Where These 15 NFL Players and Coaches Almost Signed
Kurt Warner to the Cardinals, Drew Brees to the Saints, and Peyton Manning to the Broncos. Those are just a few of the best-known free agent signings in recent NFL history. We also can’t forget the Dallas Cowboys’ 2003 signing of undrafted Eastern Illinois quarterback, Tony Romo, or the Green Bay Packers inking Charles Woodson to a long-term deal in 2006.
However, if there is one thing of greater interest to football fans and analysts than a marquee free agent signing, it’s the deal that could’ve been. It’s the rumor that almost came to fruition. It’s the player who agreed to a contract but backed out from signing on the dotted line at the last minute.
NFL coaches are no different. Many teams push just as hard for solid play callers on the sideline as they do for play callers on the field. The Miami Dolphins heavily courted Jim Harbaugh back in 2011, and just this past year, the New York Giants felt Crimson Tide fever as they reached out to Alabama head coach Nick Saban.
Manning in Tennessee? Favre in Chicago? Moss in Green Bay? Here 15 NFL free agent signings that almost happened.
- ROBERT GRIFFIN III TO L.A. RAMS IN 2016
Robert Griffin III took the NFL by storm during his 2012 rookie season, posting stellar numbers for passer rating (102.4) and touchdown-to-interception ratio (4:1) for the Redskins. RGIII was named the 2012 Offensive Rookie of the Year and led Washington to a division title.
However, Griffin fell out of favor in D.C. after a litany of knee and ankle injuries derailed his final two seasons with the team. Management waived him in 2016, and he signed with the Cleveland Browns in late summer.
Yet, Griffin nearly joined the Los Angeles Rams, the team that originally had the chance to draft him at the number two spot before they traded the pick to Washington in 2012. Rumors swirled in early March, and according to Vincent Bonsignore of the Los Angeles Daily News, Griffin “very much” wanted to play for the Rams. It seemed like he would be a great fit for the team’s offense, which featured star running back Todd Gurley and dynamic wide receiver Tavon Austin.
Of course, Griffin never ended up signing in Los Angeles, and the Rams instead selected Jared Goff as their future quarterback in the 2016 draft.
- SEAN PAYTON CONSIDERS COACHING THE RAIDERS IN 2004
Sean Payton’s tenure as head coach of the New Orleans Saints hasn’t always gone smoothly. In 2006, the first-year head coach led the Saints to the playoffs for the first time in six seasons and later guided the team to their only Super Bowl title in 2009. However, Payton also served a season-long suspension in 2012 for the infamous “Bounty-gate” scandal.
Through all the ups and downs, it’s hard to imagine Payton coaching anywhere but New Orleans. Yet, he spent the 2003 season as an assistant coach for the Dallas Cowboys, and nearly joined the Oakland Raiders in 2004. According to then Cowboys head coach, Bill Parcells, Payton was very close to accepting Oakland’s vacant head coaching position.
Parcells detailed in his autobiography how he advised Payton against the move, saying “You’re going to get your chance. This just isn’t the right one, kid.”
Payton stayed in Dallas for the 2005 season before accepting the head-coaching job in The Big Easy. He went on to win over 90 games with the Saints.
- BILL PARCELLS CONSIDERS COACHING THE SAINTS IN 2012
Speaking of “BountyGate” Bill Parcells almost became Sean Payton’s coaching replacement for the Saints during the 2012 season. Payton pleaded with Parcells that he serve as interim coach in Payton’s absence.
Payton went so far as to schedule a meeting between Parcells and Saints general manager Mickey Loomis. The team also agreed to let Parcells bring in former assistant coaches Eric Mangini and Al Groh if he accepted the job. Parcells pondered the offer for two weeks, weighing opinions from friends and colleagues. New York Giants legend Lawrence Taylor strongly urged him to take the job, but Parcells ultimately passed.
He was 70 years old at the time and didn’t feel comfortable restarting his coaching career on a one-year term with an unfamiliar coaching staff. He admitted in his memoir, “Parcells: A Football Life” that he wanted to take the offer to help Payton, but was comfortable in his current lifestyle. Thus, the Saints moved ahead with Joe Vitt as interim coach for the 2012 season.