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Tag:Mike Shanahan
Posted on: October 17, 2011 4:00 pm
 

Kurt Coleman: 'I was able to read Rex all day'

Eagles safety Kurt Coleman had a bead on 'Skins QB Rex Grossman Sunday. (US PRESSWIRE)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

Through five games, the Eagles' defense was among the worst in the league (26th overall, 20th against the pass, 31st against the rush) and had shown an uncanny ability to miss tackles, no matter the ball-carrier or the level of difficulty.

Well, it only took an afternoon in FedEx Field to change all that. With Rex Grossman winging balls around the yard like a blindfolded drunk playing darts, Philadelphia's defense looked impressive and not like a group coached up by a former offensive assistant.

While there's still some discussion about Grossman keeping his job (we couldn't believe it either), Eagles safety Kurt Coleman, who was the beneficiary of three Grossman interceptions Sunday, explained that he had little trouble figuring out where Bad Rex was going with the ball.

"To be honest, I give all the credit to my teammates,” Coleman said during an appearance on Sirius XM NFL Radio (via the Sports Bog's Dan Steinberg). “They were able to get a lot of pressure on Rex. And for myself, I was able to read Rex all day. I had a great feeling for where he was going to all of his wide receivers. And when it came down to it, it was either me or the other guy making a play, and I wasn’t gonna let that other guy make the play.”

Did things change when Redskins coach Mike Shanahan pulled Grossman for John Beck?

“We definitely had to just stay with the same plan,” Coleman said. “And for myself, like I said, I was having a great time reading Rex. It’s almost like when you bring in a relief pitcher, it kind of takes a little bit of time to get used to him. Fortunately enough for us, we knew that they had to throw the ball. And if you can just limit the deep play, the big play, the time was in our favor.”

But before we condemn Grossman for, well, playing like we expected him to, he wants you to know that all the interceptions weren't his fault.

“Some of these, you’ve got to trust other people to make a cut to cross a safety’s face," he said during the post-game press conference. "I haven’t seen it on tape, I’m not saying [tight end] Fred [Davis] didn’t do that. But things are tight, and you have to make quick decisions, so I trusted that he was gonna be able to cross the safety’s face on his route. And I’m not sure what happened but he wasn’t able to, [and] the safety stepped up.”

And Davis, to his credit, took responsibility for the pick in question (for those keeping score, it was Grossman's third interception on the afternoon): “I feel like I DEFINITELY should have crossed that safety’s face," he said, via the Sports Bog. "That was one that was DEFINITELY my fault on that one.”

So through six weeks, the Redskins are 3-2 and second in the NFC East behind the Giants. It could we worse, right? It depends on who you ask. Take former Redskins great John Riggins, who wondered during Sunday's postgame show about Shanahan's quarterback plans.

“I gotta believe if I’m in that locker room, I’ve got to be really angry with Shanahan, because I’m going Rex is a nice guy, but this is what he does, coach. How come it took you so long to figure this out?he said.

Pretty sure Riggins isn't alone in that thinking.

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Posted on: October 17, 2011 3:07 am
Edited on: October 17, 2011 1:34 pm
 

Sorting the Sunday Pile: Week 6

Posted by Will Brinson


Sorting the Sunday Pile takes all of Sunday's NFL action and figures out the most important storylines for you to digest. Send your complaints, questions and comments to Will Brinson on Twitter. Make sure and listen to our Week 6 podcast review below as well and feel free to subscribe via iTunes.

1. What's Your Deal?
By now, you've undoubtedly seen the little melee that erupted between Jim Harbaugh and Jim Schwartz following San Francisco's 25-19 victory in Detroit.

NFL VP of Communications Greg Aiello confirmed to CBS Sports following the game that the NFL will look into the near-fight that went down, and I'd be pretty shocked if both coaches didn't get hit with some kind of fine. Though Harbaugh didn't do much that was noticeable on the video, he did admit following the game that he probably incited Schwartz' anger.

Schwartz, of course, chased Harbaugh down the field and had to be repeatedly pushed back from the crowd. No matter what Harbaugh did, it's hard to fathom that Schwartz behavior is remotely acceptable in the eyes of the league. And though Schwartz might have looked like the aggressor, the blame has to lie with Harbaugh on this one.

Looking ahead, this might not be a rivalry that dies quickly. Niners offensive lineman Anthony Davis, on his newly verified Twitter account, had a little trash talk of his own after the game.

"They talked s*** to us all week," Davis tweeted following the game. "We said nothin ... Came and kicked that a** ... its f***** football f*** classy.. Save classy for Mortons lol"

Steakhouse humor aside, it's worth mentioning Cliff Avril of the Lions saw Davis' tweet and pointed out that it was "real professional" -- Davis responded by pointing out that he "pancacked [Avril] on a passing play ... sooo uh just be quiet go home play with your kids."

So this shouldn't evolve into anything unpleasant in the near future at all!

What's fascinating about this whole thing is how people are defending both sides. Some folks think that Schwartz is an unhinged lunatic. Some think Harbaugh is an arrogant jerk. (Our own Mike Freeman noted on Twitter that Harbaugh's not making himself any friends around the league with his attitude.)

