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PFT’s Week Five picks

Luck AP

The gap has been narrowed from three games to two, thanks to 10-5 showing last week.  The good news for MDS, who went a mere 9-6, was that he had his first hole in one of the year, picking the Seahawks to beat the Texans by the score of 23-20.  (I’d be really impressed if he also predicted overtime.)

For the year, MDS leads with a mark of 43-20, or 68.2 percent.  I’m closing in on him with a 41-22 mark, which equates to 65 percent.

This week, we disagree on 21.4 percent of the games.  Read on for our takes and our picks.

Bills at Browns

MDS’s take: Browns fever is sweeping the nation! OK, that’s a slight overstatement, but this team is playing very well, especially on defense, where new coordinator Ray Horton deserves an enormous amount of credit. Cleveland will beat Buffalo and improve to 3-0 since allegedly giving up on the season by trading Trent Richardson.

MDS’s pick: Browns 17, Bills 14.

Florio’s take:  The Bills are too banged up and the Browns, two weeks after they supposedly abandoned their season, are too strong on defense and sufficiently competent on offense to lose.  With two home wins only four days apart, they’ll soon have to call it the Factory of Gladness.

Florio’s pick:  Browns 20, Bills 14.

Saints at Bears

MDS’s take: The Bears’ defense is missing Henry Melton and struggled against Detroit’s offense last week. This week an even better New Orleans offense is heading to Chicago, and the Bears’ defense will struggle again.

MDS’s pick: Saints 28, Bears 24.

Florio’s take:  The Saints are much improved, but they’re still not the same team when they exit the Superdome.  The winless Bucs nearly beat them in Tampa; the much better Bears will finish the job on the choppy turf of Soldier Field.

Florio’s pick:  Bears 24, Saints 21.

Patriots at Bengals

MDS’s take: The Patriots will miss Vince Wilfork’s presence on the defensive line. Look for Bengals running back Giovani Bernard to have a big day as the Patriots suffer their first loss of the season.

MDS’s pick: Bengals 21, Patriots 20.

Florio’s take:  The Bengals are learning how to be a good team.  A week after failing to win a game they should have, the Bengals find a way to prevail in a contest many assume they’ll lose.  And down goes another of the undefeated.

Florio’s pick:  Bengals 27, Patriots 24.

Lions at Packers

MDS’s take: The Lions have lost 22 in a row in Green Bay. The last time the Lions beat the Packers on the road, it was 1991 and the starting quarterbacks in the game were Erik Kramer and Mike Tomczak. The Lions are just not very good at Lambeau Field. The streak will continue for another year.

MDS’s pick: Packers 27, Lions 20.

Florio’s take:  Earlier this year, the Lions won for the first time ever in Washington.  And now it could be time to win in Green Bay for the first time since the year before Brett Favre arrived.  But the Packers are rested and ready and healed (for the most part) after a bye week.  More importantly, they’re desperate to avoid a 1-3 start to the season.

Florio’s pick:  Packers 31, Lions 24.

Seahawks at Colts

MDS’s take: The Seahawks tend to struggle on the road, and the Colts are playing excellent football, looking even better than last year’s surprise playoff team. So my head is telling me to pick Indianapolis. But my gut is telling me Russell Wilson is going to have an easier time finding open receivers in the Colts’ secondary than Andrew Luck will have finding open receivers in the Seahawks’ secondary, and that will be the difference.

MDS’s pick: Seahawks 28, Colts 27.

Florio’s take
:  Colts quarterback Andrew Luck and offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton won’t be allowing former Stanford cornerback (and receiver) Richard Sherman to spot any tendencies or tells this week.  If the Colts can outscore the 49ers by 20 in their own building, the Colts can outscore the Seahawks by at least one at home.

Florio’s pick:  Colts 24, Seahawks 23.

Ravens at Dolphins

MDS’s take: Perhaps it’s premature, four weeks into the season, to say this about the defending Super Bowl champion. But I just don’t think the Ravens are a very good team. The Dolphins’ defense had plenty of flaws on display in Monday night’s loss to the Saints, but the Ravens’ suspect offensive line is going to make it easy for the Dolphins to get to Joe Flacco.

