Tag:Tom Coughlin
Posted on: January 26, 2012 2:25 pm
Edited on: January 26, 2012 4:31 pm
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Is Schiano a beneficiary of the Harbaugh Effect?

There aren't many college coaches who have successfully transitioned to the NFL. (AP/Getty Images)

By Ryan Wilson

The NFL coaching scrap heap is littered with accomplished college coaches who couldn't make the transition to the professional game. But it only takes one success story to shift the perception from "those guys can't cut it" to "where can we find another one?"

Bucs hire Schiano

Jim Harbaugh arrived in San Francisco last offseason after leading Stanford to 12 wins, including an Orange Bowl victory over Virginia Tech. Twelve months later, the 49ers were a few plays away from going to the Super Bowl after a 13-3 regular season and an NFC West title.

And unlike Stanford, Harbaugh didn't have an Andrew Luck-type franchise quarterback under center in San Francisco. Yes, Alex Smith was a former first-overall pick, but his career up till Harbaugh's arrival could kindly be described as pedestrian. Now the 49ers want him back in 2012 and there may be some competition for his services should he make it to free agency.

“I feel so much different than in years past, just the sideline -- the sideline atmosphere is so much different," Smith said before Sunday's NFC Championship game. "When bad things happen, when plays get made against us, things like that, the guys are just so confident.”

It's that type of confidence that may have led the Glazer family, owners of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, to bypass the typical NFL coaching search, one that has recently included interviewing former NFL big names, up-and-coming coordinators and a few dark horse assistants. And instead, refocus their efforts at the college level, in the hopes of unearthing the next Jim Harbaugh.

This explains Oregon coach Chip Kelly's brief dalliance with the Bucs. And it may explain why they ultimately settled on Rutgers' Greg Schiano after Kelly got cold feet. (The elephant in the room, of course, is that Schiano, unlike Harbaugh and Kelly, hasn't had quite their level of success in recent seasons.)

                                           (Getty Images)
Schiano leaves Rutgers with a 67-67 record, but it took him five years to build the program from one of the worst in the country to annually competitive in the Big East. He was 49-28 in his last six seasons, and if it's one thing the Bucs need, it's someone who knows how to build a winner. The big question: will the front office and fans will have the patience to wait around.

If Schiano's looking for inspiration from his college brethren who made it work in the NFL … well, the pickings are slim. In addition to Harbaugh, three coaches stand out:

Jimmy Johnson

Johnson was the first coach Jerry Jones hired after he bought the Cowboys and promptly ushered Tom Landry out the door. Tough circumstances to walk into after leading the Miami Hurricanes in the '80s, but he went on to win back-to-back Super Bowls before leaving Dallas for the Dolphins, and ultimately a gig as an NFL analyst for Fox Sports.

Barry Switzer

He was Oklahoma's head coach from 1973-1988 and amassed a 157-29-4 record, including three national championships. He resigned before the 1989 season and after the NCAA had placed the Sooners on probation. Five years later, Jones pegged Switzer to replace Jimmy Johnson in Dallas. He went 12-4 in his first two seasons, with the Cowboys winning the Super Bowl following the 1995 season. He resigned three years later and left the NFL with a 45-26 career mark.

Tom Coughlin

Coughlin got his start at Rochester Institute of Technology, where he served as the head coach from 1970-73, and after seven seasons as an assistant with Syracuse, and two more with Boston College, Coughlin served as an assistant coach for three NFL teams from 1984-1990. He then returned to college, accepting the head-coaching gig at BC. In three years, he led the Eagles to a 41-39 record, including a 1993 win over top-ranked Notre Dame.

Coughlin was hired by the expansion Jaguars in 1995 and he's been an NFL head coach ever since. In February 2008, he led the Giants to a Super Bowl XLII victory over the then-undefeated Patriots. He'll go for Lombardi Trophy No. 2 when New York again faces New England on February 5.

So what does this mean for Schiano? History hasn't been kind to college coaches making the jump to the NFL, but there are exceptions. It's not much, but it's all the Glazer have right now.

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Posted on: January 25, 2012 10:29 am
 

Report: Jack Del Rio could be next Broncos DC

JDR could be the next Broncos defensive coordinator. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

With Dennis Allen now headed to Oakland as the next head coach of the Raiders, the Broncos now need to fill a big void at defensive coordinator. According to one report, Jack Del Rio could be the guy to take over for Allen in Denver.

