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Tag:Sid Gillman
Posted on: February 7, 2012 1:32 pm
Edited on: February 7, 2012 3:49 pm
 

Ricky Williams tells Ravens he will retire

R. Williams will retire with more than 10,000 rushing yards. (US Presswire)
By Josh Katzowitz

According to numerous reports, Ravens running back Ricky Williams has informed the club that he will retire, and if he keeps that promise, it will end one of the most successfully interesting (or interestingly successful) careers in many years.

He rushed for 10,009 career yards (the 26th best total of all time) and 66 touchdowns (third-most among active players), and at one point early in his career, he was the greatest workhorse in the league, recording 313 carries for the Saints in 2001, 383 for the Dolphins in 2002 and 392 for Miami in 2003.

He only gained one more 1,000-yard season after that three-year stretch*, recording 1,121 yards in 2009 for the Dolphins.

Unfortunately for Williams and the Saints -- who traded their entire 1999 draft to the Redskins (plus a first- and third-rounder in 2000) for the right to draft him at the No. 5 spot in 1999 -- he was never a player who could turn around a franchise.

*Proving he could take a pounding and continue to perform at an NFL standard, there are only three other players who are currently active (Donovan McNabb, Champ Bailey and Antoine Wingfield) from the first round of the 1999 NFL draft class and only four from the second round.

Wrote Williams on his Twitter account: “Thank you all, but this ain't it, I'm gonna do something really special. "Be you and change the world.”

Ricky Williams in 2005. (US Presswire)
Williams entered the league surrounded by controversy after Mike Ditka orchestrated the trade that got Williams to New Orleans. It was the largest trade since Ollie Matson was sent from the St. Louis Cardinals to the Los Angeles Rams in 1959 (a trade that was made by future NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle and eventually got legendary coach Sid Gillman fired), and it backfired for the Saints, setting back the franchise a number of years -- Ditka went 15-33 during his three years with the team.

"I don't care if it was for the second coming of Walter Payton, there was no way the deal could work out, " NFL analyst Chris Landry told the New Orleans Times Picayune in 2009. "And the fact that Ricky was a disappointment, a non-productive player for them, made it one of the worst trades of all time."

While he was introverted and, well, just kind of weird -- anybody remember that Sports Illustrated cover with Ditka in a tuxedo and Williams in a wedding gown? -- he had a resurgence when he went to the Dolphins in 2002, gaining a combined 3,225 yards in 2002 and 2003.

But he got in trouble with the league for drug usage and retired in 2004 before unretiring, and from 2005-08, he only played 13 games. Last season, he went to Baltimore to be the No. 2 back behind Ray Rice, and he accumulated 444 yards and two touchdowns. After the year, in fact, he spoke about returning next season.

“My body feels good and I know I’m going to train hard and so I’m excited about next year,” Williams told the team's website. “I’ve grown a lot, kind of falling into a new role and a new city and a new organization, and I’ve gotten better.  And like everyone else, I feel like I have something to build on for next year.”

Here's the statement released by Williams:
“The NFL has been an amazing page in this chapter of my life,” Williams said. “I pray that all successive adventures offer me the same potential for growth, success and most importantly, fun. I want to thank all my fans, teammates, coaches and supporters for the strength they've given me to overcome so much. I want to especially thank my family, coach Mack Brown, coach [Mike] Ditka, coach [Bill] Parcells, Ronnie Brown, Wilbert Montgomery and the Jamail Family for believing in me. As for what's next, I am excited about all the opportunities ahead -- continuing my education, running The Ricky Williams Foundation and whatever other opportunities present themselves.

“My football career has been filled with many great memories going back to pee wee football with coach Tom Miller, [San Diego’s] Patrick Henry High School and coach Jerry Varner and on to the University of Texas. It has been a big part of my life and blessed me with so many wonderful opportunities and the chance to connect with many people who have helped me grow and mature. I will miss the game, the camaraderie, my teammates and especially the emotions of a big victory. I love the game and leave it feeling fulfilled, proud, in great health and excited about the future.“

I have to thank coach [John] Harbaugh and the Ravens organization for the opportunity they gave me this year. I had so much fun and really appreciated the chance to finish on such a great note.”
And here’s what Ray Rice had to say.

“I was a big fan of Ricky before we were teammates, but being around him this year is the best thing that happened to me in my NFL career. As a young player, you need to be around a guy who knows what he is doing, and Ricky was tremendous to learn from. The way he took care of his body and the way he prepared, he always showed that he is a true professional. This past season with him is a year I will never forget. I had the best year with him beside me, and that was no accident. I believe that Ricky Williams is a Hall of Famer. All that he has done in his career, he deserves that. I was honored to share the field with him when he went over 10,000 yards. What an amazing accomplishment, as he is one of the best. I will miss him, but I wish him and his family well.”

