Andy Reid knew what he was doing.

That was the very first thing that popped into my thoughts once I tried to look again on what I learned about the 2018 NFL season. Not that I ever essentially thought Reid did not know what he was doing, however once I assume again to final summer time, I recall being at the least slightly bit skeptical about the resolution to commerce Alex Smith and switch a profitable Kansas Metropolis Chiefs offense over to an untested Patrick Mahomes. I am massive on having to see it earlier than I consider it, and I simply figured Mahomes, like most younger quarterbacks, can be susceptible to some rising pains, and it might set the Chiefs again in the quick time period. If this have been an episode of “Arrested Improvement,” that is the half the place Ron Howard would say, “It didn’t.”

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Mahomes simply threw 50 landing passes for a Chiefs group that went 12-Four and secured the prime seed in the AFC playoffs. He is nearly sure to win the league’s MVP award. He endured no discernible rising pains. Relatively, he dominated the league from September by way of December, and he might be positioned to ship Reid his elusive first Tremendous Bowl title.

I have been questioning these days whether or not Reid wants to win a Tremendous Bowl so as to make the Professional Soccer Corridor of Fame. My guess is he in all probability does, even when his non-January document of accomplishment might be the second-most-impressive of his time, after that of the man in New England. However whether or not he ever will get that Tremendous Bowl title or not, that is the sort of factor that can come up in Reid’s favor once they discuss whether or not he belongs in Canton.

Andy Reid’s resolution to hand his offense’s reins to Patrick Mahomes wasn’t with out substantial danger. AP Photograph/Ed Zurga

It is easy to love the transfer now, after seeing the way it labored out, however assume again. Smith had an MVP-caliber marketing campaign in 2017 for a Chiefs group that went 10-6 and won its division. The logic behind dumping him and switching to Mahomes was that Mahomes would elevate the ceiling at the most necessary place and that his uncooked expertise provided Reid’s offense an opportunity to operate at beforehand inconceivable ranges — ultimately.

The truth that this occurred in 2018 is a testomony to Reid’s potential to make and execute a plan, to develop a younger quarterback and provides him the instruments he wants to succeed, and to get a bunch of NFL gamers to consider in his imaginative and prescient. That is what teaching is all about, and as we swim by way of this yr’s head-coaching carousel, it is necessary to take a look at the people who find themselves doing it at the highest stage and have been for some time. Reid’s going to have a whole lot of marks in his favor when that Corridor of Fame dialog occurs sometime, however Mahomes’ 2018 season — regardless of the way it ends — could also be his crowning achievement to date.

As for different things we learned in 2018 in the NFL, let’s do one per division, so folks do not feel disregarded. The AFC West is already lined.

The Dolphins completed second however are the furthest AFC East group from catching the Patriots

This is not simply because Miami fired coach Adam Gase on Monday. It is a big-picture evaluation involving quarterbacks. Ryan Tannehill had each alternative this yr to show he could possibly be the man the Dolphins thought they drafted, and he did not. Miami is ready again at the least a yr at the most necessary place, whereas the Jets and Payments exit 2018 feeling superb about the younger quarterbacks they drafted. They’ve extra to do to construct round Sam Darnold and Josh Allen, however whenever you consider you have got your quarterback, different selections are a lot simpler. Miami has to discover a coach and a quarterback, whereas the Jets simply want a coach and the Payments consider they’ve each. That places the Dolphins behind the pack when we’re imagining who might take over this division as soon as Invoice Belichick and Tom Brady are accomplished with it.

Repeating is difficult, regardless of how good you look

On this one, I used to be truly proper. There was no motive to assume the Eagles would not repeat as NFC East champions besides that no one has accomplished it since 2003-04. This isn’t a coincidence. The division is filled with bitter rivals who by no means appear to be in rebuilding mode and is perpetually fairly aggressive. The Eagles had a Tremendous Bowl hangover most of the season and confirmed a champion’s mettle in recovering to make the playoffs as a wild card, however they nonetheless completed second to Dallas, which means that streak lives one other yr. It might be at the least a gentle shock to see the Eagles make a Tremendous Bowl run from the No. 6 seed with Nick Foles, however no one’s right here to say they cannot. Regardless, the place during which they enter this yr’s postseason displays how tough it’s to do what they did final yr twice in a row. A lesson value remembering this summer time when we’re extolling the dynasty prospects of whoever wins Tremendous Bowl LIII a number of weeks from now.

