Five NFL Players That Might Be Household Names By The End Of 2023

Let’s talk about five players that might be household names by the end of the 2023 season

Sam Howell

The Washington Commanders are coming into 2023 with more hope for the future that they’ve had in two decades thanks to a change in ownership, but let’s focus on what they’re putting on the field.

From 2019 to 2022, Washington has started ten different quarterbacks, and has had a different player lead them in pass attempts for four consecutive seasons. They haven’t had a quarterback start and finish the season since Kirk Cousins in 2017.

Sam Howell might be ready to break that streak. 

I’ve heard people call Sam Howell a great value Baker Mayfield. I’ve heard people say that even though he threw for 10,000 yards in the ACC, he fell off in his junior year. 

What people don’t point out is that his offensive line didn’t hold up as a junior, and he so he took it upon himself to go from a pure pocket passer with 181 rushing yards in 25 combined games as a freshman and sophomore, to rushing for almost 850 yards and 11 touchdowns as a junior. And he STILL threw for over 3,000 yards. This man is what uncreative sports analysts might call a “sneaky” athlete.

Sneaky means white.

Howell has an extremely solid young group of receivers led by Terry McLaurin, who has three consecutive 1,000 yard seasons, and if Jahan Dotson progresses, you better watch out. 

With the NFC East up for grabs, you might be hearing Sam Howell’s name quite a bit come December.

Desmond Ridder

Has there ever been a young QB more set up for success than Desmond Ridder is in Atlanta? 

Three former first round picks on the offensive line, including Jake Matthews. Kyle Pitts, the #4 overall pick in 2021 at TE. Drake London, the #8 overall pick at WR. A returning 1,000 yard rusher in Tyson Allgeier. One of the best college running backs we’ve ever seen in Bijan Robinson. And they STILL have Cordarrelle Patterson.

For anyone saying that I’m overhyping a 24-year-old quarterback with only four career starts, you have to remember that Ridder started 50 games in college, and took Cincinnati to the College Football Playoff. 

Atlanta has as much of an opportunity to win the NFC South as New Orleans, Carolina, and Tampa Bay- and if they pull that off, this young roster in the playoffs is going to energize the Falcons fanbase for years to come. 

Brian Burns

Do you know the name Brian Burns? If not, you’re about to. 

The Carolina Panthers defensive end and former 16th overall pick out of Florida State seems to have just ended his brief holdout, and is about to become one of the highest paid defensive ends in NFL history.

Why? Well, he has 38 sacks in four seasons, has improved every single year, is coming off back-to-back Pro Bowls, and has only missed two games over that span. Only three players over the last three seasons have more total QB pressures than Burns.

Burns isn’t the best at getting off blocks, and he’s also not considered a top tier edge rusher against the run, but if he improves in either of those areas this season, we’re no longer talking about a top-10 pass rusher. We’re talking about a top-10 defensive player, regardless of position.

And if you’re getting Myles Garrett or Maxx Crosby money, you deserve Myles Garrett and Maxx Crosby’s name recognition. 

Jahmyr Gibbs

The Detroit Lions have had three 1,000 yard rushers in the last 20 seasons. They haven’t had an 1,100 yard rusher in 18 years.

That streak might end. 

Jahmyr Gibbs started his college career at Georgia Tech, and finished at Alabama, and despite splitting reps in a crowded backfield, Gibbs displayed a skillset that might be the closest thing we have to Christian McCaffrey. 

He’s an elite runner, and an elite receiver. There’s never a reason to take this man off the field. 

Anyone in a points-per-reception fantasy football league probably already has a Jahmyr Gibbs jersey, but the casual NFL fan might be learning this young man’s name for giving Detroit a backfield threat they’ve been missing since the 1990’s.

Travis Etienne

I get that it’s a QB league. I get that Trevor Lawrence deserves all the hype he’s getting heading into the 2023 season. I get that the return of Calvin Ridley is a big storyline as well. 

But the man y’all need to be talking about is Travis Etienne. 

The one place Etienne needs to improve, and it has to be a team effort, is against the NFL’s best run defense- the Tennessee Titans. Etienne’s awesome 2022 campaign included two absolute stinker games against their division foe, where he had 24 carries for 49 yards.

Without those games, his per carry average goes from 5.1 to 5.5.

5+ yards a carry over a full season is insane. Fred Taylor did it in his final two seasons, but there was a 14-year gap before Etienne pulled it off last year. And he duplicated that effort in the playoffs as well.

