Ran Running Things
Former Gators running back Ran Carthon was hired as the new general manager of the Tennessee Titans on Wednesday. Carthon’s hiring means there are currently eight black general managers (a quarter of the 32 teams) in a league where over 70 percent of the players are black.
That’s woefully inadequate, but Carthon landing a GM gig after being passed over the past couple of years is certainly a step in the right direction. He also becomes the first black GM in Titans franchise history — a history that includes the Houston Oilers franchise as well.
Ran Carthon: 1st Black GM in Titans history. A strong hire on paper. Was a key cog in the 49ers’ machine. He’s a breath of fresh air for an organization that needed it, and has beliefs/background that suggest he'll be a good teammate to AAS and Mike Vrabel:https://t.co/vB4qOK8dvq— Ben Arthur (@benyarthur) January 18, 2023
Carthon is eminently qualified to take on the challenge of helping restock the Titans, a perennial playoff contender that collapsed this year, with seven straight losses and a late-season defeat to the Jaguars leading them to miss the postseason. He has served as the director of player personnel under two successful GMs: Les Snead with the Rams and John Lynch with the 49ers.
The past two seasons, he oversaw the entire player personnel department in San Francisco — including a scouting department that took Brock Purdy with the final pick of the draft.
New #Titans GM Ran Carthon operated the lower rounds of the draft in his time with the 49ers.— Sam Phalen (@Sam_Phalen) January 18, 2023
Players Carthon helped SF acquire in rounds 5-7 since being hired in 2017:
Brock Purdy https://t.co/OAhaKnSTW7
Carthon played at Florida from 2000 through 2003, meaning he split his four years under Steve Spurrier and Ron Zook. And if the cupboard wasn’t full, he was not a reason for that, as part of one of Spurrier’s best recruiting classes in 1999: Carthon came to Gainesville alongside Rex Grossman, Lito Sheppard, Keiwan Ratliff, Jabar Gaffney, Taylor Jacobs, Matt Farrior, and Mike Nattiel. The class wasn’t highly ranked at the time, but ended up producing 12 players that signed NFL contracts.
The Gators were SEC champs in Carthon’s freshman season in 2000 and then had a shot at playing for the national championship in his sophomore season in 2001 before the infamous delayed Tennessee game in The Swamp. Carthon saw limited playing time in those two years, sitting behind Earnest Graham and Robert Gillespie.
Spurrier left for the NFL after the 2001 season and Zook took over. Carthon backed up Graham again in 2002 and then led the team in rushing in 2003 even though he split carries with DeShawn Wynn. Both seasons ended with similarly disappointing 8-5 records — hey, remember the good old days when eight wins was a huge disappointment?
Carthon finished his Florida career with 1,353 rushing yards, 511 receiving yards, and 12 total touchdowns. He went undrafted in 2004 but latched on with the Colts, playing in nine total games in 2005 and 2006, rushing 16 times for 22 yards and two TDs while adding one catch for 10 yards.
After his playing days ended, he entered the scouting world with the Falcons and worked his way up from there. Now, at the age of 41, he is an NFL general manager.
Carthon joins Howie Roseman of the Eagles as the second former Gator in a GM role. Roseman didn’t play football at Florida, but graduated and became the first Florida alum to be a GM in the NFL. Carthon will certainly look to follow in Roseman’s footsteps and build a team that eventually hoists the Super Bowl trophy.
Based on reactions around the league, as well as those of his former Gators teammates, Carthon is a natural leader and amazing communicator, someone widely considered likely to excel in his new role.
If you ask Ingle Martin, the Tennessee Titans nailed the GM search that reportedly will bring Ran Carthon to Nashville. Martin and Carthon were college teammates at Florida. https://t.co/ScVe2IZfjR— Tennessean (@Tennessean) January 19, 2023
Super Wild Card Weekend Recap
Every game in the Super Wild Card round featured at least one former Gator in action. Coincidentally, in the three matchups where only one team had Florida alums active and playing, all three of those teams won: Jacksonville (over the Chargers), Buffalo (over Miami), and Dallas (over Tampa).
Seahawks at 49ers
This game was expected to be the least influenced by guys from Gainesville and it lived up to the billing — although, as we mentioned above, Ran Carthon helped put together the excellent San Francisco roster.
Janoris Jenkins played the most snaps among former Gators and contributed two tackles as a backup corner and special teamer. Stone Forsythe saw some action as an extra offensive lineman in the Seahawks’ jumbo package, but was flagged for holding on one of his plays. Teez Tabor played just a handful of special teams snaps.
Chargers at Jaguars
Jacksonville’s insane comeback was impressive on so many levels. The defense and Trevor Lawrence certainly deserve and have gotten a lot of the credit. But how about the play of Jawaan Taylor against the Chargers’ ferocious pass-rush tandem of Joey Bosa and Kahlil Mack?
