100 forces shaping the NFL’s future

On the occasion of the NFL’s 100th anniversary, it’s tempting to try to predict how the next 100 years will go. But man, that’s a lot of years, so let’s start a little smaller.

Instead of 100 candles on some giant, football-shaped cake, we’ve decided to take a look at the 100 people or issues — in no particular order — that will shape the NFL over the next … let’s say … three or four years. We’ve sorted them into categories — quarterbacks get their own, of course — and tried to give you a snapshot of who and what we think will be driving things in the league over the next couple of seasons and offseasons.

With new stars emerging, new contract benchmarks on the horizon, the collective bargaining agreement between players and owners expiring after 2020 and new rules always under discussion, we’re on the verge of a busy and important time for the NFL. Here’s hoping this helps get you ready for it.

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With one year left on his contract, Wilson is in line for an extension this offseason that should raise the bar for quarterback contracts. There’s no reason he shouldn’t be able to get more than Aaron Rodgers ($100 million guaranteed) and Matt Ryan ($94.5 million guaranteed) got last summer.

Mahomes delivered an MVP-caliber season (5,097 yards, 50 touchdowns, 81.6 Total QBR) in his first year as a starter, and his future is as bright as anyone’s in the league. If you were drafting a new team right now and you could take any player in the league, Mahomes is the slam-dunk first pick.

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The next Giants (Eli Manning), Steelers (Ben Roethlisberger), Patriots (Tom Brady), Saints (Drew Brees) and Chargers (Philip Rivers) quarterbacks, whoever they are. All five of these teams are going to be transitioning out of their longtime incumbents in the next couple of years. Other than the Giants, all four are looking ahead to those transitions during a period of success. Which ones will be able to sustain that success after their Hall of Famer walks away?

In spite of some early hiccups in that department, Watson made it through his second NFL season healthy despite getting sacked 65 times (including playoffs). A proven winner in college, Watson has impressed early on with his leadership skills and on-field ability (14-8 record; 52 TDs, 45 passing, seven rushing). He has a chance to be his generation’s Brady or Manning if the Texans can build him an offensive line.

The Jets have been looking for their next quarterback savior since Joe Namath retired to a life of luxurious fur coats. They traded up to get Darnold No. 3 in the draft, and they came out of his rookie season (2,865 passing yards, 17 TDs, 15 interceptions) feeling encouraged about their choice. Could he turn out to be the best of the 2018 first-round QBs?

Jackson carried Mike Vick comparisons with him out of college, and it landed him in the back end of the first round. We’ve already seen that he can win games with his legs (695 rushing yards, five TDs). If he refines himself as a thrower, Jackson has a chance to be uniquely special.

The perfect young QB for perpetually put-upon Cleveland, Mayfield won the hearts of his new heartland town with his performance (rookie record 27 TD passes) and his swagger. He’ll carry bigger expectations with him into 2019 and beyond, but it’s hard to imagine he’s especially worried about that.

Yeah, we’re going to put all the 2018 first-round QBs on this list because it looks like a class that could help define the league’s near-term future. Like Darnold, Allen needs a team built around him. Like Jackson, he showed he could be productive (631 rushing yards, eight TDs) while he still works on his accuracy (52.8 percent). Could he be the next Cam Newton?

More unknowns with Rosen than with his 2018 draft classmates — again, in part because he had no help. Kliff Kingsbury got the job as Arizona’s head coach because the team imagined him doing great things with Rosen (2,278 yards passing, 11 TDs, 14 INTs). Their mutual legacy rests on what they can accomplish together in the next couple of years.

At this point, unjust as it might be, it’s hard to imagine Kaepernick ever playing in the NFL again. But his pending collusion case against the league could have huge impact if successful, and he remains the face of the significant race-related issues with which the NFL continues to wrestle.

Back to his old, dominant ways (4,593 yards, 39 TDs) after a year missed because of a shoulder injury, Luck is only 29 and still poised to attain the great things that have always been forecast for him. Plus, the Colts can protect him better now than they used to, and his team is better than they expected it to be at this point.

