Tag:Philadelphia Eagles
Posted on: January 2, 2012 10:27 am
Edited on: January 2, 2012 11:28 am
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Steve Spagnuolo fired by Rams

The coaching hot seat begins to claim victims: St. Louis dumps Steve Spagnuolo after three seasons

By Ryan Wilson

Steve Spagnuolo made his name during Super Bowl XLII, when he devised a game plan to stop the thought-to-be-unstoppable 2007 New England Patriots, who were 18-0 heading into the championship game and went back to Foxboro 18-1. A year later, Spagnuolo replaced Jim Haslett (who had replaced Scott Linehan) as the Rams head coach.

Now, three years later, he'll be replaced by the next guy the organization thinks can save the Rams. On Monday, St. Louis fired Spagnuolo after going 10-38 in three season, including one win in '09 and two in '11. The news was first reported by Fox Sports' Jay Glazer.

Much like Raheem Morris in Tampa Bay, Spagnuolo may have been a victim of his own success. In 2010, the Rams were 7-9 and a Week 17 victory away from winning the division and going to the playoffs for the first time since 2004 (where, incidentally, they qualified as an 8-8 team). Now St. Louis is headed for the No. 2 overall pick in April's draft two years after they selected quarterback Sam Bradford with the first-overall pick.

"We considered some very qualified and outstanding candidates for this position but we kept coming back to Steve Spagnuolo," General Manager Billy Devaney said in January 2009. "Steve has been on some outstanding defensive staffs during his 10 seasons in the NFL. He represented what we were looking for."

And that was the plan: Spags would bolster the Rams' porous defense (in 2008, they were 30th, according to Football Ousiders; 27th against the pass, 32nd against the run). Except that didn't happen: St. Louis ranked 31st in '09, 20th in '10 and 19th in '11. It was an improvement, but clearly not enough to change the Rams' fortunes. Exacerbating matters: the offense was worse, even with Bradford under center for parts of the last two seasons.

(Before Spags) 2008 - 32nd overall, 32nd passing, 29th rushing
(With Spags) 2009 - 32nd, 32nd, 25th
2010 - 30th, 27th, 31st
2011 - 32nd, 31st, 32nd

Now what? There were reports last week that Jon Gruden and A.J. Smith could be headed to St. Louis but Gruden said later that he's returning to ESPN. So the Rams will look elsewhere. As for Spagnuolo, he could end up in Philadelphia as the Eagles' defensive coordinator.

That could mean curtains for Eagles incumbent Juan Castillo, the longtime offensive assistant hired as the defensive coordinator prior to the season. There were reports earlier this month that Reid's future in Philly was contingent on parting ways with Castillo. (Reid later denied it.)  Of course, Castillo could return to coaching the offensive line, a position he held from 1998-2010 in Philly. As for Spags' imminent arrival, there are some logistics to take care of first.

Spags is certainly qualified for the job but the Eagles also have Jim Washburn as their defensive line coach. Washburn came to Philly from Tennessee and he brought the "wide nine" with him. It's a scheme built on getting pressure from the front four and involves little blitzing. Spags was a zone-blitzing maniac during his DC days.

Whatever happens, Spagnuolo's talents will be in demand. And if he again proves himself as a coordinator he'll likely get another chance at a head-coaching gig down the line.

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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: January 1, 2012 12:47 pm
Edited on: January 1, 2012 1:09 pm
 

Casserly: 'Strong sentiment' for Caldwell return

Caldwell appreciates the Colts trying to save his gig. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

There's a lot of chatter about potential coaching changes around the NFL, with Black Monday looming in less than 24 hours. Jim Caldwell of the Colts, Norv Turner of the Chargers, Andy Reid of the Eagles and Steve Spanguolo of the Rams are all considered on the proverbial hot seat.

The Giants Tom Coughlin is much-maligned in New York too, but CBS Sports Charley Casserly reported on Sunday that Coughlin's gig is safe ("he will be back") regardless of whether or not the Giants make the playoffs this season.

Casserly also broke down the status for the other guys -- Reid is the safest of the bunch by far.

