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Tag:Rob Ryan
Posted on: January 26, 2012 1:41 pm
Edited on: January 26, 2012 1:54 pm
 

Coaching carousel winners and losers

Flynn is one of the big winners from the coaching carousel. (US Presswire)
By Will Brinson

The NFL coaching carousel has come to a close with the Buccaneers and Colts the final two teams across the finish line, hiring coaches on Wednesday and Thursday of this week.

Let's take a look at some of the winners and losers from a hectic offseason. Because if we're not firing out knee-jerk reactions, what's the point?

Winners

Matt Flynn: Flynn was already going to get real paid this offseason. But new Fins coach Joe Philbin was his freaking quarterbacks coach. Yeah, the rumor is the Dolphins like Peyton Manning better than Flynn. (Also a rumor: I like steak better than tofu.) But Flynn knows Philbin's system and he certainly has to be more inclined to sign his ridiculously overpriced free-agent contract with a team employing his old coach and his old system right? Even if he's not, he could end up in a bidding war between Stephen Ross and Dan Snyder. That's like a sandwich made of $100 Bills.

Ryan Grigson
: The new Colts general manager still has a long road ahead, and needs to draft well to really get Indy's latest rebuild rolling. But he's got an owner who's setting him up well: his first two decisions (firing Jim Caldwell, hiring Chuck Pagano) mean that the Colts simply need to hire a competent offensive coordinator to groom their No. 1 overall pick and let their defensive-minded coach get to work on installing his scheme. Sound familiar? It should.

Norv Turner: Turner was certainly on the old hot seat when the season ended and somehow he still has a job. It might be loyalty. It might be Philip Rivers' influence. Or it might just be a miracle. Whatever, Turner was a lock to get fired and somehow stuck around San Diego for at least another year.

Steve Spagnuolo: Spags got canned from the Rams job but landed squarely on his feet when he got the Saints defensive coordinator job. They'll contend for Super Bowls over the next few years and as Wilson pointed out, Drew Brees is secretly his best weapon. It's an ideal spot to reload and wait for another head-coaching gig.

Jeff Fisher: Fisher got the quarterback he wants, the personnel power he wants and a big old pile of money when he chose the Rams over the Dolphins.

Jay Cutler: Mike Martz retired and took his seven-step drops behind a shoddy offensive line and no pretense of having a running game with him.

Atlanta Falcons: No offense to Mike Mularkey and Brian VanGorder (as well as his superb mustache) but the ATL just got a major assistant upgrade. Ryan maxed out under Mularkey, and Dirk Koetter loves to go vertical -- having Julio Jones and Roddy White make that an easier task than whoever was catching balls with the Jaguars. And Mike Nolan, quite simply, has a fantastic defensive track record.

Cam Newton/Andy Dalton: The two biggest rookie surprises lucked out big time this offseason as their respective offensive coordinators, Rob Chudzinski and Jay Gruden, didn't move on to theoretically greener pastures. Now Newton and Dalton will each get a full offseason to prepare and should look even better in their second year.

Losers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Even if Greg Schiano is "the guy," and there's a significant number of people who think he is not, they bungled this search. (For the record, I kind of like the Schiano hire, but it's risky.) They fired Raheem Morris quickly but were the last team to get a new coach in place. They whiffed -- publicly -- on Chip Kelly. They interviewed a bunch of old dudes -- Brad Childress, Mike Sherman, Marty Schottenheimer -- who now probably feel used. An unimpressive effort all around and indicative of how attractive this job is.

Rob Ryan: Think of all the people who got interviews this offseason. Everyone got an interview. Except Rex's twin brother. Think running his mouth and losing twice to the Giants because his secondary couldn't defend anyone ended up hurting his chances to get a head coaching job? It absolutely did.

Mike Zimmer: Also a dude who can't catch a break. Or interview well? Whatever, Zimmer finally got some heat for coaching jobs (it's been long enough) and couldn't seal the deal on anything. Hopefully he'll get more looks but this has a "flyover" feel to it in terms of how much interest other teams will have in Zimmer going forward.

Brian Schottenheimer: Schottey Jr. might have landed with the Rams, but he'll likely be under heavy scrutiny from fans and could see a short leash, depending on how Fisher's feeling. The worst part is a year ago, he was a hot name for a head-coaching job and instead the Jets ran him off while managing to air out some of their respective greivances with the rest of the dirty laundry.

Mike Sherman: Sherman was the leader in the clubhouse for the Bucs job ... or so we thought. Now he's reportedly headed to run Miami's offense. That could vault him back up to a head-coaching gig, but considering he found out about his firing from Texas A&M at a recruit's house (!), landing an NFL job just a few months later would've been a major coup.

Peyton Manning: Bill Polian's out, Jim Caldwell's out and the Colts seem hell bent on cleaning house. The logical next move appears to be shipping Manning out of town as well.