The only reason Etienne isn’t getting more hype is that he wasn’t their primary short yardage option in the red zone.

Eric Bienemy Bet On Himself With Move to Commanders. I’m Betting On Him Too.

bienemy

We need to talk about Eric Bienemy betting on himself and moving to a play calling role with the Washington Commanders. 

Year after year, the goalposts were moved for Eric Bienemy. 

He reportedly interviewed for 17 of the 23 NFL head coaching job openings since 2019. And unless he was walking into the room with drool on his chin and his fly unzipped, the collective decision to hire anyone but him has become one of the more frustrating and fascinating aspects of the yearly coaching carousel. 

And if he was out here tanking interviews, you can absolutely guarantee that the NFL’s premier newsbreakers like Ian Rapoport and Adam Schefter would assist any owner or general manager in anonymously slandering Bienemy- and that just hasn’t happened.

I’ve talked at length before that it’s not as simple as racism. People hire who they’re comfortable with, whether through word of mouth, prior work experience, or a cookie cutter idea of what a good leader looks like. You’re far more likely to get an owner to sign off on a hire because of the way an interviewee makes them feel than because of that candidate’s offensive or defensive schematics.¬†

Think about the way we elect politicians. The best person to enact positive policy change is rarely the person we’d be most comfortable having a beer with, but that’s an enormous factor in the way that we vote. 

The “likeability” factor influencing our decisions is probably a good reason why so many things in this country are broken. And it’s definitely a reason why there’s an average of a 20% turnover year over year in the NFL’s head coaching ranks.

These rich old men would rather pay multi year buyouts to men that remind them of their grandsons than give a shot to someone that has been a part of 10 consecutive winning seasons, eight consecutive playoff appearances, five consecutive AFC Championships, and three different Super Bowl runs. 

Around now is when I’ll have people start bursting through the wall to tell me that “Eric Bienemy doesn’t call plays!” First of all, it’s a collaborative effort in Kansas City. Just ask Doug Pederson, who got hired by the Eagles after sharing play calling duties with Reid. Or ask Matt Nagy. Or ask Brad Childress. 

It’s extremely common to hire a head coach that isn’t the primary play caller, and it’s certainly more common to hire someone that didn’t call the offense in their previous job than it is to be a successful head coach that does call your team’s offense! Andy Reid, Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan are the exception, not the rule. 

Maybe the Colts and Cardinals hires will work out. The Colts are in need of someone that can get the most out of a young quarterback, and so maybe it makes sense for them to go with Shane Steichen, who helped Jalen Hurts become a Super Bowl caliber player over the last two years. 

But Arizona? They went from giving offensive “genius” Kliff Kingsbury a five year extension last year, to hiring a defensive minded head coach whose defense gave up about a billion second half points on the Cardinals home field earlier in the week. Maybe they figured that Kyler Murray already showed enough contempt for one of Patrick Mahomes former coaches, but the difference between Bienemy and Kingsbury is that one of them spends every January on a beach and one spends every January on a sideline. 

And one of them won more games at State Farm Stadium this season than the other did in eight tries this season. Yikes.

At the end of the day, Eric Bienemy was forced to leave a great job, working for a great man, and coaching one of the greatest talents we’ve ever seen, just to prove to his doubters that he checks more boxes than many of his peers. 

It’s hard to feel sorry for someone whose fallback plan of staying with the Chiefs would be most coaches’ fantasy, but he’s walking into a Washington Commanders situation where the offense was actually good last year. Seriously, look it up. Despite all the issues at QB, and the inability to finish drives, and the turnover problems, this was a team that moved the ball well despite being in a division with three playoff defenses.¬†

Bienemy is walking a tightrope for a traditionally snakebitten franchise, with no guarantee that success is going to earn him the opportunity he’s looking for. 

You have to respect his decision, and the risk involved. There’s gonna be a whole lot of NFL GM’s and fan bases rooting for his failure simply to justify past decisions. And even if he does succeed in Washington D.C., the only thing he’ll be earning is an opportunity to have those same people root for him to fail as a head coach, all to say that they’ve been right all along. 

But for every hater, like his former RB Shady McCoy, Bienemy has legions of people like me, and Patrick Mahomes, that are much more interested in seeing him prove the doubters wrong and carve out a place for himself as a head coach in this league.

And if that day ever comes, the “I told you so’s” are going to rain from the sky like Super Bowl confetti. And I’ll be here for it.

Let that sink in.