For me, it's hard to blame Schwartz for his reaction, given the way that Harbaugh behaved following San Francisco's victory:



Whatever, here's hoping they meet again in the playoffs. In the meantime, my top-five list for coaches I would pick for a steel-cage death match:

1. Jack Del Rio
2. Ron Rivera
3. Mike Tomlin
4. Jim Schwartz
5. Raheem Morris

Leave your picks in the comments.

2. Speaking of Coaches ...
You'll notice Sean Payton didn't make my top five. And he might not have even if he was healthy, but he certainly wouldn't be up there after the incident that took place on Sunday, when tight end Jimmy Graham came crashing into the sideline and blew up Payton's knee.

The Saints coach suffered a broken tibia and tore his the MCL in his left knee, which means he'll be knocked out of shape for quite a while.

"It's just one of those things, the play kind of got up on me quicker," Payton said Sunday. "I think the second part of the tackle seemed maybe all of a sudden. I mean, every once in a while you feel like you get pinned with the play and that's what happened."

Of course, Payton wasn't the only coach who was injured on Sunday in this game (think about that; seriously) -- Jimmy Lake, the Bucs defensive backs coach, tore his patellar tendon celebrating an interception celebrating, as Ryan says in the podcast above, Martin Gramatica style.

What I'm wondering is if Payton's injury might derail the Saints offense a little bit. Maybe that's a stretch, and he'll certainly have his hands all over the team's playcalling and management, but it doesn't sound like he'll be down on the field for a few weeks.

"I might have to be up in the press box for a few games," Payton said. "Because it’s a fracture, its different. If it’s the MCL you can have the brace, but the fracture on the outside means the weight-bearing part of it really changes."

Maybe it won't have any bearing -- with the Saints playing the Colts and Rams in the next two weeks, Drew Brees can probably manage the offense all by himself.

2. A Boy Named John
With Washington getting two weeks to prepare for the Eagles, and Philly looking very much like a punch-drunk boxer practically begging for a knockout shot, it stood to reason that the Redskins could take advantage of the Eagles porous defense and pick up a critical division win.

They didn't, and that's mainly because Rex Grossman turned into, well, Rex Grossman.

The 'Skins quarterback threw four interceptions -- three to Kurt Coleman -- and registered a couple of terrible interceptions that should have been picks. This led to him getting benched for backup John Beck.

“Well number one—we needed a spark," Mike Shanahan said afterwards. "John has been practicing very well the past couple of weeks and with four turnovers there we thought it was time to make a change and give John an opportunity to show us what he could do."

(Ed. Note: Week 6 review will be up early Monday.)

Beck, who's so fancy/awesome he dressed like a gas-station attendant for his post-game presser, isn't locked into the starting role yet, though, as Shanny refused to name next week's starter immediately following the game.

"I would never announce that right after a game," Shanahan said of his decision on who he'll start. "I would announce that later on in the week. We'll make a decision after looking at the film."

That's all fine and well, but who didn't see this coming? Because if the Redskins leading the NFC East after five weeks was the least likely thing in the entire world, then Grossman eventually imploding was on the opposite scale of predictability. And now this is quickly shaping up to be the second rendition of the Donovan McNabb-Grossman fiasco from last year.

On the bright side, it's less expensive?

"I want to play," Beck said, via Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post. "I want to be the quarterback. But I’m not the one that makes that decision, it’s coach, and they’ll make the best decision for the team ... What’s gonna happen next, I don’t know. But I’ll just do everything I can to be prepared if my number is called."

If it's me, I roll the dice with Beck, who seemed to at least provide a little spark to the team when he came on the field. It's not like he's been good this year, the Redskins defense has just kept Washington in games. And Grossman's now thrown three or more interceptions in seven of his 45 career starts. Which means 15 percent of the time that you put Grossman under center, there's a 15-percent chance he's going to hand the ball to the opposing defense multiple times.

3. Maybe Romo's Not the Only Choker?
For what feels like the fourth or fifth week this season, it's time to question Jason Garrett's playcalling for Dallas. With the game tied at 13 all and the Cowboys in the red zone, Garrett called a third-down shovel pass despite Dez Bryant sitting in single coverage.

The result was predictably predictable: the shovel pass didn't work and the Cowboys kicked a field goal to go up 16-13. Then, after forcing the Patriots to punt, Dallas ran three straight times (for negative-five yards) and the result was even more predictable: Dallas punted back to Tom Brady, giving him the ball down three points with 2:31 left on the clock.

If you've followed football at all for the last few years, you've probably already figured out what happened. Tom Brady did what Tom Brady does, which is carve up a defense en route to just another routine comeback/last-minute win.

By the time he hit Aaron Hernandez in the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown, Dallas had just 22 seconds remaining on the clock to move the ball far enough down the field to get a shot at a Hail Mary, which Tony Romo threw out of bounds.

On that last drive, by the way, Romo completed two passes for 31 yards. Throw those passes on the previous series and we're talking about a signature win for the Cowboys, against the best team in the other conference at their place.

Instead, we're left to wonder why Garrett continually plays, as my colleague Pete Prisco wrote, not to lose, instead of utilizing the weapons he has on offense in the proper way. And by "we" I mean "me and Jerry Jones."

"You'll always second-guess whether or not we should have tried to run a little offense down there instead of running it three times," Jones said after the game, per our Pats Rapid Reporter Greg Bedard. "We went conservative rather than try to get some points and it bit us."

