It’s About Time

From Tampa, Florida

The world has been spinning pretty fast for the last 14 hours and I’m only now getting the chance to sit down and compose some thoughts about what happened today with the addition of Derrick Thomas to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

My first reaction at 2:40 p.m. EST when Hall of Fame President Steve Perry announced the six-man class of 2009 was: it’s about time!

My second reaction was one of relief.

My third reaction was one of joy when I saw the smile on Norma Hunt’s face. The first lady of the Chiefs was there for the announcement and she was giddy, not only about D.T. but another member of the class: Buffalo owner Ralph Wilson, one of the original owners from the first year of the American Football League.

I keep getting told these days that I need to make my posts more personal; that’s the way of the 21st Century Internet I’m told. That’s tough for me, because I wasn’t trained that way. I was taught to keep myself out of stories, to tell the facts, or provide analysis or commentary based on facts.

But somewhere along the way, I became part of the story when it came to D.T. and his five-year wait to get into the Hall of Fame. As the Kansas City representative on the 44-person Board of Selectors, it was my job for the last five years to present Thomas’ credentials for induction into the Hall.

And so his failure became my failure. I was roasted by talk-show mumblers, letter writers, e-mailers and those folks who live on the discussion boards. I’ve never been one who much cared what other people thought about me. I’m not trying to win friends and impress people. I’m trying to get reads and visitors to this site, just as I tried to get listeners in radio and subscribers for newspapers.

But after awhile it got old, because it was unfair. D.T. didn’t make the Hall for the first four years because it wasn’t his time. It had nothing to do with me. D.T. didn’t make the Hall because of me, although my friends say I should take the credit.

D.T. is a Hall of Famer because of D.T.

Over five years that he was a finalist, D.T.’s sacks total did not increase. He didn’t force any more fumbles. He didn’t score any more sacks. On first blush, his record was good enough.

But the group did not agree. They didn’t so much disagree, as the time was not right. I said throughout that there was no doubt in my mind that Thomas would make the Hall. Everyone needed to be patient. It was just a matter of time.

That time was Saturday in Tampa. Why? Got me. I’m not going to question what happened. I’ll just enjoy the results.

So what happened? The Board of the Selectors for the second straight year looked harder at defense than offense. Last year, four of the six inductees were defensive players. The class for this year has three of the six on the defensive side. That’s good, because an imbalance has grown over the years with so m any offensive players getting into Canton.

Now, seven of the last 12 have been defense.

That left out a couple of big name receivers, specifically Cris Carter both this year and last year, and Shannon Sharpe, new to the room this year. I’m sure the selectors will get grilled by the analysts and pundits for not providing Carter and Sharpe tickets to Canton.

They too will eventually get in. They just need to be patient.

Several things rolled in D.T.’s favor this year. One, there were two older members of the board who have never been in his corner who were not in the room. They were replaced by younger voters who grew up watching Thomas cause havoc. Two, he was the only linebacker on the ballot. There were two defensive ends and two defensive tackles. DT Cortez Kennedy and John Randle are worthy considerations for the Hall, but this was their first trip into the meeting room and their credentials were not so good that they were headed for immediate induction.

The defensive ends were Bruce Smith and Richard Dent. Smith was an automatic selection. Dent has a very good career record, including more sacks than D.T. and Super Bowl appearances.

Ultimately in the voting, Dent went the same way as Carter and Sharpe and when the voters were down to their final five, it was a lock.

And that sent Derrick Thomas to his rightful place, the hallowed halls of Canton, Ohio.

That’s it for now. I’m going to go pound a mojito or 12 and enjoy the moment. More on Sunday about the whole day, including the stuff you can’t get anywhere else: what actually went on in the voting room.


Hall of Famer Derrick Thomas

From Tampa, Florida

Five years was enough.  The Board of Selectors of the Pro Football Hall of Fame voted in a six-man class for 2009 and it includes Chiefs linebacker Derrick Thomas.

The announcement just went down at 1;30 CST and we will have plenty of information later in the day.

I’ve got so much to tell you about the voting and the process.

But DT is in.

Saturday Morning Cup O’Super Bowl

From Tampa, Florida

By the time this post hits the site, the doors will be closed and the discussion, deliberations and voting will have begun on the Class of 2009 for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

There will be 44 voters in that room, along with about a half-dozen folks from the Hall of Fame in Canton.

I will be there with them, making it 14 years that I’ve taken part in this process. I consider it one of the greatest honors of my career. The voters are members of the sports media who have covered pro football for a number of years. There is one voter for each franchise in the league and then a group of at-large voters. Some have been on the committee for decades; this year we will have more new faces than any year I can remember with five.

Part of the duties as a representative of a team city is that when a player is a finalist, the voter from that city presents his credentials. It’s not one of those rousing nominating speeches you might here at a political convention. It’s simply a presentation of the man’s career and his accomplishments.

I will make the presentation for Derrick Thomas. I’ve learned over time that when a player keeps coming up for induction, it really becomes just a matter of time. That’s the case with D.T. He is going to get into the Hall of Fame at some point. In my opinion, it should have happened five years ago, but that’s obviously not the opinion of the necessary 80 percent of my fellow voters.

Just for your eyes only, here’s a preview of my presentation. It may change on the fly, but this is ultimately what I’ll say to the room:

I think the time is right for Derrick Thomas. He was the impact defensive player of his generation. The numbers and testimony is there to back up that claim and as we try to address the imbalance between offense and defense in our inductees, it’s time for Derrick Thomas.

He had an impact on the Chiefs franchise, the players he played with and those he played against. He was a defensive player that changed the games he played in each week.

I’ve quoted before and will again if anybody would like to hear, the comments from coaches like Marv Levy, Dan Reeves, Mike Shanahan, Tom Flores, Art Shell, Jim Fassel and Bill Cowher, along with quarterbacks like John Elway, Jim Kelly, Warren Moon and Steve Young about the effect Thomas had on game preparation and during the game itself.

Just yesterday I spoke again with Cowher, who coached Thomas for three years and then spent eight years as an opponent. He might have put it best: Thomas wasn’t just a game changer, he was a game plan changer. Opponents had to alter what they did to account for him. …Read More!


From Tampa, Florida

Over time, the Friday of Super Bowl Week has become the day when the NFL Commissioner has a State of the League speech and a press conference. It’s a tradition that was started by Pete Rozelle, was continued by Paul Tagliabue and the torch is now carried by Roger Goodell.

Goodell didn’t really have much of a speech; just some opening comments about the league and the type of season that played out across the country.

“I think it’s been an incredibly exciting season for our fans,” Goodell said. “The one word I like to use is unpredictable. Each week, there’s another unpredictable event, and I think that is the hallmark of our season, and frankly, the hallmark of the NFL.

“There are three ways I’d like to describe this season, thinking back about it, and it’s with three key words: hope, inspiration and teamwork, all of which are very important in football. Hope that your team always can succeed and overcome the obstacles. We saw that with Atlanta, Miami and Baltimore coming from a difficult season the year before and going into the playoffs with first-year coaches. Inspiration, from the efforts by some of our great players each week and our coaches and the teams when they come together and inspire communities, and we see that very clearly. And of course teamwork, which is so critical for what we all need to achieve. It’s working together and coming together at exactly the right time.

When Goodell went to questions, easily the subject that drew the most queries centered on the looming battle with the NFL Players Association over a new collective bargaining agreement. We will save his comments and those of the NFLPA until next week, once the real football is behind us.

But here are a few highlights on his comments involving the owners, players and a new working agreement:

“The ownership has spent a tremendous amount of time evaluating the current collective bargaining agreement. They came to the conclusion that it was better to terminate that agreement and go into a negotiation where we could work to try to come up with something that would work for all clubs and our players rather than continue on with that system. The economics were difficult prior to the economy turning south on us. What’s happened now with the economy turning difficult for all of us, I think that it just accentuated the negatives in that collective bargaining agreement. I think the owners feel that it’s critically important for the future of the game, for the future of the business, that they re-evaluate this. It is being done all across the country in every industry. We’re evaluating our product. Labor unions and management have to work together to address this.”

Here are some of the other topics that Goodell touched on. …Read More!

Parcells on Pioli, Haley

From Tampa, Florida

Inside the Gatorade Studio at the Tampa Convention Center, Bill Parcells was relaxing before he headed off to do about a dozen different interviews at the Super Bowl Media Center.

Before he got started, Parcells took time to talk about the Chiefs new GM Scott Pioli, who also happens to be his son-in-law. He also talked and the man who may be their next head coach, Arizona Cardinals offensive coordinator Todd Haley.

Here’s what Parcells had to say.

Question: What are the driving principles that will be part of Scott Pioli’s leadership of the Chiefs franchise?

Parcells: “He’s relentless. He will not leave any stones unturned when it comes to his job. He’s a hard worker, but he’s also a smart worker. He doesn’t waste a lot of time on things that don’t mean anything. He isn’t going to spend a lot of time appearing in front of the cameras and microphones because that’s not what he’s about. I think Scott will approach his job just with the primary purpose of giving his coach the best team possible.”

Question: At his introductory press conference he said his job is not to get the best 53 players in football, it’s to put together the best team. As a man who has both coached and put together teams, what does that mean to you?

Parcells: “I’m not going to speak for him, but what he’ll do is go out and get character people. That’s the job any evaluator has to handle and that’s not only judging physical ability, but character. You’ve got to have character guys on your team. Now there’s a lot of different ways to define that, but in football it comes down to finding players that will work together for one goal. He will find character players.”

Question: Is there any sense of your own buttons bursting pride that he’s now got a chance to run his own show?

Parcells: “I’ve got two relationships with him. One is football, the other is my daughter. I think he’s a good man and I will try to help him anyway I can, within the rules. But he’s also now a competitor, and I can’t ever forget that.”

Question: Todd Haley was part of your staff at both the New York Jets and Dallas. There are a lot of rumors about that he may be the Chiefs next head coach. What qualities do you think he has for the job as head coach?

Parcells: “OK, right off the bat, I’ve got no idea who he’s thinking about as head coach. I last talked to him (Pioli) last Friday and we didn’t talk about that subject and I have no knowledge of any names. So, I’m not much of a source as you media guys say for the rumors.

“As for Todd, he’s an intelligent, passionate guy, who knows how to handle players and understands the things that are important to get things done with a team. He comes from good stock, because his father (Dick Haley) is one of my favorite people in this game. If he can be half the coach that his father was as a scout then Todd will be successful.

“But again, I’ve got no idea that it’s him. Whoever it is, will be somebody that he (Pioli) feels comfortable with and agrees with his ideas of how you go about putting a team on the field that can win football games. That’s the only way you get to stay around; you have to win.”

Friday Super Quotations: The Coaches

From Tampa, Florida

The head coaches brought the media portion of Super Bowl week to an end Friday morning with 30-minute press conferences. They and their players will now be off-limits to the media until after Sunday’s Super Bowl game at Raymond James Stadium.

Here’s some of the best of what they had to say on Friday.

MIKE TOMLIN (left), on his final message for his team on Saturday night and whether he’s prepared anything:

“I haven’t. I make a conscious effort to wing it. I think that’s real. I think our guys relate to that. It’s that way that I deal with them, for the most part. This week has been tougher than most in terms of trying to keep those thoughts out of my mind because there’s a lot to say. But at the same time, I’m intent on doing that (winging it). I’m going to just walk in and communicate with them like I always do. I never prepare for the night-before-the-game speech.”

TOMLIN, on what advantage the Steelers might have because of how many of their players have played in a Super Bowl:

“I think that if there is an advantage, it is in the week leading up to the game. I think the people who have been here before help the guys with some of the things that go along with game: taking care of personal business, taking care of family members, not letting those things be a distraction and helping them stay focused on what it is we need to do in terms of playing. In terms of the game itself, I would imagine whether you have been in it before or not, it’s going to be pretty big. Some people are going to be nervous, and some people are going to be more nervous than others. If they were nervous in the first game, I’m sure they are going to be nervous in this one. The game itself is the game that is going to play out. If there is an advantage, I think it’s in the preparation leading up to the game and in dealing with some of the things that you have to deal with leading up to the game.” …Read More!

Podcast: Quarterback Mark Sanchez

From Tampa, Florida

Thanks to the folks at Gatorade, I got a chance to sit down and talk to Southern Cal quarterback Mark Sanchez. He’s rated either No. 1 or No. 2 among quarterbacks coming out of the college ranks this year and headed to the NFL.

So, it wasn’t a surprise that Sanchez asked me more questions than I asked him. He wanted to know all about the Chiefs and who the head coach was going to be. Sanchez met Tony Gonzalez for the first time on Thursday night in Tampa and got an earful from the Chiefs tight end as well.

I can tell you already that he’s a very polished young man when it comes to dealing with the media and the stuff that comes from being the in the spotlight quarterback. Very intelligent answers, well spoken and polite.

The kid has those tools to make it big.  The question the Chiefs and 31 other teams must address is whether he has the physical and mental tools to be a successful NFL quarterback.  That’s all coming up with the NFL Combine, workouts and then April’s NFL Draft.

My first question to Sanchez was whether he was prepared to start his career with a football team that will likely not be very good.  Here’s what he had to say:

Chiefs Free Agents

From Tampa, Florida

The NFL Players Association released an early “unofficial” list of players who will become unrestricted and restricted free agents this spring.

The list is called unofficial by the NFLPA because it does not include players who may have voided the final year of their contracts because of performance clauses.

The Chiefs list is very short. The following players will have the opportunity to become unrestricted free agents:

  • DE Jason Babin
  • LB Rocky Boiman
  • S Oliver Celestin
  • G Adrian Jones
  • S Jon McGraw
  • LB Pat Thomas

And, the following players can become restricted free agents. That limits their options when it comes to leaving Kansas City, if the Chiefs decide they want them back:

  • C Rudy Niswanger
  • S Jarrad Page (above)
  • WR Jeff Webb

Jones and Thomas are the UFAs who were starters last year, although Babin and Boiman became starters because of injury. Among that group, the biggest contribution came from McGraw on special teams.

Among the restricted free agents, Niswanger and Page were starters.

Friday Morning Cup O’Super Bowl

From Tampa, Florida

It’s the Number One question asked of anybody from Kansas City walking the rain soaked streets of Tampa on Thursday: who’s going to be the Chiefs head coach?

The shoulders are sore from shrugging so much.

Scott Pioli works with a plan, and that plan apparently did not include the quick hiring of a head coach.

That’s OK if Pioli gets his man. What might make things tough is putting together a coaching staff that will help that man turn things around at Arrowhead Stadium. There have been a lot of coaching changes in the NFL and there have been a lot of good coaches on the street. There were certainly a lot more good coaches two weeks ago when Pioli was announced as the team’s new GM.

Unless this new head coach comes to Kansas City and we find out he’s already got his staff lined up, the Chiefs are going to be at a disadvantage.

This all was brought home to me on Thursday here in Tampa when I sat down to talk with Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians (right).

There are a lot of Chiefs fans who don’t know that the man who calls the plays for Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was once a Chiefs assistant coach. BA was the running backs coach on Marty Schottenheimer’s staff for three seasons (1989-91). It was his first job in pro football; he’d just been fired as head coach at Temple University in Philadelphia.

When Schottenheimer was hired by Carl Peterson to come in and help turn the franchise around, he put together a staff that history shows was pretty remarkable.

“It was one of the best staffs I ever worked on,” Arians said. “I think our Super Bowl staff with Bill (Cowher in 2005) was comparable with ‘Whiz’ (Ken Whisenhunt) and Russ (Grimm), Dick Hoak, James Daniel and myself.

“But that staff in Kansas City was special.” …Read More!

Brush With the Boss

From Tampa, Florida

So there I am, hustling down a hallway at the Tampa Convention Center looking for the room where they are about to hold a press conference. Ahead of me is a security checkpoint and I can already see the frown on the face of the man guarding the entry point.

Just then, I hear a women’s voice off my right ear. “Sir, sir, could you take a picture for us?” she asked.

So I stop, take her camera, turn and take a picture of her standing with Bruce Springsteen.

The Boss was there, a few feet away. For more than the last 30 years, I’ve seen him in concert, some three dozen times and I’ve probably gotten no closer than maybe 75, 100 feet from him.

Now, here was the Boss, forcing a smile with some woman he just ran into and I don’t know if she’s more excited, or I am.

I snap the picture, hand over the camera and Springsteen looks at me and says “Thanks Brother.” Then he’s off down the hallway, headed for the Super Bowl Half-time Show Press Conference.

OK, now I’ve done about 25 of these Super Bowls over the years. Seen and met a lot of football superstars. Can’t remember 99 percent of those, but I will remember for a very long time my brush with the Boss.

Some observations: …Read More!

Beisel Staying Focused

From Tampa, Florida

Sunday will not be the first time Monty Beisel plays a Super Bowl.

It will be the first time he plays in the NFL’s official version of the championship game. But as a kid growing up on the flat playing fields of Kansas, Beisel played Super Bowl football every year.

“If the weather wasn’t too bad we’d be out there playing before the game,” Beisel said Thursday, during the Arizona Cardinals media period at the Grand Hyatt Hotel. “In my house, with football being such an important part of my family, Super Bowl Sunday was a holiday

“When the ball was kicked off, we were all in front of the television.”

They won’t be on Sunday. His parents and brothers will be sitting in Raymond James Stadium watching the Cardinals play the Pittsburgh Steelers for the Vince Lombardi Trophy. And No. 52 will be running down the field in his red jersey trying to create mayhem in the kicking game.

“I really haven’t thought about where I am right now,” Beisel said. “In the end, it’s another football game and that’s how we’ve tried to approach things this week. We are just getting ready for another game.”

That’s easy to say, but reality speaks otherwise. Beisel was saying this in a giant tent that was erected on a parking lot at the Grand Hyatt. It was filled with media folks running from table to table, chasing the latest Super Bowl scoop among the players and coaches. …Read More!

Thursday Super Quotations: Steelers

From Tampa, Florida

The Steelers last meeting with the media came in the Sun Dome, the basketball arena for the University of South Florida. These things usually happen at the hotel where the team is staying, but Pittsburgh is practicing at South Florida this week, so that’s where the press sessions went down.

Here’s some of the best of a pretty dry session, in what has been a pretty dry Super Bowl as far as inflammatory comments.

HEAD COACH MIKE TOMLIN, on how a tough schedule prepared the Steelers for the postseason:

“If it doesn’t kill you, it strengthens you. These games are fun; they are. I think our team learned a lot about ourselves in the midst of it. I think that we grew, and that’s what it’s about. When you are fortunate enough to win enough of those games, I think it prepares you for January football. I believe we have a team that doesn’t blink in the face of adversity, because we’ve had quite a bit and found ways to see our way through. It also provides opportunities for guys to step up and deliver, and you can’t create or get enough of those opportunities along the way in preparation for what we face on Sunday.”

TOMLIN, on his relationship with Tony Dungy:

“Specifically regarding Tony (Dungy) and what he’s meant to my growth and development as a coach, I learned many lessons from him, but probably more than anything, was just how accepting he was of people who he worked with – their different approaches – to teaching and conveying his message. His willingness to listen, his servant leadership capabilities – those are some of the key things that stand out having had an opportunity to work with him for a year.”

WR SANTONIO HOLMES, on the tradition of chasing rabbits in his hometown of Belle Glade, Florida:

“Growing up there, it was real tough. There weren’t many jobs or opportunities for jobs. If your parents are out working in the field, there is no opportunity for you to go out and find a job because you have to stay home and take care of your brothers and sisters. We didn’t have many opportunities to do things other than play football and chase rabbits. We did it because it helped us get money. Now, people are saying these guys are really fast because they chase rabbits. I never thought of it that way. Running in the muck, the soil that’s down there, it’s not like a football field. You have divots all over the ground that you have to maneuver through while you’re running. I think it strengthened my legs, but a lot of the guys that chased rabbits also ran track. That probably helped elevate their speed too.

