Mike Florio talks with Tony Grossi of ESPN Cleveland about Owner Jimmy Haslam’s decision to return to his former job as CEO of Pilot Flying J. Though Haslam assures that nothing will change, Browns fans aren’t taking his absentee ownership role well. Then, Florio gives the Bills and Cardinals an off season to so list.
PFT Live 02/14: Tony Grossi, Cardinals & Bills To Do List
Before the Dolphins fired coach Joe Philbin on Monday, there were reports that had defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle on the chopping block as well.
During interim coach Dan Campbell’s introductory press conference, he said he wasn’t ready to talk about potential changes to the staff which meant Coyle was still employed if not exactly safe and sound in the job. Reports that the Dolphins had reached out to Jim Schwartz, Mike Smith and Greg Schiano about taking over their defense didn’t do much to make things any cozier.
The other shoe reportedly dropped on Thursday. Albert Breer of NFL Media reports that the Dolphins have decided to fire Coyle.
There’s no word on who will take over the Dolphins defense with Coyle out of the picture. Whoever does get the reins will be tasked with bringing together a defense that balked at playing Coyle’s scheme and held a closed-door meeting with coaches last week about making changes to it.
The new coach will also be tasked with finding a way to get big-ticket defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh to perform at a level closer to the one he was at in Detroit before signing a huge contract with Miami as a free agent this offseason. It’s a full plate with a little more than a week to go before the Dolphins are back on the field.
OK now, it’s settled — Roddy White is totally and completely gruntled.
The Falcons veteran wide receiver said Thursday that he met with coach Dan Quinn about his role in the offense, after comments that could reasonably be construed as dissatisfaction with becoming a third option in the passing game. And he swears he’s OK with that.
“It’s really not a controversy,” White said, via D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “My role is what it is. I’ve talked to DQ and we’ve gotten past that. It’s just certain things that just get out into the media and certain people just take it way too far. I’m on positive note. We are 4-0 and that’s what it is right now.”
Of course, that’s a whole lot different than earlier this week, when he expressed displeasure with the amount of blocking he was doing, now that Leonard Hankerson has emerged as the No. 2 option behind Julio Jones.
White, the Falcons all-time leading receiver, has six catches for 92 yards for the undefeated Falcons. And at the moment, he has other concerns, as he missed practice Wednesday to be with his mother, who had surgery. White said she’s “doing well,” which is certainly good news.
But his position coach also said White’s not grumbling behind the scenes.
“My room is good,” veteran assistant Terry Robiskie said. “Everybody is good. Everybody is having fun. Rod is the same guy. He doesn’t catch his 12, 20 balls, but at the same time we score a touchdown he’s high-fiving we were up in the third quarter the starters were done.”
“I saw him on the sideline high-fiving with Eric Weems, joking with Eric Weems. Winning is fun. No matter what a prideful guy you are, when getting your’re ass whipped, ain’t no pride in that. You are miserable.”
And White, no matter what he might have said, apparently is not.
In Week Two, rookie running back Matt Jones had 146 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns in the Redskins’ 24-10 victory over the Rams.
Jones also lost a fumble in that game and he lost another one near the end zone in the team’s Week Three loss to the Giants, a performance that was followed by a drop in playing time against the Eagles in last week’s victory. Coach Jay Gruden said that the reduction in snaps wasn’t because the team lacks faith in Morris’s ability to hold onto the football.
“He’s never lost my trust,” Gruden said, via Rich Tandler of CSNWashington.com. “A couple of weeks ago it was Alfred [Morris] who was in my doghouse and he’s not. It’s just the way to works out with the handoffs and the carries. I like both of those guys.”
Public comments from coaches about playing time are usually best taken with a grain of salt, but the first four weeks bear out the fluidity in the Washington backfield. Morris has seen the most snaps three times and played less than Jones and third-down back Chris Thompson against the Giants. Thompson barely played against the Rams, but has averaged 31 snaps in the other three games of the season.
Losing fumbles isn’t a good look for any back and it’s a particularly bad one for a rookie, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see Jones back in the mix against Atlanta this weekend.
Browns cornerback Justin Gilbert was the first draft pick of the Ray Farmer/Mike Pettine regime. That often gets lost as 14 picks later, the Browns selected a much higher-profile player, Johnny Manziel.
