49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh had a cameo on ‘Saved by the Bell’ during his playing days. And it was awesome.This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!
ProFootballTalk: A television star among us
On the surface, the NFL’s hiring practices point to a stunning failure to hire a sufficient number of African-American coaches. The more practical failure comes from the inability to hire enough good coaches, regardless of race or any other factor that shouldn’t matter.
Yes, it’s a zero-sum game. There will always be teams that fail, and the owners of the teams that fail will feel compelled to make changes in an effort to quickly reverse failure. But maybe that’s one of the things more teams should resist; regardless of a coach’s race or other factors that shouldn’t matter when it’s time to hire him, sticking with him long enough to give him a chance to flourish — or to flourish again — creates the kind of continuity that not only could pay off in a major way but also could avoid what can become a never ending lather/rinse/repeat cycle of firing a coach in the hopes of finding a quick fix.
In praising the Steelers for their decision to hire Mike Tomlin in 2007 at a time when he wasn’t the trendy pick (PFT was one of the only media outlets singing the praises loudly of the veteran defensive coach who spent only one year as a coordinator, in Minnesota, before becoming a head coach), soon-to-be Hall of Famer Tony Dungy points out that the Steelers also stick with their coaches through the down times.
It’s easy to do that, of course, when the down times are few and far between. Still, not long ago some fans in Pittsburgh were clamoring for Tomlin to go. The Rooneys ignored the noise — which is easier to do when the stadium is always full. But they always ignore the noise, setting aside the whims of the fans for the concepts that have made the Steelers one of the best franchises in football.
Only one team wins the Super Bowl ever year. For the rest, the goal is to be relevant to that conversation for as long as possible. Far more often than not, the Steelers are. Which is why they’ve had only three coaches since 1969. But maybe the Steelers contend so frequently because they make good coaching hires.
Here’s what Dungy told Peter King of TheMMQB.com about the Steelers: “I’d tell owners and people in position to make hires to slow down, and study what the Steelers do. They’ve had three coaches in almost 50 years. They don’t fire coaches. They back their coaches when times are hard, and you’re always going to have some of those times when you coach. This last time, when they hired Mike Tomlin, he wasn’t the ‘hot’ guy. [Owner] Dan Rooney took his time, and he knew exactly what they were looking for in a coach. That’s what Dan does. He hires the best person for his team, and he does it on his schedule. I think the problem lots of times with the hiring process is teams have one or two guys in mind and they rush through the process to get one of those guys without looking at more candidates. I think that can lead to mistakes.”
It definitely leads to mistakes, but good luck telling a billionaire who has his heart set on hiring a “hot” candidate that he shouldn’t do what he wants to do. Evaluating football players is a crapshoot even with the many metrics generated by scouting. For coaching, it’s much harder to quantify things. Owners become influenced by buzz — and the media has a major role in the creation of the buzz.
Of course, the lack of minority employees in key positions like offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach makes it even hard for minority candidates to generate buzz in the media or elsewhere. That’s a problem that needs to be addressed before the pool of head coaching candidates will be as diverse as it needs to be.
What can the Dolphins expect from their tight ends?
The Patriots should learn more about their offensive line with pads coming on during camp.
A look at the Bengals’ defensive line depth.
The Steelers are looking for more consistency on special teams.
The identity of the left tackle is among the questions the Jaguars will answer during camp.
A preview of what to expect from the Titans wide receivers this summer.
There are 37 players heading to camp with the Chiefs for the first time.
Setting the stage at safety for the Raiders.
How will the Chargers deploy their cornerbacks?
Who is the top pass rusher in Cowboys history?
The Eagles added three players to the roster on Sunday.
Former General Manager Phil Emery’s work is still evident on the Bears roster.
The Packers have high hopes for their defensive line.
The Falcons are looking for a few good bus drivers.
The biggest area for improvement on the Saints is clear.
Will it all come together for Buccaneers DE Will Gholston this year?
The Cardinals schedule looks like it could be tougher later in the season.
Breaking down the tight end options for the Rams.
Safety looks like a strength for the 49ers.
