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ProFootballTalk: Packers must protect Rodgers’ blind side
The Jets won’t let right guard Brian Winters hit the open market as a free agent this offseason.
The team announced on Monday evening that Winters has signed a four-year extension with the team. No financial terms were included in the announcement, but multiple reports peg the total value at around $8 million.
Winters was a third-round pick in 2013 and has started 41 games over his four seasons with the team. Thirteen of those starts came in 2016, although he ended the season on injured reserve thanks to a torn rotator cuff.
Winters turned in good work when he was healthy and his return gives the Jets some certainty at an uncertain spot for the group. Four players ended the year on injured reserve and veteran tackles Breno Giacomini and Ryan Clady could be moving on. Brandon Shell, a 2015 fifth-round pick, likely fits in somewhere, but center Nick Mangold’s $9 million cap number has led to discussion about his future with the team.
It’s not exactly the discovery of plutonium by accident. But Sunday night was an awakening for the NFL.
Ever since the NFL first started staging Saturday night wild-card and divisional-round playoff games, the possibility of shifting the Sunday schedule from 1:05 p.m. ET and 4:40 p.m. ET to 4:40 p.m. ET and 8:20 p.m. ET had been lingering. And then, with a shift of a single early Sunday game to prime-time necessitated by weather issues in Kansas City, the league apparently will be declaring “eureka!” and making the move permanent.
The league had resisted this in the past because it creates a competitive disadvantage where, as in the case of the Steelers, they traveled home late Sunday night and will travel again before Sunday’s game. Meanwhile, the Patriots played at home on Saturday, don’t have to travel at all, and get extra time to prepare, rest, etc. (And no matter what the Steelers have said or will say publicly, they were not happy about the shift in the starting time for Sunday’s game.)
The next question is whether the league will do the same thing on the Sunday night of the wild-card round. The possibility that a team playing on the first Sunday night of the playoffs would have to play on the following Saturday could be a factor, especially since the home game in the divisional round has 13 or 14 days between games.
The overriding factor continues to be (drum roll, please) money, and the NFL will make more of it if games are dropped into prime time on Sunday night. Also, the league will get even greater exposure from games played during windows that will be conducive to more people watching.
Which makes it odd that it took an experiment born of need to get the NFL to realize what had been hiding in plain sight for years.
The Eagles interviewed Mike Groh for their vacant wide receivers coaching job on Monday, ESPN’s Adam Caplan reported.
Groh was the wide receivers coach for the Bears from 2013-15 and spent last season as the wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator with the Rams. Groh has also coached in the college ranks including a stint as offensive coordinator under his father, Al Groh, at Virginia.
The Eagles had previously interviewed Bills wide receivers coach Sanjay Lal for the job, which opened following the dismissal of Greg Lewis earlier this month.
The list of candidates for the Redskins’ defensive coordinator job added several names on Monday.
John Keim of ESPN.com reports that outside linebackers coach Greg Manusky will interview for the coordinator job. Manusky joined Jay Gruden’s staff last year after spending four years as the defensive coordinator for the Colts. Manusky, who played for the Redskins in the late 1980s, has also been the top defensive coach for the Chargers and 49ers.
Mike Pettine and Gus Bradley have also interviewed for the job, with Bradley also believed to be a candidate with the Chargers and a possible choice for Tom Cable if he were to get the 49ers head coaching position.
The Broncos interviewed Bears assistant special teams coach Richard Hightower for the team’s special teams coach position on Monday, Mike Klis of News9 in Denver reported.
Klis reported that Greg McMahon, former Saints special teams coach, will interview for the job on Tuesday.
McMahon was fired by the Saints earlier this month after nine years as special teams coach and 11 with the team.
The Bears hired Hightower last January. He has 10 years of NFL coaching experience including stints in Houston, Washington, Cleveland and San Francisco.
Jeremiah Washburn spent seven years coaching offensive linemen with the Lions and it appears he’s headed back to the NFC North after spending last season in Miami.
Alex Marvez of Sporting News reports that the Bears will hire Washburn as their offensive line coach. They parted ways with Dave Magazu at the end of the season as John Fox shuffled some parts of his staff after a 3-13 season.
Washburn was the assistant offensive line coach in Miami last season and worked under Chris Foerster, who was blocked from interviewing with the Rams about their offensive coordinator vacancy. Washburn was the head line coach in Detroit from 2013-15 and the assistant in his first four years with the club.
Washburn worked with his father Jim in both Detroit and Miami, where the elder Washburn is on the Dolphins staff as a senior defensive assistant and pass rush specialist.
Arrowhead Stadium was rocking after Alex Smith found tight end Demetrius Harris in the end zone for a two-point conversion in the fourth quarter, but the joy at tying the game ended when referee Carl Cheffers explained the reason for a penalty flag on the field.