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Posted on: January 2, 2012 7:34 pm
 

Garrett: Rob Ryan is 'worthy' of being head coach

Rob Ryan's stock took a hit with Dallas' recent performance. (Getty Images)

By Ryan Wilson

After the way the Cowboys (and the Cowboys defense, in particular) played Sunday night against the Giants, it would be fair to say that defensive coordinator Rob Ryan didn't do much to boost his stock as head-coaching material in 2012.

When the Jaguars fired Jack Del Rio in November, Ryan made our early list of possible replacements. But in the five weeks since, the Cowboys have gone 1-4, including three NFC East losses as well as the debacle in the valley of the sun. The losses weren't entirely his fault, but it's not like the defense played lights-out, either.

According to Football Outsiders' metrics, Dallas' defense ranked 16th overall (19th against the pass, 8th against the run). It's the definition of mediocrity, but given Ryan's pedigree -- not to mention his loquaciousness -- it's wholly underwhelming. And it's why we'd expect teams in need of a head coach to look elsewhere. In fact, we wouldn't be surprised if Ryan was relieved of his duties in Dallas, although that doesn't look like it'll happen (he signed a multi-year deal last season).

On Monday, Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett (his job's safe too, says owner Jerry Jones) was asked about the possibility of Ryan landing a head-coaching gig.

"Well, if Rob has an opportunity to go be a head coach somewhere, I think that’s a great thing for Rob, and we certainly would encourage that," Garrett said via ESPNDallas.com.

You almost get the impression that Garrett would welcome the opportunity to fill Ryan's job.

"I think he’s worthy of being a head coach in this league," he continued. "I think he does an outstanding job as a coordinator, he’s an excellent leader, he’s an excellent coach, and we would encourage that for him. I think it’s a great opportunity for him. I think that’s part of the process. You allow for that to happen if that opportunity does exist, and then we would have to obviously replace him and make some decisions of our own. But, we certainly love having him as our coordinator, and we’re excited about our opportunity to grow in that area for next year."

ESPNDallas.com's Calvin Watkins adds that if Ryan somehow manages to land a job as an NFL head coach, "linebackers coach Matt Eberflus, whom Ryan called his right-hand man, could get elevated to coordinator. Eberflus could also leave to become Ryan's defensive coordinator/assistant head coach should he get a head coaching position."

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Posted on: January 1, 2012 11:39 pm
Edited on: January 2, 2012 8:53 pm
 

Sorting the Sunday Pile, Week 17: Brees for MVP?

Posted by Will Brinson


Sorting the Sunday Pile takes all of Sunday's NFL action, figures out the winners and losers and asks the big questions. Send your complaints, questions and comments to Will Brinson on Twitter. Listen to the Pick-Six Podcast Week 17 recap below and don't forget to
subscribe via iTunes
.

Drew Brees for MVP?

Over the next month, until the MVP is announced before the Super Bowl, there's going to be an intense debate about whether or not Drew Brees' incredible hot streak to close out the season vaulted him past Aaron Rodgers for the MVP award.

Four weeks ago, this wasn't a debate. Even with Brees having a monster year, the Packers were undefeated and Rodgers was eviscerating defenses on a weekly basis.

Their numbers were close enough to tell anyone suggesting a debate to kindly close their piehole.

Now? Well it's a lot closer than it was. The numbers (below) make that much obvious even though the actual premises behind the argument are just frustrating from the sense of measuring a season by its full extent.

Player
Comp % Pass Yards
Pass TDs INT
W-L
Aaron Rodgers
68.3 4,643 45 6 14-1
Drew Brees
71.2 5,476 46 14 13-3

The bigger problem for Rodgers may be a confluence of events around 4:00pm ET Sunday afternoon: as Brees was throwing his fifth touchdown pass (hey, just one more than Rodgers!), Packers backup Matt Flynn was going absolutely bananas against the Lions, slicing up Detroit's secondary for six touchdowns and 480 yards, a Packers franchise record.

Take a look at the list of the guys who've thrown for six teeters in a game since the merger. Spoiler alert: it's short, and full of awesome quarterbacks.

Flynn's on the list now and as a result, he's blatantly going to cost Rodgers a ton of "Well if the backup can do that" votes, while Brees staying in much longer than needed against the Panthers netted him a significant boost in the eyes of "What have you done for me lately?" voters.

But let's get one thing out of the way first: Aaron Rodgers is not a "system quarterback." Yeah, there's actually a debate raging as to whether he is or not. And if you believe that Rodgers is only successful because of the Packers "system" then you're as foolish as anyone who thought Tom Brady was a system quarterback when Matt Cassel had a big year filling in for the Patriots.

Every team has a "system" on offense and some -- the Packers and Patriots stand out -- are better than others. But Flynn's a good quarterback who's succeeded before (he nearly beat the Patriots in prime time last year), has a great pedigree (BCS title anyone?) and has spent multiple years working behind Rodgers. That's not going to make him worse. There's a reason the Packers, winners of 21 of 22 games since LAST Christmas, have him on the roster. And it's not because he makes a mean gumbo.