Imagine being as good as Wentz is and living in the shadow of your backup. Nick Foles‘ legacy in Philadelphia is locked in if he never throws another pass as an Eagle. Wentz was on an MVP track before he got hurt in 2017 and Foles led the team to a Super Bowl title. He’ll burn to win one of his own.

Bears fans love having a team that lives up to the franchise’s defensive legacy, but they’re a little worried about whether Trubisky will develop in time to cash it in. His progress (3,223 yards, 24 TDs, 12 INTs) in his first season under Matt Nagy was encouraging, and if it continues, the Bears will keep being a factor in the short term.

Two years left on that fully guaranteed $84 million contract, which came with full expectation of a Super Bowl title. Missing the playoffs in his first season with the Vikings didn’t do anything to quell concerns about Cousins, who is 4-24 against winning teams and 5-13 in prime-time games.

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Another 2018 disappointment, Rodgers gets a new head coach for the first time in his career as a starter. How he clicks with Matt LaFleur, and how quickly he masters that Kyle Shanahan/Sean McVay-style offense will determine how he finishes his Hall of Fame career.

Like Russell Wilson, Newton is coming up on a contract extension that could blow away some of the recent record-breakers (see Rodgers, Ryan and Cousins). His shoulder isn’t good right now, though, and his recovery from his current injury will go a long way toward determining his career’s second act.

It’s possible no quarterback in the league is at as significant a career crossroads as Winston will be in 2019. Bruce Arians should be able to get the most out of him as a downfield passer, but if Winston can’t straighten out his turnover issues (80 since 2015, including 58 interceptions, tied for second most during that span), it’ll be tough for the Buccaneers to commit to Winston long term.

Perpetually paired with Winston due to their draft position, Mariota finds himself at a crossroads too. He has struggled to stay healthy (fractured fibula in 2016, hamstring and knee trouble in 2017, nerve issues in 2018) and will be changing offensive coordinators yet again. Will he take the next step in the next couple of years and live up to his expectations?

The 49ers are convinced Jimmy G is their guy, but a season-ending knee injury in Week 3 robbed him of a chance to start proving them right in 2018. For all the hype and expectation (five-year, $137.5 million deal including $74.1 million in guarantees), this is still a guy who has started only 10 professional games.

His 2018 stats (4,924 yards, 35 TDs, 7 INTs) weren’t too far off from those of his 2016 MVP season. He’s had a taste of the Super Bowl and would love to get back and win it this time. But is Atlanta on the way down or just experiencing a speed bump?

His contract will be fascinating study, as the Rams are paying a lot of people a lot of money. In fact, the Rams gave out contracts totaling $237 million in guaranteed money this past offseason. So they will have to make some tough choices if and when Goff gets his top-of-the-market QB deal. His fifth-year option season isn’t until 2020, but the Rams have a history of doing these deals early. We’ll see if Goff follows in Todd Gurley‘s and Robert Quinn‘s footsteps.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones insists he plans to sign Prescott long term. The question is for how much, and whether Prescott can build on the positive late-season vibes (Dallas won eight of its final 10 games, including wild card) and his connection with Amari Cooper (53 catches, 725 yards, six TDs in nine games).

If this year’s QB draft class doesn’t excite anybody, they might be looking ahead to 2020, when Alabama’s big-armed superstar — along with Oregon’s Justin Herbert — can enter the draft. For all of Nick Saban’s success, he hasn’t sent a big-time quarterback to the NFL from Alabama. Tagovailoa (4,602 yards, 54 TDs, eight INTs in two seasons) could be the exception.

And if Tua’s got folks excited about 2020, imagine how they feel about a 2021 draft that will allow them to finally get their hands on Clemson’s star freshman. Lawrence, who threw for 347 yards and three touchdowns against Alabama in the national title game, is earning reviews that say he could play in the league right now … if he were eligible to do so.

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Calls and points of emphasis come up every year, after the league has conducted its annual review of what needs tweaking. Coaches usually call for expansion of replay and the number of calls that can be reviewed, and those discussions will continue — the league is already going to consider whether to make pass interference penalties reviewable, according to a source. Also, look for those unnecessary roughness calls that had everyone all worked up in the preseason but got cut down to fines and warning letters once the season started to be called more often as penalties going forward.