MDS’s pick: Dolphins 31, Ravens 17.

Florio’s take:  In 2007, the Dolphins got their only win of the season against the Ravens.  This year, it will be one of a lot more than one.  While it’s too early to write off Baltimore, it’s too late to consider them a viable candidate to knock off the improved Dolphins in Miami.

Florio’s pick:  Dolphins 27, Ravens 20.

Eagles at Giants

MDS’s take: Other than the first half of Week One, the Eagles haven’t looked particularly good this season. But the Giants have looked downright awful. The NFC East is such a bad division that even at 0-4 the Giants aren’t out of it yet, but they’ll drop to 0-5 on Sunday.

MDS’s pick: Eagles 27, Giants 17.

Florio’s take:  Forget the 0-4 record.  The Giants are only two games out of first place, and they can pull to within one with a win over Philly and a Dallas loss to the Broncos.  Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning finally find a way to a win.  (And I’ll keep saying that until they finally do.)

Florio’s pick:  Giants 27, Eagles 19.

Jaguars at Rams

MDS’s take: I’d pick anyone to beat the Jaguars. Easily. This Jacksonville team is as bad an NFL team as I’ve ever seen, and I remember the 2008 Lions well.

MDS’s pick: Rams 34, Jaguars 17.

Florio’s take:  What’s more likely, the Broncos going 16-0 or the Jaguars going 0-16?  This week, we’ll remain on track for “both.”

Florio’s pick:  Rams 27, Jaguars 10.

Chiefs at Titans

MDS’s take: In this matchup of two surprise AFC playoff contenders, I probably would have picked Tennessee if Jake Locker were healthy. But with Locker out, the Chiefs will improve to 5-0. Who saw that coming?

MDS’s pick: Chiefs 20, Titans 14.

Florio’s take:  Alex Smith gets his first crack at a Gregg Williams defense since proof emerged of Williams telling his players to hurt Smith.  The bigger problem for the Titans is that quarterback Jake Locker is hurt.  So which Ryan Fitzpatrick shows up — the one from before he got paid by the Bills, or after?

Florio’s pick
:  Chiefs 21, Titans 17.

Panthers at Cardinals

MDS’s take: The Panthers won’t catch the Saints in the NFC South, and the Cardinals won’t catch the Seahawks in the NFC West. But the winner of this game will have to feel like it’s in very good position to emerge as an NFC wild card contender. I think it’s going to be the Panthers, who have an offense that’s capable of putting a lot of points on the board. I don’t see Arizona’s offense keeping up.

MDS’s pick: Panthers 31, Cardinals 17.

Florio’s take:  For Carolina, the bye week makes many forget a dominant performance against the Giants.  Not me.  The defense is clicking and the offense is doing enough to outpace a better-than-expected Arizona team in its own building.

Florio’s pick:  Panthers 24, Cardinals 21.

Broncos at Cowboys

MDS’s take: This is the flip side of what I said earlier about the Jaguars: I’d pick the Broncos to beat anyone. (Although I’d probably have to think long and hard about it if they played at Seattle.) The Broncos are the best team in football and will improve to 5-0, while the Cowboys will fall to 2-3, which in the NFC East is still good enough for first place.

MDS’s pick: Broncos 35, Cowboys 21.

Florio’s take:  Jerry Jones wants Tony Romo to be Peyton Manning.  Tony Romo is no Peyton Manning.  Jerry Jones will get to see it up close on Sunday.  To his dismay.

Florio’s pick:  Broncos 42, Cowboys 24.

Chargers at Raiders

MDS’s take: In the midnight special, Philip Rivers will put up big numbers against a suspect Raiders defense. The winners will be the Chargers and the losers will be any fans who stay up to watch the whole game and have to be at work on Monday morning.

MDS’s pick: Chargers 28, Raiders 20.

Florio’s takeTerrelle Pryor has created hope for the Raiders, but that doesn’t mean there will be wins.  The Chargers are the better team on both sides of the ball, and quarterback Philip Rivers is reminding everyone that he’s still a franchise quarterback.

