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Analysis: Winning isn’t always most important stat for QBs

Source image: https://apnews.com/article/new-york-jets-buffalo-bills-houston-texans-chicago-bears-carolina-panthers-4fcfb5372e2b1abe68e65621941ec89e

Zach Wilson found out wins and losses aren’t the only stat that matters.

The New York Jets benched Wilson this week despite his 5-2 record as a starter. Wilson, the No. 2 overall pick in 2021, has struggled in his sophomore year. He has the NFL’s second-worst passer rating and was awful in a 10-3 loss at New England on Sunday.

The 23-year-old Wilson then failed to take accountability after the game.

The Carolina Panthers and Houston Texans are also switching QBs but they have nothing to lose. Both teams are heading nowhere. Sam Darnold replaces Baker Mayfield in Carolina. Kyle Allen is expected to take over for Davis Mills in Houston.

The Panthers (3-8) and Texans (1-8-1) should be in a prime spot to draft a potential franchise QB next April.

The Jets (6-4) are in a different position. Wilson is supposed to be their guy after Darnold wasn’t. They have a shot for their first winning season since 2015 and first playoff appearance since 2010.

But New York has been winning in spite of Wilson, not because of him. Plus, leadership counts.

Wilson has completed just 55.6% of his passes with four touchdowns and five interceptions in seven games since returning from a knee injury that forced him to miss the first three games.

Wilson won’t even dress Sunday against the Chicago Bears. Joe Flacco will be Mike White’s backup while Wilson gets to “reset,” according to Jets coach Robert Saleh.

“We haven’t wavered in our belief that he’s going to be the future of this franchise,” Saleh said about Wilson. “Is it a small step back? Absolutely for him. But do I think it’s going to be a great leap forward when he does get a chance to rest himself? Absolutely.

“This is not putting a nail in his coffin. This is not that, this is not anything close to that. But I do believe at the end of this he is going to be a rejuvenated, renewed young man that once he reconnects to all the different things we’re trying to reconnect to – he’s going to show why he was the second pick.”

Saleh is taking a risk. If White plays well and the Jets win, he can’t go back to Wilson right away. He has to wait.

The Jets have two difficult road games coming up after the Bears. They face the Vikings (9-2) and Bills (8-3) so perhaps Wilson comes back for Buffalo. He had his best game against the Bills earlier this month, completing 72% of his passes for 154 yards, one TD and a 101.1 passer rating.

In Washington, winning matters more than style points.

The Commanders are sticking with Taylor Heinicke, who has led them to a 4-1 record since Carson Wentz broke his finger. Wentz returned to practice this week but is expected to be inactive for Sunday’s game against Atlanta. Rookie Sam Howell will continue to serve as the backup for Washington (6-5).

Heinicke has similar numbers to Wilson but he’s been lauded for the team’s resurgence. Heinicke has completed 60.8% of his passes with five TDs, four picks and an 81.8 passer rating. Wilson’s QBR is 44.9 while Heinicke’s is 46.5. The Commanders aren’t winning because of Heinicke; they’re winning with him. Washington’s running game has improved and the defense has played well.

“It’s been the play of the defense some, it’s been the play of the guys up front on the offensive line,” Commanders coach Ron Rivera said. “It’s been some of the play on some individuals that have just done some really good things and just kind of everything’s been coming together and heading in the right direction. I mean, there’s a lot of things to point to. Is there one specific thing? I don’t think so.”

Wentz was inconsistent in his six starts, throwing 10 TDs and six picks with an 84.1 passer rating and 32.8 QBR.

The Commanders have more incentive to keep Wentz on the sideline for at least another game. They would owe the Colts a second-round pick instead of a third-rounder if Wentz plays at least 70% of Washington’s offensive snaps in 2022.

If Washington keeps winning, there’s no reason to sit Heinicke.

After all, it’s usually all about winning.

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Follow Rob Maaddi on Twitter at https://twitter.com/robmaaddi

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AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Source: https://apnews.com/article/new-york-jets-buffalo-bills-houston-texans-chicago-bears-carolina-panthers-4fcfb5372e2b1abe68e65621941ec89e

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49ers head into offseason with more questions at quarterback

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — The San Francisco 49ers head into another offseason with major questions at quarterback after a season filled with injuries to the most important position ended without any of them physically able to throw the the ball downfield.

Trey Lance, who began the season as starter, is getting close to being fully cleared following two operations on his broken right ankle.

Brock Purdy, who went from third-string rookie to the starter that helped lead the Niners into the NFC title game before getting hurt himself, is figuring out how to treat his injured throwing elbow.

Jimmy Garoppolo, the starter in between those two before breaking his foot, is set to become an unrestricted free agent in six weeks.

And rumors are sure to swirl about whether the best answer for coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch will be adding a veteran like Tom Brady to help a franchise that has gone to the NFC title game or further in three of the last four seasons get over the hump and win its first Super Bowl in nearly three decades.

The first big question at the position will be about Purdy’s health after he tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow on the first drive of a 31-7 loss in the NFC title game to Philadelphia on Sunday.

Purdy was forced back into the game in the second half when Josh Johnson left with a concussion but was unable to throw the ball more than a few yards because of the injury.

“The minute I started throwing literally like I knew something was wrong. I couldn’t throw,” he said. “So obviously the adrenaline and stuff I think helps in terms of allowing me to go back in the game and hand the ball off — even that was pretty painful. But just overall it sucked that I wasn’t able to throw.”

An MRI revealed the tear and Purdy said he will undergo more tests and speak to more doctors to figure out whether recovery, repair or full reconstruction is the best option.

The injury is much more common in baseball pitchers, who often undergo reconstructive “Tommy John surgery” that sidelines them up to a year. But Purdy is hoping to avoid that; a simpler repair would keep him out for six months but allow him to return to practice around the start of training camp in July.

“The way a quarterback throws compared to a pitcher, two different things. It’s similar but more violent as a baseball player,” Purdy said. “So they’re saying the recovery process could be a little bit faster as a quarterback. I’ve looked at guys who have gone through this kind of thing. I’m just trying to find what’s right. Everyone’s situation is different and I’m trying to find out which one is right for myself.”

Purdy showed a lot in his first season in the NFL, going from the last pick of the draft to starter in the conference title game. He won all seven of his starts before the loss on Sunday and threw for 1,374 yards with 13 touchdowns and only four interceptions in the regular season.

That performance could make him the favorite to begin next season as starter if he’s healthy.

“For me to claim or say anything in terms of what’s going to happen moving forward, that’s out of my control,” he said. “I’m going to do what I can to get back healthy and be ready to compete come fall.”

Lance was supposed to be in that role after San Francisco traded three first-round picks to draft him third overall in 2021. But he started only two games as a rookie when Garoppolo got hurt and then went down with a season-ending injury early in Week 2 this season.

Lance needed a second operation in late December but said he expects to be fully cleared in a few weeks and to be 100% for the start of the offseason program.

But after he started only five games combined in the last three years in college and the NFL, there are questions about whether Lance can be the long-term answer for San Francisco.

“I’m excited to go out and show what I can do,” he said. “Same situation that it’s been for me the last two years and really my whole life. Nothing has really changed and I still have the same mindset. … I just worry about what these guys think in this locker room, what the coaches think, what people in this organization think. Anything outside of that is totally out of my control. So I don’t let that have any effect on me.”

NOTES: All-Pro DE Nick Bosa said he wants to sign a long-term contract to stay in San Francisco but will be patient and leave that up to his agent.

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AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

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Banchero headlines field for All-Star Rising Stars event

Paolo Banchero’s rookie season will include a trip to NBA All-Star weekend.

The Orlando Magic forward and No. 1 pick in last year’s draft was announced Tuesday as a participant in this year’s Rising Stars Game, to be held in Salt Lake City on Feb. 17, two nights before the All-Star Game.

Banchero — who leads all rookies with a 20.7 points-per-game average — may still be selected as an All-Star reserve. Those players will be revealed Thursday.

“Anytime you can get a chance to be a part of All-Star weekend, you can’t say no,” Banchero said. “Especially me, being a rookie, first year, never experienced it before, it’s always been the dream to just be a part of that whether it was Rising Stars or as a reserve. I’m definitely excited to get there and just see what it’s like.”

Banchero is on pace to be the first rookie to average 20 points per game since Luka Doncic in 2018-19. He also is fourth among rookies in rebounds per game entering Tuesday and third among them in steals per game.

Magic coach Jamahl Mosley said the All-Star experience — whether just for Rising Stars or not — will have an impact on Banchero.

“Just being around other young players that have found themselves in that position, it does so much because it’s your peers,” Mosley said. “You’re around a group of young men who are the elite of the league in that class. I think it says something to the work that you’ve put in, the work that he’s put in. It’s going to do wonders for how he continues to believe in himself, what we’re doing as a team and his continued growth.”

