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For quarterbacks, no one knows if they can do it until they do it

Brady Getty Images

As the weeks of throwing footballs against a defense made up of Lennay Kekua and 10 of her family members yields to throwing footballs with a red no-touchy jersey against a bunch of other rookies and assorted slappies to throwing footballs with a red no-touchy jersey against veterans, rookies, and assorted slappies, we’re no closer to knowing whether any of the rookie quarterbacks can play effectively at the NFL level.

That point was reinforced last night upon tripping over the excellent NFL Films documentary regarding “The Brady 6” — the six quarterbacks drafted in 2000 before the Pats scrawled Tom Brady’s name onto the 199th card submitted.

The chip that blossomed on Brady’s shoulder was nurtured in part by underwhelming performances at Michigan, which opened the door for Drew Henson to take reps during Brady’s senior season, and pre-draft workouts from a slow, ungainly athlete who did nothing to stand out.  But when it was time to play against live NFL competition, as the calm eye in a storm of bodies and movement and drawn-up plays that disintegrate when exposed to a full-speed defense, Brady didn’t simply survive but thrived.

Others couldn’t.  The much-hyped Giovanni Carmazzi, taken by the favorite team of Brady’s boyhood, flamed out for the 49ers.  Former coach Steve Mariucci attributed the failure to Carmazzi’s first NFL appearance, coincidentally against the Patriots in the Hall of Fame game, as planting the doubt that resulted in Carmazzi never playing in a regular-season game.

Ditto for Tee Martin, the Peyton Manning successor who never was able to do enough with his limited opportunity to catch the eye of the coaches in Pittsburgh.  In the end, Brady became the latest Hall of Fame quarterback the Steelers could have snatched, but didn’t.  (They once cut John Unitas and passed over hometown hero Dan Marino.)

But it’s hard to blame any of the teams that passed on Brady.  There was scant evidence that he’d perform at a high level at the highest level of the sport.

And that makes this year’s — and each year’s — class of quarterbacks inherently intriguing.  While it’s easy to lament the absence of can’t-miss prospects like Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III from the 2013 collection of signal-callers, there could be one of more Russell Wilsons lurking among the likes of EJ Manuel, Geno Smith, Mike Glennon, Matt Barkley, Ryan Nassib, Tyler Wilson, Landry Jones, Zac Dysert, or any of the undrafted players.

We simply won’t know what they can do until they do it.  Which will make things interesting not in May or June but in late July, August, September, and beyond.

There’s definitely a Carmazzi and Martin among that group.  But there also could be a Brady or a Wilson.

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Tom Brady has 19 touchdowns, 0 interceptions vs. Mike Tomlin

PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 23:  Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots drops back to pass in the second half during the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on October 23, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Rooneys own the Steelers, but Tom Brady owns Mike Tomlin.

In the 10 years since Tomlin became head coach of the Steelers, Brady and the Patriots have faced Pittsburgh six times. And in those six games, Brady has absolutely embarrassed Tomlin’s defense.

According to NFL Research, Brady has 19 touchdown passes and zero interceptions in six games against Tomlin’s teams. Brady’s passer rating in those games is 127.5, his highest against any head coach he’s faced at least three times. His completion percentage against Tomlin’s defense is 71.2 percent and he has averaged 314.8 yards a game.

Brady has never failed to throw for at least two touchdown passes against Tomlin’s Steelers. Tomlin may need to find a way to reverse that on Sunday if he wants to get to the Super Bowl.

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Aaron Rodgers: It’s loud in Atlanta, whether it’s all natural or not

ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 30:  Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers looks to pass against the Atlanta Falcons at Georgia Dome on October 30, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) Getty Images

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers took a shot at the Falcons’ history of playing fake crowd noise over the Georgia Dome loudspeakers in his final media appearance before Sunday’s NFC Championship Game.

Asked about the noise in Atlanta, Rodgers acknowledged it’s loud, and then noted that the noise might not actually be coming from the fans.

“It’s really loud in there. Whether that’s all natural or not is yet to be seen,” Rodgers said.

The Falcons were stripped of a fifth-round pick in the 2016 NFL draft and fined $350,000 after an investigation revealed that they had been using fake crowd noise while the opposing offense was on the field during the 2013 and 2014 seasons. The Falcons fired their director of event marketing, whom they blamed for overseeing the scheme, and the NFL temporarily pulled Falcons President Rich McKay off the Competition Committee for it.

