NFL Nation: Russell Wilson

Ryan Tannehill preps for nemesis Bills

September, 11, 2014
Sep 11
12:00
PM ET
DAVIE, Fla. -- Miami Dolphins third-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill owns career wins over Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts and even Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks.

Tannehill
But, surprisingly, the one team Tannehill has struggled most against throughout his NFL career is the Buffalo Bills. Tannehill is 1-3 against Buffalo, completing just 48 percent of his passes in those four games and averaging only 136.7 yards per contest.

Tannehill’s most recent outing against Buffalo was arguably his worst game. He was 10-of-27 passing for 82 yards in a 19-0 loss to the Bills in Week 16.

Tannehill will get to meet his personal nemesis when the Dolphins (1-0) travel to face the Bills (1-0) on Sunday. Tannehill knows he wasn’t his best in Week 1 against the Patriots but still put together a winning performance. He completed 18-of-32 passes for 178 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.

“We left a lot of plays out there. I left a lot of plays out there, personally,” Tannehill admitted. “Location of throws, missing throws, [I] had a couple of dropped passes. Details like that where we left a lot of yards and a lot of touchdowns out on the field. ... But you can’t leave that many plays on the field consistently and expect to win week-in and week-out. Definitely, we want to clean those details up this week.”


Tannehill will have to play better this week. Buffalo has found a way to batter Tannehill and force Miami's offense to be one-dimensional in the past. That was especially the case during last season's season sweep when the Bills' defense registered nine quarterback sacks on Tannehill in two games.

Those two contests helped convince Miami to do a major makeover of its offensive line via free agency and the draft. The Dolphins signed veteran left tackle Branden Albert to a $47 million contract, drafted rookie right tackle Ja’Wuan James in the first round and added center Samson Satele and veteran guards Daryn Colledge and Shelley Smith in free agency.

Miami had five new starting offensive linemen in Week 1, and the unit thrived against New England. The Dolphins had impressive balance with 191 rushing yards and 169 passing yards, which caught the attention of Bills head coach Doug Marrone.

“As far as just a unit, in general, they’re working extremely well together and I think that’s the most impressive thing,” Marrone said in a conference call with the Miami media. “They’re knocking people off the ball.”

Both teams enter this game with momentum. That sets up this interesting matchup of surprise undefeated teams where the winner will be 2-0 and in first place in the AFC East.

According to ESPN Stats and Information, 63 percent of teams that start 2-0 since 1990 have gone on to make the playoffs. Whoever wins Sunday will be well-positioned to end a lengthy postseason drought. The Dolphins haven’t made the playoffs since 2008, and the Bills have the NFL’s longest playoff drought dating back to the 1999 season.

“Very important just because we need to get this lead. We don’t need to be playing catch up,” Dolphins receiver Mike Wallace said. “We’ve been there before. We need to see how it feels to play as the division leaders the whole time. We can do that. We have the team to do it. We just have to continue to put in the work every single week, every single day."
SEATTLE -- You could tell Dom Capers was uncomfortable with the subject.

It was three days before the Green Bay Packers' season opener against the Seattle Seahawks on Thursday night at CenturyLink Field, and the team's defensive coordinator was holding his weekly session with reporters at Lambeau Field.

And he knows we know.

He knows we have seen it.

[+] EnlargeSeattle Seahawks, Russell Wilson
Elaine Thompson/AP ImagesSeahawks QB Russell Wilson is expecting the unexpected from Dom Capers' defense in Week 1.
He knows, as is the team's right per an agreement between the NFL and the Pro Football Writers of America, that we have been asked to keep any major scheme-specific changes out of our reports from practice.

The most Capers will admit to is there are unscouted looks in every NFL game in Week 1, when coaches finally unveil what they spend all offseason concocting in their offices but refuse to put on film for others to see in the preseason.

But anyone who has spent time around the Packers since they started workouts in April knows this one might be the granddaddy of all unscouted looks.

"Well, I don't think it will be any different from any opening game,” Capers insisted this week. "There’s always a few unscouted looks in opening games. That's just kind of the nature of our business, so I don't think it will be any different from other openers, really."

Really?

Let's talk about that after everyone sees what he throws at the Seahawks.

Maybe Capers will just send out his base 3-4 defense on first down followed by the nickel package (a 2-4-5 alignment) on second down and the dime on third down (a 2-3-6 look) like he did so often last season. But the Packers have no desire to field the 25th-ranked defense in the league again, so that's unlikely.

The Seahawks surely know something new will be coming their way, even if they're not exactly sure what.

"Well, you just have to trust your eyes, you have to trust what you see," Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson said this week. "I think that obviously Coach Capers, the defensive coordinator for them, is a great defensive coordinator and he knows so many different things and you just study and be prepared. I've played a lot of football games and seen a lot of a lot of different things and so you just try to trust what you see and let rip and be on time, be consistent with your eyes and be consistent with what you're trying to do."