As Williams' career advanced, he's changed his identity. He used to be an aloof character who would conduct interviews while wearing his football helmet, but he's morphed into a spiritual voice on Twitter. 

This isn't the first time Williams has retired, but it seems much more likely to stick considering that he'll turn 35 in May and he's playing a backup role in Baltimore. And if so, good luck to one of the more fascinating characters in the league. I'm sure we'll miss him more than he misses the game.

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Posted on: January 27, 2012 6:03 pm
 

Greg Cook played one season but had major impact

Greg Cook died at the age of 65 (US Presswire).

Greg Cook badly injured his shoulder in 1969, and after that season, was never the same (US Presswire).By Josh Katzowitz

In 1969, Greg Cook was a specimen at quarterback during his rookie year for the Bengals. He led the AFL by completing 53.9 percent of his passes for 1,854 yards, 15 touchdowns and 11 interceptions (he played in only 11 of the team’s 14 games), and at the time, it was one of the best seasons ever by a rookie quarterback. He could throw the ball 70 yards, and he possessed great touch and timing.

In his rookie season, he also averaged 17.5 yards per pass – the 12th best season average in NFL/AFL history. Cook – who, at 65 years old, died Thursday – was destined to be a superstar, perhaps one of the best quarterbacks of all time.

But while that one season was the highlight of his entire playing career, Cook’s legacy indirectly impacted much of the NFL offense you watch today. Cook, you see, was the main reason Bill Walsh had to implement the West Coast offense in 1970.

“Greg was the single most talented player we’ve ever had with the Bengals,” Bengals president Mike Brown said in a statement. “His career was tragically short due to the injury. Had he been able to stay healthy, I believe he would have been the player of his era in the NFL.

“Greg was a personal friend to me. He was a good person whose company I enjoyed over all his years as a player and after that. I feel a great loss at his passing.”

The reason you probably don’t remember Cook today is because in the third game of his rookie season, he suffered a bad shoulder injury that was later diagnosed as a torn rotator cuff. He missed the next three games, but returned for the final half of the season to finish his rookie year on a high note.

But after undergoing several surgeries to repair his shoulder, Cook would play only one more game in his career, throwing just three passes in 1973 before disappearing into the Cincinnati landscape.

Yet, Cook was a godsend for Walsh, who was helping run the Bengals offense. He had expected Cook to return for his second season in 1970, and Walsh planned to continue using Cook’s big arm to mold a downfield vertical passing attack. But without Cook, the Bengals had to go with backup Virgil Carter, who was not as talented but was considering a quick-thinking quarterback.

As Sports Illustrated’s Paul Zimmerman wrote in 2001, “Carter was able to go through his progressions quickly and throw on the go; not blessed with a big arm, but accurate. So Walsh crafted an offense to suit him, a horizontal offense with a lot of motion and underneath routes and breakoff patterns, an attack that now goes by the misnomer ‘West Coast Offense.’”

It’s a misnomer because, although Walsh had his greatest success in San Francisco, the idea was hatched in the Midwest. And though the man from whom Walsh took much of his cues in developing the offense was a longtime Los Angeles Rams and San Diego Chargers coach, Sid Gillman had started making his passing game more horizontal when he coach at Miami (Ohio) and the University of Cincinnati in the 1940s and 1950s.

Once, Zimmerman asked Walsh how much his system would have changed if Cook had a long career. “Completely different," he said. "It would have been down the field."

And thus, how much differently would the NFL look today without the West Coast offense and Cook’s contribution? I imagine it wasn’t any consolation to Cook, but without his injury, the league could have been a vastly-different, less-exciting place.

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Posted on: November 18, 2011 1:15 pm
 

Five questions (or more) with Bum Phillips

Phillips

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Every Sunday, Bum Phillips watches with fatherly pride as his son, Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, helps his team to another standout performance. After Houston finished 30th in total defense last year, Wade Phillips, after switching the scheme from a 4-3 to a 3-4, has the Texans as the No. 1 defense in the NFL in his first year in the organization.

You might be surprised, considering Wade Phillips’ up and down head coaching career, but there’s no doubt he’s a strong defensive coordinator. He gets much of that from his father, Bum Phillips, who was the first coach to bring the 3-4 to the NFL in the mid-1970s and eventually became the popular Houston Oilers and New Orleans Saints coach. Bum Phillips finished his career with an 82-77 mark, and he was rarely seen without his trusty cowboy hat. He was a character and a good coach, and apparently, Wade got many of those genes.