There have been no allegations that the Falcons resumed their practice since then, but Rodgers found it amusing to take a little shot at the team before Sunday’s game.

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Report: Gus Bradley agrees to be Chargers’ defensive coordinator

ORCHARD PARK, NY - NOVEMBER 27: Head coach Gus Bradley of the Jacksonville Jaguars yells out on the sideline during NFL game action against the Buffalo Bills at New Era Field on November 27, 2016 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) Getty Images

Gus Bradley will be the Chargers’ new defensive coordinator, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Friday night.

Bradley spent the last four seasons as head coach of the Jaguars. He had been linked to multiple teams as a defensive coordinator candidate, and landing him is considered a win for new Chargers’ head coach Anthony Lynn.

The Seahawks’ defense took off in Bradley’s four seasons as their defensive coordinator from 2009-12 and ranked in the top 10 in total defense in his final two seasons before he went to Jacksonville. Prior to that, he had been the linebackers coach for the Buccaneers.

The Jaguars fired Bradley in December, knowing they would be headed in a different direction for 2017 after the team went 14-48 with Bradley as head coach. With the Chargers he’ll take over a defense headlined by 2016 rookie defensive end Joey Bosa and Pro Bowl cornerback Casey Hayward.

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James Harrison on Tom Brady: Any QB can be rattled if you hit him

PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 23:  Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots talks with James Harrison #92 and Mike Mitchell #23 of the Pittsburgh Steelers after the conclusion of the New England Patriots 27-16 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on October 23, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) Getty Images

Steelers outside linebacker James Harrison knows his primary job on Sunday will be hitting Tom Brady.

Harrison was asked today whether Brady can be rattled and he answered, “I believe anybody can be rattled if you get hit enough.”

In Harrison’s view, beating Brady is all about getting pressure on him.

“You can put pressure on any quarterback, to make him uncomfortable — if a quarterback is sitting back there without pressure he’s going to do a good job of spreading the ball around and getting it to his receivers,” Harrison said.

If Harrison fails at rattling Brady, he knows the Patriots’ offense can put a lot of points on the board.

“He gets the ball where it needs to go, his receivers do a good job of catching the ball and getting yards after the catch, his line does a good job of holding up and blocking well and they run the ball pretty decent too,” Harrison said.

And so Harrison will try to hit Brady enough that the Patriots’ offense can’t do all the things it does very well.

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Report: Kevin O’Connell will coach quarterbacks in Washington

Washington Redskins v Tennessee Titans Getty Images

The Redskins will hire Kevin O’Connell as their new quarterbacks coach, Bruce Feldman of FOX Sports reported Friday.

The team has not announced the move, nor has it announced a replacement for offensive coordinator Sean McVay after he became head coach of the Rams. The hiring of O’Connell would indicate that head coach Jay Gruden will promote Matt Cavanaugh from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator.

O’Connell, 31, was quarterbacks coach with the Browns in 2015 and worked on the 49ers’ staff last season. The report said he had also been in the mix for coordinator and quarterbacks coach jobs at the college level.

O’Connell spent five seasons in the NFL as a player. He worked training high school and college quarterbacks before accepting a job with the Browns prior to the 2015 season.

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Travis Kelce fined for ripping ref

KANSAS CITY, MP - JANUARY 15: Tight end Travis Kelce #87 of the Kansas City Chiefs signals a first down in the first quarter of the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers  in the AFC Divisional Playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium on January 15, 2017 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) Getty Images

After the Chiefs lost to the Steelers on Sunday, Kansas City tight end Travis Kelce ripped referee Carl Cheffers, saying Cheffers “shouldn’t be able to wear a zebra jersey,” even at Foot Locker. The NFL was not amused.

A league source tells PFT that Kelce has been fined for criticizing Cheffers.

Although we have not confirmed the exact amount of Kelce’s fine, it’s believed to be about $12,500. That’s half of what Josh Norman was fined for telling an official he sucked during the regular season.

Players generally get a pass if they criticize the officiating in a general sense. When they start to get personal toward an individual official, that’s when the league cracks down. The NFL felt that Kelce, by specifically identifying Cheffers and criticizing not just one specific holding call but Cheffers’ competence in general, had crossed the line.

The NFL has also said that Cheffers was correct on the call in question, a holding call on Chiefs left tackle Eric Fisher. And the NFL has appointed Cheffers to referee the Super Bowl, demonstrating that the league is satisfied that Cheffers is fully capable of wearing the zebra jersey to do more than sell footwear.