Look, less than two weeks ago, Rodgers carved up a very (very) good Bears defense on Christmas night. All season long he commanded the Packers offense like a conductor, made ridiculous throws that no one else in the NFL can make and generally let the world pencil his name in for MVP. 

His season's been so magnificent that it's somehow getting railroaded by the Packers losing to the Chiefs late (but don't forget, the Saints lost to the Rams and, uh, the Packers), sitting out Week 17 (a smart move with homefield clinched) and Sean Payton and Brees running up the score in order to break records (which is fine, but let's call it what it is).

There's no question that Drew Brees is a viable MVP candidate. He's had an all-time season in 2011. But judging the MVP race based on a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately attitude is shortsighted, and it diminishes the incredible season Rodgers had in Green Bay.

Winners

Tom Coughlin: Coughlin won the NFC East, despite sitting on the hot seat most of the season, and the Giants suddenly have a look of a team that could absolutely be a playoff sleeper. They can rush the passer mercilessly when they get hot, Victor Cruz is turning into a salsa-dancing monster and Eli Manning's smoking hot right now. Given the success wild-card teams have had in recent years -- hello, 2007 Giants! -- it would be foolish to count them out.

Maurice Jones-Drew:
"Mojo" ripped off a season-high 169 rushing yards on Sunday against Indy. That not only gave him the NFL rushing title for 2011, but also gave him the Jaguars single-season record for rushing yards, as he broke Fred Taylor's previous high of 1,572 in 2003. In a very dismal season for Jacksonville's offense, MJD's been an absolute workhorse. He's up there with Tony Boselli, Fred Taylor and Jimmy Smith in terms of all-time greats for the Jaguars.

Jason Taylor
: The only way Taylor's exit -- as a Dolphin, on the shoulders of his teammates after taking down the Jets -- could have been better is if the fumble he returned for a touchdown wasn't overturned. Taylor's a classy dude, a gamer, a hell of a dancer and at sixth all-time on the sack-leader list (not to mention a media favorite!), he'll find his way into Canton. Awesome career.

Matt Flynn: As noted above, Flynn had a decent day on Sunday. That's going to translate well when he becomes an unrestricted free agent and potentially becomes the most desirable quarterback on the market. There are lots of teams that need a quarterback and Flynn will be on everyone's radar just as much as Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck. If someone falls in love with him, he might get Kevin Kolb money.

Cincinnati Bengals: Nothing like losing and still ending up in the winner's column, huh? The Bengals played the Ravens well on Sunday but Ray Rice was too much for them. Fortunately, KC beat Denver (or, if you prefer, San Diego beat Oakland) and the Bengals backed their way into a playoff matchup against a Texans team that will either start T.J. Yates or Jake Delhomme.

Sanchez is no lock for the Big Apple in 2012. (AP)

Losers

Mark Sanchez: The Jets never even got a shot at backdooring their way into the playoffs, as Sanchez picked apart his own offense and gave the Dolphins nine points off of three interceptions, two of which were to defensive lineman Randy Starks. It wouldn't ultimately matter, because the Titans won and eliminated Rex Ryan's crew, but anyone who justified Sanchez' performance with the old "He just wins!" argument has packed up their shanty and moved to Denver to make that argument. He didn't play like a $14 million quarterback this year -- even though he got paid like one -- and it would almost be surprising if the Jets didn't make a swap at the position.

Detroit Lions: They haven't won at Lambeau since 1991 now, dropping a mind-blowing 20 consecutive games at the Packers homefield. Of course, that's not why they're on this list, although it doesn't help. They're on this list because they just gave up 480 passing yards to the Packers backup and losing in Green Bay (coupled with Atlanta rumbling over the Bucs) means Detroit's next game will be in New Orleans. Against Drew Brees. You should go ahead and put your mortgage on the over.

Raheem Morris: I'm hesitant to include Morris because I'm pretty sure he'll have already been fired by time I hit publish. I mean, if there was ever a time not to let your opponent get out to a 42-0 lead it's definitely the final game of the season when you're riding a nine-game losing streak and barely clinging to your job.

Rob Ryan: Dallas looked absolutely flat early on Sunday night and somehow managed to storm back on the Giants, only to have the secondary shredded by Eli Manning when they cut the lead to seven points. Ryan's defense hasn't backed up his mouth all season long and even though you want your coach to make better late-game decisions and you don't want your quarterback turning the ball over late, there

John Elway: Kyle Orton didn't do anything crazy like throw for 500 yards to beat the Broncos on Sunday, but they win that game against Tyler Palko. Not that it mattered, because the Broncos made the playoffs anyway when the Chargers topped the Raiders. But Elway put himself in the position to miss the postseason by releasing Orton and even if it helped the team's chemistry they're barely hanging on right now and look like a lock for a first-round exit.