We caught up with 88-year-old Bum Phillips earlier this week, and we talked about the job Wade has done this year, how the Texans will survive without quarterback Matt Schaub, the 3-4 defense and if the Broncos can win with Tim Tebow.

Previous Five Questions (or more):

Sept. 16:
Actor/former Patriots DB Brian White

Sept. 30: Bills RB Fred Jackson

Oct. 7: Sweetness author Jeff Pearlman

Oct. 21: 49ers LB Aldon Smith

Nov. 4:
Chris Crocker


1. CBSSports.com: Considering how bad the Texans defense was last year, how did Wade come in this year and turn it all around? Even with the lockout and not having any time to install it in the offseason, how did it happen?

Bum Phillips: Good players. And a good system. And a bunch of good people around them on offense. They keep the ball on offense, which helps them a lot. If they went three-and-out all the time and didn’t keep the ball real long, it’d be hard to keep the defense from not getting tired. He’s had 35 years in the league, and he’s been defensive coordinator for a bunch of teams. They’ve had good teams with him coaching. It’d have to be the system.

CBS: But I think what surprised me is that the turnaround happened so quickly, even with the lockout and not having an offseason.

Phillips: The 3-4 evidently fits their personnel better. They’ve got better linebackers than they do defensive linemen. They don’t need but three defensive linemen line to play.

2. CBS: How did Wade get over what happened last year in Dallas with him being fired in the middle of the season and then having to take a step down and go back to being a coordinator again?

Phillips: I don’t know. It’s just football. It’s like a game. When it’s over, it’s over, and you get ready for the next one. He’s always had good teams. I think he’s a great football coach. Thirty five years is a long time to stay in the league, so he must be doing something right.

CBS: You coached with Wade for many years. He was your assistant in Houston and in New Orleans. What was it like to coach with your boy?

Phillips: It was like coaching with anybody else. He’s my own son, but he was a good football coach. He did exactly what we asked him to do. And he did it well. I was very close to all my coaches. One of them just happened to be my son. I never looked at it like that he was my son. He was always just a coach. He didn’t get any favors. He didn’t get any undo fussing out.

Bum Phillip's son,Wade, has turned around Houston's defense (US Presswire).3. CBS: Talk to me about bringing the 3-4 to the NFL.

Phillips: Pretty easy. I found about it when I was coaching in high school. We put it in here when I got in pro ball, because football is all about using the personnel you’ve got. You have to get the best 11 defensive players on the field. It’s up to you to put them in a situation where you can use them all. If you’re short on linemen like we were in San Diego  (in the late 1960s) and you had four really, really good linebackers where we couldn’t play all four of them, you utilized your best people. But after Chicago beat us bad in the preseason, Sid (Gillman) made me go back to the 4-3 defense. When I was at Oklahoma State (in 1973), Sid asked me to come to Houston as the defensive coordinator, and I said I would do it if he let me play the defense that fit the guys we had. He said sure, and we played the 3-4. I knew it would work. We were the first to do it down-in and down-out. Other people used it as a prevent defense if they were winning the game. You know, put eight back in the secondary and rush three. But I knew darn good and well it would work.

CBS: Did other coaches at the time think it was a gimmick? Is that why Sid Gillman didn’t want to stick with it in San Diego?

Phillips: No, it wasn’t a gimmick. Everybody thought it was. We put it in Houston in 1974, and by 1976, 19 times were using it. It had never been used in pro ball. They said you would have a hard time stopping people with three linemen and four linebackers. But those linebackers are like defensive ends, and it’s a great way to rush the passer.

They’ve changed it a lot (in the current NFL) since we started using it. But that’s what you have to do in football. Now, they offset the nose tackle. Now, some people drop into a 3 technique on the weak side. Pittsburgh plays a 3-4 defense but they do it differently. It’s just something that’s evolved. They’ve improved it.

4. CBS: How much do you follow the NFL these days? Are you watching games every week?

Phillips: Sure. I watch more now than I used to (laughs). Nah, not really. But I’ve got a TV where you can record them. I’ll record three or four, and I’ll watch one or two at the same time and then go back afterward and watch the others.

CBS: And you’re watching all the Texans game I guess, right?

Phillips: Oh hell yes.

5. CBS: What do the Texans do now that they don’t have Matt Schaub for the rest of the year?

Phillips: That’s going to hurt them quite a bit. One of the reasons the defense has been good was because Matt Schaub could move the ball down the field. It’s going to take a really, really good effort from everybody. It’s not just as easy to say we’re going to change the quarterback or just run the ball. If they put enough guys up there in the box, you can’t run the ball. It still goes back to the quarterback needing to complete passes. They might put seven, eight or nine guys in the box.

