The 2021 NFL Season is coming in for a landing quickly, and as it does the news of the off-season, which has officially begun for 28 teams, is coming fast and furious. Below are a couple of the headlines for this week.
Sean Payton Steps Down
Payton has been a stalwart for the New Orleans Saints since 2006. During that time he’s gone 152-89 as head coach, named Coach of the Year in 2006 and winning the Super Bowl in 2009. After Drew Brees retired following the 2020 season, Payton faced one of his toughest challenges in 2021. Using a combination of Jameis Winston, Trevor Siemian and Taysom Hill at quarterback, Payton led the Saints to a 9-8 finish, just narrowly missing a return to the playoffs. It was an incredible effort and enough for him to decide it’s time for a break. Payton still has three years left under contract with the Saints, so don’t expect him to jump to a new team in 2022. But I have a feeling this might not be the end for good for Payton as a Head Coach in the NFL. And for those missing him already, you can catch Kevin James play Payton in the Netflix original film Home Team, due out on Friday, January 28.
Ben Roethlisberger Retires
We felt like it was coming, especially as Ben marked his “final home game” and “final game” as a Steeler while the season was ongoing. Thursday, Ben made it official, announcing his retirement. He’s been with the Steelers since he was drafted in the First Round in 2004. He has gone 165-81-1 as a starter, never having a losing season. He’s thrown for 64,088 yards, 418 touchdowns and 211 interceptions, was named to six Pro Bowls and won two Super Bowls. His fellow Class of ’04 draftees—Eli Manning and Philip Rivers—have already retired, so Ben’s decision marks the end of an era. It will be interesting to see if he makes it to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He has strong numbers, but some off-field issues have made him a question, like the rest of his ’04 draft class mates.
For the Steelers, it means the team is in the market for a starting quarterback for the first time in 19 years. The team currently has just Mason Rudolph—a Third-Round selection in the 2018 Draft—under contract for 2022. Dwayne Haskins, a former First Round pick by Washington, is a restricted free agent who figures to be back. The Steelers also have the No. 20 overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft and have been linked to a potential rookie quarterback in recent mock drafts. It’s going to be an interesting off-season as the Steelers look to address the most important position on the field.
Nathaniel Hackett Hired By The Broncos
The number of teams looking for a new Head Coach went down by one on Thursday as the Denver Broncos filled their Head Coach opening by hiring Hackett, who served as Offensive Coordinator for the Green Bay Packers the past three seasons. Hackett has never been a head coach on any level but comes with plenty of coaching experience in the NFL and collegiate ranks. Hackett began his coaching career at UC Davis, then spent three years at Stanford before moving to the NFL as an Offensive Quality Control Coach with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Buffalo Bills. After three years at Syracuse, he returned to the NFL as Offensive Coordinator for the Buffalo Bills from 2013-2014. He spent four years in Jacksonville from 2015-2018 at quarterbacks coach and Offensive Coordinator before coming to Green Bay in 2019 at Offensive Coordinator. He led the Jaguars’ offense that made it to the AFC Championship Game in 2017 and made the NFC Championship Game with the Packers in 2019 and 2020.
Over his time as an Offensive Coordinator, he’s had offenses place in the Top 10 for the NFL four times, including the last three years in Green Bay. The hope is that Hackett can help get the most out of a Broncos’ offense that includes receivers Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, KJ Hamler and Tim Patrick, tight ends Noah Fant and Albert Okwuegbunam and running back Javonte Williams. The biggest question is quarterback.
The Broncos used a combination of Teddy Bridgewater and Drew Lock in 2021, but the future for both is uncertain. Hiring Hackett has quickly spun up the rumor mill that the Broncos will be able to acquire Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams from the Packers, but the team also has the No. 9 overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft which could put them in position to draft a quarterback of the future.
Matthew Fox is a graduate of the Radio, Television and Film program at Biola University, and a giant nerd. He spends his free time watching movies, TV, and obsessing about football. He is a member of the FSWA. You can find him @knighthawk7734 on Twitter and as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast.