Happy Wednesday and happy February, everyone! Whew, January went out with quite the bang in the sports world. Before we get to the regularly scheduled programming, I have some breaking news to cover, and it's a big one:
Tom Brady officially announced his retirement this morning in a video shared on his social media accounts. His seven Super Bowls are the most all-time, as are his five Super Bowl MVP awards. Brady has also thrown more completions, passing yards, and touchdowns than any other quarterback in NFL history.
If this sounds familiar, it's because today, Feb. 1, is exactly one year to the day that Brady announced his first retirement. Last time, his retirement lasted 40 days. According to the video he shared this morning, he's for real this time.
"Thank you guys for allowing me to live my absolute dream. I wouldn't change a thing," Brady said in the clip.
OK, now let's get back to the rest of the news.
Good morning to everyone but especially to...
THE DENVER BRONCOS...
Sean Payton is back in the NFL, and it cost the Broncos a pretty penny. Denver got its new head coach via trade with the Saints. Here are the details:
- Broncos get: HC Sean Payton, 2024 third-round pick
- Saints get: 2023 first-round pick (No. 29 overall), 2024 second-round pick
Payton's biggest responsibility is fixing Russell Wilson after the quarterback's disastrous Denver debut season that left Nathaniel Hackett fired after 15 games. On paper, it's a great move for Denver:
- Payton owns a 152-89 career record and made the playoffs nine of his 15 seasons.
- He won the Super Bowl in the 2009 season.
- His Saints led the league in total offense six times.
In reality, it'll be an interesting transition. During Payton's time with the Saints (2006-11, 2013-21), they posted the fewest yards downfield per throw in a system predicated on Drew Brees' accurate, on-schedule passing. Wilson is not that style of quarterback. He's at his best out of structure, and taking shots downfield. That's not to say they can't work. It's just worth keeping an eye on.
Credit the Broncos for pushing the envelope with their win-now roster. Also credit them for moving Bradley Chubb at the trade deadline to add the first-round pick they're now sending to New Orleans. And lastly, credit the Saints for getting significant draft capital for their former coach. Both teams earned high marks in our Garrett Podell's trade grades.
... AND ALSO A GOOD MORNING TO THE HOUSTON TEXANS
One of the best players in Texans history -- and arguably the hottest name on the coaching market -- is returning to Houston. DeMeco Ryans and the Texans agreed on a six-year deal.
- Ryans joined the 49ers' coaching staff in 2017 and was their defensive coordinator in 2021 and 2022.
- In 2022, his unit led the league in total defense, scoring defense and expected points added and finished second in takeaways.
- Ryans, 38, won Defensive Rookie of the Year and was named to two Pro Bowls in six years as a Houston linebacker (2006-11). He then played four years with the Eagles.
This is an impressive and important hire for the Texans, who finally seem committed to a rebuild, considering Ryans' age and contract length. Houston's last two coaches -- David Culley and Lovie Smith -- were one-and-done fillers put in an impossible position. Ryans, it seems, will have the leeway needed to actually build something.
That starts with quarterback. The Texans own the No. 2 pick in the draft, and all four of our draft experts have them selecting Alabama star Bryce Young in their latest mock drafts. It's that leeway and flexibility that likely attracted Ryans to this job.
- He'll have a clean slate at quarterback (unlike the Broncos, another team that pursued him heavily).
- He inherits a team that has some pieces. Rookies Derek Stingley Jr. and Dameon Pierce impressed. John Metchie III -- after missing his entire rookie season with leukemia -- will be back in 2023, too.
- Plus, the Texans have the No. 12 pick as a result of the Deshaun Watson deal and have 11 picks -- including five in the top 73 -- overall.
Furthermore, the track record of hiring recent 49ers assistants is strong: Robert Saleh -- Ryans' predecessor in San Francisco -- has the Jets on the right track, and Mike McDaniel got the Dolphins to the playoffs in his first year. Oh yeah, having the support of the best player in franchise history didn't hurt Ryans' candidacy, either.
- LeBron James is now fourth in career assists.
- Here's the MLB schedule.
- Here's the Big 12 football schedule.
- Courtney Vandersloot is looking for a new team.
And not such a good morning for...
THIS GIRL'S JV BASKETBALL COACH
JV basketball is an important step between middle school and varsity, meant for skill development and identifying future talent. It's certainly not meant for 22-year-old assistant coaches, but that's what Arlisha Boykins of Churchland High School in Portsmouth, Virginia used it for.
With one of the team's players away for a club tournament, Boykins played in place of a 13-year-old. Now, Boykins has been fired from her job, and both the JV and varsity teams' seasons are over.
No. 8 Kansas avenges loss to No. 7 Kansas State 🏀
No. 7 Kansas State was looking for its first Sunflower Showdown sweep in 40 years. Led by their veterans, No. 8 Kansas made sure it didn't happen. The Jayhawks avenged a loss from two weeks ago with a 90-78 home victory over the Wildcats.
- Star junior Jalen Wilson had 20 points, his fourth straight game with 20-plus.
- Fellow junior Dajuan Harris Jr. tied his career high with 18 points. He scored just three points in the first meeting.
- Fifth-year senior Kevin McCullar, a Texas Tech transfer, had 16 points and 13 rebounds.
Jerry Palm says with the win, the Jayhawks overtake the Wildcats as a 1 seed in Bracketology.
Grades, winners and losers from wild Transfer Deadline Day ⚽
Transfer Deadline Day has come and gone, and if you're still catching your breath, you're not alone. Our live blog had my head spinning, and it's worth revisiting to catch up.
Big picture, we can identify some clear winners and losers. Chelsea finished a busy window with a flurry by adding Enzo Fernández, but it was their London rivals earning the top mark in Jonathan Johnson's transfer grades.
- Johnson: "Arsenal: A+ | Mikel Arteta's men get a strong mark for their pragmatic approach to the January window... The Gunners would have spent more on [Mykhailo Mudryk] alone than they would have done on Jorginho, Leandro Trossard and Jakub Kiwior who come in and strengthen in each major outfield area."
There was nearly as much drama regarding who's changing teams as who's not. Hakim Ziyech (how about this wild story?) and Moises Caicedo were among the day's biggest losers. As for other key storylines:
Tyler Huntley and Derek Carr are Pro Bowlers. What? 🏈
Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen and Joe Burrow were the AFC's original Pro Bowl quarterbacks. Mahomes won't play, as he prepares for the Super Bowl. Allen decided he'd rather play golf, which, to be clear, is perfectly fine. Burrow won't play either.
The top three alternates -- as voted on by NFL players themselves -- were Tua Tagovailoa, Trevor Lawrence and Justin Herbert. Tagovailoa and Herbert are both injured. So now the AFC's three quarterbacks are Lawrence... and Derek Carr (benched before the season ended)... and... Tyler Huntley. Yes, that Tyler Huntley, Jackson's backup who threw two touchdown passes in six regular-season games this season.
Listen, this is not a rebuke of Huntley -- a capable backup who had the Ravens within inches of beating the Bengals in the Wild Card round. It is, however, a rebuke of the Pro Bowl selection process in general.
- Remember, the Pro Bowl isn't even a formal football game any more. It's a series of skill competitions, with seven-on-seven flag football games sprinkled in.
- Are there snubs every year? Sure. But that doesn't mean it should be a popularity contest. Using expected points added per dropback, Huntley was roughly equal to Zach Wilson this season and worse than Carson Wentz and Davis Mills.
This isn't a new issue. In 2013, Jeff Saturday made the Pro Bowl one week after being benched and even apologized for taking a spot away. Simply put, a process and product this flawed shouldn't impact, say, who gets into the Hall of Fame or who gets bonuses. But it does. It's still regarded as a meaningful metric, even if it's misrepresentative at best. Hopefully I don't come off as "old man yelling at clouds," but the NFL can and should do better
What we're watching Wednesday 📺
🏀 Penn State at No. 1 Purdue, 6:30 p.m. on BTN
🏀 No. 17 Providence at No. 16 Xavier, 6:30 p.m. on FS1
🏀 Nets at Celtics, 7:30 p.m. on ESPN
🏒 Hurricanes at Sabres, 7:30 p.m. on TNT
🏀 Hawks at Suns, 10 p.m. on ESPN