Also picked for the game from this year’s rookie class: Detroit’s Jalen Duren and Jaden Ivey, Atlanta’s A.J. Griffin, Utah’s Walker Kessler, Indiana’s Bennedict Mathurin and Andrew Nembhard, Sacramento’s Keegan Murray, Houston’s Jabari Smith Jr., San Antonio’s Jeremy Sochan and Oklahoma City’s Jalen Williams.

The second-year players selected were New Orleans’ Jose Alvarado and Trey Murphy III, Toronto’s Scottie Barnes, Oklahoma City’s Josh Giddey, Houston’s Jalen Green and Alperen Sengun, New York’s Quentin Grimes, Denver’s Bones Hyland, Cleveland’s Evan Mobley and Orlando’s Franz Wagner.

There also will be a team of G League players in the Rising Stars event, composed of Sidy Cissoko, Mojave King, Scoot Henderson, Kenneth Lofton Jr., Mac McClung, Leonard Miller and Scotty Pippen Jr.

The 21 NBA players will be drafted into three seven-player teams. Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah and Deron Williams will serve as coaches for those teams, while Jason Terry will coach the G League team.

All four teams will play a semifinal game with a target score of 40, and the two winners will then play the championship game with a target score of 25.

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AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Griner’s return, free agency raises charter flight concerns

Brittney Griner’s return to the WNBA this summer after being traded in a dramatic prisoner swap in December with Russia has collided with free agency, creating potential travel complications for the league out of safety concerns for her.

If Griner, who is a free agent but has said she’ll return to Phoenix, needs special travel accommodations — such as chartered flights — the league will have to come up with a plan for the 6-foot-9 star. Griner’s safety when traveling will be a top priority for the team and the league.

“We are very cognizant of BG’s unique situation,” WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert told The Associated Press. “We’ve been planning and we’ve been thinking it through with security experts. BG’s side, our side. We’ll find the right time to comment on it when she signs with a team.”

That could come Wednesday, when free agents can officially sign.

While the Griner situation is unique, other marquee players raised the issue of charter flights, which teams have deemed too costly.

The current collective bargaining agreement requires that all teams fly commercial and doesn’t allow teams to charter flights. Any change in that would have to be approved by both the union and the league.

“No one wants to make this work more than me,” Engelbert said. “That’s why we’re working so hard to transform the economic business model. We’ve had positive changes over the last couple years, but we’re not going to jeopardize the financial viability of the league. We are on the cusp of something big here.”

HOW MUCH WOULD IT COST THE WNBA TO CHARTER FLIGHTS?

Engelbert says it would cost the league about $25 million each season for each of its 12 teams to charter flights to every game. That number has increased about $5 million from previous estimates by the commissioner due the new 40-game WNBA schedule this season, fuel costs and other factors.

The estimated cost per franchise to charter flights would be approximately $2 million. Air travel expenses currently for each team is about $150,000, according to two people familiar with the costs. The people spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to publicly address the issue.

“We did it last year for the Finals and we have experience on how much it costs for routes we need to fly,” Engelbert said. “We are monitoring and updating our analysis. We are going to try and get an economic model to fund this as soon as we can.”

WHAT HAPPENS IF A TEAM CHARTERS FLIGHTS?

If teams violate the current CBA they could be fined.

The New York Liberty were fined a WNBA record $500,000 in 2021 for chartering flights to away games during the second half of that season.

HAS THE WNBA CONSIDERED SUBSIDIZING FLIGHTS?

Coveted free agent Breanna Stewart, who has narrowed her choices to a few teams including New York, started a social media campaign to try to help get chartered flights for the league. She tweeted, “I would love to be part of a deal that helps subsidize charter travel for the entire WNBA. I would contribute my NIL, posts + production hrs to ensure we all travel in a way that prioritizes player health + safety, which ultimately results in a better product. Who’s with me?”

Many current and former WNBA and NBA players offered their support. Though any change to travel restrictions would have to be voted on by the union and the league.

“We would need a commitment to it in perpetuity,” Engelbert said. “That’s 250-300 million dollars. Look at the gate and media deal and sponsorship dollars. We’re not close to being able to afford $250 million over the next decade.”

DO WOMEN’S COLLEGE TEAMS CHARTER FLIGHTS?

WNBA players are used to flying charter flights. That’s how they traveled in college.

Title IX legislation requires universities to have equal opportunities for their men’s and women’s athletic programs. The NCAA flies both the men’s and women’s teams on charter flights for the tournament if they are more than 400 miles from the site of their game.

That legislation doesn’t apply to the pros so NBA teams chartering between cities has no effect on what WNBA teams do.

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