Free Agency Update 2/28

Many pundits and league executives predicted the current economic crisis in the country would slow down the normal pace of signings in the first days of free agency.  That wasn’t the case on Friday, but things sure did slow down on Saturday.

Here’s a late Saturday night update on the signings and movement during the second 24 hours of the ’09 NFL season:

The  Broncos finally got a signature on a contract with long-time Eagles safety Brian Dawkins.  It’s a five-year deal for $17 m illion, with $7.2 million guaranteed.  It really works out to a two-year deal for $9 million.  Denver also signed DT Darrel Reid (Indianapolis) to a three-year, $6.8 million contract.  And, reportedly they’ve also  signed LB Andra Davis (Cleveland).

Following after the early fast pace set by the Redskins, their NFC East mates got busy themselves.  The Eagles inked OT Stacy Andrews (Cincinnati) to a six-year deal.  The Giants signed a pair of defensive players: LB Michael Boley (Atlanta) and DT Rocky Bernard (Seattle).  The Cowboys signed LB Keith Brookings, who was released earlier in the day by Atlanta.  Dallas also made a trade, sending CB Anthony Henry to Detroit for QB Jon Kitna.

Other moves:

BILLS — signed C/G Geoff  Hangartner (Carolina).

BUCCANEERS — re-signed S Will Allen and WR Michael Clayton.

49ERS – signed WR Brandon Jones (Tennessee) to a five-year, $16.5 million with $5.4 million guaranteed.

LIONS – signed WR Bryant  Johnson (San Francisco) to a three-year, $9 million contract.

SAINTS – re-signed OT Jon Stinchcomb.

TEXANS — signed DE Antonio Smith (Arizona) to a five-year deal for $35.5 million, with $12.5 million guaranteed.

Getting to Know Matt Cassel

Matthew Brennan Cassel

Born: May 17, 1982 in Northridge, California

Family: Father Greg was a Hollywood scriptwriter who passed away last November. Mother Barbara is a Hollywood set decorator and won an Emmy in 2007 for set decoration for a TV special involving singer Tony Bennett. His parents divorced when he was 14. He has two brothers and a sister. Older brother Jack is a pitcher for the Cleveland Indians, after playing last year for the Houston Astros. Younger brother Justin is a pitcher in the Chicago White Sox farm system, for the Birmingham (AL) Barons, at the Double-A level. Younger sister Amanda is finishing her senior year at Long Beach State.

His paternal great-grandfather was R.G. Cassel, who was a Texas Ranger and his paternal grandfather was Joe B. Cassel, who won the Distinguished Flying Cross as a B-17 bomber pilot in World War II. He later went on to breed horses and earned a spot in the Texas Horse Racing Hall of Fame. …Read More!

Chiefs Make Deal With Patriots for Cassel

The Chiefs have sent their second-round selection in the 2009 NFL Draft to the New England Patriots for quarterback Matt Cassel and linebacker Mike Vrabel.

The deal was finalized Saturday morning.

“I have a long history with both players,” said Chiefs GM Scott Pioli in a team statement. “Mike and Matt are men that I respect both personally and professionally. I look forward to having them as new members of the Chiefs family.”

The Vrabel end of the deal was known Friday, when the linebacker flew to Kansas City to undergo a physical exam.

The Cassel end was speculated on for days, but became public Saturday at lunch time.

To get those two Patriots, the Chiefs give up pick No. 34 in the April draft.

In a statement released by the Patriots, head coach Bill Belichick sang Cassel’s praises.

“It is very easy to root for guys like Matt Cassel, who do everything the right way and flourish as a result,” Belichick said. “As much as we would have loved to continue working with Matt, we wish him nothing but the best as he takes this next step forward in his career.”

New England had made Cassel its franchise player and when the quarterback signed the tender offer, the team was on the line for $14.65 million dollars. More than likely, the move to acquire Cassel includes a longer term contract than just the one-year franchise number. While the Chiefs certainly have enough room to absorb more than $14 million under the salary cap, they would prefer to have a smaller number. …Read More!

Matt Cassel Statistics & Game-by-Game

For a guy who had only mop up duty before September of 2008, Matt Cassel had quite an introduction to the NFL last season.

Here’s how Cassel ended up ranked in the major passing categories for the ’08 season:

 Statistic Matt




Drew Brees, 635




Drew Brees, 413
Comp. Percentage




C.Pennington, 67.4
Passing Yards




Drew Brees, 5,069
TD Passes




Brees-Rivers, 34




Jason Campbell, 6
Passer Rating




Philip Rivers, 105.5

During last season, Cassel became just the fifth quarterback since the 1970 merger to throw for 400 yards or more in consecutive games. On November 13, Cassel threw for 400 yards against the New York Jets and then he came back 10 days later and threw for 415 yards against the Miami Dolphins. He joined Dan Fouts, Dan Marino, Phil Simms and Billy Volek. …Read More!

From the Bottom of the Bird Cage 2/28

It’s day No. 59, so we tip our hats to all the former 59s in Chiefs history, led by Donnie Edwards, Gary Spani and the unforgettable Percy Snow.

On February 28, 1940 the first televised basketball game goes on the air, between Fordham University and the University of Pittsburgh. On February 28, 1983 the final episode of M*A*S*H was broadcast on CBS, with an estimated 106-125 million viewers, the most watched television episode in history.

Born on February 28, 1906 was gangster Bugsy Siegel, who would be portrayed in film by Warren Beatty, Harvey Keitel and Eric Roberts. Born on February 28, 1931 was Dean Smith, the legendary basketball coach at the University of North Carolina.

On February 28, 1916, American author Henry James passed away in London.

And, in the words of M*A*S*H character psychiatrist Dr. Sidney Freedman: “Ladies and gentlemen, take my advice. Pull down your pants and slide on the ice.”

From the Washington Post: We’ve come to expect these big splashes from the Washington Redskins as the calendar creeps toward springtime. Nobody can be surprised to see the Champs of the Offseason strike first — and loudest — during the free agent period. Nobody can be surprised that the Redskins spent the most money to land the biggest fish to elicit the biggest wow.

The recession may apply to little people, but nothing economic was going to keep Daniel Snyder from throwing tens of millions at Albert Haynesworth in that excessive, over-the-top manner that has become Snyder’s signature as an owner.


Columnist Mike Wilbon goes on to write that the Haynesworth deal with the Redskins will either be boom or bust. Actually, when a guy with the checkered resume that Haynesworth brings to the Redskins, only one thing can justify signing him to that type of money: a Super Bowl championship. In that sense, it is very much boom or bust. …Read More!

Weekend Cup O’Chiefs 2/28-3/1

As of the end of business Friday evening, the Chiefs had still not confirmed the acquisition of New England Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel.

The deal was acknowledged by Vrabel to the Boston Globe via text message late Friday afternoon. So, the fact that the deal has not been officially announced could mean nothing – just the Chiefs in their current information lockdown mode – or it could mean that something turned up in the physical exam that Vrabel took when he arrived in Kansas City on Friday.

As a soon to be 34-year old linebacker, who will play season No. 13 in 2009, Vrabel is not going to be a completely healthy specimen. There were rumors in Boston during the last part of the ’08 season that Vrabel was nursing a sore shoulder. He denied there were any problems at the time.  But the Boston Herald reported Friday night that “a source close to him revealed Vrabel may now need surgery to repair the problem.”

As long as he passes the club’s physical, why would Scott Pioli want a 34-year old linebacker and all his mileage? The obvious answer is he wants Vrabel to come in and establish the Patriots Way in the Chiefs locker room. This becomes even more obvious after Brian Waters very public unhappiness with the new leadership duo of Pioli and Todd Haley.

There’s no question Vrabel was one of the leaders of the Patriots and one of Bill Belichick’s favorite players.

“We’ve lost perhaps our best all-around football player. Defense, offense, special teams, Vrabes did it all,” linebacker Tedy Bruschi wrote to the Herald in an e-mail. “His intelligence and on-field adjustments cannot be replaced. This team has just changed immensely.”

Pioli/Haley want somebody who is going to establish the new way of doing things at Arrowhead. That’s going to be one of Vrabel’s jobs. He’s been known throughout his college and pro career as a guy who isn’t afraid to get into a teammate’s face if he feels there might be some slacking off or less than maximum effort. …Read More!

Waters Learns It’s A New Chiefs World

Brian Waters gets failing grades for his first two tests in what is the brave new world of the Kansas City Chiefs.

The veteran guard failed to understand the message that was sent to him by Scott Pioli and Todd Haley.

And then he failed again when he apparently blabbed about his frustration and emotions and the information landed in the hands of Jason Whitlock and the Kansas City Star.

We hate to link to the Star for anything because they absolutely refuse to admit this site even exists. But if you haven’t read the story of an unhappy Brian Waters, then click here. We’ll provide a better written short version.

Waters did not like what he heard at the Pro Bowl about his new head coach. Gossip around the hotel pool with guys from the Arizona Cardinals was that Haley could be aloof and difficult to deal with. Waters decided to come to Kansas City and hear straight from the guys in charge what their plans are for this team.

According to the story, Pioli would not give him a meeting and Haley only had time to chat as they walked down a hallway in the team’s offices. Reportedly Haley told Waters that he could have gone out and gotten 22 guys off the street and won two games.

This attitude or in Whitlock’s word “arrogance” angered Waters and he then tried to contact Clark Hunt, who apparently would not take his call. That’s when Waters on Thursday called Haley and asked that the team to trade him.

Now Whitlock’s story does not quote Waters by name, and says the information came from someone with “knowledge of  the situation.” Generally, that’s a player’s agent in that role. But Waters does not have an agent; he handles his contract stuff himself. So it’s pretty plain thanks to the detail in the narrative that the source of the information in the story is Waters himself, or someone Waters had spoken to in great detail. It’s either him or Haley and I think we are on very safe ground knowing it was not the head coach. …Read More!

Chiefs Add Another Assistant Coach

Todd Haley continues to flesh out his coaching staff and has added Nick Sirianni as the team’s offensive quality control coach.

Sirianni comes to Kansas City after three years coaching at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, in Indiana, PA. He handled the wide receivers for the Crimson Hawks (2006-08) on the staff of Lou Tepper. IUP went 25-7 over the last three seasons on the NCAA Division II level.

He went to IUP after two seasons coaching the secondary at his alma mater, Mount Union College in Alliance, Ohio (2004-05). Sirianni was a three-year starter at Mount Union as a wide receiver, catching 52 passes for 998 yards and 13 touchdowns during his senior season. During Sirianni’s time there, Mount Union won three NCAA Division III championships (2001 and 2002 as a player and 2005 as an assistant coach.)

The 27-year old Sirianni is a 1999 graduate of Southwestern Central School in Jamestown, New York.  His older brother Jay is now the head football coach at Southwestern Central and another older brother Mike is the head coach at Washington & Jefferson College in Washington, Pennsylvania.

Chiefs Acquire Vrabel From Patriots

Veteran linebacker Mike Vrabel joined the Chiefs Friday after the club engineered a deal with the New England Patriots.

The team has not yet formally announced the trade so what the Chiefs gave up for Vrabel remains unknown.

Vrabel will be 34 years old this August and will be appearing in his 13th NFL season.  He signed eight years ago with the Patriots as an unrestricted free agent after four seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers.  He was a third-round choice (pick No. 91) of the Steelers in the 1997 NFL Draft out of Ohio State. 

With the Buckeyes, Vrabel played defensive end, but he moved to outside linebacker in the NFL. He did not get much playing time in his four seasons in Pittsburgh, appearing in 51 games, with no starts and had 43 total tackles and seven sacks.  He also contributed 23 tackles on special teams.

The Ohio native signed with the Patriots as an unrestricted free agent in March of 2001 and has played there for eight seasons in the New England defense and offense.  He’s caught 10 passes in regular and post-season play, all for touchdowns.  He also has an interception return for a touchdown, giving him 11 touchdowns in his career.

Last season, Vrabel had 60 tackles, with four sacks, one interception and one forced fumble.  During the Patriots 16-0 season of 2007, Vrabel had 77 tackles and a career high 12.5 sacks. Over his eight seasons with the Patriots, he contributed 631 tackles, 48 sacks and 11 interceptions.  He was a starter in the Pro Bowl after the 2007 season and was named to the Associated Press All-Pro first team.

Totals for his 12 years in the NFL are 674 tackles, 55 sacks, 11 interceptions, 16 forced fumbles and six fumbles recovered.

Michael George Vrabel was born on August 14, 1975 in Akron,  Ohio.  He added Walsh Jesuit High School in Stowe, Ohio.  He and his wife Jen have two sons, Tyler and Carter.  Vrabel was a pre-med major at Ohio State.

Friday Free Agency Update 2/27

Unlike past seasons, there hasn’t been a flurry of signings in the first hours of free agency.

Here is what has happened since 11 o’clock Thursday night.  Also, stay tuned later today I’ll tell you why Chiefs guard Brian Waters flunked his first test with the new regime at Arrowhead.

REDSKINS SIGN HAYNESWORTH AND HALL – After sitting out last year’s free agent market, Washington owner Dan Snyder leaped back in and signed DT Albert Haynesworth to a $100 million deal and CB DeAngelo Hall to a $56 million deal.  Here’s the shocking number: Haynesworth is going to get $41 million guaranteed, a level no NFL player has ever reached.

PATRIOTS ACTIVE AS WELL – In New England, they have signed RB Fred Taylor, released several weeks ago by Jacksonville and they also inked former Jets TE Chris Baker.

JETS ADDING LINEBACKER – New head coach Rex Ryan and the New York management have apparently worked out a deal with Ravens LB Bart Scott that will pay something in the neighborhood of $8 million per season.  The Jets have also re-signed former Chiefs FB Tony Richardson to a one-year deal.

HOUSTON KEEPS SAFETY — Eugene Wilson stayed with the Texans, signing a three-year deal, worth more than $11 million.

Friday Morning Cup O’Chiefs

Michael Vick knows when he’s getting out of Leavenworth, Tom Brady got married and Los Angeles is a step closer to a new football stadium.

But all anybody around the NFL wants to talk about on this Friday is the start of the new league year and free agency. Gisele and Tom? Forget it. They want to talk about Albert Haynesworth (below) and Dan Snyder.

So that’s where we’ll start this morning. I promise we will catch up with Vick, Brady and stadium news a bit later.

At 11:01 p.m. CST Thursday, it was time for the NFL to begin what amounts to its football fiscal year. All teams had to be under the salary cap of $127 million with their top salaries and bonuses for the 2009 season.

Early Thursday afternoon, every team in the league had a cushion under the cap. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Chiefs had the biggest margins. The Bucs were $61 million under the cap, with the Chiefs at $57 million.

I know Chiefs fans see all that cap space available and believe that Scott Pioli is going to be one busy guy in the free agency world this weekend.

They are going to be disappointed. I think Pioli will be active in the second wave of free agency, but in this first week where the contracts get blown all out of proportion and teams badly overpay for players, I believe the Chiefs will sit on the sidelines and plan their strategy for when players and agents become more realistic. …Read More!

Race To Free Agency

Thursday night at 11:01 p.m. CST, the 2009 NFL season will officially begin.

That’s when the salary cap kicks in again, now at $127 million limit per team after an NFL adjustment on Tuesday.

That’s also when contracts end and players become unrestricted and restricted free agents.