“We probably caught between 40 and 80 rabbits a day, depending on how many come out of the field or how many people are chasing them at a time. If you’re there with two or three guys, you can catch that many in a day. We would go out around seven in the morning and not get home until 6:30 at night. That was our job, what we did to make money. Our parents didn’t have enough money to supply our needs. We wanted shoes and clothes, so we went out and did it on our own.” …Read More!

Thursday Super Quotations: Cardinals

Thursday is the final day where the media can get at the players. On Friday, only the head coaches will speak and no one will hear from the players until after Sunday’s game.

Here are some of the better comments coming out of the Cardinals session with the media on Thursday morning.

CARDINALS PRESIDENT MICHAEL BIDWELL, on what it means to him and his father, team owner Bill Bidwell, for the Cardinals to be in the Super Bowl:

“A year ago, we felt like we had a good team, and we hosted the game in Arizona. Dad and I had many conversations about how we feel like we’ve got the talent on the field that if we can keep everybody performing at the high level that they’re capable of, we have the chance to win any game. So if we do that, we stay focused, we get it done. So throughout this year, we had a great draft, we felt like we filled some holes in free agency, the players got their second year in the offseason training program. We felt we could really build on the 8-8 season that we had in 2007.

“Coming into training camp, Coach (Ken Whisenhunt) made some difficult decisions, including the decision to start Kurt Warner and other decisions including benching Edgerrin James. Those decisions turned out to be the right decisions. What we really did was made sure that the players knew they were going to be accountable to perform and to put in the work throughout the week and not make mistakes. He wasn’t afraid to bench somebody, and they understand that. That helps motivate them to play at a high level. And throughout the season, I realized that we had a chance to be a playoff team. I think everybody did. The question was how far we were going to go. I knew Coach wasn’t going to let us down. In the locker room after we were defeated in New England in Week 15 by a pretty large margin, he told me that he wouldn’t let this happen again, and we haven’t lost a game since then. He’s been really focused on keeping the players focused and keeping their foot to the metal.”

QB KURT WARNER, on the heaviness of his leadership responsibilities on the team:

“Pressure can be a big responsibility. There is no question in this position in the game of football, you are called upon to lead and a lot of pressure is formed. I think because of the way that I have carried my life and the things that I have stood for, there comes a little pressure and responsibility that come with that. The way I always look at it is I embrace it. I embrace the opportunity to have pressure. Somebody just told me about a week about, talking about the playoffs and getting to this point, and told me a story. The quote came across that pressure is a privilege, to understand that pressure is a privilege. I think that it is a great way to put it. It is great to be in this position. Now, things can go against you and you don’t perform and you don’t do something, there is a lot of the truth being in that position, but at the same time, you embrace the idea that ‘Hey, I am in a position to make a difference for my football team and I am in a position to change the world around me because of the platform I have been given.’ I realized that a long time ago that God put me in this place particularly, and I am going to try to grab hold of that responsibility. I’ll take all the responsibility that comes with it and I am going to try to live up to what God holds me to.” …Read More!

Monty Beisel on Scott Pioli

From Tampa, Florida

Former Chiefs linebacker Monty Beisel is enjoying the life as a member of a Super Bowl team. The Kansas native is one of the best special teams players on the Arizona Cardinals roster.

Beisel was a fourth-round choice of the Chiefs in the 2001 NFL Draft and spent four seasons with the team. He has spent the last three seasons with Arizona.

In between was a one-year stint with the New England Patriots and Beisel has a few things to say about former Pats executive-new Chiefs GM Scott Pioli.

“I think that’s a great move for the Chiefs,” Beisel said Thursday morning. “It’s a great, great move. They are getting a first class guy with him.”

Pioli was the guy who wanted to bring Beisel in as an unrestricted free agent in 2005.

“He was the guy who signed me and what I saw there for two years was he was always involved with the players,” Beisel said. “He was always talking with guys, checking up on them, finding out what was going on in their personal lives, stuff like that.

“In the off-season, you would go in and be working out and he would be on the next machine. You could be lifting weights and he would be lifting right next to you. He was always around and he made you feel like what was going on in your life was important, not just what was going on when it involved football.”

Beisel played the 2005 season with the Patriots, contributing 57 tackles in 15 games. He was released in New England’s final cut before the 2006 regular season.

“I enjoyed my time there,” Beisel said. “It’s a good atmosphere. I know Scott wasn’t the final word when it came to stuff, but there’s no doubt in my mind he’ll bring the same kind of attitudes to the Chiefs. ”

More with Beisel from the Super Bowl later today.

Herm Heads For Television

ESPN announced on Thursday that they have hired former Chiefs head coach Herm Edwards to appear on their network of stations as an NFL analyst.

Edwards will appear on the NFL Live and SportsCenter programs on ESPN, as well as programming on ESPNEWS and other football related shows throughout the year.  He will also do some work on ESPN Radio.

According to ESPN, he will join the network sometime in mid-February.

“Herm is well-liked and highly respected throughout the league, and his insights and opinions as a former coach will make a tremendous addition to our year-round NFL coverage,” said Norby Williamson, ESPN executive vice president, production.

Thursday Morning Cup O’Super Bowl

From Tampa, Florida

What is about God that makes so many in pro football nervous?

Yes, I know that probably the opening line you expected emanating from a Bacchanalian event like the Super Bowl.

But I ask because of Kurt Warner.

The Arizona Cardinals quarterback is a member of the God Squad. OK, he’s not just a card-carrying member, he’s a General. A four-star General in the Lord’s Legion.

His faith appears to be the driving force in his life, and if you don’t believe that, just wait a few minutes because Warner will tell you so. To say he wears his religious beliefs on his sleeve is to under-estimate his willingness to credit the Lord with so much of what has happened in his life.

Things like getting back to the Super Bowl nine years after his first visit to the game. That is truly a remarkable headline for Super Bowl XLIII. He’s never afraid to credit his God for making things happen in his life.

This makes folks in football uncomfortable. Reportedly, it makes some of the Cardinals uncomfortable. Some of his teammates’ wives supposedly call him “Jesus”, but they do it in a kidding way. Teammates and others in pro football mock Warner for comments like the one he began his post-NFC Championship Game press conference with: “First things first, I’ve got to thank my Lord and savior above.”

ESPN the Magazine had an interesting story on Warner back in December, which included his willingness to address his religious beliefs and the discomfort that sometimes brings to those in the locker room. Apparently last summer Warner and his wife Brenda invited all of his Cardinals teammates to their home for a day of swimming and a giant picnic. Families were included.

Hardly anyone showed up.

“When I asked Larry (Fitzgerald) what happened, he told me that everyone is afraid to come over because they don’t know if I’m going to stand up on a podium and preach to them,” Warner told the magazine. “They think I’m going to jump up and down and introduce them to Jesus. But that’s crazy. And the people who know me realize that’s not what I am.”

It’s hard to understand why talking about God makes so many people in football so anxious. I would bet that 95 percent of the players and coaches in the league believe there is a God. Some are willing to speak of their faith publicly and that usually draws snickers and arched eyebrows from the media, some teammates and coaches.

And there have been players who hid behind the cloak of God. The Chiefs once had a starting quarterback who when the team won, referenced his contributions to the victory. When the team lost, it was God’s will. His teammates noticed the semantics and he wasn’t the starter very long.

It’s not just the locker room either. Warner’s agent has trouble finding endorsement deals for his client because some companies don’t know how to handle his public expression of his religious beliefs. …Read More!

Tracking How NFL Head Coaches Got There

So where do NFL head coaches come from? What will be the resume of the next Chiefs head coach?

As the league plays for its championship this weekend, the Chiefs have other things distracting them, like who will Scott Pioli’s partner in efforts to return the franchise to contender status.

Will we see the next head coach in action in Super Bowl LXIII with Arizona offensive coordinator Todd Haley (right)? Are there other unknown candidates that could be coaching in the game? Will he dip into the college football pool for his replacement of Herm Edwards?

If you are Pioli, where do you search for your partner? There is no football dating service that matches up names with head coaching jobs. Don’t laugh … there is such a thing in college football. There are consultants who track coaches and then work to pair them up with opportunities.

Although the NFL league office likes to stick its nose in things like GM and head coaching hirings, it really comes down to networking for those men who get the top jobs. They know somebody, who knows somebody. Or, they know the decision maker like Pioli.

Most often, NFL head coaches come out of the ranks of pro football. In this decade, there have been 68 head coaches hired. Decisions by the Chiefs and Oakland on their new leaders will push the number to 70. Here is where those men came from, ranked based on the last job they held before being named head coach:

Situation Coaches
NFL head coach


NFL offensive coordinator


NFL defensive coordinator


NFL assistant coach


College head coach


College assistant coach


Out of coaching


From those numbers comes the overwhelming fact that 54 of the 68 head coaches were in the NFL when they got their job, or 79 percent. The college ranks produced just six pro head coaches, or nine percent.

The reason for so few college coaches have ascended in the NFL becomes obvious when you look at what college coaches have done in the NFL in this decade. It’s a pretty gruesome picture: …Read More!

Wednesday Super Quotes: Steelers

From Tampa, Florida

The Steelers are the old hands at all this attention during the Super Bowl, since about half of the team was here three years ago when they played Seattle in Detroit.

Here’s some of the best of what we heard.

QB BEN ROETHLISBERGER, on how his relationship with offensive coordinator Bruce Arians has evolved since he took over the position:

“It’s evolved a lot. We spend a lot of time together on days off, in the offseason, in meetings rooms and on the golf course. We’ve had to have a relationship to make this offense evolve and grow. He’s said from day one, ‘This is not my offense Ben. It’s yours.’ He’s always up for input, changing things, renaming things, whatever it is. It’s been nice to be able to have that relationship with him and to be able to make those adjustments or changes, whatever we’ve needed to do.”

ROETHLISBERGER, on how using a new football designed for the Super Bowl will affect his grip:

“I was just talking to our equipment guys, and I told them we should break these 12 balls in. They looked and me and said, ‘Twelve balls? No, it’s 54.’ They’ve had a lot to break in. It’s tough because, as you said, they do have the big logo on them and it’s not the easiest thing to grip in the world and we’re the only position that has to deal with it on a constant basis, so we’ve been working on them and getting them ready. I’m sure Kurt (Warner) will have his gloves on, which I did in the first game (Super Bowl XL) and it helps a bit. For me, it’s just going to be an adjustment because my hands will be sweating for the first time in probably three months or so.”

ROETHLISBERGER, on if his approach to this Super Bowl is going to be different from the last one:

“It already is different. I’m more relaxed. I’m having more fun. The first time was my second year in the league, and I was so overwhelmed because it was such a dream to be in the game. This time, I’m just enjoying it and having more fun. I’m sure once the ball is kicked there will be nerves going through it, but if you’re not nervous for this game then there’s something wrong with you. This being my fifth year, I’m able to calm and control [my nerves] a little bit better and hopefully that will help.”

RB WILLIE PARKER, on if he was frustrated with the injuries that he sustained this season and on how he feels going into Sunday:

“Injuries can frustrate anyone. I definitely battled it for my first time this season and it made me stronger. It made me better, actually. I worked harder to get back and get to where I’m at right now. I’m definitely ready and we’ve been on the run lately running the ball. Now it’s time for one last game to lay it all on the line.” …Read More!

Wednesday Super Quotes: Cardinals

From Tampa, Florida

Day Two of the team’s exposure to the media came on Wednesday morning as the media trucked to the Cardinals hotel. We’ve sifted through all the words and bring you some of the best that we heard from the underdogs.

QB MATT LEINART, on whether it helps to look at Kurt Warner’s career and his early struggles:

“There are a lot of guys (who struggled) early in their careers. Steve Young, Tony Romo and a lot of other guys have sat and paid their dues and waited their time. Aaron Rogers is a perfect example. The Packers struggled as a team this year, but I thought he had a pretty good season this year. Matt Cassel is another, and he is a person who is close to me and he sat for four years and never thought he was going to see the field because he was behind one of the best. And Matt leads them to an 11-5 record which is unbelievable. I think the difference in my situation is that I played in my rookie year and started 11 games and played fairly well, I thought. That’s what makes it a little different. I have played and I want to get back in there, but this is the way it happened and it happened for a reason. We are at the Super Bowl in my third year which is pretty cool and you never know what could happen. I could be playing on Sunday. Obviously, you hope nothing happens like that, but you never know.”

DB RODERICK HOOD, on how he’s feeling in the week leading up to the Super Bowl:

“Whenever you play in a game, you always have nervous jitters. But you try to stay focused, understand what you’re trying to do, remember what the game plan is, and just try to go over in your mind making plays. The emotion after the first hit, it kind of dies down … the team that’s going to be the most successful is the team that understands this is football. Treat it like a normal work week despite all the media and all the questions and things you’re answering. Go out here and practice like you’ve been doing throughout the year.”

OT LEVI BROWN, on the Steelers aggressive defense:

“I’d say they’re the most aggressive defense that we’ll face this year. Their front seven are pretty amazing right now. They’re able to get a lot of pressure off the edge. The guys in the middle are able to push the pocket back to the quarterback, so it’s causing a lot of problems with the passing game. They’ve always been great against the run – that’s why they’re ranked the No. 1 defense in the league this year. We’re going to have our hands full.” …Read More!

Wednesday Morning Cup O’Super Bowl

From Tampa, Florida

Our boots are on the ground in Tampa for Super Bowl LXIII. We’ll provide a view of the week from right up and through Sunday’s game between my the Steelers and the Cardinals.

Oh my, Tampa in late January. Forget the game; it will be nice to walk around without a coat.

There are a lot of memories in Tampa-St. Pete. I was here for Super Bowl XXV when the Giants beat the Bills on Scott Norwood’s wide right kick. That was during the first Gulf War and I remember the helicopter gunships hovering around the stadium and the emotion that flowed through the old Tampa Stadium as Whitney Houston sang the National Anthem.

The day before that game, Chiefs kicker Jan Stenerud found out that he had been voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I was not part of the voting committee at that time, but I remember tracking Jan down at his hotel for an interview. We got into the elevator to go up to his room and who should get on with us but Jimmy Johnson, then the Dallas Cowboys head coach. It was an over-served Jimmy Johnson. It was an inebriated Jimmy Johnson.

J.J. stumbled onto the elevator looked at Stenerud and yelled “Way to go Jan Baby” like they were long lost friends. Amazingly, his hair was in perfect order. Stenerud later asked as we got off the elevator, “That was Jimmy Johnson wasn’t it?”

Tampa is where Joe Montana played his first game in a Chiefs uniform, same for Marcus Allen. They crushed the Buccaneers that September day in 1993. The Hooters restaurant chain began in nearby Clearwater and one of the original locations is over on Dale Mabry Highway. That location posted a message on their big outdoor signboard when Steve DeBerg finished his career with the Bucs. It read: “Steve, your office is ready.” DeBerg loved that place.

I saw Super Bowl XXXV at Raymond James Stadium when the Baltimore Ravens defense just destroyed the New York Giants and quarterback Kerry Collins, 34-7. It was as good a defensive performance as you could imagine.

It was in Tampa where I saw the Philadelphia Stars win the second USFL Championship, beating the Arizona Wranglers 23-3 in the conclusion of the 1984 season. I remember it as the first time I had a long conversation with a fellow who was then general manager of the Stars. His name was Carl Peterson.

Tampa is Bern’s Steakhouse, one of the greatest restaurants in the country, with a wine list that is as big as a library dictionary. Tampa is Ybor City and cheap, but not bad American cigars. Tampa is the Columbia Restaurant, sort of a Cuban-Spanish menu, where one night during the Final Four in 1999 I sat next to John Thompson and his Georgetown entourage.

Other than the fact that traffic is awful and events and venues are too spread out between Tampa, St. Pete, Clearwater and even all the way to Orlando, Tampa is one of the better Super Bowl sites in the rotation. Given that the league won’t go back to San Diego (bad stadium), Los Angeles (no team) or San Francisco (bad stadiums), Tampa is right up there with New Orleans and Miami as the best Super Bowl venues. …Read More!

Super Bowl Quotations: the Steelers

After the media had its time with the Arizona Cardinals, the Pittsburgh Steelers stepped into the media ring of fire at Raymond James Stadium for Super Bowl week’s annual Media Day.

Here are some of the better words we could find from the millions that were generated by the Steelers.

Steelers chairman Dan Rooney on why the city of Pittsburgh is so devoted to the Steelers:

“Well there are really a lot of reasons. Success has had something to do with it. The fact that they have had difficult times in Pittsburgh and we sort of filled the void; they could have something for their pride. That has something to do with it. You know they moved. Everybody sees that when we go to Arizona there are a billion Steelers fans out there. So it is one of those things.”

Rooney on whether the way the Steelers play reflects the city:

“The city has changed as far as that. There are still great workers, and there are still steel mills, but it has really become a college. We have great colleges; we have seven colleges in the city of Pittsburgh. We have great medical facilities, education. They are doing some marvelous things as far as some of the robotics and things like that. Pittsburgh is really a great city. A number of people lost their jobs and had to move and things like that, so that has had something to do with it.”

Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau on NFL defensive player of the year James Harrison and his ability to strip the ball:

“That’s an innate talent. The thing that is outstanding about him is his ability to get into position to make that play. It comes from his strength, his body mass, and he’s faster than people think. He’s short, but in his case that’s a real plus because he’s got so much talent. The offensive players are taller, and he’s underneath them most of the time. Then, with his strength, he can use that to his advantage, and he’s got enough speed that they have to honor that too. He’s got the combination of strength and speed, and that’s what is unique about James. He never stops on any play, never gives up in any game.”

LeBeau on why the Steelers defense keeps producing top-notch linebackers:

“We have an advantage in that we can take the tweener, the hybrid if you will. We used to get our pick of all of those guys who maybe weren’t quite big enough to be a 4-3 defensive end and maybe not quite athletic enough to be a 3-4 linebacker. We’ve just had some good luck with those kinds of guys over the years. Our scouts and front office people do a good job of identifying the players who can play in our system.”

Wide receiver Hines Ward on comparing the 2008 Pittsburgh Steelers to the 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers that won the Super Bowl:

“I don’t try to compare teams, but the team that we had that won the Super Bowl was really all about Jerome Bettis, what he’s done for the organization and trying to win one for him. This year, it’s a different experience. It’s about a total team effort. One guy doesn’t win all the games. It’s been a total team effort. One guy steps up every week. It’s been an offensive lineman or it’s been the wideouts or the running back. Our defense has been No. 1 all year. If we can go out there and continue to make plays hopefully we can win the Super Bowl.” …Read More!

Super Bowl Quotations: the Cardinals

The whole Super Bowl media blowout kicked off on Tuesday with the annual Media Day gathering for both teams at Raymond James Stadium.

Think of it was about 3,000 rabid dogs all running around the field trying to get a bite of as many bones as possible and that’s media day.

The Cardinals were up first and here are a few highlights from the many, many, many, many words produced by the gathering.

Cardinals owner Bill Bidwell on how he celebrated the NFC Championship Game victory:

“I went home, finished off the morning coffee in the microwave, went to bed and got a good night’s sleep. Then I woke up with a smile.”

General Manager Rod Graves on the development of his management style:

“I have many people to be thankful to. Carl Peterson gave me my first opportunity in the USFL. Bill Tobin, who was previously with the Bears, gave me a great opportunity and I learned quite a bit, but obviously no one has had a greater impact on me than father Jackie Graves. My dad was a scout with the Philadelphia Eagles back in the 70′s and had been with the Eagles for quite a long time. I learned a great deal from him. He paved the way and I was able to latch onto his coat tails and swing along and learn a few things about the business.”