Jason LaCanfora of the NFL Network cites sources on Wednesday who believe that Del Rio has "emerged as a possible replacement" for Allen after he departs for the Raiders.

Del Rio was axed from Jacksonville in late November and since then's been ripped by former players, been basically called "not as good as Tom Coughlin" by his former owner, and he was reportedly mentioned as a candidate for the Chiefs job.

Defense is JDR's calling card (along with lumberjacking and leather jackets) and the Broncos could particularly make sense given the success he had in 2002 as John Fox's defensive coordinator with the Panthers. That year the Panthers finished first in yards per rushing attempt allowed, second in total yards allowed, fifth in points allowed and seventh in takeaways in the NFL.

Del Rio parlayed that success, along with his work as the Ravens linebackers coach before that, into becoming the replacement for Coughlin in Jacksonville. He only compiled a 68-71 record over nine years, but his defenses were typically stout. 2010 and 2011 were the exception, not the rule.

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Posted on: January 24, 2012 11:11 pm
 

Manning gives well-received locker room speech

ManningBy Josh Katzowitz

When you think Eli Manning, you don’t necessarily think of the phrase “vocal locker room leader” (isn’t that right, Tiki Barber?).

But when Manning has something to say, his Giants teammates take notice, and whatever he speaks about usually makes an impact. And with still 12 days to go before New York faces the Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI, Manning decided to showcase his leadership skills during a team meeting just before coach Tom Coughlin gave the Giants an off-day on Wednesday.

He decided to talk about -- or maybe just reemphasize -- how the team, you know, really should go about its Super Bowl preparations in a somewhat professional manner.

“I was just telling them just a little bit how to prepare for this,” Manning said, via the NY Daily News. “Just handling all your business with tickets, getting that stuff done. Just a few things on just the mindset of this week. We’ve got to have great preparation. Prepare this week like you’re playing the game this week, because once you get out to Indianapolis, you’ve got to take a bus ride to practice and the whole schedule gets thrown off.

“We’ve got to have everything that we normally have to do during a normal work week, we’re going to try to get it done this week.”

The talk apparently made an impact.

“It was a broad message that needed to be said,” safety Antrel Rolle said. “And it was a message that was heard loud and clear by everyone. Basically this is about business. Let’s go take care of it. Let’s go get it done, at whatever it costs.”

Man, Tiki Barber would be so proud.

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Posted on: January 24, 2012 9:00 am
Edited on: January 24, 2012 11:51 am
 

Giants-Patriots is a SB XLII rematch in name only

The uniforms are the same but these two teams most definitely are not. (Getty Images)

By Ryan Wilson

The more things change, the more things … change. The uniforms may be the same but four years later, the Giants and Patriots are different teams who, after 20 weeks, find themselves in a familiar position: about to face off in a Super Bowl. Four years ago, in the fortnight leading up to their first encounter in February 2008, the storylines were some variation of: "New England will absolutely obliterate New York."

Predictable, sure. But in much the same way gravity is predictable. Except that night the Giants had no use for immutable laws of nature. (Evidenced nicely by David Tyree's physics-defying grab that set up the winning touchdown.)


The Patriots' offensive firepower led by Brady and Randy Moss didn't matter. And neither did did the Spygate soap opera which served to galvanize the team earlier in the year and perpetuate the "us vs. them" mentality that gave guys like Rodney Harrison Tony Robbins-like purpose. (Harrison was known almost as much for his reliance on the "no respect for motivational purposes" shtick as he was for his tenacious, sometimes dirty style.)

This time will be different. Or least that's the thinking going in. The head coaches and quarterbacks are the same, but Eli Manning has matured and the Patriots' defense has regressed. The difference in talent between these two clubs that was once measured in miles is now better gauged in yards.

Put differently: it only seems like we've already seen this movie.

So before we take a look ahead, we thought it made sense to first take a look back.

The Rosters

The Giants head to Indianapolis with 16 players (nine starters) from the Super Bowl XLII-winning squad. The Patriots, meanwhile, have just seven players (five starters) remaining. You can view the 2007 rosters for both teams below; the players in red are still with their respective teams.



