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ProFootballTalk: The end is near for Reid
Jay Cutler was the Bears’ starting quarterback for Brian Urlacher’s last four seasons in Chicago. Now Urlacher thinks Cutler should lose his starting job.
Urlacher said on FOX Football Daily that Josh McCown has proven that he’s the best quarterback on the Bears, and McCown should remain the starter regardless of Cutler’s health. Urlacher also said that if he were still on the Bears, he wouldn’t want to see the coaches go back to Cutler when McCown is playing well.
“It’s going to be awfully hard to take Josh out of there right now the way he’s playing,” Urlacher said. “In my opinion, he should be the guy, he should be the starting quarterback of the Bears, even if Jay Cutler is healthy. You can’t take a guy who’s this hot out of the football game. If I was on that team, I would have a hard time with them taking him out.”
Urlacher also suggested that the Bears may be overstating the seriousness of Cutler’s injury to avoid having to make a tough call about their starting quarterback.
“I think Jay might be healthy right now,” Urlacher said.
Whether he’s healthy now or not, Cutler is expected to be healthy enough to play before the end of the season. When that time comes, the Bears have a difficult decision. But Urlacher doesn’t sound like he thinks the decision should be particularly difficult: The Bears’ best quarterback is McCown.
The Packers are rolling toward a Sunday date with the Cowboys and they’re holding out fading hope that Aaron Rodgers will be able to join them.
Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel will join Mike Florio on PFT Live on Wednesday to discuss that possibility. Rodgers hasn’t been medically cleared as of Wednesday morning and he said that he experienced pain when he practiced last week, two things that seem to work against a green light coming in time for the game against Dallas. We’ll find out from Dunne if the Packers can win without their best player or if last week’s win was more about playing a bad team at home than anything the Packers did.
We’ll also take our weekly look at the coaching hot seat and we’ll try to include some coaches who aren’t following Mike Shanahan’s lead by heating up their own seat and then daring their team owner to kick it out from under them.
You can watch it all live at noon ET by clicking right here.
NFL teams scored more touchdowns on Sunday than on any other day in NFL history, so it should come as no surprise that there were a lot more candidates for this week’s offensive honors than there were for those on the defensive side of the ball.
Chiefs linebacker Tamba Hali has emerged from that slender pack as the league’s choice for the weekly award. Hali had two sacks and five tackles as the Chiefs steamrolled the hapless Redskins 45-10 in Washington.
Hali now has 11 sacks on the season, but the pair against Washington were his first since Week Seven. The entire Chiefs pass rush had struggled for a few weeks, something that losing linebacker Justin Houston to a dislocated elbow didn’t help, so the six sacks against Washington and Hali’s return to form were quite welcome in Kansas City.
If Hali and company can keep it going this week and lead the team to another victory, the Chiefs will clinch a playoff berth.
Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton was named the AFC offensive player of the month for October, but the honor was given just before he faced the Dolphins on a Thursday night game on October 31.
Dalton performed poorly in that game and the Bengals lost to Miami. The Bengals will spend the next few days hoping that Dalton performs better after receiving another honor from the league.
Dalton has been named the AFC offensive player of the week for his performance against the Colts in Week 14. Dalton threw for three touchdowns and ran for another one to lead the Bengals to a 42-28 victory that put them one step closer to their first AFC North title since 2009.
If they can put the finishing touches on that, the next big hurdle to clear will be the first playoff victory since 1990. If they can’t do that, it will make three trips to the playoffs and three losses for Dalton.
The 49ers were worried they were a kicker away from a championship team last year, and made a move to upgrade by signing Phil Dawson this offseason.
The move has paid off, as he’s been nearly perfect.
Dawson was named NFC special teams player of the week for his four-field goal performance in a win over the Seahawks. The last one was the decider, a 22-yarder with 26 seconds left.
But he’s hit 20 straight field goals, setting a 49ers franchise record. With that kind of accuracy, they’re probably not going to need to bring kickers in for insurance in the postseason, like last year when David Akers was shaky.
We’re still waiting on official word from the Redskins that Kirk Cousins will be their starting quarterback in Week 15, but more information about how the Redskins will handle their quarterback spot continues to leak out of Washington.
Jeff Darlington of NFL Network reports that Redskins players have been told that Rex Grossman will serve as Cousins’ backup against the Falcons. Robert Griffin III will be inactive, which, of course, makes him RG3rd String. The decision fits with coach Mike Shanahan’s statement that Griffin would be shut down for the season as a precaution against injury.