Graves on the Cardinals philosophy with the salary cap:

“We try to make wise decisions about our salary cap. We are also if not the lowest, one of the lower numbers with respect to dead cap money. I think one of the reasons why is that we don’t throw a lot of good money after bad. We don’t just eat up salary cap and overpay players because we have cap room. We try to put our money in the places where we feel like it will best serve us and give ourselves a chance to evaluate our players on a yearly basis as to whether or not we want to put more money into them. I think that has led to seemingly a great deal of cap room after every year but I think we have a chance to evaluate where we want to spend that money and by the time the season starts we’re not sitting there with larger amounts of cap. We’ve eaten it up. We approach our cap a little bit differently than some teams because we don’t throw a lot of guaranteed money at players.”

Quarterback Kurt Warner on whether he dwells more on the Super Bowl he lost or the Super Bowl he won:

“I think about the game that we lost more than any game that I’ve ever played in. Probably a little unfortunate because I probably should be hanging onto the one that we won. It’s just that, in that year—and maybe just the Super Bowl in general—but that year, we were favored. We were expected to win. And so when you don’t win, you feel like you miss an opportunity. You miss an opportunity to make history, so for whatever reason I think that game has stuck with me more than any other game that I’ve played in. I’m going to do my best to make sure I don’t have to think about this one too much.” …Read More!

Tuesday Morning Cup O’Chiefs

OK, so if it’s not Mike Shanahan, who is going to be the Chiefs next head coach?

That’s the question of the moment in Kansas City and red and gold watchers have no better idea today than they had on Friday when the firing of Herm Edwards was announced.

And quite likely, we won’t have any indications until moments, and I mean moments, before the new coach is announced.

But I think it’s safe to say that Scott Pioli didn’t just start thinking about who his new head coach would be at 3:16 p.m. on Friday. Pioli told Edwards he was gone at 3:15 p.m.

Any good personnel man always has a ready list, whether committed to paper or in his head. I think it’s safe to say that Pioli has probably been thinking about this type of hire for the better part of the last 17 years, or since he came into the NFL in 1992 with the Cleveland Browns.

I also think it’s safe to say that while it was important for Pioli to spend some time talking with Edwards and finding out as much as he could about the Chiefs players, he did not need the better part of 10 days to make that decision.

That Pioli was in no hurry tells me that if he doesn’t have a single name, he has a couple of ideas and they are coaches who are still available to him. If – and that’s the most important word in all these coaching discussions in the media – if he was interested in former Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, that didn’t work with the timing of Pioli’s hiring in Kansas City and McDaniels in Denver. If he was interested in any of the other names that have been hired in the last 10 days, they were all available to him. If Pioli wanted them, he would have found a way to make that happen. …Read More!

Shanahan’s Still Putting

As we wait for various media outlets, both locally and nationally, to come up with their excuses for why Mike Shanahan will not be the Chiefs next head coach, the guy who has had it right from the start has more info on the former Broncos head man.

Here’s what Adam Schefter posted on his blog on Monday morning:

Late Friday afternoon, when multiple reports surfaced that Kansas City and Mike Shanahan were close to a deal that would make him the next head coach of the Chiefs, the former Broncos coach could not be found. He was missing for a brief time, his cell phone going directly to voice mail.

Shanahan quickly found out the fuss he indirectly and unknowingly had created. When he walked off the golf course and into the clubhouse after playing 18, multiple golfers asked Shanahan if it were true he was closing in on a deal with the Chiefs.

Shanahan laughed. He had heard the rumors since Thursday morning, when members of his former coaching staff began calling to ask him if it were true that he was going to Kansas City.

As he told the people in the golf clubhouse, there was nothing new Friday that hadn’t been true on Thursday. He had not had any contact with the Chiefs, didn’t plan to have any contact with the Chiefs, and would not be coaching the Chiefs.

In other words, he would have more time to play golf.

Monday Morning Cup O’Chiefs

When Herm Edwards was fired on Friday as the head coach of the Chiefs, he helped the NFL establish a dubious record.

The decision on Edwards made the Chiefs the 11th team since the start of the 2008 season to change head coaches. That’s the most turnover in NFL history.

That will make the new head coaching class for the 2009 season the biggest the league has ever seen.

Going into the 1971, 1978, 1997 and 2006 seasons the league had 10 new head coaches from the year before.

The season with the biggest percentage for coaching turnover was 1971, when the league had only 26 teams and 10 of them changed head coaches. That’s 38.5 percent of the league.

Here are the seasons with the greatest percentage of different head coaches from the season before:

 Season  NewCoaches TotalTeams  PctChange 





















Any time that one-third of the league’s head coaching fraternity changes it is cause for pause. That’s especially true when the changes are those that have happened in the last few months. Gone are four Super Bowl winning head coaches. Two were fired (Mike Shanahan in Denver and Jon Gruden in Tampa) and two resigned (Mike Holmgren in Seattle and Tony Dungy in Indianapolis.)

Right now, nine of the 11 current openings have been filled and it’s an interesting contrast in this class compared to one just over a decade ago. The 10-man class of new head coaches in 1997 including six men who had been NFL head coaches before and one who was a college head coach. Five of those six had coached in a Super Bowl and two had teams that won the championship. Only three of the 10 came out of the NFL assistants rank.

This year of the nine coaches hired so far, only two have been NFL head coaches before: Eric Mangini in Cleveland and Jim Mora, Jr. in Seattle. The other seven have come from the assistant coaching ranks.

It will be interesting to see if Scott Pioli’s pick for head coach of the Chiefs follows the trends or breaks ranks. …Read More!

Sunday Morning Cup O’Chiefs

The state of information these days has reached a point of absurdity.

Take for instance Mike Shanahan, Chiefs head coach.

There will be an ending to this story in the media.

Yet, we don’t know if there was ever a beginning.

If a story has an ending, doesn’t it have to have a beginning? Not in today’s world of instant news. Journalism used to be a profession where being right was the most important trait for any practitioner. That’s no longer the case. Now, it’s like instant journalism. Pick up a rumor, add boiling water and viola – a story, and one that will have people talking all around the country.

The best most recent example is that Shanahan is going to be the next Chiefs head coach, replacing the recently fired Herm Edwards.

At some point in time in the next week to 10 days when this story does not come true, there will be an ending. All sorts of media outlets that have pushed the idea that the former Broncos coach was going to become the future Chiefs coach will make up some excuse for their wrong information.

The explanations will be that the Chiefs blew it because they couldn’t negotiate a contract. Or, it was Shanahan’s fault because he pulled out at the last minute. Or, the moon and the stars did not align properly, and thus how could these two parties be expected to get together?

Believe me, they will not blame themselves for getting it wrong. …Read More!

Something Coaches Can’t Forget

When you are a head coach in the National Football League, it comes down to one thing:


There’s no other word that makes your job safe. Not rebuilding, not retooling, not almost, not close, not popular.

It’s about winning. Sometimes, even that won’t keep you employed.

But at the minimum, there must be winning.

Herm Edwards always knew that. He always worked towards that. But he let down his guard in 2008. He thought he had time to win.

Turns out, time ran out on him.

When the 2007 season ended with a 4-12 record, Edwards thought he had two years to get the Chiefs roster in shape and get the team winning again at the level of a contender for the playoffs. He knew the ’08 season would be a tough one, but never did he imagine it would turn into the 2-14 debacle that befell the franchise.

But ’08 was going to be the time to retool the roster, and ’09 was going to be the rebuilding of the won and lost record.

Well, the roster certainly got retooled and now somebody else has the opportunity to reap the benefits of that work.

That’s what makes the firing of Edwards so unfair. To suffer through the pain of what happened on the field in ’08 and then not get the chance to make things right and enjoy the potential fruits of that agony is heartbreaking.

Edwards made a mistake. He violated one the 10 Commandments of Coaching: win every game possible and approach every season like the Grim Reaper is sitting in your team meeting. Next year, even next week is not important, nor is it guaranteed. …Read More!

Shanahan to Chiefs: No 2, Yes 1

Another of the NFL information heavyweights has checked in on the Mike Shanahan to the Chiefs story.

Here’s what Peter King of Sports Illustrated and NBC posted on late Saturday morning:

“Deposed Denver coach Mike Shanahan will “definitely” not coach the Kansas City Chiefs in 2009 — nor will he take a coaching job anywhere prior to the 2009 season, an NFL source close to Shanahan said late Friday night. The source said Shanahan was adamant that he was not coaching the Chiefs …

The affirmation that Shanahan won’t coach anywhere at the start of the 2009 season won’t do anything to lessen the heat on coaches in tenuous positions to start next season, like Dallas coach Wade Phillips. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones admires both Shanahan and Mike Holmgren, the former Seattle coach who likely will return to football in 2010 as a coach or general manager or both.

Why did the Shanahan story gain so much momentum late in the week? Shanahan, shortly after he was fired Dec. 30, expressed admiration for Pioli to a friend and said anyone who would take a coaching job this off-season would love to be able to work with Pioli because he was the best personnel man in the business. Shanahan would want a strong personnel man to accompany him in whatever new coaching job he’d take, and Pioli, who was on the verge of firing Edwards, was exactly that man.

But there wasn’t a compelling reason for Shanahan to take the Kansas City job. This is a good year for Shanahan to kick back. He’s getting paid $7 million from Denver owner Pat Bowlen to not coach. His daughter is getting married this summer. He needs time to re-assemble a coaching staff. In the end, the Kansas City job might have made sense from the standpoint of a team in need with an owner, Clark Hunt who would spend the money to win and a smart young GM. But it didn’t make sense to Shanahan.”

So, it’s now King and Adam Schefter of the NFL Network against, with ESPN’s Chris Mortensen stuck with his early story that negotiations were close to being finalized between the Chiefs and Shanahan.

Saturday Morning Cup O’Chiefs

It’s called the Rooney Rule and it must be satisfied as the Chiefs search for their new head coach.

Established in 2003, the Rooney Rule is named after Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney, who chaired the NFL Committee on Workplace Diversity back in 2002. The committee was formed because of the league’s poor record of hiring minority head coaches.

Once created, the Rooney Rule said simply that when a head coaching position came open, teams had to interview at least one minority candidate.

The Chiefs obviously followed the rules when they hired Herm Edwards back in 2006 when he replaced Dick Vermeil.

Now that the Chiefs have fired Edwards, they must satisfy the Rooney Rule before they hire his replacement.

According to reports out of the league office in New York, the Chiefs conversations over the last 10 days with Edwards about the team and the coaching position do not satisfy the Rooney Rule. Now that he’s been released and a new head coaching search has begun, Clark Hunt and Scott Pioli must interview a minority candidate.

That certainly slows down the high-speed train created by the media that supposedly has taken the Chiefs directly to former Denver coach Mike Shanahan.

The Rooney Rule will not come as a surprise to Pioli and the process. For those of us outside the very small Chiefs circle that knows what’s really going on, they may have already interviewed candidates and even minority candidates for the job.

Whether it’s Shanahan, Arizona offensive coordinator Todd Haley, Chiefs offensive coordinator Chan Gailey, Bill Parcells or the ghost of Amos Alonzo Stagg, the Chiefs must have at least one minority interview. Not doing so brings a hefty fine. When Detroit was hiring Steve Mariucci back in 2003, then GM Matt Millen said he could not get any minority candidates to agree to an interview. The reason was everyone knew Mariucci was the hire and the interview was meaningless in the Detroit process.

Millen hired Mariucci and was fined $200,000 for violating the Rooney Rule.

Since its inception, the Rooney Rule has helped elevate the visibility of minority candidates for head coaching jobs. The year before the rule took effect, the league had just two black head coaches: Edwards with the New York Jets and Tony Dungy in Indianapolis.

Currently, the league has six black head coaches: Lovie Smith, Chicago; Mike Singletary, San Francisco; Raheem Morris, Tampa Bay, Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati; Jim Caldwell, Indianapolis and Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh.

There are now two open jobs among head coaches. Oakland has already interviewed Green Bay assistant coach Winston Moss for the Raiders head coaching job. …Read More!

More From Herm

Herm Edwards had this to say to FOX-TV’s Jay Glazer, from a report on

“Edwards told’s Jay Glazer that he was fired at 3 p.m. CT, with new general manager Scott Pioli telling him the team wanted to go in another direction.  ‘That’s OK,’ Edwards told ‘I told (Pioli) I didn’t need an explanation. I understand the business. I’m OK with it.  I’m going to take until after the weekend to decide what I want to do next. I need to talk to my wife and see which direction I want to go.’

“Edwards said he will decide between taking time off, doing TV, and being a defensive backs coach, a job he truly enjoyed before becoming head coach of the New York Jets.  Edwards said he does not want to be a defensive coordinator.”

Herm Says

Chiefs released a statement from Herm Edwards after his firing:

“First and foremost, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the Hunt Family for the opportunity to spend nine seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs. It has truly been an honor and a privilege to serve as the head coach of ‘Lamar’s Team’ the past three seasons. Lamar was a special, special man, who provided tremendous opportunities to so many, myself included. 
“There is not a more gracious family in all of professional sports than the Hunts. To Norma, Clark and Tavia, Lamar, Jr. and Rita, Sharron and David, and Dan, I would like to thank them for all of them for the encouragement and many kindnesses they extended to me, my wife, Lia, and our entire family over the years. The Chiefs franchise is clearly in good hands for many years to come under Clark’s leadership. I have no doubt that Clark and Scott Pioli will continue to steer the Chiefs in the right direction. 
“I would be remiss if I did not thank Carl Peterson for his support and friendship over the years. He gave me my first opportunity as a player in the National Football League with the Philadelphia Eagles. He also gave me a chance to coach in the league both as an assistant and as a head coach. What a remarkably positive impact Carl made on the lives of so many.
“There are many fine, fine people in the Kansas City Chiefs organization too numerous to mention who worked so tirelessly to help our football team. I am fortunate to call so many of them friends. I am a better man and a better coach in so many ways because of them. Hopefully, they feel the same way because of our time together. 
“Finally, to the players and coaches who worked so hard for our team, I appreciate their efforts. This is going to be a very good football team. The support of Chiefs fans across the country has been tremendous. They are truly passionate about their football team. Chiefs fans will be proud to cheer for this team for many years to come. With the tremendous nucleus of young talent on this roster, I sincerely believe that his team is poised to do great things. I respect the tough decision that was made to move in a new direction. I wish the players and the organization the very best as they move forward.”

Is It Shanny?

You gotta love this.

ESPN’s Chris Mortensen is reporting that the Chiefs are in final stages of  negotiations with former Denver head coach Mike Shanahan to replace Herm Edwards as head coach.  Mortensen said Friday evening on Sports Center that the negotiations have started up between the team and Shanahan in the last 24 hours.

But’s story on the matter filed after the TV report puts a slightly different spin on the situation.   The story has reporting from Mortensen, but was  not written by him says:

“Once source claims there  have been negotiations with Shanahan and that a deal was near but another said Chiefs  owner Clark Hunt has targeted Shanahan without a clear-cut result.”

Adam Schefter of the NFL Network and a guy who jumped to the league outlet after covering the Broncos in Denver, reports that there have been no negotiations between Shanahan and the Chiefs.

Here’s what Schefter posted on 

“Despite rampant reports that the Chiefs are negotiating with former Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan to replace Herm Edwards, they are not, sources said Friday. The Chiefs never have made any contact with Shanahan — never.  And there have been no contract negotiations.

“So unless people I have known for years are blatantly lying to me, Shanahan will not be the next coach of the Chiefs. It’s not happening. People can keep talking as if it is, but it’s not. Shanahan will not be the coach of the Chiefs in 2009.”

Shanahan spoke to former Chiefs defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham from a golf course in Cabo San Lucas in Mexico on Thursday.

The Chiefs had nothing to say Friday afternoon on a replacement for Edwards.

So,  this will be interesting to see which one of the big-time NFL information guys has it right, and which one has it wrong.

Herm is Gone

The Chiefs have fired head coach Herm Edwards.

He was relieved after three seasons as the man in charge of the team.  He finished with a 15-34 record, including a loss in the playoffs after the 2006 season to the Indianapolis Colts.

“On behalf of my family, I want to thank Herm for his service to the Chiefs,” Chiefs Chairman Clark Hunt said in a statement released by the team late Friday afternoon.  “After careful deliberation over the last week, Scott and I decided that it was in the best interests of the Chiefs to move forward in a different direction.  This was not an easy decision. Herm is an outstanding football coach and a man of integrity. We appreciate his leadership over the past three seasons, and we wish him all the best in the future.”

Said Pioli in the team statement:  “Since my arrival last week, Herm and I have had several conversations as part of my overall evaluation of the football operation. After careful consideration, Clark and I felt that it was best to make a change.  What I conveyed last week in the press conference I still believe to be true – Herm is a great man and a tremendous football coach. He respects the game and the league, and he is passionate about his players and his craft.  Over the course of this last week, I have also spent time meeting and visiting with most of the assistant coaches, and I will continue to do so over the next several days. All of the coaches from last year’s staff, with the exception of one, are under contract through the 2009 season.”

The Chiefs went 9-7, 4-12 and 2-14 in his three seasons.  In the past year, he pushed the franchise towards a rebuiding effort with young players, particularly a dozen draft choices selected by the team in the 2008 NFL Draft. But he obviously paid the price for that strategy with the team’s poor performance on the field.  Edwards thought he had the full support of Hunt in going young.

No word yet as to who will be Edwards’ replacement, or the status of the remaining members of the 2008 coaching staff.  Three of those assistant coaches have already found other employment: defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham (Detroit), special teams coach Mike Priefer (Denver) and secondary coach David Gibbs (Houston).

Edwards was named the tenth head coach in Chiefs history on Janury 9, 2006, replacing Dick Vermeil, the man he played for at defensive back with the Philadelphia Eagles.  He signed a four-year contract that was to expire at the end of the 2009 season. 

He spent five seasons with the New York Jets as head coach, finishing with a 41-44 record, including three trips to the playoffs.

Overall, Edwards has a 56-78 record as an NFL head coach.

Friday Morning Cup O’Chiefs

I can’t wait to see who is next.

The week started with Arizona offensive coordinator Todd Haley as the next Chiefs head coach.

Then, it was Bill Parcells.

But he was pushed aside in less than 24 hours by Mike Shanahan.

Who might be next in the minds of the media and fans that can’t stand the silence coming out of the Chiefs these days about their head coaching situation.

Let me give you a piece of news that is fact: new GM Scott Pioli is putting in long, long days around the Chiefs complex this week. He’s been there every day. People have seen him, unless he has a body double. He did not go to Mobile for the Senior Bowl because quite frankly, there would not have been a lot of work he could have gotten done there.

Some are worried that his absence puts the Chiefs in a bad position when it comes to analyzing players for the April NFL Draft. Rest assured every movement in Mobile this week ended up on tape. Should Pioli consider it important, he can watch from the quiet of his office, or read the reports of those Chiefs employees with boots on the ground.

Why don’t we know the fate of Herm Edwards? If he’s staying, why not announce that fact? If he’s going, why not release that information? And if he’s out the door, why not any word on his replacement?

There’s one simple reason: Pioli isn’t ready to talk yet and it won’t happen until he’s ready to do so. That could be today, that could be next week, or it could happen after the Super Bowl.

I wrote earlier in the week and I must repeat: there’s a plan at work here. I realize there’s no visible evidence of a plan, but believe me, there is one; that’s the way Pioli works. Under the radar, that’s the way things are done in the Parcells-Bill Belichick world. Cards are kept close to the vest, never revealed until required and explanations will be short and quick.

That’s what the Chiefs got when they hired Pioli. It’s part of the package. Those fans and media that campaigned for his hiring now don’t like his methods, especially the silence.

Get used to it. …Read More!

Thursday Morning Cup O’Chiefs

Professionally, probably the best thing that could have happened for Gunther Cunningham was what went down on Wednesday when he was named the new defensive coordinator for the Detroit Lions.

It’s a new challenge and a new slate for Cunningham, working with a young coach who he likes very much.

However, personally it’s going to be very tough for Gun to leave Kansas City.

People have asked me many times over the years if Cunningham really meant the emotional things he was always saying about Kansas City and the Chiefs fans.

He did. When he would talk about his desire to bring the Arrowhead Stadium crowd alive again – like it was in the mid 1990s -it came from the heart.

