Bye-bye, Big Ben. Bye for now, Drew Brees. And the bench might finally be beckoning for Eli.
In a day of seismic news involving aging, future Hall of Fame NFL quarterbacks, the Pittsburgh Steelers provided the most wobbling of temblors by announcing midday Monday that 37-year-old Ben Roethlisberger is out for the season with a serious elbow injury.
That news followed numerous morning reports claiming Brees, the 40-year-old New Orleans Saints starter since 2006, will miss at least the next six to eight weeks. Some reports said Brees had surgery planned for as early as Monday to repair ligament damage to the thumb on his right throwing hand. But the Saints later Monday said no such determinations had yet been reached.
Those shockers preceded New York Giants head coach Pat Shurmur’s deliberate decision to refuse to confirm at his midday Monday news conference whether 38-year-old Eli Manning will start this Sunday at Tampa Bay, after meh performances in a pair of decisive season-opening losses. Manning has been the Giants’ starting QB since 2004, the same year Roethlisberger began his NFL career as Pittsburgh’s premier passer.
Aftershocks from these quakes will be felt throughout the 2019 NFL season.
Let’s assess each situation:
As the first half of Pittsburgh’s eventual 28-26 loss on Sunday to Seattle progressed, Roethlisberger began shaking his right arm after his throws, in obvious discomfort or pain.
He did not play in the second half. Second-year Mason Rudolph did, and the 24-year-old actually played pretty well, completing 12-of-19 for 112 yards and two touchdowns, against a deep interception on his second throw.
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin released the following statement Monday:
“Ben Roethlisberger had an MRI on his right elbow Sunday evening and it was determined by the Steelers’ medical team that surgery will be required. We expect the surgery will be scheduled for this week. He will be placed on our Reserve/Injured List and is out for the season.”
It appears Roethlisberger had had elbow issues previous to Sunday. After Sunday’s game Rudolph alluded to having practised a lot last week, and on Monday told reporters he’d heard that Roethlisberger came out of Week 1’s loss at New England with an elbow issue.
The Steelers on Monday promoted Rudolph to starter, and must quickly sign a backup. Their third-string quarterback in training camp, Josh Dobbs, is now property of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Even before Roethlisberger’s injury it was starting to look like a long season ahead in Pittsburgh. Receivers weren’t getting open, plus their rushing attack, rushing defence and total defence all ranked fourth worst in the league heading into Monday night.
In case you were wondering Roethlisberger signed a two-year, $68-million extension with the Steelers in April, which keeps him under contract through 2021. Presumably he’ll be back next spring, expecting to reassume his starting role for a 17th season.
For now, though, Rudolph will lead the Steelers sleigh.
I saw him throw at Steelers training camp last month, and he impressed me, so much more than Dobbs. The Oklahoma State product’s determined confidence was unmistakable.
“I’m completely confident. I’ve always been confident in myself, in being the leader of a team and winning games,” Rudolph said Sunday.
Brees reportedly has a torn ligament in his right (throwing) thumb. It was caused Sunday in Los Angeles, midway through the first quarter in the Saints’ eventual 27-9 loss to the Rams.
While following through on a third-down incompletion, Brees smashed his right hand into the raised, swatting hand of Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald — fluke contact, fluke injury.
TV cameras caught Brees on the sidelines moments later unable to so much as pick up a football with his right hand.
Reports Monday morning said Brees would have, or likely would have, surgery to repair the ligament damage. But on an afternoon conference call Saints head coach Sean Payton refused to confirm as much, saying nothing has been finalized.
“They’re still in the midst of evaluating it,” Payton said, per the team’s website. “He’s had one opinion, (he’s) having a second opinion. As soon as we know something that we can confirm, then we’ll report it. But right now, that’s kind of the stage we’re in.
“Hopefully, the news is good and the length of time — if there is any — that he’s out will be shorter than longer. But, again, that’s part of our sport.”
Brees is in his 19th pro season and 14th in New Orleans. He said after Sunday’s game that he had had an X-ray done, but insisted “it’s all up in the air right now.”
For speculative purposes, then, here’s the Saints’ schedule over the next eight weeks: at Seattle, vs. Dallas, vs. Tampa Bay, at Jacksonville, at Chicago, vs. Arizona, bye, vs. Atlanta.
Thereafter, the Saints conclude their regular season with these foes: at Tampa Bay, vs. Carolina, at Atlanta, vs. San Francisco, vs. Indianapolis, at Tennessee, at Carolina.
Giants head coach Shurmur on Monday cracked open the door to a quarterback change, from Manning to Daniel Jones, a 6-foot-5, 220-pound rookie drafted No. 6 overall in April.
Manning, the nominal Giants starter since midway through his rookie 2004 season, has been under fire for years from fans and media in the Big Apple area, unsatisfied with his inconsistent, unprolific play.
“Obviously, Eli’s been our starter to this point. I’m not ready to get into any of those conversations about any position,” Shurmur said of the prospect of a switch to Jones.
Before Monday night’s game Manning possessed the league’s No. 25 passer rating so far this season, a substandard 78.7.
Asked specifically about a switch, Shurmur would not rule it out.
