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Ten ways to improve the Hall of Fame selection process

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Every year, on the Saturday before the Super Bowl, 44 men and women gather in the host city and determine the members of the next class of Hall of Famers.

Typically, the panel considers 15 modern-era candidates, which systemically is whittled down to five finalists for an up-or-down vote.  The voters also consider two previously-determined finalists determined by the Seniors Committee, which comes up with two players who, for whatever reason, were passed over during past sessions.

In the end, as few as four and as many as seven secure admission to Canton.

Every year, complaints inevitably arise regarding the persons who make it and those who don’t.  At times, those complaints are aimed at the process.  Usually, the debate fizzles by the next day, when the Super Bowl starts.

This year, largely through the efforts of Jason Whitlock of FOXSports.com, the criticism has lingered.  The fact that Whitlock’s opinions have sparked a pointed response from two of the voters has served only to give the discussion ongoing life.

Though some of the voters who perhaps feel a threat to their fiefdom may not like it, any effort to consider whether the process can be improved represents a valuable expenditure of time and effort.  In this vein, we now offer 10 specific ideas for improving the procedure for determining who gets in, and who’s left out of, the Hall of Fame.

1.  Expand the panel.

The panel currently consists only of media members, some of whom are unemployed, underemployed, self-employed, and/or semi-retired.  One voter is assigned for each team, even if the voter has no specific jurisdiction over that team.  For example, Len Pasquarelli of The Sports Xchange holds the vote that corresponds to the Falcons, even though he hasn’t focused his efforts on that team for years.  Ditto for David Elfin, the Redskins’ representative who no longer works for a Washington-focused publication.  Others, like Joe Reedy of the Cincinnati Enquirer, had limited experience covering the NFL but was the only guy at the only paper in the town in which the team is headquartered.

That’s not a knock on Joe, whom we know and like.  But, surely, he’ll acknowledge that he had limited experience covering the NFL when he got the assignment.  Before inheriting the Bengals beat from Mark Curnutte in 2009, Reedy previously covered the Jets for two years (1997 and 1998) at the Post-Star in Glen Falls, New York and the Jaguars for one year (1999) at the Gainesville Sun.  Many would contend that three relatively distant years at non-first-tier publications shouldn’t be enough to secure 2.27 percent of the say as to who makes it to Canton.

The panel also includes one representative of the Professional Football Writers Association and 11 at-large media members.  That’s 44 total voters.

The panel, put simply, is too small.  (And, trust me, I’m not saying that because I’m angling for a seat at the table.  I don’t want one, I don’t expect to ever be offered one — especially after writing this article — and I wouldn’t have the time to do the assignment justice unless and until I become unemployed, underemployed, self-employed, and/or semi-retired.)  Because the human beings who comprise the panel are subject to the same human factors that influence us consciously or otherwise, one way to neutralize those realities is to involve more voters.

As explained below, that doesn’t mean more media members.  To enjoy the full faith and confidence of football fans, the process needs more voices, more perspectives, and less power in the hands of any one voter.

Many of the persons who hold these votes take great pride in the assignment.  As a result, they naturally will be inclined to resist any changes that will make the achievement less significant, such as adding significantly more people to the process.

Regardless, significantly more people need to be added to the process.

2.  Overhaul the Board of Trustees.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame is governed by a Board of Trustees.  Some of the names are instantly recognizable, like Commissioner Roger Goodell, Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, Broncos owner Pat Bowlen, and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.  (One name is recognizable but curiously out of place. ESPN’s Todd Blackledge, whose bailiwick is college football, has a seat on the Board of Trustees.)

There is also a cluster of persons with no connection to the NFL, but who hold positions of prominence in and around Canton, Ohio, the geographic location of the Hall of Fame.

With all due respect to those Canton-area businesspeople, it makes no sense for the policies and procedures of the Hall of Fame to be set by folks whose biggest contribution to the process is the ability to show up for meetings without incurring travel expenses.  Though it makes sense for the Pro Football Hall of Fame to seek the support and involvement of the Canton business community, the Board of Trustees should be composed of folks who have a direct role in the game and who have the best interests of the game at all times in mind.

