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Tag:Bill O'Brien
Posted on: January 18, 2012 2:20 pm
Edited on: January 20, 2012 12:16 pm
 

Film Room: Patriots vs. Ravens AFC CG preview

Brady and Lewis will match wits in the AFC Championship Game. (Getty Images)
Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit

Tom Brady is right: the Ravens are the best team the Patriots have faced this season.

Cam Cameron’s offense poses problems for Bill Belichick’s defense, while Ray Lewis’ defense actually has a fighting chance against Brady’s offense. Here’s the breakdown.



1. Patriots formation versatility
Keep in mind, the Patriots, at least offensively, are also the best team the Ravens have faced all season. Their versatility is like nothing we’ve seen before.

Last Saturday they spent a bulk of the game in a no-huddle that featured tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez and wideouts Wes Welker, Deion Branch and Julian Edelman. Remarkably, they were able to run effectively out of this personnel grouping, as Hernandez carried the ball five times out of the backfield for 61 yards.

Those runs are almost just gravy – something the defense must now respect. The real purpose of putting Hernandez in the backfield is the same purpose as all of New England’s other alignments: to get a potent pass catcher matched up on a linebacker. Even safeties have major trouble covering Hernandez and Gronkowski.

This game will be no exception, as Baltimore’s strong safety Bernard Pollard is simply not capable of doing it, and the Ravens are unlikely to remove Ed Reed from centerfield. Brady rarely throws in the direction of starting cornerbacks. Even when he goes to Wes Welker, it’s often when Welker has drawn a matchup against a backup slot corner or non-cornerback.

Because the Patriots don’t try to confuse defenses so much as force them into bad matchups, HOW the Patriots line up to play is almost more important than how they actually play. Most of the damage is done through crafty presnap alignment. (This is one reason so many of Brady’s throws come off three-and five-step drops; the decision of where to go with the ball is made prior to the snap.)

The Patriots frequently go up-tempo to prevent defenses from having enough time to regroup or alter matchups before the snap. The only sure way to take the chess match element out of the equations and force the Patriots to win with execution is to play press-man coverage across the board. Problem is, no defense, including Baltimore’s, has enough quality cover artists to do this.


After a win over the Texans last week, Joe Flacco and the Ravens will take on Tom Brady and the Patriots at Gillette Stadium in the AFC Championship. Jason Horowitz and NFL.com's Pat Kirwan preview this game. Watch the game on CBS at 3 PM ET. 

2. Baltimore’s response
The Ravens may not have enough cover artists to play the Patriots man-to-man, but they might be the one team capable of matching wits with them. Ray Lewis is arguably the smartest front seven defender in the league, while Ed Reed is arguably the smartest back four defender. Those two are capable of recognizing New England’s subtle tendencies and getting their teammates into the proper defensive play-call.

Of course, Brady and Bill O’Brien know this and will likely inject a few tendency-breaking wrinkles into the gameplan. Of course, the Ravens know that the Patriots know that they know this, and the Patriots know that the Ravens know that they know and ... you get the idea – this has the potential to be one heck of a chess match.

Look for the Ravens to do plenty of presnap communicating and disguising at the line of scrimmage. It helps that they’re comfortable playing a plethora of different coverages. The outcome may be decided by which side can bully the other into a reactionary position. The Patriots can do that by going hurry-up; the Ravens can do it by blitzing fervidly up the middle.

3. Ravens pass-rush
To beat Tom Brady, you have to rob him of the trust he has in his pass protection. Brady – like any quarterback – does not like pressure directly in his face. And though he’s as tough in the pocket as anyone in the game, he has a tendency to get just a tad jumpy after taking a few hits from edge-rushers.

Recent playoff history shows that if a defense can create pressure and doubt, Brady will eventually start eating up the play clock worrying about protections. That makes him a significantly less dangerous player versus when he’s hurrying things up and concentrating on his receivers’ routes.