That the Packers now have Julius Peppers, a rare high-priced veteran free-agent signing by general manager Ted Thompson, gives them flexibility on defense. Including Peppers, who will play outside linebacker rather than his old defensive end spot in the Bears' 4-3 scheme, the Packers have 11 linebackers and just five defensive linemen on their roster.

Clearly, there's a reason for so many linebackers and so few linemen.

"It'll be fun to see," Packers linebacker Clay Matthews said this week. "I know, as I've seen over the years and as Dom has shown, we keep a multitude of defenses and schemes and formations and this is a team that presents the very same problems, so we'll look to unleash it in Week 1 and hopefully it works in our favor."

Moment in Time: Fail Mary revisited

September, 3, 2014
Sep 3
2:00
PM ET
SEATTLE -- As painful as the play might have been -- and probably still is -- for Green Bay Packers' fans, the famous Fail Mary touchdown in Seattle nearly two years ago will always have a place in franchise and NFL history.

It will forever be a "Moment in Time," which makes it interesting to revisit the play through the key figures involved in one of the most controversial endings pro football has ever seen. You can do that by clicking on the link above.

What you will find is anger, jubilation, humor and much more from the play's central characters, including the official who made the touchdown call.

Here are some highlights from each:
  • Packers coach Mike McCarthy, who was standing next to team security head Doug Collins while the play was being review: "And I remember talking to Doug saying, 'Hey, they're not playing the replay here. We're going to be fine.' But I had this weird feeling. It reminded me a little bit of the Immaculate Reception. I remember [referee] Wayne [Elliott] comes walking out to the boundary, and I said to Doug, 'Holy s---. He doesn't have the balls to overturn it.' He was scared to death. He looked nervous."
  • Side judge Lance Easley, who made the touchdown call: "I said, 'Oh God, please when I get over to that pile, let someone have clear possession of the ball.' I got over there and looked down, and it was like a meatball with spaghetti wrapped all around it. … By rule, I got it right. By rule, there's nothing else I could do with it."
  • Then-Seahawks receiver Golden Tate, who caught the touchdown: "I actually have a bottle of wine signed by Charles Woodson that says 'Touch-ception' or something like that. M.D. Jennings signed a picture that I also have that says something, but I forgot what it says; I haven't looked at it in a while."
  • Then-Packers safety M.D. Jennings, who thought he intercepted it and said he signed autographs with the postscript "Screwed in Seattle" on pictures for Packers' fans: "It's what they wanted. I did it. The fans loved it."
  • Packers cornerback Sam Shields, who said he knew immediately who had shoved him as the ball was in the air (an act the NFL later said should have been called offensive pass interference): "It was Tate."
  • Packers cornerback Tramon Williams: "I'm looking at M.D., who's got it and has got it against his chest, and I'm saying to myself, 'We won the game.' And you look up at the referee, and you want to get that validation. You look up at the referee, and those guys are looking around like they don't know, and then they call it a touchdown, and it's like, 'No, no, this can't happen.'"
  • Seahawks coach Pete Carroll: "What I liked is Golden had the ball lying on the ground. I know he had the ball on the ground. When do you call it a catch? [Easley] looked down and that's what he saw, so he gave him a touchdown. It was a tremendous play by their guy and our guy, and that's the way he saw it."
  • Seahawks receiver Charly Martin, who also was in the scrum for the ball: "I take a lot of flak, being the white guy who can't jump, because there are some pretty good pictures out there where I am about two inches off the ground and everyone else is skyrocketing over me. I just tell them, 'Hey, they used me. They used me as a springboard.' I kind of boxed them out for Golden, and they pushed me down."
  • Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, the man who heaved the pass: "Everybody was a target. I was able to find a player in the back of the end zone and hit him."
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who played every snap in 2013 and turned in one of his best statistical seasons, is the team's highest-ranked representative on ESPN.com's list of the NFL's top 100 players on offense and defense.

Roethlisberger
The question is whether six quarterbacks are better than Roethlisberger, one of only three active passers to win multiple Super Bowls.

Roethlisberger is No. 28 on offense, two spots behind Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, who won the 2013 Super Bowl.

Despite throwing for 4,261 yards and 28 touchdowns -- and holding the Steelers together after a ghastly 0-4 start -- Roethlisberger somehow slipped four spots from his 2013 ranking.

The 11th-year veteran has already broken many of Terry Bradshaw's Steelers passing records and is one of only four quarterbacks in the modern era to win 80 games in 113 or fewer starts.

His ranking confirms what I have long thought about Roethlisberger: He doesn't get the recognition he deserves for what he means to the Steelers.

Maybe consecutive 8-8 seasons slightly dimmed opinions on Roethlisberger from a national perspective. Imagine, however, the losing the Steelers would have endured as they rebuilt their defense on the run without Roethlisberger, who is a franchise quarterback in every sense of the word.