Just watched Jaguars offensive tape. Walker Little and Jawaan Taylor were outstanding in pass protection. They handled Bosa and Mack. Even the sack Mack got was on Lawrence.— Pete Prisco (@PriscoCBS) January 15, 2023
On the play below, Taylor — at the top of the screen — locked up Mack and allowed Lawrence a clean pocket and the time to hit Zay Jones for a long touchdown.
But it was Taylor’s work against Bosa that was most impactful. He held Bosa sackless and away from Lawrence all night — especially incredible when you consider the Jags were down 27-0 and in clear pass-and-catch-up mode for most of the game.
Taylor’s quick get-off and ability to time the snap — look, it isn’t a false start if it’s never called — clearly got inside Bosa’s head. The dominant pass rusher melted down and earned back-to-back penalties that allowed the Jags to go for two and eventually win the game on a field goal. Bosa was so shook, he continued his tantrum well after the game.
"I need to be more accountable for my actions, obviously, but..."@jbbigbear unloads as he & the @chargers head into the offseason following last night's loss to the Jaguars@diehardboltclub #Chargers @BB_Chargers @BFTB_Chargers pic.twitter.com/fvhA2IvSCX— Sports Central LA (@SportsCentralLA) January 15, 2023
As for the questionable false starts, allow Jags beat writer Demetrius Harvey to explain.
Jawaan Taylor actually times the snap better than most tackles in the league. If you look at the game tape he’s going literally as the ball is snapped. He’s got the timing down perfectly. https://t.co/XE2JiKVLXH— Demetrius Harvey (@Demetrius82) January 15, 2023
Think Taylor was pumped about his first career playoff game?
Dolphins at Bills
Kaiir Elam played the best game of his career on Sunday.
Bills rookie Kaiir Elam vs Miami:— PFF (@PFF) January 16, 2023
1 catch allowed
0.0 passer rating allowed pic.twitter.com/BWQNKiDcAJ
Granted, he’s a rookie with only 13 regular season games under his belt, but that’s still stepping up and delivering when needed.
And Elam’s interception came at a crucial time with Buffalo trailing in the third quarter. The Bills were playing zone and Elam — understanding there was no flat route that was going to threaten for the first down — ran with the deeper receiver and made the play.
Massive play by former Gator Kaiir Elam in the AFC Wild Card game with his team trailing. pic.twitter.com/maE4o9rPry— Jacob Rudner (@JacobRudner) January 15, 2023
The game came down to a fourth down with just over two minutes left. If Miami converted, they’d have been 10-15 yards away from a possible game-tying kick. If Buffalo got the stop, the game was over.
The rookie made huge play after huge play to help Buffalo escape the massive upset. All that said, Elam’s pregame warmups made have produced the actual play of the week — a moment with so much more impact and meaning than anything that took place on the field. Grab some tissues.
Sophia is the fiercest fighter - after relapsing in August, she has been battling #childhoodcancer since ️— Kate Glaser (@KateGIaser) January 15, 2023
#24 @kaiirelam5 is her favorite player, so today we helped give her some healing hope, as she gets ready to start a clinical trial tomorrow
WATCH ⤵️ #BillsMafia pic.twitter.com/DNgYcikunD
Giants at Vikings
As readers of this column will recall, Jarrad Davis played his first game as a Giant in Week 18 — and he performed so well that he was a starter for Sunday’s Wild Card tilt. Davis is a thumper who attacks the line of scrimmage and generally plays well against the run but is not effective in coverage. In this game, you could see why he was languishing on a practice squad for much of 2022, as he had two tackles but was attacked often in the passing game.
Jonathan Bullard didn’t record a sack all season — and, in fact, hadn’t had one since 2019. So, naturally, he took down Daniel Jones on Sunday.
Rush layering is good this time, and the Vikings get a sack. Daniel Jones wants to escape to his left but Patrick Jones spins back and takes that away. Bullard has pushed the pocket enough and gets the sack as Jones continues to climb. pic.twitter.com/jIJiHWRVi3— Matt Fries (@FriesFootball) January 17, 2023
Ravens at Bengals
Demarcus Robinson isn’t a blazer. He has never been a big yards-after-the-catch guy. The strength of his game has always been his excellent route running. On Sunday, he ran a perfect slant-and-go for an easy touchdown.
The Bengals, of course, won on one of the most improbable plays in NFL history. Logan Wilson punched the ball out and Sam Hubbard had the incredible 98-yard return. But the play began with the Cincy defensive tackles — D.J. Reader, B.J. Hill, and Zach Carter — holding the middle and forcing Tyler Huntley high and to reach far for the goalline. You see Carter in the middle of the line and celebrating with Hubbard in this incredible mic’d up.