The takeaway from the list above: only one defensive player from Super Bowl XLII remains on the Patriots' roster. Harrison, Tedy Bruschi, Mike Vrabel, Richard Seymour, Asante Samuel -- all either retired or playing elsewhere -- and just Vince Wilfork, the team's 2004 first-round pick, is left. (Granted, Wilfork saved the best game of his career for last Sunday's AFC Championship matchup against the Ravens, which is timely.)

During the '07 regular season, the Patriots defense ranked 12th in league (fifth against the pass, 21st against the run), according to Football Outsiders. Four years later, and their travails have been well documented (30th overall, 28th pass, 28th run).

The one name that has remained constant: Tom Brady. He doesn't have Randy Moss but he doesn't need him. The offensive may not be as explosive without Moss but it's much more dynamic with Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.

On the surface, the 2011 Giants don't seem much different from the 2007 version. They won nine games this season (with 30 percent of the personnel from the Super Bowl XL roster), nine in '07; ranked 12th in team efficiency this time around versus 16th four years ago. But the similarities end there because like Brady in New England, Eli Manning has everything to do with the Giants' recent success.

For almost the entire '07 season, Manning was one of the league's most inconsistent quarterbacks. He ranked 38th in total value among NFL QBs, sandwiched between the likes of Brian Griese and Chet Lemon. Now Manning's fifth behind Brees, Rodgers, Brady, Romo and Stafford. That, more than anything else New York has done this season, is the reason they're playing one more game.

In Super Bowl XLII, the Giants had no expectations. In Super Bowl XLVI there will be plenty. And the question goes from "Can this team avoid embarrassing itself in front of a worldwide audience?" to "Can they play up to their potential and win this thing?"

Pregame Hype: A Look Back

Given these two offenses -- one record-breaking, the other aimless for much of the season -- it wasn't surprising that the Giants were getting Washington Generals-type odds to win this game.

Then:
the Patriots opened as 13.5-point favorites, according to Las Vegas. Five weeks before, in Week 17, New England was favored by 13 to beat the Giants in New York. Instead, the Pats needed a fourth-quarter comeback to eke out the 38-35 victory. (Now: the line opened Sunday with New England favored by a more modest 3.5 points.)

Then: AccuScore ran 10,000 simulations of the Giants-Patriots matchup and gave New York a 25 percent chance of winning. Sounds high -- Manning could throw that middle-of-the-field-Hail Mary to Tyree 100 times and Tyree comes down with it once. Tyree, it turns out, has impeccable timing.

Then: Cold Hard Football Facts called it the "mismatch of the century," complete with subheadings breaking down each individual mismatch ("on offense," "at quarterback," etc…).

Football Outsiders was less definitive, writing that "Most likely, the Giants won't pull a shocking upset like the 2001 Patriots, and they won't get blown off the field like the 1985 Patriots. Instead, they'll end up like a third team from New England's Super Bowl past: the 1996 Patriots, a good team outclassed by a great team. … (The 2007) Patriots will probably dispatch the Giants in a similar fashion, completing their historic 19-0 season. Not definitely. Just probably."

Then: CBSSports.com's Pete Prisco was one of the few national voices to pick the Giants. You don't even have to look it up because we've done it for you:


"I like the +11.5," Prisco said. "I think the Giants -- not only will they cover the number, they may win the game. … I think the Giants could definitely win the football game."

Then: Princess the camel (yep, you read that right -- the terrestrial counterpart to Paul the Octopus) also picked the Giants to win.

"I can't explain it, but her predictions, more often than not, are right on the money," said John Bergmann, general manager of Popcorn Park Zoo where Princess has lived since 2004. "I'm hoping she's right this time because I'm a Giants fan."

Turned out, Princess had a thing for the Mannings more so than the Giants; she picked Peyton and the Colts to win the year before. (Then again, maybe she'd seen then-Bears quarterback Rex Grossman play.)

From the ridiculous to the sublime…

Then: Another national columnist driving the Giants' bandwagon: Dr. Z. He admitted that picking New York was an opportunity to right a past wrong, when he picked the Colts to beat the Jets in Super Bowl III even though he had a feeling New York, 19-point underdogs by kickoff, had a chance to pull the upset. Forty years later, Dr. Z wasn't going to make the same mistake. Here's what he wrote on January 22, 2008:

"And gradually it dawned on me, as I toured the (Giants) locker room (after their NFC Championship game win over the Packers), picking up a quote here and there -- there isn't a way to stop Brady and Welker and Moss and Faulk and Maroney ... the whole riotous bunch. A team just has to be tougher, more resilient, more able to sustain high-level pressure on both sides of the ball for a longer period. And I honestly feel that the Giants can do it. Just look at what this improbable team has done so far."