That he is still playing at an incredibly high level at the age of 32 is the Steelers' biggest reason for optimism as they try to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2011.
Three takeaways from ESPN's #NFLRank reveal the top 100 offensive and top 100 defensive players in the league. Today: 21-30.

1. Receiver rep: If you told someone that the Houston Texans' Andre Johnson is the eighth-best receiver in the NFL, as #NFLRank placed him in 2014, you probably wouldn't get much argument. But if you asked for a preference between Johnson, the Cleveland Browns' Josh Gordon or the Washington Redskins' DeSean Jackson, you might very well get a different answer. Clearly, Gordon's off-field issues make it difficult to make an accurate projection for the short-term. All things equal, however, he is a better player at 23 than Johnson is at 33. You could make an argument Jackson should be ranked ahead of Johnson, as well. Although it's not his fault, the Texans' woeful quarterback situation for this season does not bode well for a big year.

2. QB comparison: The composite #NFLRank voter would take Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson over the Pittsburgh Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger (by a small margin) and the San Diego Chargers' Philip Rivers (by a bit more). Would you? There is no doubt that Wilson is younger, thus giving us fair reason to assume we probably haven't seen him yet at his best. He is a perfect quarterback for the way the Seahawks are constructed as a dominant team with an elite running back. On the other hand, what would happen if Wilson quarterbacked a team that relied on passing production to win, as both Roethlisberger and Rivers have done at times in their careers -- would he match them? It's at least a reasonable debate to engage.

3. Lavonte and Lovie: As he enters his third season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Lavonte David is already considered by #NFLRank voters to be the No. 25 defensive player in the NFL. His elite playmaking last season is especially impressive for a 4-3 outside linebacker, and there is plenty of interest and excitement around the league for how new Bucs coach Lovie Smith will use him in 2014. In Smith's scheme, it must be remembered, fellow outside linebacker Lance Briggs developed into one of this generation's best defensive players for the Chicago Bears. It's rare for an outside linebacker in any scheme to compile seven sacks, intercept five passes and defend a total of 10 passes in one season. David is versatile and should be a force for years to come.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – The Denver Broncos have made no secret they want to be more physical on defense in the coming season.

They want to do a better job slowing down opposing receivers, they want to disrupt the timing of opposing offenses and they want to get opposing pass-catchers out of their routes.

And yet they’ll have to do all that with the NFL’s officials looking, under the “points of emphasis’’ edict from the league, to tighten things up even more on defenses when it comes to illegal contact on receivers and defensive holding.

[+] EnlargeTony Carter
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsPenalties were a problem for Tony Carter and Denver's defensive backs last season.
“It’s hard on defense these days, man,’’ cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said. “They want scoring, they want touchdowns, you just have to see how they’re going to call things and go from there.’’

It is certainly a potential issue for the Broncos because when you combine defensive holding and illegal contact penalties the Broncos were tied for the league lead last season – with the Kansas City Chiefs – for those two fouls combined. Harris, who plays both on the outside and in the slot in the Broncos defense had four of the team’s 13 defensive holding penalties while Duke Ihenacho had three and Tony Carter had two.

In all it does mean a Broncos defense that is looking to be more rugged will have to find the line about how far it can go.

“My biggest thing is to really understand how they’re trying to emphasize and call it and make sure we’re teaching our guys, so we can play within the rules,’’ Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio said. “I don’t waste a whole lot of energy worrying about whether I like it or don’t like it. To me, it’s about helping our guys understand what they have to do to play well and spending your energy on that and teach and instruct. Hopefully, they get an understanding of how we can play within the rules and make sure we’re prepared to do that.’’

As part of the effort to show players and coaches what the officials will be looking at on that front, officials will visit each team in the preseason. Several of the league’s officials will be at the Broncos complex next week to break it all down during video sessions as well as on-field during several practices.

But the Broncos didn’t sign the likes of cornerback Aqib Talib and safety T.J. Ward in the secondary because they’re interested in playing back on their heels. Denver is looking to make life far more difficult for opposing receivers, who were too often allowed to get free releases off the line of scrimmage and run free beyond the coverage.

Some of the issues were traced directly to injuries – five defensive starters were on injured reserve by season's end, including Harris Jr. and safety Rahim Moore in the secondary alone. But many personnel executives around the league simply believed the injuries showed the Broncos didn’t have championship level depth and lacked team speed at the defensive skill positions once the second- and third-teamers were forced into the lineup.

Overall the team was 27th in pass defense in the regular season, surrendered an alarming 61 pass plays of at least 20 yards – an enormous jump from 38 such plays surrendered in the 2012 season – and data from ESPN’s Stats & Information group shows the Broncos allowed 58 completions on passes that traveled at least 15 yards in the air before being caught, tied for fourth most in the league.

The Broncos believe a healthy Von Miller to go with free-agent signee DeMarcus Ware in the pass rush will help significantly, given the best pass defense is often played by those defenses that are the most proficient at preventing the quarterback from throwing the ball.