“We’re gonna talk about everything we’re doing moving forward,” Shurmur said. “I think that’s fair at this point.”
When told by a reporter that not ruling out a switch would start a fire of such rampant speculation, Shurmur replied, “I understand that. I do.”
At his locker-room stall, Manning put his best face on all the speculation, even after being told what Shurmur had told reporters.
“I have to get ready to play a game, nothing changes … Business as usual,” Manning said at first. “Get ready for Tampa and figure out a way to win.
But then Manning acknowledged why such speculation is occurring.
“We are 0-2 and we are looking for answers, I get it,” Manning said. “When you draft a guy early and you’re not winning games, these things are going to come up. I just have to keep working, and do what my job is.
“There is always room for improvement … Obviously, we have to figure out a way to score more points and do better on third downs.”
The word coming out of Giants HQ since May is that Jones continues to progress beyond expectations. Maybe the timing is indeed right to put him in now and see what he can do.
FIVE FAST FACTS
The Bills have started 2-0 on the road for the first time, ever … Before Sunday in Oakland the Chiefs had never scored 28 points in a quarter, ever … Dak Prescott has completed 82.3% of his throws (51-of-62). If he misfired on his next 23 he’d still be at 60% … Jacoby Brissett’s streak of consecutive passes without a pick ended at 167 … Detroit’s Matthew Stafford has engineered 29 fourth-quarter comebacks, more than any other QB since he entered the NFL in 2009.
DEAL WITH IT
Further to the point that it’s not always the offensive line’s fault if a quarterback gets sacked a lot.
For instance, the Seattle Seahawks accept that Russell Wilson, with his superior elusiveness, often will try to buy more time to find a receiver, even if it means that, on the whole, he gets sacked more.
The problem with Deshaun Watson and the Houston Texans is that even after upgrading the offensive line a couple weeks ago by acquiring one of the NFL’s top young left tackles in Laremy Tunsil from Miami, Watson is still getting sacked a ton.
Part of that is due to other shuffling along the Texans O-line. On Sunday head coach Bill O’Brien replaced Seantrel Henderson with Roderick Johnson at right tackle, and inserted rookie Tytus Howard at left guard.
The line’s lack of continuity certainly must have contributed to the Jacksonville Jaguars sacking Watson four times on Sunday. It was the eighth consecutive game in which Watson has been sacked four times, dating back to November last year.
But after Watson was sacked a league-leading 62 times in 2018, in two games this season Watson already has taken 17 hits and been sacked 10 times. Brutal.
It’s not all on the line, folks. Watson must start making decisions quicker.
TAKING A KNEE
Something still seems seriously amiss within the Jaguars.
Last year, you’ll recall, their season imploded after a promising 3-1 start. After it had become clear by late October that then-starting QB Blake Bortles and the offence would struggle weekly just to score even 17 points in any game, the talented defence lost faith, and the Jags as a result lost 10 of their last 12 games.
With Bortles dumped and former Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles at the helm entering this season, the Jaguars seemed as good a candidate as any NFL team in 2019 to go from worst-to-first in their division, as at least one club annually has done since 1990.
But Foles didn’t play even one full quarter before being lost for at least a couple months with a fractured collarbone. Plucky rookie Gardner Minshew has stepped in ably — but concerns on the defensive side of the ball in Jacksonville seem to be red-lining again, after Sunday’s 13-12 loss at Houston dropped Jax to 0-2 on the young season.
To quote Doyle Lonnegan during the poker match in The Sting, tempers seems to be running a little HIGH.
The Jaguars are in danger of falling apart, early, once again. During Sunday’s game, the most disturbing development wasn’t so much the in-game sideline confrontation between head coach Doug Marrone and feisty star cornerback Jalen Ramsey — over what in particular, Marrone afterward said he couldn’t remember. (Sure.)
Rather, it was the reaction of one other defensive back, which suggests Marrone is not exactly respected in at least one corner of his locker room.
If you haven’t seen the viral video of the in-game confrontation, Ramsey is sitting at the right end of a bench with safety Jarrod Wilson and corner D.J. Hayden both seated to his left. A determined Marrone bolts over and starts yelling at Ramsey, alongside DBs coach Tim Walton. Ramsey seems to scream something back at Marrone, with his instantly-jerking- body language implying he’s about to get up and get right back into Marrone’s face.
At that, peacemaking safety Ronnie Harrison — who’d followed Marrone over to the bench — wedges himself in between the duo and starts walking Marrone away, back to sideline’s edge.
At the same time, the video shows Wilson and Hayden instantly springing to their feet. Hayden shoots straight over to Ramsey to preemptively restrain him, if necessary, from so much as getting up off the bench.
But Wilson does something else. Incredibly, his first thought is to move toward Marrone and point straight out to sideline’s edge, where coaches normally stand during the action, and then Wilson says something to Marrone — essentially conveying to him to GTFOOH.
That is, to get the (heck) out of here.
It’s a stunning thing to see an NFL player do this to his head coach, during a game, within view of tens of thousands in the stadium and millions on TV.
