The 2017-18 National Football League season isn’t yet over, but there are already a plethora of rumors hovering over North America’s most popular sports league as of the middle of January. Many of these rumors are either so apparently farcical or ridiculous that we hope they carry little, if any, validity and aren’t true. Others, however, are so tantalizing and so intriguing that we want to see them play out and be true for a variety of reasons. So much can, and will, change between the divisional round of the playoffs and the start of the new NFL year that opens in March. Veterans who feel they have nothing left to give will retire, others will look to enter free agency, and to-be rookies will use backdoor channels to inform teams where they wish to play beginning in September 2018.
Some of the biggest names in pro football are included in the list of rumors we hope are and aren’t true. It’s possible a two-time Super Bowl champion quarterback could enter retirement and walk away as a three-time champion depending on how he and his team play in January and, potentially, in early February. A two-time Super Bowl MVP may choose to leave the only NFL home he has known since 2004. The man widely respected as the greatest coach of his era, if not the best in the history of the sport, could consider leaving the dynasty he helped build because of issues between he and an owner. Analysts and fans often say the NFL season never really ends, and the fact that we’re discussing such rumors during the early stages of winter is proof of this.
Former Cleveland Browns starting quarterback Johnny Manziel hasn’t played in the NFL since the 2015 season. Manziel’s fall from grace was widely documented by Cleveland and national media members, and the signal-caller selected in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft was, by all accounts, out of football as of the end of December 2017.
The man once known as Johnny Football has since taken to Instagram and Twitter to hint that he is working on a comeback, and it’s been reported he could play in the Canadian Football League later this year. It’s no surprise Manziel’s long-term goal is to return to the NFL if he does resume playing. We’d love to see him back, as he was one of the most exciting players in the history of college football while at Texas A&M.
Journeyman quarterback Josh McCown turns 39 years old on July 4, 2018, and he has suffered a variety of injuries over the past several years while playing for the Cleveland Browns and New York Jets. There’s speculation that McCown could decide to hang his cleats up for good, retire and accept a gig as a coach for a team such as the Jets, Browns or one of the franchises located in his home state of Texas.
We hope that isn’t true if only because McCown deserves better. He may not be headed to the Hall of Fame down the road, but McCown is respected by teammates wherever he plays, and he’s a warrior who has sacrificed his body for teams. We hope McCown sticks around and gets to retire on his own terms after the 2018 season.
The harsh reality of the situation is that we don’t know much about the state of Teddy Bridgewater’s knee as of early 2018. Bridgewater reportedly nearly lost his career due to a horrific and freak injury that occurred in August 2016, and the Vikings have since shown that they can win games without him in the lineup.
It’s hardly a secret that some within the Vikings and others around the league fear Bridgewater will never be the same following the injury, much like former NFL wide receivers Steve Smith and Victor Cruz following their physical setbacks. We hope those concerns aren’t true and that Bridgewater can get back to winning ways starting next fall, as he was one of the most promising young players in the NFL less than two years ago.
Say whatever you will about the original XFL created by WWE Chairman Vince McMahon in the late 1990s. That league was a disaster for many reasons, but it also added some positive contributions to the presentation of pro and college football after its demise.
In December 2017, several reports emerged that McMahon could be looking to revive the XFL, and an announcement about an XFL 2.0 could be made later in January. We hope this rumor is true, as more football and additional opportunities for players to make money playing the game they love could be a plus for the sport so long as the league is better run than it was roughly two decades ago. Besides, who among us doesn’t want to see a new “He Hate Me” striking fear in the hearts of opponents on the gridiron?
It doesn’t feel like it was all that long ago when Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck was the most promising prospect to enter the league since the early days of Peyton Manning’s Hall-of-Fame career. Luck missed the 2017 season due to lingering shoulder problems, and he even traveled to Europe to seek additional treatment for that problem.
Making trips overseas to fix such a setback is not normal, and that has led some to speculate that his issues are worse than we know. In fact, some believe uncertainty about Luck’s future is impacting the franchise’s search for a new coaching staff. We hope these rumors about Luck’s physical status aren’t true and that he will be back on the field and as good as new in September 2018. He’s too talented to miss out on his physical prime.
The perception and rumor is that the Oakland Raiders already had former Monday Night Football analyst and former team head coach Jon Gruden essentially hired even before the end of 2017. That would mean that the club violated the Rooney Rule that mandates a team must interview at least one minority candidate before making such a hire.
While there’s something to be said for a franchise being allowed to select who they want, we hope the Raiders didn’t violate this rule for multiple reasons. The Rooney Rule’s importance and value has been proven time and time again over the years. It’s also worth noting that we don’t want to see the Raiders lose a high draft pick because the team failed to follow this rule ahead of bringing Gruden back home.
In fairness, rumors about quarterback AJ McCarron leaving the Cincinnati Bengals because he can’t leapfrog Andy Dalton in the team’s depth chart have existed for a couple of years. We hope those rumors become true ahead of the 2018 NFL Draft.