Florio’s pick:  Chargers 26, Raiders 20.

Texans at 49ers

MDS’s take: This is a big one for two teams that entered the season with Super Bowl aspirations and are now looking up at better teams in their own divisions. San Francisco’s defense will miss Aldon Smith, but they’ll still be able to get enough pressure on Matt Schaub to force him into another disappointing game.

MDS’s pick: 49ers 24, Texans 20.

Florio’s take:  A pair of Super Bowl contenders that have failed to meet expectations meet in San Francisco with the expectation that the 49ers will win.  Expect that to happen, with the Niners sticking with a smash-mouth attack and the Texans sliding under .500 — and possibly two games out of first place in the AFC South.

Florio’s pick:  49ers 24, Texans 17.

Jets at Falcons

MDS’s take: Geno Smith may develop into a good quarterback eventually, but right now he’s a mess, and Monday night he’s going to have a particularly tough time when playing with a depleted receiving corps. The Jets’ defense is good enough to keep this game low scoring, but the Falcons will force multiple turnovers and control this game.

MDS’s pick: Falcons 17, Jets 6.

Florio’s take:  The surprisingly 1-3 Falcons host the surprisingly 2-2 Jets in a game with an outcome that will surprise no one.  Folks who stayed up late to watch Chargers-Raiders will get to catch up on their sleep by turning in at halftime, and in the morning they’ll find out whether the Falcons once again blew a big lead.  What has two thumbs and thinks they won’t?

Florio’s pick:  Falcons 42, Jets 17.

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DeAndre Hopkins wants to be “treated for what I’m worth”

HOUSTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 27: DeAndre Hopkins #10 of the Houston Texans celebrates a touchdown pass against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the first quarter on September 27, 2015 at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Texans gave defensive end J.J. Watt a big-money deal after only three seasons. They’ve yet to do the same for receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who’ll soon begin his fourth NFL campaign.

The first-round pick has a five-year rookie deal, so the first question is when will the Texans make a meaningful effort to extend his contract? The second — and far more important — question is how much will they offer?

“I’m not looking for a certain range,” Hopkins said Saturday, via Tania Ganguli of ESPN.com. “I just want to be treated for what I’m worth. That’s fair to say, right?”

It’s fair to say, but harder to do. A player is “worth” whatever someone will pay him. But the Texans have ways to keep someone else from paying him more than the Texans would pay, starting with two more years of Hopkins being under contract and then the franchise tag.

The earlier the Texans pay Hopkins, the sooner he’ll be shifting the injury risk to the team. Thus, the longer they wait, the more Hopkins should want.

For now, the team and Hopkins’ agents are talking. Are they making any progress? Per Ganguli, the wideout paused before offering this assessment.

“You know, that’s between my agents and the Texans,” Hopkins said. “I love this city. I don’t want to play anywhere else but here. So the rest will work itself out, hopefully.”

Hopkins had 111 catches for 1,521 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2015. The year before that, he 76 passes for 1,210 yards and six touchdowns. Making both performances even more impressive is the reality that the Texans haven’t exactly had franchise-level quarterback play. If they get it from Brock Osweiler in 2016, Hopkins’ numbers could go even higher.

And so will what he’s worth. Whatever that may be.

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Bucs claim WR Krause

Tampa Bay Bucaneers v New England Patriots Getty Images

The Buccaneers claimed wide receiver Jonathan Krause off waivers from the Eagles Saturday.

Krause has bounced around the league the last two seasons, spending time with the Browns, Patriots and Eagles. He broke into the NFL as an undrafted rookie with the Browns in 2014 and played his first two regular-season games with the Eagles last season, catching two passes for 11 yards.

The Bucs made room on the roster for Krause by designating offensive lineman Dominique Robertson as waived with a non-football injury. Robertson is an undrafted rookie out of West Georgia.

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McCoy says he’s not bothered by “opinions” or perceptions

LANDOVER, MD - DECEMBER 20: Running back LeSean McCoy #25 of the Buffalo Bills in action against the Washington Redskins at FedExField on December 20, 2015 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) Getty Images

Bills running back LeSean McCoy wasn’t charged for his role in a February nightclub incident involving McCoy and some off-duty police officers, but the story made headlines.