Left tackle Eric Fisher was penalized for holding Steelers linebacker James Harrison and the score remained 18-16 Steelers when the Chiefs couldn’t convert from 10 yards further away. Tight end Travis Kelce had a colorful reaction to the holding call after the game, saying that Cheffers shouldn’t be allowed to wear a striped shirt on an NFL field or as an employee at Foot Locker.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid said Sunday night that he wanted to see replays of the Fisher-Harrison interaction before sharing his thoughts on the call. He shared them on Monday and found common ground with Kelce about the quality of the call if not the way he chose to express it.
“There are certain things you agree with and don’t agree with during games,” Reid said, via ESPN.com. “It really doesn’t matter now that we’re sitting here. I don’t want to be fined any money but I would tell you I was probably leaning the other way. I thought Fish did what he needed to do on that particular block to get that done and the problem is when [Harrison] slipped it can look worse than it is. I know Fish is going to have a lot of eyes on him for that call, and I’m not sure I completely agree with what took place, but it did. The call was made and we live with that.”
Reid is correct about it not mattering much what the Chiefs think of a call that can’t be changed, no matter how hard it might be to think of anything but that ruling and the loss that followed in the near future.
For Steelers receiver Antonio Brown, the far more significant problem arising from his decision to post live video from the locker room after Sunday night’s win over the Chiefs flows from the undoubtedly strong reaction his head coach will have to the maneuver — especially because the video itself includes an admonition from Mike Tomlin to be smart on social media. But Brown’s behavior created a pair of other problems, for him and for the Steelers.
For starters, Brown violated the league’s social-media policy, which prohibits tweets, live videos, etc. from 90 minutes before kickoff through the conclusion of the post-game media obligations. For that infraction, Brown undoubtedly will be fined.
The broader problem from the team’s perspective is that Brown’s decision to broadcast live video triggers a violation of the league’s TV contracts. The broadcast partners have exclusive rights to video shot in the locker room after the game, and the teams or the league can’t use it for 24 hours. While it’s unlikely that NBC will make a fuss about it, it’s the kind of practice that teams need to prevent; if unchecked, it eventually could trigger a claim that the deals are being breached.
At a time when some have been wondering whether the Texans will have a mutual parting with coach Bill O’Brien, the team has indeed experienced a mutual parting, but one level down from the top of the coaching staff.
The Texans have announced that they have parted ways with offensive coordinator George Godsey.
“I’m grateful for the tireless work ethic and contributions George has made to our team over the last three years,” O’Brien said in a team-issued release. “I wish him nothing but the best in the future.”
Earlier in the day, O’Brien hinted that changes could come at the offensive coordinator position.
“We’re looking at everything,” O’Brien told reporters. “Look, George does a lot of good stuff for me — every coach does. I have even met with Bob [McNair] yet. I haven’t met with Rick [Smith] yet. We look at everything. Every coach is evaluated. I’m evaluated. I haven’t even heard about my evaluation from the owner. Look, I expect to be here next year, but we will begin the evaluation process here in a minute. Now, don’t take that and run with it, either. I’m going to be the head coach here next year. Again, just trying to inject some humor into it, but again it will be a headline. Everything is evaluated and that’s the process that starts here this afternoon.”
Apparently, the end result of the evaluation process was that O’Brien will return. He’ll return with a new offensive coordinator.
To make a quality hire, O’Brien will have to convince the person to whom he offers the job that it will be an assignment that lasts more than one season. Given that every joke has a kernel of truth, that may not be easy to do.
Given that the Texans are tied to Brock Osweiler for another season, it may be even more difficult to do.
When it comes to devising a defensive game plan, Patriots coach Bill Belichick has a simple approach: Take away what the opposing offense does best. So what will he try to take away from the Steelers on Sunday?
Putting the clamps on running back Le’Veon Bell could open up a passing game that features quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and receiver Antonio Brown. Taking away the passing game means Bell could run wild.
One of Belichick’s best game plans came when he served as the defensive coordinator of the Giants in Super Bowl XXV. He persuaded the New York defense to buy in to an approach that invited Bills Hall of Fame running back Thurman Thomas to run the ball, allowing Thomas to have a big day on the ground but slowing down the quick-strike K-Gun offense. Fifteen years ago, when facing the Greatest Show on Turf in Super Bowl XXXVI, Belichick focused on taking away the passing game, dropping extra players into coverage and daring coach Mike Martz to run the ball. Martz, too stubborn to deviate from what we wanted to do, refused to adjust.
So what will Belichick do against the Steelers and Bell? Sunday night’s 170-yard output from Bell resulted in zero touchdowns for the team, so maybe Belichick should be willing to let Bell get his yards with a bend-don’t-break effort to avoid big plays and easy scores in the passing game.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick has some stock responses for questions from the media that have become well-worn parts of his public image at this point in his career.