To the extent that there are some Canton-area businesspeople who have a direct role in the game, such as Packers great and successful Akron businessman Dave Robinson, they should have a seat at the table.  We also realize that some members of the Board of Trustees are instrumental in organizing the events that surround each year’s enshrinement ceremony.  But most of the persons who are setting policy for the Hall of Fame should have names that ardent fans and followers of the sport instantly recognize.

Currently, it’s roughly a 50-50 split.  That needs to change.

3.  Change the bylaws.

The Board of Trustees ultimately determine the contents of the Hall of Fame’s bylaws.  All too often, members of the panel who are faced with criticism of the selection process instantly explain that their hands are tied by the bylaws.

So change the bylaws.

Every year, the NFL changes multiple rules in the hopes of making the game better.  In the past half-decade, the only meaningful change to the bylaws occurred when the modern-era finalists were increased from 13 to 15.

The bylaws shouldn’t be used as a shield for avoiding change, but as a sword for implementing it.  All too often, the bylaws become an excuse for the status quo, not the impetus for improvement.  For that reason alone, the powers-that-be need to be willing and able on an annual basis (or more often) to look for ways to improve the rules that govern the selection process.

4.  Include Hall of Famers.

Every year, the winner of the Heisman Trophy acquires the ability to vote on all future winners of the award.  The logic is simple, and undeniable.  Winning the Heisman represents membership in an exclusive club, and the men who have won it should have a say in who gets it.

The argument applies even more strongly to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Hall of Fame coach John Madden believes that the busts talk to each other at night.  If they do, the first comment when a new crop joins them shouldn’t be, “Who in the hell let that guy in?”

They say it takes one to know one, and a Hall of Famer is in the best position to know another Hall of Famer.  Though giving Hall of Famers votes would introduce the possibility of biases and prejudices, those factors surely apply from time to time (or, as the case may be, every year) to the 44 men and women who currently have the keys to Canton, especially when players who earn a reputation for being hard on the media seem to have a hard time getting into the Hall of Fame.

The only requirement?  To vote, the Hall of Famer must attend the meeting.  No proxies or absentee ballots.  If they show up, they get a say in the process.

5.  Include coaches and other established football minds.

In responding to Jason Whitlock’s column calling for change, Bob Gretz argued that “Rick Gosselin has forgotten more football in a week than Whitlock has known in his life.”  That same observation likely applies to many of the folks currently on the selection committee.

And that observation probably would apply to all of them if, say, guys like Joe Gibbs or Ron Wolf or Bill Parcells or Chuck Noll were in the room.

So why not give people who have devoted their careers to coaching football and/or running football teams a direct say in who should and shouldn’t land in the Hall of Fame?  For those not already in the Hall of Fame, they’d have to forfeit their own eligibility for the Hall until two years after leaving the committee.

Frankly, those folks are far better suited to picking the new members of the Hall of Fame than pretty much everyone on the selection committee as its currently constituted.

6.  Categorize the candidates.

Every year, the finalists are thrown into a vat regardless of the position they played, with the new members of the Hall emerging from a stew that can’t distinguish between pancake blocks and pick-sixes.  It would make more sense to allow one new member per year from each of the various positions on the field:  quarterback, running back, receiver/tight end, offensive line, defensive line, linebacker, defensive back, and coach/G.M./contributor.

The finalists would be determined by position, with the list of candidates trimmed to three-to-five before the selection meeting, and with no requirement that a person be admitted from each position group.

This would expand the potential maximum size of the class from seven to eight, but the high-water mark of seven per year has been in place since 1964, the year after the charter class was inducted.  At the time, the NFL and AFL had only 22 teams.

Today, the NFL has 32 franchises, as a result of the addition of two in 1966, one in 1967, one in 1968, two in 1976, two in 1995, one in 1999, and one in 2002.  Moving the maximum annual class from seven to eight in light of the growth of the league isn’t simply justified, it’s overdue.

7.  Scuttle the Senior Committee.

The Senior Committee serves the purpose of allowing the selection committee to revisit two players from past seasons who fell through the cracks.  In other words, it gives the selection committee to right past wrongs.  By improving the selection process, there would be no reason to clean up past messes by devoting two of seven annual spots to guys who failed to get in when competing directly with their peers.