Jones said that doing so in a regular-season game was acceptable, but it's not the type of thing that he'd like to see in the playoffs. Of course, it's hard to imagine the Cowboys making the playoffs if they can't figure out how to turn trips to the red zone into more than three points a pop.

4. Bollers and Pryors OH MY
Many a pundit's willing to point out that the Oakland Raiders, while a half-game back of the Chargers, are the best AFC West team through the first six weeks of the season.

This isn't that far off. The Raiders are pretty good. But despite winning 24-17 over Cleveland on Sunday, Oakland suffered a seriously detrimental injury on Sunday, as quarterback Jason Campbell broke his collarbone and will likely miss the remainder of the season.

“I’m not going to let this football team blink," coach Hue Jackson said Sunday. "We’ll miss Jason for a little while. I have no idea how long it will take [for him to recover]. We’ll see as we go. I know obviously he won’t be here next week. We’ll continue to press forward and get better."

That's the optimistic point of view. The pessimistic? Kyle Boller, Terrelle Pryor and Shane Lechler are now the top-three quarterbacks on Oakland's depth chart. Yikes.

So Oakland has a couple of options going forward. One, roll with Boller. (Again, yikes.) Two, let Darren McFadden carry the ball 50 times a game. (Not terrible, but it could cause some long-term issues in terms of his health.) Three, go out and get another quarterback.

A couple of names spring to mind immediately: Kyle Orton, Donovan McNabb, David Garrard and Carson Palmer. Garrard makes sense because he's openly said he wants to play for a contender and the Raiders, at 4-2, certainly fit the bill.

Orton, McNabb and Palmer seem like longer shots as trade possibilities, but the Raiders have about 36 hours to make a deal, and it's reasonable that the Broncos, Vikings and Bengals would be interested in getting something back for guys that are either going to ride pine the rest of the year or won't bother showing up.

5. Don't Forget the Defense



In this, the year of ridiculously silly offensive outputs in the NFL, it's easy to just gawk at high-powered offensive teams and assume they will end up winning the most games and doing the most damage in the postseason.

But we need to recognize the Ravens for the dirty work they're doing on the defensive side of the ball, suppressed their league-leading points-allowed total to 71 Sunday after casually shut down Houston in a 29-14 victory. Baltimore held 2010 rushing champ Arian Foster to just 49 yards on 15 carries, and limited Matt Schaub to 220 yards and a touchdown in a dominant defensive performance that should make some people take notice.

Ryan and I debated this audio-style, but I think there's a legitimate argument that the Ravens are the best team in the AFC and can contend for the best team in the NFL. Clearly -- quite clearly -- the Packers are the cream of the crop at the moment.

But anyone in the NFL can score these days. Few teams can stop the opposition from scoring. With Haloti Ngata serving as the lynchpin for the defensive line and wrecking havoc on opponents' offensive lines, and with a secondary that's surprising this year, and with Ray Lewis playing rejuvenated ball, the Ravens can do that.

They're lacking in offensive consistency more so than a lot of other teams around the league -- Joe Flacco alternating between awesome and terrible this season is pretty terrifying if you're a Baltimore fan -- but Ray Rice is so good right now that he can carry the Ravens when Flacco's struggling.

And if Rice isn't up for the task, the defense isn't afraid to take over either. Which separates the Ravens from most everyone else in the league.

6. Madden Up to His Old Curses Again
What the hell is going on in Cleveland? Because, one, the Browns aren't winning, so that's a problem. And two, Peyton Hillis has some serious drama surrounding him these days.

We've detailed the drama before (numerous times, actually), but Sunday took things to a whole new level. For starters, Hillis rushed just six times for 14 yards and then left with a hamstring injury, pulling up lame after taking a second-quarter screen pass from Colt McCoy only to have it negated by an illegal shift penalty.

After halftime, Hillis returned and appeared to be out for the game. This is fine, if it's because of injury. Except Hillis returned to the game ... and didn't get any carries. He blocked for McCoy and was on the field, but didn't rush the ball at all.

The Browns weren't exactly ground heavy during the game -- Montario Hardesty only had 11 carries for a meager 35 yards -- and McCoy ended up throwing 45 times (his lowest passing-attempt total on the year is now 32, which is also a bit disconcerting), but to see Hillis hurt but maybe not hurt enough to sit out the rest of the game especially after a controversial injury earlier in the year, well, let's just say that something ain't stirring the Kool-Aid in Cleveland.

7. Ponder This
Sunday night, Christian Ponder got his first real action for the Vikings in their 39-10 blowout loss Sunday night. I mentioned this when writing about the substitution, but you can't pin everything that's going wrong on Donovan McNabb.

He's not the guy refusing to block defenders, and he's not the guy allowing other teams to score 20-plus points in the second halves of games. But it's understandable that some of the players on the team might be a little interested in seeing what Ponder, who at least looked more, um, energetic than McNabb, can do.

"I'm not a coach, but this team definitely could use a spark wherever that may come from," wide receiver Percy Harvin said.

Again, McNabb hasn't been that bad. But the Vikes are 1-5, going nowhere in (arguably) the toughest division in football and need to find out if Ponder's their guy for the long term.

Because at this rate, they'll have another pretty critical decision about some talented young quarterbacks at the top of the 2012 draft as well.

For the Bears part, lets give credit to Mike Martz and Lovie Smith for learning that if you actually give Jay Cutler help to block pass rushers, you can produce offensively.

