“Two cornerstone franchises of the NFL, two proud franchises, trying to sneak in with embattled coaches and quarterbacks out for redemption.” – King on Dallas’ and Chicago’s push for the playoffs
“By far the biggest challenge emotionally and as a football coach that I’ve been through.” – Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy to King on the 2020 season
“Alex Smith (likely starting next week), the comeback player of the year, trying to Willis-Reed Washington into the playoffs, with two big NFL markets, Washington and either New York or Dallas-Fort Worth, into every play.” – King on Washington-Philadelphia Week 17 matchup on NBC SNF
“Rodgers is in the lead for me. Mahomes has cooled off, but I could still see him winning it.” – King on the MVP race
STAMFORD, Conn. – Dec. 28, 2020 – Peter King discusses the NFL Playoffs and speaks with Dallas head coach Mike McCarthy and Chicago head coach Matt Nagy as the Cowboys and Bears eye once-improbable postseason spots in this week’s edition of Football Morning in America, available now exclusively on NBCSports.com. King also hands out his weekly awards, and discusses the news and notes from around the league in Week 16.
Across NBC Sports, Peacock’s weekday block of NFL programming from 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. ET includes PFT Live featuring Mike Florio and Chris Simms live at 7 a.m. ET, followed by The Dan Patrick Show at 9 a.m. ET, The Rich Eisen Show at Noon ET, Brother From Another, with Michael Holley and Michael Smith, at 3 p.m. ET, and PFT PM at 5 p.m. ET. On Monday, Safety Blitz, featuring Rodney Harrison and Jac Collinsworth, streams at 6 p.m. ET, and Chris Simms Unbuttoned streams at 6 p.m. ET Tuesday-Friday. ProFootballTalk.com continues to provide the latest offseason news, and the Rotoworld Football Podcast and Chris Simms Unbuttoned podcast discuss Week 16.
The following are highlights from this week’s edition of Football Morning in America:
King on the Cowboys and Bears entering Week 17: “Two cornerstone franchises of the NFL, two proud franchises, trying to sneak in with embattled coaches and quarterbacks out for redemption.”
King on the Cowboys’ season: “The Cowboys got a quarter-season out of Dak Prescott before a grotesque injury sidelined him. They started Ben DiNucci and Garrett Gilbert at quarterback. Andy Dalton has had to be uncharacteristically bombs-away Dan Fouts at times…They had one of the game’s most beloved assistant coaches, Markus Paul, collapse in the team’s weight room in front of players and die a day later. Just a horrible season. But football does not stop.”
Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy to King on the death of assistant coach Markus Paul: “I was there right after it happened. The tragedy is obviously unspeakable to see one of your guys go down like that, but the whole team was there. It’s five minutes after 7. Everybody was either in the weight room or outside the weight room. It was tough, really tough on the guys. They’re talking about it a little more now. It’s clearly the point of our season where I was just like, what’s gonna happen next?”
McCarthy on Dallas’ 41-16 loss to Washington on Thanksgiving after Paul’s death: “When I walked on the field on Thanksgiving, and I shouldn’t even admit this, as a head coach, you usually have a general idea how the game’s going to go. But that day, I had no idea. There was sort of a numb feeling that day.”
McCarthy on the 2020 season: “By far the biggest challenge emotionally and as a football coach that I’ve been through. I’m a new coach here, trying to make a first impression, the pandemic hits, no offseason, the Dak injury, the bad start, just one thing after another…and then the reality of it, those were tiny things compared to what was coming.”
King: “Today, the Cowboys are better than the Giants, and Washington is a mess. Much stranger things have happened in the NFL than a seesaw Dallas team making the postseason.”
King on the Bears’ season: “In the midst of a fast start, fourth-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky was benched for indecision and inaccuracy. Nick Foles came in and won a couple of games, and then the losing streak…Nagy said the culture in his locker room was solid, and helped withstand the six-game losing streak.”
