NFL coaches, scouts and executives spend millions of dollars and countless hours every year trying to identify the few special quarterbacks who can win Super Bowls.
As if all those resources are needed to determine that if Aaron Rodgers is available, you should go get him.
And yet the Jets essentially were the only team in the Rodgers trade market during the offseason. How?
It’s easy to forget that there once were concerns about Rodgers’ age (39 years old), his health (a broken thumb last season) and his commitment (he considered retirement) now that training camp is here and Rodgers is doing and saying all the right things.
When he isn’t making great throws at practice or taking a $35 million pay cut to create salary-cap space for other players to join the championship chase, he is encouraging Zach Wilson or teaching Sauce Gardner how quarterbacks think.
Seven teams added a quarterback with at least a chance to start in the offseason. Some went younger, some went cheaper and some went familiar.
The Jets went bold and look as if they will be rewarded for not overthinking the decision the way that some others who sat out the Rodgers sweepstakes did.
As NFL preseason games get underway in earnest Thursday night, here is a look at how big of a boost 11 teams — four of which likely will turn to their former second- or third-stringers — will get from an anticipated quarterback change since last season.
Jets: Rodgers replacing Zach Wilson
Joe Montana led the Chiefs to the AFC Championship Game after leaving the 49ers, and Brett Favre led the Vikings to the NFC Championship Game after leaving the Packers and tolerating a one-year layover with the Jets. That’s not going to satisfy Rodgers, who wants to join the Peyton Manning-Tom Brady class as Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks for multiple teams.
The Jets had a playoff-caliber roster without a viable quarterback — an NFL-worst 56.9 percent completion rate — last season. Now they have a Super Bowl-caliber roster because of Rodgers.
Saints: Derek Carr replacing Andy Dalton
In a wide-open division, the Saints should have a seismic advantage over their three NFC South rivals at the most important position.
Carr is coming off his fourth Pro Bowl selection — first since 2017 — but he actually was statistically better across the board in leading the Raiders to the playoffs in 2021.
Rodgers might be more vocal about proving the Packers wrong, but Carr feels no shortage of motivation to make the Raiders pay for their disrespectful late-season benching that led to his free-agent departure.
Texans: C.J. Stroud replacing Davis Mills
There are exceptions to every rule, but more stud quarterbacks are found at the top of the draft (Stroud was the No. 2 overall pick) than uncovered as mid-round gems (Mills was a 2021 third-rounder). Mills went 5-19 as a starter in the impossible spot of being forced to play earlier than expected because of Deshaun Watson’s unavailability.
Stroud is drawing rave reviews for his ability to improvise out of the pocket. The Texans also should have a much-improved team around him.
Colts: Anthony Richardson replacing Matt Ryan
The full-fledged disaster didn’t happen under Ryan (4-7-1) as much as it did after he was benched the first of two times, Jeff Saturday was named interim head coach and Sam Ehlinger and Nick Foles combined to go 0-5. The trio combined for a league-high 20 interceptions.
Richardson was cast as the boom-or-bust prospect in the draft, but it seems he already is taking big steps from one practice to the next. Assuming he beats out Gardner Minshew, Richardson will be a regular on weekly highlight reels with effortless deep throws and athletic runs.
But what does he do in between the highlights? There is concern he will force the issue rather than live to play another down.
Panthers: Bryce Young replacing Baker Mayfield
All three quarterbacks from last season — Mayfield, Sam Darnold and P.J. Walker — have moved on after the Panthers gained the second-fewest first downs through the air (138) in the league last season. It’s Young and Dalton battling.
It makes sense that Young already has drawn praise from Rodgers after joint practices with the Jets because word out of Alabama was that Young always was pushing the envelope as a film junkie who would come to meetings with a list of suggestions and “Why?” questions. It sounds a lot like what is said about Rodgers.