This will continue to be an issue every year during NBA and MLB free agency, as NFL players react on social media to the notion of guaranteed contracts they don’t have. Don’t make the mistake of believing it’ll be a CBA issue, though. Those leagues’ CBAs don’t require guaranteed contracts. No, this work has to be done by the players and agents, a la Kirk Cousins and Mike McCartney, on an individual basis in order to become the norm. As it did in baseball and basketball.

The owners would love to make this a CBA issue that involves the players making financial concessions in exchange for relaxation of marijuana testing. The players have said they won’t make financial concessions in exchange for non-financial ones. Regardless, expect the two sides to revisit the drug policy in the new deal, especially as it pertains to marijuana.

The issue at the heart of the 2011 lockout was the owners’ desire to claw back a bigger portion of the revenue split with the players. Neither side seems upset about the way that worked out, but as always, the money will be the key issue, and the players want to know if they can take a bigger role in the procurement of TV revenue, stadium revenue, etc.

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The Panthers hired a therapist to deal with mental health issues that have long gone overlooked in the NFL. As public awareness of mental health issues expands and stigma fades, expect this to be an issue teams and the league address more openly and proactively.

While the players gave back on the revenue split in 2011, they made major gains in post-career health care coverage for players and their families. Especially with concussion awareness much higher now, expect long-term health issues to be a huge priority for the players’ side in negotiations.

Many coaches favor this move, as does the union (it means more paychecks, after all). Seems like a pretty easy give-back for the owners, and it would make some in-season roster decisions easier.

The kickoff might have been saved by the 2018 rule changes (though we’ll see what happens when the league reviews the number of injuries incurred on those plays in 2018). Now the league wants to see about making the punt play more interesting. One nutty idea that has been brought up: giving each team a finite number of punts per game, as they do with timeouts and challenges. Can’t argue that it wouldn’t make for some interesting strategic moves.

Don’t expect the league to scale back on these initiatives anytime soon. Whatever this season’s numbers show will lead to rule changes designed to protect players from unnecessary injury. That has historically meant more offense and more scoring — and more griping from defensive players and coaches.

The league’s primary source of revenue, the deals will be coming up for negotiation in the next half-decade. Does a ratings decline make NFL rights less valuable? Could new bidders, such as Amazon and Netflix, enter the market? This is the stuff that really drives NFL business.

Five of the eight NFL coaches who got fired this year were African-American. Only one of the eight who were hired was (assuming Brian Flores doesn’t pull a post-Super Bowl Josh McDaniels on the Dolphins). It matters to the league for perception reasons and because the bulk of its workforce is African-American. The Rooney Rule obviously isn’t working, so the league could look to make changes. But the more important development to watch will be the number of minority coaches who get quarterback-coach jobs and offensive-coordinator jobs, as that’s where the head-coaching candidates are coming from these days.

The Alliance of American Football is up first this spring, with Vince McMahon’s XFL reboot still somehow scheduled to follow in 2020. Is there enough of an appetite for more football, or spring football, to make these new leagues viable? Could either emerge as the developmental league the NFL has toyed with for years?

The Rams and Chargers are scheduled to begin playing home games at Stan Kroenke’s new palace in Inglewood in 2020. The NFL Network plans to move its operations there, as an entire NFL-based complex springs up around the stadium. Will the league move the draft there permanently? The combine? The NFL plans to max out the value of its signature new property.

Speaking of the combine, there have been rumblings in recent years that it could move out of Indianapolis. There have been discussions about changing some of the drills to better reflect the kinds of things athletes have to do in the NFL. Changes could be coming to the league’s annual convention and college-athlete evaluation circus.

London remains a place in which the NFL would like to someday have a team. International games will continue to be held there, in Mexico, and possibly other places. (The NFL has discussed China, Germany, Brazil and other places for regular-season games.) The thirst for audience expansion isn’t quenchable, and the league will continue to explore options outside U.S. borders.

