What would normally be preseason time in the NFL is in full swing. Less than four weeks remain until the Kansas City Chiefs host the Houston Texans for the inaugural contest of the 2020 season.
The landscape of the NFC North is laden with its usual personalities — no head coaches or starting quarterbacks departed the Bears, Lions, Vikings, or Packers this offseason. Each team fortified its roster via the draft, but no blockbuster free agent moves rocked the Black and Blue division.
The Bears embark on the 2020 season as the only team in the industry hosting a sure-fire quarterback battle. If the outcome of that battle produces a lackluster result, head coach Matt Nagy could be sans a job in seven months.
Detroit welcomes a healthy Matthew Stafford back into the fold. The return of his services is crucial as Detroit lost every game in 2019 after his back injury. When he succumbed to injury, the team held a 3-4-1 record, so not wondrous but a thing of glory compared to its 3-12-1 year-end standing. Skipper Matt Patricia is also the beholder of a toasty buttocks in regard to his employment.
The Packers seek to continue the steam of its 13-3 campaign, one that was eviscerated by the San Francisco 49ers in the 2019 NFC Championship game. Curiously, the team neglected to outfit signal-caller Aaron Rodgers with weaponry. Instead, the green and gold drafted his replacement in Utah State’s Jordan Love.
Minnesota rebuilt its defensive secondary with youngsters, hired offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak, traded wideout Stefon Diggs to Buffalo, and re-locked down the contracts of boss Mike Zimmer and quarterback Mike Zimmer.
As vanilla as the offseason was for the NFC North this year, it will be equally as explosive with change next March.
Aaron Rodgers will be traded in 2021
The Green Bay Packers did not select Jordan Love in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft for fans to catch glimpses of him on the sideline. He is going to play — sooner than one might theorize.
Recently, Aaron Rodgers told the world he, indeed, saw himself playing elsewhere at some point. Take that bombshell, stir in a bit of Love, and it is a colossal development. Rumors that were whispered in 2019 of Rodgers’ potential Wisconsin exodus are now as verifiable as mold on cheese. He will not be dealt in-season this year, but transition of power is imminent. And, it will likely be an exciting departure for him.
Rodgers was long disenchanted with former head coach Mike McCarthy. Now, the team has all but refused to surround him with playmaking talent. Of course, he has tailback Aaron Jones and pass-catcher Davante Adams at his disposal, but that is really about it.
Green Bay will not trade him to an NFC team as the franchise went to considerable lengths in disallowing Hall of Famer Brett Favre from joining the Vikings 12 years ago. Those efforts failed, but the sentiment was evident.
Aaron Rodgers will play for an AFC team — perhaps the Las Vegas Raiders — in 2021, and the Jordan Love era will commence.
Matthew Stafford and Lions are heading toward Splitsville
The prognosis is not that the Detroit Lions will be awful in 2020, but the team is not figured to be a formidable playoff contender, either. The squad from the Motor City is prophesied by Vegas oddsmakers to win about six or seven games, so the team assuredly is not in shambles.
Yet, a six or seven-win campaign is likely not going to do the trick for Matt Patricia to stay in charge. In 2018, the defensive-minded Patricia was supposed to bring the heat with defense. He brought the cold — or the medium temperatures. Since Patricia’s arrival, Detroit ranks 21st in the NFL in points allowed and 23rd in yards allowed.
If a defense-first coach cannot provide an above-average defense, the man respectfully is in over his head.
Why is this significant? If Detroit declines to show ample improvement in the win column of standings, the team will cut ties with Patricia. With Darius Slay jettisoned, Stafford entering his mid-30s, and a probable head coaching search, the Lions are sniffing a rebuild. And, this rebuild will probably not involve Stafford.
Stafford will be 33 years-old next February and hence still primed to make an impact somewhere. The allure of doing that with Detroit amid a rebuild scenario is a rancid one. The Lions would have to take a financial hit if they outright release Stafford or find a trading partner. Neither plan of action is impossible.
Should the Lions be lusterless in 2020, the team will seek a reinvention. That likely entails a quarterback selection in the first round of next year’s draft. Maybe even Trevor Lawerence.
It will be Foles or a rookie in Chicago next year, not Mitchell Trubisky
Let’s be fair: Mitchell Trubiskiy was quite respectable as a developing quarterback in 2018. In 2019, his play was imbecilic. Trubisky took an honest-to-goodness step backward in 2019, and that is the last thing one wishes to see from a maturing quarterback. Sophomore slumps are forgivable and commonplace, but regressions after sophomoric prosperity are alarming.
Disagree? Why did Chicago acquire a Super Bowl MVP as the contingency plan? Because they are gravely concerned with Trubisky’s regression. Hell, they are even forcing Trubisky to fight for his own job in training camp.
Between Foles and Trubisky, one of the two will be anointed starting quarterback and if the season shows any likeness of despair, the other guy will get an audition. This is how it goes when two quarterbacks that can be considered bedfellows from a talent perspective sit atop the depth chart.
Historically, a hot-potato of leadership at the quarterback position ends messily. Perhaps if the two men were sure-fire stars, the duo would be more appealing. They are not. Both men have shown stretches of competence — especially Foles during his storybook playoff run in 2017.
From a long-term standpoint, Trubisky is probably in his final year of starting quarterback consideration. He will not be exiled from the league, but a backup role elsewhere awaits him post-2020.
This leaves Chicago with the prospect of a Foles-infused future or a stab at righting the error the team made in 2017 by not drafting Patrick Mahomes. After all, the 2021 NFL Draft is just eight months away.