Right now, it’s busy all around the NFL as teams work their roster and salary cap situations before the deadline ahead of them.

As to the cap, a team’s top 51 contracts count against the $127 million figure between now and the day after the final cutdown before the regular season. Then, the team must have all 53 players fitting under that cap.

When it comes to working room under the cap, only the Tampa Bay Bucs have more room than the Chiefs, according to the NFL Network’s Adam Schefter. Here are the top five teams with cap money and the five teams with the lowest cap totals before the close of business on Thursday afternoon:

# Team Available   # Team Available
1. Tampa Bay $61 million   28. Washington $8.1 million
2. CHIEFS $57 million   29. Pittsburgh $7.4 million
3. Philadelphia $48 million   30. Indianapolis $6.6 million
4. Denver $37 million   31. New England $3.2 million
5. Green Bay $34 million   32. Carolina $1.9 million

The Chiefs have six players who will be unrestricted free agents (UFA) tonight if the club does not reach agreement on a new deal: DE Jason Babin, LB Rocky Boiman, S Oliver Celestin, G Adrian Jones, S Jon McGraw and LB Pat Thomas. Hard to see Pioli/Haley interested in anybody but McGraw, who quietly had one of the best special teams seasons in the league last year. …Read More!

From The Bottom Of The Birdcage 2/26

This is day No. 57 of the year. It’s 199 days away from opening Sunday in the NFL.

On February 26, 1815, Napoleon Bonaparte became a free agent, after his escape from Elba. On Februrary 26, 1929, the Grand Teton National Park was created in Wyoming. Good move there. If you’ve never seen the Tetons, you’ve got to make it there before you die. Add it to the bucket list.

Born on February 26, 1829 was Levi Strauss, the clothing designer who moved to San Francisco and found the first company to manufacture blue jeans. Born on February 26, 1945 was Mitch Ryder, who went on to perform rock ‘n roll with several groups including Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels. His biggest hit was Devil With The Blue Dress On.

On February 26, 1994, standup comedian Bill Hicks passed away from cancer. He was just 32 years old. Known for his irreverent routines on race, religion and drugs, he was once pulled from Late Night with David Letterman. He once joked that he quit using drugs “because once you’ve been taken aboard a UFO, it’s kind of hard to top that.”

And remember today the words of Mitch Ryder’s top song: “Fee fee, fi fi, fo fo, fum. Lookin’ mighty nice, here she comes. Wearin’ a wig, hat and shades to watch; got high heel sneakers and an alligator hat.”

They just don’t write lyrics like that anymore. …Read More!

Thursday Morning Cup O’Chiefs

A pretty good football team could be made up of just the players who have been released by NFL teams in the past two weeks as a precursor to the start of free agency.

That was especially clear on Wednesday, as even more veteran players hit the waiver wire. Tampa Bay released five players, including 11-time Pro Bowl linebacker Derrick Brooks (left), running back Warrick Dunn, wide receivers Joey Galloway and Ike Hilliard and linebacker Cato June.

The New York Jets sliced veteran wide receiver Laveranues Coles. The St. Louis Rams dropped quarterback Trent Green and wide receiver Drew Bennett. The Houston Texans sent packing defensive end Anthony Weaver, tackle Ephraim Salaam and safety Will Demps. The Carolina Panthers released guard Jeremy Bridges, wide receiver D.J. Hackett and running back Nick Goings.

That was just Wednesday.

On Tuesday it was names like Marvin Harrison, Donnie Edwards, Pat Surtain and Damon Huard. In the 10 days before it was Fred Taylor, Gibril Wilson, Chris McAlister, Deuce McAllister. Dre Bly, Marcus Washington, Drayton Florence, Ronald Curry, Jerry Porter and more.

And we can expect a few more familiar names on Thursday. The league’s personnel season begins at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, when all teams must be under the salary cap with their 51 most expensive players. It’s also the start of unrestricted and restricted free agency.

But free agency has already begun for the players who were released in the last few days. Many of those players will play in the league for the ’09 season. Some may even have big seasons. …Read More!

Losing A Lot Of Class

There’s no mistaking why the Chiefs released Donnie Edwards, Pat Surtain and Damon Huard on Tuesday.

They are all over 30 years of age, all were minimal participants last year for a 2-14 team because of injury and all were scheduled to make way too much money in ’09 for what they figured to contribute to a rebuilding team.

All those factors qualify for dismissal under the rules of the NFL jungle. Any player over the age of 30 should not be surprised with the Reaper comes knocking on his door. It’s happening all over the league this week with names like Marvin Harrison, Derrick Brooks, Warrick Dunn, Lavernanues Coles, Joey Galloway and Trent Green shown the door.

The unfortunate thing for the Chiefs in losing Edwards/Surtain/Huard is that they lose an element that any team needs, but most especially the ’09 Chiefs. That trait is class.

Surtain was pushed aside on the corner last year by the youthful trio of Brandon Flowers/Brandon Carr/Maurice Leggett. Never once did Surtain complain publicly. Talk with Flowers, Carr and Leggett and you’ll find out that never once did he turn down the chance to help them. Surtain wasn’t happy with the situation, but he remained a good teammate and a good soldier. Believe me when I say that’s rare, especially for cornerbacks who because of the nature of the position and generally more high-strung and willing to challenge authority.

In over 30 years of covering pro football I can tell you it’s hard to find many players classier than Huard. Ultimately, he may have been the quintessential backup quarterback, but his only real chance to play came with the Chiefs and it was quite a roller coaster due to injury and the desire to play Brodie Croyle and even Tyler Thigpen. Go back to the week before the Atlanta game when Herm Edwards decided to give Thigpen his first start. Huard was capable of playing that week and thought he should be playing. He kept his thoughts to himself. He knew how to be a good teammate.

And then there’s Donnie Edwards. …Read More!

From the Bottom of the Bird Cage 2/25

It is Day No. 56 of the year

Back on February 25, 1793, George Washington held the first Cabinet meeting. In 1951, the first Pan Am Games were held in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

On this day in 1901, Zeppo Marx, the youngest of the Marx brothers was born and on this day in 1971 actor Sean Astin was born.  He was the guy who played Rudy in the movie with the same name.  On this day in 1994, former heavyweight champion Jersey Joe Walcott passed away.  He was 80 years old.  On this day in 1984, American playwright Tennessee Williams died at the age of 71.

And as Williams once said: “If I got rid of my demons, I would lose my angels.”

From the Hartford Courant:
Danny Abbatemarco had been waiting for the letter from the Yankees for months. During the winter, as his favorite team went on an epic shopping spree, Abbatemarco was left to wonder what kind of seats his money would buy in the new Yankee Stadium, which opens this year. For the last eight summers, Abbatemarco has owned a 12-game Saturday package. Each summer he inched closer to third base and Alex Rodriguez.

But when he tore the envelope open Saturday he was dismayed. He will still be able to see Rodriguez, but he may need binoculars to do it. Abbatemarco was offered a 15-game package (12 Saturdays, three weekday games) in the new stadium, but his seat was moved from Section 22 — a journeyman’s toss from A-Rod — to Section 305 in the upper deck in right field. “I’m nowhere near where I was,” Abbatemarco said. “It went up $80 (from $660 to $740), which isn’t bad because they threw in three extra games, but I had a lot better seats.”


It used to be that fans would come into the stadium with nose bleed seats and then work their way down over the years to the good, closer to the action chairs. It was the natural progression of sports fans. But the current economic climate has changed the course of the viewing fan’s river; they are moving in the other direction. Whether it’s big increases in pricing like what the Yankees have done with their new stadium, or simply the unwillingness to spend dwindling funds on big dollar tickets, more and more fans are moving back to the upper deck, or moving out of the stadium entirely. As this story indicates, the Yankees haven’t gotten a lot of push back just yet on their new pricing. But that’s the Yankees and that’s New York. Every city is not the same. Some owners are so leveraged on new stadiums that any flicker in attendance could cost them millions of dollars. A guy like Jerry Jones, with his soon to be opened Jerry’s World in Arlington is living on the edge right now. How close to the edge? Read on. …Read More!

Wednesday Morning Cup O’Chiefs

Whether the rookie trio of Brandon Flowers, Brandon Carr and Maurice Leggett is good enough to last at cornerback will be one of the more interesting situations to watch with the 2009 Chiefs.

We could get indications of how the Chiefs feel right off the bat, with free agency that starts in the NFL on Friday.

Over the last 15 years, the Chiefs have spent an awful lot of Hunt Family money on cornerbacks. The most recent beneficiary was sent packing on Tuesday, as Pioli/Haley shipped Pat Surtain (left) to the waiver wire.

Joining him were veteran linebacker Donnie Edwards and quarterback Damon Huard, along with first-year tight end Michael Merritt. That sliced more than $10 million off the team’s salary cap figure for the coming season.

Surtain did not come to Kansas City via free agency. Rather it was through a trade that cost the Chiefs a second-round choice that went to the Miami Dolphins (the teams also traded spots in the fifth round.) Surtain signed a seven-year deal with the Chiefs for $50.8 million, with $14 million guaranteed.

Over four seasons, Surtain was paid more than $27 million by the Chiefs to play the corner on teams that won 10, nine, four and two games. …Read More!

Surtain, Huard & Edwards Gone

In the first visible moves with the Chiefs roster since taking over the team, Pioli/Haley just made their roster even younger than it was last year.

The Chiefs have released:

  • LB Donnie Edwards, a 13-year veteran of the NFL who will be 36 years old in August.
  • CB Pat Surtain, an 11-year veteran who will be 33 years old in June.
  • QB Damon Huard, a 12-year veteran of the league who will be 36 in July.

The moves come in advance of the start of the leauge year at 12:01 a.m. on Friday.  That’s when free agency begins and when the league’s teams must be under the salary cap.  None of these moves was made with the idea of getting the Chiefs under the salary cap, since they had so much room anyway, approximately $38 million.  But releasing the three veterans freed up more than $10 million under the cap, so Pioli/Haley will have in the neighborhood of $50 million available.

Currently, the Chiefs roster has only six players who are 30 years or older:  deep-snapper Jean-Phillipe Darche (34 on February 28), defensive tackle/end Alfonso Boone (33) tight end Tony Gonzalez (33 on February 27), guard Brian Waters (32), tackle Damion McIntosh (32 in March) and cornerback David Macklin (30).

The Chiefs also released TE Michael Merritt, who was a seventh-round choice out of Central Florida in the 2008 NFL Draft.  Merritt was arrested on February 5 in Orlando, Florida on marijuana charges.

Scraps From The Bottom of the Birdcage 2/24

I’ve searched for a couple of weeks for the right title for this daily roundup of stories that I think you will enjoy. I’m finally settling on “Scraps From The Bottom of the Birdcage.”

If you never had a bird cage around your house, then maybe you don’t know that back in the day, the bottom was lined with yesterday’s newspaper. That’s where the bird do-do collected, only to be replaced the next day by another piece of the newspaper.

The whole time I worked for newspapers, I always remembered that what I wrote would the next day wrap fish or line the bottom of the bird cage. There’s nothing more useless than yesterday’s newspaper.

But sometimes there are golden nuggets that are worth recovering from the media landfill. That’s what I will seek each day, whether they appear in print or live only in cyberspace.

Achievement Metrics claims it can forecast whether college prospects are at greater risk for future off-field problems by dissecting their speech patterns from media interviews. Automated text analysis is conducted through a computer model that measures more than 100 different factors, including the use of individual words, adjectives and verb tenses. Intrigued by the possibility that clichés like “110 percent” and “taking it to the next level” might actually have value, I attended a 15-minute presentation at a hotel near where player workouts are being held. The pitch opened my ears and eyes — especially when it came to Buffalo’s Marshawn Lynch.

The Pro Bowl running back has become the NFL’s newest poster child for criminal behavior. Lynch was recently arrested in Southern California on three misdemeanor weapons charges. Last summer, he pled guilty to a misdemeanor traffic violation following a hit-and-run incident.

According to Achievement Metrics research, Lynch entered the NFL with a significantly greater risk of future arrest or suspension than his peers. The study claims Lynch has a 26.6 percent chance of being booked on a drug or alcohol offense (marijuana was found at the scene of Lynch’s gun bust but he wasn’t charged for possession). Lynch also was placed in the same grouping as ex-Dallas Cowboys cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones as a potential “distraction” for having poor relationships with coaches and teammates.

…Read More!

Tuesday Morning Cup O’Chiefs

It’s a sad day in Indianapolis today, and that has nothing to do with the final day of the NFL Scouting Combine.

It may be a similarly sad day in San Diego very soon.

The NFL clock is ticking towards 12:01 on Friday morning. That’s when the league year begins. It’s when players become free agents. It’s when trades can be consummated. It’s when teams must be under the league’s salary cap limit.

It has become the time of year when teams and long-time stars part ways.

That will happen in the next 48 hours between the Colts and 13-year wide receiver Marvin Harrison. The man who holds all of the team’s receiving records and has been the favorite target over this decade for Colts quarterback Peyton Manning is going to be released.

Harrison refused to take a pay cut and the Colts can’t afford to keep him on the roster any more, not with the money they are paying Manning and defensive end Dwight Freeney. The team and Harrison’s agent Tom Condon met Monday and agreed that Harrison will become a free agent.

An official announcement should come on Tuesday or Wednesday.

“There was no hardball with this, just heartache,” Colts GM Bill Polian told ESPN.

“Basically, we were not able to come to any kind of agreement, it was not contentious and the Colts have agreed to release him,” Condon told the Associated Press.

Owner Jim Irsay jumped into the fray on Monday evening and talked one-on-one with Harrison in hopes of getting a deal that will keep him wearing a horseshoe on his helmet.

“Marvin and I are talking at mid-afternoon (Tuesday) and we’ll see where we go from there,” Irsay told the Indianapolis Star.  “I’m not going to start talking like he’s not here, because nothing’s been determined officially by any stretch.”

Asked if Harrison could stay in Indy, Irsay was quoted as saying, “Definitely.”

“This is a very, very unusual situation,”  Irsay said.  “Marvin goes back with me to 1996 when I started to assume ownership.  Obviously there have been conversations between Bill (Polian, team president) and Condon, but Marvin and I are going to talk it through and see where it goes.  It’s a special circumstance. It’s a player and an owner, two partners who have been together for a long, long time. We’re going to talk through everything and be certain that the direction we go is the right one for both of us.”

…Read More!

Readers Speak: It’s Aaron Curry or Trade Down

Thanks to all of you who responded over the weekend to our first fan poll on what the Chiefs should do with the third pick of the first round in the NFL Draft two months from now.

As we noted, it’s way too early with free agency not even begun yet, but we wanted to set the bar and see what folks were thinking before we go through 60 days of paralysis of analysis on the draft.

Right now, the feelings of a majority of folks is apparent: if the Chiefs keep the choice, they should select Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry (right). But if they can, just as many of you believe the Chiefs should trade down in the first round, picking up extra picks.

After sifting through nearly 100 responses, here are the totals:

  • Linebacker Aaron Curry: 27
  • Trade Down: 26
  • Quarterback Matt Stafford: 6.5
  • Offensive Tackle Eugene Monroe: 4
  • Wide receiver Michael Crabtree: 3.5
  • Quarterback Mark Sanchez: 3.5
  • Nose tackle B.J. Raji: 2.5
  • Any offensive lineman: 2
  • Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin: 1
  • Defensive end Brian Orapko: 1
  • Nose tackle: 1

We will revisit this subject a month from now. Until then, keep talking the draft, personnel, free agency and the Chiefs.