Carter got the start and played really well. He had four tackles and clogged up the line of scrimmage all night.
Zach Carter had a nice game. Here he gets over the top of the reach block to make the stop. pic.twitter.com/AXzVqDvRTm— Mike (@bengals_sans) January 16, 2023
Oh, and Evan McPherson finally missed a kick in the postseason — just not a field goal. After his record-setting playoff run last year that saw him drill all 14 field goals and six extra points, Mac made a FG early before missing an XP in the second quarter — his fifth missed XP and 10th missed kick overall.
Cowboys at Bucs
With both Keanu Neal and Kyle Trask inactive, Dante Fowler was the only former Gator in action Monday night. He only had one tackle, but did pressure Tom Brady and drew a personal foul penalty on Bucs center Ryan Jensen.
Divisional Round Preview
The divisional round will once again have a former Gator playing in every game. If the 49ers elevate Janoris Jenkins from their practice squad like they did last week, there will be a Florida alum playing for every team.
Jaguars at Chiefs
Tommy Townsend is a playoff veteran at this point, making it to the Super Bowl his rookie season and the AFC Championship Game last year. As with every run so far, the Chiefs hope their special teams captain and All-Pro punter has little on his plate.
Ladies & gentlemen, your Playoff Captains. pic.twitter.com/PN5t1Ed4pH— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) January 14, 2023
Kadarius Toney will make his playoff debut for Kansas City. After ramping up to nine touches for 115 yards the final two weeks of the regular season, Toney could be set for a flashy postseason premiere.
Carlos Dunlap has played in six postseason games, but only has half a sack and zero tackles for loss. With 100 regular season sacks under his umbrella, Dunlap will certainly be motivated to get his first full playoff sack.
Jawaan Taylor could be matched up against Dunlap quite a bit on Saturday.
Jaguars at Chiefs
Chauncey Gardner-Johnson returned in Week 18 and appears to be healthy. He is not on the Eagles injury report this week and will be one of the keys to shutting down the surging Giants and Daniel Jones.
Jarrad Davis matches up a little better against the Eagles’ run-heavy offense, but I’m guessing Philly will try to target him with passes to its running backs and tight end Dallas Goedert.
Bengals at Bills
Kaiir Elam balled out last week, but he’ll have to step up even more against Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase.
Zach Carter’s playing time will probably be cut if the Bengals play nickel most of the time against Buffalo. Evan McPherson will need to make his kicks in what is expected to be a close game.
Cowboys at 49ers
Dante Fowler will look to add to his postseason career total of 3.5 sacks against Brock Purdy.
Malik Davis will see special teams snaps, but might not get an offensive touch with both Tony Pollard and Ezekiel Elliott healthy.
Janoris Jenkins has been active for the 49ers’ past two games and could once again see action as a backup corner.
Here are all of the Super Wild Card stats (ranked and tiered in order of performance):
- Kaiir Elam, BUF, CB
Wild Card: INT, 2 tackles, 2 PD, 44 snaps (62%)
- Demarcus Robinson, BAL, WR
Wild Card: 2 rec (3 targets), 49 yards, TD, 32 snaps (46%)
- Jawaan Taylor, JAX, RT
Wild Card: 74 snaps (100%)
- Jonathan Bullard, MIN, DT
Wild Card: 1 sack, 1 tackle, 1 TFL, 1 QB hit, 15 snaps (21%)
- Zach Carter, CIN, DT
Wild Card: 4 tackles, 29 snaps (42%), 3 ST snaps (14%)
- Jarrad Davis, NYG, LB
Wild Card: 2 tackles, 1 QB hit, 32 snaps (56%)
- Da nte Fowler, Jr., DAL, OLB
Wild Card: 1 tackle, 29 snaps (35%)
- Evan McPherson, CIN, K
Wild Card: 1/1 FG, Long 39, 1/2 XP
- Janoris Jenkins, SF, CB
Wild Card: 2 tackles, 18 snaps (26%), 13 ST snaps (46%)
- Malik Davis, DAL, RB
Wild Card: 1 snap (1%), 16 ST snaps (70%)
- Stone Forsythe, SEA, T
Wild Card: 6 snaps (9%), 3 ST snaps (11%)
- Teez Tabor, SEA, S
Wild Card: 5 ST snaps (18%)
- Keanu Neal, TB, S: Inactive (Hip)
- Kyle Trask, TB, QB: Inactive
- Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, PHI, S: Bye
- Kadarius Toney, KC, WR: Bye
- Carlos Dunlap, KC, DE: Bye
- Tommy Townsend, KC, P: Bye
- Fred Johnson, PHI, OL
- Antonio Callaway, DAL, WR
- La’mical Perine, MIA, RB
- David Sharpe, BAL, T
- Jeremiah Moon, BAL, LB