Saturday, January 31, 2015

Super Bowl XLIX Inside Look on BlogTalkRadio

On Friday I had the esteemed pleasure to interview fellow baseball broadcasting colleague, Dan Arndt, who is an Events Production Supervisor for the NFL about what it is like to work behind the scenes at the Super Bowl.

Dan gave great insight into all the hard work that the men and women behind the scenes do to put the worlds biggest game on the air.

Listen to an excepert here:

You can catch the full length episode right here:

Friday, January 30, 2015

Goodell says Deflategate Investigation Moving Forward

In his annual State of the League address, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell emphasized that the investigation into Deflategate is moving forward until the truth is found by investigator Ted Wells.

"We take it very seriously about anything that affects the integrity of the game," the embattled Commissioner said.

The Patriots, who play in the Super Bowl on Sunday, are believed to be in the know about 11 footballs that were less than the required 12.5 lbs of PSI. Those 11 balls were detected by the Colts and the officials in the first half, and New England was told to inflate them at the half. However, in recent days Vice President of Officiating Dean Blandino tried to put cold water on the situation, saying that the officials didn't log the weight of the balls before, during or after the AFC Championship. It has not been explained why 13 other Patriots footballs were at full inflated capacity, and why the Colts footballs were perfect.

It's been a wild week where the integrity of the sport has been questioned. The Patriots have been trying to stonewall the issue, with Belichick and Brady both acting like they didn't know anything, to Belichick acting like an astrophysicist last Saturday. The controversy hit it's tipping point when Patriots owner Robert Kraft ripped the NFL, saying the league should apologize for the investigation.

When asked about Kraft's remarks, Goodell had some strong words for the Patriots sly owner. "This is my job to protect the integrity of the game. I represent 32 teams. If we have information that is in violation, I have to pursue that, and we will pursue that vigorously," Goodell said.

Later in the press conference Goodell was pressed if he would hold Bill Belichick and the Patriots to the same standards he held Sean Payton and the Saints for Bountygate in 2012. However he tried to avoid the question citing that he had two years worth of information on the Saints, which was enough evidence for him to suspend Payton.

"These are individual cases. We don't know enough in this case to make a judgement. When we get more information from the Wells investigation, we will make the right decision for the integrity of the league," added Goodell, who emphasized that it is important for teams to follow the rules.

 "We are a league of rules. Every fan expects us to follow those rules. If there are rules about how the game is supposed to be played, we will enforce those rules. Whether a competitive advantage was gained is secondary in my mind."

When pressed about favoritism to Kraft, an allegation that Seahawks corner Richard Sherman made earlier in the week, Goodell said: "I was at the Kraft's residence with season ticket holders as part of an AFC Championship party. It's what we do. We were with our partners at CBS, taking questions. it's not unusual that I work closely with ownership. Robert Kraft works on several board committees. I think very highly of him on a personal level." 

When pressured if he was embarrassed by the controversies that have hurt the NFL this year, Goodell only said it was a year of "humility and learning."

Thursday, January 22, 2015

NFL Needs to Suspend Bill Belichick from Super Bowl

Roger Goodell needs to be as mad as hell, and he shouldn't take it anymore.

In a year where he has watched the credibility of his sport get dragged through the dirt, the latest scandal to hit the National Football League needs to be taken care of, not only with the utmost care, but with a hard and quick resolution.

The New England Patriots are being investigated for deflating footballs during the AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts. Both teams are responsible for their own footballs, which by league rule are inspected by NFL officials two hours and 15 minutes before the game kicks off. Anyone who doctors the ball afterwards will be heavily fined. Apparently the Patriots didn't get that memo, or, they just didn't care.

Several reports have the Patriots deflating as many as 11 of the 12 balls in their possession, two PSI below the standard weight of an NFL football. Walt Anderson, who was the head referee for the football game, said that every football checked out before the game started, which clears the officials of any wrong doing, and makes one wonder what the Patriots did to those balls after Anderson inspected them. ESPN later reported that the deflated balls were detected at halftime, inflated again, and put back in the bag for the second half. There was no update on whether those same footballs were found deflated again after the game.

On top of that the Colts and Ravens are now crying foul that the Patriots may have deflated footballs in previous match-ups, one against Indianapolis in week 11, and, again in the divisional playoffs against Baltimore.

Did the altered footballs effect the play of the game? Did it push the Patriots to a dominant victory over Indianapolis? Chances are, not likely. The Colts were horrible on Sunday against New England. They were outplayed in every facet of the game, and the Indy offense had no answer for the Patriots defense. Those saying the Patriots could have won the game with beach balls are correct; the Colts did nothing to stop New England.

That being said, just because the score was 45-7 does not exonerate the Patriots. Cheating is cheating no matter how one slices it. In the mind of the Patriots they were trying to gain a competitive advantage, and they got caught.

Roger Goodell (L) and Robert Kraft used to be all smiles.
The reason this story has so many people upset has nothing to do with fan base loyalty, or whether people like the Patriots or not. This is a national story because the Patriots are no strangers to cheating. Talk about hubris.

Spy-gate happened because the Patriots were caught red handed video tapping signals coming from the sidelines of the NY Jets in 2007. Soon thereafter other teams started reporting that they suspected something was fishy when they had played the Patriots in previous seasons. As result, the Patriots only got a slap on the wrist with a hefty fine, and lost draft picks. That was it. 

Now there is this.

Considering the Patriots past, should there be any surprise that New England would stoop this low in order to gain, what is in their mind only, a competitive advantage? The Patriots were the better team than the Colts, they didn't need to alter a football in order to win a game. Yet the paranoia of Bill Belichick proved once again that this so-called genius is his own worst enemy.

This has to leave the NFL angry. It should leave Roger Goodell beyond upset. The Patriots disgraced the Shield with their arrogance. They have turned Super Bowl week into a complete joke, and have dragged the NFL into an impossible situation where earning the trust of a national fanbase will take a monumental effort by the league.

If the Patriots win the Super Bowl, and all they get is the same punishment a la Spy-gate, Goodell will never hear the end of it. Just the image of the Commissioner handing Belichick and owner Robert Kraft the Lombardi Trophy in 10 days is flat out embarrassing. It will make the NFL look like enablers in the Patriots scam.

