ProFootballTalk: PFT’s Conference Championship picks
The 49ers might be honing in on a head coaching choice (or just picking whoever’s left), but their search for a General Manager is continuing.
Via Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com, the 49ers are interviewing Seahawks personnel man Trent Kirchner today.
They’re presumably clear to also talk to Seattle’s Scott Fitterer today, as he was among the previously reported candidates and the Seahawks’ schedule is clear after this weekend’s loss to the Falcons.
The 49ers have cast a wide net for G.M. candidates, and initially suggested they wanted to fill that position before they hired a head coach. And if the Falcons beat the Packers this week, they’d technically have another two weeks to accomplish that goal, since presumed choice Kyle Shanahan would be held up the way Falcons head coach Dan Quinn was.
That became certain when Brady’s Patriots and Roethlisberger’s Steelers won this weekend to meet in the AFC Championship Game. Either Brady will start his seventh Super Bowl, adding to his own NFL record, or Roethlisberger will start his fourth. Manning also started four.
The only other quarterback to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl in the last 13 years was Joe Flacco, whose team topped Roethlisberger’s Steelers to win the AFC North in 2012, then beat Manning’s Broncos in the divisional playoffs and Brady’s Patriots in the AFC Championship Game. Before that, the last other quarterback to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl was Rich Gannon, whose 2002 Raiders dethroned Brady’s 2001 Patriots as reigning AFC champions.
Sunday will be, incredibly, the 11th time Brady has started in the AFC Championship Game. It will be Roethlisberger’s fifth AFC Championship Game. Manning also started five AFC Championship Games.
Since 2001, the Patriots have advanced to 11 AFC Championship Games, the Steelers six (five with Roethlisberger, one without), the Colts four (three with Manning, one without) and the Broncos three (two with Manning, one without). So counting this year, those four teams will have accounted for 24 AFC Championship Game appearances since the 2001 season, with the other 12 AFC teams accounting for a combined eight AFC Championship Game appearances.
Here’s a list of the starting AFC quarterbacks in the Super Bowl for every season in the 21st Century:
2001: Tom Brady, Patriots
2002: Rich Gannon, Raiders
2003: Tom Brady, Patriots
2004: Tom Brady, Patriots
2005: Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers
2006: Peyton Manning, Colts
2007: Tom Brady, Patriots
2008: Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers
2009: Peyton Manning, Colts
2010: Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers
2011: Tom Brady, Patriots
2012: Joe Flacco, Ravens
2013: Peyton Manning, Broncos
2014: Tom Brady, Patriots
2015: Peyton Manning, Broncos
2016: Brady or Roethlisberger
Monday brought word that Josh McDaniels will be remaining with the Patriots as their offensive coordinator after pulling his name from consideration for the 49ers head coaching job.
That decision leaves the team with a pair of candidates that they’ve interviewed in Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and Seahawks offensive line coach Tom Cable. Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that the team is “honing in” on hiring Shanahan as their next coach.
Shanahan interviewed during the Falcons’ bye week and can talk to the 49ers again after the NFC Championship Game. Should the Falcons win, the 49ers would have to wait until the game is over to formally hire Shanahan and they’d be able to make a hire right away if Green Bay goes to the Super Bowl.
Shanahan has had several head coaching interviews over the last couple of years. If he does wind up with the job in Santa Clara, he’ll be a bit behind — quite a bit if the Falcons get to Houston — other teams when it comes to filling out a staff.
That’s an inconvenience, but it may not be a major one for Shanahan given how it has worked out for current boss Dan Quinn, who was hired in Atlanta after the Seahawks lost to the Patriots in the Super Bowl two years ago.
There’s one head coaching vacancy in the NFL right now and it appears it will not be filled by Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
According to multiple reports, McDaniels has pulled his name from consideration for the position. He interviewed during Wild Card weekend and would be eligible to speak to the Niners again after Sunday’s game against the Steelers whether the Patriots win or lose, although any hire would obviously have to wait until after the Super Bowl if the Patriots advance.