Tackle Phil Loadholt took a pay cut this offseason in order to hold onto his spot on the Vikings roster, but it appears he won’t be collecting that adjusted salary.
Adam Schefter and Adam Caplan of ESPN report that Loadholt is expected to retire. The veteran, who is coming off a torn Achilles, is slated to meet with team officials on Monday.
Loadholt was a 2009 second-round pick of the Vikings and started 89 games over six seasons before missing all of last year because of his injury. In May, word out of Minnesota was that Loadholt was moving well during offseason work although it seems something wasn’t feeling well enough for Loadholt to continue feeling the urge to play in the NFL.
The Vikings signed former Bengals tackle Andre Smith as a free agent this offseason and Loadholt’s departure would leave him without much competition for the starting job.
The Lions put wide receiver Corey Fuller on the physically unable to perform list Sunday and it’s not clear when he’ll be ready to get back on the field after having foot surgery this offseason.
On Monday, the team will look at a few options to fill in at wideout until Fuller is healthy. Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com reports that Tyler Davis and Larry Pinkard will be among those vying for a spot on the team.
Davis played both ways in the German Football League and did it well enough to be named the MVP, although a stint with the Dolphins this offseason ended without an invitation to camp. Pinkard spent camp and the preseason with the Packers last year, but didn’t make the 53-man roster and went on to spend time on the Raiders’ practice squad.
Davis and Pinkard will be catching passes thrown by Jimmy Clausen, who Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports will also be at the workout. Clausen recently worked out for the Redskins, although his presence was more about having someone to throw to wideouts and the presence of the wideouts suggests it could be the same situation in Detroit. Dan Orlovsky and sixth-round pick Jake Rudock are currently on the depth chart behind Matthew Stafford.
When Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert underwent ankle surgery two months ago, the expectation was that he could return Week One, but might miss the first couple regular season games. That’s still the case.
Eifert is described as “on schedule” by the Cincinnati Enquirer, which reports that the Bengals hope Eifert will be ready for the September 11 opener but there’s still a chance that rehab could take longer than expected.
Eifert suffered the ankle injury in the Pro Bowl but waited four months to have surgery on it because he hoped it would heal without surgery. If he ends up missing regular season games, that will be yet another blow to the Pro Bowl, which is already viewed by many if not most players as more trouble than it’s worth. It’s hard to see why Eifert would want to play in a Pro Bowl again, given the trouble it’s causing him now.
The more immediate concern, however, is the start of the regular season. Eifert is Andy Dalton’s favorite red zone target, and Dalton isn’t sure if Eifert will be there when the season starts.
Not many players who are permanently banished from the league with the ability to apply for reinstatement after one year ever get reinstated. Raiders defensive end Aldon Smith seems to be on track to be among the likes of Justin Blackmon and Darryl Washington.
Via CSNBayArea.com, a video has emerged that appears to include Smith, a hand-rolled cigarette, and a conversation regarding whether it’s wise for him to be making such a video for posting on the Internet.
Easy answer: It’s not wise.
It’s still not entirely clear that Smith is the person in the video, but it sure seems that he is. And if Smith is doing things so clearly ill-advised that for the public eye, it’s fair to wonder whether and to what extent he’s doing other ill-advised things not for the public eye when it comes to the specific things he’s supposed to be doing and not be doing in order to satisfy the terms of the plan devised for him by the medical review officer responsible for Smith’s compliance with the substance-abuse policy.
Smith at one point was one of the most dominant young pass rushers in the NFL, after becoming the seventh overall pick in the 2011 draft. A string of legal issues and suspensions have left him on the outside looking in, and he may never get back on the inside again.
Seahawks fans can stop worrying. And executives with other teams can stop coveting the G.M. job in Seattle.
John Clayton of ESPN.com reports that the Seahawks have reached an agreement on a new contract with G.M. John Schneider. The deal will make him one of the highest-paid General Managers in football.
Per the report, the contract is “expected to approach” the $3.75 million earned by Baltimore’s Ozzie Newsome, which is believed to be the maximum salary for any NFL General Manager. (This overlooks the coaches with de facto personnel power, like Bill Belichick of the Patriots, whose salary is a mystery wrapped in a riddle wrapped in a series of non-responsive grunts.)
