Oliver Luck says son’s decision not a slight against Panthers

Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck won’t be an NFL quarterback in 2011; his father, Oliver, was an NFL quarterback from 1982 through 1986.

Now the Athletic Director at his alma mater, West Virginia University, the elder Luck says that Andrew’s decision to stay at Stanford has nothing to do with the fact that the Carolina Panthers held the first pick in the draft — and according to owner Jerry Richardson fully intended to use it, presumably on Andrew Luck.

Absolutely not,” Luck told Steve Reed of CarolinaGrowl.com. “It’s not a slight on Carolina at all.  Whether it was the Carolina Panthers or the Oakland Raiders or the Miami Dolphins, it didn’t really make a difference to Andrew.”

We wouldn’t expect Oliver Luck to say anything else.  Plenty of displaced Mountaineers live in North Carolina, and the last thing he needs is a Charlotte-based, Manning-style groundswell of resentment against the Luck family, if Andrew and Oliver had tried to pull an Eli and Archie maneuver.

Still, Panthers fans shouldn’t be too upset.  With a roster that’s in disarray and a to-be-determined new coach who may not meet with his team for the first time until September (thanks to the looming lockout) and placement in the toughest division in the NFL, the Panthers likely will be in position to pick Luck with the first overall selection in 2012, too.

Glazer: Fins keeping Sparano

A strange two days in Miami have ended with the Dolphins not hiring Jim Harbaugh.

And they apparently won’t be hiring Jim Harbaugh.

Jay Glazer of FOX reports that the Dolphins are keeping Sparano as the head coach.

The news comes amid increasing reports suggesting that Harbaugh would not be joining the Dolphins.  Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News, for example, reported earlier tonight that Harbaugh “isn’t sold” on the Miami situation, and that he was “looking for reasons to look elsewhere.”

The end result, in our view, is embarrassment for a Dolphins franchise that allowed Sparano to twist in the wind while wooing his replacement.  Apart from the egg that the team is now wearing on its face, the relationship between Sparano and G.M. Jeff Ireland likely has suffered irreparable damage.

Sure, they’ll say all the right things.  But Sparano will never fully trust Ireland again.

Quarterback not named Luck enters the draft

We were surprised by Thursday’s decision from Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck to stay in Stanford.  We were even more surprised by the decision from Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett to enter the draft.

We’re not surprised that Mallett chose to head to the NFL.  We’re surprised that he had any eligibility left.

John Taylor of CFT has the details.  (Yes, we’re trying to divert from traffic to the sister site.  If you don’t want the details, don’t click the link.)

Mike Singletary to interview with Vikings

Mike Singletary could be returning to the black-and-blue division.

The man who once starred for the Bears as a Hall of Fame middle linebacker will interview with the Vikings, according to John Clayton of ESPN.  If hired, Singletary will join former teammate Leslie Frazier’s staff in Minnesota.

Singletary likely would be the linebackers coach in Minnesota.  He was fired by the 49ers after a Week 16 loss to the Rams.

The former San Fran head coach joins former Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels as potential candidates for membership on Frazier’s staff.

Cardinals fire defensive coordinator Bill Davis

For the second time in three years, Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt has fired his defensive coordinator.

Bill Davis was let go on Thursday, the team announced.  The Cardinals finished 30th in points allowed and 29th in yards allowed this season.  The offense was no better, but had lower expectations.

Whisenhunt also fired Clancy Pendergast after the team’s Super Bowl run, but they were never as bad as they were in 2010.  Perhaps expectations were too high after they team lost Karlos Dansby and Antrel Rolle.

We have a ton of respect for what Whisenhunt has done in Arizona, but he risks becoming the NFC’s Gary Kubiak.  (Or a latter day Denver Mike Shanahan.)  Being a head coach isn’t just about your side of the football.  It’s about finding solutions for both sides of the football.

In four years, Whisenhunt has yet to show he can solve Arizona’s defensive problems.

