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NFL morning after: Andy Reid’s amazing turnaround

Kansas City Chiefs v Tennessee Titans Getty Images

Peyton Manning is on pace for a zillion touchdowns, and Jimmy Graham is playing tight end as well as anyone has ever played the position, and Robert Mathis is on pace to break the single-season sack record. But if I had to pick one person who has done his job the best so far this season, it wouldn’t be any of those players — or any player. It would be Chiefs coach Andy Reid.

The job Reid has done, taking over a 2-14 team and getting off to a 5-0 start, is nothing short of remarkable. Last year’s Chiefs were a mess on offense, defense and special teams. This year’s Chiefs are playing outstanding football in all three phases of the game. If it wasn’t already clear before Sunday’s 26-17 win over a good Titans team in Tennessee, it’s clear now: The Chiefs are for real.

That’s a huge surprise, but maybe it shouldn’t be. After all, Reid — despite the way it ended for him in Philadelphia — has already shown with the Eagles that he’s one of the best coaches in the NFL.

There were fair criticisms of Reid during his Eagles tenure, and given the way things went south in Philadelphia last season, letting him go might have been the right move for the Eagles. But let’s not pretend Reid isn’t an outstanding coach. In 1999, the Eagles team Reid took over was terrible. A year later he had them in the playoffs, and Reid led the Eagles to the playoffs nine times from 2000 to 2010.

Yes, there are areas of coaching where Reid struggles, like managing the clock late in game. But the areas of coaching where Reid excels, like developing players, implementing an offensive system and devising weekly game plans, are the bulk of the work a coach does. That work might not be as visible as a clock-management miscue in crunch time, but it’s more important to building a good football team.

And building a good football team is exactly what Reid is doing in Kansas City. Reid’s offense is a good system for Alex Smith to do his usual unspectacular-but-efficient thing at quarterback, and for Jamaal Charles to show that he’s one of the best running backs in the NFL. But what I really like is what Reid did on defense, hiring Bob Sutton — a longtime college and pro coach who had never worked with Reid before — as his defensive coordinator. Reid took some criticism in Philadelphia for hiring and promoting his buddies (most notably former Eagles defensive coordinator Juan Castillo) as assistant coaches. He wisely looked beyond his inner circle for his defensive staff, and it has worked. The Chiefs’ defense has been great against the pass all season, and on Sunday they also held Titans running back Chris Johnson to just 17 yards on 10 carries.

I don’t think the Chiefs are going to beat out the Broncos in the AFC West. But I do think they’re going to be a wild card team, and a tough team to beat in January. Andy Reid will have another Coach of the Year award to put on his mantel at the end of this season.

Reid’s coaching impressed me the most about Sunday’s games. Here are my other thoughts:

Seattle’s Jon Ryan may be the NFL’s fastest punter and worst tackler. Seahawks kicker Steven Hauschka had a field goal blocked on Sunday in Indianapolis, and Colts defensive back Delano Howell picked up the ball and raced toward the end zone. Amazingly, Ryan, the Seahawks’ punter and holder, gave chase and actually caught Howell — yes, a punter ran down a defensive back. Unfortunately, Ryan totally whiffed on the tackle, and Howell went the rest of the way to the end zone, completing a 61-yard return for a touchdown. Ryan will probably take some ribbing from teammates this week for his pathetic excuse for a tackle, but no one expects kickers to be able to tackle. Howell will take more ribbing for letting a punter catch him from behind.

Lance Briggs, what are you thinking? On fourth-and-1 late in the game, the Saints lined up to go for it in one of those situations where everyone watching is saying the same thing: “The Saints are just trying to draw the Bears offside.” So what happens? Saints quarterback Drew Brees uses a hard count, Briggs jumps offside, and the Saints are gifted a first down. Briggs is supposed to be the veteran leader of the Bears’ defense, but he committed one of the bonehead plays of the day. You just can’t jump offside on fourth-and-short.

The Broncos are ridiculous. No team in NFL history has ever scored even 600 points in a season. The all-time record is 589, by the 16-0 Patriots of 2007. The Broncos scored 51 points in Sunday’s win over the Cowboys to improve their total on the season to 230, putting them on pace to score 736 this season. The Broncos’ 230 points are the most for any team through five games in NFL history. If the Broncos average 33 points a game the rest of the way, they’ll break the Patriots’ record.