Jason LaCanfora of CBS Sports reports that McDaniels gave the 49ers job a lot of consideration, but is making a “personal decision” to stay put rather than move across the country at this time. McDaniels has said that he wants another chance to be a head coach and will likely be a candidate for openings again next season.
With McDaniels out of the running, Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and Seahawks offensive line coach Tom Cable are the other candidates who have interviewed with the team without getting another job. The 49ers are also looking for a new General Manager after dispatching Trent Baalke along with Chip Kelly after the end of the season.
UPDATE 11:42 a.m. ET: McDaniels confirmed he’ll be staying put during a Monday conference call.
Rex Ryan’s departure from Buffalo struck a serious blow to his hopes of more head coaching work in the NFL and many have opined that his coaching future in the league would be as a defensive coordinator.
There’s been no sign that Ryan is going to go that route in 2017, but his brother appears to have interest in such a position. Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com reports that Rob Ryan is scheduled to interview with the Redskins for their defensive coordinator opening this week.
Ryan spent last season in Buffalo with his brother, although their combined efforts didn’t do enough to get the defense where it needed to be. He came to Buffalo after being dismissed as the Saints’ defensive coordinator during the 2015 season and Ryan has also run the defense in Dallas, Cleveland and Oakland over the course of his career.
Washington fired Joe Barry after the season and they interviewed Mike Pettine, who was a longtime Ryan assistant before becoming the Browns head coach, and Gus Bradley for the opening.
The absence of wide receiver Jordy Nelson didn’t stop the Packers from coming back to beat the Giants in the Wild Card round and it didn’t stop them from taking down the Cowboys 34-31 on Sunday, so the team knows they can win if Nelson’s injured ribs keep him out of the lineup against the Falcons.
They’d prefer to have everyone on hand helping with the effort to get to the Super Bowl, however. After Sunday’s win, Nelson said that his ribs were feeling “a lot better” than he was a week ago but that it’s too early to say if he’ll be able to play.
“No, there’s no guarantees,” Nelson said, via the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “We’re a whole week away.”
The Packers had a handful of other players get banged up during the win over the Cowboys. Safety Morgan Burnett’s thigh injury appears most serious as a return after getting hurt in the first quarter was short-lived. Tackles David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga joined wide receiver Davante Adams and cornerback Ladarius Gunter as players who were briefly sidelined before returning to action, something that should bode well for their availability in the NFC title game.
Sunday afternoon’s Packers-Cowboys game has done blockbuster TV ratings for the NFL on FOX.
Packers-Cowboys drew a 28.2 overnight rating, which is the highest rating for a divisional playoff game in 20 years.
The combination of two popular teams and a great game that was decided as time expired gave the NFL an absolutely phenomenal rating — the kind of rating that can be topped only by the conference championship games and the Super Bowls. Other sports simply can’t draw those kinds of ratings, even for the biggest and best games. For context, Game 7 of the 2016 World Series drew a 25.2 overnight rating, while Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals drew an 18.9 overnight rating.
That’s very good news from the NFL, which spent much of the 2016 season mired in low television ratings. Those ratings began to rebound after the election, and the playoffs have been particularly strong.
From a ratings standpoint, the Cowboys losing is not great news for the NFL and FOX, as the Cowboys are the league’s biggest television draw. But Packers-Falcons and Steelers-Patriots are both attractive matchups as well, and the league should expect strong ratings for the conference championship games and the Super Bowl.
One of the more intriguing questions of the offseason for the Vikings will be the future of running back Adrian Peterson.
Well, at least we know who his coach is going to be, if he’s back with the team.
According to Alex Marvez of the Sporting News, the Vikings are hiring Kennedy Polamalu as their new running backs coach.
Kevin Stafanski coached that position the last two years, moving over from tight ends. Polamalu was offensive coordinator at UCLA last year, and has worked two stints in the NFL with the Browns and Jaguars.