"I expect Andy Reid to be back as head coach of the Eagles next year," Casserly reported on The NFL Today. "As far as defensive coordinator Juan Castillo, as of yesterday, no decision had been made. However, it is Andy Reid's total decision."

That could make for an interesting in-house argument in Philly. So could Caldwell's status as head coach, according to Casserly.

"There's strong sentiment in the building to bring him back because of how hard the Colts have played this year," Casserly told James Brown.


That's pretty shocking. The Colts have won two games in a row and are looking for three against Jacksonville but even the late-season run seemed like a classic case of too little, too late. Apparently Caldwell's still got a shot at saving his gig, which would be ironic, considering he'd probably have to lose out on Andrew Luck to do so.

Not having a shot? Spags and Norv, according to Casserly.

"I do not expect [Turner] to be back as head coach [of the Chargers], however, I look for him to get many opportunities as an offensive coordinator in the league," Casserly said.

One of those spots could be with the Jets, as we noted earlier when talking about Rex Ryan's candle-lighting that Norv's a candidate to replace Brian Schottenheimer, depending on how the dominos Sunday.

Spags is in a similar boat, Casserly reported, as he'll be out as head coach and chased by several teams as a coordinator.

"In St. Louis, expect changes to be made and Steve Spagnuolo to be out as head coach," Casserly said Sunday. "However, he will be a highly sought-after defensive coordinator next year."

To sum up: heads are going to roll in the offseason (just like every year). The question is just how many.


Follow all the Week 17 action live: Inactives | Scoreboard

1 p.m. ET games:
DET-GB | TEN-HOU | IND-JAC | NYJ-MIA | CHI-MIN | BUF-NE | CAR-NO | WAS-PHI | SF-STL

4 p.m. ET games:
TB-ATL | BAL-CIN | PIT-CLE | SEA-ARI | KC-DEN | SD-OAK


Posted on: January 1, 2012 11:57 am
Edited on: January 1, 2012 12:21 pm
 

LeSean McCoy inactive for Week 17 versus Redskins

Shady's inactive for Week 17. (AP)
By Will Brinson

LeSean McCoy and the Eagles talked all week long that they were amped up about Shady chasing a rushing title despite dealing with a high ankle sprain. And then the Eagles decided to make McCoy inactive Sunday against Washington.

In fact, even though McCoy said himself that he probably wouldn't play, Philly coach Andy Reid directly rebutted that in his press conference this week.

Despite the unnecessary gamesmanship, this is the smart move, though. McCoy is chasing Maurice Jones-Drew for the NFL rushing title, but he's 128 rushing yards behind Mojo.

The Colts allow 140.9 yards on the ground (29th in the NFL) and 4.2 yards per carry on the ground (16th), so it's not a stretch to think that MJD would pick up 100-plus yards.

Shady rolling for 228 on a bum ankle? That's the definition of a stretch.


And yeah, McCoy is within 123 yards of breaking Wilbert Montgomery's Eagles single-season record of 1,512 rushing yards. But he's got plenty of career remaining to break that record; the real shame would be him suffering an injury that could screw up his 2012 in a meaningless Week 17 game.

Of course, it's also probably worth wondering why McCoy spent all week practicing with the first team if he wasn't ever going to play.

Follow all the Week 17 action live: Inactives | Scoreboard

1 p.m. ET games:
DET-GB | TEN-HOU | IND-JAC | NYJ-MIA | CHI-MIN | BUF-NE | CAR-NO | WAS-PHI | SF-STL

4 p.m. ET games:
TB-ATL | BAL-CIN | PIT-CLE | SEA-ARI | KC-DEN | SD-OA

Posted on: December 27, 2011 4:15 pm
 

Could Steve Spagnuolo join Andy Reid in Philly?

Spags was a defensive assistant under Reid from 1999-2003. (Getty Images/US PRESSWIRE)

By Ryan Wilson

Come Monday, there will be plenty of teams looking for head coaches. The Dolphins, Chiefs and Jaguars have already parted ways with Tony Sparano, Todd Haley and Jack Del Rio, and the Rams, Colts, Chargers and Buccaneers could pink-slip their respective coaches by next week.