Del Rio, however, said he believes the Broncos' defensive coaches have a good idea on what the boundaries are going to look like in pass coverage in the coming season. Asked Saturday if he felt like he had a good understanding of what would constitute illegal contact or defensive holding, Del Rio said, “I do, based on what I heard when they came through [earlier in the offseason]. [The officials will] be in next week, and we’ll get a better feel for it as they work with us in practice. It’s always beneficial for us.’’

Del Rio added: “You know there are things that are going to be emphasized. Depending on how that goes—if the emphasis results in a five hour game, then they probably would de-emphasize it. Again, I don’t think I need to worry about that kind of thing. It typically takes care of itself. We just make sure, as coaches, that we instruct the best we can so guys are well-prepared.’’

But it’s an issue that’s going to come up, and come up quickly, with quarterbacks like Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson, Carson Palmer, Colin Kaepernick, Philip Rivers and Tom Brady all on the Broncos’ schedule in the season’s first eight games.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- There are Pro Bowl selections and plenty of all-everything teams revealed in every NFL season. Some players are named, some are snubbed and the discussion on all fronts can be lively.

And then there's what Donny Moore does. Moore, who laughingly calls himself a "former sandwich artist who has had the greatest of opportunities, is a 36-year-old guy whose decisions are debated, sifted through and often even used as verbal barbs in not only living rooms across the country, but in locker rooms around the NFL."

[+] EnlargePeyton Manning
EA SportsIt comes as little surprise that Peyton Manning is ranked as the top quarterback in "Madden NFL 15."
That's because Moore has the final say about player rankings in "Madden," the wildly popular Electronic Arts video game. The 26th edition -- "Madden NFL 15" -- is set for release on Aug. 26.

And when it comes to the Denver Broncos' game, players will soon discover what NFL defenses did last season -- because quarterback Peyton Manning is at the top of the heap. Manning, who threw for an NFL single-season record 55 touchdowns and 5,477 yards last season on the way to this fifth MVP award, is tied for the game's top rating for quarterbacks at 98.

Moore gave Manning and Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers a 98 rating -- "it's a 0 to 99 system, there are no 100 ratings in the game," Moore said. New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees checked in at 96; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was rated at 93.

And while the debate rages around the league about whether Russell Wilson is a top-10 quarterback, Moore said he will be in this year's "Madden," as Wilson was also given a 93 rating.

Calculating Manning's rating, Moore said, was simply a matter of balancing past production, plenty of advanced metrics on the statistical side, and giving Manning the eye test.

"You're constantly looking at it, having your eyes on everything," Moore said. "It's not only what you see, relative to his peers, relative to the league, but what the metrics tell you as well. A guy like Peyton has such a long track record, from our standpoint it's going to take a lot to push that rating down any. A younger player's rating may be far more volatile ... But we update through the season and through the playoffs."

Moore said Manning's rating in the gaming world represents a complete bounce-back from the quarterback's return from spinal fusion surgery that caused him to miss the 2011 season, which are also the only games Manning has missed in his career. Since signing with the Broncos in 2012, Manning has started every game -- 32 regular-season games to go with four playoff games, with 92 touchdown passes and 21 interceptions.

"There were a lot of unknowns there when he came back, but the feeling was it would affect his throw power," Moore said. "We dropped him down to 84, 85 range, got back up to 89 in 'Madden 13,' I believe. And then to where he is now where we just looked at everything, throw power, awareness, all of those things."

Whether it be on Twitter or in person, Moore said plenty of NFL players have approached him about a ratings adjustment, and that speed tends to be the flashpoint from time to time.

"What usually happens is a big play will happen on Sunday and fans will start tweeting the player, 'Oh man, you did great, you need to talk to 'Madden' to get your rating up,' " Moore said. "And then they'll start following me and we'll go back and forth ... Guys always want to talk about their ratings, they're sort of 80 percent joking, 20 percent serious."

Moore said earlier this year, as he sat "in my cubicle at the office," he could hear Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, on site for a visit, questioning other staffers about how to get his speed rating adjusted. Moore said he then stepped over to meet the quarterback "and I look down and he's got a walking boot on because he just had surgery, so I was kind of going back and forth with him about how a walking boot would affect his speed."

"But in the end we want to just get it right," Moore said. "Whether it's a quarterback everybody knows like Peyton or a long snapper, we want to be right. We strive for perfection, we don't get it, but we always strive for it. But as far as Peyton, I've got a good feeling we're right on that one."
INDIANAPOLIS -- Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck is headed into his third season. He has played in three playoff games -- winning one -- and has had two offensive coordinators in his first two seasons.

Luck
Luck also has 22 regular-season victories, an arm, mobility and the will the win. That is why ESPN NFL Insider Mike Sando, with the help of anonymous league insiders Insider, views the Colts’ franchise player as a top-five quarterback in the league.