CBS: You know, with those running backs, they should just install the wishbone.

Phillips: I don’t think they’d do it.

CBS: Well, I’m just kidding, but Denver has been doing the read option with Tim Tebow.

Phillips: But here’s the problem. One of those options is the quarterback is going to have to keep it sometimes. If the defense takes the pitch man and the dive man away, the quarterback has to keep the ball. I just don’t think the quarterback can do that for 16 games. Having to run every now and then because you don’t have anybody open, you can get tackled by one guy. But when he’s running the option, there’s going to be three or four people hitting you at times.

They need to try to win ballgames. They’re talking about the kid not throwing but eight passes. Hell, he ran the ball. What do you need? You need to move the ball consistently. That’s what you’re supposed to do. You don’t have to throw 30 passes a game if you can win the ballgame running. If you take eight passes, who cares if you’re winning?

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Posted on: October 13, 2011 11:17 am
 

Top Ten with a Twist: Living Legends

Bum Phillips is a living legend (Getty).

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

With the death last Saturday of Raiders owner Al Davis, we got to see a side of him that most people under 35 never got to experience. When Davis was an innovator, a kick-ass coach and owner, a fighter against The Man and one of the most important figures in NFL history. It was nice to be reminded of that with tributes all over the Internet, newspapers and in NFL stadiums on Sunday.

Maybe we didn’t think about it in terms like this, but Davis, though largely reclusive to the public, was a living legend, and in the final years of his life, we probably didn’t appreciate him as much as we should have.

That said, here are 10 other living legends who hold (or who should hold)  a special place in the league’s heart. No matter what they’ve become today -- those who are outspoken for and against their old teams, those who spend their time behind the scenes, and those who have disappeared for now -- it’s not too late to show them our appreciation for all the good they’ve done and the lives they’ve led.

10. Ron Wolf: Another of Davis’ protégés, Davis gave Wolf a job as a scout for the Raiders in the early 1960s, and after helping the Raiders to a plethora of wins, he helped set up a 1979 division title in Tampa Bay before moving on to Green Bay as the general manager. He hired Mike Holmgren as the head coach, traded for a backup quarterback named Brett Favre, revitalized that franchise that led to Super Bowl riches and restored the name of a storied organization that had fallen into disrepair.

9. Mike Westhoff: The only man on this list who’s still active in the game, you might remember Westhoff from his turn on Hard Knocks where he played the Jets awesome special teams coach. It wasn’t much of a stretch, because Westhoff has been an awesome special teams coach. Aside from that, he’s a bone cancer survivor (he had to have nearly a dozen surgeries to get rid of it), and he’s one of the most respected working coaches today. But he won’t be around much longer. After 30 years of coaching, he’s said this season will be his last.

Kramer8. Ray Guy: Last year, I made him my No. 1 former player who deserves be in the Hall of Fame, but since he probably won’t ever get to Canton, that list and this one will have to suffice. Once Shane Lechler’s career is over, he’ll be considered the No. 1 punter of all time (maybe he’ll have a chance at the HOF!), but Guy was the one who showed the NFL how important a punter could be to his team.

7. Jerry Kramer (seen at right): He was a better football player than Jim Bouton was a pitcher, but both opened up the world of sports that fans had never seen before. Bouton’s tome, “Ball Four,” is a masterpiece that shocked those who had watched baseball and thought of players like Mickey Mantle as pure of heart. Kramer’s 1968 book, "Instant Replay," was a diary he kept of the 1967 season in which he gave glimpses of what life was like inside the Packers locker room under coach Vince Lombardi while chronicling some of the most famous moments in Green Bay history.

6. James “Shack” Harris: He was the first black player in the NFL to start at quarterback for the entire season in 1969, and in 1975, he led the Los Angeles Rams to an 11-2 record and an NFC West division title. He wasn’t a dominant quarterback in his day, but he was a trailblazer. And after retirement from playing, he was the head of pro player personnel when the Ravens won the Super Bowl in 2001. He’s currently a personnel executive with the Lions.

5. Chuck Noll: We don’t see much of Noll -- who’s rumored to be in declining health -- these days, but his impact is unmistakable. He won four Super Bowls as head coach of the Steelers in the 1970s, and Al Davis thought so much of him that he once tried to sue him (the two were on the same staff in San Diego in the early 1960s). And he was the first coach to allow his team to take baseline concussion tests -- which, as we know today, was a pretty important development.

