PHOENIX -- Kliff Kingsbury's first test as the Arizona Cardinals' head coach doesn't have a right answer. He is aware that every word he utters about his current quarterback (2018 first-round pick Josh Rosen) and his potential future quarterback (Kyler Murray) will be parsed, yet it's hard not to read between the lines when the NFL calendar requires him to speak publicly at events like the Coaches Breakfast at the Annual League Meeting on Tuesday.
Ask about Murray, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, and Kingsbury lights up.
"I don't know if I've seen (a quarterback) do both things as well as he does. The running ability, Mike Vick comes to mind. ... And he's a true dropback passer when he wants to be," Kingsbury said.
The Cardinals currently hold the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. One option for them is to select a quarterback with a combination of skills that Kingsbury has never seen, one he describes as one of the best "dual-threat players" ever, one that the former Texas Tech head coach built a close relationship with during the college recruiting process.
If the above paragraphs qualify as parsing words, then I'm guilty. It's the time of year when coaches have to speak, even when everyone knows they can't say exactly what they mean one month ahead of the draft.
Here were some other nuggets from Tuesday's media session involving all 32 head coaches.
That shouldn't be a surprise. Alex Smith's future is in doubt thanks to a serious leg injury suffered in 2018, while trade acquisition Case Keenum and backup Colt McCoy are not long-term solutions. Speaking of McCoy, who reportedly recently underwent another leg surgery after suffering his own leg injury in December, Gruden lauded his unorthodox training methods.
"He drinks a gallon of milk every day. ... I think it's the milk that's not pasteurized, either. I think it's right out of the ... teat," Gruden said, chewing on the word. "This guy's a nutjob. So he should have strong, healthy bones."
"He is not as disruptive as he was four years ago, but he is still tough," new Tampa Bay coach Bruce Arians said Tuesday. "He is still a good player. If he is there, he is there. He is our starting 3-technique. There is no doubt about that."
Considering McCoy's talent, a trade during the draft sounds more likely than the Bucs outright releasing the six-time Pro Bowler.
3) I was impressed listening to new Cincinnati coach Zac Taylor speak about his philosophies and the state of the Bengals' roster. Handling the media is only one part of the job, but compared to some other rookie head coaches, Taylor appears authentic and more comfortable in his own skin.
He said repeatedly how impressed he was with the depth and balance of the Bengals' roster, especially its young players, noting how much injuries impacted the team's demise in 2018. Cincinnati missed the playoffs for a third straight season and finished in last place in the AFC North for the first time since 2010, but quarterback Andy Dalton, receiver A.J. Green and running back Joe Mixon were out for a combined 14 games. Taylor's predecessor, Marvin Lewis, was fired after 16 years on the job.
Taylor stressed that he wants to have Mixon, who missed two weeks after undergoing knee surgery in September, fresh for the stretch run at the end of the season. Perhaps impacted by his experience with Rams running back Todd Gurley in Los Angeles, where he was an assistant for the past two seasons, Taylor believes it's vital to save wear and tear on running backs whenever possible. It was refreshing to hear him also say that, while it's easy to pound one's fist on the table and declare, "We want to run the football!" it's more important for his offense to present the "illusion" of potentially running in any situation, out of any formation, to any side of the field.
4) Taylor, like Jay Gruden, left open the possibility of taking a quarterback in the first round, where the Bengals draft 11th overall. While Taylor has praised Andy Dalton, new coaches often want their own guy to mold. The Bengals didn't sign a veteran backup to augment Jeff Driskel, who has five career starts, and are candidates to draft a quarterback after the first round, as well, if the top picks don't fall to them.
5)Seahawks coach Pete Carroll confirmed receiver Doug Baldwin has an upcoming sports hernia surgery. It will be Baldwin's third surgery of the offseason, following knee and shoulder procedures. It's fair to wonder if Baldwin's body will ever allow him to play at the exceptional level he was at during his 2015-17 peak, when he racked up 82 catches, 1,063 yards and 10 touchdowns per season.
6) It hasn't been an easy offseason for the Chiefs, but Andy Reid was his usual chipper self Tuesday, especially when quarterback Patrick Mahomes was brought up. Reid knows defensive coordinators will have an entire offseason to take away the strengths of the two-year veteran and reigning MVP, and he sounded enthused about the challenge of staying ahead of the opposition, like the Chiefs did during their fast starts in 2017 and 2018.
"I've been around some great players. Great players want you to find one more thing to make them even greater. As a coach, that's what they want you to do," Reid said.
I asked if having a player as transcendent as Mahomes gets Reid's creativity flowing.
"That's why we like doing what we're doing. We're teachers, and we love doing that. If I was your English teacher, I'd have you primed up, dude," Reid said. (I interpreted this as Reid subtly comparing me to the Patrick Mahomes of writers.)
Gates was released by the Chargers in April of 2018 but signed a one-year deal to return in September after tight end Hunter Henry suffered a torn ACL. The 38-year-old Gates caught 28 passes for 333 yards and two touchdowns. Henry recovered in time to play 14 offensive snaps in Los Angeles' loss to New England in the Divisional Round.
9) I love new Browns coach Freddie Kitchens' perspective on most anything. He breaks from the self-serious approach many head coaches take to the microphone. After a standout performance on the "Around the NFL Podcast" on Tuesday, Kitchens had a great response to the pressure of high expectations in Cleveland, which traded for three-time Pro Bowl receiver Odell Beckhamthis month after closing 2018 on a 5-2 run.
"Pressure's getting up in the morning, not having a job, having to feed a baby, your wife just left and you have no job. That's pressure. This ain't pressure," Kitchens said.
10)Colts coach Frank Reich talked up free-agent acquisition Devin Funchess' "good feet" and "body quickness" so convincingly that fantasy leaguers should take note. Reich is an expert at getting receivers open through route combinations, and Reich said Funchess is already terrific at creating separation through his routes. In four seasons with Carolina, Funchess averaged 42 catches, 586 yards and six scores.
Reich also stumped for backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett as one of the top 20 quarterbacks in the league, saying he's pleaded with general manager Chris Ballard not to trade him.