Exclusive Interview: Jonathan Vilma Tackles Questions About This NFL Season

Exclusive Interview: Jonathan Vilma Tackles Questions About This NFL Season

Heading into the playoffs, it’s safe to say the NFL’s 2023-24 regular season has been a wild ride. From record scoring games to historic comebacks and backup QBs excelling, we’ve seen it all. With so much going on, we connected with Super Bowl winner Jonathan Vilma, to get his take on the top stories across the NFL.

Vilma reveals his front runners for the Super Bowl, who he believes is this season’s MVP, and which coach has impressed him the most. He also digs into the firing of Arthur Smith and the Falcons future, Bill Belichick, and the teams that should look for new QBs during the offseason. Keep reading for all the juice:

Jonathan Vilma Fields Questions About The NFL Season & His Super Bowl Contenders

Jonathan Vilma shares his thoughts on the regular season and the two teams he has his eyes on for the Super Bowl:

What did you think about the 2023-24 NFL regular season?

“The regular season was better than what I expected in the sense that you had a lot of parity in the NFL. To go down to week 18 and have around 12 teams fighting for about two playoff spots, that obviously makes for a very exciting finale to the season. That’s how the NFL has maintained their status for most viewers across sport.

“Everyone is always watching because you don’t know who is going to win on any given Sunday. So it was fun to see what would happen throughout the season and to see how teams would’ve needed a win a couple of teams to lose to get in. You find yourself rooting for teams like the Steelers, who suddenly seemed out of it three weeks before the season ending and then find themselves in the playoffs.”

Which teams have impressed you the most?

“I would say the Baltimore Ravens have impressed me the most. Every time there was a marquee matchup, it seemed like they didn’t just win or take advantage of that opportunity, they dominated. Every time you thought ‘okay, here is that team that’s going to put the Ravens away or show the Ravens who’s boss’, not only did they win, they blew them out every time. I’m looking at the Ravens and saying, if they can repeat that performance in the postseason, they’ll have a legitimate shot to win the Super Bowl.

“Their defense has been very impressive. I love the way that the defense is flown around — they always have been fundamentally sound. Now they’re doing the extra, the extra being the takeaways. Getting after the football, the sacks, and you start to look and say, if you have an offense with Lamar Jackson — who should be the MVP — if he’s able to get more opportunities because of these takeaways and these turnovers, you’re looking at a very, very dangerous team going into the playoffs.”

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson scrambles from San Francisco 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa

Who do you see as the two frontrunners for the Super Bowl?

“It would be the Ravens or the 49ers, even though the 49ers got beat by the Ravens. When you look at what the 49ers did against the so-called top tier NFC teams, they beat the brakes off them.

“I don’t think that there was any NFC team that really gave the 49ers a run for their money when they were healthy. Trent Williams, Deebo Samuel, all of these guys, when they were healthy, they were as dominant as any NFC team was for the whole season. I’m looking to see them really repeat in the NFC. Then, what happens in the playoffs happens, but they were very impressive during the regular season run.

“The 49ers have a great defense. Brock Purdy has done very well, Christian McCaffrey leads all running backs in rush yards, and Trent Williams, the offensive tackle, is probably the best offensive lineman in the NFL. You look at all of their arsenal, their weaponry, you know, the ability to attack and continue to apply pressure to teams. There is no team better in the NFC than them in doing this.”

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Jonathan Vilma Shares His Thoughts On The Performance Of Last Year’s Super Bowl Winners

Vilma dives into the Chiefs’ performances over the last season, praising Patrick Mahomes and Cam Jones, and his expectations on their strong chance of making the Super Bowl:

What do you think about how the Chiefs played this season?

“I thought they were team that performed as expected. The expectations were higher than what the team actually does right, and I talk about the expectations because Patrick Mahomes is the best quarterback, hands down, in the NFL. He is a generational talent. You just expect that they’re gonna constantly go 13-4 or 13-3 and be first place in the AFC.

“I wouldn’t even say they had struggles. When you have a team that is playing to their level of play, given that they had young wide receivers, the wide receivers dropped the football at times and Mahomes would then try to overcompensate and hold the football too long.