And that's exactly how it played out.

Now: We mentioned above that the Patriots' defense has just one player from the last Super Bowl team. But much like the Giants' offense during the 2007 season, New England's D has come on of late. But will it be enough?

From CBSSports.com's Clark Judge: No team went to a Super Bowl with a defense ranked lower than 25th. Now you have the league's 27th-ranked unit (the Giants) and its 31st-ranked defense (New England), but, just a hunch, defense makes the difference in Indianapolis. It did when these two met in Super Bowl XLII, with the Giants sacking Tom Brady five times and holding the league's highest-scoring offense to 14 points.


The NY Giants and Patriots will face off in the Super Bowl once again. NFL on CBS analyst Solomon Wilcots joins the Tim Brando Show to discuss how the rematch will play out.

Now:
There used to be a time when you were never certain if Good Eli or Bad Eli would show up from one week to the next, one quarter to the next, and sometimes, one play to the next. Manning has transformed into one of the league's most consistent quarterbacks and now he has a chance to double up his older brother on total Super Bowl rings.

From Prisco's most recent column on Eli's evolution: "it all starts with Manning. He's no longer another star's little brother hoping to become special. He's arrived, which is what's so different from 2007. 'You're right there,' head coach Tom Coughlin said in the locker room late Sunday night (after the win over the 49ers). 'It is Eli. He is special now. He's the biggest difference between the two teams.'

Now: And that leads us to this, from colleague Will Brinson who wrote Sunday about two ancillary storylines could morph into something much larger should the Giants win: Is Eli 1) better than his brother and 2) now in the same class as Brady? 

The Game: What Happened

Obviously, you know exactly what happened. And depending on your perspective, you'll either take great joy in reliving the Super Bowl XLII memories or, as Patriots owner Robert Kraft said Monday, choosing instead to forget it ever happened.

"I’ve never been able to watch it," he said (via ESPN.com), echoing remarks made by quarterback Tom Brady earlier in the day. "I do remember the end of the game, a ball going through our cornerback’s hands [Asante Samuel] that if he had caught that ball and it hadn’t gone through his hands, we would have been able to take a knee and we would have won the game.

"And, you know, that Eli [Manning] doing a great job escaping from that pile of guys that we had on him, and whether the whistle blows and the great catch and all these things. In the end, there are a lot of little things. That was a great game, that was a great team, and we’re looking forward to having the privilege of going to Indianapolis."


Michael Strahan: excited about Super Bowl XLII's outcome.

As for what will happen … well, we'll find out shortly. And if you can't wait, we know a camel...

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Posted on: January 19, 2012 12:17 pm
 

Manning overcomes stomach bug, back with NYG

By Josh Katzowitz

Eli Manning was sent home from Giants practice Wednesday with what was termed a stomach bug, and for those who worried that the illness had the potential to keep him out of action through Sunday’s NFC title game, the Giants have assuaged your fears.

On Thursday morning, the Giants tweeted the following: "Eli is in the building today and will return to @Giants practice! #ALLIN"

Which is what coach Tom Coughlin predicted Wednesday when he said, “"Hopefully it's a 24-hour deal and he'll be better tomorrow.”

Turns out Manning is, and with Patriots quarterback Tom Brady returning to practice in New England, it seems that all four starting quarterbacks remaining will be available to lead their teams this weekend.




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Posted on: January 16, 2012 7:43 pm
Edited on: January 16, 2012 11:19 pm
 

Coughlin upset by 2 calls vs. GB, NFL explains

Tom Coughlin is oh-fer on his last eight challenges. (NFL.com)

By Ryan Wilson

NFL fans are familiar with Bill Leavy. He was the official in Super Bowl XL, often referred to as "that game where the Steelers were gifted the Lombardi Trophy over the Seahawks." After two controversial calls in Sunday's Giants-Packers game, Leavy is back, again for the wrong reasons.

First, there was what appeared to be a Greg Jennings fumble in which he was initially ruled down by contact. The Giants challenged, replays showed that Jennings had in fact fumbled, and all that was left was for Leavy to emerge from under the hood and announce that it was New York's ball. Except that didn't happen. Instead, inexplicably, he declared that "the ruling on the field stands."