Raiders: Jimmy Garoppolo replacing Carr
If the Raiders were all-in on trying to lure Tom Brady in free agency, why didn’t they pivot to Rodgers when Brady retired? Is head coach Josh McDaniels that rigid about having a quarterback experienced in his system? Rather than the best available player who would’ve certainly loved to reignite his connection with receiver Davante Adams?
The durable Carr started 142 of his first 144 possible games. Garoppolo is less turnover-prone but more injury-prone, suffering three season-ending injuries in the past five years.
49ers: Brock Purdy replacing Brock Purdy?
Purdy went 5-0 as a regular-season starter, and had the offense humming over 30 points per game last season after injuries to Lance and Garoppolo. The former third-stringer is the favorite to retain the starting job, as long as there are no hiccups in his return from offseason elbow surgery.
The most interesting quarterback battle in the NFL has devolved from a three-man race to start into the two-man race between last year’s Week 1 starter Trey Lance and Darnold to be the backup. The edge so far seems to belong to Darnold as Lance faces fading into oblivion.
Packers: Jordan Love replacing Rodgers
The Colts were gifted a transition from Peyton Manning to Andrew Luck, and then underwent four years of chaos. The Packers were gifted a transition from Favre to Rodgers and then … who knows?
Love waited three years under Rodgers and head coach Matt LaFleur for his opportunity to start, so he should be way ahead of the rookies in terms of understanding where to go with the ball in the offense.
But what impact will three years of rust (one start and 83 career passes) have on his performance? Cornerback Jaire Alexander told Love to “wake up” after an interception in practice, so let’s call his camp a mixed bag so far.
Buccaneers: Mayfield replacing Brady
Replacing the G.O.A.T. is an unenviable job. Mayfield has the self-confidence and experience handling adversity for the job.
He just isn’t good enough — as seen by the Browns, Panthers and Rams all giving up on the former No. 1 overall pick within the past 18 months.
Two years ago, the Bucs had Brady and offensive guru Bruce Arians at the helm. You have to wonder whether Arians still would be the head coach — instead of conservative decision-maker Todd Bowles – to mold Mayfield’s talent and develop second-year quarterback Kyle Trask if Brady had retired one year sooner.
Commanders: Sam Howell replacing Carson Wentz
The Commanders almost would have had to not try to fail at improving over last year’s situation of Carson Wentz and Taylor Heinicke.
Well … somehow the Commanders didn’t address the position with a trade, a free agent better than journeyman Jacoby Brissett or a high draft pick. Howell made one start as a rookie third-stringer drafted in the fifth round. He is now supposed to grasp the Eric Bieniemy offense crafted for Patrick Mahomes’ special abilities. Predictably, there already is griping about the playbook in Washington.
Cardinals: Colt McCoy replacing Kyler Murray
Murray isn’t expected on the field until at least September as he recovers from a torn ACL, which means McCoy gets the chance to start the season. He is 4-7 as a starter for three teams since 2018.
Whenever Murray returns, he will face a lot of pressure to quickly regain his old form and convince a new regime not to use what will be a high-first-round draft pick on a quarterback. The Cardinals averaged a league-worst six yards per attempt last season … and that number could drop lower.
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Josh Hart’s big Knicks payday is regular Wednesday in NBA
Keep watching football, but put a basketball in your toddler’s hands.
The Knicks agreed Wednesday to sign Josh Hart to a four-year, $81 million extension that will keep him under contract through the 2027-28 season at the five-year total of $94 million.
The consensus reaction to the deal seems to be that the Knicks got a bargain on an energizing role player, especially when compared to the overpriced deals secured by nine-year journeyman Jerami Grant (five years, $160 million with the Trail Blazers) and lightning rod Dillon Brooks (four years, $86 million with the Rockets).
So, an average of $20.25 million per year is the NBA’s going rate for 10.2 points, 7.0 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.4 steals per game — Hart’s averages over 25 regular-season games with the Knicks.