Maybe it's time for Josh McDaniels
Even if the Patriots lose the Super Bowl, there will be those who will claim the NFL did something fishy to make sure Seattle won in order to save face. The NFL cannot win in this situation, unless they do one very simple thing: suspend Bill Belichick.

If Sean Payton can get suspended for a full calendar year for his involvement in Bounty Gate in 2012, surely Bill Belichick can get suspended for whatever involvement he has in Deflate-gate. Goodell shouldn't even wait, he should drop the ax on Belichick right now, and suspend him from the Super Bowl.  The last thing the NFL needs is Belichick avoiding every question he gets about Deflate-gate with his typical droll persona during Media Day next Tuesday. The more the Patriots make fun of the allegations and the more they avoid it, the worse it will get for the NFL.

The NFL should force Robert Kraft's hand, and let offensive coordinator, Josh McDaniels coach the Patriots in the Super Bowl, and if the suspension of Belichick lasts into next season, let McDaniels run the team through that time as well. That would almost certainly end Belichick's run in New England.

Getting Belichick off the team immediately in light of this developing story is the only answer if the NFL wants to separate itself from the Patriots' scandals. There is nobody to blame for this except the Patriots themselves; now they need to pay for it.  

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Jets' Maccagnan and Bowles Introduced before NY media

If you base winning the press conference by how much humor and boastful proclamations the coach throws at the media, than Todd Bowles and Mike Maccagnan have a lot of work to do.

Bowles and Maccagnan are the anti-Rex Ryan. The days of circus press conferences are over, and the focus is now on football only. 

In place of trending quotes, we got an introductory press conference were we heard a who lot of nothing as Bowles and Maccagnan were introduced before the NY media for the first time on Wednesday. Neither guy showed their hand, playing it close to the vest like a couple of poker players.

Maccagnan he did a solid job, he came across with a much firmer grasp of the media than his predecessor, Idzik did in two years on the job. He didn't offer much insight as to how he will handle things as General Manager of the team, reading mostly from a prepared script and answering each question with the much expected and practiced declarations. When asked about Geno Smith, he dodged the question, saying that the Jets will "work with" the quarterback, but the entire roster "needs to be vetted" as part of the "process."

As for Bowels he came off as very dry. This is a man who is football first, and football only. The platitudes of guarantees will not come out of the mouth of Bowles, and you get the sense that even if the media tries to pry out a personality out of him, it won't happen. 

When asked about the quarterback, Bowles called Geno Smith a good college quarterback, and wouldn't expound any further than that. When asked if he would "kiss Bill Belichick's rings," Bowles offered a different answer, saying he was more concerned with "getting my own rings." When asked about what kind of team he wanted to build, Bowles said, "We're going to be a tough team. We're going to be an intelligent team, we're gonna try to build a championship team."

What a difference. Rex Ryan would never use the word 'try' in his vocabulary. For those tired of Rex Ryan, this was a dream come true. For those who miss those days, listening to Bowles sounded like listening to Bill Belichick Jr.

Bowles is not a flashy guy, he seems comfortable in his own skin. I do wonder what kind of person he will be behind closed doors. He didn't come off as a fiery personality in the press conference. He will need to take that passion to another level with the players. Something only he and the Jets will find out.

Overall, I would say it was an understated debut for the new Jets hierarchy. Now they have to win in order to make that quiet demeanor work over the long term.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Super Bowl XLIX Patriots vs. Seahawks, an early preview

After the Seahawks completed a stunning come-from-behind victory over the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship game, the Patriots demolished the Indianapolis Colts 45-7 in the AFC Championship.

The AFC contest wasn't even close as the Pats built a 14-0 lead in the first quarter and never looked back. Tom Brady was terrific once again on the big stage, throwing for 226 yards and three touchdowns, including one to offensive lineman Nate Solder, who lined up at tight end. The Patriots held the football for nearly 38 minutes, and amassed 397 yards of offense as compared the Colts inferior 209 yards of offense.

In fact the game was so one sided, it was easy to forget that Andrew Luck was even playing in this game for the Colts. Luck's contributions mattered little, with a 12 of 33 night for 126 yards and two picks. It didn't help that his teammates didn't even get off the bus on Sunday night.

Now it sets up what should be a pretty fascinating Super Bowl. These are two franchises that have history in their sights, so let's take an early look at what's at stake in Super Bowl XLIX.

  • The Seahawks are looking to be the first team to repeat as Super Bowl Champions since the Patriots did it themselves in 2003 and 2004. 
  • Seattle is looking to be the first NFC team to repeat as Super Bowl champs since the 1992-1993 Dallas Cowboys. That's a long, long time ago. 
  • Russell Wilson is trying to win his second Super Bowl at age 26. Tom Brady won his second Super Bowl at age 26; Troy Aikman won two Super Bowls by age 27; Joe Montana by age 28, and Terry Bradshaw had his second title by age 27.  Therefore, Wilson will be one of the fastest.
  • A second Super Bowl title for Pete Carroll would put him among some big names like Belichick, Bill Parcells, Tom Flores, Jimmy Johnson, etc. who have won at least two Super Bowl titles. 
  • The Seahawks have played in four conference title games, 3-0 in the NFC, 0-1 in the AFC. 
  • This is Seattle's third trip to the Big Game in nine years.
  • The Seahawks are looking to establish themselves as the dynasty of the 2010s, and will try to do so against the team that dominated the previous decade (the 2000s) in the Patriots. 
  • The Patriots are trying to to be more than just a team of the 2000's, they want to be an All Time Franchise with their fourth Super Bowl triumph under this administration. 
  • The Patriots seek their first Super Bowl title in 10 years.     
  • The Patriots are in their sixth Super Bowl in 14 years, and third appearance since 2008. 
  • Bill Belicheck is in his sixth Super Bowl as a head coach, tied with Don Shula who went to six (5 with Miami, 1 with the Colts) Super Bowls. 
  • Tom Brady is looking for his fourth ring, which would tie him with Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana among starting quarterbacks to win the Big Game.
  • Brady/Belichick as a tandem are looking for their fourth title which would also tie them with said combos of Noll/Bradshaw and Walsh/Montana. They are currently tied with Landry/Staubach with three. Not bad at all. 
  •  This is the Patriots eighth trip to the Super Bowl all time, tying them with Dallas and Pittsburgh for the most appearances by one team.
  • New England is 3-4 all time in the Super Bowl; Seattle is 1-1 all time in the Super Bowl.
  • New England returns to Glendale, Arizona, the same site where their bid at 19-0 was destroyed by the New York Giants in 2008.
  •  Russell Wilson's first game as a starter was in Arizona against the Cardinals in 2012. 
  • New York Jets connection: Both Bill Belichick and Pete Carroll were defensive coordinators for the Jets, and ironically, head coaches for a short period. Belichick was HC of the NYJ for one day before stepping down; Carroll was HC of the NYJ for one season (1994). 
  • Carroll succeed Belichick's coaching colleague, Bill Parcells, in New England in 1997. 
  • After the 1999 season, and after Belichick spurned the Jets, he replaced Carroll in New England as head coach. 
  • The Patriots and Seahawks are no strangers. They faced each other in October of 2012, with Seattle winning 24-23. That game is remembered for Richard Sherman taunting Brady. 
  • This will be the 17th meeting between the Pats and Hawks. The series is tied at 8-8.
Should be a fun two weeks of discussion and debate until kick-off at 6:22 p.m. ET in Glendale. 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Onside kick sparks Seattle comeback in NFC Championship


