We’re five days away from kickoff at State Farm Stadium in Glendale. There’s a lot of news happening around the league and not just at the Super Bowl. Let’s get right to it …
• Aaron Rodgers told The Pat McAfee Show Tuesday that he’s planning to go on an “isolation retreat,” and hopes he’ll come out of the experience ready to make a decision about his future. Or something like that.
“It’s four nights of complete darkness,” Rodgers said. “I’ve had a number of friends who have done it and have had some profound experiences. It’s something that’s been on my radar for a few years now, and I felt like it’d be awesome to do regardless of where I was leaning after this season, so it’s been on the calendar for months and months.”
The Packers, meanwhile, are waiting with everyone else.
But as I see it, they’re in a much better spot now than they were the past two years, and that’s because where you could sense some concern about Jordan Love’s progress a year ago, now there’s at least curiosity and even optimism. And it comes at a time when the Packers will have a big decision to make on Love—the week after the draft, they’ll have to make a call on whether to pick up his fully guaranteed fifth-year option for 2024.
The price tag for Love’s option will be $20.27 million and, adding that to the fact that it would lock Love in for the next two years on Green Bay’s roster, certainly makes this offseason the natural point to turn the page on Rodgers and go to Love (interestingly enough, this is the same point, after the first-round pick’s third year, that Green Bay went from Favre to Rodgers). And from there, really, it’s just a matter of the Packers having the stomach for it.
• It’s interesting looking at the two Super Bowl teams, and the stark difference in how they’re handling the practice week.
The Chiefs had a fully padded practice Monday, a walkthrough Tuesday, and will have practices Wednesday, Thursday and Friday to prepare for Sunday’s game. Meanwhile, the Eagles didn’t hit the field Monday or Tuesday, will have a walkthrough Wednesday, then full practices Thursday and Friday. In both cases, my understanding is the teams are sticking to what’s worked for them, which makes sense.
That said, a Super Bowl going the wrong way always leads to second guessing.
• I found this interesting, too—the Chiefs have to bus twice to get to practice. First, they’re going from their hotel in Scottsdale to Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, which is where their locker room is located. Then, they’re busing from the stadium to Arizona State’s practice facility nearby.
Why not practice at the stadium? I’d heard that’s for security reasons, to keep their work from prying eyes on campus.
• With three months of picking apart Bryce Young’s height, weight and frame ahead, I figured it was worth checking in with another former Alabama Heisman winner about how that sort of thing turned out for him—and the lessons people should take from his case.
There was no scouting combine ahead of the 2021 draft, but DeVonta Smith did wind up weighing in at a medical combine that April, and landed at 6 feet and 166 pounds. Despite his size, the Eagles traded up and took him No. 10, higher than any receiver his size had been taken in modern NFL history. Two years into his career, he has 159 catches for 2,112 yards and 12 touchdowns.
“If you can play, you can play,” Smith told me Tuesday. “It all comes down to how you take care of your body. Football’s football. Football doesn't have a certain size, a certain weight [for players]. If you can play, you can play.”
Smith can, and interestingly enough, he says he actually hasn’t tried to put on weight—he’s the same size he was his senior year with the Crimson Tide.
“I ain’t trying to put on weight,” he says. “It is what it is, I know who I am; I know how to play at this size.”
• The 49ers’ hire of Steve Wilks as defensive coordinator makes sense, giving an elite, veteran unit an experienced play-caller to pull the strings, and giving Wilks the chance to showcase what he can do with a loaded group in hopes of getting a second shot at being a head coach.
So to me, the bigger question is whether or how much will change, after Robert Saleh ran the defense in San Francisco over Kyle Shanahan’s first four years, then handed the reins to DeMeco Ryans, promoted from linebackers coach, for the past two seasons. And after asking around, one thing that should encourage 49ers fans is that those who’ve worked with Wilks see him as a coach who will cater to the talent he has on hand.
And as for how he lines up stylistically, Wilks is probably less blitz happy than Ryans was (which is fine, especially when you have rushers such as Nick Bosa) on the front end, and has a strong Cover 3 background (with plenty of quarters coverage sprinkled in) going back to his time working for Ron Rivera in Carolina.
I also wouldn’t discount that the 49ers were able to keep defensive line coach Kris Kocurek. He’s one of the best position coaches in football, and should help meld everything together.
• The situation for Chris Harris, the former Bears and Panthers safety-turned-rising-young defensive coach, illustrates how funky this year’s hiring cycle has been.
Harris told the Titans a while back that, absent a defensive coordinator opportunity, he was leaving to take their defensive passing-game coordinator job. He interviewed in San Francisco for the job that went to Wilks. And Tuesday, the Titans announced his hire, even though Monday, Harris interviewed for the Texans DC job. Harris remains in the running for that one, along with Ryans’s former staffmate Cory Undlin and the Jets’ Marquand Manuel among other names to watch.
Meaning the Titans got their guy unless the Texans decide to go with him.
• While we’re there, the worst-kept secret in the NFL got out with the Titans’ announcement that Tim Kelly will replace Todd Downing as offensive coordinator. Kelly was with Mike Vrabel for four years in Houston, and served as the Texans OC for three years, including two under Bill O’Brien and Romeo Crennel and another under David Culley (tough to blame Kelly for anything that happened in his past couple of years.
• We mentioned Monday morning the possibility that Mike Zimmer could join Sean Payton’s staff in Denver, and his isn’t the only prominent name linked to Payton’s past that crossed my desk this week. Keep an eye on long-time NFL special teams coach Mike Westhoff to land some sort of role on that Denver staff. Nothing’s done, but there have been talks, and Westhoff would certainly add a lot of experience and institutional knowledge to the group that Payton is building in Denver.
Westhoff, 75, and a Dolphins and Jets assistant for decades, was last in the NFL in 2017 and ’18 with the Saints. So Payton would be luring him out of retirement, and I’m told Payton is the only coach for which Westhoff would consider such a move.
• And, finally, our best to the Pegula family. If you haven’t read Jessica Pegula’s column for The Players’ Tribune from Tuesday morning, you can find it here.