Posted on: January 9, 2012 10:14 am

Hines Ward to retire?

Did Hines Ward play his last game? It appears he might have. A Steelers player texted to me the expectations around the team was that Ward would soon announce his retirement. That doesn't mean it's set he will. That means some Steelers players believe it which means it's likely to happen.

Ward is a different sort of dude. He could decide to hang on for one more year. But for the moment that doesn't seem to be the case.

Ward is clearly done physically. He just doesn't have the burst he once did. He was held without a catch against the Broncos and has become an afterthought in the Pittsburgh offense.

Yet, to me, he's a sure Hall of Famer. He became only the eighth wide receiver to reach 1,000 catches, had a lengthy and productive career, and won championships. He was one of the toughest receivers I've ever seen.

And it appears we've seen the last of Ward in the NFL.

Category: NFL
Tags: NFL, Steelers
Posted on: January 9, 2012 9:40 am
Edited on: January 9, 2012 9:46 am

The Daily Shoutout: Texans starting to believe

HOUSTON – You know what everyone is saying, don’t you Texans?

“They’re saying we got no shot,” running back Arian Foster answered. “Go ahead. Keep doubting us.”

No shot against Baltimore. Dead Texans walking. Might as well stay your asses home. Yes, that’s what they’re saying.

“That’s all we’re going to hear from national media is how we can’t win this game,” said Houston defensive lineman J.J. Watt.

Of all the remaining teams in the playoffs perhaps only Denver is given less respect than the Texans despite having one of the best runners and pass catchers in the sport and a defense that doesn’t suck. I’ve been just as guilty in the past.

When NBC broadcaster Tom Hammond spoke of injured Houston quarterback Matt Schaub, he pronounced the name “Shoop.” Twice. By now, everyone knows how to pronounce Shaub’s name but this is what it means to be a Texan.

They are indeed dramatic underdogs to the Ravens but there I go doing exactly what the Texans say the liberal, biased media is going to do: give them no chance. I’ve underestimated this team before and while this isn’t to say they’re going to beat the Ravens this game could be far more interesting than many believe.

Something strange has happened to this Houston team. A franchise that is down to its third string quarterback and lost Andre Johnson is starting to believe in itself.

Now, that belief might be short lived. It remains extremely questionable that a third string thrower can go into Baltimore and beat a vicious Ravens defense. Still there are few franchises that could overcome so many critical injuries and make the divisional round of the playoffs. It’s a great credit to the franchise.

But what’s left? Where do the Texans go from here?

Maybe, just maybe. They surprise us.


Category: NFL
Tags: NFL, Ravens, Texans
Posted on: January 8, 2012 3:30 pm
Edited on: January 9, 2012 7:33 am

Source: Fisher "95 percent certain" to coach Rams

Jeff Fisher continues to contemplate coaching the Rams or the Dolphins, though it is increasingly looking like Fisher has all but made a decision.

A source close to Fisher says the former Titans coach is "95 percent certain" he's going to accept an offer from the Rams. An official decision could come early next week.

Now, there's a caveat here, and it's a big one. It's the wallet of Miami owner Stephen Ross. It's very possible Ross makes a huge, final offer that could sway Fisher. So far, a source says, that hasn't happened.

But that doesn't mean it won't and that's the only reason, I'm told, it's not a totally done deal. Fisher is waiting for the final word from Ross.

A source also confirmed Fisher has a fear the Rams might move to Los Angeles, though that isn't said to be a deal-breaker.

But everything continues to point to Fisher coaching the Rams with the Ross wallet being the only possible hangup.

Category: NFL
Tags: Dolphins, Rams
Posted on: January 7, 2012 7:39 pm

Andy Dalton melts under the playoff heat

HOUSTON: Andy Dalton was three-years old the last time Cincinnati won a playoff game. Madonna was kinda still like a virgin. The DVR was a twinkle in the VCR's eye. It's been a tremendous 21-year drought and it was thought that maybe the Bengals' fabulous rookie could end it against Houston.

The Texans were down to their third string quarterback. They were vulnerable. The problem for the Bengals was this: Dalton was more vulnerable.

After an initial flurry of accuracy and guts, Dalton fell apart, and that's putting it kindly. The Bengals placed the weight of the playoffs on Dalton's shoulders, and like a thousand other rookies, on a thousand past NFL fields, he melted. It happens. It happens to the best. Houston 31 Bengals 10...and reality for Dalton set in like a kick to the sternum.