The Green Bay Packers were up 19-7 and had just intercepted Russell Wilson for the fourth time in the game. With 5:04 the game was all but over, the Packers were heading to the Super Bowl with an improbable upset. Oh, how cruel the sport of football can be.

The Packers did nothing with the interception, going three and out and punting it back to the Seahawks, and giving them the hope they were searching for. That was the theme of the day for Green Bay. They had numerous opportunities to finish off the Seahawks, but never did.

The Packers could have put the dagger in the Seahawks in the first quarter, but never did. Their first three possessions were in Seattle territory, two of them because of Seahawks turnovers, and all the Packers could muster were two field goals to take a 6-0 lead.

Later on with the Packers up 16-0, Green Bay had another chance to shut the door on the Seahawks, but never did. After Wilson's third interception, Aaron Rodgers returned the favor with his second interception of the day, killing a great opportunity for Green Bay to expand that lead even further before the half.

If you have noticed, I haven't even mentioned the name Brandon Bostick. There is a reason for that. While the Green Bay Packers made plenty of mistakes in this game as a team, it will sadly be Bostick who will forever be remembered for Green Bay's heartbreaking 28-22 loss to the Seahawks in the NFC title game.

Nobody will talk about those blown red zone opportunities. No one will talk about how the Packers defense suddenly became a sieve down the stretch, allowing Wilson and Marshawn Lynch to do as they pleased.

Instead all anyone will talk about is the onside kick.

The Seahawks had just scored a touchdown on a Russell Wilson scramble to get back into the game at 19-14. It was easy to think no harm, no foul, with 2:09 the Packers would recover the onside kick and all will be swell in the land of cheese. Wrong.

The kick by Stephen Hauschka popped up into the air, and it was Bostick, the back-up tight end, who lept into the air to make a play on it. He tried to catch the football, but the ball bounced in and out of his hands, and it fell into the mittens of Chris Matthews. Packers special teams coach Shawn Slocum had a few words of frustration for Bostick and the tight end went sulking to the sideline. You can't blame Bostick for trying, he wanted to win that game as much as anyone, and was just trying to make a play to help his team.

The Seahawks were recharged, all of a sudden Russell Wilson rediscovered the magic. He sprinted down the sideline for 15 yards to the Packers 35 yard line. The 12th Man was going totally insane at this point. Two plays later, Marshawn Lynch, and his golden feet, went trampling on the Green Bay Packers defense for a 24-yard sprint to the end zone. Like a flash of lightening it was 20-19, Seahawks. Seattle then converted the two-point conversion on a ridiculous play in which Wilson hit Luke Wilson while back-peddling away from a sack. It was Seattle's night after all, 22-19.

The Packers did manage to the tie the game when Rodgers moved the Packers into field goal range in the waning seconds, but the flow of this game was totally broken. Green Bay's mojo was gone and everyone knew it.  In a lot of ways it was easy to root for Green Bay to find a way to defy the odds at this point just to take poor Brandon Bastick off the hook. They couldn't do that either.

In overtime, it didn't take Wilson long. After an afternoon where he couldn't hit the side of a barn, Russell Wilson found something a little extra in that right arm of his. He connected with Doug Baldwin for 35 yards to move into Packers' territory. Then he won the game in walk-off fashion with the home run ball into the end zone to Jermaine Kearse to win in 28-22.

For Wilson, the tears of joy that poured from his soul after the game was a testament to his dedication to the Seahawks. He has never found himself in a situation where the game was on his shoulders like it was on Sunday, and on his worst day, he still found a way to pull a rabbit out of his hat. Kudos to him.

Meanwhile the tears of sorrow and "what could have been" are all Green Bay's to own. They had the game won at 19-7. They even had the game won at 19-14. While it is easy to pin all of the blame on Bostick for the loss, he doesn't deserve it. Already social media has been comparing him to Bill Buckner or Steve Bartman. Both Buckner and Bartman endured incredible abuse, most of which was undeserved from Boston and Chicago fans. Buckner wasn't forgiven until the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004, and even then it was hard for him to forgive the fans. Bartman, a fan himself has been in seculusion ever since the foul ball at Wrigley Field.

For Bostick's sake, and for the sake of humanity, let's hope that Green Bay fans are a little bit smarter than Cubs and Red Sox fans, and do not make Bostick the scapegoat of the championship that got away.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Jets FINALLY cut ties with Terry Bradway

Score one for Jets General Manger Mike Maccagnan!

The freshly minted New York Jets executive showed more gusto then his predecessors ever did when word came down Friday afternoon that the Jets have fired Director of Player Personnel Terry Bradway, at long last.

Bradway, who had various titles in recent years including director of player personnel and college scouting, was an albatross for 13 years. In fact, he redefined the term survivor, because year-in and year-out he found a way to stay on Woody Johnson's good side no matter what. Starting when he was the general manager of the team back in 2001 and through his 13-year stay, the Jets have been steeped in mistakes and disasters coming out of both free agency and the draft under his watch -- yet through it all he never paid the price.  Until now.