So it won't come as a surprise if St. Louis decides to move on from Steve Spagnuolo. In three seasons, Spags has gone 1-15, 7-9 and is 2-13 as the Rams enter Week 17. In fact, there's the distinct possibility that St. Louis could have the first overall pick for the second time in three years.

On Monday night, the San Diego Union-Tribune's Kevin Acee reported that Jon Gruden might be tabbed to replace Spagnuolo in St. Louis, and CBSSports.com's Mike Freeman confirmed through two sources and Gruden indeed was looking to get back into the NFL.

Overlooked in Acee's story: Spagnuolo could be reunited with Andy Reid in Philadelphia.

"League sources also said this week that it is all but certain that Spagnuolo will join Andy Reid’s staff in Philadelphia as the Eagles’ defensive coordinator."

That means curtains for Juan Castillo, the longtime offensive assistant hired as the defensive coordinator prior to the season. There were reports earlier this month that Reid's future in Philly was contingent on parting ways with Castillo. (Reid later denied it.)  Of course, Castillo could return to coaching the offensive line, a position he held from 1998-2010 in Philly. As for Spags' imminent arrival, there are some logistics to take care of first.

He's certainly qualified for the job -- Spagnuolo was the Giants' defensive coordinator when they beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl four years ago -- but the Eagles also have Jim Washburn as their defensive line coach. Washburn came to Philly from Tennessee and he brought the "wide nine" with him. It's a scheme built on getting pressure from the front four and involves little blitzing. Spags was a zone-blitzing maniac during his DC days.

As Philly.com's Sheil Kapadia points out, there's also the matter of Spags being available (likely), the Eagles willing to move on from Castillo (also likely), and Spags' interest in the defensive coordinator's gig in light of other potential offers. And then we can begin the Dream Team talk in earnest (that's a joke).

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Posted on: December 26, 2011 5:03 pm
Edited on: December 26, 2011 5:51 pm
 

Andy Reid says LeSean McCoy will play Week 17

Shady's says he's getting shut down for the season. (AP)
By Will Brinson

Week 17 means nothing for the Eagles, who are already eliminated from the postseason despite their Week 16 20-7 victory over Dallas. But it was going to mean something for running back LeSean McCoy, who had a shot at the NFL rushing title as well the Philly single-season record for rushing yards.
Week 16 Recap

But McCoy won't be topping Wilbert Montgomery's club record for rushing yards now, at least based on his comments Monday.

"Montgomery, he’s probably smiling right now," McCoy said, per Bob Grotz of the Delaware County Times. "I’ll get it next year – hopefully."

McCoy was 123 yards shy of Montgomery's franchise record for rushing yards of 1,512 yards that he set in 1979, so he stood a pretty good chance of topping that, with the Eagles set to play the Redskins in the final game of the season.

So the Eagles are smart to shut Shady down for the year ... except they're not apparently.

"McCoy has a slight ankle sprain, but he’ll be fine," Andy Reid said on Monday. "I know there was something put out there that he wasn’t going to play, but that’s not the case. [His comments] were more towards how many yards he thought he needed to break Wilbert Montgomery’s record."

Reid said all his starters will play, provided they're healthy, which is interesting given what happened to Adrian Peterson -- a talented running back dealing with an ankle sprain who played in a meaningless game and blew out his knee -- in Week 16.

The rushing title wasn't likely going to happen anyway: McCoy's 1,309 yards is nearly 130 shy of Maurice Jones-Drew's league-leading 1,437 rushing yards on the season.

And unlike Montgomery, MJD will actually play on Sunday. So will McCoy, apparently.

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Posted on: December 24, 2011 7:37 pm
Edited on: December 26, 2011 1:43 pm
 

Sorting the Sunday Pile, Week 16: Cam's the GOAT

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. Slightly condensed version this week as it's the holidays. No podcast, no picture of the week and only eight questions. Blame Mrs. Brinson if you're so inclined. Send your complaints, questions and comments to Will Brinson on Twitter.