The question is, can the Ravens generate a pass-rush? If they blitz, they likely can. But one of the best kept secrets in football is that this is generally a four-man rushing defense. Because the Ravens use so many 3-4 or 2-5 fronts, their four pass-rushers come from a variety of different spots, thus creating the illusion of a blitz:

The Ravens use a lot of zone exchange concepts in their pass-rush. A zone exchange is essentially a four-man pass-rush where linebackers or safeties rush the quarterback, while a defensive lineman or another linebacker drops back into coverage. It can be confusing, often creating the illusion of a heavy blitz. The Thanksgiving night game – in which Baltimore had nine sacks – provided a good example.

Above (click image to enlarge): Upon first glance, this appears to be a blitz featuring five, possibly six pass-rushers.

Below: The Ravens use a lot of zone exchange concepts in their pass-rush. A zone exchange is essentially a four-man pass-rush where linebackers or safeties rush the quarterback, while a defensive lineman or another linebacker drops back into coverage. It can be confusing, often creating the illusion of a heavy blitz. The Thanksgiving night game – in which Baltimore had nine sacks – provided a good example.

The Ravens’ four-man rush has seemingly evaporated over the last month. It registered a quiet five sacks over the final three weeks of the regular season and then got zero pressure on T.J. Yates in the divisional round. With talents like Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata and Pernell McPhee, it’s imprudent to assume the pressure can’t suddenly return.

But worth noting is that the Patriots’ pass protection in the last month has also been as sharp as the Ravens’ pass-rush has been dull.

4. Dialing in on Ray Rice
Bill Belichick always builds his defensive gameplan around eliminating the opponents’ greatest strength. This season, no man has done a better job at eliminating Ray Rice than Cam Cameron. (Rice averaged less than 10 carries a game in Baltimore’s four losses.)

To be fair, Cameron has featured Rice most of the season, and the results thus far speak for themselves: 13 wins and Rice leading the NFL in yards from scrimmage.

But if Belichick has inside linebackers Brandon Spikes and Jerod Mayo shadow Rice, or if he brings safety Patrick Chung down in the box every play or has his linebackers sellout against the run, will Cameron have enough patience to stay with his superstar?

The Patriots run defense is coming together, while their secondary can be tempting to attack.

5. Baltimore’s passing game
It was virtually nonexistent against Houston, mainly because deep threat Torrey Smith was nullified by Johnathan Joseph. The Patriots don’t have a corner on Joseph’s level (or even in Joseph’s stratosphere).

If the Ravens want to take their deep shots with Smith, all they’ll have to do is block a mundane Patriots pass-rush (last week’s performance at Foxboro notwithstanding). Devin McCourty was serviceable as a nickel free safety against Denver, but it remains to be seen whether the struggling corner can suddenly play a new position when facing a strong-armed quarterback and polished play-action passing game.

In other matchups, tight ends Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson were quiet against Houston but should be able to work the seams against New England. Anquan Boldin will be extremely problematic for the Pats. The thought of him working outside against Kyle Arrington seems patently unfair; inside is even worse, as the Patriots don’t have a true slot corner.

So who will win? Check our NFL expert picks for all the Championship games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: January 7, 2012 11:37 am
Edited on: January 8, 2012 1:18 pm
 

Josh McDaniels to Patriots, starts immediately

Josh McDaniels will join New England immediately (US Presswire).

By Josh Katzowitz

With the news that Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien has taken the Penn State head coaching job, we told you Josh McDaniels was scheduled to interview for his old job in New England. The Associated Press has confirmed that not only will McDaniels get that job, beginning in 2012, but he’ll join the team immediately in time for this year’s playoffs.

The story was originally reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

McDaniels had a terrible year in his only season as the Rams offensive coordinator -- St. Louis ranked 31st in yards gained and dead last in points scored -- but he had so much success previously in New England that the move makes perfect sense from  a Patriots perspective. O'Brien, meanwhile, will return to New England until the season is finished.

Latest Coaching Rumors, News
Ever since leaving New England, though, McDaniels hasn't had a real good run of success. When he took over the Broncos head coaching job, the team started the year 6-0, but during the rest of the 2009 season and into 2010, Denver lost 17 of 22 games. He was fired 13 games into last season. Then, he took the Rams offensive coordinator job under head coach Steve Spagnuolo, but that offense, through injuries and a unit that had a tough time adjusting to the new scheme, was a disaster.

