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Florida teams reminded Sunday night QB play is everything

Florida Football Insiders

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Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Sunday night at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens the confetti was falling, the hugs were plentiful, the Championship shirts and hats were on, and the Kansas City Chiefs were celebrating their first Super Bowl win in 50 years. And, while many aspects of their Championship run can be analyzed, you have to keep coming back to one clear point in the difference in them hoisting the Lombardi trophy or being just another team: the quarterback  play of Patrick Mahomes.

Say what you want about the weapons around the Chiefs third-year signal-caller (and they’re plentiful) , being able to get some run yardage out of former Dolphins back Damien Williams, their offensive line or their defense stepping up to make plays, this game came down to Kansas City having a gun-slinging quarterback (above) who riddled the 49ers for 21 points and nearly 200 yards of offense in the final eight minutes of the game.

He’s the reason they are champs.

The end.

And, to relate this to our three state NFL teams in Florida, they must all ponder what to do coming up in free agency and the draft with their own quarterback situation? This after Sunday’s stark reminder that their own poor quarterback’s play was their biggest undoings in 2019.

While it’s obvious that most teams in the NFL would lust to have Mahomes, his arm talent, and a coach like Andy Reid to guide him, it’s not as if the Bucs, the Dolphins, and the Jaguars haven’t been trying to get the quarterback thing correct for years.

In Tampa Bay, Jameis Winston has almost run out of chances after having had a third consecutive losing season, as the primary starter at QB and having his worst interception output of his career. This, when he was supposed to have a coaching staff led by Bruce Arians that helped him throw less of the ints and win more games.

While critics may point to Mahomes having thrown to earlier interceptions and also having two other fumbles Sunday night. That was an aberration.

Mahomes didn’t have any other three turnover games in the entire total of 16 regular season and previous playoff games he played.

Jameis Winston had six such games.

Oh, and most importantly for this comparison: when the game was on the line, and with a championship hanging in the balance, Mahomes didn’t throw the ball to the other team. Not, like Winston did time and again this past season with the kill the Bucs chances at making the playoffs.

And, Winston’s done it too many times to recount over the past few years.

So, the Buccaneers are left with deciding whether to let Winston try free agency and/or sign another quarterback themselves or even, draft one in April?

As for the Dolphins, they couldn’t get Ryan Tannehill healthy and then, as we wrote yesterday critically decided to get rid of him for injury and salary-cap reasons only to watch him succeed mightily in Tennessee. Miami chose to go with a two-headed monster of journeyman 35 year old veteran quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick, but with an eye on former Cardinals number one pick Josh Rosen, whom the Fins traded for, being their potential quarterback of the future.

However, first-year coach Brian Flores and his now fired first-year offensive coordinator Chad O’Shea could not get Fitzpatrick to stop throwing interceptions early in the year and Rosen looks shaky from the jump in the offseason, the preseason and then, when he got his chances to play.

Miami was probably going to have a bad season no matter what, but it was made worse, because their quarterback play by and large with poor until it was way too late in 2019.

Miami has now reloaded with veteran offensive coordinator and former two-time head coach in Dallas and Buffalo, Chan Gailey. And, the Dolphins will likely take a quarterback with the 5th overall pick in April or may even try to move up to grab one.

Finally, in Jacksonville, they got a taste of what Mahomes could do in week one when he torched them at TIAA Bank field for the Chiefs first win of this now, Championship season. Ironically, Jacksonville had tried to solve their quarterback problem by paying Nick Foles a whopping $50 million, but the Chiefs fractured left collarbone in the first quarter and he would miss nine more weeks.

Yes, rookie sixth round pick Gardner Minshew won some games and showed some promise, but the most disheartening thing for the Jaguars was: when they returned to Foles, his play in November and early December was, for the most part, awful.

So, coach Doug Marrone put him back on the bench for Minshew signaling that Foles may be relegated to backup status no matter what the Jaguars decide to do for quarterback in 2020. Of course, Jacksonville had the chance to take either DeShaun Watson or Mahomes in the 2017 NFL draft.

Instead, they took LSU running back Leonard Fournette and wanted to continue to try to mask and hide the deficiencies of Blake Bortles as their passer.

And, when push came to shove with Bortles having to make big throws, he seldom was able to do so.

Yes, Jacksonville had a magical run to the AFC Championship game in 2017, but that was largely on their defense and Fournette running and not sustainable.

Bortles proved it wasn’t sustainable and was awful in 2018. He got benched in November, and was eventually released last March. Bortles stayed on the bench for the L.A. Rams this year, while the QB Jacksonville (and others) could’ve taken Mahomes and had him blossom into one of the top passing weapons in the NFL.

Argue all you want about other deficiencies for any of the three state NFL teams, or any other NFL team for that matter. But, good to great quarterback play can cover for most all of it.

Kansas City has had it for two seasons.

Last night trailing 20-10 with it all on the line, Mahomes was fantastic.

