Earlier this week, Las Vegas Raiders owner Mark Davis gave ESPN the three ways he sees the upcoming NFL season playing out: 1. go on as planned, with teams reporting for training camp over the next week, and see what happens, 2. delay the start of the season until November, and cancel all inter-conference games, or 3. cancel the 2020 season entirely. With the spike in COVID19 cases the US is seeing, it's looking more like the latter. So, who stands to benefit and who stands to lose from a delayed or cancelled season?
Winner: Tua Tagovailoa
Tua and the Miami Dolphins were the ultimate will they, won't they story leading up to the draft, a story that only got more intriguing following the broadcast from Roger Goodell's basement. Conversation surrounding Tua and the Dolphins moved from whether or not the organization should select him with the fifth overall pick to whether or not he should play at all in the upcoming season. Tagovailoa's injury history in college, particularly a hip injury suffered against Mississippi State on November 16th, begot the idea of Miami giving him a medical redshirt his freshman season. Going into a season that could be potentially shortened, not conclude, or not even happen, Tua can have more time to heal and get back to 100%, reducing risk of re-injury. The Dolphins won't be competing for a Super Bowl this season and with the uncertainty of what said season will look like, thanks to the Coronavirus pandemic, it looks like the world is encouraging Tua to sit out his rookie year. Granted, Tua could also be seen as the loser in this situation, as if he really wants to play and feels ready to play Miami still may keep him off the field. However, I see this more as a win for him since he pretty much has an excuse in the uncertainty of the season to take all the time in the world to come back fully healthy if he wants to.
Loser: New Orleans Saints
Saints fans may be in for a fourth consecutive year of heartbreak. New Orleans is yet again heralded as Super Bowl contenders, but the Super Bowl may not be played this year or could be delayed. When your starting quarterback is 41 years of age and will be playing in what may be his last season, the window of opportunity to win a championship is quite small. That window might be shut entirely, right on the Saint's finger's, as a result of this pandemic's continued impact on the wide world of sports. The Saints saw each their last three seasons end on the last play of a playoff game - the Minneapolis Miracle, a game winning field goal in overtime by Greg Zuerlein, and an overtime touchdown pass caught by Kyle Rudolph - and they may not even have the opportunity for a redemption three years in the making if the season stalls or gets cancelled.
Winner: New England Patriots
Given enough time and preparation, Bill Belichick can prepare a game plan to have a fighting chance in any game, regardless of who is taking snaps under center. While the addition of Cam Newton certainly helps the New England offense tremendously, the former MVP was signed relatively late in the offseason, giving him less time to learn the playbook and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels less time to adapt the offense to Newton's abilities. A potentially delayed start to the season gives Belichick more time to arrange his chess pieces on defense, Newton more time to get accustomed to New England's system and get back to Super Cam form, and McDaniels more time to craft an offense around Newton. Furthermore, if Jarrett Stidham is the future, a potentially axed season gives him more time to develop and be groomed by Belichick.
Loser: Tom Brady
Regardless of how many more years the 42 year old intends to play, any postponement or cancellation of a season derails Brady's chances at a seventh Super Bowl championship. If this upcoming season doesn't get completed, Brady's chances of getting a seventh ring decrease by 33%. That is to say, rather than having three shots at another Lombardi trophy before he turns 45 he has two. Brady has certainly set himself up for success in Tampa Bay - two top receivers, three solid tight ends, and a more agreeable head coach than his last one - but this all means nothing if the upcoming NFL season isn't played. Furthermore, after 2020 two of Tampa's stars: last season's sack leader Shaq Barrett and aforementioned top wide out Chris Godwin become free agents. The Buccaneers may not be able to retain both.
Winner: Coaches on the Hot Seat
Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn, Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia, Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone, and New York Jets head coach Adam Gase all find themselves on the hot seat after disappointing seasons. Quinn, Patricia, and Marrone have missed the playoffs the last two years and Gase is just, well... Adam Gase. The chances of a team adding more uncertainty to a season that's already mired in it thanks to COVID19 by firing their head coach are slim to low. No need to add more question marks to a season already brimming with them. In a time when unemployment is at a record high because of a pandemic, these coaches essentially have their job security thanks to one. To be clear, Jets head coach Adam Gase and the word "winner" do not belong together in any other context but this one.
Loser: Dallas Cowboys
Given the fact that the Cowboys have yet to sign quarterback Dak Prescott to a long term deal, he's probably on another team this team next year. Prescott will be playing on the franchise tag this year, meaning if the season ends abruptly or doesn't happen the Cowboys will have paid Dak $31.4 million for a season that doesn't matter and will have to find a new signal caller. That's like renting a convertible, only to have it rain on the day you were going to drive it, and then going back to your 2011 Honda Civic. Dallas would already be losers to have a talent like Prescott slip through their fingers after having two years to extend him, but this upcoming season could just add more insult to injury.