Dwayne Robertson? Total disaster. A first round pick at defensive tackle that flamed out quicker than a candle when Bradway was the GM.

Justin Miller? Forgetable.

Mike Nugent? A total waste of a first round pick. Who picks a kicker in the first round? Bradway did.

Vernon Gholston? The definition of lazy.  An Ohio State product who didn't care about football, period.

Mark Sanchez? Along with Rex Ryan and Mike Tannenbaum, it was Bradway and his group that scouted him.

Geno Smtih? Another quarterback bust.

Dee Milliner? Approaching Justin Miller status.

Stephen Hill? A second round bust at wide receiver.

Those are just a few of the many busts to come the Jets way over the past 13 years. 

The only picks that emanated out of the personnel department that actually worked, were Darrelle Revis (now with the Patriots), and Nick Mangold and David Harris. Sure, Bradway wasn't the general manager when all these players were drafted, but he was in the personnel department and scouted them all. He has shouldered a lot of blame in the eyes of the fan base, and it was deserved.

Bradway's stay with the Jets hit a point of pure silliness a long time ago. He out Isiah Thomas'd Isiah Thomas for his ability to keep his job despite a poor track record.  There was no reason for the Jets to keep this guy for this long, but Johnson always had a strong admiration for him. Either that or Bradway was really good at convincing Johnson, Tannenbaum and John Idzik, that he had everything in personnel under control.

Leaving with Bradway will be Jeff Bauer, who was in charge of the college scouting under Bradway.

With Bradway and Bauer out of the picture, Maccagnan can now focus on bringing in his people to get this franchise moving in the right direction. Rumors are he will tap former Jaguars GM Gene Smith to be his assistant GM. Look for Maccagnan to revamp the entire scouting staff as the Jets prepare for the combine and Senior Bowl. 

Score one for Maccagnan! Only four days into his new job he is already changing the culture for the Jets, and doing so all for the good.

Giants reunited With Spangnuolo

After a six year absence Giants' fans finally get their wish, Steve Spangnuolo has returned to Big Blue as defensive coordinator.

Popular amongst former players and the fans for the way he guided the Giants defense to one of the top units in the NFL in 2007 and 2008, which included a thrilling Super Bowl victory, bringing back Spagnuolo was a no-brainer.

Sure the Giants did their due-diligence by interviewing several candidates including Raheem Morris, Pepper Johnson and Dennis Allen for the post, but the writing has been on the wall for a very long time. The Giants wanted to get "their guy" back in the fold. In what could be Tom Coughlin's final year as Giants coach, having a trusted hand by his side is huge.

Under Spagnuolo the Giants were a top 10 defense, ranked 7th in the NFL in total D in 2007, and 5th in total D in 2008. The Giants haven't sniffed the top ten since he left.

Heck, they haven't even been in the top 15!

Maybe it's ironic in a way, while the Giants defense got progressively worse since his departure, Spagnuolo hasn't enjoyed a lot of success himself either.

He went 10-38 in three seasons as the head coach of the St. Louis Rams. Granted a lot of it wasn't his fault, since the Rams were and still are a mess, especially at the quarterback position. Then in 2012, he managed the New Orleans Saints defense to the worst ranking in the league, 32nd, after allowing 440 yards per game, and 28.4 points per game. He has spent the last two years as a defensive assistant in Baltimore, focusing mostly on the secondary.

So, while both parties are familiar with one another, the Giants had to make sure that Spagnuolo learned for those missteps in St. Louis and New Orleans, especially, and are hopeful he can get the Giants defense on the right track.

To be honest, the bar has been set so low by ex-defensive coordinator Perry Fewell that even a small improvement would be huge. The Giants were 29th in the NFL in total defense, and gave up 25 points per game this season. While injuries contributed heavily to their failures, Fewell just didn't have the answers. Perhaps the turning point in Fewell's tenure was the Seattle game, in which Marshawn Lynch carved up the Giants on the ground, and Fewell was seen standing on the sideline with a smiling and confused look on his face.

This is the right move for the Giants, and the right move for Spags. He has a chance to rebuild not only this defense, but his own credentials. I won't go as far as to say he automatically becomes a candidate to succeed Coughlin, but if he is able to get the most out of this unit and the Giants make the playoffs because of it, he'll get strong consideration.

Congrats Giants' fans your prayers have been answered. Now let's see if it was worth it. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Rex Ryan Introduced as Bills Coach

Here ya go Jets fans! Rex Ryan has officially become the Head Coach of the Buffalo Bills.

Ryan didn't make any guarantees, but he was still his boastful self.

Rex Ryan: "I'm not going to let our fans down. It's been 15 years since we made the playoffs ... We're going."

Rex Ryan on the AFC East: "We're not afraid of anybody"

Rex on facing the Jets: "I'll be honest. It's still the Patriots that I want the most."

Rex Ryan says he has a chip on his shoulder after being fired: "First time I've been fired....It's personal. It's embarrassing."

We can't wait either Rex. Jets vs. Bills will never be the same -- at least in the near future.

Jets Hire Maccagnan as GM, Rush to Hire Todd Bowles as Head Coach

Woody Johnson better hope his new hires for head coach and general manager work out, otherwise the next banner that he will see flying over the Jets training center might read, "sell the team."

The Jets made their decision on Tuesday. The much talk about search for the next HC and GM of the NYJ is now over, and in a lot of ways, feels like a rushed marriage on the part of Woody Johnson, and a move totally orchestrated by consultant Charley Casserly.

First, New York made it official by finalizing a deal with the worst kept secret in the NFL, when they agreed to make Mike Maccagnan their new General Manager. Maccagnan has spent the past week in New Jersey, and it was only a matter of time before he got the job. Maccagnan is a football guy, steeped in personnel, a huge contrast from John Idzik with was more of a salary cap guru. That has to make Jets fans at least crack a smile, since they desperately needed a football guy running the show.

Maccagnan will have his work cut out for him. Not only is he working with a team that has a lot of cap room, he's working with a team is bereft of talent on both sides of the football. If Maccagnan cut his teeth in college scouting, he will need to put those skills to good use in New York quickly. Keep in mind in the three years he's been director of college scouting in Houston, the Texans didn't draft an impact player after the second round.