We don’t yet know what McCarron can and will be as a starting QB, but we want to see him given a chance to thrive as the leader of an offense. Sure, it’s possible that joining the Cleveland Browns and linking up with head coach Hue Jackson, who McCarron worked with in Cincinnati, could be the beginning of the end of his career because the Browns are a complete disaster. The hope is that McCarron could help turn the Browns around and make Cleveland a football town once again (more on that later).
Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield has been compared to the aforementioned Johnny Manziel for multiple reasons. Mayfield is undersized compared to others who play the position, and he carries himself with the type of swag once seen from Johnny Football.
Just as Manziel shouldn’t have been drafted first overall in 2014, we hope rumors and stories about the Cleveland Browns potentially selecting Mayfield with the first pick of the 2018 draft aren’t true. Going to the Browns would be bad enough without the expectations that would come from being the top pick of this draft class. Mayfield is a project, and he needs to be selected by a team that will stash him on the bench and let him learn, perhaps for an entire season, as a backup.
We likely would have been able to completely ignore this rumor if not for former Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians. In the second week of January 2018, Arians stated during an interview that he believes Saban covets the New York Giants head-coach opening that hasn’t been filled as of the typing of this sentence.
We hope this rumor isn’t true, as we’ve already seen what happens when Saban tries to make it as a pro football coach. Saban is the greatest college coach of the modern era, and maybe the best that competition has ever seen. He should continue to grow his legend while with the University of Alabama until he is ready to walk away from coaching, in general. He has nothing to prove to anybody by returning to the NFL.
The ESPN bombshell dropped following the 2017 holiday season continues to make waves in NFL circles throughout January 2018. According to that now famous report, problems between New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and the duo of quarterback Tom Brady and team owner Robert Kraft could lead to Belichick leaving the franchise, either via retirement or by choosing to move to a different team.
The top rumor about Belichick’s future as of the posting of this piece is that he could return to the New York Giants if the Giants don’t hire a head coach before the Patriots are either eliminated from the postseason or win the Super Bowl. Even if he doesn’t head back to Big Blue, we’d love to see Belichick leave New England and shake the NFL to its core.
We can barely go even a handful of months without reading a new rumor or report about how Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan will move the team to London as soon as he is given the opportunity to do so. Khan currently owns English soccer club Fulham FC, and the belief is that he would be willing to have the Jaguars play multiple home games at the new Tottenham Hotspur stadium that is set to open in London in August 2018.
While we may enjoy watching NFL games at 9 am on Sundays, we hope rumors about the Jaguars moving to London aren’t true. Passionate Jacksonville fans are just now starting to see a winner for the first time in years. They deserve better than their team abandoning them once the franchise gets good.
The Cleveland Browns can’t do it. There’s no way a team that went 0-16 in 2017 and that has won only one of their last 32 games could possibly trade down in the 2018 NFL Draft regardless of the bounty offered to them by any franchise.
Yes, the Browns are a joke and unquestionably the worst franchise in all of North American pro sports, but nobody can deny the passion possessed by diehard fans who staged an 0-16 “Perfect Season Parade” as a protest toward an ownership that’s failed them. The Browns have multiple top draft picks as of January, including the number one selection. Cleveland needs to find a franchise quarterback as soon as possible, which takes us to our next NFL rumor that we sincerely hope is true.
Despite their horrible record over the past two years and the fact that ownership decided to retain head coach Hue Jackson for reasons that make zero sense to anybody with logic, the fact remains the Cleveland Browns are in a good position to turn things around beginning in 2018.
The Browns must start by obtaining multiple quarterbacks, something we expect will happen between now and the summer months. The Browns could use either the top pick or the fourth selection to draft a QB, and it’s likely the team will acquire a signal-caller via free agency or a trade. A rookie and somebody such as Kirk Cousins, AJ McCarron or Alex Smith entering Cleveland’s QB room could propel the Browns out of the basement of NFL standings come next January.
It was back in the spring of 2017 when rumors first emerged that Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was entertaining the idea of retiring from the sport. Roethlisberger ultimately returned to the field, and he is leading the Steelers through the playoffs heading into the second weekend of January.
Those of us who don’t personally know Roethlisberger can’t say, for sure, what is in his heart and on his mind regarding his future, but we hope the veteran who turns 36 years old in March hangs around and keep playing through the end of the decade. Roethlisberger has taken beatings over the years, but he obviously still has plenty left in the tank. He could win at least one more championship beyond February 2018 so long as the Steelers continue to surround him with talent.
The relationship between two-time Super Bowl Most Valuable Player Eli Manning and the New York Giants forever changed in the fall of 2017 after former head coach Ben McAdoo benched Manning in favor of Geno Smith. McAdoo was fired shortly after that blunder, but the damage had already been done.
Manning controls his destiny in that he has a no-trade clause, but the Giants could cut him once the new NFL year begins. The Giants are the only NFL home Manning has had since the team drafted him in 2004, and he’s that franchise’s greatest QB. Manning should be given the chance to retire as a member of the Giants when he is ready to call time on his career. He’s earned that honor for everything he has given the team.