Except they learned this last year, too. Remember how the Bears stunk and Cutler looked like a candidate for serious brain damage through the first few weeks in 2010? And then the Bears started running the ball more and protecting Cutler? Yeah, maybe next year they'll remember before they're a quarter of the season in.



8. Down South in ... Tampa Bay?
The Saints were supposed to blow out the LeGarrette Blount-less Buccaneers this weekend and the Panthers were supposed to upset the Falcons in the Georgia Dome. And then I was going to spend a large chunk of this column talking about the Panthers secretly being the second-best team in the NFC South.

Well, apparently no one else in the entire world got the same memo I did (thanks a lot for not forwarding the revised copy, you big jerks), because the Panthers got handily dismantled 31-17 in Atlanta and the Bucs straight up took care of business in route to grabbing the division lead with a 26-20 win over New Orleans.

If you missed it, lemme fill you on why the Panthers lost: their defense is terrible. It's not bad coaching and it's not to mean to the guys in the lineup, but the best way for Tiki Barber to revive his career would be to just try and get a tryout with whoever's playing the Panthers in the coming week, because there's a decent chance he could scamper for a buck fifty against that fishnet of a rushing defense.

They'll get better in the future and there's no reason to question Ron Rivera's capability as a defensive coach, but if you can run the ball, you can kill the Panthers. After Cam Newton threw a terrible pick to defensive lineman Corey Peters, the Falcons got the ball up a touchdown with six minutes left to play. Eight plays later -- seven of them running -- they were up 14 points.

Everyone knew they were going to run and there still wasn't any way for Carolina to stop it. New Orleans is a different deal, though, because Blount's absence meant the Bucs would struggle (in their wins thus far, he'd done well, and in their losses he hadn't; it's science!). Instead, Earnest Graham piled up 109 rushing yards on 17 carries, Josh Freeman got loose with Arrelious Benn and the Saints found themselves in a 20-10 halftime hole that they couldn't ever climb out of.

In short, a motivated Tampa Bay team showed up, created turnovers and completely flipped our perspective on the NFC South.

9. Bungle in the Jungle
The Ravens, as noted above, are the class of the AFC North. And the Steelers are coming off a second-straight win in which their defense prevailed and Rashard Mendenhall and the running game looked good.

But it would be silly to discount what the Bengals have done this year, moving to 4-2 after a 27-17 win over Indy, especially considering most of the offensive production is coming from a pair of rookies in Andy Dalton and A.J. Green.

Dalton's not lighting up the statistical sheet, per se, as he's averaging just 218.5 passing yards per game, and he's only found the end zone seven times. But four of those have been to fellow rook Green, and -- I'm as surprised to be writing this as you are reading it -- Marvin Lewis was write about his offense getting an upgrade during the offseason.

And the Bengals are benefiting from a soft schedule; they could realistically be undefeated, considering that their two losses were by a combined seven points. Of course, it doesn't hurt that they have the second-best defense in the league, allowing just 278.5 yards per game. That defense has

The schedule gets harder down the road -- multiple matchups with both Baltimore and Pittsburgh loom -- but there are four more games left where the Bengals will either be favored or basically a pick 'em. The idea that this team could win eight games as recently as September was, well, not there. The four they have now is probably what they'd have topped out in most preseason projections.

And now they're a reasonable contender for a Wild-Card berth if a few things go their way in the rest of their division matchups.

10. Things to Do In Denver on Your Bye
It's fascinating to me that a team like the Broncos could, somehow, manage to create a ton of noise about their team. On their bye week. Without really talking about Tim Tebow.

I mean, there was some Tebow talk this week, of course, but it wasn't out of control. Charley Casserly reported that the Broncos won't change their offense much for Tebow, and that's probably a good thing and/or not that surprising, since this is a John Fox offense.

Most of the noise centered around Denver's decision to start trying to ship every single talented veteran on the roster out of town. Brandon Lloyd wants gone, and it seems like he could be moved before Monday's practice (the team apparently doesn't think he can be on the same field as the coaching staff). Eddie Royal's on the block too and he's generating some interest; this makes sense since both player are rentals for the rest of the year.

Kyle Orton's situation is a little more interesting. He'll also be a free agent after this year, and one would think that he'd LOVE to get out of town since a) the coaches yanked him in Week 5 for Tebow despite acting like Tebow's worse than Brady Quinn, b) he'll be a free agent in the offseason and c) he's more reviled by the fans around Mile High than Carmelo Anthony during his "trade me to New York or else" run last year.

But the Broncos issued a statement on Sunday night denying rumors that Orton wanted a trade, so apparently he's content hanging around and playing -- ahem -- nursemaid to Tebow. Or he thinks the experiment will fail miserably and he'll be starting in a couple weeks anyway.

Regardless, Denver, you're 1-4. Spend the bye week getting better, not drawing attention to yourselves when you're not playing please.

Muffed Punts
Leftovers from Sunday's action ...
... Shane Lechler's first career pass attempt also produced his first career touchdown pass, when the Raiders faked a field goal in the third quarter against the Browns. Oddly enough, Lechler was the emergency quarterback, set to replace Kyle Boller who replaced the injured Jason Campbell.
... No one will talk about it because they won and because of Handshake Gate, but Jim Harbaugh threw a challenge flag on a scoring play. Huge gaffe, since those are all automatically reviewed. It cost him an unsportsmanlike conduct delay of game penalty.
... Drew Brees became the first quarterback in NFL history to post four-straight games of 350 or more yards passing.
... Packers are now just the seventh defending Super Bowl champ to start the next season 6-0.