“As we sit here right now, I have a couple of names, but I don’t even know the availability of those guys,” Whisenhunt said via the Arizona Republic.

Andrew Luck scrambles Panthers’ draft board

Andrew Luck was widely expected to go to the Carolina Panthers as the first overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft. Luck’s announcement today that he’s planning to return for another season at Stanford derails those plans.

So where will the Panthers turn now?

If the Panthers still want to draft a quarterback first overall, they’ll need to accept the fact that there’s not a quarterback coming out this year who’s viewed as capable of stepping in immediately and excelling in a pro-style passing game, the way Sam Bradford did in St. Louis in 2010, or the way Luck would have been expected to in Carolina in 2011.

There are still a few quarterbacks likely to go in the first round, however. Missouri’s Blaine Gabbert is probably the most NFL-ready of the bunch. When Gabbert announced that he was leaving Missouri and turning pro, he hinted that the NFL draft advisory board had given him every indication that he’d be a high pick. Gabbert isn’t on the same level as Luck, but he could merit consideration for the Panthers at No. 1 overall.

The other highly rated quarterbacks all come with big question marks. Auburn’s Cam Newton has been the best player in college football this year, but that’s been in a spread attack, not a pro-style scheme. Some NFL teams may also have concerns about Newton’s character.

Ryan Mallett, the 6-foot-7 Arkansas quarterback, has an amazing arm but looks a little klutzy and doesn’t have a lot of touch on his passes. Washington’s Jake Locker is an excellent athlete, but his accuracy is abysmal: He capped a senior season in which he completed just 55.4 percent of his passes by going 5-of-16 for 56 yards in the Huskies’ Holiday Bowl win over Nebraska.

As Darin Gantt of the Charlotte Observer pointed out, Luck’s decision might have opened the door to the Panthers taking a non-quarterback, especially since they just spent a second-round pick on Jimmy Clausen last year. Various mock drafts have shown the Panthers going for Georgia receiver A.J. Green (the most talented receiver college football has seen since Calvin Johnson was at Georgia Tech) or Clemson defensive end Da’Quan Bowers.

Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley, LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson and Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara all may be in the mix as well.

And then there’s the option of a trade. In recent years, teams picking at the top of the draft have had a hard time finding trading partners, because who wants to move up and be forced to give an unproven rookie a $50 million guarantee? But if there’s a new collective-bargaining agreement with a sensible rookie wage scale, the Panthers might find some takers if they shop the top pick.

In any event, the Panthers had better choose wisely: They have the first pick for a reason, and that reason is that they were the worst team in the league this season. Oh, and they don’t have a second-round pick because they traded what turned out to be the 33rd pick in this year’s draft to the Patriots to acquire the 89th pick in last year’s draft. They used that pick to draft Armanti Edwards, a wide receiver who played in three games and didn’t catch a single pass as a rookie.

That trade illustrates the way good teams like the Patriots use the draft to stay good, and bad teams like the Panthers use the draft to stay bad. The Panthers have 16 weeks from today to figure out how they can use the first overall pick to break that cycle.

Report: Josh McDaniels to meet with Vikings

Josh McDaniels would rather be an assistant coach in Minnesota than a head coach in San Francisco.

ESPN’s Ed Werder reports that McDaniels is scheduled to meet Friday with Vikings coach Leslie Frazier about an undefined assistant coaching job.   (Very likely the offensive coordinator position.)  McD passed up a chance to interview for the 49ers head coaching job earlier Thursday.

Don’t forget the Vikings still have an offensive coordinator:  Brett Favre’s BFF Darrell Bevell.   While nothing has been made official about Bevell’s status, this news strongly indicates the Vikings are looking to go in a new direction.   The Childress-Favre-Bevell offense appears to be on the way out.

McDaniels seems to have learned from Eric Mangini’s mistake in Cleveland.  Jumping into another hazardous head coaching job right after getting fired isn’t necessarily the best way to learn your craft, achieve coaching longevity, and maximize a potential second chance.