Luck is ranked higher than fellow quarterbacks like Manning. No, not that Manning, but Eli Manning, Russell Wilson, Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger.

The quarterbacks are broken up into four tiers. Luck is in Tier 1 with all future Hall of Fame quarterbacks. He joins Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers in that top tier. Impressive company for a third-year player.

Here is what Sando wrote about Luck:

"Luck doesn't have the track record of the other Tier 1 QBs, and there was a clear gap in the voting between him and the top four. But people in the league love him almost unconditionally, and 14 of the 26 voters insisted upon putting him in the top tier (each of the top four received 25 of 26 Tier 1 votes).

The evaluators think Luck has carried a subpar roster to a 22-10 record without much help. They see no limitations. They have zero doubt about his long-term stardom and felt strongly enough to give him 14 first-tier votes even while acknowledging he is below the Big Four at this early stage. Every other QB fell into the tier in which he received the most votes, and so shall Luck, even if his Tier 1 designation feels a bit premature."

The Colts' offensive line was atrocious Luck’s rookie season and only a little better last season. Luck didn’t have a reliable receiver to turn to outside of T.Y. Hilton after Reggie Wayne went down with a torn ACL in Week 7 last season. The running game? That was a problem, too.
IRVING, Texas -- When it comes to ranking quarterbacks, the debates can be endless and sometimes pointless, but Mike Sando took the question to people inside the NFL with his latest ESPN Insider piece. Insider

Romo
It might surprise some of you that Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo finished tied for eighth in the tier-rankings of 26 general managers, former GMs, pro personnel people, coordinators, head coaches, position coaches and an executive.

Four players tied for the top spot in Sando’s rankings, using a 1 for the best at the position and a 5 for the worst. Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees shared the top spot. Andrew Luck was fifth.

Romo checked in after Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger and tied with Russell Wilson and Eli Manning in the second tier.

Here’s what Sando wrote and the insiders had to say about Romo:
T-8. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys (2.23 average rating)

A few evaluators questioned whether Romo had the mind-set to play at the highest level consistently. It's a familiar refrain in league circles, a feeling that Romo is an undisciplined QB playing for an undisciplined organization with a poorly constructed roster.

"People want to knock him," one GM responded, "but the guy has talent and is one of the top 10 starters in the league."

Romo is 34 years old and coming off back surgery, but he still could be in line for a "monster" season, one evaluator said. "But I absolutely believe they will not win big with him. As soon as he decides it's a clutch moment, his brain goes elsewhere. He loses focus and tries to create something."




What’s funny is that the GM and evaluator have the same thoughts of those who love Romo or loathe Romo who are not on the inside. Pete Prisco of CBS Sports went so far as to call Romo “underrated” in his yearly rankings, which drew the ire of some.

The “clutch” talk has been a big thing around Romo since the bobbled snap in 2006 against the Seattle Seahawks in the playoffs. That talk is always followed up with Romo having the best fourth-quarter passer rating in NFL history (102.4) and his 20 come-from-behind wins.

Those numbers aren’t hollow, although with one playoff win to his credit that’s what his detractors will say.

That’s why this debate is a good one. Both sides can declare victory with their points. If Romo were to ever win a Super Bowl -- or perhaps just get to one -- then the perception would change entirely.
RENTON, Wash. -- It’s still a month before training camp starts, but Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson believes the team is in a better place now than it was one year ago before beginning a Super Bowl-winning season.

Wilson
“Right now I definitely believe we’re way further ahead,” Wilson said. “It’s exciting. You have an itch because you know how to do it at a very high level. And the best part about it is we can continue to do it better.”

Wilson is pleased with what he has seen from the newcomers, especially his rookie receivers Paul Richardson and Kevin Norwood. But more than anything else, Wilson wants to see improvement in himself.

“There’s a lot more ways we can be better,” Wilson said. “And there’s a lot more ways that I can get better. That’s the great part about it. I continue to try to stay focused on what I can control and continue to grow in every way possible.”

Wilson is only 25 and about to start his third NFL season, so it’s likely his best days are ahead, a surprising thing to say about a man who just won the Super Bowl. But he believes the best days lie ahead for many of his teammates.

“I think everybody feels that way,” he said. “We want to uplift each other. The biggest thing is staying connected throughout the offseason with everybody, making sure everybody is on the same page and still talking the same language in terms of how we want to be successful.

“Just trust in the process of learning. Trust in the process in getting prepared for a great season and see how far we can take it.”
ShermanMark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY SportsRichard Sherman says the Seahawks won't let their Super Bowl win affect their work ethic.
RENTON, Wash. -- Earl Thomas loves it now when people call him champ. He also must feel pretty good about a new contract worth $40 million.

Defensive end Michael Bennett has a new deal worth five times what his old contract was worth, and wide receiver Doug Baldwin has 13 million reasons (in dollars) to be content.

Quarterback Russell Wilson soon could become the highest paid player in NFL history.