 It will be fascinating to see if Maccagnan's hire will spell the end of current Director of College Scouting, Terry Bradway. Bradway has seen more lives than a cat in his stay with the Jets, and has been a big reason why the franchise's player personnel has been so poor. If Maccagnan has full autonomy of the organization, as a General Manager should, this will have to be his first order of business.

Now, onto the head coach. Once the Jets hired Maccagnan they decided to quickly hire Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles instead of waiting for Dan Quinn. Quinn, the defensive coordinator of the Seahawks, is coaching in the playoffs. If the Jets wanted Quinn badly they would have to wait until likely after the Super Bowl to hire him. 

A lot had been made that Quinn wanted the Jets and vice versa. It was even reported that Woody Johnson was planning to fly out to Seattle to hire Quinn, if the Hawks had lost to Carolina last week.

Then all of sudden things changed. In part because Quinn was still coaching in the postseason, in part because Todd Bowles was to interview in Atlanta after his discussion with the Jets, and I think in big part to Rex Ryan being in Buffalo. Suddenly Bowles became the be-all-to-end-all. 

Bowles, the Jets apparent "second choice", was getting all kinds of praise from the likes of Casserly, Ron Wolf (another Jets consultant in this search), and from a distance Bill Parcells, who was pushing Atlanta to hire him. We all know how good Parcells is in predicting the success of future head coaches (see Tony Sparano, Eric Mangini, Al Groh). That was apparently enough for Johnson to make him the guy and force yet another coach-GM combination.

Bowles background is impressive. He started his career in pro personnel before moving on to coaching. He's served a defensive coordinator in both Philadelphia under Andy Reid, and Arizona under Bruce Arians. His Cardinals were 5th in the league in points allowed this season. His defense also lead the league in blitzes sent, but was ranked 24th in the league in sacks with 35. The Cardinals were also ranked 24th in total defense. 

Here's the cold reality, when Dan Quinn does get a head coaching job, his work will forever be linked to Todd Bowles. If Quinn succeeds elsewhere and Bowles falters in New York, many will wonder if New York should have waited. If the opposite happens, and Bowles wins big, Woody Johnson will look like a genius.

 What troubles me about this hire is the report by Rich Cimini that says the lines between the head coach and GM will be blurred with the Jets. "The Jets have changed their power structure. He and Bowles will report directly to Johnson, who envisions the GM and coach as equal partners. Previously, the coach reported to the GM," (Cimini, ESPN NY). This is so Jets, and so Woody Johnson.

Maccagnan didn't hire Bowles, he just sat in the room while Johnson and Casserly made the hire. That might speak volumes as to what kind of power Maccagnan will have. If Maccagnan is going to have the powers of GM, he should have power over the head coach in most football matters. The only time they are joined at the hip is when the coach is the GM's pick and their decisions are made in consent. Forcing another GM-Coach combination is making the same mistake all over again. 

Not to mention Charley Casserly's fingerprints are all over this "arranged marriage" of Bowles and Maccagnan, which goes above and beyond the role of a consultant. Casserly worked with Maccagnan while in Houston, and he had Bowles as a player while in Washington. Casserly knew both guys very well, and I am sure he strongly pushed for Johnson to hire both of them.  

At the end of the day, both Bowles and Maccagnan deserve the opportunity to prove they can turn around a bad situation in New York. This will not be easy, there were so many issues left over by the Ryan-Idzik administration that it will likely take more than a year for this group to get this franchise moving in the right direction. 

We will see how it plays out. Stay tuned for an article breaking down the Jets needs for 2015.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Open Mike Radio: NFL Divisional Playoffs and Coaching Carousel

Check out the latest radio podcast of Open Mike, heard live Monday's, Wednesday's and Friday's on blogtalkradio. In this edition, I welcome in my Jackals co-host, Nick Delahanty onto the show and we discuss the fallout from a crazy divisional round of the NFL playoffs.

We open up talking about Peyton Manning's future, and the John Fox situation before moving onto the "catch that wasn't" between the Cowboys and Packers.


Monday, January 12, 2015

The End of Peyton Manning? Cowboys Controversy Scars NFL

Peyton Manning's legacy in the National Football League has been etched for some time. Playoff losses and a 1-2 record in the Super Bowl aside, Manning will go down as one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game, if not the greatest.

He put up prolific numbers every single year of his career, obliterated the touchdown record (530), and captured three conference championships with two different franchises, and set the stage for the NFL as we know it today where quarterbacks rule Sunday every week.

He did it all with class, it was never about him and his down-to-earth personality, and vibrant sense of humor made him a favorite among NFL fans, even if they were not Colts or Broncos fans.

So it hard to sit there and watch what could be (hopefully unlikey) Manning's last game as an NFL quarterback. Over the course of the season we have seen Manning suffer the toll of 17 NFL seasons; the hits are becoming a bit much. He suffered an apparent tear in his right calf during a game against the Chargers, a game in which he was also battling the flu, and was never the same. He averaged only 257 yards passing a game, and threw six interceptions to three touchdown down the stretch, very un-Manning-like.

Of all the playoff loses that Manning has suffered in his career, this might have been the worst of them considering the circumstances in which it happened, and to whom it was against.

We've seen Manning have bad games in the postseason before, but that was because teams figured out that Manning had to be blitzed constantly and forced out of the pocket; and every time he lost those games it was easy to think, 'well maybe next year.' This is the first time in Manning's career that we are left wondering if this is the end? 

Not that the Colts didn't have a good game-plan against Manning, but watching him look every bit the part of a 38-years old quarterback as he struggled to push the ball down field, was inaccurate and lacked any arm strength in his right arm was disturbing.

It was painful to watch even more so since it came against the same franchise he put back on the NFL map, the Indianapolis Colts. All the wins, the losses, the good times, and the bad times Manning had with the Colts seemed to revisit him as if his life went before his eyes. When the dust settled, Andrew Luck was left standing as his true heir apparent. The torch that everyone was waiting to be passed from one great Colts quarterback to the next happened on Sunday, culminating in a handshake as the teams walked off the field.

When asked if he would be back in 2015, Manning didn't sound optimistic.

"Uh, yeah, I guess I just can't give that simple answer. I'm processing it. I can't say that. I could not say that.''