Gilbert has been lost in the shuffle since.
He’s been in Pettine’s doghouse both last season and this season, and even though he returned an interception of Andrew Luck for a touchdown last December, his on-field success has been limited. This season, he’s barely been on the field at all except to return kickoffs. Still, the Browns aren’t giving up on Gilbert because of their investment in him — and because he’s big and fast and has tools the team thought it could develop when it drafted him.
Gilbert seems to be a natural with the ball in his hands, and that prompted a reporter to ask Pettine Thursday if the team has considered moving Gilbert to the offensive side of the ball. Pettine said the Browns have used Gilbert as a receiver at times in practice because of a shortage of available players.
“And he doesn’t look out of place,” Pettine said.
Pettine was just answering a question, so there may be nothing deeper here. Or, maybe it’s worth a shot because the Browns aren’t using him on defense and are still searching for answers at receiver with the Dwayne Bowe Experiment yielding nothing and the Terrelle Pryor Experiment having been ended last month.
Later Thursday, Browns offensive coordinator John DeFilippo said moving Gilbert to receiver is something he and Pettine “have talked about and are going to explore.”
Gilbert suffered a hip pointer in August during a joint practice with the Bills that lingered into September. He debuted in Week 3 vs. the Raiders, playing two special teams snaps and none on defense, and with the Browns short on cornerbacks last week in San Diego the coaches chose Johnson Bademosi, generally a special teams player, to play in nickel and dime defenses over Gilbert. Pettine wasn’t happy with Gilbert following a road rage incident in September for which he was cited but not arrested.
Last February, Farmer said Gilbert was dealing with a “very personal” issue that compounded his struggles as a rookie. The Browns have time to still get return on their investment, and Gilbert has time to rebound, too. But the question of whether it’s worth trying a position change, even on a part-time basis, to jumpstart what’s been a disappointing career is a valid one.
Lindy Infante, who was chosen the NFL’s coach of the year in 1989 in Green Bay and later coached the Colts, has died at the age of 75.
Infante was a well-regarded offensive mind who led the Packers to a 10-6 record in that 1989 season, ending a long run of futility in Green Bay that had seen the Packers fail for 16 straight years to win more than eight games. He was fired as head coach of the Packers after going 4-12 in 1991. He returned as a head coach in 1996 with the Colts and took the team to the playoffs in his first season, but he was fired after going 3-13 in his second season. (The Colts had the worst record in the NFL that year and would go on to select Peyton Manning with the first overall pick in the draft.)
Infante played college football at Florida, where he was a very good running back. He’s a member of the school’s Hall of Fame. Infante also started his coaching career as an assistant at Florida and had several college jobs before he left for the NFL. In 1982 he was the offensive coordinator of a Bengals team that made it to the Super Bowl, and the next year he left the NFL to become head coach of the Jacksonville Bulls of the United States Football League. After the USFL went belly-up, Infante became offensive coordinator of the Browns and did well there for two years, leading the Packers to hire him.
Although Infante’s career head-coaching record was only 36-60, he’ll be remembered for innovative offenses that moved NFL passing games forward.
They may also have linebacker Sean Lee on the field after he was forced out of last weekend’s loss to the Saints after suffering a concussion. Lee returned to practice on Thursday and participated in position drills during the portion of practice open to the media.
If Lee avoids setbacks and gets cleared to play on Sunday, it will mark the first time that he and McClain are in the lineup at the same time for the Cowboys. Lee missed all of last season, McClain’s first in Dallas, with a torn ACL.
The Cowboys are still waiting on defensive end Randy Gregory to return from an ankle injury to make their defense whole. He sat out Thursday’s practice along with wide receivers Dez Bryant and Brice Butler and tight end James Hanna.
Dion Lewis went from out of the league to starting the opener for the defending Super Bowl champions.
And now he has a measure of stability to go with it.
According to Field Yates of ESPN, the Patriots have given Lewis a two-year contract extension, which keep him with the team through the 2017 season. He got a $600,000 signing bonus, and can earn up to $1.8 million in incentives in 2016 and 2017.
Lewis has remained productive after presumptive starter LeGarrette Blount returned from his one-game suspension. He has the kind of versatility the Patriots always seem to find, averaging 4.9 yards per carry and showing ability as a receiver out of the backfield. He has fumbled, so he could always fall back in the doghouse, but for now he’s been a find for them.