In his response to Jason Whitlock’s criticisms, Bob Gretz unwittingly proved our point.

Gretz explained that, ever year, a pair of Hall of Famers join the Seniors Committee to assist in the process of whittling down the previously overlooked players to two finalists, who seem to almost always get in.  For the 2011 class, Hall of Fame linebacker Jack Ham and Hall of Fame tight end Charlie Sanders worked with the Seniors Committee.

Ham, per Gretz, made a strong case for linebacker Chris Hanburger.

“Ham told the group that when he went to the Steelers in the 1971 NFL Draft out of Penn State, the Pittsburgh coaches gave him film of Hanburger to study,” Gretz writes.  “There was no doubt in Ham’s mind that Hanburger was a legitimate candidate.  Whose word are your going to take on this subject:  Hall of Fame linebacker Jack Ham, or Jason Whitlock?”

Gretz essentially is admitting that the selection committee screwed up by not putting Hanburger in the Hall years earlier.  With the involvement on the selection committee of guys like Hall of Famer Jack Ham convinced that Hanburger should get in, that wouldn’t have happened.

In other words, if Ham and the other Hall of Famers had a seat at the table, perhaps Hanburger wouldn’t have been erroneously passed over.

After all, whose word should the Hall of Fame been taking on this subject:  Hall of Fame linebacker Jack Ham, or any member of the media?

8.  Embrace transparency.

Though many voters seek refuge in the bylaws and regard them as if they’d been etched onto stone tablets by the hand of God, many also will acknowledge the validity of Whitlock’s complaint that the process unfolds in secrecy.

Peter King of Sports Illustrated and NBC, who has nothing but the best interests of the process in mind (and I say that not because he’s a friend and a colleague but because I’ve spent enough time around him to know that’s who he is and how he operates), would welcome transparency.

I’d be fine with our votes being made public, which the Hall currently doesn’t want us to do,” King wrote in his February 7 Monday Morning Quarterback column.  “The feeling from Hall officials is if our votes are published, then some voters might vote differently; if a voter from Buffalo, for instance, didn’t vote for Andre Reed (and this is only an example, not the truth), he might face a backlash when he goes back to cover his team. Or in some small way it might affect his vote if he or she knew everyone would know exactly how the vote went. I believe it’s incumbent on us to not hide behind the privacy of the room. The Hall is a huge deal, obviously, with burgeoning interest every year. If we’re going to sit on the committee and sit in judgment of these men for enshrinement, I think you ought to know how we vote.”

If one of the most respected members of the NFL media believes that the process should be more transparent, then it’s fair to say that the process should be more transparent.  With an expanded panel of voters, anyone who covers the team on which a player played most or all of his career could abstain from voting, thereby addressing the biggest concern that King raised.

9.  Involve the NFL.

As mentioned above, the Commissioner and various owners occupy seats on the Hall of Fame’s Board of Trustees.  But the NFL should be even more involved than that.

Though it’s called the Pro Football Hall of Fame, it’s essentially the NFL Hall of Fame, and the NFL should be in position to propose changes to bylaws and initiate procedural enhancements aimed at improving the process of determining each class of enshrinees.

One change the NFL would likely make relates to the consideration of off-field conduct.  Currently forbidden by the bylaws, the reality is that plenty of voters consider the things a candidate did when not playing football, especially in close cases.  The bylaws, then, should change to reflect the reality of the process.

If the NFL is the perpetual custodian of the highest levels of the sport, the NFL should have much greater involvement in and dominion over the museum that celebrates those who made the biggest impact on the game.

10.  Commit to continuous improvement and change.

Most of the criticisms of the current selection process arise from a perception that the system is stale and stagnant, in large part because change doesn’t happen often and doesn’t seem welcome.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell repeatedly explains that the league constantly must look for ways to enhance and improve the game.  That same attitude must infect, and overtake, the Hall of Fame.