4. Joe Namath: The legendary Jets quarterback has become a thorn in coach Rex Ryan’s side. Namath is constantly on Twitter, exhorting or back-handing his former team, and because he’s Joe Freakin’ Namath, the media has to pay attention. With that -- and his on-air exchange a few years back with Suzy Kolber -- it’s not difficult to forget just how good Namath was as a signal-caller. He was the first to throw for 4,000 yards (in a 14-game season no less), and he boldly guaranteed victory for the underdog Jets in Super Bowl III and then went out and delivered.

3. Joe Gibbs: One of my colleagues recently called him the greatest coach of the last 40 years, and considering Gibbs won three Super Bowls with three different quarterbacks (Joe Theismann, Doug Williams and Mark Rypien), he’s one of the legends. His return to the Redskins from 2004-07 didn’t go so well (a combined 30-34 record), but before that, his complete career winning percentage was better than all coaches not named John Madden or Vince Lombardi.

2. John Madden: We don’t get to hear much from John Madden these days, and that’s too bad. I liked him on Monday Night Football -- his football knowledge and his enthusiasm -- and though he was before my time, you have to admire his coaching record. He took over the Raiders job in 1969 at the tender age of 33, and when he retired after the 1978 season, he had a coaching record of 103-32-7. That is a winning percentage of .763, and to go with it, he won a Super Bowl and seven division titles in 10 years.

1. Bum Phillips: The old Oilers coach -- and 3-4 defense innovator -- is still kicking around in Texas, attending Texans games, wearing his big cowboy hat and writing books about his life (OK, it’s one book, but you should check it out). He’s a fun guy to speak with, and he’s fully into philanthropy. But aside from his defensive prowess, the dude is a great storyteller. Quickly, one of my favorites: when he was an assistant coach to Sid Gillman, one of the earliest believers in breaking down film, Phillips barely could keep his eyes open one night as Gillman continued studying game tape. Suddenly, out of nowhere, Gillman excitedly claimed that watching film made him feel so awesome that it was better than having sex. Responded Phillips: "Either I don't know how to watch film, Sid, or you don't know how to make love."

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Posted on: October 8, 2011 2:04 pm
Edited on: October 8, 2011 2:22 pm
 

In 1966, Al Davis wanted to destroy the NFL

Davis

Posted by Josh Katzowitz


Forty-five years ago, Al Davis wanted blood. He wanted revenge. He wanted to take the NFL for all its worth and engulf it, like the NFL had done to so many other start-up leagues before. But unlike those other leagues, the American Football League -- which had been established in 1960 and which had been looked down upon by NFL owners -- was about to make a real problem.

The AFL had gone through troubles in the early part of its life. The owners had lost millions of dollars, the teams played in terribly unprofessional stadiums and the NFL looked at the AFL as short-term, inferior competition. But the AFL also was building a fan base, mostly due to its high-powered offenses that excited TV audiences -- which contrasted nicely with the NFL’s power-run game that put fans to sleep.

Al Davis started as an assistant coach with the Chargers, signing Lance Alworth and helping Sid Gillman build the most exciting offense in pro football, and then moved on to become the coach -- and eventually one of the owners -- of the Raiders.

By the mid-1960s, the AFL was becoming a real problem for the NFL. Not only was the new league’s football a more exciting brand, the AFL could offer competitive contracts to the best graduating college players. When Joe Namath left Alabama, he was courted by the AFL’s New York Jets and the NFL’s St. Louis’ Cardinals.

The Cardinals offered him $200,000 to sign. The Jets got him for $427,000. That was the power of the AFL in those days.

Which led the NFL to quickly decide to merge with the AFL -- which, by then, employed Davis as its commissioner. At that point, there was a strong belief by some AFL owners that the NFL could be beaten in a head-to-head matchup, and at least one person wanted to try to send the NFL out of business.

“We could have beaten them,” Davis said via Ken Rappoport’s 2010 book The Little League That Could. “I didn’t necessarily want a merger, but they wanted it.” In fact, the AFL owners were so confident in their place in the pecking order that, assuming they didn’t receive a legit offer from the NFL, one owner said, “If they’re lying to us, we’ll have to drop the bomb on them.”

But when the New York Giants signed away AFL kicker Pete Gogolek, who had played out his contract in Buffalo, that’s when the AFL went on the attack. Though a gentleman’s agreement between the two leagues stated that the opposing league wouldn’t sign players in Gogolek’s position, the Giants went ahead with it anyway, inkng Gogolek to a three-year deal worth $96,000.

That’s when Davis knew what he wanted. He wanted to be the one to drop the bomb on the NFL. He wanted blood.

Said Davis: “Now, we can go after their guys. We are going after the quarterbacks, after places they feel it.”