(We went into this in great detail in Monday's Pick-6 Podcast, as well if the NFL should go to full-time officials. Spoiler alert: No. Either way, you can listen below.)


On Monday, the league explained Leavy's decision (via PFT).

“Rule 7, Section 2, Article 1 of the NFL Rule Book (page 35) states: ‘An official shall declare the ball dead and the down ended: (a) when a runner is contacted by a defensive player and touches the ground with any part of his body other than his hands or feet,’” the league said in a statement emailed to PFT by NFL spokesman Greg Aiello. “So by rule, if Jennings’ calf was on the ground prior to the ball coming loose, he is down by contact. Contrary to what was suggested during the game, there is no need for the runner’s knee to be on the ground.”

Uh-huh. We suppose you could look at this replay and say that maybe Jennings' shin (really, the shin?) was down before the ball came out. But you could also argue that Jennings lost possession before his shin contacted the turf.


Jennings sure looked like he fumbled.

In general, we don't like to whinge about the officiating because by the end of the season, it usually evens out for everybody. And credit to New York. Despite two atrocious calls (the other was when Osi Umenyiora was flagged for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Aaron Rodgers even though no part of his helmet came close to Rodgers' head), they won by 37-20.

A day later, Giants head coach Tom Coughlin remained confused by the two calls. He was asked Monday if there was anything on film that made the Jennings' non-fumble clearer. “There is but I won’t get into it,’’ he said.

And Umenyiora's roughing-the-passer penalty?

“Aggressive football play,’’ Coughlin said via the New York Post. “The quarterback is following through as he releases the ball. The hit is from the side. There’s not helmet involved. It’s from the shoulders to waist. We’ll coach that one forever.’’

Now all that's left if for Leavy to apologize to the Giants and their fans. That generally takes about four years.

Here's what he told the media in August 2010, unprompted:

"It was a tough thing for me. I kicked two calls in the fourth quarter [of Super Bowl XL between the Steelers and Seahawsk] and I impacted the game and as an official you never want to do that. It left me with a lot of sleepless nights and I think about it constantly. I'll go to my grave wishing that I'd been better. I know that I did my best at that time, but it wasn't good enough. When we make mistakes, you got to step up and own them. It's something that all officials have to deal with, but unfortunately when you have to deal with it in the Super Bowl it's difficult."

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Posted on: January 15, 2012 8:14 pm
Edited on: January 16, 2012 9:27 am
 

Sorting the Sunday Pile: Best Super Bowl matchup?

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 Divisional Round recap below and don't forget to subscribe via iTunes.

Ranking the Possible Super Bowl Matchups

Although there were some fairly drama-free games in the NFL playoffs thus far, there's no question we've been treated to some serious story-lining; Alex Smith's redemption alone was worth the price of admission. And with only three games remaining in the NFL season, we've narrowed the group of teams down a group of four elite squads that should produce an action-packed storyline.

But how do the matchups stack up in terms of watchability, entertainment value and general awesomeness? Here's my ranking:

1. Patriots vs. Giants
It's impossible to underscore how dramatic this matchup would be: after the Giants lost to the undefeated Packers 38-35, there was chatter of how this season looked eerily familiar to 2007 ... when the Giants upended the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII in a game that was one of the most memorable Super Bowls in NFL history.

That was the last time the Patriots made the Super Bowl and since then, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady have come under fire for not winning playoff games. The Pats won't be worried about their perfect season anymore, of course, but the Giants look very similar to the team that won the Super Bowl in 2007, thanks to a dominant pass rush and Eli Manning truly elevating his game.

The storyline, which would consist primarily of the word "revenge," might get a bit stale, but there would be an incredible amount of players with stories from that year and an ax to grind.

If you root for drama, star power and some trash talk, this is the matchup you want to see.

2. Ravens vs. Giants
The last time these teams faced off in the Super Bowl, Ray Lewis was Super Bowl MVP and the Baltimore defense had their way with Kerry Collins, picking him off four times en route to a 34-7 blowout.

Also: Tiki Barber was relevant, if that tells you anything about how long ago that was.

From a football perspective, this could be a high-scoring game that will go either way; a good game from Joe Flacco would probably result in a Ravens win, but no one will bank on that, so the Giants will be favored (maybe 4.5 points?).