And to think, last season he was deemed unworthy to be a Brown or a Colt.
As much as it would certainly pain the NFL to admit it, Patriots coach Bill Belichick probably has a point with his “challenge everything” theory.
But they’re about to try out another one of his ideas.
According to Tom Pelissero of USA Today, the league is about to test his idea of cameras along the boundaries of the playing field to assist with replay, trying it out at Jets and Giants games this year.
“It will be tested at MetLife Stadium a bit later this season, providing us with 10-12 games worth of data on viability, impact, and feasibility,” NFL spokesman Michael Signora said.
That’s a significant step considering the previous excuse was that it was too expensive and could potentially interfere with sight lines. And while pylon cameras may be of little use, goal-line technology in soccer and the hawkeye system used in tennis has made officiating in those sports more accurate, so any step in that direction for the NFL would be worthwhile.
The Lions signed defensive tackle Andre Fluellen on Wednesday and they added another veteran at the position on Thursday.
The team announced that they have signed former Brown Ishmaa’ily Kitchen to their 53-man roster. Defensive end Phillip Hunt was released to make room for the new arrival.
Both moves come after the team placed Tyrunn Walker on injured reserve with a broken leg suffered in Monday night’s loss to the Seahawks. Doubling down on the additions suggests that the team is less than sure of Haloti Ngata’s status. Ngata injured his calf against Seattle and missed practice on Wednesday.
Kitchen spent the last three seasons with Cleveland and saw action in 40 games for the Browns. He had 78 tackles in those appearances. In addition to the newcomers, the Lions have rookie Gabe Wright, Caraun Reid and Jermelle Cudjo on the depth chart.
We had our first coaching casualty of the 2015 season this week when the Dolphins fired Joe Philbin four games into his fourth season on the job.
There may not be any other firings during the season, but there will almost certainly be other coaches losing their jobs once the season comes to an end. On Thursday’s PFT Live, Mike Florio will take a look at which coaches are in danger of being on that list when he takes the temperature on hot seats around the league.
Thursday also brings the start of Week Five, which means it is time for Florio and Michael David Smith to reveal their picks for all of this week’s games.
As always, we also want to hear what PFT Planet thinks. Email questions at any time or get in touch on Twitter at @ProFootballTalk to let us know what’s on your mind.
It all gets started at noon ET and you can listen to all three hours live via the various NBC Sports Radio affiliates, through the links at PFT, or with the NBC Sports Radio app. You can also watch a simulcast of the first hour through the links at PFT.
Through the first four weeks of the season, no quarterback in the NFL has averaged more yards per attempt than Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton.
As you’d probably guess, the biggest reason for that has been Dalton’s sharp improvement on deep balls from where he was last season. Dalton has already connected on 20 passes over 20 yards and five passes over 40 yards after having 33 and seven in those two categories over the entire 2014 season, something that wide receiver Marvin Jones believes is a result of his trust in the receiving corps.
“We’re at a point right now where Andy really trusts us to be there, even if we haven’t separated from the corner, he knows we’re gonna get the separation,” Jones said, via the Cincinnati Enquirer. “That’s what it’s all about — just run and homie go get it. That’s what it is. That’s pretty much all everything is. And that comes with trust, the trust that we’re gonna run and we know he’s going to put it out there for us and he knows when he puts it out there we’re gonna get it.”
Eight different Bengals receivers have gained over 20 yards on receptions already this season, adding a big play element to the Bengals offense that hasn’t been a big enough part of their attack in recent years.
They’ll be trying to keep it going against a very good Seahawks defense this weekend, which makes for this weekend’s most appealing matchup.
Now that the Dolphins have fired coach Joe Philbin, the football-following world is trying to figure out who may be next. And much of the chatter has centered on the men who will coach Thursday night’s game between the Colts and Texans.
Appearing earlier this week on PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio, John McClain of the Houston Chronicle said there’s no way Texans coach Bill O’Brien is even close to being on the hot seat, despite a 1-3 start punctuated by an embarrassing loss at Atlanta. Also appearing on PFT Live, Bob Kravitz of WTHR in Indianpolis said that the same can’t be said for Colts coach Chuck Pagano.
