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Chudzinski departure makes Panthers (more of) a mess


When Ron Rivera was successfully re-interviewing for his job last weekend, one of the things he doubtless was selling was the promise of continuity after winning five of his last six, and the benefit for quarterback Cam Newton.

Now that Panthers offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski is the head coach in Cleveland, Rivera’s back to square one.

If, as has been reported, Norv Turner ends up with Chudzinski, Rivera’s ostensible top candidate will be off the board. Rivera was Turner’s defensive coordinator in San Diego before getting the Panthers job.

Norv’s son Scott has been an offensive assistant in Charlotte the last two years, and his presence never seemed completely coincidental. Norv in Charlotte would have been a dream fit for Newton and whatever version of the Panthers backfield remains, along with Steve Smith and Greg Olsen.

But if Rivera couldn’t land his old boss, he’s in a bit of a pinch, as quarterbacks coach Mike Shula is the only member of his offensive staff with coordinator experience (and that wasn’t exactly distinguished in Tampa Bay), and he’s already replacing his wide receivers coach and running backs coach in a less-than-secure environment.

So to recap, a new general manager (Dave Gettleman) was given a head coach he had no voice in hiring, and now that coach has to replace half a staff and install a new system anyway.

What could possibly go wrong?

The background on the shuffle makes it more frustrating for the Panthers.

When former G.M. Marty Hurney hired Rivera, he had a list of offensive coordinator candidates in mind along with a list of head coaches. It’s believed that Bengals coordinator Jay Gruden was atop Hurney’s list, but Rivera insisted on Chudzinski instead. Hurney, in a move that may have effectively doomed him, relented and let his new coach pick his own guy.

Chudzinski is widely known as a smart guy, and his Ohio roots will give him a passion for the Browns job they need. But more than one of his former co-workers in Charlotte thought he was coaching to land a head coaching job, rather than using the tools he was given. Hence drawing up all the creative read-option plays, which were cute for a moment, while ignoring the fact he had been given running backs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart.

The end result is Rivera’s still standing, but scrambling for an answer, and the Panthers look like even more of a disjointed mess this morning than they already did.

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Tuesday’s special-edition PFT Live podcast is up

With no three-hour editions of PFT Live until July 24 and yours truly sitting around doing nothing, I’ve decided to sit around doing nothing while talking about football.

Tuesday’s NFL news and analysis roundup, in the form of the PFT Live podcast, is available for your listening pleasure.

Join me as I rip through a dozen topics or so. Later this week, we’ll be joined by Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, who apparently is working during his vacation, too.

Download and subscribe at Apple Podcasts, audioBoom, and wherever else they have podcasts.

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Taco Charlton finally gets his taco endorsement deal

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The day after the Cowboys drafted defensive end Taco Charlton in the first round, the Dallas Morning News‘ headline read “Taco Bueno.”

Given how well his name would work for purposes other than headlines, it was only a matter of time before Charlton landed an endorsement deal related to his first name. That time has come.

The news comes, appropriately enough, on a Taco Tuesday. Even appropriately, it is the Tex-Mex chain Taco Bueno that announced Charlton has signed on to promote their restaurants.

“At the heart of any good partnership is authenticity and genuine respect,” CEO Mike Roper said in a statement, via the News. “Taco is serious about football, and we are serious about Tex-Mex, and that is a winning combination. We couldn’t be more excited to bring some fun to all our fans this upcoming football season.”

Charlton has also signed on to promote Big Red soda, so he’ll have something to wash down all the tacos that will be coming his way in Dallas.

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Jim Kelly: Sean McDermott gives Bills discipline they haven’t had in a while


Among the things that Sean McDermott did after being named the head coach of the Bills was remove a pool table and video games from the team’s locker room.

McDermott explained the move by saying “this is a business” and that having those diversions on hand weren’t going to help him build “a focused, disciplined and accountable football team.” Bills great Jim Kelly cited one of those traits as a reason why he’s excited about this year’s team.

“I’m excited about the 2017 Buffalo Bills. Coach McDermott brings discipline to the table that we haven’t had in a while,” Kelly said, via the team’s Twitter account.

It’s hard to read Kelly’s comment and not think about McDermott’s immediate predecessor. Disciplined wasn’t frequently used to describe Rex Ryan’s teams and it’s not surprising that a clear difference from Ryan’s style would be appealing given the way the last two years played out.