Why that desire to protect Griffin from injury cropped up before a game in a dome against a bad defense rather than on a crummy day on a crummy field against a strong defense is just one of many questions we imagine people will be asking when the Redskins face the media on Wednesday.
We’ll wait for answers to that and the other questions raised by the strange saga playing out in Washington between Griffin, Shanahan and owner Dan Snyder at the end of both a disappointing season and, almost certainly, Shanahan’s time as the team’s head coach.
Not only is John Abraham not washed up, he’s playing as well as ever.
The 35-year-old Cardinals pass-rusher was named NFC defensive player of the week, after a 3.0 sack performance against the Rams.
Abraham has 11.0 on the season, and moved ahead of Lawrence Taylor for ninth place on the all-time sack list (133.0). He’s the active leader by about a season’s worth over Jared Allen (124.0).
Getting that kind of production from Abraham — who struggled to find a job for a bit this offseason — has been one of the keys for the Cardinals this year, giving teeth to a defense that had good parts already.
The Dolphins are four days away from having to decide whether to bring back guard Richie Incognito or cut him. Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald reports that Incognito definitely won’t return to the team — after Sunday’s game or ever.
Salguero also believes that a decision has been made or will be made to extend Incognito’s currently paid suspension through the end of the regular season, keeping him out of action for the Dolphins or anyone for the rest of the year.
In March, Incognito becomes a free agent.
That cuts against the sense of optimism previously emanating from Camp Incognito regarding the possibility that he’ll be playing in the postseason. Salguero believes Incognito will go along with an effort to shut him down with pay, given that he did some things he shouldn’t have done, even if NFL investigator Ted Wells concludes that those things don’t amount to bullying or harassment of tackle Jonathan Martin.
Speaking of Wells, Salguero expects the public release of the independent report to be delayed, possibly until after the Super Bowl. Salguero also reports that Martin will not be back with the Dolphins, at any time. Salguero writes that Martin will be traded to the highest bidder in the offseason.
Of course, there will be no bidder unless it’s clear that Martin truly wants to play football. If no one is willing to take that leap of faith, the Dolphins may have to waive him.
Bears quarterback Josh McCown was responsible for five touchdowns on Monday night, which was good enough for both a victory over the Cowboys and the NFC’s offensive player of the week honor.
The NFL announced McCown’s prize on Wednesday, two days after his sparkling play led the Bears to a 45-28 win that was crucial for their hopes of making it to the playoffs this season. Other than their final possession when they took a knee to run out the clock, the Bears scored every time they had the ball on Monday.
McCown completed 27-of-36 passes for 348 yards and four touchdowns. He also ran for a touchdown and is the first Bears quarterback ever to have a hand in five touchdowns in a single game without throwing an interception.
McCown has played very well since Jay Cutler was knocked out of the lineup with a sprained ankle, completing 70 percent of his passes while throwing nine touchdowns and one interception. It’s been a remarkable run for a 34-year-old journeyman quarterback who has never stopped referring to himself as Cutler’s backup while lighting up opposing defenses and the player of the week mention is a well deserved one.
Coach Marc Trestman said this week that Cutler will play once he’s cleared to return, but that hasn’t happened yet and McCown is continuing to ensure that there’s no need to rush unless Cutler’s return is going to somehow help a defense that cannot stop the run.
Some weeks, it’s hard to find a special teams player of the week, and they end up giving it to a punter for something thrilling like dropping three inside the 20.
This week, it was the choice between an all-time record and a performance that was close.
Broncos kicker Matt Prater earned AFC special teams player of the week honors, after hitting a league-record 64-yard field goal just before halftime against the Titans.
That broke the old record of 63 held by four guys, and helped propel the Broncos to a dominant second half.
But there were other performances that could have easily won the award. Chiefs return man Dexter McCluster had 177 yards worth of punt returns, including a 74-yard touchdown. Most weeks, that would have earned a little extra notice on Wednesday.
As Redskins coach Mike Shanahan continues to agitate his way out of D.C. while inviting further scrutiny of a track record that includes only one playoff victory in 15 years since winning a pair of Elway-and-cap-violations-fueled Super Bowls, reports that Kirk Cousins will get the start at quarterback on Sunday is merely the first step in what could be a day full of D.C. dysfunction.
Shanahan, for example, could still change his mind about shutting Griffin down. Jay Glazer of FOX has reported that Robert Griffin III will have a chance to state his case to continue playing, an interaction that would have made much more sense before Sunday’s game plan was finalized on Tuesday.