The Greatest Rookie Season Ever?

That's right. The greatest rookie season ever is precisely what Cam Newton's going to wrap up in Week 17 against the Saints a game of no real consequence when it comes to his legacy as the best rookie in NFL history.

There should be no argument that Cam's season, even without the final week, goes down as the greatest season by a rookie quarterback in history. He has the record for most passing yards in a season (again, with a week to go) by a rookie. He has the record for most passing yards in a game by a rookie. He has the record for most rushing touchdowns in a season by any quarterback.

Of the seven rookie quarterbacks with 3,000 passing yards, Newton doesn't have the most passing touchdowns, but he doesn't have the most interceptions either. There shouldn't be any question that his rookie year is the greatest by any quarterback.

As far as other rookies go, you could argue for Eric Dickerson (more than 2,000 total yards and 20 touchdowns in 1983), Dick Lane (14 interceptions, two pick sixes for Night Train in 1952), Randy Moss (17 touchdowns and 1,313 receiving yards in 1998) or Lawrence Taylor (9.5 sacks -- before they were even counted -- in 1981) if you want.

But none of those guys dealt with the complexities of running an offense. None of those guys dealt with a lockout-shortened offseason. None of those guys performed the way they did under the intense scrutiny of 2011 Twitteratiland. None of those guys carried the expectations of the No. 1 overall pick who was supposed to save a franchise ... or cost a GM his job simply because no one was sure how good they'd be. None of those guys inspired the fierce debate that Newton did leading up to being drafted.

Cam's rejuvenated a franchise that was dead in the water and he might be a top-10 quarterback in the NFL right now. It's been a marvel to watch him perform and it's insane to think that there was a debate as to whether or not the Panthers should take him.

Winners

Matthew Stafford: The Lions are in the playoffs. That's worthy of "winner inclusion" all by itself. But the Lions were secretly facing a pretty bad situation, with the white-hot Chargers and the very good Packers over the next two weeks. 9-7 and getting snuck out of the playoffs wasn't out of the question at all. Until Stafford got his surgical precision on and shredded the San Diego secondary, going 29 of 36 with 373 yards and three touchdowns. Stafford's next up for the "is he or isn't he elite" debate.

Pete Prisco
: Yes, my CBSSports.com colleague and former life coach (Pete doesn't know it, but I fired him when he suggested I not wear socks with my loafers). Prisco's the only guy that I know of who refused to budge off his negative stance of Tebow during the Broncos winning streak. There might be an argument that Pete's stubborn and you might be inclined to call him a "hater" but with the way that Tebow egged on Saturday, there are going to be a LOT of people ripping him over the next week. And Prisco's the only one of those people who's stood his ground the whole time.

Kevin Kolb:
The Cardinals were eliminated from playoff contention on Saturday and that means Kolb avoided his worst possible nightmare. That would be "John Skelton marching Arizona to an improbable postseason run and the team deciding to bail on Kolb's albatross of a contract." Instead, Arizona now plays out the string and regroups for 2012, likely with Kolb as the starting quarterback for at least another year.

Matt Forte
: What's that, you say? Forte didn't play on Saturday. Oh, I know that. I also know that if the Vikings hadn't handed Adrian Peterson a monster contract before the 2011 season, things would be awkward right about now. Over the past month, the Bears have collapsed without Forte and Jay Cutler, meaning he's beefed up his leverage as an important player for the franchise and, with the Peterson injury, justified his rationale for wanting a new contract.

Jerome Simpson: Did you see his touchdown catch?

Turner's time might be up in San Diego. (US Presswire)

Losers

Norv Turner: A lot of credit goes to the Lions for the way they played on Saturday. Detroit is a very good team and a formidable opponent. But how can the Chargers not show up, especially knowing that the Broncos lost and that they were either a Bengals/Jets pair of losses or a Broncos loss in Week 17 away from making the playoffs? That's still not "controlling your own destiny" but out of everyone who was gifted an early Christmas present during the early games on Sunday, Turner and the Chargers were probably the luckiest. A 24-0 halftime deficit in the most critical game of the season isn't going to inspire any Spanos family members to keep their pink slips tucked away.