Monday Morning Cup O’Chiefs

The NFL Scouting Combine is where the news was this weekend in the world of the Chiefs and pro football.

All the league’s movers and shakers still have one more night in Indianapolis, as there are player workouts on Monday and then the defensive backs go on Tuesday to close things out. The medical testing has pretty much wrapped up, so all the attention will come in the interview rooms Monday night and then with the physical testing like weight lifting (left) and running on the Lucas Oil Stadium field.

A hodgepodge of news came out of the weekend and here are a couple items worth mentioning.


The Chiefs GM stepped to the media podium on Saturday and then talked with the NFL Network. He was pleasant, congenial and had very little to offer in the way of news.

Pioli was asked whether he will evaluate players for the Chiefs like he evaluated players for the Patriots. He said there would be a big difference because of the head coaches involved.

“Todd is a different coach from a different system, who is looking for different types of players skill set-wise,” Pioli said of Haley. “We’re looking for big, tough, smart, disciplined football players, but what we’re going to do schematically is not necessarily going to be the same thing that we did in New England. There will be different types of players that we’ll be looking at for different positions.

“I don’t think we’re necessarily battling over the same players as New England. The players that I have to go out and get are different because we have a different coach, and he’s running a different system with a different philosophy. Makeup-wise, they’re very similar, but from a positional and skill-set standpoint it will be a little bit different.” …Read More!

What Should Chiefs Do at No. 3

The draft is two months away.  Free agency hasn’t begun yet.  The picture of the immediate future of the Chiefs remains very hazy.  Heck, we don’t even know for sure whether they will play the 3-4 or the 4-3 defense.

So it seems the perfect time to take the early temperature of where everyone’s thoughts are when it comes to that No. 3 choice in the first-round of the NFL Draft  in April..

Here’s the drill:

Make your pick for what the Chiefs should do with that spot.  The basic choices are three: trade down, trade up or draft a player.  If your choice is draft a player, then name that player and explain why in 25 words or less. If it’s a trade up or down, tell us why in 25 words or less how far down you would move, or who you would trade up to draft.

Again, all this in 25 words or less.  Please, no reaction to others picks.  There will be plenty of time for that.  I know you guys like to go back and forth, but let’s keep it to your decision and why for now.

We’ll run this all weekend and see what the readers of come up with. Voting starts now and will end at 10 a.m. Monday morning.   We’ll provide totals and an overview Monday afternoon.

Gentlemen, and ladies, start your picking.

Combine Comment 2/21

A couple of guys that the Chiefs will surely have an interest in with that third pick of the first round met the media on Saturday at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Here’s some of what linebacker Aaron Curry and defensive end Brian Orakpo had to say.

Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry

Would he like to play for the Chiefs?
“Sure, I would love to play for Kansas City. I have a high school teammate
who plays for Kansas City, DeMarcus Tyler. Derrick Johnson is another linebacker out of Texas that I’ve always watched because he was good at forcing turnovers.”

His relationships with Tank Tyler:
“Tank was a year ahead of me (at E.E. Smith High School in Fayetteville, North Carolina.) We had a very interesting team. We had some big guys including Tank. Those are the glorious days for me. We really took it to some teams on the defense. We prided ourselves on hitting hard, getting 11hats on the football. That’s just been my mentality since playing with Tank.”

Does he consider himself a safe pick?
“I believe a safe pick means I can come in instantly and make an impact on anybody’s defense and my versatility as a linebacker to be able to play in the 3-4, inside, or outside, or 4-3, inside or outside, you just can’t go wrong.

“I can play the Sam, Mike and Will in 4-3. Coach (Brad) Lambert at Wake Forest did a great job of preparing me to play any position. He never allowed any of our linebackers to focus on any one position. We had to play them all.

“At Wake Forest I was used a majority of the time in the 9-technique. We played a 4-3 under and I would play on top of the tight end most of the time unless we had a different scheme for that week, but most of the time I was just an outside linebacker, a Sam.” …Read More!

Combine: Defensive Backs

On Tuesday, the final day of on-field work at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis it will be the defensive backs running, jumping and lifting for the GMs, scouts and coaches.

There are a handful of cornerbacks considered among the top players available this year, led by Vontae Davis out of Illinois. He should go in the top 10 of this year’s choices.

Safety is not considered one of the stronger positions in this year’s draft class.

Here are the defensive backs. …Read More!

Weekend Cup O’Chiefs

As the NFL began its Scouting Combine weekend in Indianapolis, there were quarterbacks at both ends of the age and experience spectrum in the news.

Among the young guys, the top quarterbacks coming out of the college ranks this year will be on the field at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday for their workouts in front of the league’s GMs, coaches and scouts.

At the other end of the spectrum, it sounds like Kurt Warner (left) has decided he will continue his playing career. At least that’s what his agent said on Friday.

“He’s decided he’s going to play,” Mark Bartelstein told the Chicago Sun-Times. “He’s made up his mind. He wants to play and he always wanted to play.”

Warner created doubt after Arizona lost Super Bowl XLIII to Pittsburgh on his return.

“Any time you are in your 30′s and you finish a season where you have that long of a year going through the Super Bowl, you always want to take a second to take a deep breath and digest where you’re at and make sure you are doing it for the right reasons,” Bartelstein said of his client. “He loves to play. He loves to compete and obviously he’s still one of the premier quarterbacks in the NFL.”

Warner will likely return to the Cardinals and the team has already made him an offer, with talks continuing between Bartelstein and Arizona GM Rod Graves at the Scouting Combine …Read More!

Haley At Combine 2/20

Not only do the prospective draft choices meet with the media at the NFL Scouting combine in Indianapolis, so do NFL coaches and front-office types.

New Chiefs head coach Todd Haley had his moment in front of the microphones on Friday afternoon. Here’s part of what he had to say.

On early impressions of his new team:

“You are what you are. Last year the Kansas City Chiefs won two games. That’s what they were last year. This year is a new year. I’m going to be about trying to win games, do everything possible to give us the best chance to win games. That’s the bottom line. I know it’s pretty basic. It’s what I’m going to follow. I know that it’s what Scott is going to follow. We’re going to be about what we can do to win games. It’s going to start with one. At this point, we haven’t won a game here as Kansas City Chiefs. And that’s going to be our goal, to figure out a way to win one game at this point.”

Thoughts on what he has on the team:

“That’s a tough question to answer. I’ve spent the last week and a half, strictly, just working on getting together a staff and trying to get as many good coaches into the building as I could. I’ve got my computer loaded up with Kansas City Chiefs tape which I’m trying to, in any spare moment, watch as much as I can. Again, it’s right at the early part of the evaluation process.” …Read More!

Combine Comments 2/20

It was the quarterbacks and receivers turn to step in front of the media microphones on Friday in Indianapolis at the NFL Scouting combine.

Kansas State quarterback Josh Freeman

You said it was the right decision to come out early, why?
“There were a lot of different reasons. I’ve done a lot of work at Kansas State and felt really good it the system but as far as developing as a player, I wasn’t going to develop a whole lot more at K-State – even under Coach (Ron) Prince’s system. When Coach Prince got let go and they brought Coach (Bill) Snyder back – I still took a good look at that — but I felt that, ultimately, it was the right time.”

What NFL quarterbacks do you compare to?

“I’d say, first and foremost, Ben Roethlisberger for the size and ability to move around the pocket and extend the play. And also Donovan McNabb, just the way he harnesses his athletic ability and is still able to sit in the pocket and be a pocket passer.” …Read More!

Combine Groups #7-8-9

The big boys on the defensive front will arrive in Indianapolis on Friday and begin their four-day rotation through the NFL Scouting Combine.

These guys will get on the field Monday, after going through several days of physical and psychological tests. 

The defensive line and linebacker figure to be groups that will have the full attention of the new Chiefs regime. In the spotlight are names like defensive tackle B.J. Raji, defensive end Everette Brown and linebacker Aaron Curry.

 Here are the groups: …Read More!

Around the League 2/20

Out in West Texas, they came to their senses and kept a very good football coach. In Michigan, they are saying good bye to a very good man.

And there’s more information on the possible effects of steroids.  Read on.

From the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram:
All it took was a simple talk between Texas Tech football coach Mike Leach and chancellor Kent Hance to hammer out one of the most contentious contract negotiations in Red Raiders history. Thursday’s short discussion ended with Leach happily agreeing to a three-year extension to remain coach of the Red Raiders through the 2013-14 school year. Counting the two years remaining on his current contract, Leach’s new deal — which he signed Thursday — is worth $12.7 million.

Leach said he doesn’t know if the contract would have been finalized without Hance agreeing to meet him alone Thursday. Hance said they met for about three hours, but contract talks only lasted 10-15 minutes. “I really appreciate his efforts in ultimately bringing this entire thing together,” Leach said. “Me and my family are thrilled to death that we’re going to be in Lubbock for another five years, because it’s become a part of our family.”

The four sticking points that held up the deal were resolved to Leach’s satisfaction. In the previous contract proposed by Tech, Leach was to pay $300,000 a year for every year remaining on his deal if he wanted to buy it out and coach elsewhere. The new contract does not include a buyout clause. Tech also would have had the power to dismiss Leach – and subject him to a $300,000 penalty per year remaining on his contract – if he interviewed for another job without getting permission from athletic director Gerald Myers or Hance. Now, Leach just has to notify Myers or Hance if he is interviewing elsewhere. Tech proposed to pay Leach $300,000 a year for each year remaining on his contract if he’s terminated. The new deal pays Leach $400,000 a year if he’s terminated.

On the fourth point, Tech wanted to own Leach’s personal property rights naming rights, his likeness and any money generated from books and movies, and TV and radio appearances. Hance, however, said that was misconstrued, so they agreed to keep the parameters of Leach’s previous contract.

Generally, college presidents aren’t able to solve athletic department problems, which is why they change positions as often as athletics directors and coaches. In this case Texas Tech chancellor Kent Hance was able to overcome the egos of his head coach and athletic director and solve a problem for the best interest of the university. That’s his job and now Leach and Myers can get back to doing their jobs, rather than getting locked in a spitting contest. …Read More!

Friday Morning Cup O’Chiefs

These are strange days when it comes to money, employment and the financial future of our country.

The National Football League is not immune to the realities of what’s going on. The league office is in the process of trimming 150 employees through retirements, buyouts and layoffs. Various teams have sliced employees and tightened budgets.

But that does not mean there aren’t some folks getting big raises in the league. It’s a week until the start of free agency and Thursday was the deadline for using the franchise-player tag on potential free agents.

It means a handful of players scored big in the last 48 hours. In Indianapolis it was cornerback Kelvin Hayden (5 years, $43 million) and in Oakland it was cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha (left) (3 years, $45.3 million.) Both got new deals so their teams would not have to use the franchise designation.

Asomugha’s deal includes $28.5 million guaranteed in the first two seasons. That’s the most money for a cornerback in NFL history. And get this, even if he plays out the three years of the deal, the Raiders defensive back will be just 30 years old when it comes time to negotiate another contract.

And then take the strange juxtaposition of the week in Charlotte, where the Panthers announced the layoffs of 20 employees on Tuesday and then on Thursday made left tackle Jordan Gross the most highly paid offensive lineman in the history of the game.

For argument sake, let’s say all 20 of those former Panthers employees made on the average $60,000. That’s a savings of $1.2 million with the firings.

That turns out to be just four percent of what Gross will be guaranteed over the first three years of his contract: $30.5 million. Basically, Gross’s contract is a six-year deal for just under $60 million, surpassing the pact that guard Alan Faneca signed last year with the New York Jets.

At 28 years old, Gross is a fine player, coming off probably the best season of his six-year career. He made the Pro Bowl and was first team All-Pro in 2008, both accomplishments are firsts in his career.

By gaining the deal with Gross, the Panthers then slapped the franchise-player tag on defensive end Julius Peppers. That guarantees him $16.683 million for the coming season. …Read More!

Haley Adds Carthon To Staff

Todd Haley continued to add to his coaching staff announcing Thursday afternoon that Maurice Carthon will serve as assistant head coach.

Carthon comes over from the Arizona Cardinals, where he spent the last two seasons as the team’s running backs coach.  He’s the third member of that Cardinals staff to follow Haley, joining Clancy Pendergast and Dedric Ward.

He also brings another Bill Parcells protege to join Haley and Bill Muir, along with Scott Pioli.

While the team’s release of the information says only that Carthon’s title is assistant head coach, it would appear that Carthon will handle the running backs for the Chiefs staff.   That’s certainly something he knows a lot about, having spent 11 years in pro football playing the fullback position.  Coming out of Arkansas State, he played for three years (1983-85) with the New Jersey Generals of the United States Football League.  Although his main duties were to block for Herschel Walker with the Generals, he did run for 1,042 yards and 11 touchdowns during the 1984 USFL season. …Read More!

Combine Comments 2/19

One of the things that goes with the NFL Scouting Combine for the players is meeting with the media. Those sessions began on Thursday with the tight ends and offensive linemen.

Here are some excerpts:

Missouri Tight End Chase Coffman, who is not working out this week as he recovers from an injury suffered on the last play of the Alamo Bowl. He broke the fifth metatarsal in his foot and had surgery six weeks ago.

What do you remember about the last play when you were injured?
“I wasn’t sure it was broken. I planted wrong, felt a pop, saw that we scored a touchdown to go ahead … I didn’t think it was broken. I went to the sideline and was going to go back in if we got the ball again. Fortunately, we didn’t get the ball again, they didn’t score and we won the game.”

On transition from playing in a spread offense to being a conventional TE in the NFL:
“I haven’t done it that much, being in the spread offense at Missouri, but I think I’ll get the hang of it real soon, once I start practicing it more and more. They’re definitely wondering about it. A lot of them have seen me on film doing open-field blocking and see that can possibly transition well to being aggressive and blocking on the line of scrimmage. Very rarely did we get in a three-point stance, but I’m definitely willing to learn, willing to do whatever it takes to be the best in-line blocker down with my hand in the dirt, doing whatever I can. I wouldn’t necessary say it hurts me, but it leaves the scouts or whoever is watching film possibly wondering … until I show them or they see I’m willing to learn and do whatever it takes to get into that position and be the best I can, the spread definitely leaves some questions.”

Any regrets about not coming out as a junior?
“I did the right thing. I got my degree, which is something you always want to accomplish. If you start something you want to finish it, and I got to do that. I was lucky enough to be a member of quite a few all-American teams; win the Mackey Award. We had a successful season and it was great to be around the guys I played with for the last three years another year. It was something I don’t regret.” …Read More!

Franchise Players 2009

The deadline for NFL teams to tag one of their potential free agents as the franchise player passed at 3 p.m. CST.

Unless somebody snuck in under the deadline and it hasn’t been announced yet, there were 14 of the 32 teams that declared a franchise player. Five of those were named on Thursday, in the final hours when negotiations broke down with the players on long term contracts.

No team wants to use the franchise player tag, but it generally comes when they want to protect their investment in a player. So far, all of the players have been tagged as non-exclusive franchise players. That means they can negotiate with other teams starting next Friday when free agency begins. But any team that wanted to sign a franchise player would have to give up two first-round draft choices.