And now, they have a Super Bowl win to talk about for all time, because of it.

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Time for concern after XFL TV ratings declined again last week?

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Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

For the second consecutive week, the XFL televison ratings continued to slide in the wrong direction. And, the troubling part is that if the trend continues, the XFL will have no leverage for sponsors and revenue to keep it going long term.

First, here are the specifics on the bad viewership news: According to Showbuzzdaily.com all four XFL broadcasts last Saturday and Sunday afternoon had lower ratings in their slot than the previous week.

That includes the Tampa Bay Vipers home debut against Houston, which was the early game on ABC Saturday. And, while that window had 400,000 less viewers than week 2, the bigger concern is ABC has lost almost 40% of the audience from the 3.3 million average that watched their Week one debut game on Saturday afternoon.

The ratings downward trend is following the same pattern as last Spring’s Alliance of American Football, where the ratings dwindled to under a million fans for broadcasts by week five and eventually the league shut down after just eight weeks. This was in part because of concerns on how the AAF could make any revenue, through television in specific, if they had very little audience for the end of year one and to sell off of for year two.

Now, WWE owner Vince McMahon, who folded the XFL the first time in 2001 in large part because the television audience plummeted over the course of the first month or so of its existence and never recovered, has the same issue in 2020.

And, as we wrote previously, this audience decline while negative is far less McMahon’s original XFL and it’s first season of 2001.  That’s when, it debuted on its first Saturday night on NBC with a massive 10.1 rating, which translated 18 years ago to more than 9.5 viewers on network TV. A Smashing success.

However, the XFL’s ratings plummeted starting the following week and had fewer than 25% of that opening night audience just a month later with the games still being shown on a Saturday night coveted slot on NBC. It doomed the league from a P.R. and sponsor standpoint and McMahon pulled the plug.

Now, in 2020, McMahon reportedly has money to burn and is apparently prepared to lose hundreds of millions of dollars in year one. So, even if the XFL TV ratings continue come down significantly, it will not spell the end of the XFL (like it did nearly 20 years ago) after just a single season.

At least, that’s what we think.

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Vipers better but drop third straight game in home opener

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Mary Holt- USA Today Sports

Although their play was improved offensively, in the end it wasn’t enough for the Tampa Bay Vipers after they dropped their third straight XFL game to start the season 34 – 27 to Houston Saturday afternoon in Tampa.

Roughnecks quarterback P.J. Walker threw for three touchdowns and ran for another, as Houston scored early in the fourth quarter to go up by seven and held off the Viper the rest of the way.

The Vipers offense came to life after they had failed to score in the offensive touchdown in either of their first two games. Both of which were losses on the road. Quarterback Taylor Cornelius, subbing for starter Aaron Murray who missed his second straight game with an injured foot, once again had modest numbers 16-31 for 193 yards 1 TD, 1 INT.

However, he did pull the game even at 18 – 18 at the half after scoring on a one yard QB sneak and Tampa Bay got the two-point conversion.

Still, the former Oklahoma State quarterbacks day was inconsistent and the home crowd at Raymond James Stadium began to chant the name “Flowers, Flowers” for former USF Star Quarterback Quinton Flowers, who played sparingly for the third straight game in a reserve role.

Flowers got Tampa Bay’s first offensive TD on the young season with a seven yard run in the first quarter, but only played QB sparingly in the game, again. He was just 4-6 for 57 yards passing with 29 yards on six attempts on the ground.

Meanwhile, the former Temple star Walker found receiver Cam Phillips for the third of their three touchdown hookups from 17 yards out to give Houston a 34 – 27 lead with just over 10 minutes to play. Phillips devastated Jerry Glanville’s Vipers defense for 194 yards receiving on eight catches with the three TDs.

The Vipers look like they were going to have a chance to re-tie the game when Cornelius (above) completed a pass to his top target on the day, Jaylen Tolliver, at the two-yard line. However just like a week ago in Seattle when a critical fourth quarter drive stalled and Tampa Bay came away with no points in a 17 – 9 lost the Dragons, the Vipers got no points after Cornelius threw incomplete on second, third and fourth downs.

Many in the crowd and observers in the media were curious, as to why coach Marc Trestman didn’t go to Flowers as the dual threat running QB to at least try something different on one of those plays? Flowers even questioned why he did not play more after the game to the media.

The Vipers got the ball one final time, but Cornelius was picked off near midfield with just over a minute left to seal the defeat.

The Vipers played the first spring professional football game in Tampa, since the closing of the USFL 1985 season. That’s when Steve Spurrier’s Tampa Bay Bandits were a popular item at Old Tampa Stadium. Saturday’s home opener drew and announced crowd of 18,117.

However it’s little consolation for former Bears and CFL coach Trestman and his team, as they remain winless on the season. The L.A. Wildcats playing Sunday are the other 0-2 team in the league, currently.

And, you have to wonder whether Trestman will be forced to go to Flowers for the start when they host the D.C. Defenders next week.

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