Both teams are explosive enough on offense, but even more explosive on defense. We'd see points, but we'd also see plenty of smashmouth football. If someone got out to a big lead, the game wouldn't necessarily be over -- seeing Eli lead a comeback against the vaunted Ravens defense would be entertaining as all get-out.

And the chatter leading up to the game would be simply amazing. Jason Pierre-Paul, Antrel Rolle, Ed Reed and Ray Lewis? If you're a media member, you should be drooling at the quotability factor for this one.

3. Patriots vs. 49ers
The fact that these two teams play such contrasting styles could set the Super Bowl up for an interesting and perplexing matchup, but it's hard to believe that the Pats would be favored by less than a touchdown in this scenario.

Maybe San Francisco could pull off the upset: we've already seen that they can keep Drew Brees and the Saints down if given two weeks to prepare. And they'll absolutely be given the "no one believes in us" card if such a matchup takes place.

Here's the problem though: as good as Alex Smith looked on Saturday late, he didn't look like Brady did later that night. The 49ers are one of the few teams in the NFL that can, theoretically, match up in their base formation against the Pats tight ends.

But if Angry Brady show up again (and, we have to assume he showed up against the Ravens if they're here), this game could look like the last time the 49ers made the Super Bowl, only in reverse.

4. Ravens vs. 49ers
In terms of pure on-field entertainment value, this is a nightmare situation. Both the 49ers and Ravens succeed by running the ball and playing defense so it makes zero sense for this matchup to actually happen, given the importance of quarterback play in the NFL and the high-powered offenses we've seen so far in 2012.

Yes, their coaches are freaking brothers and there's no question that Harbaugh Bowl 2.0 -- the pair dueled it out on Thanksgiving night -- would provide an incredible amount of entertainment in the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl.

But how quickly would the "They're Related!" storyline get old? It might take a day, maybe two tops. Trust me, with that much free time you'll be sick of it before media day even happens, and don't even get me started on the players.

There's some star power here, but it's primarily on the defensive end with Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Patrick Willis, Justin Smith (if anyone knows who he is anyway) and the like.

Joe Flacco versus Alex Smith? Yuck. We'd be treated to a defensive battle along the likes of that 16-6 Ravens victory on Turkey Day. Or the BCS Championship Game.

On the bright side, at least the teams would've gotten there through a playoff. (Read: legitimately.)

Winners

Alex Smith: Sports are funny, because moments -- not careers -- ultimately tend to define certain players. Smith is one of those players and a pair of moments on Saturday -- his 28-yard touchdown run and then "The Snatch" in the end zone -- redefined his career. He could blossom into one of the next great NFL quarterbacks or he could sign a big contract and become a bust again. It won't matter, because Saturday's game will always remain a turning point of some point. Smith likely won't ever justify his draft slot or being taken over Aaron Rodgers, but Saturday was an unbelievable redemption story.

Eli Manning
: Manning was, in my brain, approximately 145 for 146 on third down on Sunday night against the Packers. Every time Green Bay got him in a bad spot, the dude sat back in the pocket, waited until things opened up, and drilled a beautiful pass to a wide-open receiver. He's had an amazing season that could've been even better, and he's finally getting the credit he deserves.

Marques Colston
: Colston's set to be an unrestricted free agent, and the lasting memory he provided potential suitors was an outstanding effort, as he caught nine balls for 136 yards and a toe-tapping touchdown that was basically the only time a Saints player got deep in the first half on Saturday. If the Saints don't reach a long-term deal with Drew Brees, they'll have to franchise him, and that means Colston can get loose on the market and make a pile of money.

Bill Belichick: All season long the chatter was that Belichick's defense would hinder the Patriots from winning a Super Bowl. Maybe that's true -- we'll find out next Sunday against Baltimore. But the the Broncos were supposed to have a physical running game right? And the blew up the Steelers defense? Right? Belichick showed why he's a defensive genius and one of the all-time great coaches in that blowout.

Hakeem Nicks: Thanks to Victor Cruz' breakout season in 2011, Nicks kind of got loss in the shuffle. He shouldn't have: his performance against Green Bay was stunning, and broke off a 66-yard, gazelle-like touchdown run and then broke the Packers spirit with a Hail-Mary catch at the end of the half. His final line? Seven catches, 165 yards and two touchdowns.