So many things about the selection process need to be changed because so little change has happened in the 48 years since the Hall of Fame opened.  Egos and agendas and pride and any other factor that stands in the way of change needs to be set aside, and folks need to look for ways to make the process better, and ultimately more fair.

We’re not advocating change for the sake of change.  But in this case there has been little or no change.  Changes need to be made, and then the Hall of Fame needs to be willing to consider future change without external calls for it.

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Josh McDaniels: Brian Daboll “a great resource”

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Tuesday was the 15th anniversary of Bill Belichick becoming the Patriots’ head coach, a tenure long enough to have had assistant coaches develop, leave, then come back for second tours in Foxborough.

Josh McDaniels is the obvious example of a Belichick assistant returning to the nest. After a 28-game stint as the Broncos’ head coach in 2009 and 2010 and one season as the Rams’ offensive coordinator (2011), the 38-year-old McDaniels came back to New England to take over as offensive coordinator, a position he’s held for the last three seasons.

Tight ends coach Brian Daboll is another returnee. After leaving the Patriots’ staff in 2007, Daboll held five jobs in six seasons, coaching quarterbacks for the Jets and serving as offensive coordinator for the Browns, Dolphins and Chiefs. Daboll made his way back to Foxborough in 2013, serving as an offensive coaching assistant last season.

McDaniels and Daboll are linked in either ways, too. Both were graduate assistants under Nick Saban at Michigan State in 1999 before coming to Foxborough and building NFL careers that made them in demand elsewhere.

At Media Day, McDaniels praised Daboll’s contributions for New England, calling him “a great resource” for the team.

“He can coach whatever position we want him to coach,” McDaniels said, according to an interview transcript from the NFL. “He was helping [former Patriots assistant] Dante [Scarnecchia] with the offensive line last year and moved over to coach the tight ends this year and did a phenomenal job with those guys. He has been a coordinator. He has been a quarterback coach. He has coached receivers. This is a guy that brings experience and value to our offense.

” . . . Every day he has his hands in the game planning process, the preparation, the scouting report. He is a guy that I lean on significantly in my role. He has been one of my best friends ever since I met him at Michigan State. We are lucky to have him back here.”

It could also be argued Daboll and McDaniels are lucky to have had the experiences they had outside of New England, too. Both have broadened their résumés and their experiences, and they would figure to be better coaches for it.

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Reports: Colts, WR Duron Carter close to contract

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The Colts are reportedly poised to sign one of the CFL’s bright young stars.

Per multiple reports, the Colts have agreed to a deal with Montreal Alouettes wide receiver Duron Carter, the son of Hall of Fame wide receiver Cris Carter.

Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reported the Colts and Carter “have [an] agreement,” while Stephen Holder of the Indianapolis Star reported the club anticipates signing the 23-year-old receiver, who hauled in 75 passes for 1,030 yards and seven touchdowns for Montreal in 2014.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter first reported earlier Tuesday that Carter was “closing in on” a deal with the Colts.

Carter (6-5, 205) could vie to be one of the Colts’ top three receivers in 2015. Veterans Reggie Wayne and Hakeem Nicks are slated to be free agents, and rookie Donte Montcrief looks poised to have a bigger role next season, perhaps opposite third-year pro T.Y. Hilton, who has become the Colts’ go-to target.

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Kurt Warner says he now wonders if Pats gained unfair edge in Super Bowl XXXVI

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The Patriots 20-17 victory over the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI was the first of three titles for Tom Brady and Bill Belichick in New England.

Adam Vinatieri’s 48-yard game-winning field goal denied Kurt Warner and the Rams a second Super Bowl title in three seasons.

On the heels of Deflategate and Spygate, Warner said Tuesday that he now has at least a little shred of doubt as to whether the Patriots win to cap the 2001-02 season was all on the up-and up.

In an interview with Dave Mahler of Sports Radio 950 KJR at Super Bowl XLIX Media Day on Tuesday, Warner said he now has to wonder whether the Patriots may have used an unfair edge to their advantage to earn that first Super Bowl.