“If he does that, he gets sacked, or they get sacked. With the defense, they’re not built to hold opponents’ game in and game out. They’re built to complement the offense and it was interesting to see how teams would defend against them and, all of a sudden, the media are saying the Chiefs aren’t good.

“No, the Chiefs are fine and exactly where they thought we would be given the talent that’s on their team. You can’t just always assume, even though I guess that’s a compliment to the Chiefs and to Mahomes. You can’t always assume they’re going to be a 14-3 team in the AFC.

“They’re going to struggle at times, which they did, and they’re going to play well at times, which they did. Most importantly, they won the AFC West and they locked in their spot at hosting a playoff game.”

I look and say, their first game is definitely not a cakewalk because all of the teams are good in the playoffs but, if there was a more favorable matchup, I wouldn’t know what it would be.

How do you rate their chances?

“Their chances are still good. When you look at the seeding in the playoffs and they’re playing the Dolphins to start, the Dolphins are banged up, a very beat-up team, especially on the defensive side where you need that help.

“I look and say, their first game is definitely not a cakewalk because all of the teams are good in the playoffs but, if there was a more favorable matchup, I wouldn’t know what it would be. I think this is the most favorable matchup for the Chiefs and I believe that they’ll handle this game. Then whoever comes after that, it is more than likely they’ll be going to Kansas City, which is always a benefit at this time of the year.”

What do you think of Chiefs Rookie Linebacker Cam Jones?

“I like his ability to always be able to be disruptive, even if it’s just a regular play. There are certain players you have to dial their number up. Like in basketball, you have to design the play for a basketball player, sometimes for them to get their shot off and get them going

You see that in the NFL, where you have to call a run play, a pass play, and get the players involved in order for them to be really good — but that’s not the case with him. You can call anything you want and he’s going to get after it. He’s going to do a good job and be disruptive. You always like those types of players.”

Jonathan Vilma Reflects On Arthur Smith’s Firing & What’s Next For The Falcons

Vilma thinks Arthur Smith’s firing. after three years as head coach for the Falcons, was a rushed decision and he thinks the Falcons need to stay consistent:

What do you think about the Falcons firing head coach Arthur Smith?

“At first, I thought it was a rushed decision. Then I looked back at it, and you take a look at the growth of the team under Arthur Smith and what he was trying to build. He was trying to replicate what he did very well in Tennessee with the running game being the focal point and then playing a defense.

“I saw a defense that didn’t improve at times, and I saw the run game definitely improved. Bijan Robinson is a great rookie, and he’s going to do very well for the Falcons, but as a whole, the team did not improve.

“Looking at the quarterback play, it was as bad as it was when Arthur Smith first took over. The offensive line was better, but then you look at Kyle Pitts, the tight end play, and the wide receiver play — that didn’t improve either. That was as bad as before Arthur Smith took over, or in the first year he took over.

Arthur Smith

“So, you start to take a look at the offense in particular, not mentioning those positions, because that’s where Arthur Smith was supposed to excel. He was supposed to excel on the offensive side and then let the defense help find ways to win games  — and you don’t see that improvement.

“I think he’s a good coach. I think that he was trying but, unfortunately, you’re not afforded five years, six years, seven years as a first-year coach in the NFL anymore. You just can’t do it.”

What’s next for the Falcons?

“They have good pieces in place. I mentioned the defense being good. I think that the consistency was the issue. So you’re looking for a coach that’s going provide that consistency, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re going to all of a sudden be 14-3 every year and first place in the division.

“When there are games that you quote-unquote “should win”, the Carolina Panthers being one. They lost to the Panthers. That’s a game where you should win and, no matter how you win, it can be an ugly game, but you should win the game.

“So, you look at games like that where, whoever the coach is going be, comes in, they’re consistent with the message. Stay consistent with growing the team and just win the games you’re supposed to do. Do that, and you’ll end up in the 10-7 range, 11-6 range, 9-8 range, and you can find yourself winning the division.”

Jonathan Vilma Talks Bill Belichick’s Future

As rumors regarding Belichick’s future continue to circulate in the media, Vilma offers his opinion and says it doesn’t seem right to him:

What is the right decision on Bill Belichick?

