Who’s squirming on the hot seat? Who’s spending quality time on Easy Street? Some answers are surprising as the NFL season sprints toward the quarter pole.
Who’s squirming on the hot seat? Who’s spending quality time on Easy Street?
Some answers are surprising as the NFL season sprints toward the quarter pole.
Mike Nolan’s job was already on the San Andreas Fault with a 16-32 record in three years as 49ers head coach. How was he supposed to survive the conclusion former No. 1 overall pick Alex Smith is a bust?
Presto. Nolan’s ’Niners are 2-1. They beat Detroit so convincingly that Lions General Manager Matt Millen, the immovable force, got fired.
Today’s Battle of Ohio probably will signal goodbye for the losing head coach by January. Neither Cleveland’s Romeo Crennel nor Cincinnati’s Marvin Lewis can afford to be 0-4, given that each has had a while to build and neither has a playoff win.
Baltimore’s John Harbaugh has made a strong bid for Rookie Coach of the Year. His Ravens have torn up both Ohio teams despite playing with rookie quarterback Joe Flacco.
The Dolphins have matched last year’s win total: one. It’s a big deal since the one was one-sided against New England. Naturally, you wonder how much Darth Dolphin, Bill Parcells, informed the game plan against his old semi-pal Bill Belichick.
Any team wishing to make excuses for personnel turmoil gets rebuked by the Giants. They’re 3-0 despite losing pass rushers Michael Strahan to retirement and Osi Umenyiora to a knee injury. Without them, New England rolls in the Super Bowl. If Tom Coughlin wins another Super Bowl, we see him as stronger Hall of Fame material than Parcells. Both will have won two Super Bowls. The fact Coughlin posted a 72-64 record with a start-up expansion team in Jacksonville might be just as impressive.
The Falcons are 2-1 on the heels of a 1-6 2007 finish in which they looked pathetic. Bobby Petrino doesn’t know what he’s missing.
Mike Shanhan apparently didn’t go senile. Denver is 3-0, including a win over San Diego. Didn’t his Broncos lose at Detroit, Oakland and Houston last year? Why, yes they did, by a combined 109-40 score.
The Bears are 1-2, but don’t blame Kyle Orton. Chicago was 26-1 when leading after three quarters in three years under Defensive Coordinator Ron Rivera. Five of the Bears' last six losses have come when leading after three quarters under current Coordinator Bob Babich.
A number of quarterbacks are on the hot seat.
Things have turned ugly in St. Louis, where the best player, Steven Jackson, called benching Marc Bulger “the wrong decision.”
Jon Kitna keeps losing in Detroit. Matt Schaub, Tarvaris Jackson, Matt Hasselbeck, Matt Schaub and Derek Anderson face assorted issues. The hot seat, we might add, can intersect with the pants seat.
While the Bears were blowing a game against the Buccaneers in overtime, cornerback Charles Tillman was flagged for taking a swing at wideout Michael Clayton. Taking to the air, Mike Ditka unloaded on Tillman on radio station WMVP.
“I would have talked to (Tillman) right after I pulled my foot out of his butt,” the coach said.
Gray is in
Current starting quarterbacks whose 40-yard dash times might not be as fast as when they ran at NFL Combines:
- Jets, Brett Favre, 38.
- Rams, Trent Green, 38.
- Vikings, Gus Frerotte, 37.
- Cardinals, Kurt Warner, 37.
- Titans, Kerry Collins, 35.
In all five cases, teams approached 2008 with a younger model as the likelier starting quarterback. Anyone heard from Vinny Testaverde?
Just blame Bruce
The good news for the Cleveland Browns is that they’ve scored as many points as early AFC North favorite Pittsburgh in the last two games. Actually, that’s bad news for both teams. Both have scored 16 points in the two games, and neither is going anywhere at that rate.
Cleveland’s problems trace to multiple injuries. What’s ailing the Steelers?
“It's Bruce Arians’ fault,” said one observer.
The observer was Arians, Cleveland’s former and Pittsburgh’s current offensive coordinator.
“If anybody is still trying to look for a story about what happened against Philadelphia (a 15-6 loss) and who to blame, just spell my name right,” Arians said.
After getting sacked eight times, it’s doubtful that the QB who goes by “Big Ben” could spell Roethlisberger. Pittsburgh’s next game is a Monday nighter at Baltimore, not a great place to cure battered quarterback syndrome.
Not ‘just a sprain’
It wasn’t just the fact that Joshua Cribbs had an almost unheard-of 1,809 kick return yards last year, with a huge 30.7 average. It was the way he looked doing it.
This year, though, Cribbs has neither the numbers nor the look of a game-bending star. That’s the havoc a high ankle sprain can wreak.
Colts owner Jim Irsay put it in perspective in explaining how star safety Bob Sanders won’t be knocked off schedule just because he is having arthroscopic knee surgery.
“The feeling was his high ankle sprain would take longer (to recover from) than the scope,” Irsay told the Indianapolis Star.
Cribbs and Devin Hester were the kings of the return world in 2007. Hester, who is trying to come back from a rib injury, ranks 29th in kick returns with a 20.0 average. Cribbs is 35th at 18.5.
Cribbs and Sanders play different positions but are kindred spirits in throwing their bodies around, come what may.
Cribbs has missed three of 51 possible games because of injury. Sanders, who has been in the league a year longer, has missed 26 of a possible 67 games heading into a stretch when he will miss more.
The window of opportunity for reprising their 2006 season Super Bowl win is closing for the Colts. Peyton Manning is a high-mileage 32, taking snaps from 33-year-old center Jeff Saturday, unlikely to recapture the former magic he made with Marvin Harrison, now 36.
When they drew up the schedule, New England at Indianapolis (Nov. 2) was a centerpiece. Now? Not so much.
- Patriot-turned-Eagle Asante Samuel understands that his new team gave him a six-year, $57 million contract with more than a wildcard berth in mind. Samuel in the Philadelphia Inquirer: “Like Joey Porter says, I don’t want to be one of the guys known for getting a lot of money and not showing up on the field. I want to be the best ever to play the game.”
- At least half of America hates America’s Team, but give the Cowboys credit. They’ve done the job against the Browns, Eagles and Packers, teams that went a combined 31-17 last year.
- Patriots QB Matt Cassel is looking at the bright side after losing to the lowly Dolphins. “There are a lot of teams out there that wish they were 2-1 right now.”