“I don’t want to believe that there was anything outside of his team beat our team,” Warner said in regards to his reaction to Deflategate. “That’s what I want to believe. Yeah, there’s a sliver of a doubt because I think, as a human, you can’t help it. To know that if you were a part of that process at that time, was there any advantage they gained in any game, not just our Super Bowl game, but maybe a game before that to get to the Super Bowl? I mean, all those things enter your mind.

“It’s not because I’m bitter. It’s not because I say they cheated, because I have no idea, but it adds a sliver of doubt that I think is unfair to everybody. It’s unfair to them and their legacy. It’s unfair to me and my legacy because I don’t want to have to wonder, well did they beat me fair and square or was there something extra? And that’s the unfortunate part that I don’t think you’ll ever get over because you know something was done outside the rules. I don’t know how it helped them. I don’t know if it gave them an advantage on one play – that turned into an interception or a touchdown – or it gave them no advantage. I don’t know.

“I don’t want to talk about it. I want to know that I got beat fair and square. That’s the spirit of fair competition. That’s what I believe every time I step between the lines is that I’ve got to beat that guy across from me. And if I’m better, I will do that. If I’m not, I won’t. But now when you add other things to the mix, now all it does is give you a little bit of a doubt. That’s what I’m saying. It’s unfair I don’t look at it that way because I try to fight against it because we’re never going to know, but it’s unfortunate that I even have to consider it.”

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Bill Belichick: There’s no coach I respect more than Pete Carroll

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Patriots coach Bill Belichick has nothing but good things to say about his predecessor as coach of the Patriots, who also happens to be the man he’ll be coaching against on Sunday.

Belichick said he’s been an admirer of Seahawks coach Pete Carroll for decades, going back to the days when both of them were entry-level assistant coaches.

“Not a coach in the NFL I respect more than Pete Carroll,” Belichick said. “He’s a tremendous coach. He and I have kind of come up together in roughly the same era. We’ve both been defensive coordinators, we’ve both been head coaches. I have a ton of respect for what Pete does as a coach, how good of a fundamental teacher he is, the way his teams play. I’ve studied him from afar. We’ve never worked together, studied Pete from afar over a long period of time. I’ve learned a lot from what he does, and indirectly, I think he’s made me a better coach. I have all the respect in the world for Pete and his staff.”

Carroll was a graduate assistant for Arkansas in 1977, when Lou Holtz was the Razorbacks’ head coach and Monte Kiffin was their defensive coordinator, and Belichick said Carroll has run more or less that same defense he learned from Kiffin ever since.

“I think coach Carroll will tell you that their defense is pretty much the defense that he learned and coached in 1977 at Arkansas,” Belichick said. “He’s been doing it a long time. I’d say they’ve gone up against everything they can go up against: great quarterbacks, great receivers, great running games, great offensive lines. They’ve always been good. I think that they have a great system.”

When Carroll and Belichick square off on Sunday, we’ll be seeing a meeting between the two best coaches in the NFL.

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Prop Challenge, Day V — Over-Under on Tim Wright’s receiving yards: 0.5

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Leading up to Super Bowl XLIX, we’ll take a closer look at one proposition bet per day, something we’ve dubbed PFT’s Prop Challenge. Here’s the idea: we present a prop, do some light analysis, then turn it over to you to vote upon which side you would take — hypothetically, of course. (Previous examples are at the bottom of this post.)

When the Super Bowl wraps up, we’ll tally the votes and see how well PFT Planet did.

Now, let’s get to today’s prop, which is courtesy of the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook:

Over-Under on Patriots tight end Tim Wright’s Super Bowl receiving yards: 0.5.

Yes, you read this correctly.

The Over-Under on Tim Wright’s receiving yardage is one-half of one yard.

And the OVER is priced to entice bettors.

If the OVER hits, bettors will win $17.50 for every $10 wagered (+175).

The UNDER, meanwhile, is priced at -200.

In this case, bettors win just $5 for every successful $10 bet.

The Over-Under has everything to do with Wright’s lack of playing time in the postseason. The ex-Buccaneer logged just eight offensive snaps in the lead-up to the Super Bowl and was not targeted once in the passing game.

However, Wright’s regular-season form could appeal to OVER players. He was targeted 33 times in regular-season play, catching 26 passes for 259 yards and six scores.