The Big Questions

 
The Broncos didn't exactly storm into the playoffs. (AP)

1. Is the Tim Tebow magic finally gone?
It just might be. The Broncos still made the playoffs, of course, and anything can happen once you get to the postseason. But Denver limped their way there, backing into a title at 8-8 on a three-game skid. Teams seem to have figured out that playing press-man coverage against Tebow severely limits what he can do on offense (he's much better at picking apart zones and makes fewer mistakes) and Denver proved that if they can't generate turnovers, they're in trouble. It's hard to imagine them beating the Steelers, even at home.

2. Who's the AFC favorite going forward?
The Ravens are my pick. They get homefield up to the AFC Championship and only lose it then if they have to play the Patriots. They've beaten the Bengals twice and they've beaten the Steelers twice. They've beaten New England in New England in the playoffs before, and the Pats have no defense. And the Ravens are nightmare matchups in Baltimore for Houston and Denver, neither of whom can keep pace if the Ravens start scoring.

3. How about the NFC?
Say what you want about how hot the Saints are -- and they are white hot -- but the Packers are still the favorites. They've got homefield throughout, they have two weeks to rest their starters and they can score on anyone. One bad week against the Chiefs does not a 15-1 team unseat. Their defense isn't great, but few teams do have a good defense and if they matchup against New Orleans in the NFC Championship Game, it's going down at Lambeau Field.

4. Who're the most dangerous non-playoff teams in 2012?
Eagles, Panthers and Chargers for me. The Snooze Buttons finished 8-8 and if they'd had a full offseason, they might have won the NFC East. Their dominant defense down the stretch is reason for optimism if you're an Eagles fan. Carolina needs defense, but they suffered an insane amount of injury-related attrition in 2011 and if they draft all defense and get healthy, they can contend in the NFC South. Plus: Cam Newton. And the Bolts showed this year they could be as good as playoff teams but just made stupid mistakes. A new coach could clear those problems up.

5. Any chance Jerry Jones changes his mind on Jason Garrett?
Jones has been incredibly supportive of Garrett so probably not. But someone's taking the fall for the Cowboys not making the playoffs and the best guess here is that it's Rob Ryan. He runs his mouth constantly and his defense doesn't back up all the talk -- their secondary got absolutely shredded by Eli Manning right after they got back into the game Sunday night.

6. What is Stevie Johnson thinking with his celebrations?

He's not thinking, actually. Johnson's scheduled to be a free agent in what's a really, really deep wide receiver class in 2012 and reportedly wants $7.5 million. The only problem is he's now developed a stigma for dropping really important catches and oftentimes costing his teams 15 yards with penalties like he did on Sunday. Wishing everyone "Happy New Years!" is a cool thing to do ... when it's not bad for your job and you're looking for a raise. Johnson's one of the most fun and interesting guys in the NFL but he has to be smarter than that.

7. How smart do the Steelers look for that Santonio Holmes trade now?
You don't even know the half of it. Not only did the dump a guy who's clearly a locker room distraction (Holmes) and not LaDainian Tomlinson-approved as a captain, but Pittsburgh allowed Mike Wallace to emerge as one of the best wideouts in the game and let someone else (the Jets) pick up the tab for Holmes' long-term deal. Oh, and in case you didn't know, they used the pick they got from the Jets to draft 2011 breakout wide receiver Antonio Brown

8. Should my team draft a running back early this year?
Negative, ghostrider, the pattern is full. Full of guys who weren't drafted in the first round leading the league in rushing anyway.

Player
2011 Rush Yards
2011 Rush YPG
2011 Rush TDs
2011 YPC
Year/Round/Pick
Maurice Jones-Drew
1,606 100.4 8 4.7 2006/2/60th
LeSean McCoy
1,309 87.3 17 4.8 2009/2/53rd
Arian Foster
1,224 94.2 10 4.4 2009/None/UFA
Frank Gore
1,211 75.7 8 4.3 2008/2/55
Ray Rice
1,173 78.2 10 4.4 2005/3/65

This doesn't mean teams should avoid drafting someone who's a special talent in college (see: Adrian Peterson) but there's a real sweet spot developing in the draft for undersized, pass-catching running backs (go ahead and add in Jamaal Charles too) who turn out to be a lot better than where they were drafted.

9. How's that Carson Palmer trade working out now?
Not so good. The Raiders could have arguably won the trade if they made the playoffs. All they had to do was beat a downtrodden Chargers team at home and they couldn't, so they miss the postseason and give up a first-round pick and a second-round pick to the Bengals (who made the playoffs, naturally). With Palmer, the Raiders were 6-4 and he threw 13 touchdowns and 16 picks. Whoops. Add in the fact that Hue Jackson just coached the most-penalized team in NFL history and he has some explaining to do.