There was a time, of course, when Ryan’s style suited many people just fine. Kelly was one of them, which probably just serves to underscore that the Bills have tried a lot of different approaches since Kelly’s heyday without hitting on one that’s brought them much success.

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New Gatorade ad champions losing, showcases Matt Ryan

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This isn’t based on an item from The Onion. But I checked several times to be completely sure.

Via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, a new Gatorade commercial sells sugar water (with electrolytes) by championing losing, and by reveling in the motivation that comes from failure.

“Make Defeat Your Fuel” is the slogan that drives the ad — and it makes sense, from a market-share standpoint. In every game, there’s both a winner and a loser,  and in every league or conference, most teams end up losing. With so many losers out there, why not market to them directly?

The commercial starts with a closeup of Michael Jordan, a dry-faced mirror-image of the meme that has become synonymous with athletic failure. Jordan, who was cut from his high-school basketball team, is followed by J.J. Watt, who points out that he “started his career a walk-on” (at Wisconsin; he had a scholarship at Central Michigan). Next come the Manning brothers, with Peyton pointing out that went 3-13 as a rookie (the all-time rookie interception record he still holds isn’t mentioned), and with Eli saying he once led the league in interceptions.

Eventually comes Matt Ryan, with a recreation of his walk through confetti that wasn’t falling for the Falcons after Super Bowl LI, followed by a slickly-edited training montage.

It remains to be seen whether the effort to attach the leading sports drink to losing will continue to prompt athletes to buy Gatorade. If the goal was to inspire by latching on to the story of a loser who becomes a winner, the far more effective tactic would have been to digitally add some Gatorade swigging to the unforgettable training montage that came after Adrian emerged from the coma and gave her husband a one-word mandate.

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Report: No way Rams, Trumaine Johnson will reach long-term deal

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Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson will apparently play for $16.7 million this season, then hit free agency next year.

The Rams and Johnson aren’t close on talks about a long-term deal and won’t get a deal done, Adam Schefter of ESPN reports.

Johnson signed the franchise tender and said he’s happy in Los Angeles, so there’s no reason to believe the two sides being far apart is causing any animosity. It’s just a matter of Johnson thinking he can make more by hitting free agency next year than the Rams are offering him now.

This is the second consecutive year that Johnson got the franchise tag, meaning he’ll get true unrestricted free agency next year. Under NFL rules, franchising Johnson for a third time next year would require the Rams to guarantee him at least $24 million for the 2018 season, which would be prohibitively expensive. So Johnson is one season away from getting to shop his services to the entire league.

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Report: Chiefs to interview Ryan Cowden for G.M. job on Wednesday

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The Chiefs will reportedly interview a candidate for their General Manager opening on Wednesday.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that Titans director of player personnel Ryan Cowden will interview with the team on Wednesday. Chiefs co-director of player personnel Brett Veach is also set to interview for the job.

Cowden joined the Titans last year and oversaw all areas of the team’s pro and college scouting departments. He spent the previous 16 years in the Panthers organization.

Seahawks exec Scott Fitterer and ESPN analyst Louis Riddick have been mentioned as other possible candidates for the job, although there have been no reports of interviews being scheduled with either man at this point. The Chiefs fired John Dorsey last week after four years on the job with reports that issues with his communication and management styles led to the decision.

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Supreme Court could remove federal ban to sports wagering

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At a time when Congress has launched an effort to scrap a 1992 law that prevents most states from legalizing wagering on sports, another branch of the government could get the job done more quickly.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a case that challenges the federal prohibition on expanded betting on sporting events. The case, arising from efforts by New Jersey to enact sports wagering, will be presented as early as October 2017, with a decision coming in the weeks or months thereafter.

While the decision doesn’t mean New Jersey will win, it’s an encouraging sign. New Jersey had lost at every step of the process, and a decision by the Supreme Court not to hear the case would have ended it with an “L” for pro-gambling interests. A victory remains possible, and some will predict that the current makeup of the Supreme Court points to a win.

The argument against the law flows from the notion that states should be permitted to decide whether to allow gambling on sports. The 1992 law was written in a way that allowed places like Nevada to continue to permit sports wagering, forbidding other states who didn’t already allow this form of gambling to join in.

The development puts the NFL in an awkward spot. At a time when it has embraced Las Vegas by allowing the Raiders to eventually move there, many think the league also secretly longs for the day when fans can play the odds via and/or each of the various team websites, with the league acting as the bookie at most, middleman at a minimum, for widespread wagering. To get there, federal law first must change, and then the states must embrace betting, one by one.