If McCoy’s reputation took a hit from the alleged fight, he doesn’t seem to mind.

I know what type of person I am and what I do for my community, what type of father I am,” McCoy said Saturday during a hometown charity event. “People always have their own opinions. You can’t change them. And I’m fine with that.”

The NFL has decided not to discipline McCoy for his role in the alleged February incident. He hasn’t given many — if any — interviews in the meantime, so his deciding to talk to Harrisburg area reporters Saturday counts as a big deal.

The Eagles traded McCoy to the Bills before the 2015 season. He’s been involved in his share of controversies over the last several seasons, but he’s said he’s not bothered by “what the media gives” people.

“If the media only paints a picture of a player as this or whatever that may be, then that’s what the people see,” McCoy said. “So I don’t really go back and forth about that.”

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Bengals cut Taylor Mays

Carolina Panthers v Cincinnati Bengals Getty Images

The Bengals released veteran safety Taylor Mays Saturday, just a few months after bringing him back on a one-year deal.

Mays played for the Bengals from 2011-14. He played 14 games and started five last season for the Raiders after being cut by the Vikings and Lions. A second-round pick of the 49ers in 2010, Mays has played in 80 career games and started 15.

In March, Mays was suspended for four games for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.

The Bengals had added Mays in April but released him just before the start of training camp.

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Still unsigned, Ryan Fitzpatrick is golfing as camp approaches

ORCHARD PARK, NY - JANUARY 03:   Ryan Fitzpatrick #14 of the New York Jets watches the game against the Buffalo Bills from the sidelines during the second half at Ralph Wilson Stadium on January 3, 2016 in Orchard Park, New York. Buffalo Bills beat the New York Jets 22-17 (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) Getty Images

Free agent quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick remains unsigned as NFL training camps begin to open, and when last we heard about him he was declining to talk about his contract status.

But Fitzpatrick will talk about golf, telling NBC he found teeing off at the American Century Championship “nerve wracking.”

“It’s easier to play in front of a crowd when you’re good at something and comfortable doing it,” he said. “Football is easy to play in front of a crowd. Golf, you have to think about.”

Fitzpatrick doesn’t sound like he’s ready to start thinking about Jets camp just yet.

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Ravens place six on PUP; Flacco not among them

Divisional Playoffs - Baltimore Ravens v New England Patriots Getty Images

The Ravens placed six players, many of them regulars and notable names, on the active-physically unable to perform list Saturday, meaning those players won’t be ready to participate in the start of training camp.

The six players the Ravens placed on PUP Saturday were wide receivers Steve Smith and Breshad Perriman, linebackers Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil, running back Trent Richardson and cornerback Jumal Rolle.

The Ravens placing those players on PUP means quarterback Joe Flacco, cornerback Jimmy Smith and tight end Dennis Pitta are among the players who have received clearance to participate in the start of camp. Flacco suffered a torn ACL last November, so his availability for the start of camp — even if the team limits his work — is a positive sign both for his rehab and for his potential ability to play in the season opener.

The active-PUP designation for the start of camp is fairly common and means the players can be activated if and when they’re cleared to practice. The PUP designation protects the team in case the players aren’t cleared, keeping them eligible for the reserve-PUP list when the regular season begins.

None of the PUP designations come as a surprise. Suggs and Smith are both trying to come back from torn Achilles tendons, while Perriman has battled multiple injuries. Dumervil had offseason foot surgery, Richardson has had a lingering hamstring issue and Rolle is expected to miss all of 2016 with a torn Achilles.

Injured players reported to Ravens camp on Friday. The full team reports July 27, and full camp opens July 28.

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Offensive tackle Nate Chandler retires

CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 14:  Jonathan Stewart #28 and Nate Chandler #78 of the Carolina Panthers celebrate a 4th quarter touchdown against the Detroit Lions during the game at Bank of America Stadium on September 14, 2014 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Bears announced Saturday that offensive lineman Nate Chandler has been placed on the reserve-retired list.