And Gunther always wore his heart on his sleeve, especially when it came to Kansas City.

From his earliest days, Gunther Manfred Cunningham was searching for a home. Born in the rubble of post-World War II Germany, he did not know his father. His mother eventually married an American serviceman and a young Gunther moved to Massachusetts as a 10-year old. Later, the family moved on to California, where he went to high school in Lompoc.

After playing linebacker and kicker at the University of Oregon and then getting into coaching with the help of Ducks assistant coach George Seifert, Cunningham started down that long coaching road. He and his high school sweetheart Rene went from Eugene, to Fayetteville, to Palo Alto, to Berkley, to Canada, to Baltimore, then Indianapolis, San Diego, Los Angeles and finally to Kansas City in 1995.

Three years here, one year there, four years somewhere else … it’s the normal life of a football coach climbing the ladder. Two of those coaching stints brought him to Kansas City, the first one for six years, the second for five years. That’s a total of 11 years.

In his 62 years on this earth, no place was home for more years for Gunther Cunningham than Kansas City.

Through his first stint as defensive coordinator, through two seasons as head coach and then his second tenure in charge of the defense, a picture was painted of Gunther as this driven, screaming maniac, and there’s no question he was that at times.

And there was so much more. Those that spent the time getting to know him, found a smart, engaging man who claims Dalai Lama and George Patton as his heroes, loves the music of the Rolling Stones, would eat sushi at every meal if he could and plans to become an anthropologist when and if he ever retires from coaching. …Read More!

Saunders Talking to the Raiders

For probably the fourth time in the last decade, former Chiefs offensive coordinator Al Saunders is going to sit down and talk about a job with Al Davis and the Oakland Raiders.

This time, it may stick.

Saunders walked away from one of those interviews with the idea that he was the Raiders new head coach. That was in the first days of 2006, after he did not get the chance to replace Dick Vermeil as head coach of the Chiefs.

In his talks with Davis, Saunders was told he would get the chance to hire his coaching staff. Then, a day after the conversation, the Raiders announced they were keeping Rob Ryan as defensive coordinator and gave him a three-year contract. Eventually, Art Shell was hired as head coach and Saunders went to work for Joe Gibbs and the Washington Redskins.

Saunders talked with Davis in January of 2004 about the head coaching job that ended up going to Norv Turner.

Now, he’s talking with Davis about working as offensive coordinator for a yet to be named head coach. Only the Raiders! This past season, he was the offensive coordinator of the St. Louis Rams.

Saunders grew up in Oakland and once was a ball boy for the Raiders back in the early days of the American Football League.

Of course, he was the man who helped create the Vermeil Flying Circus offense from 2001-2005 that re-wrote that side of the Chiefs record book. Saunders was also the team’s wide receivers coach on Marty Schottenheimer’s staff from 1989 through the 1998 season.

A Rush to Judgment

Probably because it fit the storyline that hung over the 2008 Chiefs, Glenn Dorsey has already been declared a first-round bust by various fans and pundits. Some have even compared him to the definition of first-round failure in Kansas City’s football encyclopedia: Ryan Sims.

Did Dorsey have a great rookie season? No. Did he have a horrible first year in the NFL? No.

Was his maiden voyage in pro football waters pretty much the norm for a rookie defensive tackle? Absolutely.

So why has he already been declared a bust?

Now there’s a good question, and I’ve got the answer. This reaction is based not on fact or reality, but agenda and perception.

Agenda – It helps wrap up the whole the Chiefs have been incompetent package if Dorsey is a bad player. Here’s the plot thread: Dorsey is the highest pick the team has had in nearly 20 years, but the opportunity to get a great player was screwed up by the two villains in this passion play – Carl Peterson and Herm Edwards. According to some, Dorsey is a midget at DT who had no business being drafted that high and thus he’ll never amount to anything. That whole view is built on one premise: it’s a chance to throw another log on the bonfire of Chiefs ineptitude.

Perception – A fifth pick in the first round should come in as a dominating player and if he’s a defensive lineman, he should have multiple sacks and cause havoc in every game. The Chiefs got rid of Jared Allen and Glenn Dorsey was supposed to pick up the slack on sacks.

I’m not going to waste my time dealing with agenda journalism, other than to make this note: Dorsey is 6-foot, 1 inch. That’s not the Chiefs measurement. That’s the measurement of the National Scouting Service people. Part of National’s duties is to provide accurate physical information on individual players. Dorsey has not shrunk, although with the verbal and written pounding that he’s taken it wouldn’t be a shock if he was a bit smaller.

But rest assured, Dorsey is tall enough. …Read More!

Gun Gone To Motown

The Detroit Lions announced Wednesday morning that Gunther Cunningham has been hired as the team’s new defensive coordinator.

That makes three members of Herm Edwards 2008 Chiefs coaching staff who have left the team, even though they all had a year remaining on their contracts.

Special teams coach Mike Priefer took the same job in Denver, while secondary coach David Gibbs has the same job in Houston.

Gunther’s departure ends his second tenure with the team. He was originally hired by Marty Schottenheimer in 1995 as the team’s defensive line coach, but eventually stepped up to defensive coordinator when Dave Adolph left the team. Cunningham was named head coach to replace Schottenheimer in 1999 and then fired after the 2000 season.

He returned to Arrowhead in 2004, replacing Greg Robinson as defensive coordinator on Dick Vermeil’s staff. When Herm Edwards took over as head coach before the 2006 season, one of his first decisions was to retain Cunningham.

During those three seasons away from the Chiefs, Cunningham was the linebackers coach for the Tennessee Titans where he worked closely on building the weekly defensive game plan with coordinator Jim Schwartz.

Now, Schwartz is the head coach of the Lions.

Wednesday Morning Cup O’Chiefs

First it was Bill Cowher.

Then it became Mike Shanahan.

For a couple moments it was Jon Gruden.

Now it’s Bill Parcells (right).

So it goes with the wish list of some Chiefs fans when it comes to their head coach. The roller coaster of the rumor mill has had many ups and downs in the last month, and Tuesday was no different.

The sale of the Miami Dolphins from Wayne Huizenga to Stephen Ross was completed on Tuesday and that apparently lit the match on speculation about Parcells could be Kansas City bound. He has a 30-day period where he can step away from his job with the Dolphins and collect the $12 million left on his contract. A contract clause allowed him this option if the team was sold by Huizenga.

Ross sealed the deal and supposedly that means Parcells is house hunting in Raytown to be near his son-in-law, daughter and granddaughter.

Of course, right now the Chiefs have a head coach. His name is Herm Edwards and seven days after Scott Pioli was announced as the team’s new general manager, there has been no information to change that designation.

Given that Pioli has been on the job just a week, given that he’s not been an NFL GM before and given how unusual this situation has become, it’s nearly impossible to read the tea leaves of what’s going on at Arrowhead right now.

Based on his time in New England and how the Patriots have operated over the years, there’s one thing we can say with some assurance: Pioli has a plan. He’s not just getting from day-to-day here, making things up as he goes along.

We have to admit, however, that no signs of this plan are evident. Unless that is, not making a decision is part of the plan. That may be the case if Pioli is waiting for something else to happen first. Like what? Like Parcells deciding to take his money and get out of Miami. Like waiting for the Super Bowl to be completed, so he can hire a new head coach from one of the competing teams. Like waiting for Punxsutawney Phil to see his shadow on Groundhog’s Day. Ok, scratch that last one, although for all we know, it may have as much validity as the first two reasons.

At this point, it’s hard to believe that Pioli hasn’t made a decision on Edwards. So there must be a reason nothing has been announced.

Reason or not, the speculation continues. Cowher, Shanahan, Gruden, Parcells, who might be next? Other than being part of speculation around the Chiefs those four men have a couple things in common. First: they’ve all won a Super Bowl. Second: none of them currently have a coaching job.

Right now in the NFL there are only two head coaches who have led a team to a Super Bowl championship: Bill Belichick and Tom Coughlin. The last time the league only had two Super Bowl winners in the league was the 1970 season, when it was Hank Stram with the Chiefs and Weeb Ewbank with the New York Jets. The Super Bowl was just four years old then. …Read More!

Tuesday Morning Cup O’Chiefs

If I was an NFL owner and I was looking for a head coach, I’d hire a consultant.

His name is Dan Rooney (right).

It would probably be against NFL rules for me to hire another owner to help me hire my coach. Rooney is the patriarch of the Pittsburgh Steelers, a team his father founded 76 seasons ago. Rooney was just one-year old when the Steelers played their first game back in September of 1933.

Given Rooney’s track record in hiring coaches, I’d be willing to pay a league fine and pay Rooney top dollar for the chance to have him as part of the decision making process.

Why? Consider this date: December 16, 1968.

That was the last time Rooney fired a head coach.

Consider that in the last 40 seasons of football (1969-2008), Rooney’s Pittsburgh Steelers teams have had but three head coaches:

  • Chuck Noll (1969-1991) 209-156-1, with four Super Bowls in four trips.
  • Bill Cowher (1992-2006) 161-99-1, with one Super Bowl in two trips.
  • Mike Tomlin (2007-08) 24-11, with one upcoming trip to the Super Bowl.

Rooney picked Tomlin to replace Cowher after the 2006 season. The three finalists for that job were Tomlin and then Steelers assistant coaches Ken Whisenhunt and Russ Grimm.

And who is on the other side of the Super Bowl in Tampa against the Steelers on February 1? Why it’s the same Whisenhunt and Grimm who left Pittsburgh with the silver and bronze medals and then went off and turned one of the league’s most notoriously bad franchises into a Super Bowl team.

Obviously, this Rooney guy knows what he’s doing. In 1969, he hired Noll, then a 37-year old assistant coach on Don Shula’s staff at the Baltimore Colts. In January of 1992, he hired the soon to be 35-year old Cowher, then serving as the defensive coordinator on Marty Schottenheimer’s coaching staff with the Chiefs.

And in January of 2007, he hired the soon to be 35-year old Tomlin, who was the defensive coordinator of the Minnesota Vikings staff of Brad Childress.

It is a record of success and stability that other NFL teams can only dream about. The closest that any team that has been around for the last 40 years can get to the three coaches in Pittsburgh is Dallas and Minnesota, who have each hired six head coaches since that ’69 season. …Read More!

Final Underclassmen Draft List

On Monday, the NFL released the approved list of college underclassmen who will be available for the April 2009 Draft.

There are 46 names on the list, one of the smallest totals in the last five years.

Juniors and sophomore-red shirts had until January 15th to apply for entrance into the draft. Then, they had until Midnight Sunday to pull their name out of the draft if they had not hired an agent.

Several players apparently did that, because some of the players who were on the initial list are not on the approved group by the league. WR Brandon LaFell at LSU changed his mind and decided to return to school.

Here are the numbers over this decade of players who declared for the draft and the number of underclassmen who were selected:

Year Declared Drafted






























Here are the 46 players that have been declared eligible by the NFL for the 2008 Draft. Early projections say somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 to 20 could be selected in the first round. …Read More!

Monday Morning Cup O’Chiefs

The Arizona Cardinals are in the Super Bowl.

Say that three times without catching yourself and maybe getting a little sour taste in the back of your mouth.

How could it be possible? One of the NFL’s laughingstock franchises no longer makes their fans cry.

Yes, the Arizona Cardinals are headed for Tampa and the Super Bowl. Yes, that’s veteran defensive end Bertrand Berry to the right holding aloft the George Halas Trophy as NFC champs.

They will face the Pittsburgh Steelers in 13 days at Raymond James Stadium. The fact that Pittsburgh is there, well that makes sense. Rooney U. as they are sometimes called in the ‘Burgh has the chance to become the first NFL franchise with six Lombardi trophies.

The Cardinals have only seen the trophy that has signified the NFL champion for the last 43 years in magazines or NFL Films pieces.

Now, they have a chance to hold it, caress it and actually own one.

This is how unusual it is that the Cardinals are playing for the NFL championship: the last time they franchise was in the title game was 60 years ago. It was December 19, 1948, when they lost to the Eagles 7-0 in a snowstorm at Shibe Park in Philadelphia.

The President of the United States at that time was Harry Truman. Since then, Presidents Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush have held the office without seeing the Cardinals in a championship game. Add Barrack Obama on Tuesday, for at least 12 days.

Here are the post-season records of the various incarnations of the Cardinals over the last 75-plus years:

  • Chicago Cardinals (1925-1959) 1-1
  • St. Louis Cardinals (1960-1987) 0-2
  • Arizona Cardinals (1988-2007) 1-1
  • Arizona Cardinals (2008) 3-0

The NFL started playing for a title in 1933. So in 76 seasons of championship football, the Cardinals are now 5-4 in the playoffs.

In this decade alone, the New England Patriots are 14-3, the Philadelphia Eagles are 9-7, the Indianapolis Colts 7-5 and the Cardinals opponent in Tampa for Super Bowl LXIII the Pittsburgh Steelers are 7-4. …Read More!

Super Bowl Set: Arizona & Pittsburgh

One team headed to Tampa is a surprise, a big surprise. The other club with a spot in Super Bowl LXIII is a familiar face, a very familiar face.

The Arizona Cardinals will make the franchise’s first appearance in the NFL Championship Game in 60 years as the NFC representative after their 32-25 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles.

Their opponent will be the Pittsburgh Steelers, making the franchise’s seventh trip to the Super Bowl and second in the last four years after a bruising 23-14 victory over the Baltimore Ravens.

The Cardinals and Steelers will tee it up somewhere around 5:30 p.m. CST on Sunday, February 1 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. The game will be broadcast on NBC.

For statistics and other details on both games, click here for the Cardinals-Eagles, and you can click here for the Steelers-Ravens.

Pittsburgh will try to become the first NFL franchise to win a sixth Super Bowl. Right now, the Steelers, 49ers and Cowboys all own five Lombardi trophies.

Arizona’s trip to Tampa dropped the number of NFL franchises who have never been there to five: Cleveland, Detroit, Houston, Jacksonville and New Orleans.

It was an emotional victory as evidence by the picture at the right of FB Terrelle Smith and DT Gabe Watson after the game at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale.

The Cardinals entered the playoffs with the least amount of momentum of any of the 12 teams, but they were able to overcome thanks to a strong defensive effort and the play of their 37-year old quarterback, Kurt Warner. A Super Bowl MVP from almost a decade ago with St. Louis, Warner engineered a 72-yard drive to win it with his fourth TD pass of the day.

The winner was an eight-yard pass to rookie RB Tim Hightower. Warner then hit TE Ben Patrick for the two-point conversion.

“I want to say thanks to all of you guys,” Warner told the crowd during the post-game celebration. “When nobody else believed in us, when nobody else believed in me, you guys did and we’re going to the Super Bowl.”

Back on Thanksgiving night, the Cardinals were blown out by the Eagles 48-20. They rolled into the playoffs having lost four of their last six games to finish the season at 9-7 and the No. 4 seed on the NFC side of the tournament bracket.

“It was a great team win for us,” said head coach Ken Whisenhunt, who in two seasons since joining the team has turned a losing culture into a championship environment.

With post-season victories over Atlanta, Carolina and the Eagles this is the Cardinals winningest season of all time with 12 victories. They’ve already surpassed their total of successful games in the playoffs dating back to when the playoffs began in 1933. …Read More!

Sunday Morning Cup O’Chiefs

With two moves announced on Saturday, the NFL has tilted back towards defense when it comes to who runs the teams on the field.

Saturday afternoon, Raheem Morris (left) was named the new head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Last year he was the team’s secondary coach.

Also on Saturday, the St. Louis Rams decided that New York Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo (right) will be their new head coach. They worked out a four-year, $11.5 million deal and he will be formally introduced on Monday morning in the Loo.

There are still two head coaching jobs open in the league: Oakland and the New York Jets.

But even if those two jobs go towards offensively minded head coaches, the league right now has 17 coaches who came up on the defensive side of the football. Here’s how it breaks down:

DEFENSE (17): Atlanta, Mike Smith; Buffalo, Dick Jauron; Carolina, John Fox; Chicago, Lovie Smith; Cincinnati, Marvin Lewis; Cleveland, Eric Mangini; Dallas, Wade Phillips; Detroit, Jim Schwartz; Jacksonville, Jack Del Rio; Kansas City, Herm Edwards; New England, Bill Belichick; Pittsburgh, Mike Tomlin; St. Louis, Steve Spagnuolo; San Francisco, Mike Singletary; Seattle, Jim Mora, Jr.; Tampa Bay, Raheem Morris; Tennessee, Jeff Fisher.

OFFENSE (12): Arizona, Ken Whisenhunt; Denver, Josh McDaniels; Green Bay, Mike McCarthy; Houston, Gary Kubiak; Indianapolis, Jim Caldwell; Miami, Tony Sparano; Minnesota, Brad Childress; New Orleans, Sean Payton; New York Giants, Tom Coughlin; Philadelphia, Andy Reid; San Diego, Norv Turner; Washington, Jim Zorn.

SPECIAL TEAMS (1): Baltimore, John Harbaugh.

Both Morris and Spagnuolo replace head coaches who worked the offensive side of the ball: Jon Gruden in Tampa Bay and Scott Linehan in St. Louis. Linehan was fired during the 2008 season and replaced on an interim basis by Jim Haslett. …Read More!

Flowers Named To All-Rookie Team

Chiefs CB Brandon Flowers was named to the NFL All-Rookie Team that was selected by Pro Football Weekly and the Professional Football Writers of America.

The team’s second-round draft choice Flowers was the 35th player selected in the 2008 NFL Draft. He played in 14 of the team’s 16 games, missing two November game with a hamstring injury.

Flowers finished the season with two interceptions, both coming against QB Brett Favre. He returned one of those 91 yards for a touchdown. The Florida native was credited with 61 tackles, forced one fumble and he recovered two fumbles.

Flowers is the fourth Chiefs player in the last three years to earn a spot on the All-Rookie team. WR Dwayne Bowe made the 2007 team, while DE Tamba Hali and S Bernard Pollard were named in 2006.

Here’s the full 2008 NFL All-Rookie team:
…Read More!

NFC Championship Game Preview

When it comes to football’s glamour position, the best match up of championship Sunday comes in the desert.

Donovan McNabb, 32 years old, 10-year veteran, appearing in his fifth NFC Championship Game. Kurt Warner, 37 years old, 11-year veteran, appearing in his third conference title game.

McNabb leads his Philadelphia Eagles into the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale against Warner and his Arizona Cardinals.

Kickoff Sunday afternoon is 2 o’clock CST with the broadcast on FOX.

When McNabb took the Eagles to the Super Bowl in February of 2005, he was leading a very veteran club. When Warner took the St. Louis Rams to the Super Bowl in January of 2000 and February of 2002, he was at the start of his NFL career. The first time, came as an unknown replacement for the injured Trent Green in the ’99 season with Dick Vermeil.

Right now, they are the grizzled veterans of their teams, passing on not only their play, but their experience.

“I have had a number of guys come, especially some leaders on our team, and ask me ‘What are we missing? What do we need to do?’” said Warner. “It was kind of exciting for me because I have never had that before. When we were wavering a little bit and not playing so well, guys were concerned. Guys were looking for answers. That was exciting to me. Some young guys, some leaders, who even though they may be young and haven’t been here before, they are still leaders on our football team. Trying to get them whatever knowledge I could to help them to go to their group and share that with their group and bring us closer together.”

Warner was quick to provide his younger teammates with what he’s learned over his time with the Rams, Giants and now the Cardinals.

“When you play against good football teams, playoff football teams, they are all well-coached, they don’t make many mistakes and they capitalize on the mistakes that you make,” said Warner. “I think that is what we saw down the stretch. We played some football teams. I know some people wanted to say, ‘Well, the Cardinals aren’t very good.’ I think we realized what it was like to play against playoff football teams. We got to see four playoff teams there down the stretch. …Read More!

AFC Championship Game Preview

So what’s in a name?