The advent of social media added a few new ones to Belichick’s repertoire, particularly when it comes to using the wrong names for well-known companies that operate in that space. The video posted by Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown from the team’s locker room on Facebook after Sunday’s win that featured Mike Tomlin telling his team to get their minds on the AFC title game because the a-holes in New England have had an extra day to prepare.
“As you know I’m not on Snap Face and all those,” Belichick said on WEEI on Monday afternoon. “I’m not too worried what they put on Instant Chat.”
Should Belichick watch the video, chances are he isn’t going to be too shocked by anything that goes on given how long he’s been in the game and that nothing’s going to change his mind about being a more active Face Page user.
Texans coach Bill O’Brien benched Brock Osweiler this year, and he only got his job back when the backup got a concussion.
So it makes sense that O’Brien isn’t ready to declare Osweiler his starter for next season.
Via Sarah Barshop of ESPN.com, O’Brien stalled when asked about his quarterback’s status Monday.
“Before I talk about those types of things, I have to evaluate it myself,” O’Brien said. “I’ve got to talk to our coaching staff, get their input, personnel people, get their input. So I wouldn’t be a good head coach if I stood up here and said, this is what I’m planning to do. The game is less than 48 hours ago. We’re going to evaluate everything.”
Osweiler’s entering the second year of that four-year, $72 million contract they gave him out of desperation last year — when they were hoping to avoid being a a 9-7 team with a great defense and no quarterback.
But the contract might have been enough to make him the incumbent, except for the fact Tom Savage replaced him late in the season before a concussion knocked him out of the lineup.
And with the last memory a three-interception performance against the Patriots, Osweiler’s going to have a long offseason to prove himself.
The final four teams playing this season are quarterbacked by Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Ryan, a group that was described as three Hall of Famers and the favorite for MVP this year in a question posed to Chiefs coach Andy Reid at a Monday press conference.
Reid was asked about whether Alex Smith measured up to that group when it came to being able to get the Chiefs to the next level of success.
“Do I still think you can win with Alex? We were right there to do that,” Reid said, via the Kansas City Star. “He made a phenomenal throw on the two-point play to put us in a position to take care of business. This wasn’t all about Alex, that’s not what this was. That’s not what this came down to.”
One question for any team that might contemplate a quarterback change is whether they can find someone better than what’s already on hand and it’s an especially important one for a team like the Chiefs that have so many other pieces in place at the moment.
Upgrading on Smith from freely available talent won’t be easy and the Chiefs know what to expect from Smith. There’s a low ceiling for offensive fireworks, but there are also limited mistakes and the combination has worked well enough for them to go to the playoffs three times over the last four years. For those reasons and the near $10 million in dead money the Chiefs would have if they cut Smith, thinking about who might be next in line at quarterback seems likelier than a change in the starting lineup in 2017.
Even with one of the four divisional-round games moved from 1:00 p.m. ET to prime-time, the ratings for the quartet of contests fell behind last year’s numbers.
Sure, it was only a three-percent reduction. But it was a reduction nonetheless.
Via SportsBusiness Daily, the spike from Packers-Cowboys was offset by drops arising from the Steelers-Chiefs, Seahawks-Falcons, and Texans-Patriots. The Saturday night game between Houston and New England was down 10 percent over last year’s Saturday night classic between the Packers and Cardinals.
The next ratings test comes Sunday, when the Packers and the Falcons and the Steelers and the Patriots square off in the conference finals. Last year, the Patriots-Broncos averaged 53.3 million viewers, and Cardinals-Panthers had an average viewership of 45.7 million.
Amazingly, the Seahawks blatantly violated the rules of the NFL’s injury reports by concealing a knee injury to cornerback Richard Sherman. Even more amazingly, coach Pete Carroll freely admitted to it.
Not surprisingly, the NFL is saying nothing about it. Reached by PFT for comment on the situation, the NFL had none.
Actually, that’s a little surprising. In past situations like this, the league has at times acknowledged that it is reviewing the matter. In this case, the league hasn’t even gone that far. (The league took a similar approach when Raiders guard Kelechi Osemele was a surprise scratch on a Thursday night due to an illness that was not previously disclosed by the team.)
One league source expressed outrage over the Sherman situation, pointing out that deliberate failure to comply with injury-reporting rules compromises the integrity of the game in a significant way.
“They flat-out lied week after week to the league and the public,” the source said. “How is that different from any of the Patriots’ ‘-gates’?”
As the NFL prepares to authorize the relocation of the Raiders to Las Vegas, full compliance with the injury-reporting rules becomes paramount to the integrity of and public confidence in professional football. Transparency regarding potential violations becomes even more important, since the public needs to know when teams have been caught cheating when it comes to the injury reports.
Unless, of course, cheating on the injury reports is so widespread that the league doesn’t want the public (or the public servants who work in Congress) to realize that the violations are sufficiently rampant to amount to inherent corruption.
It’s frankly impossible to know whether and to what extent violations have occurred if the NFL’s position is going to be to say “no comment” and move on, hopeful that everyone else will move on, too.