Kravitz said he feared Pagano may have been fired by the oft-impulsive Jim Irsay if Indy had lost its Week Three game at Tennessee. Looking at the schedule over the next five weeks, consecutive wins over the Titans and Jaguars give Pagano no reason to exhale.
After traveling to Houston (where the Colts erased a huge deficit last year to win on a Thursday night), the Colts host the Patriots and the Saints before heading to Carolina for a Monday night game. Then, Peyton Manning returns to Indianapolis, perhaps for the final time.
Win one or none of the next five and lose in ugly fashion to Peyton’s Broncos, with the bye week coming immediate afterward, it could be the end of the road for Pagano.
So how much of the noise regarding the coach’s job security is being heard by the players?
“Very little I’d say,” tight end Coby Fleener told PFT Live on Monday. “I think at least from my perspective I do the best I can to not read any of the news. And so regardless of whether we’re playing well or playing poorly it ultimately leads to an emotional roller coaster.”
Over the next month, that roller coaster could be going mainly downhill.
Colts quarterback Matt Hasselbeck is going from the emergency room to the starting lineup.
Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that Hasselbeck will start tonight, as Andrew Luck’s injured shoulder is still not sufficiently healed for him to play. Schefter also reports that Hassebleck was in the emergency room until 2 a.m. on Tuesday, dealing with a virus.
The Colts listed Hasselbeck as questionable with an illness on this week’s official injury report, and he didn’t practice this week because he was sick. If he’s too sick to make it through tonight’s game, the Colts are down to third-string quarterback Josh Johnson, who has spent only a few days on the team.
The 40-year-old Hasselbeck, the NFL’s oldest non-kicker, has played OK this year, completing 30 of 47 passes for 282 yards, with one touchdown and no interceptions. The Colts will hope Hasselbeck is feeling well enough that he can continue to avoid mistakes in tonight’s game against the Texans.
The Titans and quarterback Marcus Mariota return from their bye week to face the Bills on Sunday, which gives Mariota a chance to build off his strong first month as an NFL player.
Mariota was the offensive rookie of the month for September after throwing eight touchdown passes and posting the second-highest passer rating of any quarterback in the first three games of his career. To keep it going, Mariota will have to solve the Buffalo defense, something Bills coach Rex Ryan doesn’t see happening.
Ryan said Mariota “looks impressive” and called him a “real talent,” but is confident he’ll have the right answers for the second overall pick of the 2015 draft.
“I don’t think the kid will have his way against us,” Ryan said, via the Tennessean. “I don’t think that’s going to happen.”
When Ryan was with the Jets, his defenses did very well while facing quarterbacks in their rookie seasons and it’s not hard to see why a unit using a variety of coverages, blitzes and alignments would cause problems for an inexperienced signal caller. If Mariota can prove Ryan wrong on Sunday, he’ll buck that trend and continue to make his case as the franchise quarterback for the present and future in Tennessee.
As the NFL weighs its options with the Thursday Night Football television contract, Commissioner Roger Goodell wants to remind everyone that there’s no more valuable programming on American television than pro football.
Goodell pointed out at Wednesday’s league meeting that the NFL continues to have outstanding television ratings, and that this year’s Thursday night package is off to a particularly strong start, with much higher ratings than last year.
“Ratings are incredibly healthy right now. We’re seeing increases, particularly on Thursday night, double-digit increases. This in light of the fact that obviously networks continue to struggle in prime time and we’re bucking the trend,” Goodell said.
CBS currently has the Thursday Night package, but the NFL has the option to open it up to bidding from other networks for 2016 and beyond. All of the broadcast networks would be interested, as would several cable outlets, and the NFL will be able to command hundreds of millions of dollars to the rights to the games.
The increase in viewership is probably more a reflection of better games this year than anything else: This year’s three CBS Thursday Night games have featured one game that went to overtime, one game decided on a last-minute touchdown, and one game that was competitive late into the fourth quarter, whereas last year’s first three CBS Thursday night games were decided by 20, 42 and 31 points. But Goodell is right that NFL ratings remain very strong, and it’s hardly a surprise that he wants to remind everyone of that as the league shops around its Thursday night package.
Browns cornerback Tramon Williams says the league office told the team that officials erroneously called Williams offside on a late-game missed field goal try by the Chargers, giving kicker Josh Lambo another shot at winning the game. And he did.