Many of these players will lose the designation as they workout long term contracts with these players. All of these decisions on franchise players must be made with the idea of having enough cap space to handle the franchise number.

But right now, there’s so much salary cap space available across the league that most teams had plenty of room to absorb the franchise hit, at least for now.

Here are the franchise players:

Team Player Pos ’08 Pay Franchise $
Arizona Karlos Dansby LB $8.066m $9.7m
Atlanta Michael Koenen P $1.422m $2.483m
Baltimore Terrell Suggs LB $8.475m $10.2m
Carolina Julius Peppers DE $13.902m $16.683m
Cincinnati Shayne Graham K $732,760 $2.483m
Houston Dunta Robinson CB $2.421m $9.957m
New England Matt Cassel QB $525,650 $14.651m
N.Y. Giants Brandon Jacobs RB $1.057m $6.621m
Pittsburgh Max Starks OT $6.9m $8.451m
St. Louis Oshiomogha Atogwe S $2.021m $6.342m
San Diego Darren Sproles RB $1.105m $6.621m
Seattle Leroy Hill LB 931,680 $8.304m
Tampa Bay Antonio Bryant WR 661,240 $9.884m
Tennessee Bo Scaife TE $1.422m $4.462m

Around the League 2/19

The pro football world has converged on Indianapolis for the NFL Scouting Combine, but the news is not confined to southern Indiana.

Here are a couple of items you should know about.

From the Philadelphia Inquirer:
(Joe) Flacco’s transformation from prospect to a centerpiece for the Baltimore Ravens – he became only the eighth rookie quarterback in NFL history to start a playoff game – has been good for business, (Brian) Martin said. Martin and his staff try to prepare athletes for both the combine and the special workouts called “pro days” that are held by many major college football schools for NFL scouts. When the 6-foot-6, 238-pound Flacco reported to Martin shortly after leading Delaware to the I-AA national championship game, he ran the 40 in 4.95 seconds and couldn’t break seven seconds in the three-cone drill, designed to improve quickness and agility.

Eight weeks later, when he went to the combine, Flacco clocked 4.75 in the 40 and, according to Martin, ran the fastest three-cone drill by a quarterback in five years at 6.82 seconds. “He did the three-cone drill faster than Michael Vick,” said Martin, who is from Caldwell, N.J., and has a degree in exercise science. “No other quarterback at the combine in the last five years was under 7.0. That showed he could move around in the pocket. A lot of people thought he was just a drop-back guy.”

As he spoke, Martin was intently watching several of the 41 college prospects training at his club go through their brisk paces on the 50-yard turf field that is upstairs at his facility. He is a fountain of information as he points out a player. “See that kid? He’s a cornerback,” Martin said, gesturing toward Brice McCain, who played at Utah. “He ran a 4.19 on three different watches, the fastest we’ve ever seen. He was a four-year starter. But he had no combine invite. People I talked to said it’s because of his height. He’s 5-9. Fastest I ever had on this surface before him was 4.27. He’s the fastest human I’ve ever seen – but no combine and that hurts.”


Getting prepared for the NFL Scouting Combine has become quite a business, all the more reason for teams to be careful about what they see at Indianapolis. As this story points out, many of the players who head to Indy have been intensively training since the end of their college seasons. All of which is good; it shows desire and willingness to work. But as important as the Combine might be, it doesn’t mean a single victory in the standings and that’s what NFL teams are most concerned about. Getting ready for late February is fine, but the question that must be asked and decided by NFL evaluators is this: if a player has trained intently for the Combine, is that as good as he’s going to be? Is there room to get better? Workout warriors are workout warriors. Football players are football players. …Read More!

Thursday Morning Cup O’Chiefs

The little guy from Olathe scored big on Wednesday.

In what was a surprising, but necessary move for the San Diego Chargers, they named Darren Sproles their franchise player for the 2009 free agency season.

Sproles would have become an unrestricted free agent next week, available to talk and sign with any team in the league.

NFL teams have until 3 p.m. CST to slap one of their prospective free agents with the franchise-player tag. As of late Wednesday evening, nine teams had designated a franchise player.  Several  more were expected to join the group before the smoke cleared if they can’t get contracts negotiated with their prospective free agents.  NFL types were watching Carolina, Oakland and Tennessee as likely teams that may use the tag.

The Chargers did that with Sproles (right). San Diego management hopes to negotiate a long-term deal with the Olathe East-Kansas State product. It’s a big payday for him Last year he picked up $1.1 million in salary and bonuses. The franchise tag for a running back carries the salary number of $6,621,000.

That’s an impressive increase. But in the crazy world of franchise players, Sproles increase isn’t even the richest deal. There’s New England quarterback Matt Cassel, who went from about a half-million to $14.6 million when he was named the franchise player for the Patriots.

And there’s Tampa Bay wide receiver Antonio Bryant. He saw $661,240 from the Bucs for his 2008 season. By carrying the franchise tag, he’s now due $9.884 million

Here are the franchise players so far: …Read More!

NFL Combine/Thursday

On Thursday, the big names arrive in Indianapolis and they’ll hit the field on Sunday. That’s the quarterbacks, wide receivers and running backs.

The groups that will be working together in Indianapolis are Groups No. 4, 5 and 6. Notice that Mizzou’s Jeremy Maclin and Chase Daniel will be working together in Group No. 4. That could provide some help to Daniel as he tries to convince NFL teams that he’s big enough to play in the league.

Here’s how they break down: …Read More!

Accessing the Chiefs & 3-4 Defense

Like water trying to find a crack in the basement wall, news leaks out of the Chiefs in drips and drabs these days.

But it does leak out. The NFL Network’s Adam Schefter reported Wednesday that the Chiefs are switching to the 3-4 as their base defense. Schefter does not have a perfect batting record, but among all the network information men, he’s probably got the best average of correct hits. And he should, since he works for the home team, so to speak.

A switch by the Chiefs to a 3-4 defense wouldn’t come as a surprise. That’s what Scott Pioli knows, as that’s what the Patriots have run for years under Bill Belichick.

There’s nothing about the 3-4 that makes it any more effective than the 4-3. What makes both schemes work are the people playing on the field and the coaches who help train them. It’s the people, not the scheme.

But the 3-4 has gotten a lot of attention lately. One reason is the Super Bowl victory of the Pittsburgh Steelers, who have won two championships in four years playing the 3-4. Of course both Indianapolis and the New York Giants won titles with the 4-3 defense.

Last year, there were eight teams that used the 3-4 as their primary defensive alignment: Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Dallas, Baltimore, New England, San Diego, Miami and the New York Jets. Other teams have been experimenting with the 3-4, like Denver, San Francisco and Arizona, mixing it in with the 4-3 as the defense presented evolving looks. Green Bay has hired Dom Capers as its new defensive coordinator, and they are making the switch to the 3-4.

The Chiefs biggest problem on defense last year was poor play at linebacker. So on paper it doesn’t make much sense to change the scheme from three linebackers to four, when the team couldn’t find three linebackers last year.

When rebuilding a franchise however, going with the 3-4 makes sense for personnel reasons. The pool of athletes to play outside linebacker in the 3-4 are easier to find and in greater numbers than the classic defensive end in the 4-3 defense. Those guys are difficult to acquire and when a team does, it generally is going to cost them a lot of money to retain them. As evidence see a guy named Jared Allen. …Read More!

Around A-Rod & The NFL 2/18

A lot of attention in the sports world on Alex Rodriquez, again. Or as the New York tabloids have begun to name him, A-Roid.

Here’s some of the verbiage on that subject and others around the sports world.

From Joel Sherman’s column in the New York Post: Because A-Rod’s new story about how he took steroids is now not the old story of “I don’t know when or how much.” Instead, amazingly, it is even more implausible. Rodriguez wants us to believe that a person who treats his body like a temple allowed: 1) a cousin – not a trained professional – to inject a drug described only as “boli” into his body. 2) The drug came from the Dominican and, thus, has dubious oversight. 3) He was not sure that the drug was being administered correctly or at the right intervals or if it was having any positive results. 4) Yet, he continued to take the drug twice a month, for six months, over three years.

Let us just sum up A-Rod’s new story: Fitness freak lets untrained relative shoot drugs that the fitness freak cannot fully identify or vouch are safe into his body 36 times, though the fitness freak is not sure he is taking the drugs correctly or if they are having a positive result. Does that sound possible for a player whose health is paramount to money and fame?


There was no way that Rodriquez was going to get through his press event on Tuesday without taking plenty of shots. No matter what he said, it wouldn’t have been enough to satisfy some in the media ranks. He said several times that the guy who created the problem was himself. But there’s no doubt as Sherman writes in his piece that Rodriquez’s tale about is steroid use is rather implausible. This approach doesn’t make sense and will only continue the cloud that hangs over him and the Yankees.

Rodriquez wanted to come off as an uneducated guy, who as he said, wished he’d gone to college. He didn’t just show up for the microphones on Tuesday. He had several days of coaching before he appeared at the press conference from his team of advisers. And when I say team, I mean team. This from an Associated Press story early in the week: …Read More!

Wednesday Morning Cup O’Chiefs

So late was Todd Haley named head coach of the Chiefs, it figured to be a tough assignment for him to put together much of a coaching staff.

The team’s record in the next few years will be the ultimate barometer of how successful Haley was in creating his first coaching team. But on paper, it’s a pretty good group. So far.

It’s an experienced and versatile group, with a couple members considered among the best in the business at their positions. The staff really lacks only one thing: championship experience. Only two of the 13 announced coaches owns a Super Bowl ring.

Chan Gailey, Bob Bicknell, Joe D’Alessandris, Tim Krumrie, Cedric Smith and Brent Salazar were retained from the 2008 coaching staff.

New faces are Joel Collier, Gary Gibbs (right), Steve Hoffman, Bill Muir, Clancy Pendergast, Pat Perles and Dedric Ward.

The Chiefs released the names on Tuesday, without defining job titles and duties among the group. I can imagine only one reason for that lack of information: it has something to do with the coaches they’ve not yet named.

For instance, as you sift through the list, there is no obvious quarterbacks coach. Now, the offensive coordinator may inherit those duties, and you can bet the head coach will be actively involved in the process. There isn’t an obvious running backs coach as well.  There appear to be more names to come, including quality control coaches for both the offense and defense.

Perles told a North Dakota newspaper that he’s been hired, but does not yet know his job assignment.

Like most coaches when they put together their staff, they rely on people they know and Haley has been no different. He has worked with five of the seven new faces that are coming to Kansas City: Muir with the Jets, Gibbs and Hoffman with the Cowboys and Pendergast and Ward with the Cardinals.

Hoffman and Muir are the men with the Super Bowl rings.  Hoffman earned three with the Cowboys in 1992-93-95 as part of Jimmy Johnson and then Barry Switzer’s coaching staff in Dallas.  Muir got his in 2002 with Tampa Bay. …Read More!

Haley Starts Filling Out Chiefs Staff.

The Chiefs announced Tuesday what they called “several additions” to Todd Haley’s coaching staff.

The six remaining coaches from Herm Edwards staff will stay with the team: Bob Bicknell, Joe D’Alessandris, Chan Gailey, Tim Krumrie, Brent Salazar and Cedric Smith.

Haley has added seven other coaches.  Duties for any of the coaches have not been announced by the Chiefs as yet, but we will try to give you a picture.

Haley added:

Joel Collier - With his background, Collier could be either the running backs coach or defensive backs coach. Collier did not coach during the 2008 football season.  He has 17 seasons of experience in the professional ranks, and has handled running backs, defensive backs, wide receivers as well as serving as offensive and defensive assistant.  The 45-year old’s last coaching  job was with the Patriots, where he worked with the secondary for three seasons (2005-07).  Before that, he spent 11 seasons with the Miami Dolphins (1994-2004) where he spent  four years as a defensive assistant and then seven years as running backs coach working for three different head coaches: Don Shula, Jimmy Johnson and Dave Wannstedt.  Collier’s first tour with New England (1991-93) was two years as an assistant running backs and assistant wide receivers coach under Dick MacPherson.  He spent the ’93 season in the Patriots personnel department. He began his NFL career as an offensive assistant with Tampa Bay (1990) on the staff of Ray Perkins.  Collier spent two years as a graduate assistant at Syracuse (1988-89).   He is the son of Joe Collier, once head coach of the Buffalo Bills (1966-68) and long-time defensive coordinator in Denver.

Gary Gibbs – A 29-year veteran of the coaching ranks, Gibbs recently was fired as defensive coordinator of the New Saints after three seasons (2006-08).  With the Chiefs he should be either the defensive coordinator or linebackers coach.  In those three seasons on Sean Payton’s staff, the Saints defense finished 11, 26 and 23 in yards allowed.  His first NFL job came as linebackers coach with Dallas (2002-05) where he worked for Dave Campo and Bill Parcells.  Gibbs began his coaching career at his alma mater, the University of Oklahoma, as a graduate assistant in (1975) and was eventually promoted to linebackers coach (1978-80), defensive coordinator (1981-88) and head coach (1989-94).  He also served as defensive coordinator at Georgia (2000) and LSU (2001).

Steve Hoffman – Joins the Chiefs from the staff of the Miami Dolphins, where he was kicking coach (2008) and assistant special teams coach (2007).  It would  make sense that he’s taking over the special teams for the Chiefs. He owns 19 years of NFL coaching experience, most of that time spent with the Dallas Cowboys.  Hoffman was 16 years in Dallas, joining the franchise as part of Jimmy Johnson’s staff in 1989.  He served as kicking coach (1p89-98) and kicking/defensive quality control coach (1999-04) for Johnson, Barry Switzer, Chan Gailey, Campo and Parcells. He began his coaching career at the University of Miami (1985-87).  He had several NFL training camp shots as a punter and kicked in 1983 with the Washington Federals of the USFL.  Hoffman also coached American football in Italy and spent 1988 coaching high school football in Miami.

Bill Muir – One of the most veteran coaches in the business, Muir has 31 NFL seasons and 44 seasons of coaching experience, most of it along the offensive line.  He joins the Chiefs after serving seven seasons as offensive coordinator/offensive line coach for Jon Gruden and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2002-08).  Before that he coached the offensive line with the New York Jets (1995-01) under Richie Kotite, Parcells, Al Groh and Herm Edwards; the offensive line with the Philadelphia Eaglese (1992-94) again under Kotite;  he was defensive coordinator and then offensive  line coach with the Indianapolis Colts (1989-91) for Ron Meyer; in four seasons in Detroit (1985-88) he was the offensive line coach for Darryl Rogers; and with New England (1982-84) he was offensive line coach for Meyer and Raymond Barry.  He first entered the NFL as a scout for Tampa Bay in 1978, after caoching in the World Football League and college ranks at SMU (1976-77), Idaho State (1972-73), Rhode Island (1970-71), Delaware Valley (1966-67) and Susquehanna (1965).

Clancy Pendergast – Fired several days after the Super Bowl by the Arizona Cardinals as defensive coordinator, Pendergast joins the staff as either defensive coordinator or linebackers coach. Pendergast has coached in the NFL for 14 seasons, including the last five as defensive coordinator of the Cardinals (2004-08) under Dennis Green and Ken Whisenhunt. Prior to guiding the Cardinals, Pendergast spent one season with Cleveland (2003) as linebacker coach for Butch Davis.  He spent seven seasons with Dallas (1996-2002) working with both linebackers and the secondary for Switzer, Gailey and Campo.  His NFL coaching career began with the Houston Oilers (1995) where he served as defensive assistant/quality control for Jeff Fisher.  His coaching career began in the collegiate ranks as a graduate assistant with Mississippi State (1991), defensive assistant at Southern California (1992), graduate assistant and tight ends coach at Oklahoma (1993-94) and then tight ends coach at Alabama-Birmingham (1995) where he left before the season began to coach with the Oilers. Pendergast graduated from the University of Arizona in ’90.