The Bears’ acquisition of Khalil Mack could possibly be the NFL’s most impactful commerce of the yr. Jonathan Daniel/Getty Pictures

Some defensive gamers ARE value quarterback cash

There have been two NFC North groups that have been supposed to be “one participant away” from Tremendous Bowl competition. The addition of Kirk Cousins and the return of Aaron Rodgers have been supposed to lead to a killer two-team race between the Vikings and Packers. As an alternative, the Bears, who’d been quietly constructing a fearsome protection for a few years now, added Khalil Mack proper earlier than the season and muscled their manner to a division title. Seems it was Chicago that was “one participant away,” and that participant wasn’t a quarterback. The offers that Mack and Rams defensive deal with Aaron Donald signed proper earlier than the season have been historic, and there are many groups on the market (cough … Raiders) who’d by no means even take into consideration going north of $20 million a yr for a defensive lineman. However there are circumstances the place it is sensible. There have been different components in the Bears’ resurgence, together with the program that Coach of the 12 months front-runner Matt Nagy put in place for younger QB Mitchell Trubisky. However the addition of Mack at the most hopeful time of the yr modified all the pieces in Chicago.

DO NOT decide these head-coaching hires this month

Nagy’s hardest competitors for Coach of the 12 months could also be in Indianapolis, the place the Colts are being coached by a man who wasn’t even on their interview request checklist this time final yr. You certainly bear in mind the Colts agreeing to a cope with Josh McDaniels solely to have McDaniels again out after the Tremendous Bowl. The Colts turned to Frank Reich, who seems to have been the completely excellent man to handle Andrew Luck’s shoulder restoration and maintain a younger group on observe after a 1-5 begin. (The Colts had simply an eight.5 p.c probability of constructing the playoffs after Week 6, in accordance to ESPN’s Soccer Energy Index.) That the Colts are in the playoffs is a stone miracle, given their personnel, and it is the achievement of a coach that they had completely no intention of hiring when the hiring season began final January. It is slightly bit like the Eagles hiring Doug Pederson after Ben McAdoo turned them down. We’ll rank the head-coaching hires once they’re all accomplished, however we’ll be guessing.

Baker Mayfield and Lamar Jackson could possibly be battling for AFC North supremacy for the subsequent decade. Patrick Smith/Getty Pictures

The 2018 QB draft class could have been particular in any case

Did anybody else get an enormous kick out of watching the Baker Mayfield Browns and the Lamar Jackson Ravens play each different Sunday? Take into consideration these two going in opposition to each different for the subsequent decade or so in the AFC North. Jackson wants to refine himself as a thrower, however he clearly has potential in that space, and his working makes him a wide ranging participant to watch. Mayfield’s toughness and accuracy are nice attributes, however greater than that, he appears to be the excellent match for his city. No one’s thought a lot of Cleveland for some time in NFL circles, however Mayfield, fairly aggressively, doesn’t care what anybody thinks. We wait to see who’ll be teaching him, however he seems like the actual deal to date. Outdoors this division, Sam Darnold and Josh Allen completed the season in extraordinarily promising trend, and Josh Rosen had his moments in a horrible state of affairs in Arizona. All 5 groups are fired up about the guys they picked.

A profitable coach/quarterback combo can final a very long time

The Seahawks have been supposed to be accomplished, bear in mind? Legion of Increase all gone, offense caught in the mud, Pete Carroll altering coordinators throughout the place … this was supposed to be the yr Seattle began its rebuild. The Seahawks as a substitute went 10-6 and made the playoffs. They lastly put collectively an actual run recreation. The younger guys they developed on protection to take the place of these departed championship stars blossomed in key locations. The veterans who remained performed harm, performed their tails off and led by instance. However the basis here’s a quarterback in Russell Wilson who by no means lets his group consider it is out of a recreation and a coach in Carroll who trusts in the solidity of the program he has constructed whilst the names on the backs of the jerseys change. The Seahawks went into this season anticipating to win, and so they did.

Heartbreak is usually a constructing block

The 2017 Saints have been good. Perhaps even adequate to win a Tremendous Bowl. We’ll by no means know, as a result of the Vikings snatched that probability away from them with a miracle landing in the playoffs. However typically that sort of factor can impress a group, and for no matter motive, the 2018 Saints seem to be even higher. With a various and harmful offense to go along with a burgeoning protection, New Orleans enters the playoffs as the favourite to win all of it. We might have accomplished that final coach/QB merchandise about Sean Payton and Drew Brees simply as simply. And when we’re speaking teaching candidates, it is truthful to anticipate groups to be considering Saints assistants like Dan Campbell and Dennis Allen this hiring cycle. There’s an entire bunch of excellent stuff occurring in New Orleans, and the Saints are three wins away from overcoming the reminiscence of the manner final season ended for them.

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