Even for the lesser known players on the Seattle Seahawks roster, life has changed. The best table at the finest restaurants in town is a guarantee. Hotels offer upgrades to the best suite in the house.

There are new commercial endorsements and requests for public appearances. People who didn’t know their names a year ago now know their life stories and see them as heroes and community leaders.

Then there is the team's supercelebrity, cornerback Richard Sherman. Since winning the Super Bowl, Sherman was named one of the 100 Most Influential People in Time magazine, joined Wilson at the White House Correspondent Dinner, was asked to speak at Harvard, will be in a Campbell Soup commercial with his mom and will grace the cover of this season’s "Madden 15" NFL video game.

Oh, and he also has a new contract worth $56 million, after making $600,000 last season.

"It’s been unbelievable and a year to remember," Sherman said this week. "Winning the Super Bowl and all the accolades that came with it are wonderful. You get some perks. You go places where you don’t even expect people to know who you are, but they do.

"It feels good and shows you accomplished something and made an impact. You can never quantify what that means. You take it for what it is and enjoy the moment."

[+] EnlargeDoug Baldwin
AP Photo/Paul JasienskiWide receiver Doug Baldwin is among the Seahawks who received new contracts this offseason.
It has been quite a ride, and it can change a man once he reaches the pinnacle of his profession, receiving attention and riches beyond what he could imagine.

Such an enormous change on the ladder of success leaves one key question: Once you become a star, can you remain true to who you are?

The answer to that will go a long way toward determining whether the Seahawks continue to play the game at a championship level.

Will all the acclaim from winning the Super Bowl make it difficult to stay humble and hungry?

"No, because that never was the end goal," Sherman said. "We have a bunch of guys who want to be in the [Pro Football] Hall of Fame and do more things than just win one Super Bowl.

"I think it’s more about love for the game that allows us not to get complacent. We have Pro Bowl players out here acting like they’re fighting or a job. That’s who we’re always going to be."

The coaches say they haven’t seen a single indication that these players have changed their attitude from a year ago.

"When you see how hard our guys are working, you wouldn't know they just won the Super Bowl," offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. "The same work ethic is there."

Coach Pete Carroll said Sherman is a prime example because he hasn’t missed a single day of offseason workouts or voluntary practice sessions.

"I’m a ballplayer," Sherman said. "What else am I gonna do? When you’re a ballplayer in your heart, this is what you sleep, breathe and eat. I couldn’t imagine myself being anywhere else."

It’s about remembering where you came from. Sherman and Baldwin were among the overlooked and under-appreciated guys ... until now, of course. Angry Doug, as he is known to his teammates, said he has the same passion to prove himself. Sherman said he is still the kid who made good coming out of a rough Los Angeles neighborhood in Compton.

"I’m still the raggedy dog," Sherman said. "That never goes away. You can’t change how you were raised. You can teach and old dog new tricks, but you can’t change where he’s from."

Baldwin said it’s all about looking beyond where they are now.

"I think the guys we have on this team, all of them, want to leave a legacy that’s bigger than just winning a Super Bowl," Baldwin said when he signed his new contract. "Obviously everyone around us, the fans, the community, the city of Seattle, has shown that they’re extremely excited about us. But we’re just so anxious to get back to work."

In Monday’s practice, Thomas pulled aside a rookie and chastised him because Thomas felt he wasn’t playing at the proper tempo on every play. Then he patted him on the helmet and said, "Show me what you’ve got."

Thomas said one thing is never mentioned: winning the Super Bowl.

"It doesn’t matter now," he said. "It’s all about what’s next."

Carroll has been down this road before, although somewhat of a lesser scale, when his USC team won a national championship. He believes it’s his job to make sure the team’s attitude is in the right place.

"I take total responsibility for it," Carroll said. "We hope that the lessons we’ve been teaching all along will fit the situation that we’re faced with right now. We’re trying to monitor it really carefully. It’s an incredible challenge, but I love the challenge we have."

Carroll has a list of things he needs to see.

"For us as coaches, it’s about taking in all the information," he said. "How are the guys handling it? What’s their language like? Where’s their focus and are they tuned in? Making sure they’re not somewhere else and thinking about something else.

"If we start doing that, we won’t have a chance to be the type of team we’re capable of being. It takes discipline. I’m watching and listening for that discipline.”

Over the course of two seasons, the Seahawks went from commoners to royalty. Rich and famous has its advantages. It also has its disadvantages if one isn’t careful.

"Like they say, you never stay the same," Sherman said. "Either you’re getting better or you’re getting worse."

Baldwin said there is a reason beyond athletic skill why the Seahawks became champions. It’s the same reason why they will not allow their success to go to their heads.

"We want to show that we belong, that it wasn’t a fluke," he said. "We want to show we can go out and do it again. And we will do it again."
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- It is not uncommon for NFL contracts to become outdated in a hurry.

Someone is always signing a new deal or an extension to become the highest-paid this or the highest-paid that.