It’s very rare to get three chances, so you better make the second one count.

Jerry Angelo: Bears don’t have great talent

As General Manager of the Bears, Jerry Angelo’s job is to make sure he assembles a great deal of talent in Chicago. He apparently doesn’t think he’s done that job very well.

Angelo said the Bears won the NFC North because they’re a resilient team and a tough team, but not because they’re a particularly talented team.

“This team really came together as a team,” Angelo said. “I don’t see this as a team of great talent, but I see this as a team that played well together and really responded to the adversity that every team goes through.”

Angelo said this year’s Bears don’t have nearly as many star players as the last Bears team to get to the Super Bowl.

“In ’06 I think we had nine Pro Bowlers,” Angelo said. “I think we have four this year.”

Instead, Angelo says the Bears are a good team because they’re a team full of high-character guys who play the game the right way.

“If you don’t have a good locker room you can’t have a good team,” Angelo said.

Giants surely knew about and approved Coughlin’s “kiss my ass” comment

The NFL Films video featuring Giants coach Tom Coughlin inviting critics to “kiss my ass” had a candid-camera feel to it.  The comment appeared to come organically and spontaneously in the locker room, not from the podium of a press conference.

The “behind closed doors” feel of the video and audio prompted, for example, the Newark Star-Ledger to apply to their item on it a headline containing the words “behind closed doors.”  (Rosenthal used the same words in the headline of the PFT item on the topic.)

But let’s be clear about this.  No video or audio captured by NFL Films sees the light of day without the consent of the team(s) involved.  Like Hard Knocks, in which the Jets permitted cornerback Antonio Cromartie to come off as a guy who didn’t know the names of his kids, the Giants had veto power over the use of Coughlin’s comments.

The real question is whether NFL Films persuaded the Giants to permit the clip to be used, or whether the Giants and/or Coughlin wanted the video and audio to be played.

Given the message, we assume it’s the latter.

And, frankly, we’re not all that impressed by 10 wins and no playoffs.  The Giants could have and should have qualified, but just like the Bucs, who somehow blew their shot at an 11th win against a Lions team that hadn’t won on the road in 26 tries, the Giants failed to deliver victory in a winnable game against the Eagles, which they happened to be winning by 21 points.

Like we said last year when Brett Favre tried to get the media to accept his “going out on top” baloney, only one team goes out on top.  And only 12 of them make the playoffs.  For the other 20, does the number of wins and losses really matter?

Brian Urlacher, Eric Weems named NFC players of the month

While their teams get the weekend off in the first round of the NFC playoffs, Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher and Falcons return man Eric Weems are being recognized as the NFC players of the month.

Urlacher gets the defensive player of the month award after a December (and one game in January) in which he had 49 tackles, 1.5 sacks, a forced fumble and three passes defensed. Urlacher was selected to his seventh Pro Bowl, which puts him in elite company: The only Bears linebackers chosen to more Pro Bowls are Hall of Famers Mike Singletary (10), Dick Butkus (eight) and Bill George (eight). This is Urlacher’s first career player of the month award, and it’s the second straight month that a Bear has received the award. Julius Peppers was the NFC defensive player of the month for November.

Weems earns the special teams player of the month award after a month in which he was the only player to return both a kickoff and a punt for a touchdown. Weems is also a valuable member of the team’s kick coverage, with six special teams tackles in the month.

As we previously noted, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is the NFC offensive player of the month.

Here’s today’s PFT Live, in three chunks


You can always watch ProFootballTalk Live at noon ET by clicking on the box at the top of each PFT page.  And you can click the box later in the day, too, to watch the taped version of the show.

Or you can wait for me to paste video boxes containing the three segments of the show into a blurb.

Like I’m doing right now.

In the third segment, we take calls for the first time ever on the show.  And, yes, we got baba booied.

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Jim Harbaugh meets with Stanford president

Andrew Luck is returning to Stanford for the 2011 season. Now the school’s president is doing his best to bring Jim Harbaugh back as Luck’s coach.

