Hue Jackson hasn’t won yet as head coach of the Cleveland Browns and Chip Kelly has turned the trick exactly once with the San Francisco 49ers, so neither coach is probably all that thrilled with the thought of losing one of their best players. But, with the NFL trade deadline looming on Nov. 1 and NFL offensive line play at a historically low level, 30-plus assets like Joe Thomas and Joe Staley are very desirous for those in the playoff mix and kind of meaningless for bad teams.
Potential draft picks, on the other hand, could really help outfits like the Browns and the Niners.
The MLB mentality of selling at the deadline and the oft-criticized NBA idea of tanking have never really been staples of professional football but things are slowly changing, and Cleveland is at the forefront of that with ex-baseball executive Paul DePodesta helping run things as the team’s chief strategy officer.
If DePodesta isn’t flat out advocating “Moneyball” with the Browns, it’s a close facsimile as the organization continues to stockpile draft picks in an effort to start over from square one.
And a lights out left tackle on a 0-7 team is like a closer on a 60-win baseball team, it’s a needless luxury so no matter what Jackson currently wants (and that’s good football players), DePodesta and executive VP of football operations Sashi Brown are more concerned over what will be there when the organization is actually competing.
“Joe Thomas has a lot to do with what we’re trying to accomplish here in the future,” Jackson told reporters Monday after the Browns latest loss to Cincinnati. “So like you said there’s a lot of reports and that’s just what they are.”By no means is it a fait accompli that Thomas will be in another city post-Halloween but it does mean that DePodesta and Brown will be taking phone calls and if they hear something they like, then Jackson’s wants and desires take a back seat.
San Francisco and Staley, on the other hand, are a little different because the guy making the decision is a bigger lame duck than Barack Obama.
The odds of Trent Baalke returning as the 49ers general manager are virtually nil as the organization has taken a nose dive since Baalke won a power struggle over Jim Harbaugh. The hiring of Kelly has been every bit the disaster so many speculated it would be and Harbaugh is leading the No. 2 team in the country at the college level in Michigan, so it’s anyone’s guess as to what this organization will look like come 2017.
It’s almost inconceivable that Jed York would let Kelly have any part in the hiring process of the next GM after what went on in Philadelphia and it’s even less likely that the new executive would want any part of the coach and his hard-headed ways.
So, Staley would probably love to get out of the mess he’s in but circumstance may prevent it.
For now, though, Baalke is at least being professional and trying to leave his office tidy for the next guy by putting the fire sale sign in the window, be it for Staley for wide receiver Torrey Smith.
“No one’s ever talked to me (or had) discussions with me about Joe being traded,” Kelly said Monday, either unaware of the obvious or more likely setting the stage for plausible deniability if nothing is done.
Competent offensive tackles in this league are becoming an endangered species so when one becomes available, it’s probably a prudent idea to do your due diligence.
With so many of the perceived playoff contenders desperately needing help at tackle (Seattle, Minnesota, New England, Arizona, Philadelphia and the New York Giants come to mind) plenty of teams should have Cleveland and San Francisco on the speed dial over the next week.
-John McMullen is a national football columnist for FanRagSports.com and TodaysPigskin.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen — Also catch John each week during the NFL season ESPN South Jersey, ESPN Southwest Florida, ESPN Lexington, KDWN in Las Vegas, and check @JFMcMullen for John’s upcoming appearances on SB Nation Radio, FOX Sports Radio, CBS Sports Radio as well as dozens of local radio stations across North America