NFL insider notes: Eagles believe Jalen Hurts is the answer, plus Bruce Arians goes out on his terms

One must be careful and diligent when putting too much stock in what is said in press conference settings this time of year, especially. But spending some time around Eagles coach Nick Sirianni during his media session at the just completed NFL owners meetings, I came away convinced he is all in on seeing if Jalen Hurts can be the team’s long-term solution at quarterback.

It was already a very telling offseason for the Eagles. They are loaded with three first-round picks, and the uber-aggressive front office, lead by general manager Howie Roseman, never got really involved in any of the myriad of QB pursuits that dominated this offseason in the league. Deshaun Watson was never in play due to the voluminous allegations of sexual assault or misconduct against him, and many others weren’t viewed as a significant upgrade. In general, the vibe around the team — which rode a fearsome defensive line and dominant run game to a surprising playoff berth in Sirianni’s rookie season as head coach — has been that this 2022 year would be spent building around Hurts, giving him as much as possible to succeed, and then weighing their options later if they need to be.

“I couldn’t be more excited about Jalen Hurts,” Sirianni said, gushing but coming off extremely sincere, “the type of player he is and the type of person he is. … He knows he’s our guy and we show him that with our actions day in and day out.”

Pretty strong stuff.

As best I could always tell, from probing around, is that they were very inclined to lean into the young quarterback, add talent, and be best able to evaluate him for the long haul by the end of this season. And that very well looks like it will be the case. He is not the most quarterback, but he is conventionally driven and dedicated and his teammates him love him and his leadership and love of the game shine through. If it doesn’t work out, for whatever reason, the 2023 quarterback draft class is already drawing rave reviews. But I certainly wouldn’t rule out Hurts showing enough promise to stick around, as this coaching staff continues to learn about him and put him in the best position to shine.

Arians went out on his terms

Congratulations to former Bucs coach Bruce Arians, who made the transition to taking on a far less stressful and demanding front office role this week. Arians overcame significant health challenges to return to the sidelines and punctuated his unique and distinguished coaching career with a Lombardi Trophy in Tom Brady’s first year with the team.

Even heading into that Super Bowl, following the 2020 season, there were strong whispers among those in the coaching fraternity who know Arians best that he could opt to step aside at some point prior to 2021, with defensive coordinator Todd Bowles set to take over. It would have surprised few had BA opted to move to a new role then. He ended up trying to win back-to-back trophies, before announcing his decision to his players, and the world, Wednesday night.

The Bucs are in great hands with Bowles at the helm — it’s shameful he didn’t get hired elsewhere as a head coach in the past few years, frankly — with Byron Leftwich and Brady still in place on offense. Arians’ indelible imprints remain all over the roster, and coaching staff, and the style of play. I don’t expect a ton to change, with Arians free to enjoy his afternoons more fully now, but still a fixture at the team facility. The coach who enjoys life fully, and knows how to have a good time, will have more time to do so now.

The Glazer family couldn’t have hoped for any more than his tenure provided. The Bucs remain one of the premier teams in the NFC. Brady, quite likely, will contend for another MVP. Arians just might end up with another ring, anyway.

Arthur Smith expected Brady return

At least one of the Buccaneers’ NFC South foes never believed there was a chance it would face that team without Tom Brady on the roster. Falcons coach Arthur Smith was adamant that THE GOAT wasn’t going anywhere — no matter how many statements about retirement were made on social media, etc.

Smith adopted this approach going into the NFL Scouting Combine — when Brady was traveling with his family and the Bucs were evaluating potential quarterbacks in this draft and free agent and trade options to possibly replace him — and says he never wavered. He never passed his sniff test. He knew Brady would be back (much to the chagrin of the rest of the NFC).

“I never thought he retired,” Smith said. “He was playing at a high level. … Tom’s playing as well as anybody in the league. I think I said that at the combine.”

So the Falcons, at least, never contemplated a project of the 2022 season without Brady in it. And, as one who appreciates quarterback play at the highest level, Smith said he thinks it’s for the betterment of all that Brady is not walking away from the game while still producing at such an elite level.

“You want to compete with the best,” Smith said. “You want the best players out there. It’s good for the game.”

Agreed, but be careful what you wish for. Tampa is going to have that top seed in its sights, and will be able to stack wins against much of the rest of this division. Maybe not with Kyle Trask; definitely with Brady.

McVay sees Dolphins offense taking off under McDaniel

The Sean McVay/Kyle Shanahan coaching family tree continues to sprout new roots, as former assistants join the head coaching ranks at a rapid rate. I have been very impressed with every meeting I’ve had with new Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell, who has a chance to win right away in a watered-down NFC, and while Mike McDaniel faces a more daunting gauntlet in the loaded AFC , I really like the additions the Dolphins have made and believe they can improve quickly.

McDaniel has spent much of his career under Shanahan but worked with McVay and Shanahan in Washington early in his tenure, and the Super Bowl-winning head coach has been watching what Miami has done thus far (particularly moves that should immediately energize a long lethargic run game) very closely.

“There is a real clear vision there,” McVay said of the moves Miami has made to upgrade the offensive line and add top-end speed across the skill position groups. Consider him bullish on the Dolphins’ offense transforming in 2022.

“It’s going to be fun to watch the Dolphins’ offense operate with him,” McVay said.

More insider notes

  • Kirk Cousins ​​is going to be a fantasy football monster this season. The Vikings have plenty of key pieces on offense, an improving offensive line, and what could be a fearsome pass-rushing duo on defense. That’s more than a good enough starting point in that conference. Former coach Mike Zimmer has become a subject of scorn within that building, and Kevin O’Connell’s energetic and abundantly positive mentality will make a huge impact there. And, again, unlike a lot of the NFC, they have players. “There’s no question there’s some really good pieces in place,” O’Connell said. Looks like a playoff team to me.
  • It was another turbulent offseason for the Washington Commanders, with off-field issues and ugly allegations against owner Daniel Snyder continued to cloud the franchise. Convincing top talent on the open market to come to this long-dysfunctional team ain’t easy — even under new management — and the days of Snyder obliterating other offers to cajole free agents to come there are long ago. “We’re trying to make people understand, why not come to us?” coach Ron Rivera said. “We’ve got a solid offensive line, a 1,000-yard running back, a 1,000-yard wide receiver. We’re trying to make people understand there is an opportunity to be successful here.” Gonna have to re-recruit dominant receiver Terry McLaurin to stick around to eventually woo others there, and with receiver salaries going bonkers this month, that challenge has only intensified. This negotiation is massive for the organization.
  • The Steelers clearly do not have a quarterback equipped to compete with the abundance of transformational QBs now stacked in the AFC. But, true to form, coach Mike Tomlin isn’t blinking. “I love the challenge, to be quite honest with you,” Tomlin said. “It makes this game great.”
  • Was super impressed listening to new Giants coach Brian Daboll speak about the human element of his game, of being mindful to put himself in the position of the young players in this game and of his evolution as a leader from spending time coaching at Alabama. For all of the X’s and O’s, Daboll believes “empathy” is as important as any coaching trait. Giants may have finally found the guy to lead them out of the doldrums.

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