Rodgers
Rodgers
So when Colin Kaepernick signed his contract extension with the San Francisco 49ers last week, the initial reports suggested his deal contained more guaranteed money than Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the NFL’s highest-paid player.

On paper, Kaepernick signed a six-year, $114 million extension that contained $61 million in guaranteed money. But in this case, the definition of guarantee is a loose one.

As ESPN’s John Clayton pointed out in his weekend Mailbag column, Kaepernick's deal is much more of a pay-as-you-play contract than the five-year, $110 million extension Rodgers signed on April 26, 2013. Rodgers’ deal was loaded with real guarantees.

Rodgers' signing bonus of $35 million followed by a guaranteed roster bonus of $9.5 million that was paid this March and another one worth $9.5 million due next March brought his guaranteed money to $54 million in real dollars.

For those who were outraged that Kaepernick received more guaranteed money, a closer examination of the deal revealed that those were "soft" guarantees. Kaepernick's yearly guarantees don't become such until April 1 before each season, meaning the 49ers can get out from under the deal at any point without paying those so-called guarantees.

So for the time being, even though Kaepernick has the potential to collect more than Rodgers, it's not accurate to call him the higher paid at this point.

Perhaps the best measure when comparing contracts is a three-year window. Looking at it that way, here's a breakdown of the top quarterback contracts by average per year, according to ESPN Stats & Information salary data:
Three of the quarterbacks on the list -- Ryan, Cutler and Kaepernick -- signed their deals after Rodgers did his 14 months ago. In that time, Rodgers' contract has held up. He remains the highest-paid quarterback with a $22 million-per-year average over the life his deal.

Maybe Russell Wilson, the next quarterback likely to cash in, will surpass him. But Kaepernick's deal did not.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Like every NFL front office official, coach, player or fan, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck heard about San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick's new, lucrative $110 million deal.

Jones
Kaepernick
Luck
Luck, like he has always done, isn't worried about what that means for him once he's eligible for a contract extension next year.

"As a football fan I pay attention. I think it's weird to talk about other people's contracts,” Luck said during a meeting with the media at the team's complex Thursday. “It's weird. What's his business is his business, but as a football fan, you go 'that's awesome.' I got to know Colin in the Bay Area, so I'm happy for him. As it pertains to me and the future, it's for my agent to discuss. It's not the time or place to think about that.”

It's not surprising that Luck didn't have much to say about Kaepernick's new deal. The Colts quarterback doesn't operate like that. His focus is strictly on what it'll take for Indianapolis to take the next step in the AFC next season.

Kaepernick led the 49ers on deep playoff runs in his two seasons as the team's starting quarterback, including a trip to Super Bowl XLVII.

Luck, despite dealing with poor offensive line play and an inconsistent defense, has a 22-10 record and led the Colts to the playoffs in each of his first two seasons.

ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported Thursday that Luck and Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson could get deals between $24 million to $25 million a year when they get their new deals.
PHILADELPHIA -- It was a big offseason for Nick Foles. He went to the Pro Bowl, earning Offensive MVP honors. He got married. Meanwhile, all the Eagles' offseason moves served mostly to reinforce Foles' status as the team's new franchise quarterback.

In that area, next offseason will be even bigger for the 25-year-old Foles.


[+] EnlargeNick Foles
AP Photo/Brian GarfinkelNick Foles' next payday hinges on his performance under center for the Eagles -- not on Colin Kaepernick's new contract.
Under the rules of the NFL's collective bargaining agreement, the Eagles can't sign Foles to a new contract until after the 2014 season. That is good for the team in one sense. The team might have overreacted to Foles' 2013 season, handed him a lucrative new deal and then had to hope he lived up to it. This way, the team gets another full season to evaluate Foles in coach Chip Kelly's offense.

But then there's the Colin Kaepernick factor. The new contract handed to the San Francisco quarterback will set the market for Foles if he turns in another season at an elite level.

The Eagles' third-round draft pick in 2012, Foles has started 16 games over the past two seasons. He won nine of them -- eight in 10 regular-season starts last year under Kelly. In his two-year career overall, Foles has thrown 33 touchdown passes and seven interceptions (27 TDs and two interceptions last year), completing 364 of 582 passes (62.5 percent) for 4,590 yards.

Kaepernick has started 23 games, with a record of 16-7. In his three-year career overall, he has completed 382 of 639 passes (59.8 percent) for 5,046 yards, 31 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Kaepernick is more mobile, but Foles happens to play with the NFL's leading rusher, LeSean McCoy, in the same backfield.

The Eagles aren't getting the biggest QB bargain in the NFL. That distinction still belongs to the Seattle Seahawks, who won a Super Bowl while paying quarterback Russell Wilson less than the Eagles will pay backup offensive lineman Allen Barbre this year. Like Foles, Wilson can't get a new deal until after the 2014 season.

