What we learned from the AFC coaches breakfast

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  • By Conor Orr and Marc Sessler
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PHOENIX -- Rex Ryan did his best not to roll his eyes. He insists that his time in New York ended without bitterness, but how could he watch the team re-sign Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie, the cornerstones to a once-great defense, and not be a little miffed?

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"I don't know if we could have used them," he said, jokingly referring to a team that relied on a tandem of Darrin Walls and Antonio Allen on the outside. "They might have been backups."

Working in Ryan's favor, of course, is the fact that his new general manager is constantly swiping the team's AMEX. Ryan got LeSean McCoy and Percy Harvin in his first haul.

"We were just kind of stunned there for a little bit," Ryan said when asked how he felt when he found out McCoy was available. "Really? Wow. So let's just take it from there. Obviously we were interested. We knew it wasn't going to be cheap by any stretch ... but we felt good about it."

Ryan never even spoke to Chip Kelly. The deal was completed in roughly 30 minutes, and now Ryan can pencil McCoy in as his "bellcow," meaning that McCoy will be an every-down back.

In the following days, once McCoy's new five-year, $40 million deal was completed, Ryan said McCoy turned into his top recruiter and helped him complete the haul he was never able to get under John Idzik in New York.

So it goes, and for Ryan all is well once again.

Here are some other things we've learned from the AFC coaches breakfast on Tuesday:

1. We asked Gary Kubiak if he was at all concerned with Peyton Manning needing multiple weeks to mull over his playing future, but the Denver Broncos coach dismissed it, saying: "He was trying to work through some things and make sure he felt good and felt healthy, so I guess I didn't see it that way."

2. Kubiak also emphasized that all the worry over Peyton fitting into his rollout-heavy, boot-action offense is overblown, telling Around The NFL: "I'd pick Peyton Manning for any offense, I mean, we're going to go do what he does best. We're not going to go roll out if that's not something that's a strength of our team." The scheme change feels like less of a concern than the loss of playmaking tight end Julius Thomas. We aren't worried about Peyton's production in 2015.

3. Chargers coach Mike McCoy echoed his general manager to say that San Diego is "very fortunate to have Philip Rivers." Asked why the quarterback hasn't re-signed, McCoy emphasized "this isn't the first time a player has done this." With the passer's long-term future in question, though, McCoy was reduced to chanting -- over and over and over -- that the team is "looking forward" to Rivers having a strong 2015. What happens after that remains anyone's guess.

4. Things turned a tad feisty when we pressed Marvin Lewis about the concept of finding competition for Andy Dalton under center. The Bengals coach argued that quarterback competitions simply don't work at the NFL level, making it clear that Cincinnati is "very happy" with Dalton's ceiling.

5. Browns coach Mike Pettine confirmed that the team met with NFL Films in Phoenix and turned down the opportunity to star on HBO's Hard Knocks. The Browns don't want to disrupt the return of Johnny Manziel, who checked himself into rehab in January. The first-round quarterback is expected to rejoin the team in time for Cleveland's post-draft workouts starting April 20, but Pettine made it clear that Johnny Football's off-the-field recovery will come before anything else.

6. Pettine also praised second-year cornerback Justin Gilbert for taking this offseason seriously. After the team made quizzical comments about Gilbert at last month's combine, Pettine said the Browns are "very encouraged" with the young defender "taking steps to grow."

7. Nobody's stealing carries away from Le'Veon Bell, but Steelers coach Mike Tomlin pointed to jitterbug-back Dri Archer as one player in Pittsburgh who could see a larger role in 2015.

8. Despite participating in the coaches photo, an obviously detached Bill Belichick arrived for eggs and potatoes on Tuesday. He downplayed the Patriots' loss of Darrelle Revis, saying it was "not a big deal," and wouldn't delve much into his opinion on any possible rule changes. One interesting nugget, though? The staff has discussed and revisited Belichick's decision not to call a timeout at the end of this past Super Bowl as part of a self-review. The team also went over the Patriots' game plan at the end of the first half. 

9. Bill O'Brien actually thinks J.J. Watt can improve on a season where he nearly challenged Aaron Rodgers for League MVP. "His ability to come back and be an even better player, which sounds crazy to some people, it's not crazy for us," he said. "We can't wait to see how he comes back and what kind of shape he's in. It's great to have him on this team...And that's why Vince (Wilfork) is such a great addition. It really helps our front."

10. Chuck Pagano has no concerns over Andre Johnson's age whatsoever, or the ages of any of his new players despite joking that the Colts will have "bingo night." "Watched him on tape, everybody watched him on tape when we knew there was maybe a chance he'd come available. Saw a dominant guy, we know what he went through last season, the circumstances he went through, but he's a force to be reckoned with. You need to do everything you can to make sure he doesn't wreck the game."

11. Pagano, who knows Ray Rice well, wouldn't dive deep into what seems like a league-wide hand-washing of the former Ravens star, who hasn't gotten a workout since his termination in Baltimore for a horrific act of domestic violence. "Everybody deserves a second chance, and I hope and pray that Ray gets an opportunity. I know there's still some gas left in the tank. If someone gives him that opportunity, he'll make them proud, he'll make good on that opportunity.

12. Ken Whisenhunt heard of Jake Locker's decision to retire when the rest of the football media did. The coach was not given any prior indication of a move out of football for his former quarterback.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast recaps the inaugural Veteran Combine and discusses which star players were helped (and hurt) by free agency. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

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