The AFL had been saving money for a scenario like, and the owners went to work going after the top NFL quarterbacks -- Roman Gabriel, Fran Tarkenton and Sonny Jurgensen. Then, a bombshell. Bud Adams in Houston signed tight end Mike Ditka, one of the biggest stars in the NFL. Ditka had never made more than $25,000 in Chicago, but Adams gave him $50,000 just to sign (the contract would have paid him $183,000 during the next three years).

While Davis wanted to go after the NFL -- or, at the very least, get the best possible deal from the opposing league in the merger -- the AFL owners met with their NFL counterparts  and negotiated in secret meetings without his knowledge and then signed a deal without his input.

According to Jeff Miller in his 2003 book Going Long, Davis emerged from his commissioner’s office in New York early one afternoon, and Val Pinchbeck -- who went on to become a close advisor to NFL commissioners -- said, “Are you going to the press conference?”

Said Davis: “What press conference?”

“It seems that there’s an announcement being made by the AFL and the NFL over at the Warwick (Hotel) in a couple of hours.

Said Davis: “Do you remember Yalta?”

Later remarked AFL co-founder Lamar Hunt: “He was a general without a war. “

Davis soon recovered and went on to big success as the Raiders owner. But he had to wonder what could have happened if the AFL had put the NFL out of business, if he had dropped the bomb and taken its blood. Davis’ impact on the NFL was great, but if the AFL had survived and taken down the NFL, Davis could have been the most important figure in pro football.

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Posted on: October 6, 2011 12:29 pm
 

Top Ten with a Twist: Books we want to read

It's time for a biography on Ed Sabol and his son, Steve. (US Preswire).

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

With the controversy surrounding the new Walter Payton biography, written by Jeff Pearlman, I got to thinking about the other books we need to read but that haven’t been written yet. I’m not talking about a season in the life book of the 2010 Packers or the latest words written by Mike Ditka (at least five authored or co-authored by the Bears coaching icon), but about subjects we don’t really know and on topics we would love to explore.

For this Top Ten List with a Twist, I’m discounting what a publisher might say if he/she was presented with some of these ideas (namely, the idea that blah, blah, blah won’t sell or that nobody has ever heard of blah, blah, blah). Some of these ideas, no doubt, would work, and maybe, one day, you’ll see one of them on the shelf of your nearest book store in the cart of your Amazon.com page.

Without further ado, here are the Top Ten books we absolutely deserve to read.  

10. The inside story on the NFL lockout: Yeah, maybe many football fans wouldn’t care about a book like this, because they only wanted the work stoppage to end as soon as possible so they could continue to watch the game they love, but I bet it would be fascinating. What is the relationship between Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith really like? How were the compromises finally reached? Did Jerry Jones really tap his fists together and walk out of a negotiation session to make a point? For those  who reported and analyzed the entire ordeal, it would be a mind-churning look from behind the curtain.

9. Bill Belichick end-of-career autobiography: Although he almost always comes off completely uninteresting during his midweek and postgame press conferences -- hell, he eats his lunch during teleconference calls with the media! -- the recent NFL Network documentary showed that he’s an interesting dude. The fact he got a little emotional during a trip to the Meadowlands was almost shocking, and I’ve seen interviews with him before that are really, really good. If he let down his guard, like during that documentary, his autobiography would be a fascinating study of the best coach in football. There have been big-name authors who have written big-name books about Belichick, but when his career is over, I want him reflecting on the impact he’s made and the reason he did it all the first place.

8. A biography on Tom Brady’s hair: We’ve already had the obituary for Brady’s shorn locks. Next, we should have a book that tells the tale of the entire two-year history of the hair that helped Brady land that lucrative Uggs endorsement.

7. Sid Gillman biography: Gillman is the most important coach you might not remember. Unlike Paul Brown (who has a stadium named after him and a legacy in Cincinnati) or Vince Lombardi (who you might have heard a little something about) or Woody Hayes (a decent-enough coach at Ohio State) -- all of whom were Gillman contemporaries -- Gillman has fallen through the cracks of history. And considering, he’s the father of the modern passing offense, that’s a shame.

Rex and Rob Ryan (US Presswire)6. Rob/Rex Ryan quote book: This could even be made into one of those peel-a-page-every-day calendars, like the Jeff Foxworthy redneck gags or the best of the old Far Side comic strips. But if you like to laugh (or just shake your head), this book would be a big seller. You could have Rex talking about not wanting to kiss Bill Belichick’s rings or Rob discussing how Calvin Johnson would be the Cowboys No. 3 receiver behind Dez Bryant and Miles Austin. See what I mean? It’d be high hilarity.