Pat Perles – Changes jobs for the second time this year, as he was recently named to the coaching staff at Ball State under new head coach Stan Parrish.  Perles’ background is largely on the offensive line and coaching the running game, so he may be pegged for running backs coach. Perles owns 21 years of coaching experience, including two years in the NFL.  He spent the last six seasons at North Dakota State (2003-08), including the final four years as offensive coordinator. He served as the offensive line coach at his alma mater of Michigan State (2000-02).  He spent six seasons coaching the offensive line in the Canadian Football League with Hamilton (1998-99), Winnipeg (1997) and Saskatchewan (1994-96).  He coached with the Los Angeles Rams for two seasons (1992-93)  as a defensive assistant on Chuck Knox’s staff. He began his coaching career at the University of Toledo (1989-91) as the defensive line coach for staffs headed by Nick Saban and Gary Pinkel.  He’s the son of former Michigan State head coach and NFL assistant George Perles.

Dedric Ward – Comes over from the Cardinals and will likely be the wide receivers coach. Ward played in the NFL for eight seasons with the Jets, Dolphins, Ravens, Patriots and Cowboys (1997-2004).  He caught 167 passes for 2,307 yards and 12 touchdowns while p laying in 103 regular season games.  Ward began his coaching career handling wide receivers at Missouri State (2006).  He joined the Arizona staff as offensive quality control coach for two seasons (2007-08) where he worked with Haley.


It all starts Wednesday morning in Indianapolis for the NFL Scouting Combine.

There are 332 players divided into 11 groups. Each group goes through a four-day session that basically gets broken up this way:

  • Day #1 – Arrival, Registration, x-rays, orientation, team interviews.
  • Day #2 – Measurements, exams, media, psychological testing, team interviews.
  • Day #3 – NFLPA meeting, psychological testing, team interviews.
  • Day #4 – Physical workout, departure.

We will let you know the groups and the players who make up those groups as the week goes on.

Here are the first arrivals and the guys who will begin working out. …Read More!

Around the League 2/17

 All the attentionin the league is focused on the start of the NFL Scouting Combine on Wednesday in Indianapolis.

And, there are a few other items going on as well.

Tez Doolittle isn’t among the 325 draft-eligible players invited to the NFL Scouting Combine, which starts this week in Indianapolis. The nose tackle is among several players on the outside, hoping a good performance in Auburn’s March 10-11 pro-day workouts — where scouts will hover to see other players they’ll probably see at the combine — gets him drafted, or at least a tryout.

“I told Tez, just like someone told me, ‘It’s not where you start but where you end up,’” Dallas Cowboys nose tackle Jay Ratliff said.

Ratliff ended up playing in his first Pro Bowl this month — four years removed from being in the same position as Doolittle. Ratliff, also an Auburn product, wasn’t invited to the combine, where likely draft picks are evaluated by officials from the NFL’s 32 teams. Ratliff showed well enough at the East-West Shrine Game to be noticed by a few NFL teams in attendance but not well enough to be added to the combine roster.

His performance at Auburn’s Pro Day, which featured running backs Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams, cornerback Carlos Rogers and quarterback Jason Campbell, was good enough to pique the interest of at least one team. That’s all it took. The Cowboys drafted Ratliff in the seventh round. Now he’s viewed as one of the top nose tackles in the league.


The Combine is a very important time in the NFL, not only for players, but for teams. But one week does not constitute the evaluation process that goes on. The personnel business in the NFL is a 365-day a year chore; it never ends. There are always more players to see, more players to evaluate. …Read More!

Tuesday Morning Cup O’Chiefs

The NFL Combine will start Wednesday morning in Indianapolis.

There have been 332 players invited to take part in seven days of evaluation in front of league decision makers. They will undergo medical tests, physical tests, educational tests and psychological tests. They will be interviewed by the teams and the media. Over four days, they will have their pockets turned inside out, their insides turned inside out and teams hope to turn their personalities inside out.

We will provide you with the names of all those players as the week goes on, as they are broken into 11 groups.

Among those 332 names, some 306 are from Division 1-A football programs. There are 18 from Division 1-AA schools, seven Division II players and one player from Division III. That’s quarterback Jason Boltus out of Hartwick College in Oneonta, New York. Over his career with the Hawks, Boltus threw for over 13,000 yards and 134 touchdown passes. Hartwick is known more for soccer than football, but Boltus impressed someone because he’ll be part of the activities.

And this note: Hartwick has more players invited to the Combine than the University of Kansas. The Jayhawks were shutout. Kansas State has two players: QB Josh Freeman and TE Ian Campbell. Missouri has six players, led by QB Chase Daniel, TE Chase Coffman, WR Jeremy Maclin, S William Moore, DT Ziggy Hood and DE Stryker Sulak.

Plus, there’s guard Roger Allen from Northwest Missouri State.

It all starts on Wednesday with Groups 1, 2 and 3 arriving in Indianapolis. That would be special teamers, a handful of quarterbacks, offensive linemen and tight ends. …Read More!

Make Sure You See “Return To Mexico City”

Last October, I walked through the Chiefs locker room and asked a half-dozen African-American players what they knew about Tommie Smith and John Carlos.

The question came because it was days before the 40th anniversary of medal stand protest of Smith and Carlos at the 1968 Summer Olympic Games in Mexico City.

Of the six players I asked, only one knew anything about what happened on October 16, 1968 at Estadio Olímpico Universitario. That was Larry Johnson.

Maybe you don’t know either, which is why everyone should take an hour of their time and catch the ESPN Films documentary Return to Mexico City.

ESPN is an amazing organism.

It has become the choke point for sports information in our world. Whether it’s ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNews, ESPNU, ESPN Radio,, it’s everywhere. It’s where Alex Rodriquez goes to confess and Brett Favre goes to say good bye. There are young people in our society that believe the Entertainment & Sports Programming Network invented sports.

This becomes aggravating when ESPN gets fixated on a certain subject, like the Dallas Cowboys, the New York Yankees, Brett Favre, etc. But Sunday afternoon I caught the network’s documentary on Smith and Carlos and was transfixed. I have vague memories of this event when it happened and have read about the protest and aftermath over the years.

But there were Smith and Carlos together again in Mexico City, revisiting the site for the first time since October 1968. Their reconciliation is one of the strongest parts of this story that spans 40 years.

Back then it was a very vibrant and difficult time in our country’s history. Martin Luther King had been assassinated in Memphis. Robert Kennedy had been assassinated in Los Angeles. There were riots against discrimination; riots against the Vietnam War, riots over the killing of MLK roiled the nation. …Read More!

Around the League 2/16

A quiet weekend around the league, but there’s always something to talk about, even if there’s no news.

From the Kansas City Star:

At 57 years old and in his fourth job as an offensive coordinator, Chan Gailey is the very definition of a veteran NFL coach. Those facts alone make Gailey an odd mix with the Chiefs’ new head coach, Todd Haley, who at 41 made his reputation as offensive coordinator and play-caller the last two seasons for the high scoring Arizona Cardinals. Throw in Haley’s possible desire to call the offensive plays, as some in the Chiefs’ organization believe he plans to do, and Gailey appears even more the spare part.

So far, at least, Gailey survives.

When a team clamps down on the flow of information out of its front office, the media feels compelled to write something, even when there’s no news. That type of thinking is what brought us this story. There’s not a single bit of new information here. There’s no news of any kind. In 10 paragraphs, the Star gives us a lot of words like “believe,” “appears,” “yet to be played out,” “may insist,” “could eventually” and on, and on. There’s not a single source named. I blame a story like this on the newspaper’s editors. Somebody decided they needed a Chiefs story, so they told the writer to pull something together.  It’s not labeled commentary.  It’s not labeled analysis.  It’s put  out there like a news story, but there’s no news in the body of the work.

In reality this is a two sentence story: The Chiefs fired five assistant coaches Friday night and Chan Gailey wasn’t one of them. Whether he will remain part of the coaching staff for the 2009 season is unknown. Period. Paragraph. Story.

I must have missed the memo a few years ago that said we all have to know what’s going to happen before it happens. What’s wrong with letting the Chiefs coaching staff situation play itself out and then report it as news and provide commentary and opinion? …Read More!

Monday Morning Cup O’Chiefs

The Valentine’s Weekend was one of the quietest of the year in the world of pro football. The games are all over. The NFL Combine doesn’t begin until Wednesday. Free agency is almost two weeks away.

Other than Buffalo RB Marshawn Lynch getting arrested on a gun charge in Los Angeles and Pittsburgh K Jeff Reed throwing a tantrum in a convenience store and being cited by the police, not much turned up on the league’s radar screen on Saturday and Sunday. More about them later.

So let’s turn our attention for the moment to the frozen tundra of the Twin Cities. While there was nothing new happening over the weekend, there continued to be plenty of discussion with the folks in Minneapolis and St. Paul about the future of their Vikings.

You know, it’s been awhile since there was even the hint of an NFL team changing its zip code. The last move was 13 years ago, when the Cleveland Browns became the Baltimore Ravens.

But the next one just may be the Minny Vikes.

The Vikings are trying to get a new stadium built and other than some nice drawings (right) and cost projections, they haven’t been able to get anything done. That’s largely because the Minnesota state government has been dragging its feet on helping the team put together a public-private financing package.

Last week, Lester Bagley, who is the team’s vice president of public affairs and stadium development, blasted Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty for his lack of action on a new Vikings stadium. Bagley indicated that the clock could soon be ticking on the Vikings’ time in Minnesota.

“With all due respect, he’s been governor for six years, and he hasn’t done anything,” Bagley said of Pawlenty. His comments appeared in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “He hasn’t lifted a finger to engage in a problem-solving discussion to help us on our issue. And that’s the frustration that the NFL feels, that our ownership feels and a lot of our allies (feel), whether they be elected officials or not. There’s a lot of frustration, and there’s been no meaningful engagement by the executive branch.”

The Vikings hope to get public funding for a multi-purpose, retractable-roof stadium that would be built on the site of the Metrodome. The team is expecting to ask for $700 million in public funds while contributing $254 million of their own money. That’s right: the total cost would be $954 million. …Read More!

Weekend Cup O’Chiefs

It’s the time of year when NFL teams are taking the clippers to their rosters, trimming players that no longer figure into their picture, or slapping the franchise tag on guys that are important.

It’s the pro football version of spring cleaning.

Down in Atlanta, GM Thomas Dimitroff found something in a closet that’s been gathering dust. Rather than just throw it out, he’s decided to see if he can get something for it.

He decided to make it available to other NFL teams, something like putting that stuff in the garage on eBay.

That’s why Dimitroff said Friday that the Falcons are interested in listening to anybody’s offer for the rights to incarcerated quarterback Michael Vick (left).

“With regards to Michael Vick, we’ve decided to seek a trade of his contractual rights to another NFL club,” Dimitroff told “We took a number of steps in the 2008 season, including using our first pick to draft a quarterback (Matt Ryan.)  We feel a trade is the best move for the Falcons, and it’s also in the best interest of Michael.  This has been a really unique situation from a variety of standpoints and because we will actively be involved in a trade situation, I don’t envision our organization speaking any more about this subject publicly until it’s reached a resolution.”

NFL teams are allowed to trade the contractual rights to suspended players.

Nice idea by Dimitroff, but there’s no chance that any of the other 31 teams in the NFL will be dialing the Falcons number any time soon to put in a bid.

First, there are the practical matters of Vick’s continued residency at the United States Penitentiary in Leavenworth. Reportedly, he will soon be released to a halfway house in Virginia where he will serve out the remainder of his sentence, which is scheduled to finish in July. …Read More!

Chiefs Makes Coaching Staff Moves

Early Friday evening, the Chiefs announced that five assistant coaches from Herm Edwards staff will not be retained in 2009 as part of Todd Haley’s first staff.

No surprise that most of those coaches were on the offensive side of the football.  Fired were tight ends coach Jon Embree, running backs coach Curtis Modkins, wide receiver coach Eric Price and offensive assistant/quality control Kevin Patullo. 

Also released was defensive assistant/assistant linebackers coach Mike Ketchum.

The moves leave offensive coordinator Chan Gailey, offensive line coach Bob Bicknell, assistant offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris and defensive line coach Tim Krumrie from Edwards staff who haven’t left or been released.  No idea if that means they are staying or not.

Also still in the building are strength and conditioning coaches Cedric Smith and Brent Salazar and Nate Wainwright,  who was manager of football operations.

NFL grapevine was full of rumors on Friday that former Oklahoma head coach Gary Gibbs is joining Haley’s staff as either defensive coordinator or linebackers coach.  Gibbs was fired after the 2008 season by the New Orleans Saints where he served as defensive coordinator for head coach Sean Payton.

Embree and Ketchum joined the Chiefs for Edwards’ first season in 2006.  Patullo joined the staff  in 2007 and Modkins and Price came to Kansas City in 2008.

Around The League: 2/13

Although the surface of matters in the NFL seems very calm as the week concludes, there are a lot of stories bubbling under the surface around the league. Free agency is now two weeks away and the NFL Combine coming up next week.

Another reminder that there’s no off in the NFL off-season. Here’s some stories that caught my attention.

Six weeks into the off-season, is there any wonder why the underachieving Cowboys finished 9-7 and missed the playoffs? All you have to do is listen to all of the players who have complained about their roles or their teammates or the team since the Philadelphia debacle in the final regular-season game. Not one of them has said, “I didn’t do my job.” That’s the problem with this team. There is no accountability.

Too many players think they did their job and their teammates didn’t. Too many players are consumed with their role in the offensive or defensive scheme instead of doing the best job possible in the role they’ve been given. Too many players find fault with various aspects of the organization instead of looking at their own performance as one of the reasons the Cowboys had the most disappointing season in franchise history.                                                  MORE

This is a common problem for any football team that underachieves; no one wants to take accountability for what happened to the Cowboys. We’ve seen that type of attitude around Arrowhead Stadium over the years. In the second half of the 1990s, when the Chiefs had success in the regular season and problems in the playoffs, the locker room always found people to blame other than themselves. My favorite was when players like Neil Smith blamed long and physical training camp practices on the team’s post-season failures. Yes, tough work in August killed the Chiefs chances in January. Smith said this in comparing the situation in KC to what he found in Denver with Mike Shanahan as head coach. Supposedly that was the reason the Broncos won a pair of Super Bowls; Shanahan took it easy on the players in camp. Well, Shanahan didn’t change his ways after those Super Bowl seasons and he never won another title. Neil forgot that the Broncos won because of players who stood up in the post-season and produced, like John Elway and Terrell Davis.

It always comes down to one important factor: successful teams are accountable to each other. When the players step forward and take control of the team, championships are possible. That hasn’t happened around the Chiefs in more than 30 years. …Read More!

Friday Morning Cup O’Chiefs

The makeover of the AFC West continued on Thursday, this time in Denver.