What he has to work with is unclear. The Vikings may not want to keep the 31-year-old running back with the $18 million cap hit next year, and if they move on from Peterson, they need a fresh start and an infusion of talent at the position after finishing last in the league in rushing.
The Cowboys thought they had a first down in the red zone early in Sunday’s game against the Packers after a 22-yard gain by wide receiver Terrence Williams, but the play was called back and then some thanks to a penalty that comes up rarely.
Wide receiver Brice Butler was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct after he came into the huddle and then left the field without participating in a play. NFL rules say that if a player “approaches the huddle and communicates with a teammate,” he has to remain in the game to bar teams from creating confusion about which players are in the game. The 15-yard penalty put the Cowboys back into their own territory.
“Never heard of it in my life,” Butler said, via the Dallas Morning News. “[We] couldn’t beat the stripes. You can quote me on that.”
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said he’s never seen that call before. Referee Tony Corrente told a pool reporter after the game that it isn’t “an obscure rule” and that Butler “has to stay either in the game or they can call a timeout and get out of it.”
The Cowboys tried passes to Butler on the next two plays, but both fell incomplete. Butler finished the day without a catch and said he “played like trash” in what will be his final game for quite a while.
Court proceedings related to Bengals cornerback Adam Jones‘ arrest earlier this month following an incident at a Cincinnati hotel have been continued until February 10.
A judge made that decision last Friday after Jones’ attorneys agreed to waive his right to a speedy trial on charges of assault, disorderly conduct, obstructing official business and harassment with a bodily substance. Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters said late last week that his office “will pursue something” against Jones for behaving “boorishly and foolishly,” but that he wants and idea of what the NFL will do on the discipline front before deciding how to proceed.
“One of the factors that goes into my decision is what the NFL’s going to do to him,” Deters said, via the Cincinnati Enquirer. “If he gets suspended for four games, he loses $2 million. We have drunken idiots every night over at the [jail] that don’t get fined $2 million.”
Jones has been suspended twice in the past for all of the 2007 season and part of the 2008 campaign, which left his career prospects looking bleak. That outlook cleared after the Bengals signed him in 2010 as Jones has remained productive while staying on the field.
The league is reviewing Jones’ case to see if that streak will end, but there’s no set timeline for them to make a ruling about disciplinary action for the cornerback.
It wasn’t just that Mason Crosby’s never done anything quite like it — no one has.
When the Packers kicker hit a pair of 50-plus-yard field goals in the final two minutes of last night’s win over the Cowboys, he became the first kicker to do that in postseason history, according to Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com.
“It’s kind of a blur right now,” Crosby said. “But it was unreal.”
The Packers kicker hadn’t made a potential game-tying or go-ahead kick of 50 yards or longer in the fourth quarter or overtime, 0-of-4 on such attempts. He had only made one this season from 50 or beyond, and for his career, he’s 28-of-54 on such long attempts.
But his 56-yarder with 1:33 left was the third-longest kick in postseason history, and his 51-yard game-winner had to be hit twice, after the Cowboys used their final timeout to ice him. He hadn’t made two 50-plusses in a single game in his career, so hitting what amounted to three in such a short span was impressive.
“For Mason to hit those two kicks, he’s the best kicker in the league — and he’s got to do it outdoors for much of the season on a tough field at times, and he’s so reliable for us,” Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “I know he’s made a bunch in a row for us in the playoffs. It’s just incredible that he makes it twice. A lot goes into that operation. Brett [Goode], obviously, with a great snap, Jake [Schum] with the hold, and Mason banged it through twice. That was pretty amazing.”
Crosby has hit 23 straight field goals in the postseason now, and he gets to try to extend that streak in the perfect indoor conditions of the Georgia Dome next week.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was the subject of a tweet from Seahawks safety Earl Thomas on Saturday that had Thomas complaining that Brady “has the easiest route” to the playoffs thanks to the Patriots’ spot in the AFC East.