This is a fascinating prop. The regular-season numbers point OVER. The postseason form says UNDER. And given Wright’s lack of recent playing time, the prospect of him being a Super Bowl scratch isn’t completely out of the realm of possibility, though he has been active in every game this season.

So again, we turn to you, PFT Planet members and veterans of the Tangiers sports book alike.

What side are you taking — OVER or UNDER?

Do let us know.

Previous props studied:

Day I: Over-Under on Brandon LaFell’s receiving yards.

Day II: Over-Under on Doug Baldwin’s catches.

Day III: Will Rob Gronkowski score a touchdown?

Day IV: Will there be a one-yard TD in the Super Bowl?

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Low standard of proof applies to #DeflateGate

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It’s still not known what the NFL specifically has found, or will find, in the #DeflateGate investigation.  It is known that, when the time comes to assess the evidence, a low threshold will determine the outcome.

Per a league source, the “preponderance of the evidence” standard applies in cases involving allegations of conduct that undermines the integrity of the game.  That comes from the league policy manual given to every team.

It’s the standard that applies in civil litigation, a “more-likely-than-not” assessment of the proof that equates to, essentially, a 51-49 test far less stringent than proof beyond a reasonable doubt, which applies in criminal cases.

Although Patriots owner Robert Kraft has insisted on “hard facts as opposed to circumstantial leaked evidence to drive the conclusion of this investigation,” circumstantial evidence could be sufficient to overcome any legal standard — especially a low one like “preponderance of the evidence.”
Depending on the full extent of the evidence obtained during the ongoing investigation, that could be bad news for the Patriots.

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Wilson’s running is a different challenge for the Patriots

Russell Wilson, Rashad Johnson AP

Seattle’s Russell Wilson was the most prolific running quarterback in the NFL this season, and it wasn’t close. And that means the Patriots are in for a challenge they haven’t yet seen on Super Bowl Sunday.

Wilson carried 118 times for 849 yards during the regular season, by far the most of any quarterback in the league. Only 15 running backs gained more rushing yards than Wilson.

New England didn’t face any quarterback who had even half as many rushing yards as Wilson: Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who carried 56 times for 311 yards, was the most prolific rusher of any quarterback the Patriots have faced this season. For New England, containing a running threat like Wilson at the quarterback position is something they haven’t had to do.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick said stopping Wilson will require the Patriots’ defense to treat him like another running back. The Patriots need to make the correct reads when Wilson runs and make sound tackles on him in the open field.

The Super Bowl record for rushing yards by a quarterback was set by Steve McNair 15 years ago, when he picked up 64 rushing yards against the Rams. Wilson is a threat to break that record on Sunday, and a threat to break open the game if the Patriots aren’t ready for the kind of running attack they haven’t previously faced.

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Scott Fitterer chooses to stay in Seattle rather than join Eagles front office

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The Eagles have been searching for a personnel executive to assist coach Chip Kelly in the front office since reorganizing their hierarchy and moving Howie Roseman out of the General Manager job earlier this month.

It’s been a fitful process for the Eagles, who have seen overtures blocked by teams and the candidates themselves. Seahawks director of college scouting Scott Fitterer is the latest to join that list.

Seahawks General Manager John Schneider said at Tuesday’s Super Bowl Media Day, via multiple reports, that Fitterer interviewed for the job with the Eagles, but has opted to stay in his current position. He joins the Chiefs’ Chris Ballard, the Buccaneers’ Jon Robinson and the Texans’ Brian Gaine as candidates that have dropped out of consideration.

Chris Polian of the Jaguars and Chris Grier of the Dolphins are thought to remain in the mix for the job along with Eagles assistant director of pro personnel Ed Marynowitz. Whoever takes the job would not have control over roster decisions, as they would be working under Kelly and fulfilling other aspects of the job usually performed by the General Manager.

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Report: 49ers hiring Steve Logan for a job on offensive staff

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New 49ers coach Jim Tomsula is hiring one of his old NFL Europe co-workers, one who will easily be a better interview.