10. Is Romeo Crennel the Chiefs next head coach?
Hard to imagine he's not. KC finished 6-9 on the season and two of those wins were with Crennel in charge; they also nearly beat Oakland in Week 16 too. Surely Scott Pioli thinks that with Crennel in charge this season and better injury luck the Chiefs would've won the division. He might be right, actually, and that's why Crennel will get the gig.

11. How many records did the Saints break on Sunday?
Eleventy billion or thereabouts. Brees and Sean Payton were basically rubber-stamping their signatures all over the NFL's offensive record books. They set the record for points scored in a season, most points scored at home in a season, most passing yards in a season (Brees' own record), best completion percentage in a season (again, Brees'), most completions in a season, most all-purpose yards in a single season (Darren Sproles owns it) and most receiving yards by a tight end in a season (only Rob Gronkowski broke that one a little while later). I can't confirm it, but I'm pretty sure the Saints broke the record for most broken records as well.

GIF O' THE WEEK

Bryan Braman is going to get fined for a helmet-to-helmet hit that he made ... without a helmet.

Worth 1,000 Words


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Posted on: December 29, 2011 11:06 am
 

Film Room: Giants vs. Cowboys preview


Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit


An NFC East championship game in primetime – no further introduction needed. Here’s the breakdown.

1. Reviewing Week 14
These teams gave us a classic Sunday night showdown just a few weeks ago. That contest was defined by mistakes more than anything. Tony Romo posted good numbers but missed a few throws that would have changed the outcome. His only completion to Dez Bryant was a 50-yard touchdown against a blown coverage.

The Cowboys defense blew several coverages of its own, leading to a 400-yard night for Eli Manning and prompting Rob Ryan later to scale back the complexity of his scheme in 2:00 type situations. Big-time throws against poor pass defense was why a game that was 34-22 Cowboys with under 6:00 to play wound up being 37-34 Giants.

2. The star quarterbacks in big games
The common perception is that Eli Manning is a big game riser and Tony Romo is a big game faller. The Week 14 battle only reaffirmed this; Manning was absolutely magnificent on the final two touchdown drives, fitting balls into tight windows and, as he’d been doing all night, quickly diagnosing and dissecting the Cowboys’ Byzantine blitzes. Romo, on the other hand, missed a third-and-five throw to Miles Austin with 2:25 remaining that would have sealed the win.

That throw came against an all-out, Cover 0 blitz. In the past, Romo’s inability to recognize blitzes before and after the snap often led to his blunders. Those issues, however, have been largely corrected this season. And yet, because of what happened against the Jets in Week 1, and because of the interception-riddled second half meltdown against the Lions in Week 4, Romo’s reputation remains that of a choker.

That’s mostly an unfair and overly simplistic characterization of a quality veteran. If not for the botched field goal hold at Seattle in the ’06 wild card loss – a play that had nothing to do with quarterbacking skills – Romo almost certainly wouldn’t be thought of as a late-game anything.
 
That said, Romo has indeed made some mistakes in critical moments. Most of those have been due to defenses confounding him with false looks. The broadcast viewers might tie this to Romo feeling stressed in crunch time; the film viewers tie it back to Romo’s mediocrity at reading defenses before the snap. When you’re a sandlot player, you’re reactionary. A reactionary player is much easier to trick – especially late in games after he’s gotten comfortable reacting to certain looks the same way.

This same concept applies in the other direction with Manning. He’s a splendid field general, audibling at the line of scrimmage, running the no-huddle offense and trusting his eyes and underrated arm strength in the face of pressure. While reactive quarterbacking is prone to defensive manipulation late in games, proactive quarterbacking is apt for defensive manipulation. You change your defensive looks and play aggressively to bait a reactionary quarterback into a mistake. Against a proactive quarterback, you change your looks and play aggressively so that he doesn’t bait you into a mistake.

The relevance of this sexy “big moment quarterbacking” storyline is debatable. As stated before, Romo has improved his mental approach to the game. And just because Manning has been great in crunch time doesn’t mean he’s unstoppable (especially given how up-and-down his receivers have been).

Dez needs to work on his disappearing act. (Getty Images)

3. Pass games
It’s been far too easy for defenses to take away Dez Bryant this season. The Giants had no trouble doing this with Corey Webster a few weeks ago. They also took away Jason Witten by smacking him with a defensive end or linebacker as he came off the line. Don’t be surprised if the Cowboys split Witten to the slot to prevent this from happening again.

Also, don’t be surprised if the Cowboys line up in three receiver sets to force the Giants into their nickel D. That nickel D has been poor in coverage the past few weeks, mainly because of Prince Amukamara. The first-round rookie has since been benched, with safety Antrel Rolle moving back to slot corner. The Cowboys should eagerly test Rolle with either Miles Austin or Laurent Robinson, both excellent route runners.

4. Run games
The Cowboys lost DeMarco Murray for the season in their last meeting with the Giants. Felix Jones showed his uncanny burst and acceleration in the lone game of consequence since then (Week 15 at Tampa Bay), but that was against the worst run defense in football.