Worth 1,000 Words


 
Jim Irsay Pop-Culture Referencing Tweet That's Sure to Drive Colts Fans Insane of the Week
"Little red light on the highway...big green light on the speedway...hey,hey,hey"

This one might seem meaningless ... unless you happen to be a Grateful Dead fan and recognize the lyrics to "West L.A. Fadeaway." In which case you, like me, are clearly one of the first people to realize that Irsay's moving the Colts to Los Angeles. Who didn't see that coming?

GIF O' THE WEEK

Big ups to @Jose3030 for pulling this clip of LeSean McCoy pulling an aggressive version of the Pillsbury doughboy poke on Eagles coach Andy Reid. There's so much that's perfect about it, from Reid's stomach jiggling to Reid's head snapping back to Reid being totally unprepared for the punch, to McCoy later tweeting an apology for doing it.



Hot Seat Tracker
  • Jack Del Rio -- He wasn't supposed to beat the Steelers, in Pittsburgh. And he didn't. But the Jaguars showed some life. Still hard to imagine he survives this season though.
  • Jim Caldwell -- In the words of the Talking Heads, stiiiiiiiiiiiiillllll waiiiiiiting ...
  • Tony Sparano -- He only lasts through 2012 if Steve Ross is waiting out Jon Gruden.
  • Steve Spagnuolo -- Another guy who wasn't supposed to win Sunday, and he's been ravaged by injuries. But man, how did we all think they'd win the division?
  • Jason Garrett -- Perhaps a bit early, but Jerry Jones is questioning his playcalling. That's never good.
  • Leslie Frazier -- He needs to go to Ponder now to keep his seat cool.
  • Ken Wisenhunt -- He's got the Cards practicing on their off day during their bye week. Might be feeling some pressure.
Chasing Andrew Luck
You'll notice a shifting of the odds this week -- we're no longer accepting wagers that return any money to you. Mainly because there are just too many crappy teams in the NFL right now.

Colts (-500): The Jaguars and Panthers sandwich their Week 11 bye, and besides a Week 17 date at Jacksonville, well, those are the only games that even remotely look winnable right now.
Dolphins (-350): Their schedule is also quite bleak. At least their fans are happy?
Rams (-250): Al Harris is one of their starting cornerbacks. This is not 2001.
Broncos (-225): They're doing everything in their power to deal away anyone with any talent. And this is different than the Josh McDaniels era how?
Vikings (-125): Minny still has Adrian Peterson? Guh that Bears game was depressing.

MVP Watch
Pretty clearly, there's only one choice: Aaron Rodgers. Guy's doing everything he did down the stretch in 2010 but now it's being spread out over the course of a regular season. If he keeps this up, the Packers will have as many losses as there are people who don't pencil his name in for the top MVP vote.
Posted on: October 11, 2011 2:55 pm
 

Shanahan once ordered QB to throw at Al Davis

Back in 1994, Mike Shanahan ordered Elvis Grbac to "throw the ball" right at Al Davis. (Getty Images)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

In the days since Raiders owner Al Davis passed away, everyone associated with the NFL has, in one form or another, honored his memory. Davis, who had been associated with the league since 1960, gave Mike Shanahan, now with the Redskins, his first head coaching job in 1988.

On Monday, Shanahan spoke about Davis.

Remembering Al Davis

“I got a chance to be around him, I was 35 years old," he said, according to the Washington Post. "I never met a guy with more passion and worked harder than Al Davis. He was just relentless in his approach to the game, and he had a great understanding from Xs and Os and personnel and knew it extremely well. I wasn’t around him extremely long – a year and four games – but I learned a lot from him."

What Shanahan left out was that Davis had fired him four games into the 1989 season and that, along with some things we'll get to shortly, led to hard feelings that lasted long after Shanahan left Oakland.

And that brings us to this gem from CBSSports.com's Mike Freeman, written in 1998 when he was with the New York Times. It's a story of intrigue and revenge with a dash of slapstick comedy.
It was 1994 and Shanahan and Grbac were both with the San Francisco 49ers. Shanahan, the offensive coordinator, was working with Grbac before a game against Oakland. Shanahan had spent just over one season as coach of the Raiders before being dismissed by the owner, Al Davis. The breakup was bitter, and the two men despised each other, mainly because of a dispute over back pay.

Davis, as he does before almost every game, was walking the field, talking to players and others. Shanahan pulled Grbac aside, Grbac recalled, and gave an unusual order: ‘’See Al Davis over there? I want you to throw the ball right at him.’’

A shocked Grbac replied: ‘’I can’t do that. If I hit him, do you know what he could do to me?’’

Shanahan looked at Grbac with his intense glare and said, ‘’Throw the ball.’’

So Grbac did. He threw a tight, hard spiral some 30 yards directly at the head of Davis. At the last second, Davis saw it and ducked, the ball missing him by only a few inches. Davis, his hair ruffled, then made an obscene gesture at Shanahan, witnessed by a former Raiders coach who confirmed Grbac’s story.
Poor Elvis Grbac. The guy was trying to work on his game and his coach had him firing footballs at a 65-year-old man.