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The Cowboys have several guys looking for big contracts in the next year or so. None is more important to what they do than Elliott. But do they give him a Todd Gurley-level deal ($45 million guaranteed), or do they push it off with the help of the fifth-year option and the franchise tag? And if they do the latter, does he pull a …

The kind of contract Bell gets as an open-market free-agent running back after sitting out a whole season to protest the franchise tag could be the most significant economic development in the entire league in the next couple of years. He’s a case study in players’ contract leverage.

Now that Donald has his big new deal ($87 million guaranteed), will he start showing up at training camp? The way he’s played without it the past two seasons (31.5 sacks, including 20.5 in 2018), why bother? Donald might be the best player in the league regardless of position, and should be a perennial MVP contender even though no defender has won that award since Lawrence Taylor in 1986.

He’s right there with Donald at the top of the defensive-player contract market ($90 million guaranteed). If he continues to dominate in Chicago (12.5 sacks, six forced fumbles in 2018), the pressure on Jon Gruden to nail all those first-round picks in Las Vegas will only intensify.

Joey’s kid brother has a chance to be the first player taken in the 2019 draft after sitting out almost all of his final season at Ohio State. The quiet trend of college stars prioritizing their lucrative NFL futures over their unpaid college careers will continue, especially if guys like this hit it big.

Nick’s big brother is already one of the top pass-rushers (28.5 sacks in three seasons) in the league. If he can put together a fully healthy season, he could find himself in position to elevate the market for defensive players over and above the benchmarks Donald and Mack set last summer.

Ramsey’s reputation as a trash-talker might exceed his reputation as one of the best shutdown cornerbacks in the league. The Jaguars need to return to their 2017 status as a contender if the latter reputation is to catch up with the former.

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The godfather of the modern-era group of young pass-rushers, Miller remains one of the best — if not the best — at what he does. Miller, who has 98 sacks in eight seasons, hosts an annual “pass rush summit,” where he invites current pass-rushers and all-time greats to a two-day retreat to discuss their craft and work on helping each other improve.

To the chagrin of some, Jenkins has become the leader of a players coalition that has decided to work with NFL owners on criminal justice reform issues. Jenkins has managed to use his platform to get some of his initiatives passed, and he’ll continue to speak out on the issues behind player protests, even as such protests fade.

Reid has been outspoken in his opposition to Jenkins’ methods. He continues to protest during the anthem. He has a pending collusion suit against the NFL. He’s making public insinuations that the league is drug testing him excessively as a means of revenge for his stances. He’ll continue to be a vocal thorn in the NFL’s side — which, honestly, isn’t a bad thing as the league continues to struggle with some of these issues.

It’s still financially crazy to take a running back with a top-five pick. The Jaguars are figuring that out now with Leonard Fournette, and the Cowboys are about to figure it out with Ezekiel Elliott. Barkley — who had 2,028 total yards, 91 catches and 15 TDs — is at least three years away from his sticky contract situation. By that time, the RB market could look a lot different.

Beckham is always in the spotlight, always at the center of some kind of hot-take controversy. He has his contract ($65 million guaranteed), but if the Giants continue to flounder as one of the league’s worst teams, how long will it be before he’s making noise about wanting to be elsewhere?

The Cowboys franchised Lawrence last year because they wanted to see if he could repeat his excellent 2017. He might have played even better in 2018 (10.5 sacks, 15 tackles for loss), so this offseason becomes a test of whether Dallas will deliver Lawrence a top-of-the-market pass-rusher deal or franchise him again. His agent, David Canter, negotiated a record-breaking deal for Olivier Vernon three years ago.

It’s hard to find anyone, at any position, who had a better contract year (13 sacks, seven forced fumbles) than Ford. If Kansas City doesn’t franchise him, he has a chance to push the ceiling of the pass-rusher market higher, to the potential benefit of a lot of other guys on this list.

A 2017 third-round pick who quickly emerged as one of the best offensive players in the league, Kamara is scheduled to make $807,500 in 2019 and $977,500 in 2020. The Saints don’t hold a fifth-year option (since he wasn’t a first-rounder), but those numbers make Kamara seem like the most likely guy to pull a Le’Veon Bell if the team starts playing franchise-tag games with him.