Now, McDaniels returns to the position he held from 2006-08, when the Patriots never finished lower than 11th in total offense and were the top NFL offense in 2007.

The Patriots are the No. 1 seed in the AFC, and they won't have to play until next Saturday in Foxboro, so McDaniels would have at least a week to reingratiate himself to the team. As CSNNE's Tom E. Curran retweets, McDaniels' offense already has faced the Steelers, Ravens, Bengals, Packers and Saints this year, and that would help New England's prep if it has to face those squads in the postseason (out of those teams, the Patriots have played only Pittsburgh this year).

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Posted on: January 6, 2012 11:20 pm
Edited on: January 6, 2012 11:24 pm
 

Report: Pats set to interview Josh McDaniels

McDaniels could be headed home with Brady and Belichick. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

Despite a miserable 2011 season as Rams offensive coordinator (St. Louis ranked 31st in yards per game and last in points per game), Josh McDaniels remains in pretty hot demand as a coach.

The former Broncos coach was actually the only Rams coach retained in a front-office purge, but St. Louis let it be known they'll release McDaniels from his contract. At this point he's a leading candidate for various openings in Kansas City, and now, he's set to interview with his old team, the Patriots.

Latest Coaching Rumors, News

That last piece of news is courtesy of NFL Network's Albert Breer, who reports that the Pats have received permission to speak with McDaniels and will talk to him over the weekend about the offensive coordinator position vacated by Bill O'Brien's departure to Penn State.

McDaniels, of course, was O'Brien's predecessor, so there's a good chance that he'll ace the interview. Under McDaniels, the Pats offense was beyond prolific, scoring 589 points and ranking first in passing yards, total yards, points, touchdowns and net yards per attempt en route to a 16-0 regular season. (You may have heard of this team.)

Tom Curran of CSN New England noted that the "relationship [is] strong" between Bill Belichick and McDaniels, so it's unlikely that any burnt bridges would negate McDaniels desire to return.

Then there's this: wide receiver Brandon Lloyd, scheduled to be a free agent, already said he wants to go wherever McDaniels goes. Since he already knows McDaniels offense, it's likely he'd be a perfect fit in New England's offense (think a filthy rich man's Deion Branch?) as well, and combined with Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, could make the Pats offense absolutely deadly.

But McDaniels is also being courted by the Chiefs; if he's offered the head-coaching job in Kansas City, it might be too difficult for him to turn down in favor of returning to New England.

Given the choice between running the Chiefs offense and running the Patriots offense, however, it's hard to imagine him going anywhere other than New England.

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Posted on: January 6, 2012 12:27 pm
 

Wild-Card Weekend podcast preview

By Will Brinson & Ryan Wilson

It's playoff preview time and that means our full-on Wild-Card Weekend preview.

Before we dive into the games, we debate the Penn State hire of Bill O'Brien (and wonder what the hell is wrong with all these members of the Penn State "family" who are ripping the hire publicly), discuss the possibility of Ray Horton going to St. Louis and some other coaching moves.

Then we dive into the games and ask all the important questions: Are the Bengals and Texans too similar? Can Johnathan Joseph keep A.J. Green in check? Will the Bengals rush defense show up on Saturday?

How about the Lions? Did Wilson really pick them to win? Can Ndamukong Suh make a difference? Are the Falcons the worst nightmare for Eli Manning? Will the Giants pass rush show up on Sunday? And, of course, will Tebowmania finally die?

(Did we mention that you should subscribe to the podcast via iTunes? And if you can't listen to the podcast below, download it here. And if you'd like to keep working while listening in your browser, pop that puppy out in a new tab here.)


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Posted on: January 5, 2012 11:31 pm
Edited on: January 5, 2012 11:31 pm
 

Who replaces Bill O'Brien in New England?

One thing Belichick's offensive coordinators have had in common: a QB by the name of Brady. (US PRESSWIRE/Getty Images)

By Ryan Wilson

Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien has agreed to become Penn State's next head coach, CBSSports.com's Mike Freeman confirmed Thursday night.