Harbaugh met with Stanford President John Hennessey and other school officials this morning, and CSN Bay Area reports that the purpose of meeting was so that administrators “could make their absolute best offer to try and retain him.”

If Harbaugh’s decision is about the money, there’s no way the best offer is going to be enough: Stanford might give Harbaugh a nice raise, but it’s not going to make him the highest-paid coach in football, which Harbaugh might become if he heads to the NFL.

But Harbaugh surely knows that, and he decided to meet with the school anyway. So he must be interested in hearing what Stanford can offer. And with Luck returning, Harbaugh may be intrigued by the idea of trying to win a national championship a year from now.

Harbaugh has also met with 49ers owner Jed York and Dolphins owner Stephen Ross.

Rex Ryan praises Peyton Manning and disses Tom Brady

Jets coach Rex Ryan is offering some flattery to Colts quarterback Peyton Manning prior to their Saturday playoff meeting — and offering some bulletin-board material to Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in the process.

Asked to assess Manning, Ryan described him as like a coach on the field — and then said that makes Manning different from Brady, because Brady benefits from the presence of Bill Belichick.

“There’s nobody like this guy in the league,” Ryan said of Manning. “Nobody studies like him. I know Brady thinks he does. I think there’s probably a little more help with Belichick with Brady than there is with Peyton Manning.”

That comment could also be perceived as a slight toward the Colts’ coaching staff, although Ryan did offer praise for Colts coach Jim Caldwell, former coach Tony Dungy and longtime Colts assistant Tom Moore.

“Tom Moore has done a great job with [Manning] forever, Caldwell and Tony Dungy and things like that,” Ryan said. “But it’s Peyton Manning, that’s who it is.”

Brady mentioned before the season that he hates the Jets, and Ryan doesn’t much like the Patriots either. If the Jets beat the Colts on Saturday, Ryan and Brady will meet again in New England on January 16.

Vince Young is wanted in Houston

Well, we suppose it was inevitable.  Someone has penned an article saying the Texans should sign Vince Young, the hometown kid.

Richard Justice of the Houston Chronicle did the honors, writing the Texans should pursue Young as a backup.  (This assumes Young is released, as expected.)  Justice then chastises the Texans for being “uninteresting” and wanting to paint the town “beige.”  He wants buzz.

The argument almost makes sense in a world where Young would have to accept a clear backup role.  He doesn’t.

Young has warts, but he’s not without value.  He’s won consistently and his stats are impressive.  He’s thrown 20 touchdowns to 10 interceptions over the last two years.  He averaged 8 yards-per-attempt and had a 98 quarterback rating in 2010.

Young has major leadership and maturity questions to answer.   Of course.  That’s why he’s available and won’t get a monster contract.

Despite that, Young could upgrade the quarterback position on a lot of teams.   He shouldn’t have to settle for a clear backup role.    Let Matt Leinart do that.

Jason Garrett gets four years from Cowboys


Jerry Jones is not happy with Andrew Luck for upstaging the Cowboys’ press conference to introduce Jason Garrett as head coach.

ESPN’s SportsCenter cut away from Jones speaking to discuss the Luck story, but we stuck around to uncover the goodies.   The home viewers didn’t miss much.

1. Garrett’s contract will last four years.  That’s fairly standard for a new coach.

2. Jones said Garrett will have final say over his entire coaching staff.  They didn’t really announce anything else specific about the staff.

3. “He’s truly one of our own,” Jones said.   “We know him well for the qualifications he has for this position. I know that he has spent his entire life preparing for this day. And he is well-qualified.”

4. Jones said he received calls from teams interested in Garrett as a head coaching candidate.  Teams that have been talked about a lot this offseason.  (Probably the 49ers.)

5.  Sensing the news wouldn’t make the usual ripple, Jones held the press conference at JerryWorld Stadium.  Jones also wound up at the mic answering questions after Garrett, spending far more time at the podium than his new coach.