Thomas was a second-round pick, so the Saints don’t hold a fifth-year option on him, either, which means he’s making just under $1.5 million this coming season and is scheduled to be a free agent when it’s over. He’s due this summer for a contract extension that, given his production (321 catches, 3,787 yards, 23 TDs), could set the new top of the WR market.

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The Panthers’ second-year running back was third in the league in touches and yards (1,098 rushing, 867 receiving) from scrimmage. That kind of workload puts him in line to be one of the star offensive players in the league, and perhaps the key to making sure the next few years of Cam Newton‘s career go smoothly.

When Jones sat out a portion of last year’s offseason because he was unhappy with his contract, the Falcons promised they’d extend him this year, even with two seasons left on his deal. Performancewise (113 catches, 1,677 yards, eight TDs in 2018), he has the right to demand the largest WR contract. Will he get it? And if not, how will he respond?

This guy ended the season with more receiving yards (1,377) than any other tight end (and all but seven wide receivers), and he did it playing with backup quarterbacks. The return of Jimmy Garoppolo to Kyle Shanahan’s offense could help Kittle emerge as the top tight end in the league.

No one’s got a better seat for Von Miller’s tutelage than Chubb, whom the Broncos picked in the first round last year to bookend with Miller in their pass rush. He had 12 sacks as a rookie, which is a monster first-year number, and his future looks bright as long as opponents are double-teaming the other guy.

The fuss over the 2018 No. 1 pick (Baker Mayfield) obscured the performance of the 2017 No. 1 pick (13.5 sacks in 2018), who looks like a true anchor for a Browns defense that will be a big reason Cleveland is a trendy preseason pick to make the playoffs in 2019.

Gurley is a superstar player, obviously, and is already starring in some of the league’s highest-profile games. But it’s the four-year, $57.5 million contract he signed last summer that will affect the league over the next few years, as fellow running backs try to use it as a benchmark in contract negotiations.

The Chargers were elated when James fell to them in the first round of last year’s draft, and his Rookie of the Year-worthy performance (105 tackles, 3.5 sacks, three INTs) lived up to their expectations. He’s a do-everything safety who unlocks a lot of things for a defense that has to stay together to try to deliver Philip Rivers an elusive Super Bowl title.

The conversation about “League’s Best Receiver” has to include Hopkins, who has thrived throughout his career (528 catches, 7,437 yards, 47 TDs) in lousy quarterback situations and is now poised to dominate the league through his connection with Deshaun Watson.

The Vikings were smart to lock up Hunter on a below-market-value deal ($40 million guaranteed) last summer, and he’ll continue to provide great value (14.5 sacks in 2018) as a 24-year-old pass-rusher signed for a ridiculous five more years at an average of $11.5 million per season. This is the contract TEAMS will want to use as a negotiation benchmark.

He quietly set a career high in receiving yards (1,524) in 2018 in Todd Monken’s offense. Now he gets Bruce Arians, who should be able to make him an even bigger star. But Evans’ status as a top wideout could rest on the stability of Tampa Bay’s QB situation going forward.

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The Jets drafted him to be a leader and a star on the back end of the defense, and the early returns (198 tackles, 5.5 sacks in two seasons) are very good. Todd Bowles is gone and Gregg Williams is the Jets’ new defensive coordinator. He’ll count on Adams to be the on-field overseer of the transition to the new defense.

A very interesting 2019 offseason contract situation to watch. Many around the league expected Houston to extend Clowney last summer. The Texans did not, and this season didn’t end well for him there. Could he hit the market?

The Steelers’ refusal to give in to Le’Veon Bell’s contract demands looked fine when Conner was tearing up the league and they were 7-2-1, less fine when Conner was hurt in the second half and they tumbled out of the playoffs. With Bell surely gone from Pittsburgh for good, there’s a lot of pressure on Conner to sustain his 2018 performance (973 rushing yards, 13 total TDs, 55 catches).