This comes after a week of rumors had O'Brien taking the job, not taking the job, then interviewing for the job in that order on consecutive days. But now that his employment status is set, what does this mean for the Patriots?

It's not the first time the organization has lost an offensive coordinator (or even one to a high-profile college job). Notre Dame hired Charlie Weis in December 2004 and he coached the Fighting Irish through five mostly disappointing seasons before he was fired.

Weis was Bill Belichick's first offensive coordinator in New England, arriving in 2000, the same year the Patriots used the 199th on (wait for it…) Tom Brady. The Pats won three Super Bowls from '00-'04; when Weis headed for South Bend, he was replaced by then-29-year-old quarterbacks coach Josh McDaniels. (McDaniels didn't officially have the title of offensive coordinator until 2006, but according to a 2008 New York Times, story he called the plays during the 2005 season.)

McDaniels was there in 2007, too, when the Patriots went 18-0 and set countless offensive records on their way to the Super Bowl. They lost to the Giants in one of the biggest upsets in championship history, and following the 2008 season, McDaniels was hired by the Broncos to replace Mike Shanahan. He lasted a season and a half before poor personnel decisions and a string of losses led to his dismissal 12 games into the 2010 campaign.

Both Weis and McDaniels reemerged as NFL coordinators; the former with the Chiefs in 2010 (Weis later returned to college, first as Florida's OC this fall before accepting the Kansas head-coaching gig in December), the latter with the Rams in 2011.

O'Brien's NFL journey began in February 2007, when the Patriots hired him after two seasons as Duke's offensive coordinator. After a year, he was promoted from offensive assistant to wide receivers coach. And like McDaniels before him, O'Brien called plays "unofficially" before eventually being promoted to offensive coordinator in 2011.

So how have New England offense's fared the year after losing their coordinator? Unsurprisingly, as long as Tom Brady's upright, it's pretty much all systems go.

In 2004, the Pats' offense ranked third, according to Football Outsiders metrics. In 2005, after Weis left for Notre Dame, the Pats ranked seventh. In 2008, they were eighth; in '09, with McDaniels in Denver, they were first.

Next question: with O'Brien off to State College, who replaces him in New England? CNNSE.com's Tom Curran has a list of names -- some familiar, others less so.

* Chad O'Shea, Pats wide receivers coach
* Josh McDaniels, Rams offensive coordinator
* Jeff Davidson, Vikings offensive line coach

But again, the most critical element to New England's success isn't the guy calling the plays, it's the guy under center. The Patriots go as far as Brady goes. But we already knew that.

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Posted on: January 4, 2012 8:18 pm
 

Report: Bill O'Brien to interview at PSU Thursday

O'Brien

By Josh Katzowitz

First, there was a USA Today report that said Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien would be the next head coach at Penn State and that “only contract details need to be finalized before O'Brien is the man.” Then, two days ago, word emerged that O’Brien wasn’t headed to Happy Valley after all, as his agent said, “Any imminent contract signing or agreement (with Penn State) is just off-base.”

Now, there’s another report from USA Today that O’Brien will interview Thursday to possibly become Joe Paterno’s successor.

[Related: Latest coaching news, rumors]

Titans coach Mike Munchak already has said he’s not interested in becoming a candidate for that job, but 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman has interviewed with the school.

O’Brien’s agent, Joe Linta, said O’Brien would want to see what’s available in the NFL coaching circle before thinking about a non-pro job, but with Jeff Fisher taking up so much of the oxygen and with the Patriots potentially headed for a deep playoff run after their first-round bye, now is probably a good time for O’Brien to see what Penn State potentially has to offer him.

According to NFL.com's Jason La Canfora, "the potential to strike a deal is very real."

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Posted on: January 2, 2012 1:33 pm
Edited on: January 2, 2012 1:47 pm
 

Pats OC Bill O'Brien not headed to Penn State

Bill O'Brien apparently is not a Penn State candidate (US Presswire).

By Josh Katzowitz

During the past few days, reports have emerged that Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien was a prime candidate to become the next head coach at Penn State.

USA Today even wrote that only the final details of the contract needed to be completed before Penn State could announce O’Brien as their guy. Apparently, though, O’Brien will not be heading to Happy Valley.

