Monday Bloody Monday

Former NFL Coaches: Crennel (Chiefs), Reid (Eagles), Shurmur (Browns)

Former NFL Coaches: Crennel (Chiefs), Reid (Eagles), Shurmur (Browns)

We knew it was coming. We knew heads would roll. But who knew Black Monday would be this bloody?

By New Year’s Eve day, seven NFL head coaches and five general managers were unemployed. Dozens of coordinators and assistants followed. A post-regular-season house cleaning like we’ve never seen. More head coaches lost their jobs Monday than in the previous three seasons combined.

Some teams chose to start over completely, removing both the general manager and head coach. The Arizona Cardinals did so with Coach Ken Whisenhunt and General Manager Rod Graves. The Cleveland Browns with Coach Pat Shurmur and Manager Tom Heckert. And the Chargers followed suit with Coach Norv Turner and Manager A.J. Smith.

New Jacksonville Jaguars Owner Shad Khan chose to fire General Manager Gene Smith. And the New York Jets turned General Manager Mike Tannenbaum loose after a season that proved to be interesting, yet disappointing. No word yet on Jets Head Coach Rex Ryan’s future. In fact, we’re still waiting for his end of the season press conference.

Four other teams chose to part ways with their coaches: The Buffalo Bills with Chan Gailey, the Kansas City Chiefs with Romeo Crennel, the Eagles with Andy Reid, and the only real surprise…the Chicago Bears with Lovie Smith.

Smith’s firing created a backlash in the Bears locker room as well as the national sports media. Because…well, everybody loves Lovie. Both Tony Dungy (a close friend of Smith’s) and former Bears Coach Mike Ditka referred to the decision as “ridiculous.” Bears star Wide Receiver Devin Hester is reportedly so distraught by the news that he is pondering retirement.

One person who won’t be retiring…Lovie Smith. He is a hot commodity in the now busy market for NFL head coach shopping season.

So, what happens now? Does a game of musical coaches ensue…cut your guy and pick up the one to your right? It’s already started, with Andy Reid reportedly interviewing with the Chiefs today and Cardinals tomorrow.

And the bloodshed may not be over.

In the meantime, we’re still waiting…




Coffee Cup Quarterback | Week 7: A new season, a new scandal. Welcome to…Stickygate

San Diego Chargers

A new year, a new “gate” in the National Football League.  First, we had the New England Patriots and Spygate, then we had the New Orleans Saints and Bountygate, the fallout from which is still settling.

And now, it’s the San Diego Chargers who find themselves in a sticky situation.  Literally.  Jay Glazer from Fox Sports reported Sunday that an official spotted a Chargers equipment manager hiding something in a towel he was giving to players during the Monday night game against the Broncos.  The employee refused to turn over the towel, but when officials asked him to empty his pockets, they confiscated a sticky substance.

And just like that, a scandal is born.  Welcome, my friends to…Stickygate.

Stickum has been banned by the NFL for years, but was once used liberally to help players hold on to the football.  The NFL is investigating and the Chargers are on bye week (and likely doing laundry).  Coach Norv Turner says no one on his team used Stickum during the Chargers’ 35-24 loss to the Denver Broncos on October 15th.  With six turnovers, you wouldn’t think anyone would accuse the Chargers of having sticky fingers.

Speaking of gates…Saints Assistant Coach Joe Vitt has returned to the team following his Bountygate suspension.  He will be on the field at Mile High Stadium this week when the Saints play the Broncos on Sunday Night Football.

So that’s what the Baltimore Ravens look like without Pro Bowl Linebacker and future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis.  The Ravens defense allowed the Houston Texans to score more than 40 points on Sunday, something they haven’t done since 2007.  The team lost both Lewis and Cornerback Lardarius Webb for the season last week.  And no defense is pretty hard to overcome with no offense.  Ravens Quarterback Joe Flacco recorded the lowest rating for any quarterback since 2008.  The Ravens lost to the Texans 43-13.

Johns Skelton was back at quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals this week.  His welcome back gift?  He was sacked seven times by the Minnesota Vikings (and is probably still having nightmares about Brian Robison and Jared Allen).  Kevin Kolb was hurt after being sacked more than 20 times in three games.  The two are taking turns taking sacks and trading injuries.  The Cardinals have allowed their quarterbacks to be sacked 35 times this year, the most in the NFL.  Once again, I hope the Cardinals invest in some protection…or have a binder full of backup quarterbacks.  Yes, people…that one was just too easy.

The best news in the NFL for week seven…Colts Head Coach Chuck Pagano has been released from the hospital and was able to watch his team beat the Cleveland Browns at home…from home.  Pagano has been hospitalized and undergoing treatment for leukemia since the end of September.

And NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says that unless the quality of the game improves, this could be the last year for the NFL Pro Bowl.



Coffee Cup Quarterback: Hall of Fame Game 2012 (The One With the Replacement Refs)

Good morning!  What a great time of year.  I saw the first school bus today.  The kids are starting to go back to school and fall is just around the corner.  And best of all…football is back!  Did you hear me?  Football is back!!  Last night the Arizona Cardinals and the New Orleans Saints played in the first NFL preseason game and the 50th anniversary Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio.  Looked like a beautiful night.  But I would say that if it was 40 degrees and raining, because football is back!!!  Did I already say that?

This is also the first Coffee Cup Quarterback column of the year (and ever).  This is where I post my thoughts on the previous day’s games while drinking coffee and waking up.  My apologies if I seem a little groggy.  I was up late watching football.  Sounds so great to say that.