Chandler signed with the Bears last month. He had played 37 games, starting 19, with the Panthers from 2012-14. Chandler, 27, spent last season on the Panthers’ injured-reserve list after he re-injured knee he had surgically repaired in 2014.

The Panthers released Chandler in March. He started 11 games at right tackle in 2014 and eight games in 2013 while playing both guard and tackle. The Bears had signed Chandler over Jake Long after both worked out for the team, so it’s possible that the team will revisit the possibility of signing Long.

The announcement of Chandler’s retirement came at the same time the team announced that cornerback Charles “Peanut” Tillman had also been placed on reserve-retired. Tillman had used social media to announce his retirement early last week, then signed a one-day contract to retire as a member of the Bears on Friday.

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Ezekiel Elliott says “evil never prevails” in wake of domestic violence allegations

during the College Football Playoff National Championship Game at AT&T Stadium on January 12, 2015 in Arlington, Texas. Getty Images

In the aftermath of Friday’s claim that Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott had assaulted a former girlfriend, multiple people had denied the allegations on Elliott’s behalf, including Michael Irvin and Elliott’s father. Eventually, Elliott provided a three-word assessment of the situation on Twitter: “Evil NEVER prevails.”

He followed that message a few hours later by thanking everyone for the birthday wishes on what was his 21st birthday.

Elliott’s aggressive message in response to the allegation will surely do little to weaken the resolve of the person alleging that he committed violence against her. The question now becomes whether the claims are proven or debunked when the authorities and the NFL conduct separate investigations — applying very different standards of proof.

Elliott faces criminal sanctions only if a jury finds proof beyond a reasonable doubt. He could be punished by the league if an investigation shows the claim is more likely than not to have occurred.

Elliott seems confident that the evidence will vindicate him.

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Drew Brees: I haven’t heard from the Saints on a contract in 3 months

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 03:  Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints signals to his teammates at the line of scrimmage during the first half against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome on January 3, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images) Getty Images

Early in the offseason, there was widespread talk that the Saints and quarterback Drew Brees would come to an agreement on a long-term contract extension that would make Brees the franchise quarterback for the remainder of his career. That hasn’t happened.

Instead, Brees says he has heard nothing from the Saints since an exchange of proposals three months ago.

Not sure why things have not progressed,” Brees told ESPN. “They made an offer in March, we made an offer shortly thereafter. And besides the Josh Norman deal [when the Saints and Brees talked about a deal to clear cap space], there has been no talk about a contract since.”

Brees, who is heading into the final year of his contract, said he views the start of the regular season as the deadline to get a deal done. Without a long-term deal, the Saints really don’t have a realistic option of using the franchise tag on Brees next year: Because Brees has already been franchised twice in his career, the Saints would have to guarantee him a 44 percent raise to franchise him next year, which would mean a franchise tag of $43.2 million. It’s just not realistic to think the Saints would devote that kind of cap space to Brees next year.

If nothing does get done, Brees becomes a free agent in March.

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Farewell, Minnesota

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Before Wednesday, I’d never been to Minnesota. I kind of don’t want to leave.

But leave I must, back home to West Virginia to get ready for the looming launch of training camps. Over the next couple of days, I’ll post quotes from some of the interviews we did during two days of PFT Live at U.S. Bank Stadium, where guests included Vikings owner Mark Wilf, Vikings G.M. Rick Spielman, Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen, Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph, Vikings defensive tackle Linval Joseph, Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway, and brand-new Vikings guard Alex Boone.

The trip was capped by a visit to the legendary Mancini’s Char House in St. Paul, where the Mancini brothers took good care of us — and filled me with enough fat and calories that I won’t need to eat until Thanksgiving. I’ll eat before then anyway.

For now, you feast on all episodes (fat and calorie-free) of PFT Live from the week that was at iTunes or audioBoom.

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Report: Le’Veon Bell missed “several” drug tests

Le'Veon Bell AP

Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell claimed last month that he never missed a drug test. He reportedly missed more than one.

Ian Rapoport reported on NFL Network that Bell missed “several” drug tests.