The league office says otherwise.
“No, it is not true,” NFL spokesman Michael Signora said in response, via Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon-Journal. “The video we have is inconclusive because we do not have a shot from the line of scrimmage. The person with the best view was the line judge who made the call on the field.”
The All-22 footage available the the NFL’s Game Rewind feature has two angles that suggest that the flag shouldn’t have been thrown. In one angle, it’s clear that Williams is lined up alongside his teammates. In the other angle, it’s clear that he times the snap perfectly, moving at the same instant the ball is lifted off the ground by the snapper.
This isn’t about whether Williams was offside (he apparently wasn’t) but whether the league admitted to the Browns an officiating error. The Browns, through Tramon Williams, claim the league did. The league insists that it didn’t.
The NFL consistently fights any effort to expand gambling on its games. The NFL has no qualms whatsoever about gambling on its players.
The easy explanation is that it’s not gambling, because Congress decided in 2006 that it’s not gambling. But since most people realize that, regardless of the name, it really is gambling, the NFL has now tried to cobble together an explanation more nuanced than, “Congress says it’s not gambling.”
“[I]t’s hard to see the influence that it could have on the outcome of a game because individual players are picking different players from different teams, mashing them up, you might call it,” Goodell told reporters on Wednesday. “[I]t’s not based on the outcome of a game, which is what our biggest concern is with sports betting.”
So, basically, when the thing that is the subject of the wager is sufficiently blended and absorbed within the structure of the league’s games so as not to hinge on the outcome of a given game, wagering is fine.
Which means that the NFL should now have no problem with any of the various prop bets that are unrelated to the outcome of a game — including the very popular betting on the total points scored in a game, also known as the “over-under.” If the individual points scored by a given player don’t matter to the outcome, the total points scored by both teams don’t matter, either. All that matters is who wins the game and by how many points.
The broader point here is that the NFL has opened Pandora’s Box by embracing daily fantasy. With one seemingly innocuous response from Goodell on Wednesday, the league’s arguments against most other forms of wagering based on football games instantly have been gutted. The only legitimate barrier that remains is wagering on the winner of the game, with application of the point spread.
But even that argument isn’t very legitimate, since betting against the spread is as much as a game of skill as playing daily fantasy.
As expected, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell didn’t really expound on the league’s appeal of the overturned DeflateGate suspension of Tom Brady.
But it sounds like his bosses are as tired of the story as many others.
According to Ben Volin of the Boston Globe, “one AFC owner,” said the entire PSI:New England drama had long ago run its course.
“Could we have handled it better? Yes,” the owner said. “We sort of made a mountain out of a mole hill.”
Running with the assumption that said owner wasn’t Robert Kraft (who’d probably say something stronger if offered the chance at anonymity by his hometown paper), it speaks to the frustration of the seven-month probe, the only beneficiary of which seems to be “independent” investigator Ted Wells’ retirement fund.
The Colts have a pair of questionable quarterbacks tonight, and they’re still not sure which one they’re playing tonight against the Texans.
Colts coach Chuck Pagano said only that he’d “do the right thing,” and that might mean another week of rest for starter Andrew Luck, who is nursing a shoulder injury.
The plan is for Luck to test his arm today to gauge whether he can play tonight, but they’re prepared to start Hasselbeck again if they have to.
Of course, Hasselbeck isn’t 100 percent, as he’s dealing with a virus that kept him out of all the practice time he’d need. That forced them to bring back emergency third quarterback Josh Johnson after cutting him earlier in the week.
Young made the same defensive end to outside linebacker transition as Allen this year, but appeared to be just as thrilled about making it when Mike Florio reported that he asked for a trade following Allen’s departure. On Wednesday, Young didn’t want to discuss that report and said he would do anything Chicago’s coaches asked him to do.
“Really just no comment on it, for real,” Young said, via the Chicago Sun-Times. “I’m just here to be a player, man, and do whatever my coaches ask. It’s all good. I’m just here to do what my coach is asking me and to be a professional.”
The Bears asked Young to play 18 snaps against the Raiders last week and he provided a couple of hurries as a pass rusher. With Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith taking sacks at a furious pace, Young should have an opportunity to improve on that output this Sunday.