“For Bill Belichick to go out on his own terms. The media and the fans are very short-sighted, but Tom Brady doesn’t win six Super Bowls and Bill Belichick doesn’t win six Super Bowls without each other. As good as Tom Brady is, the best quarterback that’s ever played the game, he still needed Bill Belichick to be able to get the most out of him, to get the most out of those teams and then win six Super Bowls. I don’t want to live in the past, but you have to give respect to the past because Bill Belichick did it the right way.

As good as Tom Brady is, the best quarterback that’s ever played the game, he still needed Bill Belichick to be able to get the most out of him, to get the most out of those teams and then win six Super Bowls.

“There was a formula, there was a system, and it worked. Right now it’s not working, but it’s not necessarily because he doesn’t know what he’s doing. The defense is still good. There are many games that they lost 10-6 and 9-7, and that means they are good defensive performers, but the offense wasn’t playing. Complementary football wasn’t getting points like they used to. You don’t want to tell Bill Belichick that you don’t have it anymore, because that’s not the case. Clearly, he does have it.

“It’s just one side of the team that needs to pick it up and, unfortunately, they drafted a quarterback in Mac Jones, who hasn’t panned out. If you draft a quarterback early in the first round that doesn’t pan out, you’re going to have troubles. You’re going to have issues, and he’s no different than any other team that’s facing that same issue.

“If I’m the Patriots, I allow Bill Belichick to honestly assess the team, assess himself, and then figure out what changes need to be made. But saying that, firing Bill Belichick doesn’t seem right to me at all.”

Jonathan Vilma Comments On The Future Of Aaron Rodgers

Vilma breaks down what went right, or wrong, with Rodgers in New York, and where the talented quarterback ranks in this history of the league:

What do you think of Aaron Rodgers’ recent comments and his future with the Jets?

“I’m sure there was a lot of stuff going on that we’re not aware of in the media, so I honestly don’t know what he’s referring to. If you look at a defense that was really good, and they played as well as they could at times, but they got tired because the offense wasn’t doing much.

“From my understanding, they essentially built the offense for Aaron Rodgers and all of a sudden you go through OTA’s training camp, many preseason games, and your team is built one way — particularly your offense is built one way — and then unfortunately, the offense dies because he gets hurt in the first game. I don’t know what to make of his comments now, and Rogers, he’s one of the best quarterbacks.

“If Tom Brady’s number one, Rogers is 1A or 1B. His talent — you can never deny the knowledge of the game. What he brings, how he elevates the offense, you can never deny that. But, he’s also going to be an older player that’s coming off an injury, so how much of the offense do you put on his shoulders? How much do you let them have full say over everything?

“The protections, the run game, and how the receivers run their routes etc. was all revolving around Aaron Rodgers. So that’s going to be a very, very healthy discussion this offseason between the head coach, offensive coordinator, and Aaron Rodgers about how they want this offense to look in the event Rodgers goes down.”

Jonathan Vilma Reveals His Pick For Coach Of The Season, MVP & The Biggest Letdown

Vilma reveals why Kevin Stefanski is his number one coach, how Lamar Jackson shone, and the ways Bryce Young let him down:

Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski

Who is your pick for coach of the season?

“It started off with Dan Campbell being the coach of the year for me because of the Detroit Lions where he persevered — and credit to the Detroit Lions Front Office GM president ownership for not firing him so quickly. They gave him a little bit of time to right the ship, and he always told everybody, ‘look, we’re building something’. When they lost the first nine games of his tenure, and then they turned it around, it was very, very exciting. The football watching was good and I am really enjoying the way that these guys played all season long.

“I wanted to say him, but then, all of a sudden, the Cleveland Browns decide that they’re going to go on a playoff run using four different quarterbacks, that is unheard of in the NFL. Especially when you look at other teams who went with two quarterbacks and couldn’t figure it out. You talk about Aaron Rodgers and the Jets, and they end up shuffling between quarterbacks.

“What Kevin Stefanski and the Cleveland Browns did with four different quarterbacks keeping the guys motivated, keeping that defense motivated, figuring out ways to win — it’s not like they just won every game, nine to six or nine to seven, they put up 30 points. They got after it and that was just really, really impressive to watch — and exciting to watch even if you’re not a Browns fan — just to see how much success they had, how exciting it was all season long. Kevin Stefanski is my coach of the year.”

Who is your NFL MVP?

