- John Clayton, NFL senior writer
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One of the better debates brewing in the NFL this year involves the executive of the year.
Like most of the awards this year, there are great battles. Should John Elway win it for getting Peyton Manning? What about Ryan Grigson, the general manager of the Indianapolis Colts? He drafted Andrew Luck. That was easy. But he drafted plenty of offense and did well. Plus, he changed about 37 players on the roster and now has the team on the verge of making the playoffs.
And you can't forget what is happening in Seattle. General manager John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll gambled a third-round choice on Russell Wilson and hit a home run. Wilson has been phenomenal. On top of that, first-round pick Bruce Irvin has eight sacks and second-round pick Bobby Wagner is in the hunt for defensive rookie of the year.
I lean toward Elway. Sure, it's easy to look back and say he won the AFC West with Manning, but he had to gamble $18 million of Pat Bowlen's money with no guarantee that Manning could be great after four neck operations. But that's only part of the story.
Elway found a way to resolve the Tim Tebow problem. Tebow may not be an accurate quarterback, but he is popular. Too popular. Tebowmania wore down a pretty good quarterback in Kyle Orton. When John Fox put Tebow into the starting role, it may have been painful watching the offense, but Tebow won games.
I'm sure Tebow fans wondered how anyone would think of replacing him after he won a playoff game over Pittsburgh. Elway didn't blink.
Elway thinks in terms of Super Bowls, not 8-8 seasons. Getting Manning prevented the Broncos from falling into a future of offense mediocrity and put them in the Super Bowl hunt if he stayed healthy. Even better, Elway was able to get trade value for Tebow, who went to the Jets. Tebow made headlines in New York, but the Jets are out of the playoffs for a second consecutive year.
The Colts gambled big by not keeping Manning, but that decision goes more to owner Jim Irsay. He's got the leading candidate for rookie of the year with Luck. He has the story of the year in how the team rebounded from the temporary loss of head coach Chuck Pagano, who is recovering from leukemia. He has the potential coach of the year in interim coach Bruce Arians.
Still, Elway made the single biggest acquisition of the year. The fact that it has worked means he deserves the award.
From the inbox
Q: I just read a quote by Larry Fitzgerald Sr. referencing that his son should get out of Arizona. With Larry Fitzgerald's roots in Minnesota do you see a scenario where the Vikings trade with Arizona to bring Fitz in? They are in desperate need of wide receivers and he would be worth a high draft choice!.
Troy in Menominee, Mich.
A: I don't see that happening. What would be great for Minnesota would be horrible for Arizona. The Cardinals need a new quarterback, but what good will he be if there aren't enough good players to catch the ball? The Cardinals are fortunate that Fitzgerald is such a person. He isn't going to push for a trade. He wants to live up to his contract. They just need to find another quarterback to throw to him.
Q: I hear a lot of talk about the Dolphins letting Jake Long walk. I don't buy it. If Jonathan Martin pans out I would still think Dolphins would franchise Long anyway. They have the cap space and they will not be an expensive player in free agency. You don't let a 27-year-old, four-time Pro Bowl left tackle just walk away. If anything, franchise him -- then work a trade. Teams like Chicago, Green Bay and Arizona would fall all over themselves for a chance to acquire him.
John in Raleigh, N.C.
A: You may be right. Long was considered the face of the franchise since being drafted by the Dolphins in 2008. Injuries have affected him. Franchising him might be the best solution to see whether he can get back to the Pro Bowl level. It would be great if the Dolphins could bid for a free-agent receiver like Dwayne Bowe, Greg Jennings or Mike Wallace. Franchising Long could make that difficult. Unfortunately, the Dolphins have a lot of key free agents they need to re-sign. But left tackle is such an important position, the Dolphins have to consider finding a way to keep him.
Q: As a die-hard Lions fan trapped in Chicago Bears-land it has been a frustrating season, to say the least. My question is what are the chances that the Lions rid themselves of Jim Schwartz? He is undisciplined, hot headed, provides little to no accountability, plays favorites, has one winning season in four years, and lacks what is needed to get Detroit over the top. Am I the only one who feels as though he has reached his ceiling with the Lions? Please tell me there is a chance someone in the organization feels the same way I do.
Justin in Martinsville, Ill.