It remains to be seen whether the Cowboys can sustain on the ground against a quality opponent. Expect them to try to establish the run, especially if the Giants play their three-safety nickel defense against base offensive personnel (something they did a bit against the Jets). Jones’ might also run out of three-receiver sets against that nickel D, as that’s a good way to take advantage of his proficiency on draws.

New York’s run game remains unimpressive, though there were a few signs of life last week. Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw both ran with power after averaging barely one yard per carry after contact against the Redskins in Week 15. David Baas is back at center after missing several weeks with migraines. Baas has been below average overall this season but at least offers a tad more short-area mobility than backup Kevin Boothe.

5. Up tempo?
The Meadowlands crowd will be in full throat – especially early. The Cowboys may want to go no-huddle to quell the crowd and dictate the flow.

A quick tempo can also be a good way to calm a pass-rush, which is critical when facing Justin Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul and, perhaps, Osi Umenyiora. And the less time the Giants defense has between snaps, the harder it will be for them to change their coverages, which coordinator Perry Fewell likes to do.

So who will win? Check our NFL expert picks for all Week 17 games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: December 12, 2011 12:44 pm
Edited on: December 29, 2011 5:31 pm
 

Who will replace Todd Haley in Kansas City?

By Will Brinson

As is tradition, when an NFL coach is "relieved of his duties," like Todd Haley was on Monday, we'll plow through a list of potential candidates to replace said coach.

The Chiefs search is a little different though, because it's widely assumed that Scott Pioli will chase a "Patriots Guy," which is someone with, duh, connections to the Bill Belichick coaching tree. The success of the next Chiefs coach will likely determine whether or not Pioli continues at the helm of the Chiefs, and thus it would be surprising to see him go in a different direction and hire someone he wasn't truly confident could succeed.

Leave your suggestions in the comments.

Romeo Crennel

Crennel's going to be running the team for the final three games of the 2011 season, and it's possible that Scott Pioli would be comfortable with Crennel as the full-time coach going forward. After all, Romeo was the defensive coordinator for championship-caliber teams in New England when Pioli was working for the Patriots, and Crennel's got head-coaching experience with the Browns. That wasn't the most successful tenure, but, hey, neither was Bill Belichick's first gig in Cleveland either.

Josh McDaniels

McDaniels was canned in Denver and took over as Offensive Coordinator for the Rams this past season. His star has fallen mightily from the 6-0 start with the Broncos in 2009 to the 2-10 effort the Rams have put forth so far in 2011 and the regression St. Louis has shown on offense. McDaniels real downfall in Denver, though, was his personnel decisions (although you could argue he made some smart calls after all) and he wouldn't have to worry about that in KC. At the very least, he'll warrant strong consideration as offensive coordinator for his old boss Pioli. (Added bonus: Haley hates him!)

Kirk Ferentz

My buddy Nathan and I have a running joke about how Ferentz is the hottest coaching candidate on the planet every year (seriously: his name gets dropped into every single coaching search at every single level of football)  but never even considers leaving Iowa. This is actually one gig that could truly entice him to make the jump to the NFL, though, as he and Pioli go way back to the early 90's when they worked together in Cleveland and Baltimore. Plus, you never know -- he could be the AFC's version of Jim Harbaugh!

Jeff Fisher

Fisher's going to be one of the hotter names in most coaching searches this offseason, because of all the success he had in Tennessee, and the fact that he ultimately just left because he and Bud Adams couldn't really agree on Vince Young. Or something. The Chiefs have a lot of cap room and their roster actually resembles the construction of his Titans teams the last few years he was there.

Bill Cowher

Little-known fact about all NFL coaching searches: you must include Cowher's name or else it's not complete. Also, Cowher coached in Kansas City for two years and apparently loves it there. So I'm changing my tune from earlier when I didn't include Cowher. I still don't think he's the answer here, though, because Pioli isn't going to just hand over a pile of player-personnel power to Cowher and it's widely believed that's something he'll require.

Rob Ryan

Ryan's refusal to cut his hair and stop running his mouth prior to games has hurt his reputation as a strong candidate to succeed at the head-coaching level, but he's done good work with the Cowboys defense this season and his track record as a defensive coach is pretty damn impressive. He also worked for the Patriots (linebackers coach for three years) and given how much Rex Ryan's succeeded in New York, it's hard to ignore the possibility of success by the other sibling. On the other hand, given the tenuous nature of Pioli's relationship with the fiery Todd Haley, he may want to avoid a big personality with this hire.

Brian Daboll

Daboll was brought to the Dolphins in 2011 to revamp the Fins offense, and while Miami isn't the most high-powered offense in the NFL, the rejuvenation of Reggie Bush and the late-season success of Matt Moore is impressive. Daboll's offenses haven't ever finished in the top half of the NFL -- he was quarterbacks coach of the Jets in 2007 and 2008 and offensive coordinator of the Browns in 2009 and 2010 -- but he hasn't exactly been working with the same personnel you might find on the 1999 Rams or anything. No head coaching experience probably makes this a dealbreaker, but he could warrant consideration as an assistant.