5. Bryant McKinnie in the Blind Side, part II: Since McKinnie was the one to replace Michael Oher as the Ravens left tackle, McKinnie should have his own Michael Lewis-penned biography. I’m pretty sure McKinnie didn’t live in foster homes and on the streets before he was adopted, like Oher, but McKinnie has had struggles with his weight and he did (allegedly) spend $100,000 on a bar tab this offseason. It’s not as heartwarming as the Oher book, but a tome about McKinnie would be pretty fun.

4. The early struggles of black players: You know all about Jackie Robinson in major league baseball, but if I asked you who the broke the color barrier in the NFL, you probably wouldn’t have any idea. Hell, I read a long article about the NFL’s integration the other day, and I couldn’t tell you the guy’s name*. But this is an important -- and somewhat complicated -- history. Black players participated in pro football at the turn of the 20th century, and they also were part of teams in various professional leagues until the NFL stopped signing them in the early 1930s. It would be an interesting look at an era that, just like much of society, was decidedly unfair for anybody who wasn’t white.

*After blacks were excluded from the league in 1933, Kenny Washington was the one to break the barrier in 1946, one year before Robinson did it in baseball.

3. A Cam Newton investigation: Don’t we deserve to know who Newton’s bag man is or if there was a bag man at all? Not that it would make any difference in his pro career, but don’t you want to know if Newton’s father really demanded $180,000 from Mississippi State for Newton’s service? Maybe Auburn fans wouldn’t, but I certainly would.

2. NFL Films biography: People underestimate the importance of Ed and Steve Sabol. Proof of that was that it took so long for Ed to earn his way into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But the NFL -- and the NFL fans -- owe them a huge debt of gratitude, because the way you watch football today might not be possible if NFL Films hadn’t been created on the backs of the Sabol’s in the 1960s. I want to know how it started, the obstacles they faced in the early years and the impact the company has made to this day. It’s a book the Sabol’s deserve to have written.

1. An investigation into the rise of CTE: There have been a few journalists (the Newark Star Ledger’s Jerry Izenberg and the New York Times’ Alan Schwarz are two who come to mind) who do fine work keeping watch on the NFL’s relationship and response to the rise of head injuries that continue to devastate retired players and keep us reminded about what a brutal game football is to those who play it for your enjoyment. But from the premature death of Steelers legend Mike Webster to the shock of what Chris Henry’s brain looked like during his autopsy, from the suicide of Dave Duerson to the continued work of those who track of the rise of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, this is a book that needs to be written. And the sooner, the better.

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Posted on: March 23, 2011 1:41 pm
 

Marty Schottenheimer takes over UFL squad

Marty Schottenheimer announced he's taking over the UFL's Virginia Destroyers job (US Presswire). Posted by Josh Katzowitz

While most of those who play in the UFL toil in relative obscurity, the league’s owners have done a pretty impressive job of hiring coaches who have big names and give some much-needed credibility to the league.

Among the biggest names are former Giants coach Jim Fassell (Las Vegas Locomotives), former Cardinals coach Dennis Green (California Redwoods), and former Falcons coach Jerry Glanville (just hired by the Hartford Colonials).

But perhaps the biggest get for the league came today when Marty Schottenheimer announced (via Twitter, naturally) that he is the new head coach and GM of the Virginia Destroyers.

This move was expected, but today’s confirmation is sure to build excitement about the relocated UFL franchise (it formerly was known as the Florida Tuskers), especially considering Schottenheimer comes in with some serious credentials as an NFL coach (a 200-126 career record, which makes him, unfortunately for him, the winningest head coach never to take a Super Bowl title).

A quick story about Schottenheimer that I (speaking of timely!) heard just this week.

One Sunday, when Schottenheimer coached in Kansas City, his squad had just beaten its opponent 10-7, when Chiefs president Carl Peterson and his guest, pass offense guru and legend Sid Gillman, visited him in the postgame locker room.

Gillman, by that time long retired, continued to watch current game film to keep up to date on the latest happenings in pro football. Knowing that Gillman regularly watched film of his team, Schottenheimer asked Gillman what he thought about the Chiefs offense.

Gillman’s response: “Marty, you have no offense.”

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Posted on: December 1, 2010 12:19 am
 

Top Ten With a Twist: Not yet HOFers

Fireworks fly during the 2010 Pro Football HOF induction ceremony (US Presswire).

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

The Pro Football Hall of Fame this past Sunday released the names of the 26 semifinalists that could be inducted into the HOF for 2011. Most of the names you know. You’ve watched them play. You’ve watched them win. You’ve watched them etch out fantastic careers.