The NFL had no comment on the news of a new effort in Congress to scrap the federal law prohibiting sports wagering. PFT has submitted a request for comment to the league regarding the Supreme Court’s decision, which on the surface will be met with a profane muttering of frustration but which at a deeper level could prompt a profane shout of joy, thanks to the many billions the league will earn every year if/when it can finally get a piece of all of the money that currently changes hands illegally by people who bet on sports, regardless of what the law allows.

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Ravens announce scouting hires

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At least one of this summer’s ESPN layoffs has found an NFL job.

The Ravens announced they had hired Kevin Weidl as a new area scout for the Southeast and Southwest.

Weidl worked for Scouts Inc. as a draft analyst and did some television and radio work in Charlotte, but was let go as part of the four-letter network’s purge earlier this spring. His brother Andy used to work for the Ravens, but just left to take a job with the Eagles as assistant director of player personnel.

The Ravens also promoted Brandon Berning to an area scout post, after he served as a player personnel assistant.

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Former Chiefs cornerback gets first pro baseball hit

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Tim Tebow isn’t the only former NFL player giving baseball a shot this summer.

Former Chiefs cornerback Sanders Commings, whose football career ended because of injuries, is playing in the Braves farm system. And last night, playing for the Danville Braves, he got his first two professional hits in his second professional start. That gives him a .333 average, and a 113-point edge on Tebow.

It’s impressive because Commings hasn’t played baseball competitively since 2008, when he was in high school in Georgia.

It was a little bit of a sigh of relief,” he said, via Alex Tichenor of the Danville Register & Bee. “Last game, I got two at-bats and got two [strikeouts], so I felt a little bit of pressure to get that first hit. I got a first-pitch fastball today and it dropped in for a double. It feels really good.”

Commings was a fifth-round pick of the Chiefs in 2013. He played two games after breaking his collarbone in training camp. The next year, he broke his ankle in training camp and spent the year on injured reserve. He was waived with an injury settlement in 2015.

He trained with former Major Leaguer Jerry Hairston Jr., and signed a free agent deal with the Braves this year. And apparently the 27-year-old Commings has impressed his teammates who have played more recently.

“I was amazed,” D-Braves shortstop Nick Shumpert said. “His swing is really good for not having played in that long. It looks like a normal baseball swing. When I first saw him, I didn’t know he hadn’t played in a while.”

Of course, he didn’t win a Heisman Trophy, doesn’t have a side job in television, and he wasn’t a quarterback, so he hasn’t been promoted yet.

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Jets name Matt Bazirgan college scouting director

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The Jets are in the throes of a big rebuilding project and part of the responsibility for its success or failure will rest on the people tasked with adding players out of the college ranks in the coming seasons.

There will be a new head of that scouting effort. Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News reports that the the Jets made Matt Bazirgan their new college scouting director and the team’s website reflects that change.

Rex Hogan was hired after Mike Maccagnan became General Manager in 2015 and held that job for the last two years, but left to take a post in the Colts’ front office this offseason. Bazirgan has worked for the Jets since 2004 and was promoted to pro personnel director following Maccagnan’s arrival in New Jersey.

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Bengals sign a guard

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The Bengals have added a player to their offensive line group ahead of training camp.

The team announced on Tuesday that they have signed guard Cameron Lee to their 90-man roster.

Lee went undrafted after completing his career at Illinois State last season. He started every game during his final two seasons in college and signed with the Saints after the draft, but was dropped from New Orleans’ roster earlier this month.

The Bengals signed Andre Smith this offseason with designs on him switching from tackle to take over for Kevin Zeitler, who signed with the Browns as a free agent. Lee will be competing for a reserve spot or a chance to continue working with the Bengals as a member of their practice squad come September.

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Vince Young still doesn’t close door on football

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The Vince Young CFL Experiment ended poorly, with a hamstring injury resulting in Young being released by the Saskatchewan RoughRiders before the launch of the regular season. But even after that experience, Young isn’t slamming the door on playing football.

Maybe I’ll play football again,” Young told Greg Bishop of Sports Illustrated in an article that chronicles the quarterback’s more-lows-than-highs career. “You never know.”

You never know because Young knows (or at least thinks) that he is as good or better than guys currently playing in the NFL.