Schneider previously was believed to be targeting $4 million per year as he entered the final year of his contract. The compromise gives him security for some period of time beyond 2016. Clayton’s report, however, doesn’t mention the length of the extension.
The next step, per Clayton, is expected to be an extension for coach Pete Carroll, who also is under contract through 2016.
UPDATE 11:40 p.m. ET: It’s official, according to the guy who’ll be writing the checks.
With plenty of conflicting reports (some from the same media company) regarding whether Texans defensive end J.J. Watt will miss six weeks or eight weeks or 10 weeks or more after undergoing back surgery, Watt himself has chimed in, albeit with a vague assessment of his expected return date.
Watt, in a handwritten note to fans photographed and posted on Twitter, concludes with this message: “See you on the field very soon.”
It’s a nice gesture from Watt, who seems to be applying his own unique spin to Peyton Manning’s habit of writing handwritten notes. And at a time when it’s become popular to give Watt grief (I’ve done my share of it), I need to repeat something I said Friday on the radio in Houston: We get numb to the fact that football players have surgery, because so many of them have it. But any surgery — even “minor” surgery — is a big deal. The human body is being opened up, with delicate, precise repairs made to key components of it.
Surgery entails a risk of infection or other complications. It entails a risk the surgery simply won’t fix the problem. It often entails a recovery process featuring pain, discomfort, and the inability to do things that the player would like to do, including practicing and playing football.
We want these guys to entertain us. We often don’t think of them as real people who go through the same real crap the rest of us do. When it comes to invasive medical procedures, they’re far different from the rest of us; surgery happens to them a lot more often than it happens to most of us.
The multi-million-dollar bus belonging to the Dallas Cowboys has been involved in an accident in Arizona. While no one on the Cowboys bus was seriously injured, law enforcement officials along with multiple reports indicate that more than one fatality occurred in another vehicle.
The van and the bus were the only vehicles involved in the accident.
Via LasVegasNow.com, the bus was traveling from Texas to Las Vegas for a fan event. The bus then was due to go to Oxnard, California for training camp.
Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times reports that four people in the van died.
According to KTNV.com, officials said the collision occurred as the driver of the van was making an illegal turn onto U.S. 93.
Cowboys spokesman Rich Dalrymple told ABC News that only staff members were on the bus, and that they sustained “bumps and bruises.”
[Photo credit: Arizona State Police.]
The New England Patriots announced the signings of safety Vinnie Sunseri and offensive lineman Kyler Kerbyson on Sunday.
Sunseri was a fifth-round selection by the New Orleans Saints in 2014. He appeared in nine games for New Orleans before being released by the Saints in April. He recorded five tackles – four on special teams, one on defense – before an arm injury landed him on injured reserve.
A knee injury last year led the Saints to waive Sunseri and he spent all of last season on injured reserve after clearing waivers.
Kerbyson went undrafted after starting two seasons at the University of Tennessee. He’s played both tackle positions and left guard during his tenure with Tennessee.
After the signings, the Patriots still have one open spot on their 90-man roster.
With Smith possibly slated to start for the Jets, who stubbornly refuse to sweeten the pot for Ryan Fitzpatrick, Enemkpali eventually could become a regular — if not a starter — for the Buffalo defense.
As explained by Jay Skurski of the Buffalo News, the departure of Mario Williams coupled with the shoulder injury to first-round rookie Shaq Lawson has created an opening for Enemkpali, who needs only to outshine Manny Lawson to earn a starting role.
“IK’s done really well,” coach Rex Ryan said during the offseason program. “We’re bumping guys around and stuff but, yeah, he’ll have a chance. IK is a physical player. He’s doing a much better job in his pass-coverage responsibility. So I could definitely see him pushing for playing time, without question.”
Enemkpali may not even need to beat out Manny Lawson, if Ryan decides Manny Lawson is needed elsewhere. Wherever and how much they play, guys like Manny Lawson and Jerry Hughes and other pre-2015 defenders have learned Ryan’s defense far better than they knew it a year ago.