Apparently a lot if you are the Mayor of Pittsburgh, Luke Ravenstahl. This past week he had his name legally changed to Luke Steelerstahl before the team’s match up with the Ravens in the AFC Championship. All in support o f his hometown team.

Oh by the way, stahl in German is steel.

So what’s in a name?

In Baltimore, the Ravens cry all season has been “What’s my name?” It’s based on a speech given to them by head coach John Harbaugh’s father way back in August, when he told the team the story of Muhammad Ali.

So what’s in a name?

In both of these cities, the other team’s name is considered mud, or other less pleasant substances.

“Pure hatred for one another,” is how Steelers WR Hines Ward (above left) described the emotional level of the average Ravens-Steelers game.

Those are some of the story lines surrounding Sunday’s AFC Championship Game at Heinz Field. It’s the Ravens and the Steelers, an AFC North re-match.

Kickoff is set for 5:30 p.m. CST in Pittsburgh and can be seen on CBS.

These fellow members of the AFC North will play each other for the third time this season. Pittsburgh won the previous two games, taking a three-point overtime victory at Heinz Field in September and then a four-point victory at Baltimore in December.

Since the current post-season system was created with the merger of the two leagues in 1970, this is the 16th time that division mates played for the conference championship. The last time was 1999, when Tennessee swept Jacksonville in their season series. There have been four occasions where a team had the chance to take three games with the AFC Championship. That team won three of the four times: Tennessee ’99, Miami ’82 and the New York Giants ’86. In 1983, the Seattle Seahawks won the two regular season games against the Raiders, but ended up losing the title game.

Besides the fact they are division rivals, these teams don’t like each other one bit and it’s become one of the NFL’s best rivalries. …Read More!

Saturday Morning Cup O’Chiefs

The only constant in the NFL is change.

Oh boy was that ever true on Friday in the world of professional football. Out of nowhere, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers up and fired head coach Jon Gruden and general manager Bruce Allen.

To say that this blindsided the league in general, and Gruden and Allen in particular, is to under-estimate the shock of this move. Just Friday morning, the Bucs announced the hiring of former Lions defensive coordinator Joe Barry as their linebackers coach. The NFL grapevine said Gruden was preparing for next week’s Senior Bowl and an hour before he was given the boot Allen was on the phone trying to do business with another team.

Reports out of Tampa Bay say new defensive coordinator Raheem Morris will become the new head coach and there are rumors that Kansas native Mark Dominik will become the Bucs general manager. Dominik is currently Tampa Bay’s director of pro personnel.

The historic collapse of the Bucs this year was apparently too much for the Glazer family to handle. Tampa Bay was the first team in 15 years to start a season by going 9-3 and then failed to reach the playoffs. The Bucs lost their last four games including the season finale against the Raiders when they blew a 10-point fourth quarter lead to a team that finished the season just 5-11.

“We were extremely frustrated,” said executive vice-president Joel Glazer. “The losses are as hard today as they were 14 years ago and the way the season ended obviously was terribly disappointing. But, you know, it’s not just one thing. It’s four losses at the end of the season. It’s look at our franchise and see where we are and where we want to go.’”

Gruden was 57-55 as the Bucs head coach but failed to win a playoff game after the Super Bowl season, his first with the team when he took over after Tony Dungy was fired.  

“After any season ends, especially the way this one did, we wanted to be very careful not to make decisions based on pure emotion,” said Glazer. “We gave a lot of careful thought and consideration to the whole situation. And after looking at our franchise, where it is and where we want to do, after a lot of thought, we decided it was time for the Buccaneers to make a change.”

Yet, this comes only a year after both Gruden and Allen were given three-year contract extensions. So the Glazers have to eat a lot of money and there are plenty of questions to answer about what they are thinking. …Read More!

NFL’s Final Four: How They Were Built

There are three familiar groups and one interloper in the NFL’s Final Four this year.

But there is a familiar theme to how they got there. In all four cases, they built their teams through the draft. Some relied more on the annual selection meeting more than others, but more than half of each team’s starters at the end of the season and into the playoffs came via the NFL Draft.

And at least three of these teams have been doing it that way for years. The Philadelphia Eagles made the playoffs for the seventh time in this decade and it’s their fifth appearance in the NFC Championship Game. The Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens have found a spot in the tournament six times each. The Steelers are in the fourth AFC title game this decade and it’s No. 1 for the Ravens.

The interlopers are the Arizona Cardinals, who made the playoffs for the first time this decade and haven’t been in a championship game since 1948, when they were based in Chicago.

Here’s a look at how these teams were built. …Read More!

Friday Morning Cup O’Chiefs

Earlier this week, I wrote a piece for about Marty Schottenheimer’s 1989 Chiefs coaching staff. That was a remarkable group of 12 men, and many of them are still affecting the outcome of NFL games with their coaching abilities.

To check it out, click here.

A few years later, Bill Belichick put together quite a coaching/scouting staff together with the Cleveland Browns. When you go back and look at the names, it was a remarkable confluence of men who would go on to reach great heights in the world of football.

Two of them were in the news in just the last two days. First it was new Chiefs GM Scott Pioli, who joined Belichick’s operation in Cleveland as a scouting assistant in 1992. To the right is a copy of a page from the Browns media guide that season, where Pioli is listed with other assistants in the building, guys that were the ticket department assistant, the assistant equipment manager and the assistant facilities manager. He was a long way from being a general manager at that time.

The next season in 1993, Pioli got promoted to pro personnel assistant, and he went from having his picture lined up with a bunch of other no names, to having a biography and a half-page in the media guide.

Also that season, a young man out of college football was hired as a scouting department intern. His name was Jim Schwartz.

On Friday, Schwartz will be named the new head coach of the Detroit Lions.

Here are some men that were part of the coaching or personnel staffs put together by Belichick:

  • Al Groh – head coach at the University of Virginia.
  • Nick Saban – head coach at the University of Alabama.
  • Phil Savage – just fired GM of the Cleveland Browns.
  • Pat Hill – head coach at Fresno State University.
  • Kirk Ferentz – head coach at the University of Iowa.
  • Ozzie Newsome – GM of the Baltimore Ravens.
  • Eric Mangini – new head coach of the Cleveland Browns.
  • George Kokinis – director of pro personnel for the Ravens and candidate for Browns GM job.

It is most definitely a very big family tree that has grown from the roots of the Bill Belichick Browns, a franchise that ended up leaving Cleveland and moving to Baltimore after the 1995 season. …Read More!

The Underclassmen List For ’09 Draft

College underclassmen that had the ability to enter the 2009 NFL Draft had until 4 p.m. CST to file their paper work with the league.

The players who could jump were those that played last year as juniors or sophomore-redshirts.

Two big names announced that they were making the move to pro football on Wednesday: Southern Cal QB Mark Sanchez, who is coming off a big performance in the Rose Bowl against Penn State. Plus, Florida WR Percy Harvin is making the jump after being part of the Gators national championship team.

Three big name players said on Thursday they would stay in school, including Florida LB Brandon Spikes and Ole Miss pass rusher Greg Hardy.  Both were surprises since the draft does not have much in the way of pass rushers and both would have been probable first round selections, maybe as high as the top half  of the initial round.

There may be a few players who slipped in under the radar in the last hour or so, but right now here are the major college players who have entered the draft, listed by position:

QB Nate Davis 6-2 217 Ball State
QB Josh Freeman 6-5 238 Kansas State
QB Mark Sanchez 6-3 225 Southern Cal
QB Matthew Stafford 6-2 235 Georgia
RB Donald Brown 5-10 210 Connecticut
RB Glen Coffee 6-1 198 Alabama
RB Shonn Green 5-11 233 Iowa
RB P.J. Hill 5-11 236 Wisconsin
RB LeSean McCoy 5-11 205 Pitt
RB Chris “Beanie” Wells 6-1 235 Ohio State
WR Kenny Britt 6-4 215 Rutgers
WR Jeremy Childs 6-0 196 Boise State
WR Austin Collie 6-2 206 BYU
WR Michael Crabtree 6-3 214 Texas Tech
WR Brian Hartline 6-2 186 Ohio State
WR Percy Harvin 5-11 195 Florida
WR Darrius Heyward-Bey 6-2 203 Maryland
WR Brandon LaFell 6-3 210 LSU
WR Jeremy Maclin 6-0 198 Missouri
WR Hakeen Nicks 6-1 215 North Carolina
WR Kevin Ogletree 6-2 189 Virginia
TE James Casey 6-4 245 Rice
TE Jared Cook 6-5 243 South Carolina
TE Andrew Davie 6-5 266 Arkansas
OL Eben Britton (T) 6-5 31- Arizona
OL Greg Isdaner (G) 6-4 322 West Virginia
OL Andre Smith (T) 6-5 341 Alabama
DL Chris Baker (DT) 6-2 298 Hampton
DL Everette Brown (DE) 6-4 252 Florida State
DL Maurice Evans (DE) 6-2 262 Penn State
DL Ricky Jean-Francois 6-3 289 LSU
DL Paul Kruger (DE) 6-5 265 Utah
DL Sen’Derrick Marks (DT) 6-1 289 Auburn
DL Aaron Maybin (DE) 6-3 250 Penn State
DL Brandon Williams (DE) 6-5 246 Texas Tech
LB Gerald McRath (ILB) 6-3 220 Southern Miss.
DB Asher Allen (CB) 5-11 198 Georgia
DB Emanuel Cook (S) 5-10 203 South Carolina
DB Vontae Davis (CB) 6-0 2-3 Illinois
DB D.J. Moore (CB) 5-10 184 Vanderbilt
DB Captain Munnerlyn (CB) 5-9 185 South Carolina
DB Jerraud Powers (CB) 5-9 191 Auburn
DB Sean Smith (CB) 6-2 212 Utah
DB Donald Washington (CB) 6-0 194 Ohio State

Podcasting: Pioli Press Conference Highlights

Scott Pioli was introduced to Kansas City as the Chiefs new general manager Wednesday evening.  Pioli and Clark Hunt spoke for nearly an hour and the fifth GM in team history talked about his past, his present and his future with this team.

Here are the higlights.


A Look At Pioli’s Record/Part 2

The Patriots with Bill Belichick and Scott Pioli driving the personnel wagon relied on the NFL Draft to build their championship teams and then filled holes on their rosters through trades and free agency.

Generally, they made these moves and got great value, like their best signing in free agency, linebacker Mike Vrabel (below). He came in 2001 as an unrestricted free agent out of Pittsburgh without much fanfare and without a mega-bucks contract. Vrabel is still playing for the Patriots defense  and actually earned a trip to the Pro Bowl last year.

The Patriots first Super Bowl team was pushed forward by a big free agent class numbering 18 players going into the 2001 season, that was highlighted by Vrabel, Roman Phifer, WR David  Patten, special teamer Larry Izzo and RB Antowain Smith.

That group paid off big dividends as many of t hose  players  played key roles in the team’s march to the Super Bowl.  For the next three seasons, Smith was the team’s leading rusher with  more than 2,700 combined yards.

Belichick and Pioli also had a long record of identifying players they want in the draft and then trading up to get them.  The Patriots have been very active draft day dealers over the years, making at least one deal during every draft between 2001 and 2008. Sometimes they went up, other times they went down and accumulated choices.

In fact, through the nine drafts where Belichick and Pioli ran the operation, through trades or compensation picks for free agency signings, they finished with 16 more draft picks than they were granted with seven rounds in each draft. …Read More!

Thursday Morning Cup O’Chiefs

OK, so here we are, more than 36 hours after Scott Pioli was officially announced as the new general manager of the Chiefs and Herm Edwards is still the team’s head coach.
Stay tuned. How interesting this gets will become very apparent, very early.
Pioli says he plans to talk with Edwards in the coming days. They had a brief conversation on Wednesday as Pioli’s boots hit the ground and he went through a day that was dominated by meeting co-workers, the media and fans.
Good bet that Pioli will be at work Thursday morning and already have his first cup of coffee when this blurb is posted at 5 a.m. More than likely, he’ll run into Edwards who is usually at the facility at that time, getting in his daily workout.
They will talk on Thursday. They may continue that conversation on Friday. Pioli wants to make the right decision, not the quick decision, but he can’t ignore next week’s Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama coming up and the fact that the Jets, Lions, Rams and Raiders are still without head coaches.
Pioli has given us no reason to doubt what he says, so when the new GM says a decision has not been made on Edwards’ future, we will take him at his word. Here’s exactly what was said by Pioli:
ON THE FUTURE OF EDWARDS: “Clark and I have talked about that and we’re going to continue to talk about it. I had a chance to visit with Herm today a little bit. I’ve known Herm for a long time and I’ve got a lot of respect for Herm on a professional level and personal level. He’s a fine man. We’re going to spend some more time talking and this entire thing is going to be a process. Contrary to reports that were out there, I’m going to spend some time talking to Herm and I’m looking forward to it.”
MORE: “This is going to be a process and there have been a lot of names put out there. I’m going to spend time talking to Herm and Herm is still employed here right and now and we’re going to go through the process.”

IS THERE A TIMETABLE AND SHOULD THAT BE SOMETHING THAT HAPPENS QUICKLY, GIVEN THAT OTHER TEAMS ARE SEARCHING FOR HEAD COACHES: “I don’t think it’s fair to set a timetable. It’s not about timing; it’s about getting it right and this process is going to be very methodical, not just in where we’re at with the coaching situation but where we’re at with scouting and player personnel and team. It takes time and I don’t think it’s fair to anybody to put time parameters on it right now. We can’t spend too much time worrying about what other people are going to do. It’s about what we need to do about getting it right. We will be methodical and I think it’s a very delicate balance between being methodical and being aggressive. You can be those two things but I know it’s a very delicate balance.” …Read More!

Hunt’s Home Run

From the Truman Sports Complex

To mix some sports and metaphors here, Clark Hunt hit a home run in hiring Scott Pioli as the Chiefs GM.

But Chiefs fans just need to remember one important thing: it’s a home run in the bottom of the first inning. There are a lot of decisions and a lot of football to be played before this homer leads to a Kansas City victory or championship.

When Pioli used that dreaded “P” word during his introductory news conference on Wednesday evening at the Chiefs offices, I could hear more than a few voices from Chiefs Nation sigh. Chiefs fans feel they have been very patient. They are tired of waiting. It’s now been 39 years since that January day in New Orleans when Lenny, Bobby, Buck, Otis and the boys strolled off the playing field at Tulane Stadium with Lombardi Trophy No. 4.

They want another one, and they want it now.

They are going to have to wait. Pioli is not some Football Shaman, who comes with a bag full of pigskin pixie dust that he’ll sprinkle around the locker room and practice fields that will suddenly turn this franchise into a Super Bowl contender. …Read More!

Wednesday Morning Cup O’Chiefs

So what about Herm?

Early Wednesday evening the Chiefs will introduce new GM Scott Pioli during a press conference at the team’s facilities. Pioli’s hiring was officially announced Tuesday evening by the club, as he steps into the football role held for the previous 20 years by Carl Peterson.

One of the first questions that will be fired at Clark Hunt and Pioli will be the status of head coach Herm Edwards. Throughout Tuesday evening, that was the new No. 1 question floating through the NFL grapevine now that Pioli is on board.

Assumptions have been made by national media types that the hiring of Pioli means that Edwards is out and a new head coach will be coming to Arrowhead. Some have speculated that New York Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo is now the No. 1 candidate to join Pioli. Others believe the new head coach could be Pioli’s good friend, University of Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz.

No GM should have a head coach handcuffed to him, and it’s doubtful that Hunt will do that Pioli. But there’s also little doubt that Edwards was part of the discussions with Pioli leading up to an agreement between the two parties. Remember, when Hunt announced the resignation of Peterson, he said he would decide on Edwards’ future, with input from his new GM.

Hunt has said he supports Edwards and the job he undertook in trying to rebuild the team.  The Chiefs also made it clear in their annoucement Tuesday evening that Pioli “will have final say over all football operations … “  Obviously, the head coach is part of football operations.

Edwards deserves a chance to keep his job. Many of his decisions in the last year were based on the support he was receiving from Hunt. It’s safe to say that if the head coach had known he was going to be on shaky ground in the rebuilding process, he would have approached things in a different manner. Every move that Edwards made came with the belief that Hunt was in his corner.

And here’s a tidbit that a lot of people don’t know. One of the people in the league that pumped up Edwards during the long ’08 season was New England head coach Bill Belichick. He encouraged Edwards in a pre-game meeting before the season opener between the teams. When the holiday season rolled around, Edwards received a Christmas card from Belichick, who expressed support for the manner in which he was rebuilding the Chiefs with a hand written inscription. …Read More!

A Look At Pioli’s Record/Part 1

There are four different avenues that produce players for NFL teams.

There is unrestricted free agency, street free agents or players that have failed with another team and college free agents.

But the biggest pipeline is the NFL Draft.

There is no question that the Super Bowl success of the New England Patriots was built on draft picks. Just about all their key performers came through selections made by Bill Belichick and Scott Pioli (left).

Not a lot is known about just how the Patriots operated in the draft room, but we know Belichick had the final say so. We also know he had a great deal of faith in Pioli and his scouts’ ability to match college players with what Belichick was looking for on his roster. There was most definitely a plan, and most definitely a template for physical characteristics and skills at certain positions.

A team that takes advantage of the draft does two things: it does not make mistakes at the top of the draft and it finds gems in the later rounds, players who make contributions despite being selected late in the process. For the most part, the Patriots did both and that allowed them to win three Super Bowls.

Here’s the list of players the Patriots drafted from 2000-2004.

Here’s the list of players the Patriots drafted from 2005-2008.

And here are some items of interest that come out of analyzing the 77 players the Patriots have selected in the 2000 through 2008 NFL Drafts: …Read More!

Pioli Will Take Over Chiefs Football Operation

From the Truman Sports Complex

Scott Pioli has been hired as the Chiefs General Manager the team announced early Tuesday evening.  A press conference to formally introduce Pioli will be held Wednesday evening in the Chiefs administrative building.

The news broke earlier Tuesday afternoon on several national media outlets that Pioli had been hired as director of football operations.  But his title is general manager and he will have final say over all football operations and report directly to Chiefs Chairman of the Board Clark Hunt.

“We are very excited to welcome Scott to the Chiefs,” Hunt said in a release. “With his proven track record of success, Scott is the finest player personnel executive in the NFL and we look forward to his leadership in building a championship organization.”

Pioli will step into the football shoes previously worn by President-General Manager Carl Peterson. Hunt has stated that Peterson’s duties will be split into two jobs, football and the business side of the operation. Current interim President/GM Denny Thum is expected to be named the club’s president. Thum was an active participant in the GM search.

He is the fifth man to hold the title of GM in franchise history, following Don Rossi (1960), Jack Steadman (1960-76), Jim Schaaf (1977-88) and Peterson (1989-08).

Pioli has 17 years of experience in the NFL, beginning in 1992 with the Cleveland Browns.  He’s also worked for the Baltimore Ravens and New York  Jets.  He’s spent the last nine years with the New England Patriots. In Foxboro, Pioli worked hand-in-hand with head coach Bill Belichick in building the team that won three Super Bowls following the 2001, 2003 and 2004 seasons.

“To sum up in words everything Scott Pioli has meant to this organization and to me personally would be difficult, if not impossible,” said Belichick in a statement released by the Patriots.  “From the day I met him, he has demonstrated a passion for football and respect for the game that is second to none.  It has been extremely gratifying for me to follow Scott’s career ascension from the bottom of the totem pole in Cleveland to his place as a pillar of championship teams in New England.  Now with the opportunity to steer his own ship and a vision of building a winner, there is no more capable, hardworking, loyal, team-oriented person than Scott Pioli.

“On a personal level, the Belichick-Pioli bond runs far deeper than our workplace, as we and our families have shared countless memories away from football.  Working side-by-side with one of my best friends for almost two decades is special enough in itself.  But to help each other achieve success beyond our dreams is a blessing and something I will always remember and appreciate.”