Booted out of the Broncos building are the father and son duo of Jim and Jeff Goodman. Father Jim was the team’s vice president of football operations; son Jeff held the title of assistant general manager. So did Brian Xanders.

But on Thursday, Xanders (left) was the last man standing, as he was named the team’s GM by owner Pat Bowlen.

Xanders may have set two records with his ascension: the first NFL GM with a last name starting with X and his age – he’s just 37 years old. He’ll be 38 in April.

If you think the Chiefs duo of Scott Pioli and Todd Haley is young, they aren’t even the youngest combo in the division. Xanders joins head coach Josh McDaniels, who will be 33 in April.

The rise of Xanders in Denver would have to be considered meteoric. A year ago at this time he was unknown. He wasn’t hired until May 5, 2008, when Mike Shanahan was looking for someone to help the Goodmans, especially with salary cap management.

Xanders had spent the previous 14 years working for the Atlanta Falcons in a variety of capacities. Actually, variety doesn’t even begin to explain his career in the NFL. When you speak of starting at the bottom and then climbing every rung of the ladder on the way to the top, that’s the Xanders story.

A native of East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, Xanders graduated from Florida State with a bachelor’s degree in business management and a master’s degree in business administration. He was on four bowl-winning teams with Bobby Bowden’s Seminoles as a linebacker. His participation was largely as a scout team player and he lettered in the 1992 season.

Xanders said in an interview with the Associated Press last year that coming out of FSU he sent resumes to every NFL team and was rejected at least three times by all of them. He finally landed a job for $19,000 a year working as assistant general manager at the Falcons Sports Complex, a health club that was part of the team’s facilities, but also open to the public. It was his ticket into the NFL. …Read More!

Coaching Dominos/Defense

Thursday afternoon, the Tennessee Titans named Chuck Cecil as their new defensive coordinator.

Cecil (below) replaces Jim Schwartz, who left the Titans to become head coach of the Detroit Lions.

We note this item for this reason: Cecil is the 18th announced change among the league’s 32 defensive coordinators.

And there are still three jobs open: the Chiefs, Arizona and Dallas.

In a year where the NFL faced a record number of head coaching changes, the domino effect was in play at the coordinator position. But the guys handling the defense took more bullets than their offensive counterparts.

Three defensive coordinators from last year moved up to head coaching jobs: Schwartz with the Titans, Baltimore’s Rex Ryan went to the New York Jets and Steve Spagnuolo left the New York Giants for the top job in St. Louis.

Of the 11 franchises with head coaching changes 10 will have new defensive coordinators. The only guy who survived a head coaching change was San Francisco’s Greg Manusky.

That’s 13 of the 21 spots. The other eight were head coaches who felt they needed a change in the man leading their defense: Houston, Jacksonville, San Diego, Arizona, Carolina, Dallas, Green Bay and New Orleans. The Chargers change came at mid-season last year when Ted Cotrell was fired and Ron Rivera took his place. Rivera continues in the role. …Read More!

Around The League: 2/12

Some news and notes on the National Football League from Thursday morning and our thoughts on the subject.

From the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville:
The Jaguars parted ways Wednesday with their two high-profile free agents from a year ago when they cut wide receiver Jerry Porter and cornerback Drayton Florence two days after NFL teams were allowed to begin releasing players. The quick moves appear to signify a new direction in personnel under new general manager Gene Smith, who prefers to build the roster through the draft with younger players rather than by acquiring high-priced free agents.

“In going through our personnel evaluations and roster analysis, we are making decisions we believe will help improve our team for the 2009 season and beyond,” Smith said.

Florence was scheduled to make $1.9 million in base salary in 2009, in addition to a $2.5 million roster bonus. Porter was due to make $1.9 million in base salary, with a $2 million roster bonus. The Jaguars will take a cap hit of approximately $5 million, but the team will save $3.8 million in the players’ base salaries for 2009.

Florence and Porter pocketed a combined $16.5 million in salary and bonuses in 2008 (and will receive a combined $23 million total in guaranteed money), but their on-field contributions didn’t fall in line with the team’s financial commitment to them.

The latest moves appear to be a departure from the way the Jaguars have conducted business in the past and could go a long way toward improving chemistry in the locker room. Instead of granting Porter and Florence one last audition at organized team activities and minicamp, the team opted to sever ties quickly. It “just wasn’t a good fit,” said Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio.

Here’s another franchise that has finally gotten the message about spending money on unrestricted free agents. …Read More!

Thursday Morning Cup O’Chiefs

Watching Brett Favre back near the end of October, he looked like a legend that was wondering why he was still on the playing field.

The Chiefs defense that day was getting after Favre. They picked off three of his passes, including one that Brandon Flowers returned 91 yards for a touchdown. In a season when they set an NFL record for futility in getting to the passer, the Chiefs actually harassed Favre and forced several bad throws. They also hit him several times as he got rid of the football. The Chiefs had one sack.

Favre looked old. He looked slow. He looked very frustrated.

Typical of his career, however, Favre ended up winning the game with a last minute drive to a touchdown, including a scoring pass that was thrown perfectly, allowing his receiver Laveranues Coles to reach behind CB Dimitri Patterson to catch the ball at the goal line.

That’s why the Jets had made the August deal with Green Bay to get Favre. After things blew up between the Packers and the quarterback, GM Mike Tannenbaum and head coach Eric Mangini saw Favre as the perfect addition to all the other free agents they had signed. They thought their jobs were on the line and Favre was the man who would help save them and lead the Jets into the playoffs.

Well, Mangini is in Cleveland now after being fired as head coach of the Jets. Tannenbaum somehow held onto his job despite all the money he spent on free agents last year and the Jets missed the playoffs. Favre on Wednesday called it quits.

Again. …Read More!

Jets Say Favre is Done

The story of the day in pro football is the annoucement by the New York Jets that Brett Favre is going to retire.

The quarterback made his plans known this morning to the Jets, but even before let his pals at ESPN know that he’s decided to hang them up.

In an e-mail to ESPN’s Ed Werder, Favre reportedly wrote:

“Mike (Tannenbaum, Jets GM) and Woody (Johnson, Jets owner), as well as the entire organization, have been nothing short of outstanding. My teammates — Thomas (Jones) and Kerry (Rhodes) included — were a pleasure to play with. Eric (Mangini, Jets head coach) could not have been any better. I enjoyed playing for him. My time with the Jets was short, but I’m honored to be given that chance.”

Favre’s mention of Jones and Rhodes is interesting in that those former teammates were quoted as criticizing him after the season was over the Jets failed to make the playoffs.

The Jets issue a statement, with this quote from Tannenbaum:

“When we acquired Brett, we knew we would get everything he had. He took the time to mentor younger players and his competitiveness and enthusiasm at practice and during games was contagious. I spoke with him this morning and told him that he will be a friend of the Jets for years to come and it was an honor to work with him.”

Of course, we’ve heard this before, that Favre was done.  Last year he had a retirement press conference in Green Bay and then changed his mind, starting what seemed like a month long soap opera that ended with his being traded to the Jets.

More details and reaction as the day goes on, I’m sure.

Wednesday Morning Cup O’Chiefs

Have you been watching the AROD-ESPN Network this week?

The folks on ESPN can’t even show a college basketball game without hitting you upside the head with its interview with Alex Rodriquez (right) where A-Rod admits he used steroids. It was a good get for the network that their baseball guru Peter Gammons got Rodriquez to sit down for an interview.

And, A-Rod admitted his steroid use, for which he tested positive in 2003, so they got a big story.

But do they have to bang it over our heads for days? Every part of the network has taken that video and beaten it into the dirt. Normally, TV is sound bites, five or 10 seconds. But this A-Rod/ESPN thing has segments that run for almost 10 minutes.

Watching all this reminded me of one person. Bill Fralic was an offensive lineman for nine years in the NFL (1985-93), playing all but one of those seasons with the Atlanta Falcons. At the University of Pittsburgh, Fralic won multiple All-America honors and he’s in the College Football Hall of Fame. He was big and athletic and he was a nasty blocker. People who played against him thought he had a hearing problem, because there were times when the referee’s whistle didn’t stop Fralic from trying to pancake his man to the ground. He played right guard like he was playing defense.

So what’s Fralic’s connection to A-Rod and his positive test for steroids?

On May 10, 1989, or just a few months short of 20 years ago, Fralic testified before a United States Senate Judiciary Committee hearing about steroids in pro football. Nobody involved in football was very happy with what he had to say that day. Fralic said that he believed 75 percent of the linemen, linebackers and tight ends in the league were using steroids. He called the use of these performance enhancing drugs (PED) “rampant.”

Fralic (left) basically asked for help in stopping what he thought was an epidemic. This did not make him a favorite of the league office, owners or fellow players. At that time the league had banned steroids (1983), and started testing for them (1987). It was only in ’89, after Fralic’s testimony, that the league instituted automatic suspensions for first-time violators and it was 1990 before they introduced random testing.

That a current player stood and spoke about the problem drove action. It was at that point that the NFL, along with the NFL Players Association, got serious about trying to stop the use of PEDs.

Contrast Fralic’s testimony with what we saw when major league baseball players visited a hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on March 17, 2005. There were six players or former players present that day: Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, Frank Thomas, Curt Schilling, Rafael Palmeiro and Sammy Sosa.

That’s the now famous hearing where McGwire said nothing, Sosa indicated he didn’t understand enough English to answer the questions and Palmeiro wagged his fingers at the committee and said he’d never used steroids. Five months later, he tested positive and was suspended by Major League Baseball. …Read More!

Tuesday Morning Cup O’Chiefs

I finally got a chance to wade through the e-mail of the weekend, most of it tied to the hiring of Todd Haley as Chiefs head coach.

Some fans are thrilled with the employment of Haley.

Others are ambivalent.

And there is a strong minority of fans who are having a hard time believing Haley was the best candidate among all the available coaches out there. The most repeated phrase was the Chiefs simply went out and signed up the flavor of the month in the NFL.

First, let’s establish right off the bat that Scott Pioli’s words about building a team also apply to hiring a head coach. He wasn’t looking for an all-star; he was looking for somebody who would mesh well with his beliefs and those of the Hunt family in how the Chiefs should go forward. Yes, a guy like Jon Gruden has a longer track record. He did take a team to the Super Bowl and won the game. A guy like Brian Billick has done the same thing, and we don’t have to mention guys like Shanahan and Cowher.

None of those coaches was going to give the franchise what it was looking for in a head man. Pioli and the Hunts believe they have found that man in Haley. Whether they are correct or not, we’ll see in the next few years.

But let’s look at the most frequent complaints about the Haley hire. The No. 1 item I’ve heard on the street and in the e-mail is they are concerned that Haley did not play pro football. “If he’s never played the game on the pro level, how are players going to follow him?” asked one e-mailer.

Here are the facts: Haley is now one of 22 NFL head coaches who did not play pro football. That’s right, only 10 of the current team leaders played the game at that level. Three of that group played in Canada, or had a very short cup of coffee in the NFL: Tom Cable, Mike Smith and Sean Payton. The seven coaches who actually had NFL careers were: Dick Jauron, Gary Kubiak, Jeff Fisher, Ken Whisenhunt, Jim Zorn, Jack Del Rio and Mike Singletary. Only Singletary is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame for his playing career. …Read More!

Monday Morning Cup O’Chiefs

Aloha 2008 NFL season.

Aloha Hawaii.

There were two goodbyes for professional football on Sunday with the season’s final game, the Pro Bowl.

The NFC won 30-21, if that matters. The NFC went in as favorites. If that mattered to you, then please seek immediate help.

No sense wasting a lot of time with details, other than this: Chiefs tight end Tony Gonzalez had a big afternoon in the Hawaiian sunshine. He was the game’s leading receiver with six catches for 98 yards and a touchdown.

Plus he’s now spoken to new Chiefs GM Scott Pioli. More on that later.

The score was a beauty, as he took a pass from Peyton Manning on the left side of the end zone and got both feet down before falling out of bounds. He beat Seattle LB Julian Peterson on the play, just like he did on a 22-yard completion earlier in the same series.

If you are real Chiefs fan you’ll know why Gonzalez beating Peterson is noteworthy. Back on November 10, 2002, the Chiefs and 49ers played each other at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. At the time, Peterson was playing linebacker for the Niners. On that day, he was given the assignment of covering Gonzalez.

He did a pretty good job, holding the Chiefs tight end to one catch for six yards. There was a great deal of crowing from Peterson and the Niners about the job he did on Gonzalez.

These two saw each other in 2006 when the Chiefs and Seahawks played at Arrowhead. Gonzalez had six catches for 116 yards. Then Sunday, he torched Peterson for two catches, including the touchdown. …Read More!

Learning From The Steelers

Last Sunday, the Steelers won the Super Bowl, the Cardinals lost and 30 teams wondered how they can get to next February’s game in Miami. Teams like the Chiefs.

Like most sports leagues, NFL teams are copy cats. They will beg, borrow, copy, even steal an idea, a process, a plan, anything that has proven to be successful on the pro level.

They probably won’t lift much of what the Steelers do. They’ve had opportunities to do that before, given that just three seasons ago the Steelers won the Super Bowl. Few teams seem able to handle the way they do things in Pittsburgh.

The Steelers track record as a franchise has been there for all to see over many years, several decades in fact. The players change, the coaches do too and even the ownership cadre of the Rooney family occasionally gets shuffled as it has in the last six months.

But the Steelers march on. Over the last 40 seasons, Pittsburgh has had:

  • 28 seasons with a winning record.
  • 19 seasons with at least 10 victories.
  • 24 seasons in the playoffs.
  • 19 division titles
  • 7 conference titles
  • 6 Super Bowl victories
  • 10 seasons with a losing record.
  • 2 seasons with a .500 record.

In the last forty years, the longest stretch where the Steelers didn’t make the playoffs was four years (1985-88). Pittsburgh has won six games or more for 21 seasons now, the longest active streak in the league.

How do they get it done? One simple reason: they never panic.

The Steelers don’t react. They act. They have their way of doing things and they just keep moving on down the pro football road, unconcerned that others find their ways out of date, unworkable and sometimes provincial. …Read More!

Family Squabble Surrounds Hayes Induction

The day it happens is one of the best days in the life of a football player or coach, and in this year’s case, an owner.

When that call comes from the Pro Football Hall of Fame, it provides a last act for a great career. Even if the honored is now gone, it provides a final moment in the sun for their accomplishments.

That was the case a week ago Saturday, when the class of 2009 for the Hall of Fame was introduced in Miami.

There should have been nothing but joy surrounding the selection of former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Bob Hayes (left) to the Hall. As a seniors nominee he was facing his last chance at induction. Hayes passed away in 2002. His last season of play was 1975, when he wrapped up his 11-year career with four games in the uniform of the San Francisco 49ers. His first 10 seasons were in Dallas.

Hayes was first eligible for the Hall in 1981. His wait turned out to be 28 years.

At the announcement that he was part of the Hall’s class of 2009, his sister stood and read a letter that she said Hayes wrote back in 1999. Lucille Hester’s presentation left few dry eyes in the room at the Tampa Convention Center.

But it left a lot of other people angry. Members of Hayes family say Hester is a fraud and not his sister. They say the letter she wrote is a fraud and contains a signature that does not match Hayes’ There has even been media analysis of the typeface used on the printed page that Hester read from in Tampa. The typeface was not available to the public until 2007.