Ertz set a tight-end record for catches in a single season with 116. Whether it’s Carson Wentz or Nick Foles at QB, it’s clear the star tight end is the focal point of Doug Pederson’s Philadelphia offense.

As is the case with Conner replacing Bell, Smith-Schuster will be under a lot of pressure as the nominal No. 1 receiver in Pittsburgh if and when the Steelers trade Antonio Brown. Not much seems to bother JuJu, a social media star who’s just 22 and coming off a 111-catch season.

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The NFL’s youngest-ever head coach (he turns 33 Thursday) reached the Super Bowl in his second season and has inspired a wave of copycat attempts by teams trying to replicate what he has done with the Rams.

The greatest coach of this or any other era is busy prepping for his incomprehensible ninth Super Bowl and might not be thinking about his long-term plans. But the way he finishes his brilliant career, who succeeds him in New England and how that person does are all hot storylines for the years to come.

Some pretty well-qualified people wanted this job, and it went to Kitchens, seemingly because Baker Mayfield responded well to him in a half-season when Kitchens was interim offensive coordinator. Expectations are higher in Cleveland than they have been in a very long time.

Another outside-the-box head-coaching hire from a cycle chock-full of them. LaFleur’s credentials as a quarterback teacher are impressive, and he could be just the person to get the most out of Aaron Rodgers over the final few years of his Hall of Fame career.

Last year’s outside-the-box coaching hire did some very positive things in his first season in Tennessee. Can he build on that? He’ll have to replace LaFleur and figure out a way to get Marcus Mariota over that ever-elusive hump.

Heartbreakingly, the second-best coach of his era fell one neutral-zone infraction away from this season’s Super Bowl. Does Reid need to win one in order to ensure the Hall of Fame? He has the QB (Patrick Mahomes) of his dreams. Now he needs to cash in on his biggest dream.

Our former colleague put his not-messing-around stamp on the Raiders in his first season, dealing away big-time talent and piling up draft picks he’ll use to build the Las Vegas Raiders. They have to figure out where they’re playing in 2019 first, but Gruden’s focus is on the bright lights in the Nevada desert, where he hopes to hit the ground running in 2020.

Hailed as a quarterback guru before that was all the rage, O’Brien has his quarterback now in Deshaun Watson. Can he and the front office build Watson a respectable offensive line and refresh an aging defense? Or is the AFC South title as far as this team can go?

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What a story this guy is. Got the job AFTER the Super Bowl last season because Josh McDaniels bailed out on it, and won nine of his final 10 regular-season games and a first-round playoff game. Could be Coach of the Year. Definitely the coach whose encore will be highly anticipated.

Another head-coaching cycle passed with McDaniels still in his Patriots offensive-coordinator job. He remains a person of interest to teams with head-coaching vacancies, but there don’t seem to be many jobs of interest to him. Speculation will continue about him succeeding Belichick until he decides to take another job or until Belichick retires.

Lynn should be a Coach of the Year candidate for what he did with the Chargers, who finished 12-4 and were the league’s most dangerous road team before inexplicably failing to show up for the playoff game in New England. Regardless, Lynn has built a program there that should sustain as long as Philip Rivers does.

The ultimate wild-card coaching hire, Kingsbury got the Arizona head-coaching job a month after Texas Tech fired him from the same position. If he succeeds with Josh Rosen, it could open NFL teams’ minds to hiring college coaches once again.

Two years into a six-year contract, Shanahan has shown promise but STILL hasn’t really had his quarterback. The 49ers will hope for a healthy season from Jimmy Garoppolo that returns San Francisco to contender status before Shanahan’s deal reaches its second half.

Many thought the Chiefs’ first-year offensive coordinator would get a head-coaching job this time around. He did not, but his connection to Andy Reid will keep him in the discussion. Watch out, too, for Chiefs QBs coach Mike Kafka, who’s seen by some as a head-coaching prospect.

The annual parade of Alabama players into the first round of the NFL draft should continue for the foreseeable future. It might even feature a quarterback next year for a change. At this point, the idea of Saban coaching in the NFL again seems far-fetched, but what he’s doing at Bama continues to have an impact in the pros.