Patriots owner Robert Kraft said: “Scott Pioli was an integral part of the many championships the New England Patriots have celebrated this decade and I would like to thank him for his countless contributions throughout the past nine seasons.  Scott is a great evaluator of talent.  He is thorough in his evaluations, extremely organized and has done a tremendous job mining all possible resources to help Coach Belichick and his staff field the players needed to win consistently.  He has played an important role in building a championship tradition with players that I am proud to call Patriots.  On behalf of the entire Patriots organization, I wish Scott continued success in his new role and offer best wishes to his wonderful wife Dallas, and their beautiful daughter Mia.  I think Clark Hunt and the Kansas City Chiefs have made a very wise hire.” …Read More!

It’s Pioli!

Expect an official announcement from the Chiefs within the hour (4 p.m. CST) that Scott Pioli will be joining the organization.

There is no press conference scheduled by the team at this time, but they are expected to confirm news that broke on that Pioli will take over football operations.

More to come.

Tuesday Morning Cup O’Chiefs

Tony Dungy always found it strange that so much was made of his calm, quiet demeanor.

“The worst thing a coach can be is something that he’s not,” Dungy said several years ago. “As a coach you can’t be an actor. You have to be a man.”

And there have been few better men working as an NFL head coach over the last quarter-century than Dungy.

He announced his retirement on Monday as head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, bringing an end to his 28-year NFL coaching career and changing the AFC landscape for those teams at the top of the conference.

“Don’t shed any tears for me,” Dungy said during a press conference. “I’ve gotten to live a dream that most people don’t get to live. What phase two is, we’ll find out, but phase one has been awful special and awful sweet and I’m thankful for it.”

The Colts have seemingly done everything an organization can do to prepare for the moment when their leader stepped aside. Assistant coach Jim Caldwell is now the head man, designated several years ago to be the one to replace Dungy.

That attempt at continuity is admirable, but ultimately the biggest factor in the equation will no longer be around. That would be Dungy himself. A new chemistry and style will have to be created by Caldwell.

He’s got tough shoes to fill because Dungy’s coaching numbers are impressive:

  • His Buccaneers and Colts teams had a regular and post-season record of 146-75, a winning percentage of .661. That was the best winning percentage among active NFL head coaches in 2008.
  • Those 146 victories rank him among the top 20 winning head coaches in league history.
  • His teams went to the playoffs for 10 consecutive seasons, three years in Tampa Bay and seven years in Indianapolis.
  • The Colts had six consecutive seasons with 12 or more victories, an NFL record.
  • The team he built in Tampa Bay won a Super Bowl without him in 2002, and the team he helped build with Indianapolis won a Super Bowl with him in 2006.

Somewhere, someplace in those years with the Steelers, Chiefs, Vikings, Buccaneers and Colts, Dungy may have raised his voice in anger. But that moment is long forgotten after years of watching him calmly handle the intensity and pressure of the NFL sidelines.

That’s why the title of his best-selling book was perfect: “Quiet Strength.”  It didn’t take people, players, other coaches and the media long with Dungy to find out that his good nature should never be confused with painting him as a push-over.

Dungy’s coaching philosophy was built on what he learned as a player and assistant coach for Chuck Noll. …Read More!

A Personal Look At Tony Dungy

I first met Tony Dungy in 1977.

He was a college free agent in his first NFL training camp at St. Vincent’s College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. I was a guy just out of college, in my first newspaper job and trying to figure out how to get out of my hometown and climb the ladder. Hanging around the Pittsburgh Steelers seemed like a good ticket to escape.

Now, I’m not going to blow smoke and say Tony and I bonded that summer or that year when he made the team. But we talked several times because he was such an approachable young player. He always had a smile on his face and there was a serene quality about him even then. Dungy would laugh about this, but he seemed to be in control of his life and his career even as a unproven rookie.

Dungy was taking the hardest road possible into the NFL: he was undrafted and trying to make an established team. On top of that, he was changing positions; he was a quarterback at the University of Minnesota, but he first went to the Steelers as a wide receiver.  His lack of speed and injuries on defense moved him to the secondary. He made the Steelers roster as a safety, the only rookie free agent to make the team in three years.

And for two seasons he was part of the team, including the ’78 squad that won Super Bowl XIII. Dungy led that championship team with six interceptions, all the more remarkable because he was the nickel back and started just two games. One of those was in the end zone on the final play of the game to seal a victory against arch-rival Cleveland. Dungy was a guy that made things happen with his brain; he was a student of the game and he learned very quickly that what he lacked in speed he could make up by getting to the ball first.

I will always remember him for a day in Houston against the Oilers in that rookie season where Dungy became a great trivia question answer: name the last NFL player to throw and make an interception in the same game. The date was October 9th and when Terry Bradshaw and Mike Kruczek left the game with injuries and with third quarterback Cliff Stoudt inactive, Dungy took over in the fourth quarter. He ended up throwing a pair of interceptions, after getting one himself earlier in the game against Houston’s Dan Pastorini. …Read More!

Monday Morning Cup O’Chiefs

If you spent the weekend watching the divisional action in the playoffs, you saw something unusual: home-field advantage meant nothing.

Baltimore, Arizona and Philadelphia all played away from home and all came away with victories. Only the Pittsburgh Steelers protected their home turf, winning the weekend’s fourth game over San Diego 35-24.

The results set up the conference championship games for next Sunday: Philadelphia at Arizona in the first game and then Baltimore at Pittsburgh in the nightcap. We’ll have more on those later in the week.

The divisional round has always been the most interesting because of the match ups. Half the field is coming back after a bye week. That same half had the best records in the regular season, so theoretically they are the best teams. The other half of the teams are coming off their first game in the playoffs, games that they won.

Still, the home teams have been dominant over the years. The AFL and NFL merged their seasons and playoffs for the 1970 season. In the divisional round only once before did the home teams go 1-3. That was way back in 1971, when Miami won at Municipal Stadium against the Chiefs in double overtime, Baltimore beat the Browns in Cleveland, Dallas beat the Vikings in Minneapolis and only San Francisco won at home, beating Washington.

So for the first time in 37 years, the feat was duplicated as the Ravens topped the Titans in Nashville, the Cardinals slammed the Panthers in Charlotte and the Eagles beat the Giants in the Meadowlands.

We’ve grown up believing that playing at home is vital for a team in the playoffs, and a 1-3 record in the divisional round every 37 years would seem to confirm that as fact.

But in the NFL of the 21st Century that idea is going out the window. The home team’s record this year of 1-3 is just a continuation of what’s happened in this decade. Here are the numbers

Decade AFC NFC Overall
2000-2008 11-7 .611 12-6 .667 23-13 .639
1990s 14-6 .700 19-1 .950 33-7 .825
1980s 14-6 .700 14-6 .700 28-12 .700
1970s 14-6 .700 13-7 .650 27-13 .675

In this decade only twice in eight years have the home teams been 4-0 in the divisional games: 2002 and 2004. It happened four times in the 1990s. In just the last five years, AFC home teams are 5-5 and NFC home teams are 6-4. …Read More!

From the Pages of Chiefs History: January 11, 1970

It was 39 years ago Sunday that the Kansas City Chiefs reached the pinnacle of pro football.

Led by quarterback Len Dawson and a defense that smothered the Minnesota Vikings, the Chiefs won Super Bowl IV 23-7 at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans.

The franchise had won an American Football League championship in 1962 and had played in the first championship game between the leagues in January of 1967 against the Green Bay Packers.

But the victory over the Vikings made them the third football team that could call itself a Super Bowl champion, after Green Bay and the New York Jets. Since then 13 other teams share that distinction as well.

Chiefs fans complain that they’ve waited too long for another Super Bowl title, that it has been too many years since scenes like the one below with Hank Stram being carried off the field with a championship game victory. But they’ll have to stand in line for that designation and their position won’t be anywhere close to the head of the line.

There are 15 teams in the NFL right now that have never won a Super Bowl. Seven of those clubs have been around as long, or longer than the Chiefs: Detroit Lions, Philadelphia Eagles, Cleveland Browns (old and new), Chicago/St. Louis/Arizona Cardinals, San Diego Chargers, Buffalo Bills and Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans.

Throw in the New York Jets who have been waiting 40 years now, and at best the Chiefs are ninth on the list when it comes to longevity. Lined up after them would be the New Orleans Saints, Atlanta Falcons, Cincinnati Bengals, Minnesota Vikings, Seattle Seahawks and younger teams like the Carolina Panthers, Jacksonville Jaguars and Houston Texans.

That’s what makes that January day 39 years ago bigger and bigger. The day dawned cool, cloudy and windy in New Orleans. In fact, the area was under a tornado watch through most of the morning. It had been a strange week for weather as the fountain outside the Chiefs hotel froze. It was a strange week for the Chiefs as well as the relative calm of the pre-game week was disturbed by a national television report that associated Dawson with a known Detroit gambler with the same last name. They were not related, but Len did know him and had received a sympathic phone call from the gambler after the death of Len’s father. Dawson was one of five players who reportedly were going to be called to testify before a grand jury. However, he was the only man still playing that week, so all the attention fell on him.

Even in the days before the 24-hour news cycle it caused a great deal of coverage and commotion. The TV report came out on Tuesday evening and dominated the discussion for the rest of the week. It certainly dominated Dawson’s life, causing distress for his wife and children. “It’s tough enough getting ready for a good defense like Minnesota had,” Dawson said several years ago. “It did not make the week very enjoyable.”

But it didn’t slow the Chiefs down. His teammates rallied to Dawson and despite being heavy underdogs, the outcome of the game was never really in doubt. …Read More!

Divisional Weekend/Game No. 4

Sunday morning dawned cold and snowy in Pittsburgh.

Perfect weather for the Steelers? A real disadvantage for the visitors from SoCal?

Not necessarily. History shows us that when it comes to having the home-field advantage in the playoffs, one team that frequently can’t seem to cash that chip at the tournament table are the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Steelers and Chargers will battle at Heinz Field with kickoff at 3:30 p.m. The broadcast is on CBS.

Pittsburgh faces quite a challenge with these Chargers, who are trying to make history. With a victory in the snow, San Diego would become the first 8-8 team to win two games in the playoffs and it would make them the first team with fewer than 10 victories to make the conference championship game in 12 seasons (Jacksonville in 1996 went .

Could the Chargers be this season’s version of the New York Giants, a team that struggled through the end of the regular season a year ago before tearing through the playoffs en route to the Super Bowl title?

“Why not us?” QB Philip Rivers said.

The Steelers hope to have the answers to why it won’t be the Chargers. The league’s No. 1 defense has dragged the team’s sluggish offense throughout this season. This Pittsburgh team is a veteran group, just two years removed from a Super Bowl championship.

But that title run came on the road. At Heinz Field, the Steelers are just 3-3 in the post-season, including losing to Jacksonville last year 31-29.

“I think we just have to play confidently, play the way we play in all three phases,” veteran receiver Hines Ward told the Pittsburgh media this week. “Most of us have been around long enough to know that it’s the playoffs and that you can’t just show up and win. It takes a great game and I think people know that. We’ve added some young guys who get it now — like LaMarr Woodley and Lawrence Timmons. Everyone realizes what it takes at this stage, control the ball, don’t turn it over, do what you do.”

What the Chargers do is move the ball on offense, especially through the air on the arm of Rivers. The weather conditions and his groin injury will likely make LaDainian Tomlinson a pre-game scratch, making the passing game even more important. It will have to come in weather conditions that will not be ideal. The weather service says it will feel like 18 degrees when the game starts, and that temperature will go down as the game goes on and night settles over the stadium. …Read More!

Sunday Morning Cup O’Chiefs

Call it “Waiting for Pioli.”

It reminds me of the play “Waiting for Godot.”

If you are not familiar with the Samuel Beckett play, then let me present the plot synopsis for Act 1 that can be found on Wikipedia:

“Waiting for Godot follows two consecutive days in the lives of a pair of men who divert themselves while they wait expectantly and unsuccessfully for someone named Godot to arrive. They claim him as an acquaintance but in fact hardly know him, admitting that they would not recognize him were they to see him. To occupy themselves, they eat, sleep, talk, argue, sing, play games, exercise, swap hats, and contemplate suicide — anything to hold the terrible silence at bay. “Silence,” says Beckett, “is pouring into this play like water into a sinking ship.”

The comparison makes me LOL because in essence what’s gone on with everyone waiting to see if Scott Pioli is the Chiefs new GM is very much like waiting for some guy named Godot. The fans and media wouldn’t know Pioli if he was sitting at the next booth at Winstead’s having a double and a malt.

They just know about him. So they have sat around now for the last two weeks creating rumors left and right, anything to hold at bay the “terrible silence” coming from Clark Hunt.

I’ve got to give it to Clark; he said going into his search for a GM that there would be one source of information and it would be him. He also said he would not be talking. He hasn’t. So far, that discipline has been impressive. That’s why the airwaves, Internet and printed page have been filled with rumor after rumor, and nobody knows if what they are saying and writing is true.

Frankly, I think there’s only two pieces of this puzzle that are facts: Hunt spent some time talking with Marty Schottenheimer and he has interviewed Pioli, the vice-president of player personnel with the New England Patriots.

Anything after that is a guess, a dart thrown at the board, an attempt by someone to look like they have more information than they really have. …Read More!

Divisional Weekend/Game No. 3

Division rematches are always so much fun in the divisional round of the NFL playoffs.

Like Sunday’s early game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the New York Giants. For the third time this year, RB Brian Westbrook (right) will try to run away from LB Antonio Pierce.

These two teams have played each other 152 times over league history. That includes three games in the playoffs. They faced each other twice this season, splitting the games with the Giants winning at Philly by five points and the Eagles winning in the Meadowlands by six points.

They’ll faceoff for the third and deciding game of the ’08 New Jersey Turnpike Series today, again at the Meadowlands. Kickoff is noon CST and the broadcast is on FOX.

These teams are separated by 100 miles of New Jersey, a trip that’s less than two hours getting on the Turnpike at exit three or four and jumping off at exit 16-W for Giants Stadium.

Familiarity sometimes breeds contempt, and like any divisional rivals that’s happened in the past. But these are two battle-tested, veteran teams who have spent a lot of time in the playoffs over recent seasons. These guys know that as much history as there has been between the teams, it matters not after kickoff.

“The 2008 regular season is over with,” Pierce told the New York media last week. “There is nothing we can do about it. It is not going to help us moving forward. We can look at film and study, but come Sunday, it is a totally different ballgame. I think we understand that.

“The psyche of the team this year is a group that understands what it takes to win the championship. We have 35 or 40 players that were on this team last year, coaching staff, front office, everybody. They know what it takes to win the championship. So what we have this year is experience. And that is what we are going to use this Sunday.” …Read More!

Patriots Draft Picks 2000-2004


Rnd 00 01 02 03 04
1st   Richard
DT          6
TE         21
DT        13
DT       21
TE          32
2nd Adrian
T          46
T            48
WR        65
CB         36
DE        63
WR         45
3rd J.R.
RB          76
CB         86
S          95
4th G.

T            127

OL          96
QB       117
DT        117
S         113
TE        119
DE       126
CB         120
RB       128
5th Dave
TE         141
S            163
C          164
WR       164
DT        161
6th Antwan
CB       187
TE        180
QB        201
QB       199
CB       200
DT        201
7th Casey
LB        226
K          216
RB        237
TE         234
CB      233
RB        239
LB         239
WR       253
LB         239
DT         243

New England Draft Picks 2005-2008


Rnd 05 06 07 08
1st Logan
OL         32
RB             21
DB            24
LB          10
2nd   Chad
WR           36
CB           62
3rd Ellis
CB        84
TE           86
LB          78
T         100
QB          94
4th James
S         133
RB          106
DL           127
CB        129
K           118
5th Ryan
LB       170
T            136
T           171
WR        153
6th   Jeremy
LB           191
LB           180
LB         197
G           205
CB          202
    Le Kevin
DL          206
RB          208
T            209
7th Matt
QB       230
DB           229
LB          211
TE       255
C/G        247

Divisional Weekend/Game No. 2

That the Arizona Cardinals are a 10-point underdog for their divisional round game in the NFC playoffs comes as no surprise in light of one simple fat: these birds do not travel very well.

The Cardinals went 0-5 going to play in the Eastern Time Zone this season. Since 2003 they are 2-19 when they head east.

Tonight the Cardinals face the Carolina Panthers and WR Steve Smith (left) at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. Kickoff is 7:15 p.m. and the broadcast is on FOX.

“I don’t really put much stock in that other than to say if we’re 0-5, then maybe we’re due,” said Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt.

“Maybe it’s time we win one. We’re going to win one at some point. Hopefully, it’ll be this weekend.”

What else can a coach say? There’s only one way for the Cardinals to get over this problem and that’s toughen up mentally and not be affected by long flights, hotel room beds and non-supportive fans. Whisenhunt tried this year when the Cardinals had back-to-back games on the east coast and he kept the team there for the week of preparation. They ended up getting smeared in that second game, giving up 56 points to the New York Jets; so much for that strategy.

All five of their opponents finished the season at .500 or above, so that didn’t help either. They get another one in the Panthers who played solid football all season and came within an overtime loss to the Giants of having the best record in the NFC.

One of the Panthers victories came against the Cardinals, right there in Charlotte when they trailed the visitors by 14 points before coming back and picking up a four-point victory in October. The winner was a 65-yard TD pass from Jake Delhomme to Smith.

The game’s outcome will come down to which defense has the best night.

…Read More!

Saturday Morning Cup O’Chiefs

So the Associated Press announced its NFL All-Pro team on Friday.

The 27 players are a pretty impressive group, the best of the best according to the 50 media types who took part in the voting. The Chiefs Tony Gonzalez was the only member of the Chiefs that was part of the first team.

Or second team. In fact, Gonzalez was the only member of the Chiefs to receive a vote, as he grabbed 33 of the ballots at tight end to finish well ahead of Jason Witten of the Cowboys.

That’s what happens when you go 2-14. A good player like Brian Waters didn’t even get a sniff along the offensive line. Every guard that got a vote, and there were 10 of them, played on a team that finished the season with a winning record. It is testimony to the type of season Gonzalez put together that he was able to rise about the ashes of the team’s ugly season.

If you want to check out the voting, click here.

There’s another interesting note about the first-team All-Pro squad: 22 of the 27 players were draft choices of their teams. One was a college free agent and four were signed as unrestricted free agents.

The four free agents were led by former Chiefs DE Jared Allen, now with Minnesota. The others were Vikings G Steve Hutchinson, Titans C Kevin Mawae and Falcons RB Michael Turner. The college free agent was Steelers LB James Harrison.

Quite naturally, former first round picks dominate the first team; they should, that’s why they were drafted so high. Of the 26 players drafted, 15 were first-rounders, three were taken in the second, one third-round pick and four players were selected in the fourth round. There’s also a pair of fifth-round picks and a seventh-round choice in the group.


No new word on the Chiefs GM search. There’s a lot of rumors, a lot of smoke and no idea if there is fire or not. Nationally, those in the media and some on the club level think the pick is Scott Pioli, the Patriots vice-president of player personnel and all that needs to be worked out are the details.

Meanwhile we wait, and check up on the other jobs open around the league. …Read More!

Divisional Weekend/Game No. 1

As usually happens in situations like a game in the divisional round of the playoffs, it would be more fun and entertaining if the Baltimore defense had to play against the Tennessee defense.

That can only happen on paper, but it’s been happening all this week in both Baltimore and Nashville leading into the matchup between these two teams in a divisional game in the AFC Playoffs.

Kickoff is 3:30 p.m. CST from LP Field in Nashville. CBS has the broadcast.

The Ravens defense put on quite a show last week in beating Miami in the wildcard round and that has the whole football nation talking about Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and those mean and nasty guys from Baltimore.

