There’s piping hot cocoa on the stovetop.
There are stockings hung above the chimney next to the bay window- you can see snow falling from the dark Nantucket sky.
A toasty fire crackles below a 4K television playing New England Patriots game-film. Who is sitting at the kitchen table, construction paper laid out with a pen in hand?
Why, it’s Patriots coach, Bill Belichick. He writes,
“Dear Santa, I’m very grateful for all of the Super Bowls you’ve given me throughout the years; six is more than anyone has ever won, and I’m very fortunate. I know Tom had to leave to Florida, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t stopped trying to be a good boy. I tried to settle with Cam for at least this year, but he can’t throw the ball and it just isn’t working out. I’m not asking for Trevor Lawrence or a shiny gold rookie that will win MVP’s for the next decade, but what I want for Christmas is just a competent replacement that I can coach. A Matthew Stafford or a Matt Ryan maybe? I could even try again with Jimmy Garoppolo if I’m asking for too much. That would make for the best 2021 ever. Best, Bill”
The New England Patriots are just one of several teams that are going to be faced with some hard questions in regards to who will be quarterbacking the team next season. The Pats aren’t bad enough to have a top-tier draft pick to build around a rookie, currently projected to pick at #15 overall, and I doubt Bill will want to start over from the development standpoint.
With the Newton signing looking like a swing and a miss, the Patriots will have the third-highest cap space available in the offseason to pursue a veteran free-agent quarterback, whether it be through a signing or a trade with the freedom to eat up a big contract. The Patriots have proven that barring the COVID opt-outs and Belichick at the helm, they could be a Stafford, Ryan, Garoppolo, or Derek Carr trade away from being back in the playoff conversation.
With many moves potentially looming this offseason, let’s take a look at what some teams could be asking Ol’ Saint Nicholas for this holiday season.
Group 1: Dashing to the Draft
New York Jets, Jacksonville Jaguars, Carolina Panthers
These organizations are the ones that are going to in all-likelihood be poised to get a nice, young-pup rookie to groom and be the future face of the franchise. This group is in clear need of a drastic restart in the right direction and want the season to end as soon as possible. The Jaguars and Jets are going to pick 1 and 2 easily as it’s been a race to see who can lose more, meaning Darnold could be moved out of New York and Gardner Minshew will probably just be an electric backup. One of the other will lose enough games to Santa’s liking to get Trevor Lawrence out of Clemson and the latter will probably pick Justin Fields at #2.
The Panthers signed Teddy Bridgewater to a 3-year deal last offseason, and he’s been serviceable enough to keep them competitive in games they lose. I suspect they’ll take a rookie since they’ll have a nice pick and keep Teddy as a veteran backup to mentor him.
Present Under the Tree Candidates: Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, Trey Lance, Zach Wilson, Mac Jones
Group 2: Trying to Make the Nice List
Denver Broncos, New York Giants, Chicago Bears, Washington Football Team
I’m not going to argue against winning games- that’s why you play the sport; however, these franchises keep looking like they’re going to bottom out and make Santa’s Nice List, the list where you get a top-tier draft pick like a Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields, and then they win a game or two and talk themselves into a future that will go nowhere.
The Giants were 1-6 and could’ve easily stayed near the bottom of the league, but now that they’re in playoff contention, the team is suddenly back in on the Daniel “Dimes” Jones bandwagon. Drew Lock is so up-and-down on the Broncos that Denver just writes it off as “he’s still young.” The Washington Football Team could very well make the playoffs with Alex Smith, but he is playing with a BIONIC LEG. The Bears can’t decide between who is worse: Mitchell Trubisky or Nick Foles, and they keep talking themselves back to committing to one when they perform better than the other guy.
I know there have been successful quarterbacks taken with mid-to-late round picks, but these teams blew their chance at putting together a losing performance where they could draft whomever they want and signal to ownership that major changes are needed. They’re all winning down the stretch. It’s Al Pacino in Godfather III: “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.” In need of youth, they’ll either have to take a risk on a quarterback with a less-than-optimal pick or roll the dice with the current situation for another season.
Present Under the Tree Candidates: Trey Lance, Zach Wilson, Mac Jones, Kyle Trask, A STOCKING FULL OF COAL
Group 3: Wishing Upon a Star
Detroit Lions, Atlanta Falcons, Minnesota Vikings, Las Vegas Raiders
We’re just going to have to see how big of a risk these teams that have underperformed are willing to take if they want to have a complete change of the guard. Quarterback isn’t the problem, but getting a big haul to flip the script and clean house might be a potential move should the right offer be made. Blowing up the entire timeline could be foreseeable should the front office get desperate.
Matt Stafford has been in Detroit’s purgatory, Matt Ryan is on a cursed Atlanta team, Kirk Cousins is getting overpaid to look average on a young team with a ton of holes, and Derek Carr and his coach are the odd couple that might need to split All of them have value as veterans and are serviceable enough for a potential contender missing the final piece to take on their contracts and package draft capital or roster depth and put it under their tree. A rebuild through the draft from a blockbuster trade could be on their wishlists.
Present Under the Tree Candidates: Any quarterback in the draft
Group 4: They STILL Believe in Santa
Pittsburgh Steelers, New Orleans Saints, Indianapolis Colts
The writing is on the wall for this group: the magic of Drew Brees, Big Ben, and Philip Rivers is fading fast and a move is inevitable within the next year or two. Brees has broken half his ribs (and I doubt Taysom Hill will take over; I don’t care how many times Sean Payton says he’s Steve Young), Ben has to treat his body like fragile glass after coming off of surgery and threatens to retire in his walking boot every time he loses a game, and Rivers has to throw with a flick of the wrist to get the ball to travel past the first-down marker at this point.
However, the rest of the Pittsburgh, New Orleans, and Indianapolis rosters will still be stacked enough next season to the point where they could be motivated to make a big splash by wishing for a veteran, a free agent, or a young quarterback like Carson Wentz who might have been given up on.
Present Under the Tree Candidates: Carson Wentz, Sam Darnold, Dak Prescott, Jimmy Garoppolo, Jameis Winston, Derek Carr, Cam Newton
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