CBS’ Charley Casserly is reporting that O’Brien won’t be the next Penn State coach. Casserly also writes that 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman was interviewed and that Penn State will take another crack at Boise State’s Chris Peterson.

According to the Boston Herald, O’Brien wouldn’t take another job without seeing what the NFL has to offer. For now, it sounds like O’Brien will sit back and wait to see what occurs.

“Any imminent contract signing or agreement (with Penn State) is just off-base,” O’Brien’s agent, Joe Linta told the Herald. “The most important thing for him is to win the Super Bowl. But if someone is going to be interested in him in the NFL, it’s going to happen this week. He could be going somewhere else, he could be returning to the Patriots. But we’ll wait and find out if someone is interested in him and seeks permission to talk with him.”

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Posted on: January 2, 2012 9:08 am
Edited on: January 8, 2012 1:42 pm
 

Latest coaching rumors, news

It's Black Monday and that means seats are heating. (Getty Images)
By Eye on Football Staff

Throughout the day on Monday (and now Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday!) week news and rumors will be flying about job security of various NFL coaches. Bookmark this page to stay updated constantly.

SUNDAY
1:10 p.m. ET
SATURDAY
9:20 p.m. ET
3 p.m. ET
  • Although Ray Horton realizes that Jeff Fisher has to be the No. 1 choice for the Rams job, the St. Louis Post Dispatch is reporting that if Fisher takes the Miami job, St. Louis will give a second look to Horton, the Cardinals defensive coordinator. Apparently, Horton's initial five-hour interview went very well. "When it was over they called my agent and said they were blown away by him, and he couldn't have been any better," Horton said.
  • According to Rapid Reporter Ron Clements, the Rams have received permission to interview Tennessee VP of football operations Lake Dawson and Titans VP of player personnel Ruston Webster for the vacant GM job. Both worked with Jeff Fisher in Tennessee.
  • CBSSports.com's Clark Judge speculates that Vikings defensive coordinator Fred Pagac might be fired soon. According to Judge, four candidates have already lined up interviews to replace him -- Steve Spagnuolo, Raheem Morris, Mel Tucker and Mike Singletary.
12 p.m. ET
  • The Chiefs reportedly have decided to remove the interim tag for coach Romeo Crennel, meaning the job is all his. It seems like general manager Scott Pioli wanted Crennel to have the job all along.
  • It didn't take long for the Patriots to hire their next offensive coordinator to replace Bill O'Brien. It's their old offensive coordinator of course as Josh McDaniels will take over O'Brien's spot for 2012 AND will begin work immediately, helping New England in this postseason.
  • According to NFL.com's Jason La Canfora, the Dolphins have permission from the Falcons to interview offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey. Jacksonville already has shown interest in Mularkey.
FRIDAY
11:20 p.m. ET

12:13 p.m. ET

  • Ray Horton, the Cardinals defensive coordinator, is set to interview with the Rams for their head coaching position soon.

9:03 a.m. ET

THURSDAY

4:15 p.m. ET
  • Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin has been a busy man lately, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Philben was in Kansas City on Wednesday, and by this weekend, he'll interview for the Dolphins head coaching job as well.
1:20 p.m. ET
  • Although he and general manager A.J. Smith kept their job, Chargers coach Norv Turner fired defensive coordinator Greg Manusky after just one season. Interesting, because, three days ago, Turner said he thought Manusky had done a good job this year.

9:00 a.m. ET
  • Raheem Morris was spotted dining with Redskins brass, and Washington could be interested in hiring Morris as a defensive coach. The only problem with that scenario is that Buccaneers were the worst team in the league in points allowed this season.
  • Yahoo Sports' Michael Silver has written that the Jeff Fisher sweepstakes has become a two-way race between the Dolphins and the Rams. Fisher was scheduled to interview with St. Louis today.
  • NFL.com's Albert Breer is saying that Jay (not Jon!) Gruden is the favorite to land the head coaching job in Jacksonville. The Bengals offensive coordinator, however, can't interview until Cincinnati is out of the playoffs. Until then, it sounds like the Jaguars will continue to interview every hot offensive coordinator they can find.
WEDNESDAY

8:20 p.m. ET
  • According to multiple reports, Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien will interview for the Penn State job on Thursday. Though his interview with the school has been reported and then denied previously, it seems like O'Brien might have a real shot at landing this position, especially since it appears he's not a candidate for any current open NFL head coaching jobs.