All that’s done is tick off the mean and nasty guys on the Tennessee defense, and rest assured, they have those type of guys. DT Albert Haynesworth (above), LB Keith Bulluck and CB Cortland Finnegan are among the best in the business, and they enjoy the rough, in-your-face style that is so associated with Baltimore.

And, they don’t like it one bit that their defense has been forgotten.

“Well, that’s what everybody is saying, they are the best,” Finnegan said this week in Nashville. “We’ve got a lot to prove to people for a team that finished 13-3 with the No. 1 seed in the AFC. All of us on defense have sort of put it in our back pocket as a little extra ammunition.”

When the first and second All-Pro teams were announced on Friday, they included six defensive players in this game. Lewis, Reed, Haynesworth and Finnegan made the first team, with Baltimore’s Haloti Ngata and Terrell Suggs on the second team.

Here’s an important tidbit on all six of those guys: they were all drafted by their teams. Lewis, Reed, Haynesworth, Ngata and Suggs were first-round picks. Finnegan was a seventh-round choice.

The most important defensive statistic in any season is points allowed and Tennessee was second in the league, giving up 14.6 points per game. Baltimore was third at 15.2 points per game. But the Ravens actually allowed fewer touchdowns, giving up 21, while the Titans allowed 24. …Read More!

Gonzalez Makes All-Pro Team

If you have any doubts about how the rest of the country feels about the performance of Tony Gonzalez this past year rest assured, they noticed.

The Chiefs tight end was named to the Associated Press All-Pro first team that was announced on Friday.

Trips to the Pro Bowl are nice, but the real value for a player is when he can be called All-Pro. It means simply this: he’s the best player at his position in the NFL. Not the best player in one conference, or not one of the handful of the best players.

In 2008, the 50 voters from around the country decided that Gonzalez was the best tight end in the business.

He received 33 of the 50 votes at the position.  He was the only member of the ’08 Chiefs to receive an All-Pro vote.  That puts even more emphasis on his selection because:

Of the 24 position players on offense and defense that were selected (the AP  takes two outside and two inside linebackers, along with two running backs) only two played on teams that finished with a losing record: Gonzalez and Oakland cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha.

That right there makes this a remarkable achievement. Throw in Oakland punter Shane Lechler who earned the first-team spot and that’s three players from losing teams. The Chiefs were 2-14, while the Raiders finished 5-11.

Of the 24 position players, 20 were on teams that made the playoffs. Besides Gonzalez and Asomugha, the only other All-Pro outside of the tournament were Houston WR Andre Johnson and Dallas DE DeMarcus Ware. …Read More!

Shuffling the Numbers/Kickers

With the end of the 2008 season, we are taking a look inside the statistics generated by the league’s 32 teams over the 356-game schedule.

Today, we focus on the field goal kickers.


There was a time in the NFL when if a kicker made 75 percent of his field goals, he was considered an average kicker.

Now, he’d have a hard time keeping his job.

Twenty-five years ago, the leading kicker in the 1983 NFL season was Matt Bahr of the Cleveland Browns, who made 87.5 p ercent of his field goals on the season (21 of 24).  There were a total of 10 kickers who made at least 80 percent of their field goals.

There were 24 kickers in the league that made at least 80 percent of their field goal attempts during the 2008 season. In the season before, that number was 23.

The most accurate kicker of the ’08 season was Detroit’s Jason Hanson. The veteran kicker for the team that put up the worst record in NFL history, Hanson was sensational. He missed one field goal among his 22 attempts. That was a 33-yard attempt that was blocked by Jacksonville in early November. That total included a perfect eight-for-eight from 50 yards or more. His 95.5 percent success rate; that was the best season by a kicker since Mike Vanderjagt of Indianapolis went 37 for 37 in the 2003 season.

There were six who topped 90 percent. Here are the top kickers in overall FG percentage:

# Kicker Team Made Tried %
1. Jason Hanson DET 21 22 95.5
2. Jason Elam ATL 29 31 93.5
3. John Carney NYG 35 38 92.1
4. Nick Folk DAL 20 22 90.9
5. John Kasay CAR 28 31 90.3
6. Stephen Gostkowski NE 36 40 90.0
7. Robbie Gould CHI 26 29 89.7
8. Neil Rackers ARZ 25 28 89.3
9. Olindo Mare SEA 24 27 88.9
10. Rob Bironas TEN 29 33 87.9
  Kris Brown HOU 29 33 87.9
  Joe Nedney SF 29 33 87.9


Hanson was the only kicker to miss just one field goal. Elam and Folk missed only two. Everyone else missed at least three. The kicker who missed the most FGs was Washington’s Shaun Suisham, who hit 26 of 36 for 72.2 percent. …Read More!

Friday Morning Cup O’Chiefs

So I won’t go into a big rant about how major college football remains so backwards they can’t have a championship game.

Yes, I know that Thursday night at Dolphin Stadium in south Florida, the University of Florida beat the University of Oklahoma 24-14 to win the BCS title game.

But that was not a national championship game, not when an undefeated team like Utah did not get the chance to play in the game.

It should have been the first semi-final. Then Friday night, it should be Southern Cal and Utah going head-to-head in New Orleans or Houston, or someplace like that.

Then, next weekend Florida should play the Southern Cal-Utah winner for the national championship.

How can every other NCAA sport, including Division 1-AA football, have a championship tournament and the big-time colleges can’t get it done?

It goes down like this. First of all, the NCAA does not control big-time college football. They have almost no say-so in what happens. No, the big boys are controlled by conference commissioners and the bowl games. These two groups have been in bed together for over 50 years and it’s a relationship that’s been impossible for anybody to breakup.

The conference commissioners in theory are controlled by the presidents of the member schools. Unfortunately, too often it seems like it’s the other way around. The money from bowls flows into the conferences, not the NCAA, so the commissioners can have a big say on how the money is distributed. They will never give that up.

Common sense says we should have a national championship game/tournament for major college football.

Otherwise, what a nice game between Florida and Oklahoma on Thursday night. It was nice to see two very good teams actually play a little bit of defense. The offenses of both teams were high powered, but it was the defenses of the Gators and Sooners that stood out. …Read More!

Shuffling the Numbers/Passing

With the end of the 2008 season, we are taking a look inside the statistics generated by the league’s 32 teams over the 356-game schedule.

Today, we focus on the quarterbacks.


Quarterbacks can be judged by many different numbers, depending on the emphasis of the evaluation. Touchdown passes to interceptions; that ratio is a very important number. So is completion percentage and ditto for average gain per attempt. That’s why those numbers all factor in to the number we’ll use for judging the individual quarterbacks and that’s passer rating.

The top quarterback in the league was San Diego’s Philip Rivers, who finished with a passer rating of 105.5. He was the only quarterback to finish the season above the 100 passer rating mark. Miami’s Chad Pennington (97.4) and Kurt Warner of Arizona (96.9) were right behind him

When it comes to touchdown passes, Rivers and Drew Brees of New Orleans led the league with 34 each. The fewest interceptions for full-time starting quarterbacks was Washington’s Jason Campbell, who threw six in 506 attempts.

The best TD/INT ratio was Rivers, who threw 34 TD passes and 11 interceptions. The best completion percentage was Pennington, who hit 321 of 476 passes, 67.4 percent. And the best average gain per attempt was Rivers at 8.39 yards for his 478 throws.

Here’s the top ten in pass rating for the ’08 season:

# Player Team Passer Rating
1. Philip Rivers SD


2. Chad Pennington MIA


3. Kurt Warner ARZ


4. Drew Brees NO


5. Peyton Manning IND


6. Aaron Rodgers GB


7. Matt Schaub HOU


8. Tony Romo DAL


9. Jeff Garcia TB


10. Matt Cassel NE



Interesting note on the top 10: as the league hits the divisional games in the playoffs this coming weekend, only two of the top passers are still playing: Rivers and Warner. Only four of the top 10 made the playoffs with Pennington and Manning eliminated last weekend. Proof positive again that it’s great to have one of the league’s top passers, but it guarantees nothing when talking about victories and playoffs. …Read More!

Thursday Morning Cup O’Chiefs

Wow!  There’s a lot of news in the football world right now.  Names like Georgia QB Matt Stafford and Cowboys CB Pacman Jones are in the headlines.  We’ll talk about both of those situations, but first we start  on the shores of Lake Erie,  where the ice flow is pretty substantial at this time of the year.

It’s a place where one man’s garbage is another man’s sparkling gem.

So it goes with Eric Mangini.

Fired just 11 days ago as head coach of the New York Jets, Mangini will be announced Thursday morning as the new head coach of the Cleveland Browns.

Seriously, if you wait around long enough in the NFL, you will see things that happen that leave you scratching your head and wondering: “What the &@$*!”

Browns owner Randy Lerner has hired his coach before hiring his GM, which is a pretty good indication that he already has his new administrator in view. That would be Baltimore Ravens director of pro personnel George Kokinis. They are not able to interview him until Sunday, after the Ravens game in the playoffs against Tennessee. Kokinis and Mangini are buddies, so it sounds like the deal is sealed.

It also means that there’s no chance Scott Pioli is headed for Cleveland as the GM. Right now, he’s down to two choices: the Chiefs or staying in New England. If he has any interest in coming to Kansas City, the Mangini development strengthens the negotiating hand of Clark Hunt, since there will be no other suitor.

Why would the Browns hire Mangini? Well, he was once a ball boy for the team and his second job was as a public relations intern who was sent on food runs for the media at Browns headquarters. Plus, his brother-in-law is Cleveland Indians GM Mark Shapiro. Hopefully, all that had nothing to do with him getting hired.

But considering all the coaching candidates out there, and good coaching candidates litter the landscape, why hire a guy that went 23-26 in three seasons with the Jets and saw his team finish out of the playoffs for the past two years? Going into the ’08 season, the Jets spent millions on free agents and made the trade with Green Bay for Brett Favre which inflated its payroll even more. They were 8-3 at one point, but then lost four of their five to finish third in the AFC East.

As in any situation, all that should not get laid only at Mangini’s door. Jets owner Woody Johnson has proven he’s not exactly coach friendly and has rabbit ears when it comes to the New York media.

Mangini may actually be a good coach, but how does that give a guy another immediate chance to be a head coach?

Lerner appears to be trying to recreate a bit of history that involved the old Browns, the ones who were owned by Art Modell and left Cleveland and became the Baltimore Ravens. Remember the last coach of those original Browns? That would have been Bill Belichick.

In five years as head coach of the Browns, Belichick had a 37-45 record. Yet five years later, the New England Patriots won a bidding war with the Jets and named Belichick their head coach. No one could quite understand why at the time.

But since then, Belichick is 116-45 with three Super Bowl championships and a perfect 16-0 regular season in ’07. …Read More!

Wednesday Morning Cup O’Chiefs

It began on December 22, 1988.

The Carl Peterson Era lasted 7,310 days, 179 victories, nine appearances in the playoffs and more Arrowhead Stadium sellouts than anybody can remember.

It officially ended when the calendar turned to 2009. But the symbolic end came on Tuesday when the Chiefs organization held a good bye event for Peterson at the team’s practice facility.

Chairman of the Board Clark Hunt came off the GM interview trail long enough to introduce Peterson and thank him for 20 years of hard work for the Hunt family and the Chiefs. Peterson then spoke to about 250 employees and friends for about 45 minutes, seemingly thanking everyone in the building.

Some of the faces in the audience included former Royals George Brett and Jamie Quirk, former baseball umpire and Kansas City resident Steve Palermo, Kansas City restaurateur Michael Garozzo and a host of former Chiefs from Bobby Bell, to Deron Cherry, to Kevin Lockett, to Dave Lindstrom. Sitting in the front row was Norma Hunt, along with her sons Clark and Daniel, and Lamar Hunt Jr. and his wife Rita.

Later in a private ceremony for the team’s employees, Peterson received a framed No. 20 jersey, with a plague containing the names of all the employees of the organization. A special video made by Peterson pal Steve Sabol of NFL Films was shown as well.

It was an emotional afternoon for Peterson, who broke up several times during his speech and later in the private ceremony. “I really wanted to thank everybody, because there were so many people who were part of this over 20 years,” Peterson said.

Peterson fielded a number of questions from the media. He said:

– He is going to take a couple weeks off, finding someplace warm where he can play golf. “I’m going to sit back and see what may become available,” Peterson said. He stated again that he was not retiring.

– When asked about working for the Miami Dolphins, Peterson said: “At this point it’s not even worth discussing because it hasn’t been discussed. I’m not even thinking of that at this point.” Peterson attended the Dolphins-Ravens game on Sunday as the guest of soon to be full owner of the Miami team, Stephen Ross. It was Ross who bought the Baltimore Stars in the final months of the USFL existence. Peterson worked for him there and the two have remained friends for the last 20 years.

– On when the change at the top of the Chiefs seemed inevitable: “If I’m the owner, I don’t want the president-general manager-CEO to get into his lame duck year … it’s time for a change. This is what the NFL is all about.”


Clark Hunt was in the building to help honor Peterson, but soon after the festivities, he and interim president-GM Denny Thum took off and were back on the interview trail. Where they were headed is unknown and both Hunt and Thum did not take any questions from the media. Thum did kiddingly say at one point he wasn’t sure what city he was in.

Media reports say the Chiefs meeting with Scott Pioli went down on Monday. The St. Petersburg Times reported that conversations have been on going with Mark Dominik of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He’s the director of pro personnel down there and Dominik worked as a personnel department intern for the Chiefs back in the 1990s when he came out of the University of Kansas. …Read More!

Shuffling the Numbers/Receiving

With the close of the 2008 regular season, we will take the next few days to look inside the numbers generated by the league’s 32 teams over the 256-game schedule.

Today the focus is on the receivers.


Houston’s Andre Johnson (right)  was the league’s leading receiver in both catches (115) and yards (1,575). Johnson finished ahead of the second place receivers in receptions (New England’s Wes Welker with 111) and yards (Denver’s Brandon Marshall with 1,265 yards.)

While the NFC dominated the list of top rushers, it was the AFC that dominated the list of top receivers, but the other conference led the way in receiving yardage. Seven of the top 10 in receptions were from the AFC, but six of the top 10 in yardage were from the NFC.

The NFC’s leading receiver was Larry Fitzgerald of Arizona, with 96 catches for 1,431 yards.

Here’s the top 10 in receiving yardage: …Read More!

D.T. Makes Hall Finals Again

For the fifth consecutive year, Chiefs linebacker Derrick Thomas made the finalist group that will receive consideration for the Class of 2009 at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Thomas is one of the 15 modern-era nominees who along with seniors candidates Bob Hayes and Claude Humphrey will be voted on by the Hall of Fame Board of Selectors on January 31st, the Saturday before the Super Bowl, in Tampa. Thomas has been part of the finalist group every year since he became eligible for the Hall with the class of 2005. That was five years after his final season on the field in 1999.

Joining Thomas will be: …Read More!

Tuesday Morning Cup O’Chiefs

Whoever becomes the next GM of the Chiefs needs to add one more item to his list of “things to do” for the 2009 season:

Bring Darren Sproles back home.

The little big-man who drove the San Diego Chargers to victory in a wildcard game last Saturday night against Indianapolis will be a free agent at the end of the season. One would expect the Chargers to do everything they can to keep him wearing those powder blues, but they don’t figure to drop the ultimate hammer when it comes to player availability: the franchise-player tag.

So Sproles will hit the market if he so desires and what player wouldn’t want to find out what he’s worth. That’s especially true for a guy who has because of his 5-6 height has been doubted for most of his playing career.

But as they found out at Olathe North High School, Kansas State University and now the Chargers, Sproles may be small, but that doesn’t hold him back.

And, no matter what type of offensive scheme the Chiefs employ in ’09, Sproles fits. There’s no question he is not a feature back. He can’t be given the ball 25 to 30 times a game, week after week, over a 16-game season.

Sproles needs to be part of a package, a running back-by-committee set-up. But there’s also no question he can handle more of the load than what the Chargers have given him over the last two years. In the ’07 season, Sproles had a total of 111 touches in 15 games, an average of 7.4 per game. That’s runs, catches and returns. In the past season, Sproles averaged 10.3 touches per game with 165 in 16 games. Throw in four games in the playoffs over the last two years and here’s the activity for the 5-6 stick of dynamite:

  • 35 games
  • 353 touches
  • 4,414 yards
  • Average per game of 10.1 touches and 126 yards per game.

Even if he only got those 10 touches for the Chiefs, producing 126 yards a game on offense and in the kicking game would make a difference. …Read More!

Hank’s Gallery: Cincinnati


We’ve had Hank Young’s gallery of pictures from the Chiefs final game in Cincinnati sitting in the bullpen waiting to come out.  We had it scheduled to post and somewhere along the line somebody (guess who) didn’t push the right button.

That right button has now been punched.  A week late, but enjoy!

Remember, click to enlarge. …Read More!

Shuffling the Numbers/Rushing

With the close of the 2008 regular season, we will take the next few days to look inside the numbers generated by the league’s 32 teams over the 256-game schedule.

Today, we zero in on the running game.


Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson dethroned LaDainian Tomlinson as the league’s best runner in 2008.

Tomlinson had led the league for the previous two seasons. But his injury filled season knocked him out of the top spot and he fell all the way to No. 10.

Peterson finished with 1,760 yards on 363 carries. That was an improvement on his rookie season when he ran for 1,341 yards on 238 carries. That gives him 3,101 yards in two seasons; he’s the fifth back in NFL history to run for more than 3,000 yards in his first two seasons.

He finished 61 yards ahead of Atlanta’s Michael Turner (right), who finished with 1,699 yards while leading the league in carries with 376.

The top four rushers were from the NFC: Peterson, Turner, DeAngelo Williams of Carolina (1,515) and Washington’s Clinton Portis (1,487). The AFC’s leading rusher for the ’08 season was Thomas Jones of the New York Jets with 1,312 yards.

# Player Team Rush Yards
1. Adrian Peterson MIN 363 1,760
2. Michael Turner ATL 376 1,699
3. DeAngelo Williams CAR 273 1,515
4. Clinton Portis WAS 342 1,487
5. Thomas Jones NYJ 290 1,312
6. Steve Slaton HOU 268 1,282
7. Matt Forte CHI 316 1,238
8. Chris Johnson TEN 251 1,228
9. Ryan Grant GB 312 1,203
10. LaDainian Tomlinson SD 292 1,110


The top running team in the NFL for the ’08 season was the New York Giants. They averaged 157.4 rushing yards per game. The worst running team in the most recent season was the Arizona Cardinals. They averaged 73.6 rushing yards per game. …Read More!

The Man & The Myths

The Carl Peterson Era ended quietly last week with the flip of the calendar to 2009.

For the last 20 years, Peterson has been the biggest name on the Kansas City sports radar screen. He began as the new guy from the East Coast, brought in to lead the Chiefs out of the NFL cellar. He became a hero when he and Marty Schottenheimer turned around the floundering franchise. He eventually became a lightning rod for the media and fans as the Chiefs struggled to stay a contender.

Over two decades there were a lot of victories for the Chiefs, but Peterson would admit there were not enough. He was in the business of trying to win a championship and thus he leaves Arrowhead Stadium proud of a job well done, but ultimately disappointed in the fact the team never reached the ultimate goal.

As the major decision-maker for the franchise, Peterson made a lot of good ones. He also made bad ones. Responsibility for all of them landed on his plate. He always knew that and never ran from the fact.

As it is with anyone who has been in a visible position of power for 20 years there is fact and there is fiction surrounding Peterson and his time in charge of the Chiefs. There are those who will tell you he’s pompous, arrogant and fueled by an out of control ego. There are those that will tell you he’s one of the most caring and compassionate people they’ve ever met, who if he has a fault it’s his extreme loyalty. Imagine that: the worst trait of a man is that he’s loyal? We should all be so lucky as to have that fault.

Many of  the myths that surround Peterson have been fueled by the Kansas City media, members of which admitted that they celebrated when his resignation was announced.  They should be careful what they wish for because as Peterson rides off into the sunset, they have lost their No. 1 foil.  That’s going to force them to work harder, something they hate to do.