It’s caused quite the uproar around Hayes’ induction, so much so that the former wide receiver’s final triumph has been ignored and the focus has been on Hester (below).

“As far as I’m concerned, she’s a phony,” said Ernest Hayes, Bob’s 71-year old brother. He spoke to the Dallas Morning News. “Nobody in his original family likes her, at all. The further she stays away from us, the better off she’ll be.”

Bob Hayes’ former business manager, Ted McIntosh, sent a letter on Sunday to Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, where he expressed “dismay” that Hester represented Hayes in Tampa. He also sent e-mails to media outlets with the subject line: “ATTENTION!!! Lucille Hester is not Bob Hayes’ sister nor any relation to anyone in the family.” On a Dallas radio show, he called Hester “a perpetrator.” …Read More!

Weekend Cup O’Chiefs

Much like Scott Pioli’s first appearance a few weeks ago, many fans were underwhelmed by the introduction of Todd Haley as the team’s head coach Friday.

Haley, like Pioli before him, showed he wasn’t a polished performer at handling a press conference and dealing with media questions. It’s not that either one presented a poor picture. The pundits and reviewers would say there was no sizzle.

But if I was a fan of the Chiefs, one that has suffered through the last 15 years without a victory in the playoffs, I would be very happy with how Pioli and Haley presented themselves.

They are football men, pure and simple. Neither one of them looked comfortable wearing a coat and tie. These are guys that are more at home in a polo shirt, or even a t-shirt or sweat shirt. The scouts have a term for guys like Pioli-Haley: gym rats. That’s the definition of a player who is always hanging around the locker room, or weight room, or practice field, or workout area, or coaching offices. The game is his passion.

In the personnel world, Pioli is a gym rat. In the coaching world, Haley’s track record and the people he’s worked with tell you he has the same traits.

They are about football. They are not auditioning for their next lives as commentators on network television. Don’t take this as a shot at Herm Edwards, because it’s not. Herm was another gym rat; he just had the experience of being a head coach in New York and his own personality that made him very good in front of the cameras and microphones.

Pioli and Haley would just as soon do their jobs without press conferences. It takes time away from football. It doesn’t mean they can’t express themselves or are overwhelmed with the duties. They just don’t care about that stuff.

Haley said all the right things on Friday. The former golf pro caught several questions on the screws and hit some drives well over 300 yards. For instance:

ABOUT BEING IN KANSAS CITY: “I’m excited about being in Kansas City. As an opponent of the Kansas City Chiefs, rolling into this parking lot and knowing what you were going to face in these fans was a major task. I’m really genuinely excited to be on the other side of the field, to have these fans backing us, because they really are, in my opinion, the best place to play a football game is here in Kansas City.

ON WHETHER HE WILL BE THE TEAM’S OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR: “I’m really here to coach the team. I don’t want to get locked into being strictly an offensive coach. I want to coach the football team, that’s all three phases; offense, defense, special teams. I know that sounds like coaching rhetoric, but I think that’s the way you have success.” …Read More!

Warner Mourns Loss of Haley

New Chiefs head coach Todd Haley kiddingly said Friday afternoon that he needed to get back to Phoenix to put out a few fires on the home front.

Seems his two oldest children aren’t real excited about the idea of leaving Scottsdale and heading to Kansas City.

There was somebody else who not very excited about the news as well: Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner.

Speaking after Friday’s practice session at the Pro Bowl in Hawaii, Warner talked about losing his offensive coordinator.

“I don’t want to go backward as far as what we’re doing, or having to readjust everything,” Warner told The Associated Press. “I want to be able to continue to move forward and to build off where we were this year. I think it’s definitely going to be a factor in me weighing everything and making a decision.”

Warner said the loss of Haley won’t be a big factor in his decision whether to retire or not, but it will be part of the equation.

“You have to look at the big picture,” Warner said, “and wherever we’re going and whoever is coming in, you just got to make sure you feel comfortable with that and they have the same mind-set. So at least from the football side of it, you feel comfortable that you can come back.

“It affects everything. Any time you make a change, and a major change, as you try to establish something. There’s a lot of question marks there on what’s going to happen moving forward.”

Haley started calling plays late in the 2007 season and this past season, the Arizona offense set a franchise record with 427 points.

“He did a lot of great things for us: bringing his knowledge of the game, shaping this offense, understanding all the pieces in place here and how to use them,” Warner said. …Read More!

Podcast: Todd Haley Hired

He’s the 11th head coach in Chiefs history.  Todd Haley was introduced by Clark Hunt and Scott Pioli on Friday at the Chiefs facility.

It was a standard-issue press conference, as Haley answered all the major questions but really didn’t have any answers, given his standing of less than 24 hours as the head coach.

Introduced by Pioli, here are the highlights of what Haley told the Kansas City media.

The Road Ahead

















Maybe sometime this weekend, Scott Pioli will take a moment, roll back in his chair, grab a gulp of his favorite adult beverage and exhale.

But it will only be a brief moment. There is still so much work to do for Pioli when it comes to shaping the Chiefs team that all will see come July and training camp in River Falls, Wisconsin.

At least now, he has a partner.

There were a lot of reasons to hire Todd Haley. He’s been a successful coordinator in the pro game and that’s the training grounds for most of the head coaches who get hired in the league. He’s shown an ability to relate and if needed get after today’s pro football player. Just ask Keyshawn Johnson. Or, Terrell Owens. Or, Anquan Boldin.

But the No. 1 trait Pioli was looking for with his head coach was very simple: he wanted someone he could work hand-in-hand with as they go about reshaping and bringing the Chiefs back to respectability.

Sounds simple. But it’s not always easy to find the right personality to make two people work as one well-oiled machine. The NFL landscape is littered with examples where a GM-Coach worked as a unit, only to eventually be divided. Just take the example of the New York Jets, where Mike Tannebaum was the man who pushed for the hiring of Eric Mangini three years ago. Some 36 months later, Tannebaum was part of the process that fired Mangini.

Yes, Pioli-Haley have a history together. They chewed the same turf with the New York Jets from 1997 through 1999. Pioli was in personnel and Haley was part of the coaching staff. Their paths obviously crossed, but they did not work so closely together that they were able to finish each other’s sentence. …Read More!

Chiefs Reach Deal With Haley

The 11th head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs will be Todd Haley.

The former offensive coordinator of the Arizona Cardinals reached an agreement with the team Thursday evening on a four-year contract.

Haley will be introduced at a press conference later this afternoon.

The announcement comes two weeks after the organization announced that they would not retain Herm Edwards. Over the last two weeks, GM Scott Pioli has interviewed a number of potential replacements, although the total and names have been kept under wraps.

Pioli and Haley worked together when both were with the New York Jets back in the late 1990s; Pioli worked in scouting and Haley was part of the coaching staff.

Haley will begin the process of filling out his coaching staff for t he ’09 season.  The only defensive coaches still left are defensive line coach Tim Krumrie and defensive assistant Mike Ketchum.  The entire offensive staff with the exception of quarterbacks coach Dick Curl remains on board.

More details to come.

Friday Morning Cup O’Chiefs

Friday was the first day that teams could designate one of their upcoming free agents as the team’s franchise player.

The window for placing the franchise designation is 14 days, but the New England Patriots wasted little time and slapped the tag on quarterback Matt Cassel (left).

The franchise payday for Cassel is set by the collective bargaining agreement: one year for $14,651,000, according to figures released last week by the NFL Players Association.

Now according to a salary survey by USA Today, Cassel made $525,640 in salary and some bonuses during the 2008 season. That number does not include any possible performance bonus money he may have realized.

Think about that for a second. I’m sure his tax accountant has pondered the consequences. A little over a half-million one year, and more than $14.5 million the next? That’s an increase of nearly 28 times. Now that’s a stimulus package!

Teams have until February 19 to use t he franchise tag. Free agency begins in the NFL on February 27.

Cassel could sign the tender offer at any time, thus making that financial number guaranteed. But there’s no guarantee he’ll be wearing the red, white and blue of the Pats in the 2009 season. They could turn around and trade Cassel to a team looking for a quarterback. They could also work out a long-term contract with him.

Or, because they are so concerned about Tom Brady’s rehab from his knee injury, they could hold onto him for a year and make him a very high-priced insurance policy.

Who would be interested in Cassel if it came to a trade? It could possibly be a team like the Chiefs. We have no idea if they are looking for a quarterback because they haven’t finish looking for a head coach.

Cassel can negotiate with other teams, but any club that wanted to sign him would have to give up a pair of first round draft choices. …Read More!

Glazer Says It’s Haley’s Jay Glazer reported Thursday night that the Chiefs have offered Arizona offensive coordinator Todd Haley the team’s head coaching job.

Glazer writes that the parties are now trying to work out contract terms.

Haley was scheduled to fly to Hawaii on Thursday at the request of his offensive players in the game.  Several of those  players told Glazer that Haley cancelled the trip on Thursday because of the Chiefs situation.

Chiefs Have Complied With Rooney Rule

While everyone has focused on Arizona offensive coordinator Todd Haley, Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli has been busy talking to potential candidates.

And the head of a group that follows the hiring of minority coaches and front office types in the NFL, says the Chiefs have talked to several minority candidates about the head coaching job.

John Wooten is the chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, a group that was started several years ago at the same time that the Rooney Rule was instituted in hiring NFL head coaches. The Rooney Rule requires teams to interview at least one minority candidate in the process of naming a replacement.

The Alliance was organized for the purposes of promoting diversity and equality of job opportunity in the coaching, front office and scouting staffs of National Football League.

Wooten told The Associated Press on Thursday that he’s been distressed to hear that Kansas City has not talked with any black candidates. The former NFL player and scout said he personally knows of several minorities who have interviewed with Pioli. The AP said Wooten declined to identify them.

Earlier in the week, the Chicago Sun-Times ran a piece that said Haley was the Chiefs No. 1 prospect to be head coach and that minority candidates were not willing to interview with the Chiefs because of the perception that Haley was the man.  Here’s the direct line from the story:

“One source said minority candidates have turned down interviews to fulfill the Rooney Rule because the prevailing feeling in league circles is that the job belongs to Haley.”

Turns out that story can go in the same file as the stories that Bill Cowher and Mike Shanahan were interviewing for the job.

The circular file.

Thursday Morning Cup O’Chiefs

“To The fans of Raider Nation, listen to me. It is time we came back to you with a team that you can be proud of every Sunday, that everyone walks into that stadium has a level of energy and excitement like no other. You have been great fans in the past, and it is time for us to give you something back, that is a great football team.”

With those words, Tom Cable said hello again to the fans of the Oakland Raiders as their head coach, without the interim title.

Cable was announced on Wednesday by managing general partner Al Davis at a press conference in Oakland.

That leaves the Chiefs, now 38 days after the end of the 2008 season, 23 days after naming Scott Pioli as general manager and 13 days after the firing of Herm Edwards, as the only NFL team without an on-field leader.

No indication out of the Chiefs offices if an announcement is near. Two facts are known: the team has been given permission to speak with Arizona offensive coordinator Todd Haley and they’ve already interviewed a number of candidates.

Some national media types with good reputations for accuracy say Haley, offensive coordinator Chan Gailey, Minnesota defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier and Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz are the finalists for the job. Take that for what it’s worth. Ferentz told Ivan Maisel of that he’s not going anywhere and has not been contacted about the Chiefs job.

Davis ended up interviewing three men for his position: Cable, Green Bay linebackers coach Winston Moss and New York Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride. Cable’s announcement comes some 37 days after the end of the 2008 season, although Davis says he made the decision some 10 days ago that Cable was his man. Whatever the old man says, he decided to go with what he knew, rather than bring in yet another new face. …Read More!

Another Disgruntled Country Heard From

Tony Gonzalez had second thoughts.

So in the span of 24 hours we have two very different Tony G’s and two very different sets of comments about his future in Kansas City.

Both versions came out of Honolulu, where Gonzalez has joined his AFC teammates for this weekend’s Pro Bowl.

The first was published on, under the by-line of writer Jason Cole. While the more incendiary comments belong to the author, Gonzalez left little doubt about his feelings on the future of the Chiefs and his future with them.

“I want to see who they name as head coach,” Gonzalez is reported as saying by Yahoo. “Yeah, I hear they’re talking to Todd Haley, but then there’s this coach from Iowa State (actually Kirk Ferentz from Iowa), some (expletive) like that and I don’t want to deal with that. It seems like we’re rebuilding anyway, and I don’t want to do that. I don’t know that I want to do that anymore than I already have been.”

Added Gonzalez in his comments to Yahoo: “I love Kansas City. I really do. If I could stay there, I would. That’s why this is going to be a tough decision. We’ve been rebuilding. It hasn’t really seemed to go well. We won four (in 2007) and two this year. It’s getting tough. … I don’t want to make it seem to the fans in Kansas City and to my teammates that I’m abandoning them. I hope, I think, they’ll understand.”

Within the story Cole uses words and phrases like “Barring a serious change in direction, Gonzalez still wants out of Kansas City”, “Pro Bowl regular restated his basic desire to go elsewhere”, “Even the departure of Peterson and the arrival of Scott Pioli from New England hasn’t quelled Gonzalez’s angst” and “the Chiefs – who, according to Gonzalez, aren’t making it easy for some players to want to stay.” …Read More!

Do Not Trade L.J.

Since Mr. Pioli has not yet given us a definitive head coach to dissect and discuss, it creates a platform and forum for other things Chiefs related.

Larry Johnson stepped up and filled the void on Wednesday. Appearing on local radio station KCSP-AM for just over 20 minutes, Johnson made it plain he wants out of Kansas City.

If you missed the interview, go here for details.

His words matched those he used in the moments after the Chiefs season ending game against Cincinnati. In a nutshell: he’s tired of Kansas City and feels Kansas City is tired of him.

If you frequent the site you’ll remember that I agreed with him at the time and thought sending him elsewhere would be best not only for the team, but for Larry himself.

But after listening to Larry’s comments on Wednesday, I’ve changed my mind. I think the Chiefs should keep L.J. and they should make him part of this football team again.

I think they should do so to make a real difference in Larry Johnson’s life.

Ever since he was suspended four games by the Chiefs and then slapped with a one-game league suspension, Johnson has been undergoing counseling sessions. The type and depth of those sessions is unknown to those of us outside of L.J. and his family and they should be; it’s none of our business. …Read More!

L.J. Still Wants Out

When the Chiefs wrapped up the disastrous 2008 season with one final defeat at Cincinnati more than a month ago, Larry Johnson went out of his way to make sure everybody knew one thing: he wanted out of Kansas City.

Some 40 days after those pronouncements, L.J. wanted to make sure everybody understood he really meant what he said. Speaking on KCSP-AM on Wednesday morning for about 20 minutes, Johnson had plenty to say.

If you want to listen to the whole interview, you can go here.

Here are the highlights:

ON HIS FEELINGS ABOUT KANSAS CITY: “Kansas City as far a community and a city is not really a fit for me anymore. It’s got nothing to do with the team or the teammates. That’s not where the problem lies. The problem is the environment. As soon as I came in as a rookie, the environment and the things that went on, it’s just not a fit for me. As far as the organization, the guys who put on the suits, they can tell it’s not a fit for me. No sense delaying the inevitable. It’s time for us to break ties, they can go on and find what they want, and I can try to go on and rebuild my career and find what I want.”