Bears head coach Matt Nagy on Trubisky: “I believe in my heart of hearts that being benched [in Week 4] put him on a mission. I told him that day that what feels like the worst day of your life could turn out to be the best day.”
King on Trubisky: “It’s still unlikely Trubisky, a free-agent after the season because Chicago didn’t exercise his fifth-year option, is the long-term answer in Chicago, but the future doesn’t matter now. What matters is Trubisky’s got a little mojo going…and the (postseason) odds are in Chicago’s favor.”
Nagy on Trubisky: “Mitchell’s always been a pleaser. He wanted to please his teammates, his coaches, the fans. But now he’s more about organic leadership. He’s not trying to please everybody – he’s trying to lead.”
King on the Bears’ Week 17 matchup vs. the Packers: “The Bears are 1-8 against the Pack in the last five seasons, and what hurts Chicago is the Packers will be motivated to win and not rest their players Sunday…On a good day, this offense can light it up. It may have to for a 2020 playoff berth.”
11 PEOPLE WHO IMPACTED THE NFL THIS WEEKEND
King on Urban Meyer: “Adam Schefter reported Sunday that two teams are fact-finding on Urban Meyer as a prospective head coach. Wise homework…But I know if I’m interviewing him, we’d spend quite a bit of time on his health, and dive deep into why he quit high-profile college jobs at 45, 46 and 54.”
King on Saints RB Alvin Kamara: “Let’s go back to spring 2017. There’s a debate in the Saints’ draft room. Christian McCaffrey is the apple of the scouts’ eyes. But a segment of the Saints’ brain trust, including coach Sean Payton, is smitten with a running back from Tennessee who’s got a third-round grade from some teams. Payton had Alvin Kamara as early second round.”
Saints head coach Sean Payton to King on Kamara: “I told ‘em, ‘Kamara’s going to be a better player than McCaffrey.’ … He’s so smart and he knows his role on the team. After every game, he sticks his head into my office. Every game. He just says, ‘Everything good?’ I say yep, and he says, ‘Just checking on you.’”
King on Raiders head coach Jon Gruden’s clock management vs. the Dolphins: “I saw what Gruden was trying to do. I liked it. I’d rather have a foe need to go 50 yards in 20 seconds for a field goal to win than need to go 75 yards in a minute for a tie or a win. Sometimes, a well-planned scheme doesn’t work out, but that doesn’t mean it was the wrong idea.”
King on 49ers QB Josh Rosen: “He did nothing wrong but get drafted by Arizona the year before the Cards hired a coach who wanted Kyler Murray, and now, who knows? The 2021 season could bring team number five – in less than three calendar years.”
King on 49ers LB Fred Warner: “Warner has fast become an irreplaceable piece of the Niner defense, and the kind of team leader Kyle Shanahan relies on…Warner has to be part of the long-term program here. The Niners need his playmaking and presence to maximize their Super Bowl window.”
Warner to King: “Been a tough year. We’re missing guys, the pandemic makes the game so different, and now guys have been uprooted from their families because our county back home shut us down. This really felt like a big division game, even without fans. You could hear the pads thudding all over the field.”
WEEK 16 NEWS & NOTES
King on the MVP race: “It’s hard to imagine – barring a ridiculous night by Josh Allen tonight against New England – that Aaron Rodgers or Patrick Mahomes will be beat for the MVP. Rodgers is in the lead for me. Mahomes has cooled off, but I could still see him winning it.”
King on his coach of the year candidates: “It’s close, and I reserve the right to change my mind, but here are my top three candidates for coach of the year headed into Week 17, in order: Buffalo’s Sean McDermott, Miami’s Brian Flores, Cleveland’s Kevin Stefanski.”
King on the rookie awards: “The defensive rookie award is Chase Young’s to lose, on my ballot. Offensive: Justin Herbert, narrowly, over Vikes wideout Justin Jefferson.”