But as Freeman wrote after Davis' passing Saturday, the Raiders owner had a reputation for occasionally rubbing people the wrong way. "For much of his brilliant, chaotic and unreal life, Al Davis was at war. He fought commissioners. He fought other owners. He fought cities. He tussled with mayors and politicians and his own players. He earned a reputation as a crazy man."

Which reminds us: the Vikings play the Redskins on Christmas Eve. We fully expect Donovan McNabb to be winging balls in Shanahan's direction during pregame warm-ups.


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Posted on: October 4, 2011 5:39 pm
 

Shanahan tells team to settle down

Mike Shanahan told his team not to buy into the media hype (US Presswire).Posted by Josh Katzowitz

There was a time -- and it wasn’t long ago -- when we all kind of thought the Redskins were going to stink and the Eagles were going to be awesome, and Washington had no business thinking it had a shot at winning the NFC East.

And when Rex Grossman gave us this prediction, “When it's all said and done I really feel like we're going to win the NFC East,” we all kind of shook our heads and laughed.

But now that Washington is 3-1 and tied for first place in the division, coach Mike Shanahan wants to make sure his team knows not to buy into the media hype. Even if, ahem, Grossman was the one to start it.

“The one goal that I tell our players and our coaches is that you have got to take it day-by-day,” he said, via the Redskins official site.  ”Once you start listening to how good you are or how great the defense is doing or how poorly an offense is doing week-by-week, it’s easy to get lulled into a trap. Don’t get lulled into a trap. Just concentrate on the job at hand.  Try to find a way to win and get better every day. Don’t listen to people that are negative.”

That’s probably good advice, because people, like myself today on Hawaii radio, are saying that the Redskins are likely to fall off. And the reason why? Maybe Grossman, as CBSSports.com’s Mike Freeman explains here: “Rex Grossman is sure to doom the Redskins eventually. It will happen because he's Rex Grossman. He will always let you down …”

More from Shanahan telling his team to lay off the gas pedal of positivity.

“This is a game-by-game league,” he said.  ”You’re saying we arrived on defense -- it takes one game for it to go the opposite way very quickly.  It does the same thing on offense.  Our guys are smart enough to understand what happens in this league. I try to tell our guys, ‘Don’t pay attention about what anybody says. Understand that we’ve got to do it each and every week, and you’ve got to find a way to win. You’ve got to find a way to be at the best at what you do.’ And at the end of the season, we’ll decide on what type of team we have.”

Unless, that is, Grossman wants to just go ahead and tell us what he thinks right now.

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Posted on: October 1, 2011 6:16 pm
 

Tributes pour out for Heimerdinger

Mike Heimerdinger, takling with V. Young, died Friday night (US Presswire).

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

After the death of longtime assistant coach Mike Heimerdinger from cancer on Friday, his former colleagues and players have released statements expressing their sadness and their condolences. Here are a few of them (you can find more of them from our Rapid Reporters):

Titans general manager Mike Reinfeldt: “We are saddened today to hear the tragic news of Mike's passing. Mike was a good man that brought a great level of dedication and professionalism to his job. He was brave in his fight over the last year and showed such a commitment to the game. Nothing was going to stop him last season from being a part of the team and having his stamp on the games. Our thoughts go out to Kathie and his kids through this difficult time. Mike and his family will always be with us.”

Titans coach Mike Munchak: “My prayers are with his family. Mike was a great football coach; and over the years, we had a great relationship. I learned a lot of football from Mike and I have a number of great memories and experiences that will always be with me. It is just hard to believe he is gone. It is a sad day for his family and for those who knew him.”

 Titans running back Chris Johnson: “He was a great coach and a tough coach. I know I wouldn’t have become the player I am without his confidence and the trust that he showed in me. My thoughts go out to his family.”

Former NFL center and NFLPA President  Kevin Mawae: “It is with great regret and sorrow that we learn of the passing of Coach Mike Heimerdinger. "Dinger", as many people knew him, was a great coach and a good man. For those who knew him and played for him, they knew Dinger was a man who loved his family, enjoyed his players, and loved the game of football. Dinger's fight with cancer was indicative of the type of person he was; determined and courageous. It was my privilege to play for Dinger while with the New York Jets and the Tennessee Titans. I am better for having known and played for him. The NFL community has lost a great member of its fraternity this week. On behalf of the National Football League Players Association, the players offer their condolences to Kathie, Alicia, Brian and the rest of the Heimerdinger family."

Redskins coach Mike Shanahan, who employed Heimerdinger as an assistant in Denver and was a roommate of Heimerdinger’s at Eastern Illinois: "We lost a very special person and my best friend in Mike Heimerdinger. I know the man upstairs needed a superstar so he took him earlier than we all wanted. His love for his family was unprecedented and I will forever miss him."

Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, who was coached by Heimerdinger with the Broncos: "Thoughts and prayers are with the Heimerdinger family. We lost a great man last night."

Houston Chronicle sports writer John McClain: “I've been covering the NFL for more than 30 years. Only one coach ever called and thanked me for covering him when he left: Mike Heimerdinger.”