It’s also the price tag for Hart’s plus-11.9 net rating (the Knicks outscored opponents by 11.9 points per 100 possessions when he was on the floor) that ranked No. 38 in the league after the in-season trade that brought him to New York.
Meanwhile, in the NFL, the past two season rushing leaders — the Raiders’ Josh Jacobs and Colts’ Jonathan Taylor — are holding out of their respective training-camp practices over contract disputes. Saquon Barkley — the Giants’ best offensive playmaker — settled for a one-year, $10.1 million contract that amounts to about half of the average annual salary for the Knicks’ sixth man.
If you think it’s just a running back issue, there are just nine receivers, four offensive tackles, one offensive guard, seven edge rushers, eight defensive tackles and one cornerback in the NFL who will earn more per year than Hart’s deal will pay — and that’s assuming the full value of non-guaranteed NFL contracts.
No running backs, centers, linebackers, safeties or specialists are being paid as handsomely as Hart to play a sport in which the body endures much greater trauma.
NFL players recognize this problem. They know how their contracts pale in comparison to those fully guaranteed deals signed by their brethren in the NBA — or even MLB, where Yankees castoff Aaron Hicks (seven years, $70 million) signed for $5 million more guaranteed than the biggest contract Odell Beckham Jr. ever received in his prime.
It’s a problem that might never be fixable for the NFL Players Association given the size of a football team’s roster compared to other sports and the shorter shelf life and urgent earnings window for most of its members.
But for a fan of the Knicks and Giants? Hart, like Barkley, let it be known publicly that he wanted to stay put and call New York home rather than seek the highest deal elsewhere in free agency.
Think about how ironic it is then if you are one of the many who considers it a bargain to pay $20.25 million per year to a player with Hart’s résumé, but was willing to cut ties with the two-time Pro Bowler Barkley and change the Giants’ entire offensive identity rather than budge a little and pay him $13 million per year.
This is the Yankees’ pitching plan?
In Brian Cashman’s first season as Yankees general manager, the No. 4 starter in the rotation was Orlando Hernandez, who would become one of the great postseason pitchers of his era.
In Year 2, it was All-Star, former Cy Young Award winner and two-time 20-game winner David Cone.
Denny Neagle, Ted Lilly, Jeff Weaver, David Wells and Javier Vasquez — a group of viable major-leaguers with 1,537 combined career starts — had turns filling the job over the next few years.
In Year 26 of the Cashman era, the job belongs to … the bullpen.
The Yankees’ decision to start reliever Ian Hamilton as an opener over a healthy Luis Severino in Wednesday night’s game against the White Sox was the correct choice.
Severino’s 11.22 ERA over his past six starts was non-competitive at a time when the Yankees need to win every game to make up ground in the playoff race.
But Severino was just as brutal being deployed in “bulk” relief, allowing four runs in two-plus innings in a 9-2 loss.
The decision was the latest proof of how far the Yankees have fallen.
Their starting pitching plan for the stretch run appears to be Cy Young Award front-runner Gerrit Cole, Nestor Cortes fresh off of the 60-day injured list, Clarke Schmidt — who wasn’t good enough to stick in last season’s rotation — and two bullpen days every time through the rotation. Maybe a Triple-A call-up like Randy Vasquez, Jhony Brito or Clayton Beeter mixed in. Maybe Severino as a middle reliever to eat innings.
That’s the ugly reality facing the Yankees because Domingo German will not return this season while undergoing treatment for alcohol abuse, Frankie Montas (zero games this season) and Carlos Rodon (six) are on the injured list, and Severino can’t keep the ball out of the stands.
It’s a mess of their own making because they ignored various warning signs of each player’s unreliability.
Any credit the Yankees deserve for not just stubbornly sticking with what wasn’t working or for constructing a bullpen deep enough to have an alternative is offset by the idea that this can’t be the best that a $297 million payroll can buy.
Or by the sense of longing fans feel for Denny Neagle, Ted Lilly and Javier Vasquez.