Jason Garrett
: No one's going to blame him for losing to Philly. That's what happens with Stephen McGee under center. But holy cow does Garrett have the hardest decision -- and the most scrutiny -- of his short career coming up over the next week. The Giants and Cowboys will play in Week 17, with a trip to the postseason and a division championship on the line. Tony Romo will almost certainly play, but will he be effective? Can Garrett gameplan in order to play to Romo's injury? Will he cough up a shot at the postseason? These are the ways we will judge him after next week's game. And by "we" I obviously mean "Jerry Jones and his potentially angry family."

Adrian Peterson
: AP's leg injury on Sunday was so brutal that I even feel like a jerk putting him in the "losers" section. But if you saw the horrific nature of Peterson's injury, you know precisely why he's not feeling like a winner right now. The Vikings announced after the game that it was a sprained knee but -- all due respect to Minnesota -- that's just not believable at all. The multiple reports that it's a torn ACL (and potentially worse) make a lot more sense. It's just sad that Peterson could miss significant time because he was playing in a meaningless game for a three-win team.

Rex Ryan: Ryan spent all week running his mouth about the New York-New York rivalry and when push came to shove, his guy Mark Sanchez fumbled on the Giants goal line and threw a "pass" to an offensive lineman that resulted in a safety in a devastating loss on Saturday. The Darrelle Revis/Antonio Cromartie combo got torched by Victor Cruz (that's his name, right?) and Brandon Jacobs got to say "It's time to shut up, fat boy." That's just embarrassing. Oh, right, and the Jets lost control of their own destiny with respect to the playoffs. It wouldn't be nearly as mortifying if Ryan hadn't run his mouth all week.

Pipedreams: Just like San Diego, the Eagles were very much a longshot to make the playoffs. But I'm telling you, there was a chance. Then the Giants killed that chance (adding to their winner-y-ness) with a win over the Jets. That means Week 17 is no longer a dream scenario for fans of long shots, because both early-season favorites are now removed from any chance of a postseason berth. You don't have to root for the Eagles or Chargers. In fact, you can root against them. But if you don't like ridiculous storylines and clowning around with playoff predictors then we're not friends.

The Big Questions

 
The new Tebow narrative could be awkward. (AP)

1. What's the new Tim Tebow narrative?
No, but it's on life support (and Prisco wants to pull the plug!). Look, Tebow can still win against Kansas City in Week 17, or even lose as long as the Chargers beat the Raiders. But think about how quickly this narrative could be absolutely flipped on its head: if Kyle Orton, the man Tebow replaced, beats Tebow in Week 17 because Tebow can't win late, and the Raiders beat the Chargers and make the playoffs, the Broncos new narrative will be as chokers. No, really, it will. And that is nuts when you consider where we were just two weeks ago.

2. Why does Leslie Frazier keep playing guys who are hurt?
NO CLUE. But this is a story that's flown under the radar for the past few weeks and it culminated with AP's injury against Washington, as well as the concussion that Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder suffered on Saturday. The Vikings are 3-12 after winning on Christmas Eve, but they didn't even need Peterson or Ponder to put up points -- it was all Joe Webb against the Redskins. Of course, winning, at this point, should be secondary. Frazier's top priority should be the health of his franchise quarterback and running back. Instead, these guys keep getting trotted out with injuries late in a lost season. That's not the sort of thing that keeps a job safe for long.

3. Did Raheem Morris get fired on Saturday?

Almost certainly. The Panthers went out and walloped Tampa Bay 48-16 in Charlotte, meaning that the Bucs lost their eighth game in a row.  Worse than the losses is the way they've happened: over the last four games, the Buccaneers have been outscored 158-64. They've given up 40 points to the Panthers and Jaguars and have topped 20 points just once since their trip to London in late October when things really started to unravel. It's an embarrassing collapse down the stretch and it's hard to blame the Glazer family and GM Mark Dominik when (not if) they fire Morris.