According to Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea, the 49ers are expected to hire Steve Logan for a position on the offensive side of the ball. It’s not known whether it’s as coordinator or a position coach.

Logan was Tomsula’s offensive coordinator with the Rhein Fire in 2006.

Logan has been the head coach at East Carolina, and an offensive coordinator at Boston College. He was a running backs coach for the Buccaneers under Raheem Morris.

The 49ers kept running backs coach Tom Rathman and quarterbacks coach Geep Chryst, and they’re hiring Tony Sparano to coach tight ends, with Chris Foerster coming to coach the offensive line.

That doesn’t leave many chairs for Logan to fill.

He’s been out of coaching since leaving the Bucs after the 2011 season, and works for a radio station in Raleigh, N.C. in his spare time. (I’ve been a guest with him, occasionally talking football, and he’s quite entertaining). So at least Tomsula will have a guy with some media savvy on his staff.

Photo credit: WRAL.com

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Tom Benson: My family never rose to the task of succeeding me as Saints owner

Tom Benson AP

The daughter and grandchildren of Saints owner Tom Benson recently filed a lawsuit in an attempt to get Benson declared incompetent of making decisions regarding the future of the Saints and his other business holdings after Benson changed his succession plans to put his wife Gayle in position to succeed him rather than his other family members.

The lawsuit alleges that Benson doesn’t know the current president of the United States and that Gayle Benson is manipulating her husband into handing over his holdings while feeding him a diet consisting of mainly candy, ice cream, soda and red wine. Benson responded to that lawsuit last week by calling the claims meritless and has now filed a formal response explaining why he decided to make the change.

“For years, Mr Benson attempted to involve each of the Petitioners in various aspects of his business interests and to groom them into the type of business persons that he could have confidence in to own and/or run those business interests when he died,” Benson’s lawyers wrote, via the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “Unfortunately, the Petitioners never rose to the task. After years of concern and misgivings about Petitioners’ abilities … Mr. Benson made the deliberate, reasoned, and difficult decision to change course and name as his successor his loving wife, Gayle Benson.”

The lawsuit by Benson’s daughter and her children alleges that Benson attempted to transfer hundreds of millions of dollars out of trusts that held them as beneficiaries, a move that was blocked by a trustee but one that certainly won’t be the last bit of maneuvering in what’s shaping up to be an ugly public airing of family grievances.

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Rob Chudzinski’s new deal with the Colts for one year

Rob Chudzinski AP

The Colts were able to keep Rob Cudzinski off the job market with a new title, and likely a nice raise this morning.

But they may only be able to hang onto him for one more year.

According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, Chudzinski’s new deal with the Colts is for one year only.

That gives the team and the former Browns head coach options a year from now.

If coordinator Pep Hamilton gets a head coaching job, the Colts would have an in-house replacement.

If a better coordinator job than the 49ers’ or Rams’ comes up, Chudzinski would likewise have the opportunity to pursue it. Those two were interested in talking to him before the Colts denied permission, which led to the contract extension which was announced today.

Either way, the Colts and Chudzinski will get to do this dance again, a year from now.

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Bill Belichick toes the line during an hour of media day

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If anything was obvious from the demeanor of Patriots coach Bill Belichick during Tuesday’s media day circus, it’s that he seems to consider the whole proceeding beneath him.

He’s not necessarily the only one, but it was interesting watching him alternate from engaged and mildly bemused to analytical and focused to abrupt.

But when he slid out from behind his podium, it was clear to see where this event ranked on his to do list for Tuesday.

Belichick rolled in wearing these sweet flip-flops, eager to show off his feet in the temperate climes of Arizona. (And if nothing else, this might top Florio’s picture of a Gillette Stadium bathroom.)

It’s not that he’s a slob. He just doesn’t care much for this whole production.

There were several moments of humanity from the longtime coach, who was hired 15 years ago today.

When injured linebacker Jerod Mayo’s daugher Chya stopped by with a camera crew in tow to ask him his favorite stuffed animal, he cracked what even the most jaded reporter would consider a smile.

But not every adorable child gimmick worked, as one young “reporter” asking him advice for aspiring coaches was met with a “All we’re thinking about is Seattle.”