Unlike Foles, Wilson has a brand-new Super Bowl title on his resume. That would likely protect him against a disappointing 2014 performance. For Foles, proving that 2013 was not a fluke remains a reasonable box to have to check off before getting a massive new contract. After all, he was 1-5 as a starter in 2012, Andy Reid's final season in Philadelphia.

The Eagles have a history of taking good financial care of their quarterbacks. Donovan McNabb received a second contract worth nearly $100 million going into just his fourth season with the team. More recently, Michael Vick and Kevin Kolb should have no complaints about the way they were treated by the Eagles.

Foles' journey was different. He was never identified as the No. 1 quarterback until he was actually playing like one after Vick was injured last year. His excellent 2013 was all tied up with Kelly's first season in the NFL. It will take another season, at least, for Foles to establish his actual value among NFL quarterbacks.

As it happens, that's exactly when Foles will be in position to get paid like a starting quarterback. Ultimately, it will be Foles' performance in 2014 -- not Kaepernick or anyone else --- that sets the market for him.
A mega-contract shouldn’t be on his mind right now. Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III has other things to worry about: improving in the pocket, returning to the path he was on pre-knee injury, winning games.

Yet, after San Francisco's Colin Kaepernick signed his contract Wednesday -- receiving $61 million guaranteed, though the breakdown of the contract is favorable to the Niners making that guaranteed amount a bit dubious -- it’s fair to wonder what the other young quarterbacks might receive next spring. That is, if teams decide to give them a new contract rather than just extend their rookie deals by one year, which they can do with first-round picks such as Griffin and Andrew Luck. Russell Wilson? As a third-round pick he'll get a new deal.

[+] EnlargeRobert Griffin III
AP Photo/Richard LipskiRobert Griffin III has a lot to prove coming off a subpar season.
For Griffin, though, the path is less clear than it is with the others. Wilson won a Super Bowl, though Seattle’s defense was the star. But he’s also a good quarterback. Luck steadily improved and led his team to the playoffs his first two years.

It’s not a huge leap of faith to say Griffin will return to the path many expected him to be on pre-knee injury. He’s had a good offseason; he’s a year removed from surgery and ditched the knee brace and he no longer has friction with the head coach or offensive coordinator. Toss in the fact that Griffin has more explosive talent around him and it’s less of a stretch. He’s still a maturing player in many ways, but his drive is impressive. It would be silly to write him off after last season.

But he’s already had two ACL surgeries on his right knee and he still has to prove he can beat a team consistently with his arm. The read option is a nice change-up, but the long-term money is earned in the pocket. Yes, he’s also coming off a subpar second season. In fairness, the lack of an offseason hurt him considerably. The mistake made by many (myself included) was in thinking last August that it wouldn’t have the impact it did. I can tell you that while certain people were bad-mouthing Griffin behind the scenes late in the season, questioning his ability to improve in certain areas, those same people said not a word about these same things, say, in August. Not a word.

The Redskins don’t have to do anything with Griffin’s contract for a couple of years if they prefer. They could extend the deal next offseason (that’s what Carolina did with Cam Newton; he’ll receive $14.87 million this season) and then worry about the next contract after the 2016 season. By then they’ll have a great idea of where Griffin is headed.

It’s tough to compare Griffin to Kaepernick because the circumstances are different. The latter is 17-6 as a starter and 3-1 on the road in the postseason, having played in a Super Bowl. Kaepernick has a much better defense around him -- the Niners were a good team before he started a game. But he was hurt last year by not having good receivers. Griffin took a team that had finished in last place three straight years to an NFC East title. There were other factors, but he was a primary one, injecting a massive dose of hope.

Their stats are comparable. Griffin tops him in several areas, but Kaepernick has a better passer rating. In 29 starts, Kaepernick has completed 59.8 percent of his passes for 5,046 yards, 31 touchdowns and 11 interceptions for a 93.8 rating. In 28 starts, Griffin has completed 62.7 percent of his passes for 6,403 yards, 36 touchdowns and 17 interceptions for a 91.5 rating.

At 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds, Kaepernick is built for a long career. The concern some had about Griffin coming out of college is that, at 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds, he might not be durable. It's still up for debate. Both players are not finished products. Some of the knocks on Griffin -- the need to better anticipate throws, failing to throw to a player who appeared open -- are things I saw from Kaepernick and Wilson at times during the past season and postseason. It just didn’t hurt them as much because their teams could still win without them having great games. (Kaepernick, by the way, has three touchdowns, seven interceptions and a 1-3 record vs. Seattle).

Kaepernick did excel against the blitz this past season, something Griffin did not do after doing just that as a rookie.

But Kaepernick earned his money. The next wave of quarterbacks will soon be in position to get theirs. Whether Griffin gets that sort of cash is up to him, of course. Play well and the franchise that gave up a lot to get him will pay a lot to keep him around.

The Redskins have time to make a decision. But Griffin needs to lay a strong case for himself this fall.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Insider

NFL SCOREBOARD