“Last year, there’d be silence and a lot of questions asked in the locker room,” Manny Lawson said, via Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News. “This year, there’s not silence in the meeting room and no questions being asked in the locker room.”
But that doesn’t mean questions are discouraged.
“If you don’t know something, ask,” Lawson said. “Because it’s only going to help us to know. If one person is out there clueless and doesn’t know what to do, that can be a touchdown for us on the defensive side and that can cost us the game.”
A game blown here or there could be the difference between a postseason berth and yet another failure to make the playoffs. With a failure to make the playoffs this year quite possibly the catalyst for a house cleaning, the players have every reason to do everything they can to know the defense and to execute it as it’s designed.
Defensive tackle Darnell Dockett has not played in a regular season game since the 2013 season and the longtime Cardinal is reportedly set to draw a permanent end to his playing career.
Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com reports that Dockett is expected to announce his retirement on Monday. Dockett tore his ACL before the 2014 season and was released by the 49ers after signing with Arizona’s NFC West as a free agent last offseason.
If Dockett is indeed done, he’ll end his career having played only for the Cardinals in the regular season. The 2004 third-round pick played 158 games and made 156 starts over the course of his 10-year career in Arizona and ranks seventh in franchise history with 40.5 sacks. He added three more sacks during the team’s loss to the Steelers in Super Bowl XLIII, tying a record set by Reggie White that was equaled this February by Panthers defensive end Kony Ealy.
Dockett was selected to three Pro Bowls and was named to the Associated Press‘ All-Pro second-team after the 2009 season.
With training camp about to start, the Lions are taking stock of which players on their roster aren’t quite ready to start practicing.
Tight end Brandon Pettigrew is on that list and the Lions announced Sunday that he has been placed on the physically unable to perform list. Pettigrew tore his ACL in December and General Manager Bob Quinn said last month that the veteran wouldn’t be ready for the start of camp.
Pettigrew won’t be able to practice with the team until he’s activated from the list. Given the timing of the injury, he could be a candidate for the regular season version of the PUP list and would miss at least six weeks of the year if that’s the case.
The Lions also placed wide receiver Corey Fuller, who had foot surgery, and tackle Corey Robinson on the PUP list as well. Running back Ameer Abdullah is not on the list after having shoulder surgery early in the offseason.
Friday’s PFT Live from U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis included a visit from the guy who built not the team’s new house but the team that will play there. And G.M. Rick Spielman talked at some length about the first-round quarterback who enters his third NFL season.
At a time when teammates rave about Teddy Bridgewater (“growth” was the most common word used by players we interviewed), some believe Bridgewater won’t become a franchise quarterback, pointing to the fact that he threw only 14 touchdowns passes in 2014 and only 14 again in 2015.
Spielman called criticism of Bridgewater “unfair,” explaining that “he is doing what our coaches are asking him to do.”
“One thing Coach Zimmer does preach to all our players is team first and however we’re going to have to win this game this week,” Spielman said. “If we’re going to have to run the ball 30 times, that’s what we’re going to do. If we have to throw the ball, that’s what we’re going to do. If we’re going to have to play good defense and ball control, whatever we have to do to win this week, that’s the most important thing. Teddy going into his second year last year, to go 11-5 and win the division, to go up there and beat Green Bay in Green Bay [for the NFC North title] and then play well in that playoff game against Seattle. I think people undervalue what Teddy brings to this football team, and the most important thing is when you look at the end of the day is wins and losses and Teddy is definitely a winner.”
When called upon to move the offense late in games, Bridgewater has done that on several occasions. And if Blair Walsh hadn’t missed a chip-shot field goal at the end of the wild-card game against the Seahawks, Bridgewater would have been heralded for setting up the victory by slicing through one of the best defenses in the league.
“There are games if you go through his first two years that he has shown he does have the ability in pressure situations to come through when we need him to make some plays,” Spielman said. “I think he had the least amount of pass attempts last year in the NFL as well, so a lot of that has to do with the game planning and how we’re going to win football games. But I don’t think anyone in our building has any doubt that if we have Teddy throw the ball 40 or 50 times, if that’s the way we have to win or if he has to go out there and throw the ball at the end of the game for us to win that he has that ability to do that.”