Bell was already in the NFL’s substance-abuse program and was suspended for the first two games of last season in connection with a 2014 arrest for marijuana possession and DUI. Players who have never violated the policy are generally only tested for drugs of abuse once a year, but players who are already in the policy, like Bell, are subject to many tests.

Bell is appealing the suspension, but realistically, it’s hard to see why he would win an appeal: The NFL’s drug-testing policy makes clear that players are required to make themselves available to drug testing, and a player who misses several tests has clearly violated the policy. Missing one test could be a miscommunication. Missing several tests is a lot harder to explain away.

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Making sense of the Arthur Jones PED suspension

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 18:  Arthur Jones #97 of the Indianapolis Colts looks on before the 2015 AFC Championship Game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on January 18, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) Getty Images

With Colts defensive lineman Arthur Jones suspended four games under the PED policy, some may think that he committed multiple violations before triggering a suspension, because that’s how suspensions work under the substance-abuse policy (which encompasses marijuana and other non-PED-type drugs). Under the PED policy, however, the first positive test results in a suspension.

In 2014, the formula changed to impose a two-game suspension if the player tests positive for a diuretic or masking agent, a four-game suspension if the player tests positive for a stimulant or anabolic agent, and a six-game suspension if he tests positive for a both  a “prohibited substance” and a diuretic or masking agent, or if the player attempted to substitute, dilute, or adulterate a specimen, if the player attempted to manipulate a test result, or if the player committed a violation of the law or other documented violation based on credible evidence.

A second violation triggers a 10-game suspension, and a third violation results in a banishment for at least two full seasons.

Jones joined the Colts in 2014 after spending his first four seasons with the Ravens. In two years with the Colts, Jones has appeared in only nine games with three starts.

As explained by Zak Keefer of the Indianapolis Star, the ineffectiveness, injury history, and suspension could combine to prompt the Colts to dump Jones sooner than later.

Jones signed a five-year, $33 million deal in 2014. Cutting him now would result in a $1.1 million cap charge for 2016, and a $2.2 million cap charge for 2017.

But with Jones previously agreeing to reduce his salary from $4.5 million to $2.5 million for 2016, the Colts may decide to see whether Jones provides any evidence of an ability and willingness to step up before they tell him to step off.

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Hue Jackson has drawn up plays specifically for Terrelle Pryor

SEATTLE, WA - DECEMBER 20:  Wide receiver Terrelle Pryor #17 of the Cleveland Browns rushes against cornerback Richard Sherman #25 and outside linebacker K.J. Wright #50 of the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field on December 20, 2015 in Seattle, Washington. The Seahawks defeated the Browns 30-13.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) Getty Images

The guy who once drew up plays for Terrelle Pryor the quarterback is now doing the same thing for Terrelle Pryor the receiver.

As explained by Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Browns coach Hue Jackson has devised specific ways to get the ball into Pryor’s hands so that he then can use his size and speed to do good things for the offense. It’ll happen via short, quick passes and reverses.

Five years ago, Hue Jackson was the coach in Oakland, and Pryor was a quarterback who arrived via the supplemental draft.

As Pryor continues to learn the receiver position, plays aimed specifically at letting him do what he does best will increase his confidence, justify his roster spot, and ultimately help the team win games.

Pryor isn’t the only weapon who will be used creatively by Jackson, according to Pluto. Running back Duke Johnson will be  used at times as a receiver, because Jackson wants to find different ways to throw passes to him.

Ultimately, the player throwing the passes will have the biggest impact on the offense. The more Jackson can get out of the options available to quarterback Robert Griffin III (or, if there’s a true competition, perhaps Josh McCown), the better the quarterback will look.

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Dennis Green’s success with any quarterback may be his greatest legacy

Bears v Vikings Getty Images

After news broke that longtime NFL coach Dennis Green had died at the age of 67, Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway paid tribute to Green.

“My heart and prayers go out to Dennis Green and his family. Had the pleasure of playing for Dennis at Stanford for 2 years. Great Coach!” Elway wrote on Twitter.