ESPN’s Report On Commanders Owner Daniel Snyder Confirms What We Already Know: Mutually Assured Destruction

We need to talk about Washington Commanders Owner Dan Snyder

This week ESPN dropped a report that to some of you, must have seemed like a bombshell.

Multiple sources claim that in an effort to entrench himself as indispensable from his position as one of only 32 NFL team owners, Dan Snyder has used private investigators to compile dossiers full of dirt on everyone from Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. 

I have been shouting from the mountaintops for years now that the only plausible explanation for Dan Snyder not being removed by the other 31 NFL owners is that there has to be a system of mutually assured destruction in place. 

Dan Snyder is accused of so many misdeeds over the last two decades that we don’t have time to get to right now, but just know that the reason Snyder is in the NFL’s crosshairs in the first place has nothing to do with the toxic culture, accusations of sexual harassment, or being on the wrong side of history over the team being named the Washington Redskins.

He’s not even on the chopping block for interfering with his team’s own investigation into it’s toxic culture to the point where he had to pretend to relinquish day-to-day decision making duties to his own wife.

Dan Snyder is in deep shit because he messed with the league’s money by underreporting¬†ticket sales to the NFL and IRS in order to pay a smaller share into the NFL’s Visiting Team Fund. Beyond that, Snyder has run this team so poorly that he risks being the first NFL owner to not be able to secure public funds for a new stadium, which will result in even less shared revenue.
Dan Snyder reportedly¬†privately¬†calls the NFL ownership group a “mafia,” and if he honestly believes that to be true, then he has to be a special kind of idiot for trying to steal from the mob.
All this explains why so many owners would be willing to speak to the media about Snyder, even though doing so could result in massive fines from the league office. 
This media report is step one in preparing a pair of cement shoes for Dan Snyder to wear at the bottom of the Potomac.


Metaphorically, of course.

Now, for their part, the Washington Commanders organization has categorically denied ESPN’s entire report. Then again, what else do you expect them to do? The Phoenix Suns did the same¬†thing when ESPN’s Baxter Holmes rolled out a laundry list of idiocy that Robert Sarver was involved in. One year after the report, the NBA investigated and found much of it credible, and now public pressure is resulting in Robert Sarver selling off the Phoenix Suns to the highest bidder.¬†

What makes this report different, is that it anonymously quotes multiple NFL owners about Dan Snyder. Those quotes include:

“All the owners hate Dan.”

“(Dan Snyder told me) he has dirt on Jerry Jones.”

“(Dan Snyder) is behaving like a mad dog cornered.”

Another quote calls Dan Snyder a “bad person” and claims the owners won’t oust him because “he’ll burn their houses down.

Now, at the heart of all of this is Jerry Jones, who has often stood alone as Dan Snyder’s only defender over the last decade.

Before this ESPN report, it was easy to assume that Jerry Jones was being selfish in his defense of Dan Snyder. It often felt like the Harlem Globetrotters defending the existence of the Washington Generals, because as long as Snyder was around to mismanage his franchise, Dallas was looking at increased odds of two extra wins per season. 

There was also the thought that Jerry Jones has a little bit of a Libertarian streak, and Dan Snyder’s follies are a litmus test for what an owner is or is not allowed to do. If the NFL pushed Dan Snyder out for the way his personal life bled into how he ran his franchise, then it was only a matter of time before Jerry Jones and his many scandals would become more of a focus.

But the best explanation for why Jerry Jones backed Dan Snyder is that they have a shared hatred of Roger Goodell. We already know that they tried to use Papa John’s founder John Schnatter and his NFL sponsorship dollars to try and push Goodell out back in 2017. 

It’s completely plausible that any dossier compiled on Roger Goodell wasn’t just the brainchild of Dan Snyder, but Jerry Jones as well. 

But Dan Snyder, in his infinite paranoia and stupidity, decided he needed leverage on his only friend as well.

Several owners acknowledged to ESPN that they are aware Dan Snyder is using private investigators to track his contemporaries, but none would reveal their source. You could almost blame this belief on a rumor gone wild if ESPN also hadn’t quoted former Washington team executives as having heard Dan Snyder talk about it himself. 

If the NFL doesn’t initiate its own investigation into whether Dan Snyder is paying to have the other owners tracked by private investigators, then that will tell you exactly what I’ve known all along- that not only is the NFL already aware of Snyder’s actions, but that they know Snyder has the goods to make it more trouble to expel him than to tolerate him. 

Let that sink in.