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Posted on: September 28, 2011 8:34 pm
 

Redskins refute Phil Costa; say they didn't cheat

CostaPosted by Josh Katzowitz

If anybody was a goat from the victorious Cowboys squad during last Monday’s win against the Redskins, it was center Phil Costa’s ghastly performance whenever he had to snap the ball to Tony Romo. It was, as my CBSSports.com colleague Ryan Wilson pointed out, akin to a Benny Hill skit (albeit without that kick-ass, show-ending music).

Though Costa took the blame for his poor performance -- “There’s no blaming the refs,” he said. “It’s on me.” -- he also said it wasn’t totally on him. Instead, he blamed the Redskins defensive line for cheating, accusing them of calling out the snap count to keep Costa out of rhythm. It is, of course, illegal for a defensive player to try to screw up the cadence of the quarterback, but as CBSSports.com’s Mike Freeman writes, teams from around the league (and across history) have performed the same maneuver.

Thing is, we don’t know for sure if the Redskins were cheating, because when they were asked about it Wednesday, they denied doing it in the first place.

 “Honestly, I don’t understand how I could simulate his snap count,” said Redskins defensive end Stephen Bowen, who was suspected of such tactics because he used to play in Dallas. “Am I supposed to memorize the colors and the numbers he was saying? Honestly, I lost a lot of respect for Costa. If that was the case, then why didn’t any of their offensive linemen jump offsides? It makes no sense, because he’s lying. Just be a man and stand by your word. Everybody respects a man that tells the truth.”

While Romo said after the game the Cowboys would have to talk to the league about cracking down on this practice, the officials apparently questioned Bowen during the game.

“Even during the game, the ref came to us and asked if we were making fake snap counts, and I looked at Barry [Cofield] like, ‘Huh? Did you make a noise? I didn’t make a noise. I didn’t even hear anything,’” Bowen said. “So for him to say that, I’m disappointed, and I lost respect in him. He’s making excuses for messing up. And they’re trying to make me out to be some guy that I’m not. I’m not that type of person. I just line up and play ball.”

Redskins coach Mike Shanahan also made a good point, saying that when the center is mic’d up, it’s easy for an observer to determine whether anybody other than the quarterback is shouting. According to Shanahan, nobody from his team was saying a snap count.

To make matters even more interesting, Fox Sports’ Matt Mosley reported that Dallas’ Jason Hatcher said Bowen was NOT shouting out his own cadence. Mosley wrote that it could have been a Redskins linebacker instead.

Unless we hear the audio, there’s really no way to determine if Costa is telling the truth or if the Redskins really did cheat. But either way, the blame will be pinned on Costa. If yelling the snap count is a part of the league culture, you’d like to think the center who is playing in his own building could focus a little better than that. And if the Redskins weren’t doing it, then Costa just had one of the worst games out of a center that I’ve ever seen on any level of football.

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Posted on: September 27, 2011 10:37 am
 

DeAngelo Hall has problem with playcalls, refs

Hallq

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

For a guy who made such a big proclamation about going after Tony Romo’s ribcage and Felix Jones’ shoulder, for a guy who can talk such a big game, Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall didn’t make much of an impact in the Redskins 18-16 loss to the Cowboys on Monday night.

He had six tackles, tied for second-most on the team, but the biggest play of the night featuring Hall was when Romo scrambled on a third-and-21 in the fourth quarter and found Dez Bryant open for the first down. Guess who covered Bryant on that play? Hall. Guess the other mistake Hall made on that play? Yep, he tackled Bryant, in part, by grabbing his facemask to earn a 15-yard penalty.

Now, should Hall be blamed totally on the play that extended the Cowboys game-winning drive? No, because it’s nearly impossible to blanket a receiver in coverage for that long during the course of a play. But for Hall, who made such a big announcement before the game and then did next to nothing in it, he looked rather foolish.

Yet, that didn’t stop him for blasting the referees and the Redskins gameplan in the locker room afterward, especially on that game-losing series when defensive coordinator Jim Haslett continued to dial up all-out blitzes, leaving his corners in single coverage.

CBS Washington
has the audio of Hall’s comments, and it’s clear Hall feels outraged by the game’s result. And by the play-call that preceded his burning.

“Sooner or later, somebody is  going to f------ figure it out,” Hall said. “You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to f------ figure it out.”

For the record, Shanahan defended the play-call, saying, "We had a chance to have a sack there. (Romo) did a good job scrambling and made a play. It happens. That's the nature of the game. It didn't work."

Hall also had some words of wisdom for the official who penalized him for the facemask call that added 15 yards onto the end of Bryant’s 30-yard reception.

“It was a f------ terrible call,” Hall said. “I told the ref that he was going to f------ lose his job. I told him that might be the worst call of the game. He’s going to get some demerit points for that call. That wasn’t no facemask, man.”

Except that replays (and in the photo above) showed Hall clearly grabbed, even if for just a split-second, Bryant’s facemask in the process of bringing him down to the turf.

But the facemask hardly matters in the scope of Hall’s performance. Hall made some big plans before the game, and he failed to deliver. Not just in hurting Romo and Jones and/or knocking them out of the game.

But in failing to make a positive impact whatsoever.