“It has to be Lamar Jackson. There were a lot of players that played really well, but when the spotlight was on Lamar Jackson and the Ravens — and I talked about how well they did in those marquee games — it was always because of the way Lamar Jackson played. It was always because the Ravens offense all of a sudden just showed up and poured on 30 points, 40 points, even like 50 points one time against the Dolphins.

“As much as we wanted to say the Ravens were dominant and their defense was dominant, no. It was really the Ravens who were dominant and it was because of Lamar Jackson. When you have a player that steps up in the prime-time games, the marquee matchups, the ones that everyone’s kind of circling to see, here’s the barometer test, Lamar Jackson played magnificently.“

Lamar Jackson

Which rookies have been the biggest let down for you, and what do you think about Bryce Young?

“I called their last game of the season against the Bucs and he’s a letdown. Not because he’s a bad player. He’s a letdown because, for everything they gave up and the production that they got from the team, that was a major letdown. You don’t expect CJ Stroud, right? That was an anomaly.

“Rookie quarterbacks just don’t always play that well. So hats off to him and hats off to the Texans. It’s a great story. But you expected something in between CJ Stroud and what Bryce Young did this season. What Bryce Young did was about as low as you get as far as an offensive performance — it was tough.

“It’s tough to see that kind of performance because you don’t know how good he is or how good he can be — it’s just not there. Nothing was really proven, and I would say that was disappointing to see because he was a great player in college, and you expect that he would have done a little bit better than what he did his first year in the NFL. Where do they go from there and build the team, and is this a quarterback you can build a team around? That’s tough for the Panthers.”

Teams Jonathon Vilma Believes Should Look For A New Quarterback

Looking to the offseason and NFL draft, Vilma highlights which teams should be on the hunt for a new QB and the importance of the draft for the Washington Commanders:

Which teams will want a new QB in the offseason?

“Going in the NFC South, I look at the Falcons looking for a new quarterback. NFC East, the Commanders will be looking for a new quarterback. In the NFC West, I don’t see any team right now. Kyler Murray played well enough, Matthew Stafford for the Rams, and Brock Purdy for the 49ers have done well. Geno Smith is doing a fabulous job for the Seahawks.

“In the NFC North, the Vikings are definitely going to be looking for one. What they do with Kirk Cousins is going to be interesting — again, another really good QB coming off his injury. There’s a lot of talk about The Bears moving on from Justin Fields in the media, but I don’t see it. You saw a team starting from 0-5 to 8-6 down the stretch, and a lot of it is how Justin Fields played and persevered. So I don’t see them going for a new QB.

“On the AFC, I see the Patriots going after a new quarterback. I definitely see the Broncos looking for a new one. The relationship between Russell Wilson and Sean Payton was rough from the start. Sean Payton didn’t like a few things at the start of the season about the way the offseason was going with Russell Wilson.

“The Pittsburgh Steelers’ situation will be interesting. The Pittsburgh Steelers have Kenny Pickett, yet they are making their way to the playoffs on the arm of Mason Rudolph — so that will be very interesting to see what happens. Whether they win or lose in the playoffs and if Mason Rudolph has a great game, what do they do there? That will be very interesting to watch.”

How important is the draft for the Commanders?

“The draft is very important for them. What I would say is the later rounds is where they’re really gonna make their hay. Yes, you have to get it right with that first pick but, you have to decide, is Sam Howell your guy or not? There are some good things that Sam Howell did. There were also some not-so-good things that Sam Howell did. But how good is that offensive line? How productive was that tight end position form?

“Then you look at the defense. The strength of the Commanders was supposed to be their defense this year, yet they struggled. They even traded away two of their top players because, at the time when they traded them, the way the defense was still struggling. Statistically, you had some big names on the defense.

“You’re trying to take a look at what their resume was for those six games before Montez Sweat and Chase Young get traded and, all of a sudden, this defense is not doing it as well as everyone thought. It’s going to be interesting with the later picks to see what direction they go in as far as how they want to build the team.”

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Rick has been a professional writer for over 14 years with an extensive resume spanning projects and clients from around the world. But, his passions have always been sports and sports betting. Whether it’s being a credentialed media member to major sporting events, climbing into a racecar or a pro wrestling ring, Rick’s sports and sports betting knowledge, passion and versatility is on display with each article he writes for TSG.

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