4. Anyone else getting fired?
Gotta think that Turner's done in San Diego now and that Romeo Crennel's the only interim hanging around. I can't buy that Jim Caldwell's saving his job so I'd add him to the list too. But I think any questions about Chan Gailey can now be reserved for a while, given the way he dismantled the Broncos on Sunday.

5.  Why should Tom Brady be worried?
Because his offensive lineman are dropping like flies. And while the Patriots are going to continue being good because that's what the Patriots do, there's absolutely cause for concern in New England if Logan Mankins and Matt Light are hurt for any length of time. As you may be aware, this isn't a team predicated on playing any sort of defense, and if they can't protect Tom Brady, there's little chance of them advancing in the postseason.

5. How mad are the 49ers?
Furious. And it doesn't matter that they won, because they gave up a rushing touchdown to Marshawn Lynch. They might hold the record for most games without one, but you know they wanted to make it the entire season. They did not.

6. Am I going to have to watch Matt Flynn on Christmas night?
Not as much as you might have feared. The 49ers won against the Seahawks on Saturday, and that means Green Bay hasn't clinched the top seed yet. Which means that Aaron Rodgers will stay in the game against the Bears for the entire game, barring an absolute Packers blowout.

7. Was Simpson's catch the play of the year?
Yup, it sure was. Maybe not the "play of the century" or anything insane like people are saying, but it was an absolutely bananas catch and it deserves incredible props. Watch -- it's going to be the type of thing you talk with your relatives about on Christmas. That's the way you can truly judge the greatness of a play.

8. Should Ben Roethlisberger play next week?
No. There's just no need. Joe Flacco and Ray Rice handled the Browns just fine in Week 16, and Charlie Batch/Rashard Mendenhall can do the same in Week 17. Rest the guy, run the ball, cross your fingers that Cincy can summon the strength to beat the Ravens on the road and let Roethlisberger rest.

GIF O' THE WEEK

I mean duh. Did you notice I liked it?



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Posted on: December 24, 2011 10:33 am
Edited on: December 24, 2011 10:35 am
 

Felix Jones playing time depends on Giants game?

Felix's playing time reportedly hinges on the 1:00 games. (Getty Images)

By Will Brinson


Follow all the Week 16 action live: Inactives | Scoreboard

1 p.m. ET games:
CLE-BAL | DEN-BUF | TB-CAR | ARI-CIN | OAK-KC | MIA-NE | NYG-NYJ | STL-PIT | JAC-TEN | MIN-WAS

4 p.m. ET games:
SD-DET | PHI-DAL | SF-SEA


At 4:15 on Saturday, Dallas and Philadelphia will square off with a lot on the line ... unless the Giants win at 1:00. Then the game won't mean as much, because the Eagles will be eliminated if the G-men topple the Jets. As a result, Cowboys running back Felix Jones will reportedly only play if the Cowboys can clinch the division with a victory.

That's according to Matt Mosley of Fox Sports Southwest, who says Felix will "not play a snap" against the Eagles unless the Cowboys are playing to win the division. Even then, according to Mosley, he's "50-50." (Mosley added that "there is no upside to starting" Felix in fantasy.)

Here's how this whole thing works: if the Eagles beat the Cowboys, the Giants lose to the Jets, and the Giants beat the Cowboys next week, the Eagles will somehow win the division if they also beat the Redskins. There's much reason for hope in Philly right now.

But that whole notion is toppled if the Giants win on Christmas Eve, because the Eagles will be -- literally -- eliminated from playoff contention with a Giants victory. And a Giants win also means the Cowboys can't clinch until Week 17 anyway, when they play the Giants. (Even with a victory, the Cowboys would be 9-6 and the Giants would be 8-7; Week 16 is irrelevant for the NFC East if they both win on Sunday.)

Confused? Excellent. But all you really know, as it relates to the Cowboys game plan, is that Felix Jones won't be playing unless the Cowboys have a chance to lock up the NFC East, and even then he'll probably only play a few snaps.


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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