King on Washington-Philadelphia on Sunday Night Football in Week 17: “The Eagles are cooked for the season, but a Washington win gives WFT the NFC East title. Not remotely sexy, but consider the storyline – Alex Smith (likely starting next week), the comeback player of the year, trying to Willis-Reed Washington into the playoffs, with two big NFL markets, Washington and either New York or Dallas-Fort Worth, into every play.”
King on 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo: “Kyle Shanahan’s a pretty bottom-line guy, and the quarterback injuries have helped ruin two of the last three seasons; when the quarterback had a healthy season, the Niners had a 10-point lead in the Super Bowl with 10 minutes to play. We’ll see, but the clock is ticking on Garoppolo’s future.”
King on Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa: “I can’t pick out one throw that Tua Tagovailoa made in Las Vegas that was a big-time, winning throw, and he played all but the last 10 minutes of a must-win game…I would ask one question to Miami coach Brian Flores’ post-game declaration of, ‘Tua is the starter:’ Why?”
King on Buccaneers QB Tom Brady: “It seems incredible to say – because, you know, he’s had a decent career for himself – but 43-year-old Tom Brady just had the best four-quarter stretch of his football life…Brady is getting hot at the right time, his receivers are healthy, and the Bucs will be a tough out in January.”
King on Cardinals LB Haason Reddick: “This Haason Reddick transformation in Arizona is incredible. First 60 NFL games: 12.5 sacks, three forced fumbles. Last three NFL games: 7.5 sacks, six forced fumbles. He’ll be a free-agent, and perhaps a very rich one. Productivity leads to confidence, and this looks like such a confident player right now.”
KING’S WEEK 16 AWARDS
Offensive Players of the Week: Alvin Kamara, New Orleans, & C.J. Beathard, San Francisco.
King on Kamara: “Kamara had the first six-TD rushing game in modern football history, and he did it with scores in the third, 10th, 30th, 41st, 48th and 59th minutes, helping the Saints break a two-game losing streak. He scored on power, and around the end, and with elusiveness.”
Defensive Players of the Week: Fred Warner, San Francisco, & Jamal Adams, Seattle.
King on Adams: “He’s rangy and violent, and his eight tackles helped hold the Rams without a touchdown. Sick of losing in New York, Adams got dealt to Seattle this fall and finally won a division.”
Special Teams Players of the Week: Clayton Fejedelem, Miami, & Jason Sanders, Miami.
King on Sanders: “We think of Justin Tucker as the game’s state-of-the-art kicker. He is. But Sanders is forcing his way into Tucker’s league.”
Coaches of the Week: Robert Saleh, San Francisco, & Brian Flores, Miami.
King on Saleh: “Holding an explosive offense with Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins to 4.4 yards per play, as the Niners D did in a game Arizona needed badly, should be the résumé-enhancer Saleh needs for a head-coaching job. His enthusiasm, planning, organization and defensive philosophy, collectively, is what Detroit needs right now.”
The following are additional highlights of NBC Sports’ NFL coverage:
- Football Night in America: Week 16 Recap with Mike Tirico, Rodney Harrison, Tony Dungy, Mike Florio and Steve Kornacki.
- PFT Live with NBC Sports’ Mike Florio and Chris Simms streams live on Peacock from 7 a.m. – 9 a.m. ET on weekdays, followed by The Dan Patrick Show at 9 a.m. ET, The Rich Eisen Show at Noon ET, Brother From Another at 3 p.m. ET, PFT PM at 5 p.m. ET. At 6 p.m. ET, Safety Blitz streams on Monday and Chris Simms Unbuttoned stream Tuesday-Friday.
- ProFootballTalk.com continues to provide the latest news and updates.
- The Chris Simms Unbuttoned podcast and Rotoworld Football Podcast discuss Week 16 and look ahead to Week 17.
A new “Football Morning in America” posts every Monday morning exclusively on NBCSports.com through the NFL season. It was announced in May 2019 that King signed an exclusive agreement with NBC Sports Group that included writing a weekly Monday morning NFL column for NBCSports.com; making regular appearances on PFT Live with Mike Florio; and continuing to contribute to Football Night in America, the most-watched studio show in sports.