The Bengals won mainly because Dalton was intercepted three times -- once for a gut-destroying pick-six at the end of the first half. Dalton fell apart but so did the entire Bengals team. Dalton was also sacked four times and the Bengals defense was picked apart in the second half. A 17-10 Houston lead was soon out of hand.

Dalton will learn from this. He's talented. He's smart. Most of all, he's just plain good. The Bengals playoff win drought will end one day, too.

Just not now.

Category: NFL
Tags: Bengals, NFL, Texans
Posted on: January 6, 2012 1:24 pm

Fisher faces classic choice

Jeff Fisher will make a decision soon and I'm told, for the moment, there's no clear favorite.

A source familiar with Fisher's thinking tells me Fisher's representation has discussed financial parameters of a deal with both Miami and St. Louis and for now Fisher is "completely torn" about where to go.

The source said Fisher would likely become one of the top five highest paid coaches in football if he went to the Dolphins. The source also said the deal Fisher's representation is discussing with the Rams may not be as lucrative. However, during his meeting with the Rams, I'm told, Rams officials pushed on Fisher the idea that he'd have a franchise quarterback in place.

In Miami, Fisher could make more money. With the Rams, he might have an easier route to a title because that team has a solid quarterback situation (not to mention a great running back situation).

People who know Fisher well say cash isn't foremost on his mind which is why Rams seem to be the likely landing spot.

But again, Fisher is genuinely torn, I'm told, and hasn't made a concrete decision.

And as I've reported before he is still looking to make a decision sometime early next week and though it remains unlikely don't be surprised if a surprise team jumps into the fray at the last second.

Category: NFL
Tags: Dolphins, Fisher, NFL, Rams
Posted on: January 6, 2012 9:10 am

The Daily Shoutout: Penn State whining

I've read and heard it everywhere. Penn State players are angry at not being consulted over the hiring of Bill O'Brien. Penn State former players are mad they weren't consulted. Some say they are done with Penn State. Read this and tell me it doesn't cause you to shake your head.

Do these spoiled brat whiners get what the hell has happened to Penn State? How few coaches of quality wanted a tarnished job? How there needed to be a break from the past? How O'Brien brings NFL credibility to a program that currently has none?

Todd Blackledge said O'Brien doesn't do it for him. Those were his words. Didn't do it for him. Blackledge is another delusional alum who doesn't understand how low the program has sunk.

O'Brien is a solid coach and many of the people in the NFL who know O'Brien speak highly of him.

Yes, Penn State is lucky to get him. Damn lucky.

The reaction from former players shows why Penn State got into so much trouble in the first place. The whiny, insular nature of these criticisms shows a total lack of perspective about just how bad it is there. Again, these complainers don't understand how that program is still highly radioactive.

There needs to be a total housecleaning and I'm told by a person close to O'Brien might do just that.

Good for him.

Category: NFL
Posted on: January 5, 2012 10:17 pm

Pats assistant O'Brien to coach Penn State

It's still stunning that it's true but it's true: a Patriots team source confirms that Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien has agreed to become the coach of Penn State.

It's rare for an NFL coordinator to make this type of move. It's happened before even with the Patriots but it's still rare. Most assistants like O'Brien want to become head football coaches in the NFL not college.

O'Brien's move is high risk/high reward. The Penn State job is one of the toughest now in football for obvious reasons. He could easily fail. But imagine if O'Brien turns things around there. He'd be an instant star and would have his picks of many great jobs in the NFL. If he wanted them.

And now the Patriots look for a new offensive coordinator.

An official announcement about O'Brien could come as early as Friday.
Category: NFL
Posted on: January 5, 2012 11:26 am
Edited on: January 5, 2012 11:39 am

An NFL first: four Super Bowl MVP QBs in playoffs

If we already didn't know this was the year of the quarterback -- or the past decade of the quarterback -- this incredible fact seals it.

For the first time in league history the playoffs will feature four Super Bowl quarterbacking MVPs: Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Eli Manning and Aaron Rodgers. This according to NFL PR guru, Dan Masonson.

That is a great deal of quarterbacking firepower and they're all in one playoff.

I'm thinking this record won't last long just like other offensive records that were obliterated this season. The NFL has geared the sport towards the quarterbacks and because of that it could be some time before a running back or defensive player, for example, earns MVP honors. Would it be a stunner if Ben Roethlisberger got to a Super Bowl this year, won the MVP, and then all five of these players make the postseason next year? No. See what I mean.

Quarterbacks have always ruled the sport but their dominance now is unprecedented and this latest interesting statistic only proves that.

Hell, who knows, with the way quarterbacks are dominating, maybe Andy Dalton will join the MVP Four next year.

Category: NFL
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