Dan Hanzus takes questions from you, the readers, in his latest mailbag. Thanks to everyone who sent in questions. You've moved ahead of your greatest enemy on my training camp depth chart.
I get this question every year around this time. I always answer it, and here's why: There's no better way to bring the curtain down on an NFL season than to watch a team and loyal fan base experience their first Super Bowl victory. It's part of what made the Eagles' win in Super Bowl LII so special, and what makes the Patriots' repeated conquests increasingly tiresome for people outside of New England. Quick trivia: Prior to the 2017 Eagles, who was the last team to break a Super Bowl jinx? Time's up: The 2013 Seattle Seahawks. Before that? The 2009 Saints. Before that? The 2006 Indianapolis Colts (the Baltimore Colts won Super Bowl V). And before that? The 2002 Buccaneers. Based on the every-three-or-four-years pattern, we won't be busting our next dry spell until February 2021 at the earliest, but hey, you never know.
That's not a bad list ... at all! The Texans, Vikings and Chargers are all legit title contenders. If a couple things fall their way, the same can be said about the Falcons and Jaguars. You don't need me to tell you the Browns have the talent to make a run into January and beyond. You'll even find people outside of Charlotte and Nashville who believe the Panthers and Titans are threats. As for fans in Cincinnati, Detroit, Buffalo and Arizona? Not yet, guys. Hang in there.
I'd say we're getting way ahead of ourselves here -- we have 256 regular-season games and 11 playoff matchups to enjoy before the draft, after all -- but it does allow me to point out that, as we enter the 2019 season, we have widespread stability at the quarterback position. You won't see many legit camp battles this summer -- but consider this the calm before the storm. There are currently five starting quarterbacks who will enter Week 1 at 37 years of age or older. Of that group -- which includes Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, Eli Manning and Drew Brees -- only Eli and (perhaps) Brees have a clear successor on the roster. Then you have teams like the Raiders, Bengals, Titans and Buccaneers that have an established starter in place, but could easily look to the draft to go in another direction if the current guy doesn't work out.
Simple answer: The Dolphins -- who are in clear tear-it-down-to-build-it-up mode -- would be the team I'd see as most likely to aggressively seek out a franchise quarterback next April (and yes, I know they traded for Josh Rosen on draft weekend). But the Fins could have more company than they expect. We're not far off from entering a period of wide transition at the game's most important position.
Favre is a fine choice. It became a mind-numbing cliche to celebrate Favre as the Ol' Gunslinger who treats the field like a playground and would play for free because he loves football and the troops that much, but Favre was very clearly put on Earth to play the sport and he was always great theater. He combined unique skills with a great sense of the moment, and he'd be my pick as the best quarterback of the 1990s. The Pro Football Hall of Fame went with John Elway over Favre as the first-team choice for the 1990s All-Decade Team, which stands as a damn travesty.
I'll also nominate a Favre contemporary who just celebrated his 51st birthday. Barry Sanders was must-see TV on the level of "Seinfeld" and "Friends" in the mid-'90s. His combination of speed, quickness, agility and power was just staggering to watch. It's a shame that his greatness was wasted on a host of mediocre Lions teams, but at least America got that Thanksgiving showcase every November. There's never been another running back like Barry.
I mean, if we're going to get a Brendan Fraser-related question in the mailbag -- and I'm all for celebrating Hollywood's
third choice for leading man from 1997 through 2008 -- couldn't we attach the query to one of his better films? "Encino Man"? "School Ties"? Hell, even that one where Elizabeth Hurley plays the Devil.
I count Lamar Jackson among the NFL's great curiosities as we approach the 2019 season. If he's as good as Jackson's most ardent supporters (a vocal contingent that includes "Around The NFL Podcast" colleague Gregg Rosenthal) say he can be, Baltimore is an absolute threat to be the last team standing in the AFC. As Gregg wrote in his piece this week, it's too early to make any final judgments about Jackson, whose NFL resume counts just eight starts, including a playoff game. His accuracy appears to be the biggest question mark as of now, but he also made a multitude of throws last season that made you think he can develop into an all-around force. As for right now? His Vick-like elusiveness makes Baltimore a matchup nightmare, and new Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman (who oversaw the rise of Colin Kaepernick back in the day) is the right guy to develop Jackson. It will be fun to watch how it all unfolds.
The '85 Bears would be my choice. An all-time great team (18-1, best defense ever) with an assortment of interesting personalities that included Jim McMahon, The Fridge, Mike Singletary, Buddy Ryan, Walter Payton and -- of course -- peak Mike Ditka. Ditka was one of America's most famous sports figures during the Reagan years, and his ability to coach a team of NFL all-stars was matched only by his generously sized ego. It all would have made for a glorious premium cable stew. Remember the one forever "Hard Knocks" cheat code: If the head coach is an engaging/unique personality, you're pretty much guaranteed a solid five-episode run. My second pick here would be Rex Ryan and the 2010 Jets. As luck would have it, that's a "Hard Knocks" season that actually happened!
Feels like a toss-up. 50/50 seems about right.
You want proof there aren't enough fun, rewatchable football movies? Look no further than "Draft Day," a 2014 bucket of sea chum starring Kevin Costner that gets semi-regularly referenced on Twitter like it's some type of burgeoning cult classic. "Draft Day" is bad, and so is just about every other football movie. (I mean, look at this woeful bracket NFL.com put together six years ago.) The inability to produce a collection of high-end silver screen entertainment built around America's most popular sport represents one of Hollywood's great failures, and it has doomed sports fans into talking ourselves into the "greatness" of subterranean fare like "Any Given Sunday," "The Replacements" and "The Program."
(You'll notice I didn't mention "Varsity Blues." That's because "Varsity Blues" is a fundamentally perfect piece of art that serves as the exception that proves the rule.)
Jim asks what would be the best player/story/season to build a movie around. It feels like the last 20 years in New England would provide wildly fertile ground for storytellers. The Pats have been a twisty soap opera in the Brady-Belichick era. Glory, heartache, glamour, innovation, in-fighting, resilience and scandal. The Patriots were heroes who lived long enough to become the villains ... and now the villain has become the monster that cannot be killed. At the center of it all are the greatest coach of all-time and the greatest quarterback of all-time in a private death battle for the right to serve as the face of the mother of all NFL dynasties. I mean, you should be able to make a three-star movie out of that, right?
I imagine most would find such a trade offer laughable, but I don't. Justin Tucker is without a doubt one of the greatest kickers in the history of the sport, if not the greatest. At 29 years old, he should have another 6 to 8 years of excellence in that supremely gifted right leg. If you're Bears GM Ryan Pace, and you believe your team has enough talent to win the Super Bowl right now, and you know Robbie Gould is no longer an option, Tucker makes a lot of sense. Again, most people don't believe any kicker is worth a late-first-round pick. But people need to stop sleeping on how important a kicker really is.
I ... have to go now. Until next time. Maybe.