Last year, you knew guys like Jerry Rice and Emmitt Smith were going to make their way into the HOF in their first years of eligibility. These players were some of the best of all time. It was no contest.

But each year, there are certain players or coaches or executives that are left out who deserve to enter the hallowed halls of the … well … Hall. This Top Ten With a Twist isn’t about the players you know who full well will be inducted into next year’s induction class, minus Prime Time. These are the guys who might not, but who probably should be.

10. George Young, executive: I wonder if Young’s enshrinement has been held off because his skills had declined noticeably late in his career (ie. when free agency was introduced to the game in the early 1990s). But there’s no denying that Young was the NFL executive of the year five times and the teams he worked for won three conference titles and one Super Bowl title. For an executive, he was pretty damn important.

9. Jerry Kramer, OG, Packers (1958-68): While he was a very good player in his day – as the three Pro Bowls, five All-Pro selections and the oodles of championships attest – he did the world a favor when he wrote Instant Replay in 1967, giving fans an inside look at what occurs during an NFL season and at coach Vince Lombardi. No, it’s no Ball Four by Jim Bouton (that guy never could get in baseball’s HOF, by the way), but Kramer’s impact on how the fans view the game is an important piece of the NFL’s history.

8. Steve Tasker, WR/ST, Oilers (1985-86), Bills (1986-97): During his 14-year career, Tasker started a total of 15 games. He never had more than 21 catches in a season, and he caught nine touchdown passes. But the fact he’s perhaps the best special teams player ever to compete in the NFL should give him a path to the HOF. He was a 5-foot-9, 180-pound gunner, and he was fast and lethal. He went to the Pro Bowl seven times, and he was named the MVP of the Pro Bowl in 1993. He didn’t make it to the semifinals this year, but that’s not surprising. Special teamers are not given their just due (see No. 1).

7. Andre Reed, WR, Bills (1985-99), Redskins (2000): Reed has gotten caught up in the WR numbers game. He’s been eligible at the same time as Michael Irvin, Jerry Rice, Tim Brown, Art Monk and Cris Carter, and I can see why it’d be tough to select Reed instead of those kinds of receivers. But you have to remember that Reed ranks ninth in career receptions all time and 11th in receiving yards. At some point, he deserves to be enshrined in Canton. Don’t expect it to happen this year, though.

6. Dermontti Dawson, C, Steelers (1988-2000): Simply put, he’s one of the greatest centers of all time. He made the Pro Bowl seven-straight seasons, and with his athletic ability and his knack for getting out in open space and making key blocks for his running backs, he changed the perception of what a center should be. He’ll probably become a finalist for the second time in as many years. One of these days, he should get the welcoming phone call.

5. Cris Carter, WR, Eagles (1987-89), Vikings (1990-2001), Dolphins (2002): Much like Reed, Carter is overshadowed by other receivers. He finished his career as the No. 2 WR (behind Jerry Rice) in receptions and touchdowns. He’s been passed by Marvin Harrison on the receptions list and by Randy Moss and Terrell Owens on the touchdowns list since he retired, but at some point, Carter should be in. It’s actually a little surprising that he’s not in already.

4. Don Coryell, coach: Yes, he wasn’t the originator of today’s modern offense – that’d be a combination of Sid Gillman, Paul Brown and various others – but his Air Coryell teams in the late 1970s to mid 1980s with the Chargers helped innovate the passing game we still see today. He’s already a member of the College Football Hall of Fame. Now, it’s time for him to join Gillman as the only two coaches to be enshrined in the college and the pro Halls of Fame.

3. Deion Sanders, CB/PR, Falcons (1989-93), 49ers (1994), Cowboys (1995-99), Redskins (2000), Ravens (2004-05) : The reasons why are obvious. Just look at the video below. This is his first year eligible, and there’s little chance he won’t make it in immediately.



2. Ed Sabol, contributor: Enjoy watching NFL Films productions? You like watching the behind-the-scenes spots of the players woofing at each other on the sidelines and your favorite coach’s pregame and postgame speeches? If yes, you can thank Sabol, who helped found NFL Films in the mid-1960s. How differently would we view – and think about – the NFL if Sabol hadn’t been such a visionay? That’s unanswerable of course, but the fact NFL Films plays a big role in an NFL’s viewing experience makes Sabol HOF worthy.

1. Ray Guy, P, Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders (1973-86): Simply put, Guy is the greatest punter in the history of the game. But there are no kickers enshrined in the HOF. That must mean they’re less important than anybody else, right? Well, we all know that’s not true. It’s time to get Guy into the Hall. He deserves it.

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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