“I’d see a quarterback and be like, ‘Dude is garbage, and I’m over here in the kitchen cooking turkey necks?’” Young said. “I hate to name-drop, but [Ryan] Fitzpatrick is still playing? He leads the league in interceptions, and he’s still f–king getting paid? I mean, what the f–k is going on?”

The full article paints a picture that isn’t surprising but is nevertheless informative. Entitled and coddled as a young star quarterback, Young didn’t do enough to maximize his talents. Then, after things fell apart for him in Tennessee, he didn’t do enough to prove himself all over again.

The self-awareness that led him to Canada came too late. If he’d done it a few years ago, maybe he’d be the one leading the league in interceptions. For now, he’ll continue to have as many interceptions in the NFL as he’s had touchdown passes, passing attempts, completions, and rushing tries since 2011: None.

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Cam Newton: I know I need to be better

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Panthers quarterback Cam Newton resumed throwing last week for the first time since having right shoulder surgery and said there’s “no doubt” that he’ll be fully ready for training camp next month.

When Newton does get on the field with the rest of the team, he’ll be working on getting the one thing he says is missing from his life. That would be a Super Bowl ring and the 2015 NFL MVP said that he believes getting there will call on him to step up his game.

“The more I reflect on who I am or what I have become and what I can still become — I need to be better. I know I need to be better,” Newton said to Bill Voth of the Panthers website. “I want to be better because me being my best me helps everything else around me, including this organization.”

One way Newton thinks he can be better is by putting less of the pressure to get things done on his own back. While the Panthers offense is always going to run through Newton, the quarterback said that the “hardest thing” about his maturation in the league has been the realization that “my job is not necessarily to always be the playmaker.”

The Panthers drafted running back Christian McCaffrey and wide receiver Curtis Samuel in the first two rounds this year and that has helped Newton feel that the team has the kind of talent around him to make that happen.

“When you look at quarterbacks and where I’m at right now, I want to commit everything to the game of football,” Newton said. “I want my diet to display that. I want my life to display that. I don’t want to look back when I’m 40 and be like, ‘Dang, when I was 28 and we had this talent around us, I didn’t maximize it.”

If everything falls into place on the offensive line in Carolina, Newton should have the time and opportunity to get the ball to others so that they can do more of the heavy lifting. Should things play out the other way, though, it may be hard for Newton to resist trying to make things happen on his own when he’s under fire.

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Latavius Murray: This is my time

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The Vikings signed running back Latavius Murray as a free agent shortly after they released Adrian Peterson, but Murray’s time as the clear frontrunner to replace Peterson as the No. 1 back in Minnesota this season didn’t last long.

Some could point to Murray’s ankle surgery as a reason, but the arrival of rookie Dalvin Cook in the second round of the draft would have changed the equation even if Murray was 100 percent this offseason. The Vikings have enjoyed what they’ve seen from Cook thus far and Murray concedes that Cook has a leg up thanks to his time on the field this spring, but the veteran said on NFL Network Tuesday that he’s not conceding anything else.

“You’re looking at it from his aspect, ‘This older vet is coming off this injury, it’s time for him to step aside. I want this, and I should be the guy,'” Murray said. “I’m looking at it from my perspective, like, look, this is my time, this is my new opportunity and this is what I want. When it comes Game 1, I need to be back there in the “I” lining up.”

Murray added that competing with Cook won’t stop him from offering the rookie help should he need it this summer, but made it clear that he expects his work in camp and the preseason to earn him a place in the lineup for the first snap of the regular season.

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Marty B’s top QBs: 1-Rodgers, 2-Brady, 3-Cutler, 4-Eli, 5-Romo


Packers tight end Martellus Bennett has played with a lot of good quarterbacks in his NFL career. Heading into his 10th NFL season, Bennett has played with Tony Romo on the Cowboys, Eli Manning on the Giants, Jay Cutler on the Bears, Tom Brady on the Patriots and Aaron Rodgers on the Packers.

So which one is the best?

Bennett chose the quarterback he’s playing with now, Rodgers, in an appearance on NFL Network.

“Aaron, I love you,” Bennett said. “He’s a really smart guy, he’s just really laid back, really cool and it’s been fun working with him so far.”

Bennett chose Brady as the No. 2 quarterback he has played with. At No. 3 is a big surprise: Cutler, whom Bennett played with for three years in Chicago. And Bennett says Manning, who was his teammate for only one year in New York, was better than Romo, Bennett’s quarterback during the first four years of his NFL career in Dallas.

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