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Home / frontsports / The Wolf Sports Newsletter: January 16, 2024

The Wolf Sports Newsletter: January 16, 2024


A wacky Super Wild Card Weekend that became three consecutive days with doubleheaders narrowed the NFL playoff field to eight, and massive coaching news struck around football. We’ll start with the end of an era.

 

Patriots, Bill Belichick part ways

 

 

After 24 seasons and an unmatched run of success, the Patriots and legendary head coach Bill Belichick have parted ways. While Belichick probably would have liked to turn things around in New England, he and team owner Robert Kraft seemed to have an amicable and nice press conference announcing the move last Wednesday. Among Belichick’s accomplishments—headlined by the 20-year run with fellow GOAT Tom Brady—with the Pats:

 

  • Six Super Bowl victories
  • Nine AFC titles
  • 17 AFC East titles
  • 266-121 regular season record
  • 30-12 postseason record

 

Including playoffs and accounting for his time in Cleveland in the 90s, Belichick is 15 wins shy of breaking Don Shula’s all-time record. He has interviewed with the Falcons, might draw interest from the Chargers, and could even be in consideration for Dallas if they want to take a shot at a rare opportunity. We feel that teams with openings would be crazy to not at least talk to the greatest coach in league history.

 

NFL Wild Card Round recap

 

The Lions defended Ford Field to win an absolute thriller against the Rams, 24-23. The huge storyline was Jared Goff facing the team that unceremoniously traded him away before proceeding to win the Super Bowl with Matthew Stafford at quarterback. Both Goff and Stafford had excellent games, but it was Goff—behind an immensely supportive home crowd in Detroit—that got the victory, which had to feel amazing. For Detroit, it was their first playoff victory in 32 years, and head coach Dan Campbell and general manager Brad Holmes (who was unwisely criticized for what looks like an outstanding 2023 draft) deserve major respect.

 

 

The young Packers went into AT&T Stadium and took apart a Cowboys defense and team that’s been dominant at home (16 consecutive victories until Sunday), with Jordan Love recording a near-perfect passer rating (272 yards, three touchdowns). Green Bay built a 27-7 lead, and while Dallas made it somewhat of a game with 16 fourth-quarter points in a 48-32 final, it was an off day and ugly performance for the No. 2 seed in the NFC. Attention immediately turned to the job status of head coach Mike McCarthy, which should arguably be considered unwise—if not for Bill Belichick being out there as a potential option.

 

 

Sticking with the young theme, rookie quarterback head coach-quarterback duo DeMeco Ryans and C.J. Stroud helped lead the Texans to an emphatic 45-14 victory over the Browns. Houston’s offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik was dialing it up, helping Stroud torch a strong Cleveland defense for 274 yards and three touchdowns to three different receivers. And the Texans defense played with a ton of energy, with cornerback Steven Nelson and linebacker Christian Harris each getting pick-sixes.

 

 

In negative temperatures and a wind-chill near -30 degrees, the Chiefs froze the Dolphins offense in a 26-7 Saturday night win at Arrowhead to yet again advance to the Divisional Round. Kansas City’s offense didn’t finish a few drives with touchdowns, but they otherwise showed promising signs after a difficult regular season. Rookie receiver Rashee Rice starred with eight receptions for 130 yards and a touchdown.

 

 

Josh Allen totaled four touchdowns (three passing, one rushing on a 52-yard highlight play) as the Bills defeated the Steelers, 31-17, in a weather-delayed Wild Card matchup in Buffalo. It was another good all-around effort for the Bills, but they are dealing with another injury, with linebacker Terrel Bernard uncertain for the Divisional Round after he was carted off with an ankle sprain. We’ll certainly be watching the status of Bernard, cornerback Rasul Douglas (knee), and receiver Gabe Davis (knee) ahead of this weekend.

 

 

‍☠️ The late-season struggles and collapse by the Eagles continued, as the Bucs dominated at home to conclude the Wild Card Round. Philadelphia has had odd vibes for weeks, and they went 1-6 over the final seven games after a 10-1 start—but give Tampa credit for playing a strong all-around game. There’s more big news for Philadelphia that we’ll get to in a moment.

 

 

Divisional Round schedule

 

️ The Divisional Round is headlined by Chiefs-Bills capping things off at 6:30 PM ET on Sunday. Patrick Mahomes will be playing in his first-ever road postseason game.

 

 

Jason Kelce retires

 

Future Hall of Fame center Jason Kelce is retiring from the NFL after 13 seasons with the Eagles. You could see the emotion on Kelce’s face when he was taken out of last night’s loss, and it appeared that he told offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland that this was his final season—and it indeed was, as he reportedly told teammates in the locker room after the game. Kelce won Super Bowl LII with Philadelphia and was named a six-time First-team All-Pro as one of the best players in the league for years.

 

 

Major coaching shakeups

 

‍ In addition to Bill Belichick moving on from New England, a flurry of coaching moves included the Seahawks stunningly removing Super Bowl winner Pete Carroll as the team’s head coach and the Titans firing Mike Vrabel.

 

 

Carroll coached Seattle for 14 seasons, winning one Super Bowl and taking the team to the Big Game twice. He navigated a tricky re-tool situation over the past two seasons and led the franchise to consecutive 9-8 records and a playoff berth. While Carroll moved to an Advisor role with the Seahawks, it sounds like he wants to keep coaching and would be open to opportunities to do so.

 

The Patriots hired Jerod Mayo, who was a draft pick by his former coach and played for New England, to replace Belichick. Mayo had it in his contract that he would take over for Belichick, so New England did not have to go through the interview process before making the hire.

 

The full head coach openings—pending potential moves by Philadelphia and Dallas—are:

 

  • Atlanta Falcons
  • Carolina Panthers
  • Las Vegas Raiders
  • Los Angeles Chargers
  • Seattle Seahawks
  • Tennessee Titans
  • Washington Commanders

 

Also, the Commanders moved quickly to hire 49ers executive Adam Peters as the team’s general manager.

 

2023 NFL All-Pro teams announced

 

The AP 2023 NFL All-Pro Team is headlined by unanimous selections Christian McCaffrey, Tyreek Hill, and Fred Warner.

 

 

The NFLPA also revealed their All-Pro selections:

 

 

Other Sports Updates

 

Coaching shockers were not limited to the NFL, with legendary Alabama head coach Nick Saban retiring after six national championships with the Crimson Tide. Truly the end of an era in the coaching world.

 

 

↔️ Alabama hired former Washington head coach Kalen DeBoer to take over the head coaching gig. DeBoer was 25-3 in two seasons with the Huskies.

 

Expected No. 1 overall pick Caleb Williams officially declared for the 2024 NFL Draft, as did Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy after winning a national title with the Wolverines.

 

After previously declaring for the NFL Draft, former Washington State quarterback Cam Ward is instead transferring to Miami.

 

Florida State was hit with NIL violations by the NCAA.

 

Top prospect Cutter Gauthier did not want to play for the Flyers, and the organization traded him away and went on the offensive with the media. Head coach John Tortorella said after the trade that he didn’t know Gauthier “from a hole in a wall.”

 

 

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