Eric Mangini

But, no, seriously. Mangini's been known to have interest in returning to the NFL and as recently the past month he's been rumored as someone who might come in as a consultant for various teams. He's currently working for ESPN (and is actually doing a fantastic job, in my humble opinion), and may have burned bridges with comments he made about the Patriots while working as the Jets head coach. But people forget he did a pretty good job there of rebuilding the Gang Green before struggling in a rebuild job in Cleveland.

Pat Hill

Hill, the recently-fired Fresno State coach, is a bit of a darkhorse, especially since "getting fired by a non-BCS school where you've been since 1997" isn't usually the career step taken before "getting hired to take over an NFL team." But again, he's part of the Belichick tree, so it's impossible to count him out completely.

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Posted on: December 10, 2011 12:09 am
 

Eli Manning is elite, Rob Ryan says

ManningBy Josh Katzowitz

Eli Manning caught all kinds of flak last August when he compared himself favorably to the one and only Tom Brady.

"I consider myself in that class," Manning said. "And Tom Brady is a great quarterback, he's a great player and what you've seen with him is he's gotten better every year. He started off winning championships and I think he's a better quarterback now than what he was, in all honesty, when he was winning those championships.

"I think now he's grown up and gotten better every year and that's what I'm trying to do. I kind of hope these next seven years of my quarterback days are my best."

I applauded Manning for it, because he showed some confidence and some fire that’s a bit unusual for him in the interview room. But you know what? He has played like an elite quarterback this year. He’s completed 62.4 percent of his passes for 3,705 yards, 23 touchdowns, 11 interceptions and a quarterback rating of 96.0. According to Football Outsiders, Manning is basically a top-five quarterback this year.

But you don’t have to tell that to Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. He already knows, and considering Ryan doesn’t mind talking trash about his opponents (ahem, Calvin Johnson and, um, the Eagles – both of whom beat Dallas after Ryan opened his mouth), the fact he’s praising Manning is highly complimentary.*

*Unless this is some kind of crazy double jinx Ryan is trying to pull off here and saying positive things in the hopes that he’ll fail. Which would be awesome.

“If you watch the tape the last two weeks, you don’t want to watch it,” Ryan said, via ESPN Dallas. “Eli Manning threw 22 straight completions against the Saints, hung up 35 points against the world champion defense supposedly [Green Bay]. We’re up for a big challenge here, but our guys are ready to go. We’re anxious about this game. We’ve done our preparation and we can’t wait until it gets here.”

So, elite or not elite?

“The guy’s playing excellent,” Ryan said. “He does a great job. He’s got an unbelievable touch. He will stand in there in the face of a damn hurricane and throw the ball. He’s really tough. We’re looking forward to this challenge. We’ve played some great quarterbacks during the year and this guy is no exception. He’s really playing well. He’s in that elite group for sure.”

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Posted on: December 8, 2011 10:56 am
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Posted on: December 8, 2011 10:55 am
Edited on: December 8, 2011 10:58 am
 

Top Ten with a Twist: Potential head coaches

Zimmer (US Presswire).

By Josh Katzowitz

It’s getting to be about that time. Christmas? Yes, of course. Hannukah? Naturally. Festivus? It depends on your syndicated TV viewing habits. The carousel of coaches who are fired and hired, changing the courses of several franchises for the foreseeable future? Abso-freakin-lutely.

Personally, I hate to see any coach drawing the pink slip, but as Bum Phillips once said, “There’s two kinds of coaches, them that's fired and them that's gonna be fired." Jack Del Rio knows of what Phillips speaks -- he’s already been asked to vacate the Jaguars premises. And there will be plenty more firings to come.

As colleague Will Brinson pointed out in this week’s Sorting the Sunday Pile, at least seven coaches (Steve Spagnuolo, Andy Reid, Jim Caldwell, Raheem Morris, Tony Sparano, Todd Haley and Norv Turner) are on the hot seat, and that means there’s a strong possibility a whole mess of new coaches will be needed. Like last year, when I presented my list of potential coaches*, many of the candidates are career assistants who have never had a chance at a head coaching slot. Some you’ve seen in this role before. All, though, deserve a chance --- or another chance -- to run a team of their own. And who knows, maybe they’d be the one to turn around a franchise in need of a jump-start.

*Only two from last year’s list made it this list (Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer), and with Leslie Frazier, Jim Harbaugh and John Fox in new jobs, I’ve also dropped candidates like Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell and Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron from consideration.