That was roughly the same answer he gave when asked about former Panthers General Manager Marty Hurney’s suggestion that the Patriots may have created a “culture of cheating,” to which Belichick replied “We’re worried about Seattle.”

But there were other moments when he came off as remarkably human, if not amused.

There was a protracted discussion his relationship with and appreciation for Jon Bon Jovi — “Going back to the Slippery When Wet album.”

There was even a moment when he seemed to create a bond with reporters, harkening back to his days as a fan when he realized “It’s necessary, . . . I want information.”

But mostly, he was the normal gruff Belichick, who obliged the masses with an hour of performance art he cared not for, which put him about 55 minutes ahead of Marshawn Lynch.

But at least Lynch wore shoes.

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Jets tab Marcel Shipp as running backs coach

Arizona Cardinals v Oakland Raiders Getty Images

A former NFL tailback not long removed from his playing days will coach the Jets’ running backs.

Ex-Cardinals tailback Marcel Shipp, who was last on an NFL roster with Houston in 2008, has been added to Todd Bowles’ coaching staff, the Jets announced Tuesday.

Shipp was the running backs coach at Massachusetts in 2014. He was an intern on the Cardinals’ coaching staff two years ago, when Bowles was defensive coordinator.

Shipp rushed for 2,197 yards and 11 TDs in seven seasons with Arizona (2001-2007).

In addition to hiring Bowles, the Jets have tabbed Steve Marshall as offensive line coach.

Marshall was the Texans’ offensive line coach in 2004 and 2005 and the Browns’ offensive line coach in 2007 and 2008. He was Green Bay’s assistant offensive line coach in 2014.

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Patriots say there’s nothing suspicious about their ball security

blount AP

As Deflategate has dominated the football world over the last 10 days, it’s been pointed out that the Patriots have a suspiciously good track record for avoiding fumbles. Is that because they’re using deflated footballs, which are easier to grip?

Not according to the players on the Patriots, who instead say that they simply go through so many ball control drills that they have become the best team in the league at holding onto the ball.

“I can definitely tell that the coaching and the drills that we do within the spring and the offseason and camp and OTAs have really paid off for a lot of guys,” Patriots receiver Danny Amendola said. “We take a lot of drills that we do within the week, within practice, and take them to the field. We do a lot of drills that really benefit that.”

Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount has fumbled three times in his 219 career touches as a Patriot (a little less frequently than his 10 fumbles in 518 career touches when playing with the Buccaneers and Steelers), and he says that in New England the coaches always make a big deal about ball security.

“We put a heavy emphasis on keeping the football,” Blount said. “We practice holding the football, we have the defense punch at the football a lot extra more than probably most teams do. We do everything to emphasis ball security because like I said, you can’t win the game without the ball.”

That has long been an emphasis of Patriots coach Bill Belichick, and so he drills ball security into his players and avoids drafting or signing players who have a history of fumbling. That’s a more plausible explanation for the Patriots’ success at avoiding fumbles than deflated footballs.

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Rob Gronkowski happy to be healthy for this Super Bowl

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The last time the Patriots advanced to the Super Bowl, tight end Rob Gronkowski was slowed by an ankle injury that left him at less than 100 percent for the loss to the Giants.

Gronkowski spent the next two seasons battling a variety of injuries to his back, forearm and knee, but he’s been able to avoid any scrapes this season while playing a leading role on offense for the AFC champs. On Tuesday, Gronkowski said that he was happy to be feeling totally healthy for the Super Bowl this time.

“It’s definitely a tough experience, man. Definitely don’t take the game for granted anymore,” Gronkowski said. “It’s an honor to be out there on the field with my teammates and all. Throughout the whole year, especially this time of the year, going to the Super Bowl, being out on the practice field, helping my team do its job and just going out and practicing hard. I’m super excited for this game Sunday.”

Gronkowski’s feeling “totally back” to his old self, but that doesn’t mean he’s making any bold predictions for what’s going to happen against the Seahawks. When asked if he had any guarantees for the Super Bowl, Gronkowski said only that the game would be played this Sunday.

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