Thomas’ tweet was one of the topics of conversation for Brady during a Monday visit to “Kirk and Callahan” on WEEI in Boston. Brady opted not to return fire or make the case for his football life being more difficult than Thomas imagines it to be.
“I love Earl,” Brady said, via Mike Reiss of ESPN.com. “I think he’s a helluva player. I really wish him the best in his recovery.”
Brady was also asked about the video from inside the locker room that Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown shared on social media. In a response you could have almost certainly scripted yourself, Brady said he didn’t think it “would go over well” with coach Bill Belichick. Brady added that the team’s policy is to not share anything from inside the locker room.
A warning to keep cool on social media can be heard during Brown’s video, which suggests that the policy may not be followed quite as closely in Pittsburgh.
Working for the Bills brings defensive line coach Mike Waufle back to his home state.
Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti would like to see fewer commercials during NFL games.
The Bengals have the No. 9 overall draft pick for the second time in franchise history.
A look at the Colts’ reported pursuit of Peyton Manning to run the team.
Tom Coughlin’s arrival has led to talk of culture changes with the Jaguars.
Depth at linebacker could be on the Broncos shopping list.
Chargers fans in San Diego have some kindred spirits in St. Louis.
Checking out the cap situation for the Redskins.
The Bears need to boost the talent level in the secondary.
Looking forward to seeing the Falcons take on the Packers.
A key play for the Chiefs bore some similarity to one the Saints ran to good effect earlier in the season.
Some offensive draft prospects for the Buccaneers to consider.
The Rams hope they made the right call by hiring Sean McVay.
Checking in on the 49ers’ search for a coach and General Manager.
Matt Calkins of the Seattle Times thinks the Seahawks became an unlikable team this year.
If there’s anything Jerry Jones loves more than talking, it might be Tony Romo.
So the Cowboys owner looked up during his postgame press conference as his soon-to-be former quarterback walked out of the locker room, knowing it was probably the last time he’d do so.
“We just won’t address any of that until later on,” Jones said, via Charean Williams of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “And I’m not going to quantify it in terms of days or weeks or whatever, but that will be in the future. . . .
“That’s not for here. We’ll be talking and addressing those kinds of things as we move ahead here over the next weeks and months.”
Once the Cowboys cast their lot with rookie Dak Prescott this season and kept him in place when Romo’s back fracture healed, it set the stage for an inevitable trade or release.
And even falling behind 21-3 against the Packers never made it cross Jones’ mind to go to the 36-year-old on the bench.
“No, I didn’t think about that,” Jones said.
But the moment wasn’t lost on others, who said Romo’s willingness to handle things like an adult this season was critical to their 13-3 record and top seed in the NFC playoffs.
“I haven’t had a chance to reflect on that,” tight end and Romo’s close friend Jason Witten said. “I’m sure in the next few weeks we’ll have time to talk. I Really haven’t had a time to talk about that with him. But I’m proud of him and how he handled that. Going back to when he had his press conference, and the way he was able to kind of take the lead and eliminate the distraction for our football team, that wasn’t easy to do. I think we’re all better because of that.”
And as they go into the offseason, the passing of the torch will become official, even if they don’t want to discuss it today.
After they beat the Texans on Saturday night, the word from the Patriots was that they needed to play better if they are going to advance to the seventh Super Bowl of the Bill Belichick/Tom Brady era.
The message in the Steelers locker room after Sunday night’s 18-16 win over the Chiefs sounded pretty similar. The Steelers moved the ball for much of the game, but settled for six Chris Boswell field goals because they couldn’t get the ball into the end zone. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said that was “enough” to get the job done on Sunday, but the consensus was that enough won’t be enough in New England.
“There are a lot of things to do to be successful against them,” Roethlisberger said, via ESPN.com. “They are the best in the world for a reason. We’ve got to score points, can’t turn the ball over.”
The Patriots beat the Steelers 27-16 in the regular season, but Roethlisberger missed the game with an injury. He’ll be back this time for what the Steelers hope will be a better effort all around.