There is a lot of uncertainty in Denver. The Broncos window may have closed on them on Sunday. They have a number of free agents, including Demarius Thomas and Julius Thomas. Plus the coaching staff may get pouched for head coaching jobs in the league. There was even a rumor that John Fox was going to get fired, which the Broncos quickly and vehemently denied.  Fox will be back in Denver, but if 2015 were a transition year, why would he even want to stick around and get fired in January of 2016?

If it is the end of the Manning era, we have nothing to say but thank you for all the memories. He was one of the best to ever play -- maybe even the smartest to ever play. Perhaps we see him one day on the sidelines again as a coach, or maybe on TV as a late show host, or NFL analyst. One thing is for sure, we will see Manning in Canton, Ohio in the Hall of Fame in the near future.

Now to some controversy!

Well Dallas fans you know what they say about karma? Can't say I feel bad for the Dallas Cowboys, they were on borrowed time to begin with since they were given a gift by the officials in the fourth quarter of their wild card game against Detroit. That being said they got robbed and should have had a real opportunity to beat the Packers on Sunday.

Dez Bryant made a spectacular leaping catch on fourth and two to spot the ball at the Packers 1-yard line, but after instant replay the call was reversed, citing that Bryant didn't have possession of the ball all the way down. How? How could the NFL get it wrong again for the second straight week?

To be fair the officials are not to blame for this, they interpreted a badly written rule correctly. Known also as the "Calvin Johnson rule," when a receiver makes a catch they have to complete the process of the catch without the ball hitting the ground. If you remember the infamous Johnson play, he caught a touchdown, put the ball down as if to give it the referee and they called in an incompletion. Go figure.

What is to blame is the system and the rulebook. This is a horrific rule that should be thrown out. Bryant made the catch. If you watch the replay one can see that he has possession and makes three steps before falling down at the one. It is the moment his body hits the ground that the ball pops out. It looked like a catch, it should have been a catch. But it wasn't.

How is it that the ground can't force a fumble, but can force an incompletion on a play like this? Many have cited that this rule has been called consistently since 2010, but I haven't seen anyone point out any other play other than the Johnson play that illustrates this. I have seen many plays in which receivers made catches, fall and drop the ball afterwards, and nobody calls it incomplete. That's a fact.

Sure Bryant was holding the ball like a loaf of bread, something he does way too often, but he had his hand underneath the ball when he fell to the ground. The force jarred the ball out. If he had been bobbling the ball all the way through, or if it were obvious that the ball was slipping out of his hands while he was starting to trip, then I could understand it being called incomplete.

I don't want to hear from so-called butt-on-the-couch experts who try to say otherwise. I heard what Bryant said when asked about the play. He was involved in it, he made the catch and would clearly remember what happened better than you and I. I will side with Bryant on this one.

Roger Goodell better hope such calls do not happen in the next three ball games, because if Super Bowl XLIX is determined by a ridiculous item in a rulebook, then the NFL can kiss it's status as the number 1 national sport good bye.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Rex Ryan becomes Buffalo Bills Head Coach

Rex Ryan won't have to kiss Bill Belichick's rings in his next coaching stop either. Because the bombastic head coach is taking his mouth and his defense to western New York as head coach of the Buffalo Bills.

Talk about a punch to the gut of the Jets. Ryan will not leave the AFC East after the Jets fired him two weeks ago following a horrific 4-12 season, instead opting to sign with their division rivals. If the Jets-Bills rivalry has come across as stale over the years, those days are over. With Ryan in Buffalo, the hate between the two teams is going to ignite big time.

It's a stunning move on Ryan's part. He could have chosen to wait for the Falcons to make up their minds and go there. The Falcons have a much better football team as compared to Buffalo, since the Falcons have an established offense with a franchise quarterback in Matt Ryan. One could argue that if Ryan were to rebuild Atlanta's defense, he would have a shot at the Super Bowl. In Buffalo it's another story. Buffalo does not have a quarterback, very similar to the Jets situation, and the offense is not that great overall. 

The biggest knock on Ryan has been his inability to develop a quarterback. He failed twice with Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith, and Buffalo's lone incumbent, E.J. Manuel reminds a lot of people of Smith. This is an odd pairing. Ryan is not a great head coach, and the Bills are not a well run ship of an organization.

Ryan did have second interviews with both the Falcons and Bills, but word on the street said that Atlanta was "dragging their feet," and planned to interview Todd Bowles on Sunday. Perhaps that irked Ryan who decided to head to Buffalo instead. the Bills are going to pay him well; five years, $27.5 million over the course of the deal.

The question now will be how will Ryan purge the Jets remaining coaching staff and roster?  It is believed that Ryan would like to bring in Jets defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman into Buffalo in the same capacity, yet, the Bills want their current D.C. Jim Schwartz to remain in the organization. The drama is starting already.

Plus there are a number of Jets free agents including David Harris and Willie Colon who probably would like to reunite with Ryan up in Buffalo.

This is going to be fun. This is nothing unique for this division. Bill Parcells left the Patriots for the Jets in 1997. Then, Bill Belichick returned the favor leaving Gang Green for New England, creating one of the NFL's most intense rivalries. One can argue that the AFC East is now the Jets Division. With Belichick still in Foxboro, Mike Tannenbaum now running the show in Miami and Ryan in Buffalo, there are ex-Jets all over the place!

In response to Ryan's signing, the Jets are close to inking Mike Maccagnan to a deal to become the team's next General Manger. Mccagnan has spent the past three days in New Jersey working out a deal, and rumor had it that he was to fly to Seattle to bring back defensive coordinator Dan Quinn if the Seahawks had lost to Carolina. Of course Seattle won, and the Jets will have to wait at least another week before getting Quinn aboard.

The Jets are smitten with Quinn and they are the favorites to land him as their 18th head coach in franchise history.

It's getting interesting. Won't be surprised at all if the Jets and Bills are scheduled to do battle within the first two weeks of the season next year.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Dan Quinn to Jets rumors running wild

Here we go with another one from the rumor mill. Likely brought to you by the "boy who cried wolf," there are more rumors that the Jets may have settled on a head coach (yes, even without a general manager in place). The latest rumor is that the Jets are leaning toward hiring Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn as its head coach.

While this rumor will certainly bring smiles to the faces of Jets fans, as compared to the Doug Marrone rumors, the fact is nothing has been finalized.

Quinn cannot commit to a coaching job until the Seahawks season is over. If the Jets even tried to work on a deal now they would be in danger of tampering.