ON A DIFFICULTY OF A TRADE: “If the two parties want to come out and make something happen, there’s the ability to do that … they can easily release me. They can easily trade me. There are things that can be done under their control that they should be willing to do, no complaints about it.” …Read More!

Wednesday Morning Cup O’Chiefs

So just who is Todd Haley?

Some of the background of the Arizona Cardinals offensive coordinator has come out in recent weeks as Haley has become the public favorite to be the Chiefs new head coach.

Rumor has now met fact, as the Chiefs have asked permission to speak with Haley. That doesn’t mean he’s the man. But it sure does look like Scott Pioli sees him as head coaching timber, or he wouldn’t have put off hiring someone to replace Herm Edwards.

So, just who is Haley?

Well, we already know that he’s a Bill Parcells’ protégé, having worked on his staff with the Jets and Cowboys. We also know that while in Dallas, he got into a very public spat with wide receiver Terrell Owens. The mercurial Owens said publicly that he would not bother to speak again with Haley. In the battle, Dallas owner Jerry Jones came down on the side of Owens, not his coach.

We know his father is Dick Haley, one of the NFL’s legendary talent scouts. Haley helped build the Pittsburgh Steelers Super Bowl dynasty and young Todd spent many years as a ball boy for those teams in training camp at St. Vincent’s College in Latrobe, PA and during games at Three Rivers Stadium.

He was born in Atlanta, where his father was working in 1967 for the Blesto scouting service. But he grew up in the South Hills area of Pittsburgh, attending Upper St. Clair High School. He then went to the University of Florida on a golf scholarship, earning a letter in 1988 on a team that included future PGA professionals like Chris DeMarco and Dudley Hart. He later transferred and played golf at the University of Miami and then finished up his college days at the University of North Florida where he earned a Communications degree.

Golf was his world for about four years, as he worked as a golf pro at Woodcrest Country Club on Long Island and then at the famous Burning Tree Club in Bethesda, Maryland, a course where just about every United States President since Eisenhower have played some rounds, along with members of Congress and foreign dignitaries. …Read More!

Strength of Schedule For 2009

The Chiefs will face a schedule in the 2009 season that ranks right in the middle of the league when it comes to toughness.

Based on opponents won-loss records for the 2008 season, the Chiefs will face 13 opponents with a 123-131-2 record, or a .484 winning percentage. That’s the same as the San Diego Chargers and just a tad tougher than the Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders, who face schedules with a .480 winning percentage.

The Miami Dolphins face what could be the toughest schedule, followed by Carolina and New England.

The easiest schedule right now looks like it belongs to Chicago.

Here’s how the numbers break down for all 32 teams: …Read More!

The Search For A Head Coach

OK, let’s do this methodically. Obviously, that’s how Scott Pioli is going about finding a new head coach for the Chiefs.

Even more methodically than the Oakland Raiders, who announced Tuesday afternoon that Tom Cable will be announced on Wednesday as their head coach. That leaves the Chiefs as the last open head coaching job right now.

Pioli has been speaking to coaching candidates this week. He’s gotten permission from the Arizona Cardinals to speak with their offensive coordinator Todd Haley, who remains the media and public’s front runner for the job.

The Chiefs new GM isn’t saying anything right now. But his inaction on the coaching front made it obvious he was waiting for somebody still working to finish up their duties. On the staffs of the Cardinals and Steelers, Haley made the most sense.

When they actually meet, I also don’t believe it will be their first conversation about the job. I don’t believe Pioli waits this long without knowing Haley was interested in the job. Whether through a third party or a simple “Hey good luck in Tampa and would you like to be my head coach?” type phone call, there has been contact.

You can bet when they meet, Clark Hunt will be at that meeting as well and it’s going to be important for Haley to impress the Chiefs Chairman of the Board.

While I don’t believe this is the first and only interview that Pioli has done for the Chiefs head coaching job, all the signs say this is his man.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday Morning Cup O’Chiefs

The Super Bowl victory was not even 12 hours old Monday morning when Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin was asked about the Steelers repeating in 2009.

That’s right, you don’t get even 24 hours to enjoy the moment anymore. It’s like Marty Schottenheimer says, in coaching it’s no longer what have you done for me lately, it’s what are you going to do next.

“The thing I’m going to sell to our football team is that we are not attempting to repeat.” Tomlin said on Monday. “That special group of men in that locker room last night at the end of that game – that’s gone forever. There will be a new 53-man (roster). A lot of the faces will be the same, but nothing stays the same in this game. Few will come and go; those who remain, the roles will change. Some will ascend, some will descend. That’s the nature of today’s NFL.

“Our focus will be about being the one at the end of the season and we are no different than anybody else in that regard. I think repeating and defending Super Bowl champions in today’s NFL is somewhat of a misnomer. When I walk down the hallway and look at the championships of the Steelers from the 70s, it’s the same pictures and same positions in those photos in terms of the ‘Steel Curtain’ and so forth. That’s not the reality of today’s NFL, to be quite honest with you. We are going to roll up our sleeves at the appropriate time and start with a new group of men – hopefully a lot of them will the same – and go about our business of trying to compete in ’09.

“You won’t hear me say words like repeat or defending because it will be brand new. This group will always be special to me, but sometime soon, that group will assume its place with others in history. It will be just that – history.”

The Steelers will be honored with a parade in downtown Pittsburgh on Tuesday.

As the Arizona Cardinals returned to Phoenix, they were dealing with the agony of defeat. …Read More!

Hall of Fame Leftovers

It’s been interesting reading and hearing the reactions around the country on the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2009.

In places like Kansas City and Miami, there was great joy as Derrick Thomas joined the hallowed halls of Canton. In most of the rest of the country, mention of D.T. and his accomplishments was well down into the story, behind just about everybody but Minnesota guard Randall McDaniel.

Unfortunately, a lot of the coverage came down on who did not get into the Hall, specifically wide receiver Cris Carter and tight end Shannon Sharpe. That was expected. All I can tell you is this: with the increased passing numbers it’s going to take some time for the dust to settle on just what is good and what is great when it comes to receiving numbers.

I know right now Chiefs fans believe Tony Gonzalez should be a first-year ballot Hall of Famer five years after he retires from the league. Don’t be so sure. Gonzalez could make this point moot if he plays for several more seasons and pushes his numbers into the stratosphere. But if he plays only one more season, which is what he says, then he may have to wait as well.

I wrote for on Thomas’ honor and put together this list that might put some perspective on the situation when it comes to waiting for induction into the Hall.

 Hall of Famer





Year of


Years To


Years As


Bobby Bell






Willie Lanier






Len Dawson






Buck Buchanan






Jan Stenerud






Emmitt Thomas






Derrick Thomas






Let’s remember this: once a player reaches Canton, it doesn’t matter how long he has to wait.

Other tidbits: …Read More!

Monday Morning Cup O’Super Bowl

There are a lot of people around who try to complicate the game of football.

Coaching staffs have ballooned to the point where some teams have enough folks on the sideline that every two or three players have a coach. Tape and statistics are analyzed to death, anything to find an edge.

All that stuff helps. But if a team wants to win a Super Bowl title, they had better have one thing: a quarterback who can win the game in the fourth quarter, and do it on the fly, sometimes with great improvisation.

That’s why the Pittsburgh Steelers were celebrating Sunday night and why all of western Pennsylvania has a headache Monday morning, courtesy of Ben Roethlisberger.

Yes, the Steelers defense is a special group. But they walked off the field a Super Bowl loser on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa without their quarterback. Wide receiver Santonio Holmes caught the winning touchdown pass and received the MVP honors.

But the honor should have gone to Roethlisberger. With the game on the line, he responded in a manner that is starting to be his trademark. He was cool, he was calm and he got the job done.

Roethlisberger was five of seven in the drive that led to the winning touchdown. Both of the incomplete passes should have been caught. And when his perfect throw on first-and-goal at the Arizona six-yard line went through Holmes hands at the back left corner of the end zone, Roethlisberger came right back on second down and threw to Holmes on the other side of the end zone.

It was a play of precision, one that had to be done many, many times in practice over the last couple years. Roethlisberger’s throw was perfect. Holmes got the toes of both feet down in bounds as he fell out of bounds.

Touchdown. Super Bowl.

Roethlisberger calls it playing “Backyard Ball” and it’s something he does quite well. He drives opponents crazy with his ability to shake off pass rushers and turn a sure sack into a big play. Sometimes he drives his coaches crazy with some of the throws he gets off in those situations. …Read More!

Sunday Super Quotables: Steelers & Cardinals

Here’s some of the best post-game locker room stuff we could find from Super Bowl XLIII.

PITTSBURGH HEAD COACH MIKE TOMLIN, on the momentum shifts of the game:

“That’s been our story all year. We’ve got a team that doesn’t blink in the face of adversity. It’s never going to be pretty or perfect, if you will, but they’ve got a great deal of belief in one another. They’ve got a great deal of resolve, and it was put on display. Our defense gets a lot of recognition for what they’re capable of, and rightfully so, but what you saw from our quarterback and our offense at the end of that football game is what they’ve provided for us all year. When we’ve needed it the most, they’ve done it and done it big. That’s a rerun for us. We did that in Baltimore to win the division. We’re a team and that’s why there’s no division in our locker room, because those guys know that when the chips are down, number seven and company will ante up and kick in. I’m just so happy and proud of them. If I could win any way, it would be like that. All people being involved and having to deliver for us is truly special. As a coach, it’s special.”

TOMLIN, on what he said at halftime:

“We talk about moments. We talk about (the fact that) games are decided in situational football, and we you back up that talk with action in terms of how build our team, how we prepare. We probably practice two-minute, red zone, goal line, short yardage (situations) more than a lot of teams. When you watch highlight shows, that’s the football game. It’s not the first-and-10 plays or the second-and five plays, unless they go 75 yards and hit their head on the goalposts. We embrace those moments; we believe we were built for those moments, and the guys proved it with their play.” …Read More!

One for the Other Thumb

Back in 1980, Mean Joe Greene put together a marketing idea for t-shirts and other paraphernalia related to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The team had just won its fourth Super Bowl title and Mean Joe came up with “Win One for the Thumb.”

That 1980 season was when the Steelers dynasty fell apart. They didn’t get one for the thumb that year or the next. Not until January of 2006 did Pittsburgh win its fifth Lombardi Trophy.

Now, three years later, the Steelers have won one for the other thumb. Their record sixth championship came Sunday night at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa with a 27-23 come-from-behind victory over the Arizona Cardinals.

No other NFL franchise has more Super Bowl victories, as the Steelers jumped ahead of the Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers, who both have five.

What a remarkable game! It was hard to imagine how the finish could top last year’s Giants victory over the Patriots, but the closing three minutes of this game were if not better, then certainly equal.

The Terrible Towel waiving maniacs of the Steelers Nation turned it into a home game for the black and gold. But that’s not what won the game for Pittsburgh. Mike Tomlin became the youngest head coach in Super Bowl history and the youngest head coach to hold the Lombardi thanks to the strengths his team’s season was built on: defense and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. …Read More!

Sunday Taste O’Super Bowl

From Tampa, Florida

In today’s Super Bowl, the Arizona Cardinals are the home team.

That’s quite a laugh, because if there’s a fan of the Cardinals in the Tampa Bay metro area, then he’s not yet left his hotel room.

The Steelers Nation has taken over Tampa, St. Pete, Clearwater and reportedly all the way to Orlando. The Terrible Towel will be waving.

The Cardinals are seven-point underdogs in Las Vegas and they will very definitely be the underdogs inside Raymond James Stadium.

But amazingly, I’m not one who thinks my the Steelers victory is assured. This is not a great Pittsburgh team, not by a long shot. But then, the Cardinals are not a great team either.

One team will win the Lombardi Trophy and they will be a great team, because one of the elements of greatness is being able to overcome liabilities and negatives, yet still being successful.

Here’s one example of what I’m talking about. The Cardinals are going to throw the ball against the Pittsburgh defense. That puts the pressure on the Arizona offensive line to protect Kurt Warner from the Steelers lethal pass rush. If they can do that, Warner will pick apart the Steelers cornerbacks. Ike Taylor, Deshea Townsend, Bryant McFadden are very ordinary players. They survive because of the pass rush from linebackers James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley.

On the other side, the Pittsburgh offensive line is not an outstanding group. They’ve improved over the playoffs from their regular season performance, but they are vulnerable. If the Cardinals can mount a pass rush led by Darnell Dockett, they will cause problems for Ben Roethlisberger.

The attention always goes to the quarterbacks and this game is no different. Warner makes things happen with his superior understanding of defenses and his willingness to stay in the pocket, hold the ball to the last instant, but still get a perfect throw off. His history however, shows he’ll turn the ball over, especially on fumbles. He’s improved, but a ball hawking defense like Pittsburgh is going to try very hard to knock the ball loose.

Roethlisberger is very good at getting away from pressure. He’s so big and so strong, pass rushers can have him in their grasp and he’ll break free. Plus, for someone his size, he’s surprisingly mobile. But when he’s scrambling around back there, he’s also prone to turnovers.

Pittsburgh has the defensive edge, Arizona the offensive edge. The matchup between these two is going to be fun to watch.

One game to remember: Indianapolis 24, Pittsburgh 20. That was the outcome of game November 9th. Peyton Manning exploited the Steelers defense that day.

I don’t normally predict games and probably should not start now.

But it’s the Super Bowl.

Pittsburgh 27-20.

Behind the Hall of Fame Curtain

From Tampa, Florida

OK, the celebration has begun for Derrick Thomas’ enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Saturday night around the waters of Tampa, St. Petersburg and all the way to Orlando there were many glasses raised in honor of the Chiefs linebacker finally getting his just due with a ticket to Canton. My phone rang off the hook with so many people checking in to celebrate; everyone from Carl Peterson, to Marty Schottenheimer, to Bill Cowher, to Jim Kelly and Marcus Allen.

What a day Saturday was at the Tampa Convention Center and the annual meeting of the Hall of Fame’s Board of Selectors. I’m going to pull back the curtain here and give you an idea of what went down.

Now understand this: what was said in that meeting that lasted a record six hours, 45 minutes must remain confidential. That’s a key part of the process in electing a Hall of Fame class. The only direct quotes you will find in this post are mine.

But I can give you a flavor of what happened within the meeting and any chance to reveal more about this process is good for the process. What I mean is this: there is no perfect way to select a Hall of Famer. Every major sport does things differently. I happen to think the NFL method is the best of a flawed premise.

I’m also going to reveal all of my votes. That’s something the Hall of Fame does not do, or even keep track of. Votes are turned in on sheets of paper without names. I’ve got no problem with that, but I think it’s important to let you know where I stand.

The meeting kicked off at 7:30 a.m. EST as the Hall’s President Steve Perry brought things to order. There was about 20 minutes of handling business matters and also introducing some new people on the 44-member board. Retirements and illnesses had five new faces as part of the process; for this committee that’s a lot of change. This was my 14th Hall of Fame meeting and I don’t remember any of the previous having that type of turnover.

Ultimately, that was factor No. 1 in helping D.T.s opportunity. Two of the members who were missing had identified themselves in previous meetings as voting no on Thomas. A player must receive 80 percent of the vote and with 44 members that means 9 negative votes can kill a candidate.

After taking care of the business, the first item was discussing the two senior candidates: former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Bob Hayes and former Atlanta/Philadelphia defensive end Claude Humphrey. …Read More!


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