5:58 p.m. ET
  • The Rams have requested permission from the Ravens to interview director of player personnel Eric DeCosta for the St. Louis general manager spot, according to PFT. DeCosta is seen as the possible successor to Ozzie Newsome in Baltimore. St. Louis also has received permission from the Falcons to interview director of player personnel Les Snead.

10:53 a.m. ET
TUESDAY

6:06 p.m. ET
  • Jeff Fisher's the hottest name on the coaching circuit and he officially visited Miami -- even flying there on a helicopter! -- to talk to owner Stephen Ross about the Dolphins gig.
2:40 p.m. ET
2:20 p.m. ET
10:19 a.m. ET
MONDAY
6:00 p.m. ET
  • Colts owner Jim Irsay calls firing Bill and Chris Polian a tough decision, and adds that "it's not outside the realm of possibility" that Jim Caldwell returns as head coach. When asked if Peyton Manning will play again he responded, "I don't."
4:28 p.m. ET
  • The Rams will interview Jeff Fisher this week for their vacant coaching job. If they land Fisher, then they would try to find a general manager.

4:03 p.m. ET
3:44 p.m. ET
  • According to the Buffalo News, Bills defensive coordinator George Edwards has been fired and replaced by Dave Wannstedt.

2:42 p.m. ET
  • According to the Chicago Tribune, Bears special teams coach Dave Toub will interview for the Dolphins job.

1:59 p.m. ET
  • A report from the New York Daily News says that Brian Schottenheimer will interview with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Because the Jets offense was just so awesome this year, apparently.
1:22 p.m. ET
  • Although there were reports that Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien was the prime coaching target for Penn State, it sounds like O'Brien won't be headed to Happy Valley after all.
12:45 p.m. ET
  • During his last regular-season news conference, Colts coach Jim Caldwell said he's "moving forward" with his day-to-day work. Caldwell also said he met with owner Jim Irsay on Sunday night and with executives Bill and Chris Polian on Monday morning. Obviously, at this moment, Caldwell is still employed. Which led Indy Star reporter Phillip B. Wilson to tweet, "Colts fans, to be honest, I have no idea what's going on ... maybe team won't announce changes for another day or two, IDK."
11:56 a.m. ET
  • An interesting set of tweets from UniversalDraft.com's Chris Kouffman: "<s>@</s>ArmandoSalguero with a stunning revelation that Carl Peterson was told to have dinner w/ Jon Gruden and allowed to offer Gruden the job ... which included total control over football operations, ability to hire and fire whomever he wanted...and Gruden TURNED IT DOWN. Yikes."
  • The Dolphins release a statement saying they're gearing up for their coaching search.
11:32 a.m. ET
10:37 a.m. ET
  • We have our first victim on Black Monday! Steve Spagnuolo, as expected, was fired by the St. Louis on Monday. Spags was 10-38 in three years with the Rams but should be a hot name for defensive coordinator positions.
  • You want to talk about a coach in demand? How about Jeff Fisher. Mike Freeman writes that the two jobs that intrigue him the most are Indianapolis and Tampa Bay.
9:39 a.m. ET
  • Speaking of the Jets, their public relations staff announced that BOTH general manager Mike Tannenbaum and coach Rex Ryan will be at Monday's press conference. That's not "normal" and it could mean that people's jobs are in trouble.
  • Despite a disappointing season in which the Jets didn't make the playoffs, defensive coordinator Mike Pettine -- whose reputation has largely remained intact this year -- has reportedly drawn interest from the Dolphins.

9:07 a.m ET

  • CBSSports.com's Mike Freeman reports that the Bucs spent all evening gathering intel on Raheem Morris from players. Ownership is starting to believe that though they don't want to fire Morris, they might have to fire Morris.

Previously:

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com