Jenkins got abused by Davis all day long. (Getty Images)

Losers

Malcolm Jenkins: You might want to pick on Roman Harper for getting worked over by Vernon Davis in the end zone on the final touchdown, but Jenkins is the reason the Niners even had a shot. First there's the teardrop Alex Smith dropped over Jenkins into Davis' outstretched arms before his now famous touchdown run. Then there's Jenkins coverage on Davis across the middle when he picked up 47 yards on the 49ers final drive. Burnt toast anyone? (Screenshots via Dave Cariello of Canal Street Chronicles.)

Jacoby Jones
:
Dude tried to field a punt off a hop inside his own 20 on the Texans second possession of the game, didn't field it cleanly, got rocked, fumbled the ball and gave the Ravens a free touchdown. In case you missed it, the Ravens won by seven points.

Cam Cameron
: With the Texans holding two timeouts, 3:04 left in the game and the Ravens up four and in the Texans red zone, Cameron called for two pass plays. Both passes were incomplete and the Ravens kicked a field goal with 2:56 left. They burned eight seconds and didn't make the Texans use a timeout. Then on third and a half-inch with 1:38 remaining, Cameron called for a Vonta Leach run, instead of having his fullback block for Ray Rice. There never should've been enough time for a second possession for Houston in the first place.

NFL Officials: For two consecutive weekends, the NFL officiating has been, quite simply, terrible. The guys in stripes have a really difficult job, made even more difficult in today's world where jerks take pictures of their televisions and post them to Twitter. But during the NFL playoffs, the quality of work done by the zebras has really highlighted some of the flaws in the way in-game rules are applied in football. Something's gotta change.

Tim Tebow: We'd also accept John Elway or John Fox here, because the offseason's going to be miserable for all three of them despite winning a division title and a playoff game. Tebow's poor showing against the Patriots means everyone's got to wonder if he can be a "real" quarterback for the Broncos and as such, every time Fox, Elway or Tebow get anywhere near a microphone, they'll be asked about Tebow's status. It will unquestionably be annoying by the time next season starts.

State Farm: You guys really going to keep running the "Discount Double Check" commercials for the next month? Because that's going to be more awkward than Pepsi Max running Rex Ryan halftime speeches after the Jets miss the playoffs. (Please don't raise my insurance rates though.)

The Big Questions

 
Plenty of questions still remain about Flacco. (AP)

1. Did Joe Flacco answer his critics on Sunday?
Nope. The playcalling was bad and the Texans have a really good defense, but Flacco looked pretty awful all things considered. His two touchdown passes were nice, but were it not for some sick catches from his receivers, Flacco's numbers (14 of 27 for 176 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions) would've been much worse. It's not all his fault this game was so close, but an elite performance would've resulted in a blowout.

2. Should Alex Smith have fallen down before scoring late Saturday?
Yes. This debate livened up our Twitter followers on Saturday evening, but the reality is, with the 49ers down 24-23 and Smith should've fallen to the ground, let the Niners melt the clock, force the Saints to use their timeouts, and the kick a field goal with, in the best-case scenario, no time remaining. Instead, Drew Brees got the ball back with 1:51 remaining and had time to score. Of course, he also scored too quickly, giving Smith time to cement his comeback legacy in San Francisco, but that's beside the point. Smith going down could have iced the game away, we just wouldn't have gotten all that drama.

3. Is it time for Gregg Williams to get out of town?
Probably. Williams shouldn't be the scapegoat for New Orleans lack of success, because he called a heck of a game on Saturday against the 49ers. With the Saints offense struggling, Williams defense kept the Saints in the game by limiting the 49ers points off turnovers. But because Smith drove the Niners to two scores in the last 150 seconds, you can bet that Williams will get a lot of the blame. He's got an easy out by joining Jeff Fisher with the Rams and he should probably jump on that.

4. Do we need full-time referees?
NO. Wilson and I batted this idea around some on chat (and talked about it on the podcast), but why would giving referees more money and job security equate to an incentive for them to be right more often? It doesn't. Giving them more time to learn the rules and properly apply them? Yeah, that would be great. It would also be great if the NFL made applying the rules in a fashion that doesn't screw up the game more practical, but that's another story for another day.

5. Is being a wild-card in the playoffs better?
Maybe? I dunno. I do know this: you look at the Packers and you look at the Giants. One team basically got three weeks off and cooled down from an unholy hot streak. The other team squeaked into the playoffs and got hot, playing their best football at the right time. The latter team, the Giants, are still alive.