What is known is that Quinn would like to bring in offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan with him when he does accept a head coaching job in the NFL, and a lot of people think the Jets are very much in the mix.

Shanahan was released from his Cleveland Browns contract on Thursday, and was to interview for the Bills head coaching job. There has also been speculation that Shanahan could reunite with his father, Mike, if he were to get a job.

Another factor in this will be the general manager. The Jets are expected to interview Mike Maccagnan, who has strong ties to ex-Bills coach Doug Marrone, for a second time. Would Maccagnan be willing to work with Quinn?

If the Jets do indeed land Quinn and Shanahan it would be an incredible move (at least on paper). Quinn has been in charge of one of the best defenses in the NFL over the last two seasons. The Seahawks are ranked first in the NFL in total defense, and have given up the fewest points in each of the past two years. Quinn's success goes beyond Seattle. When he was at Florida University, the Gators had a top 10 defense in the nation for two straight seasons.

Plus, Quinn is a Jersey guy having grown up in Morristown, N.J., which is just a few miles from the Jets training facility in Florham Park. 

As for Shanahan, he is very young football mind. Only 35-years old, he's already been a coordinator for five years. He oversaw the slight resurgence of Brian Hoyer's career, and even got something out of RGIII in his first season with Washington. That being said, Cleveland was ranked 23rd in total offense this year. Shanahan would still be an upgrade over Marty Mornhinweg.

If the Jets are certain that Quinn is their guy, and are willing to wait at least until February 2 to make the deal, then it's worth it. Quinn is easily the best candidate out there in a shallow pool of head coaching candidates.

GM candidate Mike Maccagnan gets 2nd Jets intervew

The Jets might be narrowing down their exhaustive search for a general manager to replace the infamous John Idzik.

The team has interviewed seven candidates for the position, and have now extended a second invitation to Texans director of college scouting Mike Maccagnan. Usually when a team sends out a second invitation for an interview, it means they are close to making a hire.

"A league source who is familiar with Maccagnan said he is a very thorough, competent person who will be able to work well with a head coach and others in the organization. The source said Maccagnan has a solid plan on how to build a team, something the Jets surely saw in the interview," (NYPost 01/08/2015).

While there isn't much known about Maccagnan, we do know that he has strong ties to Charley Casserly who has been consulting Woody Johnson on this search. It has been speculated by numerous news outlets that Casserly is hoping to convince Johnson to settle for a Maccagnan/Marrone ticket, but that belief might change since Marrone reportedly bombed his interview.

If the Jets do hire Maccagnan it will be very interesting to see if he does go ahead and hire Marrone, in spite of his poor showing in an interview. Apparently Maccagnan knew Marrone when he played for him at the London Monarchs of the World League back in 1991, and they are reportedly close.

This could be a dangerous situation for the Jets, because the word on the street about Marrone has been less than flattering, with former players and assistants calling him "Selfish" and "greedy." Will Maccagnan be willing to go ahead and hire and work with another head coach? That is a big question that has to be answered. The Jets just cleaned house after a bad head coach/GM forced marriage in Rex Ryan and Idzik. Another big question that will have to be answered is the status of Terry Bradway. Believe it or not he is still there. When pressed about Bradway's job security, Johnson said it would be up to the next general manager. Since Maccagnan is steeped in personnel, he may not have a use for Bradway -- a good thing if that comes to pass.

If Maccagnan doesn't work out in his second interview, the Jets could still turn to their other options, including Trent Kirchner, who is the pro personnel director for the Seahawks.

Giants Fire Fewell, Speculation Begins about Spagnuolo Return

A week ago it looked like defensive coordinator Perry Fewell was safe in his spot with the New York Giants. Just goes to show you how much can change in a week. Fewell, along with secondary coach Peter Giunta, was fired by the Giants after the club ranked 29th in total defense this year.

It has been a long time coming as the Giants defense has been lagging for far too long. The unit was ranked 31st two years ago, and as high as 8th in 2013. This season was marred by inconsistent play and injuries. Fewell's inability to work with the pieces he was dealt and adjust spelled the end of his tenure in New York.

In a year where the Giants will have to win or else, firing Fewell makes a lot of sense. Now the question will be who will replace him?  The hot name that will surface right away is Steve Spagnuolo, the former Giants defensive coordinator from 2007-08, who is currently with the Ravens as its assistant head coach and secondary coach. If the Giants want to speak to Spagnuolo, or even hire him, they will have to wait until the Ravens season is over. Currently Baltimore is in the playoffs.

If Spagnuolo does not return to Big Blue, the Giants could look to either Jim Schwartz, currently the Bills defensive coordinator. The Bills haven't given anyone permission to speak to Schwartz. Perhaps the Bills view him as a replacement for Doug Marrone as head coach. Or, they could tap long time defensive wiz Bob Sutton. Apparently Sutton and Tom Coughlin go back a long way to the days they were assistants at Syracuse. Sutton, who is currently the Chiefs defensive coordinator, is no stranger to the Big Apple, having coached with the Jets for 13 years.

Either way the Giants can not go wrong. They are going to make this a thorough search, since they must come away with a quality candidate to get this defense back to high expectations.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Piazza Denied MLB Hall Ticket in Loaded Ballot

Former Mets' catcher Mike Piazza will have to wait another year to find out if he will enter the storied halls of Cooperstown.

The Baseball Writers Association of America cast their votes for the 2015 Hall of Fame ballot, and once again Piazza was left off, although he did receive a higher percentage of votes (69 %) than last year (62%).

Last year Piazza was left off the ballot because many voters suspected that he was a steroid user, even though there was never any proof of such. Fast forward to 2015, it is safe to assume that bias still exists. Piazza never tested positive, and was never called before a grand jury the way other HOF candidates, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire and Curt Schilling were. To our knowledge, Piazza led a clean baseball existence, in addition to being the best hitting catcher in baseball, period.

He deserves a shot at the Hall of Fame. Falling 28 votes shy is both encouraging and discouraging all the same. He should get his day come 2016 -- if not, there will be even more complaining, and rightfully so.

To be fair this was a stacked ballot. Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz all were on the ballot for the first time. All three got in easily. All three are deserving of the honor. Craig Biggio, who was also left off the 2014 ballot, made it this time around with 82.7% of the vote. To be in the Hall, one must acquire 75% of the vote.