Then comes practice followed by (based on the Tuesday media schedule released by the team) an open locker room session and press conferences from Shanahan and Griffin.
So, yeah, it’s a mess. And it will only get messier — especially if Griffin at his press conference or other players in the locker room decide to say what everyone outside the organization is thinking regarding Shanahan’s desire to provoke his firing by benching the owner’s alleged BFF.
Bears linebacker Lance Briggs went to see the doctor on Tuesday for an examination of his fractured shoulder, but the visit did not result in clearance to return to the field.
That makes it unlikely that Briggs will return to the lineup for the Week 15 game against the Browns, although the linebacker said he’ll be evaluated again in a couple of days so he’s not ruling himself out for Sunday. In order to play, though, Briggs says he needs to feel like he can defend himself on the field and that’s not where he is at this point in his recovery.
“The thing about it is, I understand why I haven’t been cleared,” Briggs said, via the Chicago Sun-Times. “Being a linebacker on the field, it’s violent. You have to tackle. You have to take on a lot of people. If at any point you deal with the shoulder, which you use all the time, you risk setting yourself back.”
In six games without Briggs, the Bears have allowed 1,220 rushing yards. That pace would make them the worst run defense in history over the course of a 16-game season, which makes the benefit of Briggs’ return obvious even if it wouldn’t solve all the defensive problems in Chicago.
Your move, Mr. Snyder.
In a turn that’s been expected since he broached the topic on Monday, Redskins coach Mike Shanahan has decided to start Kirk Cousins at quarterback against the Falcons this week, according to multiple reports which we’ve independently confirmed.
That will trigger the next wave of tension between quarterback Robert Griffin III and owner Daniel Snyder and Shanahan, which already appeared to be considerable.
But it could also create pressure on the Redskins this offseason if Cousins plays well.
If Cousins can do something Griffin has been unable to lately (play well, win), it could create a quarterback controversy that would extend well beyond Shanahan’s employment there.
That might be his parting gift to Dan Snyder, one he seems happy to provide as he walks away.
After quarterback Josh Freeman secured his freedom from the Buccaneers (along with the right to collect the balance of his $8.43 million base salary), he selected the Vikings as his next destination.
The Vikings then rushed him to the field for a Monday night start against the Giants only two weeks after joining the team. He threw 53 passes, emerged with a concussion, quickly healed, and then disappeared.
A first-round pick in 2009 who had twice led the Bucs to victories over the Vikings in the Metrodome, Freeman has fallen out of a two-man quarterback rotation that spins from Christian Ponder to Matt Cassel back to Ponder.
So why are the Vikings continuing to pay Freeman $166,667 per week to not contribute? They could cut him at any time and owe him nothing, banking the cash and carrying the ensuing cap savings forward to 2014.
Apart from saving face for signing him in the first place, keeping Freeman makes him available for emergency duty, and it gives Minnesota exclusive negotiating rights on a new deal until March. But if the Vikings aren’t ready to play Freeman after having him in the building for two months, why would they want to make a long-term commitment to him?
The bigger question that never will be answered is whether the Vikings would still sign Freeman, if they knew in October what they know now. It’s likely safe to assume Freeman would have made a different decision.
It wasn’t a shocking nugget of information. Johnson is set to make $8 million next season and his production — 820 rushing yards and 3.8 yards per carry — isn’t at the same level as that salary. As Mike Florio pointed out on Tuesday, however, there are a lot of decisions to make in Tennessee and the decision on Johnson will almost certainly wait until the team’s decided on their coach and General Manager for 2014 and beyond.
Titans president and CEO Tommy Smith will be the man pulling the trigger on those decisions and he’s agonizing over what to do with coach Mike Munchak, which may help explain why he says that any talk of Johnson leaving the team is “premature” and that the team needs to make better use of the running back.
“Chris has done nothing but what he’s been asked to do there. He suits up and he plays every game. I think they need to figure out how to use him and his skill set better, but he has been a good teammate and a good player,” Smith said, via Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean. “Chris, like every player, we are looking at all of them. … We are evaluating each and every position on this team, and we are only going to keep players we think will contribute and earn their keep.”
If Munchak does stay as coach, it’s hard to imagine that he’s suddenly going to “figure out how to use him and his skill set better” since he hasn’t been able to figure it out after 45 games with Johnson on the roster. How that factors into Smith’s ultimate decision is one of many questions that the Titans will answer once the offseason rolls around.