But the single most impressive accomplishment of Green’s career may be that he didn’t need a great quarterback like Elway. In fact, Green could take just about any quarterback, plug him into Green’s offense, and get to the playoffs. Green took the Vikings to the playoffs eight times in his 11 seasons as head coach, in 1992, 1993, 1994, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, and 2000. Just take a look at the quarterbacks Green had in those seasons:

1992: The Vikings went 8-4 with Rich Gannon as their starter and 3-1 with Sean Salisbury as their starter. Although Gannon would later become a very good quarterback with the Raiders, he was viewed at the time as a nobody — and Salisbury was viewed as worse. And yet Green rode them to the playoffs in his first season as head coach.

1993: Jim McMahon was viewed as old and washed up and just a backup at that point in his career, but Green brought him to Minnesota and rode him to the playoffs.

1994: Warren Moon is a Hall of Fame quarterback, but he was seen as way past his prime when the Vikings acquired him in a trade with the Houston Oilers. And yet with Moon as the starter, the Vikings made the playoffs again.

1996: Moon was injured at the start of the season, so Brad Johnson — who had never started a game in a four-year NFL career up to that point — stepped in and led the Vikings to a 4-0 start. Moon would eventually return, he and Johnson would flip-flop on the depth chart, and it would ultimately be Johnson who led the Vikings to the playoffs.

1997: Johnson shared the job with Randall Cunningham, who had been viewed as so far past his prime that he wasn’t even in the league the year before. Again, Green led the Vikings to the playoffs.

1998: With Cunningham supplanting Johnson as the starter, the Vikings had their best season of the Green era, going 15-1 and falling in the NFC Championship Game.

1999: Green benched Cunningham for Jeff George, another past-his-prime quarterback, and once again found a winning touch, as the Vikings went 8-2 in George’s 10 starts and made the playoffs again.

2000: Green started Daunte Culpepper and saw him put together an incredible season, with 3,937 passing yards, 33 passing touchdowns, 470 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns. The Vikings lost the NFC Championship Game, which would be the last playoff game Green coached.

That revolving door of quarterbacks is worth repeating: Rich Gannon, Sean Salisbury, Jim McMahon, Warren Moon, Brad Johnson, Randall Cunningham, Jeff George and Daunte Culpepper. Green never had one franchise quarterback he could count on year after year. Instead, Green found a new quarterback year after year. And he kept finding ways to win. That was a great piece of coaching.

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Gabbert seen as better fit than Kaepernick in Kelly’s offense

SANTA CLARA, CA - NOVEMBER 08:  Blaine Gabbert #2 of the San Francisco 49ers reacts after being tackled close to the goal line during the first half of their game against the Atlanta Falcons at Levi's Stadium on November 8, 2015 in Santa Clara, California. The ball was ruled down on the 1-yard line and the 49ers scored on the next play.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Blaine GabbertColin Kaepernick quarterback competition has an early leader, and it’s the guy who was once viewed as a draft bust, not the guy who was once viewed as a future superstar.

That’s the word from ESPN, which reports that Gabbert has picked up new coach Chip Kelly’s offense, is seen inside the organization as a better fit than Kaepernick, and has the edge heading into training camp.

Although Kelly and 49ers General Manager Trent Baalke have said publicly that they like Kaepernick and still think he can succeed, virtually all the talk coming out of San Francisco this offseason has indicated that Gabbert is leading in the quarterback competition. In fact, it’s fair to wonder if the only reason Kaepernick is even on the roster is that the 49ers misjudged the trade market and thought when they picked up his guaranteed $11.9 million salary this season that they’d be able to unload him for a draft pick.

When Kaepernick led the 49ers to the Super Bowl after the 2012 season and to the NFC Championship Game after the 2013 season, he was widely viewed as one of the league’s up-and-coming stars. At the same time, Gabbert was struggling mightily in Jacksonville as a No. 10 overall pick who appeared to be a massive mistake in the draft. At the time, it would have been unthinkable that Gabbert and Kaepernick could compete for a job and Gabbert would win. But from all indications, that’s what’s expected to happen in San Francisco this summer.

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