He may end up with plenty of chances to do that in 2016, on a national stage. With four prime-time games, a Thanksgiving game, and several other high-profile Sunday afternoon matchups (Panthers, Texans, Cardinals, Packers), whatever Bridgewater does this year will be noticed a lot more than it was in past years.
Fitzpatrick hasn’t said much about his situation, and the Jets basically issued a gag order six weeks ago. So, we’ll see what happens with camp starting and teams across the league getting back to work.
PFT has put together a list of other players who are still unsigned as camps open. Most of them are older players who might wait until the regular season begins or end up atop the emergency call list various player personnel departments keep as they shuffle their 90-man camp rosters and deal with various injuries and situations. Past Fitzpatrick, who’s clearly the most intriguing unsigned player, the players are listed in no particular order…
Fitzpatrick – His staredown with the Jets continues. It could get really interesting if Geno Smith has a great start to camp or if some other team that believes it’s a contender loses its quarterback to injury in August.
Dwight Freeney – He’s made a few visits and figures to eventually have some real suitors given how well (eight sacks in 11 games) he played last season for the Cardinals. Waiting last year seemed to work, so Freeney, 36, probably will have no problem being patient as he awaits a call and a chance to play a 15th season.
Greg Hardy – Hardy brings baggage, but lots of teams are looking for pass rushers. He recently visited the Jaguars, but reports say no signing is imminent. A team would have to be convinced that Hardy can still be an impact player before taking him on.
Anquan Boldin – Boldin is 35, but it’s not like he was ever a speed burner. He knows how to get open and how to catch passes in traffic, and he’ll eventually land with a team that wants him to play in the slot and help keep the chains moving.
Omar Bolden – While most players on this list are on the wrong side of 30, Bolden is 27. He signed with the Bears in March but was cut last week. Bolden can help in the return game as well as playing as a backup defensive back, and he probably won’t be unemployed for long.
Brian Hartline – Released by the Browns in the spring, Hartline had a productive 2015 before an injury ended his season. He’s not going to be a starter, but like Boldin he’s probably near the top of the call list for teams who either lose a receiver in camp or are looking to upgrade the slot position.
Antonio Cromartie – He’s 32, but he’s missed very few starts over his 10-year career and has generally been around the ball. He went without an interception in 15 starts last season, so teams might be wondering if he can still keep up.
Michael Vick – After subbing with the Steelers last season, Vick recently has been campaigning for a job and saying he’d like to play one more season. He signed during camp last summer, and it would likely be a similar scenario this time around if he’s going to land with a team.
Mike Neal – It’s surprising that Neal, who just turned 29, remains unemployed given that he had four sacks for the Packers last year, has starting experience and can play both defensive end and outside linebacker.
Leon Hall – The former first-rounder and longtime Bengals cornerback has taken some visits but has not yet found a home. If Hall, 31, doesn’t return to the Bengals, look for him to sign with another contender and play as a third or fourth cornerback.
Percy Harvin – Harvin reportedly has chosen retirement and doesn’t plan to play in 2016, but there’s never been much predictable about Harvin.
Joique Bell – If Bell is healthy, he can contribute in some team’s running back rotation. Given his injury history, it might be a while before a team gives him a call.
Donte Whitner – The Browns released Whitner after the start of free agency. He’s 31 and didn’t have a strong 2015 season, but he was good in 2014 for the Browns. He’s likely atop the emergency call list of many teams if a need at strong safety arises.
Randy Starks – Like Whitner, Starks was released by the Browns in the offseason. Starks, 32, had a quiet season on a bad team last year, but his ability to rush the passer and play multiple positions across the defensive line make him an attractive target for a team that decides it wants to boost its depth.
Roddy White – His breakup with the Falcons came as no surprise. White will turn 35 in November, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a team give him a look in late August or early September.
James Jones – Jones ended up playing a pretty important role for the Packers last season. It’s no surprise that the team is going young at wide receiver, but Jones, 32, will eventually get a call from some team.