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Posted on: September 21, 2011 2:56 pm
Edited on: September 22, 2011 3:31 pm
 

Film Room: Cowboys vs. Redskins preview

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit



One of the most storied rivalries in pro football is renewed Monday night when the Cowboys welcome the Redskins to Big D for their home opener. Mike Shanahan’s team is a surprising 2-0. The Cowboys, after two close games, are 1-1, ensuring their performance on Monday’s national stage will spark an overreaction from Football America (at 2-1, people will ask if the Cowboys are legit Super Bowl contenders; at 1-2 they’ll ask if Jason Garrett is right for the job).

1. Perpetually Maligned Quarterbacks
Are any other two quarterbacks, fair or unfair, viewed as blunder-prone as Tony Romo and Rex Grossman? If Grossman were a star, he’d be Romo. If Romo were a bum, he’d be Grossman. Their performances this season have been overanalyzed in contrasting extremes.

Everyone took part in National Dump on Romo Week (Sept. 12-18) and pilloried the sixth-year starter for being a “choke artist”. While Romo has made his share of mistakes in crunch time, in reality, prior to the interception he gifted Darrelle Revis in Week 1, the only late-game mistake that 90 percent of fans could instantly identify with Romo was his botched field goal hold in the January ’07 playoff loss at Seattle (a play that had nothing to do with his quarterbacking ability).

Reputations rarely form by accident, though. The truth is, Romo is mistake prone.

He’s mistake prone because he has trouble deciphering defenses before the snap, and he tends to take aggressive action on faulty hunches. This is problematic, especially if Dallas has Super Bowl aspirations. That said, at the end of the day, Romo still has respectable playmaking talent. Hence his 345-yard performance with a fractured rib and punctured lung at San Francisco.

Grossman is on the other end of the spectrum. He’s not a naturally talented playmaker. But he can be functional when properly used. His two performances this season have received mostly positive reviews. He threw for 305 yards against the Giants and 291 against the Cardinals. But he was somewhat inaccurate in Week 1 and benefited from several terrific catches by Redskins receivers.

He also struggled in the face of pocket pressure (fortunately he had just one turnover from it, which didn’t prove to be costly). Grossman came back to earth a bit against Arizona and, given his track record and limited role in Washington’s offense (his reads are defined, his audible powers are minimal), he’ll likely level off over the coming months.


2. Washington’s ground game
The Redskins have shown a commitment to running the ball these first two weeks. After posting lackluster numbers against New York, Tim Hightower was sharp versus Arizona, registering 96 yards on 20 attempts. Hightower is a much better fit for Shanahan’s zone-blocking scheme than he was in Ken Whisenhunt’s pounding approach.

Reason being, Hightower does not have great burst when coming from a standstill, but he has proven to be an effective momentum runner.

A zone-blocking scheme allows for a one-cut downhill run, but as the illustration below shows, the nature of the sliding blocks allows a runner to take a few extra steps in the backfield, which a runner like Hightower needs in order to build momentum before breaking through the line of scrimmage.



Hightower – as well as his backup, fourth-round rookie Roy Helu, who runs with good tempo and changes direction fairly well – benefitted from stellar offensive line play last week. Left guard Kory Lichtensteiger and left tackle Trent Williams were particularly impressive landing blocks on the move and taking angles that created natural running lanes.

3. Tight ends significant
Washington’s offense makes great use of the tight end, in large part because a tight end crossing pattern is a natural outlet off the rollouts and bootlegs that Shanahan’s scheme uses frequently.

While Chris Cooley has had a modicum impact coming off a knee injury, fourth-year pro Fred Davis has emerged as a fluid target in an elevated role. Davis makes good adjustments to the ball and has the athleticism to be effective in space.
 
For the Cowboys, Jason Witten becomes all the more significant with Miles Austin (hamstring) out and Dez Bryant’s (quad) status in question. Witten is the ultimate safety valve. Generally the beneficiary of mismatches created by others outside, he should be able to create a few of his own mismatches inside, as Redskins linebacker London Fletcher tends to struggle covering elite tight ends.
Week 3 NFL Preview

4. The outside ‘backers
DeMarcus Ware has registered more sacks than anyone in pro football over the past five years, and he appears to be even more potent in Rob Ryan’s scheme (Ryan, like Wade Phillips, has aligned Ware primarily on the weak side of the formation, where one-on-one matchups are easier to come by). Opposite Ware, Anthony Spencer (in a contract year) is a stout playside run defender.

But the Cowboys may soon have the second best outside linebacking corps in the NFC East. Brian Orakpo has made two Pro Bowls his first two seasons and has superb strength to compliment his edge speed.

Opposite him, first-round rookie Ryan Kerrigan has flashed monstrous potential through two games. Kerrigan, a high-motored Big Ten player who drew predictable comparisons to Aaron Kampman coming out, has the swiftness to chase plays as a backside run defender and the body control to outmaneuver blockers in the phone booth. He’s a much, much better athlete than many had guessed.

5. Something to keep an eye on ...
The Redskins are a fairly blitz-heavy team, but those blitzes have usually involved safeties. They caught the Cardinals off-guard last week by blitzing their inside linebackers aggressively. Fletcher in particular blitzed with great timing and downhill speed.

His blitzes were done not necessarily in an effort to get sacks, but to make Kevin Kolb move before throwing. Romo is better throwing off movement than Kolb, so perhaps Jim Haslett won’t use this tactic as much in Week 3.

But with the Cowboys having a young offensive line and depleted receiving corps, the reward could be greater than the risk.

So who will win? Check our expert picks for all Week 1 games


Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com