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Alfredo Roberts will coach Chargers running backs

Jacksonville Jaguars tight ends coach Alfredo Roberts watches play during the game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Jacksonville Jaguars at Alltel Stadium in Jacksonville, Florida on September 18, 2006. The Jaguars won 9-0.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

The Chargers will hire Alfredo Roberts as their new running backs coach, ESPN’s Adam Caplan reported Friday.

Roberts previously worked with new Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn in Cleveland, where Lynn coached running backs and Roberts coached the tight ends in 2007-08, and in Jacksonville.

Roberts also previously was the tight ends coach for the Buccaneers and Colts. He played on two Super Bowl teams with the Cowboys in the early 1990s.

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Jaguars hire Keenan McCardell as wide receivers coach

536984 Getty Images

Jimmy Smith’s prayers have been answered.

When word broke that the Jaguars were interviewing Keenan McCardell to be their wide receiver coach, Smith said he was praying for his former Jacksonville teammate to get the job. Their former coach and current executive vice president of football operations Tom Coughlin helped announce the news on Friday afternoon.

“We all understand what Keenan means to this organization and we are excited to welcome him home to Jacksonville, as he’ll oversee the growth and consistent improvement of our receiving corps,” Coughlin said in a statement. “I had the pleasure of coaching Keenan for six seasons and understand his passion for the game of football and his burning desire to win.”

McCardell joined the Jaguars in 1996 and caught 499 passes for 6,393 yards and 30 touchdowns over six seasons with the team. McCardell played 16 years in the NFL overall, wrapping up his career with the Redskins in 2007 and catching 883 passes in the process.

McCardell coached the wide receivers in Washington in 2010 and 2011 and spent two years in the same job at the University of Maryland, where he worked with current Vikings wideout Stefon Diggs.

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Tom Brady still not willing to talk Donald Trump

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 14:  Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots looks on in the second half against the Houston Texans during the AFC Divisional Playoff Game at Gillette Stadium on January 14, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) Getty Images

On Thursday night, Donald Trump said that Patriots quarterback Tom Brady called to congratulate the since-inaugurated Commander-in-Chief. On Friday, Brady declined to address the situation, in any way.

Asked by reporters to share some of the details about the call, Brady said this: “I don’t have much to say.”

Asked simply whether he called Trump, Brady said this: “Did I call him? Let’s talk about football.”

In contrast, coach Bill Belchick admitted that he had sent Trump a letter of encouragement before the election, after Trump read from the letter at a rally.

It’s Brady’s prerogative to say whether he did or didn’t make the call; after the election, he said he’s done talking politics. However, the fact that he said nothing underscores the notion that he surely wasn’t happy about the public disclosure of his private communication.

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Vikings make it official with coordinator Pat Shurmur

PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 7: Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur of the Philadelphia Eagles watches his team warm up prior to the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars on September 7, 2014 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) Getty Images

After going through interim quarterbacks, interim running backs and interim tackles last year, the Vikings decided to remove that adjective from their offensive coordinator’s title.

The team announced that Pat Shurmur would remain as their offensive coordinator, after he took over for Norv Turner last November.

The team also announced that Kevin Stefanski will move from coaching running backs to quarterbacks, along with the hirings of running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu and tight ends coach Clancy Barone.

Shurmur’s background with Sam Bradford was helpful for the Vikings this year, as they tried to recover from Teddy Bridgewater’s knee injury. They worked together previously with the Rams and Eagles, and may well into the future, since no one’s quite sure when or if Bridgewater will return.

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Travis Kelce fined for shoving Ross Cockrell

KANSAS CITY, MP - JANUARY 15:  Tight end Travis Kelce #87 of the Kansas City Chiefs reacts against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the fourth quarter in the AFC Divisional Playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium on January 15, 2017 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) Getty Images

Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce ripped the officials in last Sunday’s playoff loss to the Steelers for a holding call on left tackle Eric Fisher on a two-point conversion attempt in the fourth quarter and said that referee Carl Cheffers wasn’t fit to wear a striped shirt for Foot Locker.

The NFL has a different read on Cheffers’ work as they named him to work the Super Bowl in Houston in a couple of weeks. We don’t know if Kelce’s views of the officiating have drawn a fine from the league, but PFT has confirmed that Kelce was fined for an on-field penalty.