10. Bruce Arians: I had Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau on the list last year, though I figured that’s not going to happen at this point, but why shouldn’t teams take a look at Arians, Pittsburgh’s offensive coordinator? He was the head coach at Temple in the 1980s -- his record is an unshiny 21-45 -- but the paradigm shift made by the team since he’s been offensive coordinator is impressive. The Steelers are no longer a smashmouth, pound-the-rock offense. No, with Ben Roethlisberger and a trio of talented young receivers, the Steelers have entered the 21st century with their offense. There was talk Arians was a contender for the Ole Miss job, and it sounds like these people also would be rooting for Arians to get a head coaching job.

9. Joe DeCamillis: Before you say, “Why in the hell would you hire a special teams coach to be your head coach?” remember that John Harbaugh followed a similar path -- he spent nine years as the Eagles special teams coach and didn’t spend one second as a coordinator -- and it seems to have worked out OK for the Ravens. Plus, as CBSSports.com Pete Prisco said in a recent chat, DeCamillis, the Cowboys special teams ace, is organized and passionate. And if Prisco says he’s OK, it must be true.

8. Rob Chudzinski: He hasn’t spent much time as an NFL offensive coordinator, but he’s performed his finest work this year. Sure, he has some talent on his hands (Cam Newton and Steve Smith, obviously), but the work he’s done with Newton this season has been impressive. It’s difficult to remember this now, but Newton was considered a raw specimen with only one year of major college football before the Panthers took him No. 1 in the draft. But with Chudzinski’s help, Newton oftentimes plays amazing football for a rookie. It’s doubtful anybody will take a chance on Chudzinski at this point, but he’s one to keep an eye on in the future.

7. Chuck Pagano: While the Ravens offense has been in a state of flux this season, there’s little question about the effectiveness of Baltimore’s defense, which is ranked third in the league in points allowed and yards. Pagano is only in his first season as a coordinator, taking over this season for Greg Mattison, but the Ravens have been more effective this year (they were 10th in the league in yards in 2010). Pagano might need more seasoning, but he’s a guy who could ride Baltimore’s wave, particularly if the Ravens go deep into the playoffs, into a possible new job.

6. Brian Billick: There are plenty of reasons not to hire Billick. Like he said recently, he’s not young and he’s not cheap. But if you’re not necessarily looking to hire somebody for the next three decades and you have some money to spend, why wouldn’t you take a look at Billick? Yes, he’s pompous (though very good while being interviewed, and I like him on the NFL Network), but he’s also confident in his abilities. As well he should be. In nine years in Baltimore, he went 80-64, and you might remember that he won a Super Bowl title. It would take a special owner to turn to Billick, but I think it could be a very good choice.

5. Wade Phillips: The job Phillips has done in Houston this year has convinced me that Phillips deserves another chance at a head coaching job. Obviously, things didn’t end well in Dallas -- do they ever with Jerry Jones, though? -- but did you know he has a better winning percentage (.573) than Jeff Fisher (.542) and Brian Billick (.556)? And that in his nine full seasons as a head coach, he only had one losing record? There’s no doubt that Phillips knows what he’s doing as a defensive coordinator, and we know Phillips can win as a head coach as well. He’s deserving of another chance.
Ryan
4. Rob Ryan: This is what I wrote last year: “We need – I mean, we NEED – another Ryan brother as a head coach in the NFL. Aside from being the most entertaining coach out there today – publically, at least – Rex Ryan has done a wonderful job turning the Jets into Super Bowl contenders. Now, Rob Ryan, the Browns (now Cowboys) defensive coordinator, needs to get his chance. With the marked improvement in Cleveland, does Ryan deserve the shot? Probably not at this point. But how awesome would it be if somebody gave him a job?” Indeed Josh from 2010, it would be pretty awesome.

3. Russ Grimm: He was finally elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame last year as a player. Now he deserves his own team to run. He was nearly selected to follow Bill Cowher in Pittsburgh -- and some believe he was offered the job before the Steelers rescinded the offer and gave it to Mike Tomlin -- and for now, Grimm is an assistant head coach to Ken Whisenhunt in Arizona. You’d think Grimm would get his chance eventually, but he has to wonder how much longer he’ll have to wait.

2. Jeff Fisher: If you were going to hire a former head coach and you had an infinite amount of money to woo even the most resistant of people, you might go with Bill Cowher as the first choice. But my second choice probably would be Fisher. For 17 seasons with the Oilers/Titans, he recorded a 142-120 record, and he came ever so close to a Super Bowl victory. Aside from Cowher, I’m not sure there’s another former head coach out there that would command as much instant respect as Fisher.

1. Mike Zimmer: After a one-year slip-up, when the team was ranked 24th in the NFL in points allowed, the Bengals, once again, are one of the top units in the league. This, even after losing top cornerback Johnathan Joseph to the Texans and after failing to re-sign starting linebacker Dhani Jones. Zimmer has received effective play from youngsters Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins, and though there are no legit stars on defense, somehow Zimmer keeps making the case why somebody (anybody?!?) should give him a job. It’s time for Zimmer to have his shot.

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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