Especially if things keep humming at Oklahoma, and especially if Kingsbury has success in Arizona, Riley will continue to be an intriguing college coach when NFL teams look to replace the six to eight head coaches who get fired every season.

The Steelers do not fire coaches. Chuck Noll got 23 years. Bill Cowher got 15. Tomlin is entering his 13th. That’s the entire list of Steelers head coaches over the past 50 years. BUT… 15 isn’t that much more than 13, and Tomlin is entering a period of significant transition, with Le’Veon Bell gone, Antonio Brown likely gone and Ben Roethlisberger much closer to the end than the beginning.

Is it possible Vick has a second career in coaching? He was a coaching intern for Andy Reid in Chiefs training camp in 2017, and currently he’s the offensive coordinator for the Atlanta team in the Alliance of American Football. Could be an interesting name to watch, especially if that league succeeds.

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His current contract runs through the 2023 season — three years after the expiration of the current collective bargaining agreement. Goodell is tasked over the next several years with negotiating a new CBA (ideally without a work stoppage) and negotiating new TV deals with the league’s broadcast partners. The NFL’s long-term financial health is in for a crucial couple of years.

He will be Goodell’s chief adversary in those CBA talks, and he already has hinted that the players want to be part of those TV contract negotiations. Smith even spent part of last year meeting directly with TV network executives to get a sense of what they’d be looking for in terms of the new deals and the product itself. This could be a very different kind of CBA negotiation.

Any time a new owner joins the group, people want to see how he’ll operate. Tepper is one of the wealthiest owners in the league and should have significant influence if he wants it. He went against the grain with the Eric Reid signing after teams kept Reid on the sideline all summer for his protest stance.

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He’s not much of a public presence, but the influence Kroenke wields behind the scenes is obvious in the scale of the league’s L.A. stadium project. The importance of that project to the NFL gives Kroenke a great deal of power, and he could emerge as one of the league’s most influential owners if he so chooses.

The daughter of Bengals owner Mike Brown has been working for her father’s team and negotiating NFL contracts since the 1990s. Her role in the organization has only increased over time, and if the 83-year-old Brown begins to take a step back from the day-to-day operations of the team in the next few years, Blackburn could emerge as one of the most influential women in the league along with Titans owner Amy Adams Strunk.

His second act in Jacksonville got off to a sweet start in 2017 but crashed back to earth with an ugly 2018. Fixing the QB situation and getting the team back to its tough, winning ways in 2019 and beyond would burnish a Coughlin résumé that his coaching success has already put on the doorstep of the Hall of Fame.

Could some of the petals be tumbling off the bloom of Elway-as-Broncos-exec? His head-coach choice, Vance Joseph, flopped, as has seemingly every QB choice he has made since Peyton Manning retired. It’s up to Vic Fangio now to turn around the former, and Elway remains on the hunt for the long-term QB solution in Denver.

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He’s bringing the NFL to Las Vegas, a unique and untested market where the league obviously would love to see a team thrive. Success in Vegas could lead the NFL to consider other new markets. Failure in Vegas could mean ugly things for the long-term future of one of the league’s signature franchises.

How could a list like this not include Jerry? Even as he cedes more control of the Cowboys’ day-to-day operations to son Stephen and trusted execs like Will McClay, Jones remains the league’s most visible and vocal owner, driving league policy on issues great and small. It’s a role he seems to have no interest in relinquishing anytime soon.

Perhaps the league owner most reviled by his team’s fans, Snyder continues to oversee an era of disappointment and mediocrity in Washington that has begun to turn one of the league’s most loyal fan bases away from its team. Is there any hope for a revival in the next couple of years?

Overseer of one of the all-time great sports dynasties, Kraft in the next few years likely will be confronted with the retirements of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. The past two decades of dominance are more than any fan base could ever dream of, but they’ve also created huge expectations. How do the Patriots transition to the next era?

She and husband Terry, the still-relatively-new owners of the Bills, are always together at league owners meetings, and it’s clear Kim has a significant role in the operations of the team. Another woman on the rise in a league that hasn’t traditionally seen many in positions of prominence.

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