It’s one thing to support a teammate in a tiff with the boss. It’s quite another to see him bark and motion to that head coach in such manner — a stunning indication of an abject lack of respect on Wilson’s part toward Marrone.
Look, Marrone coached up through the offensive side of the ball. So probably there’s a natural little divide there to begin with between he and his defenders. You cannot be a Jaguars fan, however, and not worry the crack has become a canyon.
Maybe Jacksonville defensive players lost a measure of respect for Marrone over the past two seasons, because of his persistent loyalty to, and backing of, Bortles.
Whatever the reasons, you cannot watch that video from Sunday and not conclude there’s a serious locker-room issue between Marrone and at least some of his defenders.
The Jaguars’ next game is Thursday, a nationally televised division scrap against the visiting Tennessee Titans (1-1). Should Tennessee start pulling ahead, and the prospect of an 0-3 start by Jacksonville inches toward reality, don’t go to bed yet.
The best viewing might be ahead if at least one TV camera remains stationed on the Jags sideline.
All 32 starting QBs, after Sunday games, with last week’s rankings in brackets:
1. Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City (1). Setting yet more records.
2. Tom Brady, New England (2). No Gronk? No problem.
3. Drew Brees, New Orleans (3). How bad is injured thumb?
4. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay (4). Makes it look so easy at times.
5. Russell Wilson, Seattle (5). Simply dependably productive.
6. Philip Rivers, LA Chargers (6). Frustrating day in Detroit.
7. Carson Wentz, Philadelphia (8). Rocky start then SNF heroism.
8. Jared Goff, LA Rams (9). Workmanlike day, got it done.
9. Baker Mayfield, Cleveland (11). Played Monday night.
10. Matthew Stafford, Detroit (14).22/30, 245 yards but 2 INTs.
11. Deshaun Watson, Houston (13).4 more sacks. Lucky to win.
12. Dak Prescott, Dallas (16). Spectacular! 26/30, 3 TDs.
13. Matt Ryan, Atlanta (10). Brain farts becoming a real issue.
14. Jacoby Brissett, Indianapolis (18). One of his best as a pro.
15. Lamar Jackson, Baltimore (21). 7 TDs, 0 INTs in new attack.
16. Andy Dalton, Cincinnati (15). Playing from behind the norm.
17. Kirk Cousins, Minnesota (12). 19-of-42 (45%) so far. Ycch.
18. Cam Newton, Carolina (17). He’s hurt, or he’s just not good.
19. Derek Carr, Oakland (19).Gamely hung in there for Raiders.
20. Marcus Mariota, Tennessee (20). Another close-game loss.
21. Case Keenum, Washington (22). Again, quite good in defeat.
22. Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco (25). One of best games yet.
23. Josh Allen, Buffalo (27). Really been fabulous on third downs.
24. Kyler Murray, Arizona (28). 300-yard games x 2 at the get-go.
25. Eli Manning, NY Giants (23).Dumpoffs galore with WRs hurt.
26. Gardner Minshew, Jacksonville (29).Such impressive moxy.
27. Mitchell Trubisky, Chicago (24). Ineffectiveness hurts Bears.
28. Joe Flacco, Denver (30). Joe giveth, Joe taketh away.
29. Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay (31).Better. Can he keep it up?
30. Trevor Siemian, NY Jets (NR). Played Monday night.
31. Mason Rudolph, Pittsburgh (NR). Takes over for Big Ben.
32. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Miami (32). Under almost constant assault.
Quick thoughts on Week 3 games (all on Sunday unless noted):
Titans at Jaguars, Thursday, 8:20 ET: All 0-2 teams are desperate. None more than Jax.
Bengals at Bills, 1 ET: Buffalo looking good to start 3-0 heading into New England showdown.
Dolphins at Cowboys, 1 ET: Miami has been outscored 102-10 at home. First road game. Hide the kids.
Broncos at Packers, 1 ET: Two teams heading in different directions.
Falcons at Colts, 1 ET: Third straight dome game for Atlanta. Wind? What’s wind?
Ravens at Chiefs, 1 ET: Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes combined: 14 TDs, 0 picks. Not bad.
Raiders at Vikings, 1 ET: One more lame game and Kirk Cousins is gonna really hear the boos.
Jets at Patriots, 1 ET: New York’s secondary is gonna get burned. Repeatedly.
Lions at Eagles, 1 ET: Banged-up Philly better not sleep on the Lions. Especially their defence.
Panthers at Cardinals, 4:05 ET: Cam, his babushka and the winless Panthers take on winless Arizona.
Giants at Buccaneers, 4:05 ET: Two teams probably going nowhere. But you knew that.
Texans at Chargers, 4:25 ET: Intriguing matchup of deservedly 1-1 teams.
Saints at Seahawks, 4:25 ET: If it’s Teddy Bridgewater time for Saints, time to revive run game.
Steelers at 49ers, 4:25 ET: One team’s 2-0, the other’s 0-2. As expected. It’s just the other way around.
Rams at Browns, 8:20 ET: The nomadic Rams were born in Cleveland. In the ’30s. Honest.
- Bears at Redskins, Monday, 8:15 ET: Case Keenum has played well enough to be 2-0; 1-2 will do.