Kelce has been fined $9,115 for an unnecessary roughness penalty. Kelce was flagged in the third quarter for shoving Steelers cornerback Ross Cockrell at the end of a play. The penalty pushed the Chiefs back 15 yards, but they were able to convert a first down on the next play and ended the drive with three points.

That wasn’t enough to put them in front of the Steelers, who advanced to the AFC Championship Game by an 18-16 score after the Chiefs’ second try at the aforementioned two-point conversion came up short.

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No fines for Chiefs-Steelers post-game skirmish

KANSAS CITY, MP - JANUARY 15: Head coach Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers attempts to calm down cornerback Marcus Peters #22 of the Kansas City Chiefs  in the AFC Divisional Playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium on January 15, 2017 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) Getty Images

Although it didn’t get a lot of attention in the media, a skirmish broke out between players on the Chiefs and Steelers after Sunday night’s playoff game.

The league office didn’t pay it any mind, either: PFT has confirmed that none of the players involved were fined.

Chiefs defensive backs Terrance Mitchell and Marcus Peters were involved in some pushing and shoving with several Steelers players, and Steelers coach Mike Tomlin got between them. Steelers coach Joey Porter also got in the middle of it, trying to break things up just days after he was reinstated from the team after being put on leave briefly for allegedly doing some pushing and shoving of his own in a Pittsburgh restaurant.

No punches were thrown and it was a fairly mild scuffle, so it’s no surprise that the NFL decided not to hand out any discipline, even if it wasn’t exactly the ideal way for a playoff game to end.

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Jadeveon Clowney, Eric Rowe fined for divisional round infractions

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 14: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots passes the ball while under pressure by Jadeveon Clowney #90 of the Houston Texans during the AFC Divisional Playoff Game at Gillette Stadium on January 14, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images) Getty Images

Texans defensive end Jadeveon Clowney hit Patriots quarterback Tom Brady a few times in last Saturday’s Patriots win in the divisional round of the playoffs and one of them led to an animated reaction from Brady when a flag wasn’t thrown.

Clowney dragged Brady down on an incomplete pass in the third quarter and Brady was seen shouting at the officials after the play was over. He got the flag he was looking for early in the next quarter when Clowney was penalized for roughing Brady on a 10-yard completion to running back Dion Lewis.

PFT has confirmed with the league that Clowney was also fined $18,231 for roughing Brady.

Patriots cornerback Eric Rowe has also been fined $12,154 after picking up an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. There was a scrum at the end of a short completion on third down to Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins early in the game and Rowe was penalized for pulling people off the pile. The penalty gave the Texans a first down that they used to continue a drive that ended with a field goal.

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Patriots list seven as questionable for Sunday

FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 12:  Malcolm Mitchell #19 of the New England Patriots celebrates scoring a touchdown during the second quarter against the Baltimore Ravens at Gillette Stadium on December 12, 2016 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Patriots didn’t have a player on their 53-man roster miss practice at any point this week, but they aren’t saying that everyone will be healthy enough to play on Sunday in the AFC Championship Game.

They listed seven players as questionable to face the Steelers, including four of quarterback Tom Brady’s targets through the air. Wide receivers Danny Amendola, Chris Hogan and Malcolm Mitchell all got the questionable designation after three days of limited practices. Amendola returned to action last week after missing a month with an ankle injury while Mitchell didn’t play due to a knee issue and Hogan had to leave the win over the Texans after hurting his thigh.

Tight end Martellus Bennett is the other member of the quartet. He’s listed with a knee injury after briefly leaving last week’s game a couple of times, but said early in the week that he was feeling fine.

Linebacker Dont’a Hightower (shoulder), running back Brandon Bolden (knee) and defensive end Jabaal Sheard (knee) make up the rest of the group.

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Sammy Watkins has second foot surgery

ORCHARD PARK, NY - DECEMBER 27:   Sammy Watkins #14 of the Buffalo Bills warms up before the game against the Dallas Cowboys at Ralph Wilson Stadium on December 27, 2015 in Orchard Park, New York.  (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Bills announced Friday that wide receiver Sammy Watkins and defensive end Shaq Lawson have recently undergone surgeries.

The team said Watkins had a second surgery on his injured foot and that his anticipated timetable includes a healthy return in time for training camp.

Watkins had foot surgery last spring, then re-injured his foot and missed half of the 2016 season, though he returned to play in December. He caught 28 passes for 430 yards and two touchdowns in eight games.

Lawson, the team’s first-round pick last spring, had arthroscopic knee surgery. He’s expected to be available for the entire offseason program.

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