A few thoughts…

It’s time for the Saints, their fans, and the NFL to move on from Bountygate, and it starts with Saints Quarterback Drew Brees.  Marshall Faulk’s interview with Brees aired prior to the start of the game.  Obviously, the scandal was discussed, as well as the fallout, and the effect it will have on the team this year.  Brees (carefully) backed up the recent comments he made to SI’s Peter King about NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.  He lamented on the process, the leaks, the mistrust, the broken hearts…just kidding on the last one.  But honestly, let’s move on.  Football has started.  The appeals process is underway and until it is resolved, as the quarterback, captain, team leader, and King of New Orleans, Drew Brees needs to let go and drive his team and his people forward.  What’s done is done.  This didn’t come out of nowhere.  Roger Goodell didn’t throw down dire sanctions for no apparent reason.  And it wasn’t like it was without warning.  Is Vilma taking too much of the fall?  Did other players know more?  Less?  I don’t care.  Let them work it out in appeals.  Either way, it’s time for Brees to put on his big boy pants and go play football.  He shouldn’t say another word about any of it and let his team come together and make a collective statement on the field.  That’s what a leader does.

And…that’s what Drew Brees did when he took the field last night.  Brees scored a touchdown on his first (and only) possession, then spent the rest of the game singing, dancing, and eating sunflower seeds on the sideline.  See?  That’s what I’m talking about.  More dancing, less whining.

The Cardinals came into their first preseason game with a controversy of their own, a quarterback controversy.  At least until a dreadful Kevin Kolb threw an interception on his first pass of the season and was hurt on his third unproductive possession.  John Skelton showed up in a big way and demonstrated real promise as a starter.  No update on Kolb’s potential rib injury, but it was certainly ill timed.  We’ll hear more, I’m sure.  But if I’m Skelton, I feel great about my position on the team.

I know no one really cares about the outcome, but I feel like I should say that the Saints defeated the Cardinals 17-10.

The other notable issue in last night’s game was the NFL’s use of replacement referees while negotiations with the official officials continue.  It started with a botched coin toss.  Yes, seriously.  Then I really didn’t think the officials were an issue in the first half.  Then I realized there weren’t really any calls in the first half.  There was an interception or two to review though.  Remember?  All interceptions go under the hood now?  The second half…was rough.  But hey, it’s the preseason for them too (and their first NFL game, unless of course, they were used as replacements in 2001).  Either way, I think we’ll see this crew throughout the remainder of the preseason.  At least.

So…while Brees works on his quiet skills, Kolb nurses an injury, the referees practice their coin toss…and we get ready for more football on Thursday night!

Ahhh…life is good.


We Salute

What do Americans love more than their football?  Their freedom.  On this Memorial Day, we honor and remember our NFL heroes who gave of themselves on and off the field.

Pat Tillman (Arizona Cardinals Safety, Arizona State University Linebacker) is the only NFL veteran killed in active duty since the Vietnam War.  Tillman turned down a three year, 3.6 million dollar offer from the Cardinals to enlist in the Army following the attacks of September 11, 2001.  He joined the U.S. Army Rangers in 2002 and served several tours of duty.  Corporal Patrick Daniel Tillman was killed in Afghanistan on April 22, 2004.

Bob Kalsu (Buffalo Bills Guard and Bills’ Rookie of the Year 1968, University of Oklahoma Tackle) entered the Army following his rookie season to satisfy his ROTC requirements.  As a member of the 101st Airborne Division, Lieutenant Kalsu was killed in Vietnam on July 21, 1970.

Don Steinbrunner (Cleveland Browns Offensive Tackle, Washington State End) was called to serve in Vietnam following his rookie season in 1966.  Steinbrunner was also an assistant football coach at the Air Force Academy.  He served two years as an Air Force navigator and was offered a non combat position after being shot in the knee, but chose instead to return to his unit.  He reasoned he was better prepared to serve than most.  Major Steinbrunner’s plane was shot down over South Vietnam on July 20, 1967.  He was honored with a Purple Heart posthumously.

World War II

Cpl. Mike Basca (HB, Philadelphia, 1941), Lt. Charlie Behan (E, Detroit, 1942), Maj. Keith Birlem (E, Cardinals-Washington, 1939), Lt. Al Blozis (T, Giants, 1942-1944), Lt. Chuck Braidwood (E, Portsmouth-Cleveland-Cardinals-Cincinnati, 1930-1933), Lt. Young Bussey (QB, Bears, 1940-1941), Lt. Jack Chevigny (Coach, Cardinals, 1932), Capt. Ed Doyle (E, Frankford-Pottsville, 1924-1925), Lt. Col. Grassy Hinton (B, Staten Island, 1932), Capt. Smiley Johnson (G, Green Bay, 1940-1941), Lt. Eddie Kahn (G, Boston/Washington, 1935-1937), Sgt. Alex Ketzko (T, Detroit, 1943), Capt. Lee Kizzire (FB, Detroit, 1937), Lt. Jack Lummus (E, Giants, 1941), Bob Mackert (T, Rochester Jeffersons, 1925), Frank Maher (B, Pittsburgh-Cleveland Rams, 1941), Pvt. Jim Mooney (E-G-FB, Newark-Brooklyn-Cincinnati-St. Louis-Cardinals, 1930-1937), Lt. John O’Keefe (Front office, Philadelphia), Chief Spec. Gus Sonnenberg (B, Buffalo-Columbus-Detroit-Providence, 1923-1928, 1930), Lt. Len Supulski (E, Philadelphia, 1942), Lt. Don Wemple (E, Brooklyn, 1941), Lt. Chet Wetterlund (HB, Cardinals-Detroit, 1942), Capt. Waddy Young (E, Brooklyn, 1939-1940).  Courtesy: NFL Pro Football Hall of Fame

We remember you.  We thank you.  We salute you.  Today and every day.