the prestigious All-Star game was surprising, and after a stellar week was the second overall pick of the Denver Broncos. I was able to interview him at the same time as Scott Wright who owned Draft Countdown. One question raised was, what Miller saw himself doing after he hung up his cleats. His answer: “Raise chickens.”

7. Here are some numbers for the Browns’ offense. Stefanski’s play calling on non-obvious passing downs is 24 run plays (58.5%) and 17 passing plays (41.5%). Dead last in passing rating the last five games (65.8), fifth worst in passing completions (217) and passing yards (2,218), dead last in passing completion (55.5%), second worst passing touchdowns (9), fifth most interceptions (13), sixth worst passes to convert for first downs (103), and eight most sacks on their quarterback (33). Only a single game has this offense topped 200 yards. Team rushing attempts for their worst outputs: 107 (Denver), 78 (Tennessee), 93 (Baltimore), and 96 (Pittsburgh).

8. Jet QB Aaron Rodgers came one step closer to playing again this year when he returned to practice on Wednesday. He was cleared for “functional football activity” but not for any sort of contact. Which QBs don’t see any contact in practices anyway. He participated in a series of QB drills during the open portion of practice. His return is just 11 weeks after his surgery to repair a torn Achilles. That is absolutely amazing. The word from the coaching staff is that it is still too early to see whether he plays this year or not.

Miami Dolphins v New York Jets Photo by Perry Knotts/Getty Images

My thoughts are if the Jets have any chance of a playoff spot and he can hit the field, then he will play. If they are out of the playoff race, they will can him until next season and not risk another injury. Rodgers was cleared by team doctors and Los Angeles-based surgeon Neal ElAttrache, who is monitoring Rodgers’ rehab from afar. The Browns play the Jets December 28 on Thursday Night Football which could fall into his return schedule. For now, by rule New York has 21 days to decide whether to activate him from IR which expires on December 20. By then the franchise should know what their post-season status is. At 4-7-0, the Jets are currently the 15th seed with a 1% chance of making the playoffs.

9. Who will win the Browns’ Offensive MVP? My money is on K Dustin Hopkins. If the Cleveland offense was able to score more touchdowns, we might not be talking about Hopkins at all. But many a drive has been stalled and head coach Kevin Stefanski does not hesitate to trot him out there for another three-pointer. He has scored 99 points which is 41% of Cleveland’s offensive scoring. He is Number 1 in the league in field goal attempts (31), field goals made (28), and converted kicks of 50+ (7-7). He also has the fourth-longest field goal made (58 yards), has converted 28 of 31 attempts, is 15 of 16 PATs, and has a 90.3% field goal conversion rate. You hear that whirring noise? That is the Pro Bowl committee etching his name on his first Pro Bowl nod. By the way, Cade York was released from the New York Football Giants recently.

10, This one is new. Miami Dolphins WR Tyreek Hill, who is my choice for this year’s league MVP, is covering the salary of cameraman Kevin Fitzgibbons. What? Why? It seems that in Week 6 against the Carolina Panthers, as Hill was going through a touchdown festivity, the 20-year-old Fitzgibbons gave Hill his cell phone to use in the celebration. The NFL has relaxed its celebration rules quite a bit over the past few years, but the use of a prop remains a no-no. Hill then did a backflip holding Fitzgibbons’ phone with the camera on. The clip was posted to social media and went ballistic. The problem is, the league suspended Fitzgibbons for the remainder of the season. On Thursday, Hill told reporters he would pay Fitzgibbons’ salary for the rest of the year.

Fitzgibbons had gone online and attempted to explain his situation. And why wouldn’t he give his phone to Hill? Even though Fitz is part of the NFL universe, he is as also a fan of the game and was approached by one of the league’s greatest talents with a visual treasure that will last forever. Who doesn’t wish that was us instead? That is a lasting memory. By the way, the phone celebration was not planned.

The league’s stance was they felt Fitz had to be disciplined and that he should not have jumped on the sidelines after the play. Fitzgibbons was frustrated by the stiff punishment. In an odd twist, the league used the clip on their social platforms.