A: This season has been a major disappointment, but I still believe Schwartz deserves more time. Remember that he took over a winless team. He has been a big force in building it toward last year's playoff run. You're right about the accountability issue. You're also right about the team's lack of discipline. I still look at Schwartz as a coach who is still learning. At least he has had the success in building something from practically nothing.
Q: I would love to see the Redskins make the playoffs this year, but even if they do, they are not a Super Bowl team. With the return of Brian Orakpo, Adam Carriker, Brandon Meriweather and Tanard Jackson, I believe the defense will be much improved next season. What other personnel moves do you think the Redskins need to make to be considered contenders next season?
John in Washington
A: I agree that they don't have the look of a team that can win three games to get to the Super Bowl, but wouldn't it be fun to see them get into the playoffs and take their shot? It's a fun team with Robert Griffin III. Winning the NFC East would also serve notice to the division that the Redskins will be a force for years to come. I think they need more help at cornerback. They need to work on the offensive line. They need to start looking for help at inside linebacker. But at least the Redskins have a quarterback to build around.
Q: With all the talk about the Eagles getting a whole new staff, is Chip Kelly really that good a prospect? I know he's done great things in Oregon but he just seems like his game is better for college than professional football. He can't rely on being athletically superior and running sweeps and tosses all game. Didn't the Raiders drafting last decade prove that counting on just being bigger or faster than other teams doesn't work? And does he have the defensive understanding to be a head coach? I don't know how much the head coach needs to understand all three aspects of the game, but Kelly seems like he's a really good college offensive coordinator who relies on outscoring teams to make up for ineptitude on defense. Can a head coach in the NFL get away with that?
Brian in Philadelphia
A: The Patriots are getting away with it pretty well as they run a form of Kelly's offense. But I agree with you that defensive coaches can figure out a lot of things that would force adjustment. Nothing against Kelly, but I still struggle with pure college coaches coming into the NFL.
College coaches have more control over personnel than they ever get in the NFL. A college coach can stockpile 20 to 25 players a year with scholarships. It's not that easy in the NFL. The salary cap limits the number of new players. You can bring in 25 to 30 new players in the first year, but you can't keep doing it. Plus, the NFL doesn't allow for long turnarounds. If a college coach doesn't have success in the NFL in the first two or three years, he's in trouble.
Q: We're all aware of the recent changes to the overtime rules that allow both teams at least one possession unless the first team scores a TD. I would however like to see additional changes made to the current structure. My thoughts would be to play out the entirety of the OT period. At the end of those 15 minutes, whoever is leading wins, or if both teams are tied then it's a tie. What would your preference be in this regard?
Cody in Salt Lake City
A: I hate ties. The NFL has only 16 games for a team. To go through a week of waiting for a game and end up watching a draw is problem for me. The great part of football is the weekly buildup. A tie is a letdown. Ties may work in soccer and for a time in hockey but they don't work in the NFL. I didn't like the two-possession idea that was adapted at first, but I've grown to like it because it forces teams to think turnover. The fact that there has only been one tie this year is great. Playing out the overtime could lead to more ties. Don't like it.
Q: I am not a fan of the players or the team, but wouldn't it be interesting if the Jaguars signed both Vick and Tebow this offseason? They most certainly could run the same offense with either quarterback and have interesting plays with both on the field.
Mike in Thornville, Ohio
A: I could see Michael Vick working out for the Jaguars. I can't see Tim Tebow working out. Clearly, the Jaguars need to do something. Blaine Gabbert has shown nothing during his first two years. Chad Henne hasn't been the answer either. Vick could come in and be an instant starter. Tebow doesn't have the throwing accuracy to help an offense. Sure, he would sell tickets, but selling tickets without winning doesn't work.
Q: Why would Cam Cameron get fired at this point in the season? Wouldn't that seem to cause more issues than any potential gains with only a few games left in the season?
Richard in Paris
A: I thought it was a panic move. Cameron is an experienced playcaller. Jim Caldwell is doing it for the first time in the NFL. During Sunday's loss to the Denver Broncos, the Ravens looked lost. They opened the game with a fumble and four three-and-outs. To make a move like this before the playoffs can backfire big-time. Cameron may have had his issues with Joe Flacco and the franchise, but he had a lot of success with the franchise. This puts a lot of undue pressure on Caldwell.
Like most awards in the NFL, the race for the executive of the year could be too close to call, writes John Clayton.