6. Is Tom Coughlin still on the hot seat?

LOL. Also, LOL at Giants fans who wanted Coughlin fired and/or put on the hot seat when the Giants were losing to the Saints-49ers-Packers in succession, with a surprising win against the Patriots mixed in. Give the dude an extension already, he deserves it.

7. Will you please provide a picture of Andy Reid in the Punt/Pass/Kick contest?
Thought you'd never ask. Every single time the contest winners are shown on television, I can't help but think of this amazing photo:



8. How good can the 49ers offense be?

Very good. I think -- the progression of Vernon Davis and Alex Smith over the course of the season leads me to believe Harbaugh would be smart to bring his signal caller back, keep some continuity and let the pieces on the offense grow into the system even more, like they did throughout the year. It's quite possible they could end up being potent.

GIF O' THE WEEK

Decent catch by Arian Foster here:

Worth 1,000 Words


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Posted on: January 15, 2012 3:41 pm
 

Tiki Barber: 'I'm not trying to come back' now

Barber says his NFL comeback attempt is over and is now trying to mend some fences. (Getty Images)

By Ryan Wilson

And so it ends … again: Tiki Barber has given up his dream of returning to the NFL even though that career path had been decided for him when the NFL took a collective pass on his services this season.

"No. No. I'm not trying to come back," Barber said according to ESPNNewYork.com. "It was an excuse for me to get up off the couch and do something, and it worked, because now I'm engaged in a few different things and I feel really strong about where I am personally, and that's all that matters in life."

But Barber's not in the news because he didn't make it as a 36-year-old running back. He's a story because his former team, the Giants, are in the playoffs and Barber was looking to un-burn some bridges he set ablaze during his post-NFL career as an NBC Sports analyst.

"We tried [to set up a meeting with Giants head coach Tom Coughlin]. He said no, through his agent, (Giants vice president of communications) Pat Hanlon," Barber said of his attempt to bury the hatchet. "But one of these days I'm sure it'll happen, because as we know, time heals all wounds. And I think at the end of the day, Giants fans, despite their dislike of me at times, know that I was one of the guys that put (it) on the line every time I put on my uniform."

At one time or another, Barber had a falling out with just about everybody in New York, including his former coach and franchise quarterback Eli Manning. In 2007, before New York upset New England in the Super Bowl, Barber famously questioned Manning's leadership skills.

Eli's response at the time:

"I'm not going to lose any sleep about what Tiki has to say. I guess I could have questioned his leadership skills last year with calling out the coach and having articles about him retiring in the middle of the season, and (how) he's lost the heart (to play). As a quarterback, you're reading that your running back has lost the heart to play the game and it's about the 10th week. I can see that a little bit at times."

Last summer, after Barber had announced his intentions to return to the NFL, former players-turned-TV-analysts Warren Sapp and Michael Strahan spoke frankly about why it was an awful idea.

“I didn’t think much of him when he did play,” Sapp told Rich Eisen on the aptly named Rich Eisen Podcast. ”I mean that’s the whole point. He was a fumbler all the way through his life, and then all of a sudden, somebody taught him how to hold the ball up high and then he (left the Giants) and said, Eli (Manning) can’t lead them and they’ll never win a championship.

“That kind of lends to who I’m talking about. This is the same guy. This is all encompassed into the same thing. There’s no way you turn your back on your teammates that block for you, that gave you the ball on short fields and did whatever they did. … There’s still no reason for you to attack your teammates.”

Strahan, who played with Barber in New York, was in no hurry to defend his former teammate. “Sapp is 100 percent right,” he said. “Only thing is, if it comes to playing football, he can play.”

Time has softened Barber, it seems. He now recognizes that Eli is a top-flight quarterback and has had a lot to do with the Giants' success.

"Here's what I look for when I'm looking for an elite quarterback. Someone that no matter the circumstances -- whether you're playing great, whether you're playing horrible -- has that unfettered drive to succeed," Barber said.

"That's what Eli has learned over the last five or six years -- from the early days when I saw him where everything used to rattle him -- to now. No matter what happens, he's always into the football game and doing something to help his team win. That's my definition of an elite quarterback, and why Eli is in on that conversation now."

Too little, too late? Probably.

But Barber sounds like he's working through the five stages of grief and after denial, anger, bargaining and depression, he's finally on acceptance. And trying to get on with the rest of his life.

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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