Biggio was Mr. Consistency for the Astros, playing into his 40s and amassing over 3000 hits. He deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.

As far as HOF caps go, my guess is Johnson will go in wearing a Diamondbacks hat, while Martinez will obviously wear a Red Sox cap. 

Other candidates left off the ballot include: Jeff Bagwell, who, like Piazza might be guilty by association by the fact he too played in the steroid era.  Tim Raines, who should have been in the Hall a long time ago, Schilling, Edgar Martinez and Mike Mussina. It should be no surprise that known steroid uses Bonds, Clemens and McGwire did not even come close to making the ballot. 

Marrone Blows Jets Interview, No Sure Bet to Become Coach

The Doug Marrone-to-the-Jets saga has become the story of the off-season so far in the NFL. A couple days ago it appeared that Marrone was on his way to the Jets, as CBS' Jason LaCanFora reported that Marrone was all but a sure bet to become the Jets head coach.
The Jets general manager search just happens to be littered with candidates who have ties -- and in some cases very strong ones -- to Doug Marrone, who became a free agent last week when he exercised an out clause in Buffalo. The Jets are already deep into their GM search, and they met with Marrone on Saturday, with several league sources maintaining they are likely to be the first team to name a new coach this week, (LaConFora, CBS). 

Since that time the Jets may have soured on Marrone, according to LaCanfora's Twitter account:

Friday, January 2, 2015

NFL Wild Card Weekend Predictions

The 2014-15 NFL postseason is now upon us. This weekend four games will be on tap during Wild Card weekend, a week in the NFL that is typically pretty crazy in recent years. Since 2005 six teams that won on Wild Card weekend went on to the Super Bowl, five of them have won it all. Those winners include the 2012 Ravens, 2011 Giants, 2010 Packers, 2007 Giants, and 2005 Steelers. Only the 2008 Cardinals got to the Bowl but lost.

So which team will come out of this weekend with the potential to upset the top seeds on the way to glory? While it figures to be difficult, we will find out soon enough.

Cardinals (11-5) @ Panthers (7-8-1) On paper this would figure to be a good match-up for the Cardinals. They have one of the better defenses in the NFL, and the Panthers struggled to get to seven wins this year. However, Arizona limps into this game losers of their last two, and with no quarterback. Ryan Lindley will get the start for the Cards, which is not a good sign. The Panthers have won four in a row with their defense playing much better, and Jonathan Stewart finally healthy and running the rock extremely well. Prediction: Panthers 24, Cardinals 13.

Ravens (10-6) @ Steelers (11-5) This game is all about LeVeon Bell and the latest on the running back's health is not very good. Bell will indeed miss Saturday's game against the Ravens after suffering a hyperextended right knee last week against the Bengals. Bell was the ground game for the Pittsburgh all year, rushing for 1361 yards. He was also second on the team in receiving yards with 854. To say he will be missed in an understatement. Pittsburgh does have the weapons to get this done offensively with Big Ben Roethlisberger, receiver Antonio Brown and tight end Heath Miller, but losing Bell will be a blow.

One can make the argument that the Ravens don't deserve to be in the playoffs, but they are here. While the Ravens no longer pack a stealler defense, they do bring a strong running game to town with Justin Forsett having a career season with 1266 yards rushing this year. Not to mention Joe Flacco has been Joe Cool at times this year. Pittsburgh is not automatic at home; Baltimore isn't automatic in general, either. This match-up used to be about defense, but those days are long gone. Prediction: I should stay away from the Steelers with Bell out, but... Steelers 20, Ravens 17.

Bengals (10-5-1) @ Colts (11-5): The last time these two teams met it wasn't even a contest as the Colts blew away Cincy, 27-0.  However it is playoff time, and the result figures to be different. This matches two teams who have really struggled in the postseason of late. The Bengals haven't won a playoff game since the early 90s, their last four attempts under Marvin Lewis have all been losses. It doesn't help that Andy Dalton has been woeful in the playoffs. In three playoff games, Dalton has thrown six interceptions, his worst performance coming last season against San Diego. It would behoove the Bengals if A.J. Green were available at wide receiver, yet the wide out is likely doubtful for Sunday after sustaining a concussion last week.

As for the Colts, we have learned they can't be trusted either. They haven't been playing their best football down the stretch, allowing bad teams to stay in games, and getting smoked themselves by Dallas. While Dalton has had issues in the playoffs for the Bengals, so has Andrew Luck. Luck has thrown eight interceptions in three playoff games in his career, including seven picks all last season. He was the single reason why Indy didn't go very far last year. If the Colts are to turn around their playoff fates, Luck has to play better in this spot. Prediction: If A.J. Green is healthy, I'm picking the Bengals, since they are long overdue some playoff success. But, until he is cleared: Colts 27, Bengals 24.

Lions (11-5) @ Cowboys (12-4): How bout them Cowboys! If there is one team that could make a deep playoff run it might be Dallas. They have one of the league's best offensive lines, an excellent ground game, Tony Romo has played well down the stretch. Yes, I said it, Tony Romo has played well down the stretch. Romo and the Boys exercised their regular season demons, now they have to exercise their playoff demons. This will be a good start. While the Lions have had a great season, they are soft, especially against good teams. Prediction: Cowboys 34, Lions 17.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Doug Marrone Quits Bills, Jets Want Him as Head Coach

Once again the Jets find a way to do something completely (pardon my French) ass backwards.

In a move that smells like tampering, the Jets are in the process of doing to their division foes, the Buffalo Bills, what the Patriots did to them 15 years ago. Only problem is the guy the Jets might be getting is not of the profile of Bill Belichick.

Doug Marrone is out as Buffalo Bills head coach, more accurately, he quit as Bills coach. With a cloud of uncertainty surrounding the franchise after it was purchased by Terry Pegula, Marrone decided to opt out of his contract. When Marrone signed his deal with Buffalo back in 2013 there was a stipulation in the deal that allowed him a window to opt out if there was a change in ownership. This week Marrone had a three-day window to do just that, and did so at the last minute. According to ESPN, Marrone was influenced to opt out when he couldn't get the extension he wanted beyond the two years left on his deal.

Now the rumors are flying that the Jets are the favorites to land him.