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NFL insider notes: Urban Meyer’s new culture in Jacksonville has an old look to it, plus Julio Jones latest

It will be interesting to see what the Jacksonville Jaguars do more of this season — quickly part with recent high-profiles hires, or win football games.

A lot of front office execs from other organizations would bet on the turmoil and turnover, over the winning product. You will recall Urban Meyer going out of his way to alienate his locker room by hiring a disgraced former strength coach from Iowa early on in his regime, only to walk away once the public backlash grew strong enough. That parting required two press releases to document; the team was far less forthcoming with the exodus of one of their top execs in football operations.

It was only back in February when the Jaguars plucked Karim Kassam from the Minnesota Twins to be their all-important senior vice president of football operations strategy. The press releases announcing the hire a mere three months ago noted that Kassam would report directly to Tony Khan (son of primary owner Shad Khan), and if you know even a little bit about the Khan family you know that analytics and data science are paramount to them, and this was no small title and no small hire.

Quietly, Kassam departed the organization last week, with word gradually trickling out. On the surface, not a huge thing, I guess. Things happen … though usually not this quickly. I’ve heard from people in the NFL and MLB that Kassam can be very headstrong and difficult at times to work with, but that was known before the hire. When viewed within the sphere of the history of this franchise, the many interpersonal issues between coaches/execs, problems between execs, issues between the front office and locker room and issues between the coaches and players, well, Meyer sure has a unique way of building a foundation and changing the culture.

“There is going to be constant turnover there, trust me,” said one NFL executive who has been paying particular attention to the Jaguars. “If you know anything about the people and the personalities involved, you can see it coming a mile away. There is going to be a constant churn.”

Another NFL executive added: “Won’t be the last time someone doesn’t make it through the season there.”

Meyer’s transition to the NFL will be one of the more fascinating case studies of the 2021 season. Hardly a week goes by without something bizarre or unconventional or wrought with peril going on down there, and it’s already clear that many of the people brought in early in his tenure won’t be there late, no matter how long this experiment lasts.

First-rounder tough get in Julio Jones trade 

Spoke to executives with three teams who are skeptical the Falcons have an offer for a first-round pick for Julio Jones on the table. Atlanta has been pushing the trade narrative for weeks, and if anything I get the sense from rival execs that all the chatter is due to the market being softer than they expected.

“If they have a high-two for him, they should take it and run,” said one high-ranking official for a club that has been involved in receiver transactions this season and closely studied the market. “I’ll believe it when I see it. And if someone is giving them a one, then I want to know how much of the contract (owner Arthur) Blank is eating. Because no one else is doing that.”

The Falcons’ willingness to speak so publicly about this deal, for so long, even just as a hypothetical, has led many to conclude this is not going to be the blockbuster they have hoped for. The fact that this front office has never executed a transaction of this magnitude, and the fact Atlanta has to wait until June to do so in order to maximize the cap savings, also further curtails the leverage. And with Jones being 32, and coming off an injury-marred season, even more eyebrows are raised.

If they can get a first-rounder for him, you’ll see the trade announced very early next week. It will already be verbally agreed to. They aren’t doing any better than that, and we’ll find out soon enough if they do in fact have that bird in hand. New England has always looked like the best bet to me, and you could certainly point out that they gave up way too much for receiver Mohamed Sanu (second-round pick) just two years ago in a trade with Atlanta (under different front office management), but I would imagine Bill Belichick has a better read of the landscape this time around.

Aaron Rodgers resolution in holding pattern  

Aaron Rodgers sure looks like he is having fun in Hawaii, doesn’t he? Lot more to do there than Green Bay this time of year (or, frankly, any time of year).

There is no reason for Rodgers not to take this grudge match deep into the summer, as we have been telling you for quite some time. I continue to hear that is very likely to be the case. Some close to him remain adamant that he is stuck in and won’t play for the Packers ever again. I’ll continue to caution that until we get to August, even Rodgers won’t know exactly how he will feel and if he may be conflicted (financially and otherwise) about staying home and incurring big fines.

I suspect he doesn’t take his foot off the proverbial neck of Mark Murphy and Co. without exerting maximum force. And a big part of me expects Rodgers to bleed this into September to try to get out of town. But regardless, if you are looking for any sort of rapid resolution to this impasse, or somehow thought that the start of OTAs might trigger a return to Wisconsin, you are missing the point.

Texans‘ follies getting worse

Anyone else wondering if the Texans refused to put numbers and names on the back of OTA jerseys and handed out numberless rosters to the media, perhaps, to obscure just how many non-NFL-caliber players they have running around in shorts and shells?

Of course, we know it’s to play games with the media and go out of their way to look smarter than everyone else, or to attempt to make some flawed point about only the team mattering and not any players, but it’s silly and too cute. In reality, the real problem there is that Bill O’Brien left that place devoid of talent and smoldering in toxicity, and it’s only, somehow, gotten worse there since he was fired early in the 2020 season. Even with all of the horrible PR from the Deshaun Watson situation, the Texans somehow found a way to incur even more sideways looks.

If I could get odds on them securing the first overall pick in 2022, might be a wise investment. Yeah, they play in a poor division, but I don’t see much ability for them to capitalize on it.




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