They helped create and nurture these myths, with the truths buried under decades of misinformation and lies.

Here are the top five myths surrounding Peterson and his time with the Chiefs. …Read More!

Monday Morning Cup O’Chiefs

In 16 games during the 2008 NFL season, the Miami Dolphins had just 13 turnovers. They gave away seven interceptions and lost six fumbles. That totaled matched the New York Giants.

Combined, those teams set a new NFL record for fewest giveaways in a 16-game season. Only once did the Dolphins have more than two giveaways in a game. That was December against the Chiefs when Chad Pennington threw an interception to Jarrad Page and Ricky Williams fumbled, with the ball recovered by Demorrio Williams.

Then came Sunday’s wildcard game in the playoffs. Facing a Baltimore defense that forced a league high 34 turnovers during the season, the Dolphins turned the ball over five times and the Ravens scored an easy 27-9 victory and advanced in the AFC Playoffs.

The glass slipper finally cracked for the Dolphins. After improving from 1-15 in 2007 to 11-5 this year, Miami could not push its performance to the next level. They simply had trouble dealing with the Baltimore defense. Pennington was picked off four times and sacked three times. RB Patrick Cobbs had a fumble that the Ravens recovered.

“It has been a special year; that’s why it hurts so much,” Pennington said. “You want to keep it going and see how far you can take it.”

Once again the Ravens defense provided not just turnovers, sacks and stops, but points. Safety Ed Reed returned a Pennington interception 64 yards for a touchdown. It was the fourth TD of the season for Reed with a takeaway (three INTs and one fumble return.)

Over the season, the Ravens scored on defense in eight games. They were 8-0 in those games.

Make that scored on defense in nine games and they are now 9-0. …Read More!

Podcasting: Carl Peterson 1/2

Carl Peterson employment with the Chiefs ended with the turn of the calendar to 2009 at midnight Thursday.  Since the decision to move up his departure to this season, Peterson has not talked publicly.

He does so here for the first time.

The Top Ten – Version #1

Now that the New Year’s Day bowl games are completed, there are only a handful of college players left who are still preparing to play a game.

The best among those finished with their seasons are pondering the future. Specifically, sophomore redshirts and juniors are trying to decide if they should enter the NFL Draft.

Underclassmen have until January 15 to submit their names to the NFL to be included in the ’09 talent pool. Despite comments last week from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell saying there would be no rookie wage cap next year, agents are still telling college players that if they want to guarantee the type of pay day that draft choices have received in recent year, ’09 is the year to jump.

We spent time talking with two NFL teams and scouts from two other clubs and pulled together the top 10. This group includes players who have not yet declared for the draft, and in fact, may choose to stay in the college ranks for another season.

But the NFL guys all think the underclassmen on this list will jump.

We picked 10 because of the Chiefs position as the No. 3 choice in the first round. If the team uses that selection, their choice is in this list. Now, if they should decide to trade down, I wouldn’t expect them to go much beyond the 10th spot. If there are as many underclassmen jumping in as the league expects, the pick at No. 10 will be a very, very good player.

As the weeks and months go on, we’ll adjust this list accordingly, but here’s version No. 1.


# Player Pos YR School
1. Sam Bradford* QB So-R Oklahoma
2. Matt Stafford* QB JR Georgia
3. Michael Crabtree* WR So-R Texas Tech
4. Jeremy Maclin* WR So-R Missouri
5. Andre Smith* T JR Alabama
6. Aaron Curry LB SR Wake Forest
7. Eugene Monroe T SR Virginia
8. Malcolm Jenkins CB SR Ohio State
9. Percy Harvin* WR JR Florida
10. Rey Maualuga LB SR Southern Cal

*-underclassmen who have not yet declared for NFL Draft.

Wildcard Weekend Game Four

“Hey, it’s win or go home.”

Spoken like a true veteran. But the speaker was still a relative youngster, the key figure in wildcard weekend’s fourth and final matchup: 23-year old Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson.

With an NFL career of just 30 games, Peterson will be the focal point of the Philadelphia defensive efforts, as the Eagles go on the road and try to use their post-season experience to beat the Vikings.

Game-time is 3:30 p.m. from the Metrodome and will be on FOX.

“This year he is more patient, he will hit it inside and then bounce it,” Eagles veteran safety Brian Dawkins said of Peterson. “I think that’s the thing that you see more so than anything. You can bottle him up for three straight quarters and all of a sudden if you get out of your gap in that fourth quarter, he can gash you for a couple of long big runs.”

There has been a lot of talk this week in both the Twin Cities and the City of Brotherly Love about Peterson and his fumbling. He led all running backs in the league with nine fumbles, with six of those coming in December. Vikings opponents were clearly trying to pry the ball loose.

“I’ve just got to do my job and keep the ball high and tight,” Peterson said.

If the Eagles try too many tackles aimed at ripping the ball loose, they may forget to make the tackle and Peterson can make them pay with his speed.

“Eventually you can hit a home run on these guys,” Peterson said. “But they play solid football up front with the front four and linebackers. It’s going to be a tough game.”

Peterson says he’s looking forward to going against an Eagles defense that frequently sends an extra player into the pass rush. The downside to all that blitzing? It leaves one less defender to keep a running back from scoring should he make it past the front line. …Read More!

Wildcard Weekend Game Three

“There was a culture change that had to take place here, just with everybody in the building, to be quite honest with you. It wasn’t just the players. It was everybody.”

Today’s wildcard Sunday quiz is this: which rookie head coach said the above? Was it Baltimore’s John Harbaugh? Or was it Tony Sparano (right) of Miami?

The answer is Sparano of the Dolphins, but it easily could have been Harbaugh. Both men took over teams that needed a real facelift, not so much just o n the roster but in attitude. Both provided that in their first seasons as NFL head coaches.

The teams meet today at Dolphin Stadium. Kickoff is noon on CBS.

The Dolphins are coming off that 1-15 season and their 11-5 season is one of the greatest one-year turnarounds in NFL history. The Ravens were 5-11 last year and had tuned out the Brian Billick coaching staff. They turned it around with an 11-5 record this year.

Besides new coaches, the key for both teams was new quarterbacks. The Ravens grabbed Joe Flacco in the first round of the draft. The Dolphins signed Chad Pennington after he was released back in August by the New York Jets. Pennington won the league’s Comeback Player of the Year Award, but he wasn’t sure what he was walking into when he signed.

“As far as the end result, I really didn’t know,” Pennington said. “I don’t think our team really knew. We were kind of surfing through this thing one week at a time and learning more and more about ourselves each day, as individuals as well as teammates.”

They’ve learned enough to win five consecutive games and nine of their last 10. …Read More!

Sunday Morning Cup O’Chiefs

The little man of the National Football League had the biggest game Saturday night.

All 5-6 of Darren Sproles, the pride of Rolling Ridge Elementary, Oregon Trail Junior High and Olathe North High School, drove the San Diego Chargers to a stunning wildcard upset of the favored Indianapolis Colts 23-17 in overtime in San Diego.

And to think: if Dwayne Bowe holds onto an onside kick …

Filling in everywhere for the injured Tomlinson, Sproles hit a 22-yard run around the left side of the Chargers offense and scored the winning touchdown as Qualcomm Stadium went wild.

It was the final total of his 328 overall yards on the night, the third best total in post-season history. He was just 22 yards behind Ed Podolak’s 350 yards in the Chiefs double-overtime loss to Miami on Christmas Day 1971. Another Chargers back Keith Lincoln had 329 yards against the Boston Patriots in the 1963 AFL Championship Game.

Tomlinson started for the Chargers and scored their first touchdown. But it was apparent early that the groin injury he’s dealing with much too serious for him to make a winning contribution. So, San Diego did what they’ve done throughout this season: they turned to Sproles.

Here’s what he did:

  • 23 carries for 105 yards and two touchdowns.
  • 5 catches for 45 yards.
  • 3 punt returns for 72 yards.
  • 4 kickoff returns for 106 yards.

That’s 35 touches for 328 yards, or 9.4 yards every time he touched the ball. …Read More!

Wildcard Weekend/Game Two

It was the last day of November and the San Diego Chargers were 4-8.

Quarterback Philip Rivers walked into the quarterbacks meeting room at the Chargers facility and wrote on the white board “8-8 will be enough. Book it.”

Rivers proved to be very good at predicting and backed it up with playing. That’s why the Chargers are hosting the Indianapolis Colts in Saturday’s wildcard game No. 2 at Qualcomm Stadium.

Kickoff is 7 p.m. on NBC

“He’s the main reason why we’re at this position right now,” RB LaDainian Tomlinson said of his quarterback. “He’s played well all season long, and we’ve just been riding his back, and he’s been carrying us.”

In the four-game stretch after his prediction, Rivers completed 80 of his 121 passes for 1,054 yards and 11 touchdowns while being intercepted one time. Rivers’ passer rating was 120.3, second only to Indianapolis QB Peyton Manning’s 130.8 rating over that span.

Manning is on the other side tonight, and as far as Rivers is concerned there’s no question how quarterbacks should be judged.

“Wins are the measure, and the playoffs,” he said. “I would much rather make a run in the playoffs than go 14-2 and get knocked out in the first round. I don’t know about struggling and going 8-8 and finding a way to get in the playoffs, but I’d much rather do well in the playoffs.”

Rivers is young enough that he served as a camp counselor in 2003 at the quarterback camp of Manning, who at that point had completed his fifth season and won his first MVP award. Rivers was then and now is a fan of Manning.

“I don’t know if star-struck is the word, but he was certainly one of my favorites,” Rivers said. “Just this year, watching him hit his first 17 against Jacksonville, shoot, I’m not ashamed to say I’d rewind and look at his good throws.”

Manning admires Rivers as well. …Read More!

Wildcard Weekend/Game One

OK, if you had these two teams picked back in August for a wildcard game in the 2008 playoffs, go to the head of the class.

The Atlanta Falcons, just 4-12 the season before are in Glendale, Arizona to face the Cardinals in what is a historic day in the desert: the team’s first home game in the playoffs. That’s ever. Twenty-four years after leaving St. Louis, the football RedBirds are in the playoffs for only the second time. That first trip was back in 1998, when Jake Plummer led them to a victory in Dallas and then lost at Minnesota.

Kickoff is 3:30 p.m. Central on NBC.

Neither one of these teams brings a great deal of post-season experience into the building for today’s game. One spot where there’s a difference is at quarterback, where Arizona has former Super Bowl MVP Kurt Warner taking the snaps and Atlanta has rookie of the year Matt Ryan.

“It feels good to be back in there and have a chance at doing something special,” Warner said this week. “But I also know there’s a whole bunch of work we have to do as an organization, as a team, if we want to accomplish more than what we’ve accomplished at this point.”

More on what the Cardinals have accomplished just ahead.

Although his efficiency and production have dropped in the last month, Ryan has had a remarkable first season, completing 61.1 percent of his passes, with 16 TDs and 11 INTs.

Teammate Lawyer Milloy sees a lot of similarities between Ryan and a former teammate in New England, Tom Brady. …Read More!

Saturday Morning Cup O’Chiefs

No matter how the award is defined – best player or player most valuable to his team – Peyton Manning qualified in 2008.

The Indianapolis quarterback won his third NFL Most Valuable Player Award. The honor was announced on Friday by the Associated Press that conducted the voting of 50 media types from around the country.

What Manning did this year was really amazing. He missed the entire training camp and pre-season because of knee surgery and a subsequent infection of his knee that kept it from healing properly. He was able to get on the field for the regular season opener, but he was not the same player.

And, the Colts were not the same team. They struggled early. Near mid-season, they were 3-4 and already knew they were not going to catch Tennessee and win the AFC South. They had to refocus on getting a wildcard berth and that’s just what Manning and the Colts got done. They ran off nine straight victories and on Saturday face the San Diego Chargers in a wildcard game.

There were a lot of factors in pulling that off, but the biggest and most important was Manning. During the winning streak, Manning had a 109.7 passer rating with 17 TDs and three INT. In the last four games, he completed 90-of-110 passes (81.8 %) for 1,054 yards, eight TDs, no INTs and a 130.8 passer rating. Manning directed four fourth-quarter, game-winning drives during the streak and six this season

“Just the way we responded to a little bit of football adversity at the beginning of the season, I just can’t tell you how much I appreciate the opportunity to play with great football players and teammates,” Manning said.

Manning had 32 of the 50 votes, finishing ahead of Miami quarterback Chad Pennington and Atlanta running back Michael Turner who each had four votes.

He won the award in 2004 and shared it with Tennessee QB Steve McNair in 2003. He joins Brett Favre as a three-time winner.

Other players receiving votes were: Minnesota RB Adrian Peterson and Pittsburgh LB James Harrison, 3 each; San Diego QB Philip Rivers, 2; and Tennessee RB Chris Johnson and Arizona QB Kurt Warner, one each. …Read More!

Friday Morning Cup O’Chiefs

As the Dallas Cowboys season ended last Sunday with a blowout loss to Philadelphia, Jerry Jones (right) said before the game and afterwards that Wade Phillips was his head coach for the 2009 season.

That was all before Mike Shanahan was available.

There have been no sounds, no rumors, no mention of Jones and Shanahan since the Denver Broncos cut their coach loose on Tuesday afternoon.

But I’ve got to believe that somewhere Jones is pondering whether it’s time to change his mind.

Come on … this is Jerry Jones we are talking about. This is the guy who loves to collect big names. Good or bad, he’ll do just about anything to win and sell tickets. That’s even more important with the new Jerry World Dome nearing completion in Arlington.

Besides Bill Cowher, who would be bigger for Jones than Shanahan? This is a Super Bowl winning coach. This is one of the most successful coaches in the game over the last 20 years. Nobody could believe it when Jones and Bill Parcells got together.

So why should we doubt he would make a play for Shanahan?

Right now, this is the mere figment of my imagination. But stay tuned. This could be reality very quickly.

Now, an update on the other openings around the NFL on what was outwardly at least a fairly quiet New Year’s Day in the league.

CHIEFS – It seems that no matter what goes on between the Cleveland Browns and Scott Pioli, the V.P. of player personnel with the New England Patriots is going to meet with Clark Hunt. That interview may have already taken place. The Chiefs have sought permission to speak with him and sources in the league say it’s going to happen or already has.

BRONCOS – The proverbial league sources say that Denver has been in touch with Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops about replacing Shanahan. Now, Stoops is a little busy right now with a national championship game to play next week, so this story doesn’t figure to get much traction right now. They will interview Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo on Saturday according to various media outlets. They will also meet with new Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Raheem Morris on Monday. They are seeking permission to speak with New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.

BROWNS – The Boston Herald reported that Pioli had a Thursday deadline to make a decision on whether he was going to Cleveland. The Cleveland Plain Dealer then reported there was no deadline on a Pioli decision. An interview with Atlanta president Rich McKay was cancelled when the league office pointed out to both parties that the Falcons were still playing football.

JETS – They’ve asked for permission to speak with Browns defensive coordinator Mel Tucker.

RAMS – They have requested permission to speak with Dallas WR Ray Sherman about their heading coaching job.

K-STATE’s JOSH FREEMAN WILL JUMP TO NFL reported Thursday that Kansas City native and K-State quarterback Josh Freeman has decided to enter the NFL Draft.

“I’ve done all the research,” Freeman told the website. “Kansas State is starting over and this is what I’ve always wanted to do. The time is right.”

Freeman said an NFL advisory committee projects he could be a high second-round pick. But Freeman, 6-6, 245 pounds, could work his way into the first round because of his prototypical size and arm strength.

“I hope to bring leadership and toughness to an NFL team,” Freeman told the site.

The numbers the NFL will look closely at are the 44 career TD passes to 34 interceptions. He threw for just over 8,000 yards in three seasons with the Wildcats. Freeman will turn 21 on January 13th. …Read More!

Podcasting: Football with Goose 1/1

As the wildcard weekend is upon us, we check in with the best pro football writer in America, Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News.  Goose talks about the situation in Denver with the firing of Mike Shanahan and the fall out from that surprise.  We also talk about his selections as MVP, coach of the year and rookie of the year.  Plus, we cover all four games for this weekend.  Goose thinks three teams playing this weekend could go all the way to Tampa for the Super Bowl.


New Year’s Day Cup O’Chiefs

Scott Pioli, Bill Cowher and Mike Shanahan.

Those were the names on everybody lips as the National Football League welcomed in the New Year on Wednesday evening-Thursday morning.

The league was still reverberating from the news Tuesday that the Denver Broncos had fired Shanahan after 14 seasons as head coach. With Cowher out of the picture now in Cleveland and with the New York Jets, it’s looking very much like he’s going to spend another year on the sidelines. If that’s true, Shanahan immediately jumps to the front of the line when the subject of head coaches comes up.

But there’s now a job that will be of great interest to Cowher: the Broncos. Understand this about the former Chiefs defensive coordinator and Steelers head coach: his next job will be with a team that has a talented quarterback already in house. That wasn’t the case in Cleveland and it wasn’t the case with the Jets. The Broncos have Jay Cutler. That will get Cowher’s attention.

As for Shanahan, he spoke on Wednesday in Denver and did not give any indication that he’s going to sit back and collect the $20 million the Broncos owe him and not coach.

On the GM front, Cleveland Browns owner Randy Lerner met with Pioli (pictured right) on Wednesday somewhere in the New York City area. Lerner will interview Atlanta Falcons president Rich McKay on Thursday.

The Boston Globe reported Wednesday that the Chiefs requested and received permission to speak with Pioli. No word on when that interview is scheduled.

Folks in the NFL believe the Cleveland job is Pioli’s if he wants the position.

In Denver, owner Pat Bowlen talked about why he decided to cut loose the best coach the Broncos have ever had and a man he calls a dear friend.

“I can’t explain to you guys,” Bowlen told the media when reasons for the firing were sought. “I’m an owner. That’s what I do. I’m here every day. That’s my job. So I have to operate on my instincts. So it’s hard for me to explain … why my instincts are like they are. I may end up regretting the decision. But right now I’m very comfortable with.”

Bowlen praised the job Shanahan has done, but the coach himself understood the landscape.

“We didn’t win for the last three years,” Shanahan said. “You get judged by your performance, and I didn’t get the job done. That’s the bottom line. Your job is to win and to win championships, and we have not won a championship in a while.”

Other news and notes on the NFL hiring front:

BROWNS – Also on Wednesday, Lerner supposedly interviewed just fired Jets head coach Eric Mangini. The Browns have requested permission to speak with Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. They will also interview current defensive coordinator Mel Tucker.

COWBOYS – Fired special teams coach Bruce Read.

JETS – Supposedly Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo is their top choice to be head coach, if they aren’t interested in Shanahan. They also are seeking to talk with Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan. Plus, they will interview on Friday two in-house candidates: offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and offensive line coach and former Nebraska head coach Bill Callahan. Apparently, they may also talk with Marty Schottenheimer.

LIONS – They’ve asked for permission to interview Miami secondary coach Todd Bowles, to go along with Minnesota defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier and Tennessee defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz.

49ERS – Mike Singletary fired two more offensive assistants, quarterbacks coach Ted Tollner and running backs coach Tony Nathan.


It was on January 1, 1967 that Derrick Vincent Thomas entered the world in a Miami hospital. He would go on to become one of the most dynamic players in pro football history. Over 11 seasons and 169 games with the Chiefs, Thomas had 126.5 sacks and was considered the game’s best pass rusher in the 1990s. Thirty three years and a few days later, he passed away in a Miami hospital from complications to injuries he suffered in an auto accident on an icy highway in Kansas City.

Born on the same day as D.T. was OT Andy Heck, who played 12 seasons in the NFL, the first five for the Seattle Seahawks. He was the left tackle for the Seahawks on November 11, 1990 when D.T. sacked Dave Krieg an NFL record seven times. …Read More!


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         Copyright 2010 Bob Gretz. May not be used or reprinted without the expressed written consent of Bob Gretz.