Maybe Trent Richardson just isn’t very good. When the Browns traded Richardson to the Colts for a first-round draft pick, most people thought it was a bold move by the Colts and a wave of the white flag by the Browns. Instead, Cleveland has gone 3-0 since allegedly giving up on the season by shipping Richardson to Indianapolis, and Richardson hasn’t done much of anything for the Colts. Yes, the Colts are 3-0 with Richardson, but his impact on their offense has been negligible. On Sunday, Richardson carried 18 times for 56 yards, and 11 of his 16 carries gained two yards or less. As a rookie in Cleveland Richardson averaged 3.6 yards a carry, and in five games this season, Richardson has averaged 3.6, 3.2, 2.7, 3.0 and 3.1 yards a carry. Despite the talent he showed at Alabama, maybe Richardson just isn’t a good enough runner to consistently make plays at the professional level.

Johnny Unitas was amazing. Why was I thinking about Johnny Unitas on Sunday? Because Tom Brady’s streak of consecutive games with a touchdown pass ended at 52, and that got me to thinking about the all-time record for consecutive touchdown games with a touchdown pass, which Johnny Unitas owned from 1960 (when he set the old record of 47) until both Brady and Drew Brees passed Unitas last year. Just think how different the NFL passing environment was when Johnny Unitas was playing in the 1950s and 1960s. The officials weren’t protecting quarterbacks and receivers from hits on defenseless players, and defenders had far more leeway to rough up receivers downfield. In those days, you could lead the league with only 20 touchdown passes. And yet Unitas set a passing record that didn’t get broken until 2012. Amazing.

If the Jaguars didn’t have bad luck, they’d have no luck at all. When Jacksonville traded offensive tackle Eugene Monroe last week, I thought it made sense: The Jaguars aren’t going anywhere this season, and they might as well pick up a fourth-round pick and a fifth-round pick for Monroe now, rather than let Monroe leave in free agency for nothing after the season. But then came Sunday, when rookie left tackle Luke Joeckel was carted off the field with a leg injury. Losing Joeckel and not having Monroe anymore means the offensive line that will protect quarterback Blaine Gabbert the rest of this season will be brutally bad. I don’t know if the Jaguars will match the 0-16 Lions of 2008, but it’s hard for me to figure out when the Jaguars are going to win a game.

We may be witnessing the end of Tom Coughlin. I have a lot of respect for what Coughlin has done in his NFL coaching career, both his two Super Bowls with the Giants and the way he built the expansion Jaguars into contenders in the 1990s. But sometimes a coach just reaches a point where he can’t take his team any further, and Coughlin looks like he has reached that point with the Giants. Coughlin made some weird game management decisions in Sunday’s loss to the Eagles, including a bizarre decision not to decline a penalty after the Giants made a stop on third down (the Eagles converted on the ensuing play) and burning two timeouts in a row, first by calling one and then by getting a challenge wrong during that timeout. I’m not going to say the Giants should fire Coughlin and I’m not going to say he needs to retire. But I do think he looks like he could use a fresh start. Kind of like Andy Reid.

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Buccaneers sign WR Louis Murphy

Louis Murphy Jr. AP

The Buccaneers are bringing back a wide receiver whom they released just before the start of the regular season.

The club has re-signed receiver Louis Murphy, a sixth-year pro from Florida, the team’s website said Tuesday. Murphy, 27, spent the preseason with the Bucs, but the club released him one day before the opener vs. Carolina.

Murphy (6-2, 200) has hauled in 121 passes for 1,744 yards and eight touchdowns in regular season stints with the Raiders (2009-2011), Panthers (2012) and Giants (2013).

To make room for Murphy, the Buccaneers waived wideout Chris Owusu, a third-year pro from Stanford. Owusu appeared in the Buccaneers’ first three regular season games, catching two passes for 20 yards.

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Rex says there’s no QB controversy in the Jets’ locker room

rexgeno AP

Jets coach Rex Ryan says there’s no dissension within the locker room about the starting quarterback situation.

After Geno Smith had a rough game in Monday night’s loss to the Bears, there’s been some talk on the outside that the Jets should turn to Michael Vick. But when Ryan was asked whether that talk could be a distraction within the team, he answered, “No, I don’t think so.”

“I think everybody’s behind Geno,” Ryan said. “He’s our quarterback and our football team believes in him, so that’s it. And like we mentioned, Geno’s a mentally tough guy. We’re happy that we have Mike Vick on this team, but we believe in Geno. We understand it wasn’t great, he made some mistakes, but we’ve just got to get better and we’ve got to learn from these and then move on.”

Smith may have improved a bit as a passer since last year — his completion percentage has risen from 55.8 percent as a rookie in 2013 to 63.1 percent this year, and his passer rating has risen from 66.5 to 77.0. But his numbers still are far from great, and his bad decision-making, both on his two interceptions Monday night and on another pass that should have been intercepted on the Jets’ final drive, are raising questions about whether he’s learning fast enough.

Ryan says the answer is simple: Smith is the starting quarterback. Now Ryan needs to figure out a way to get Smith to play better.

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Chargers sign RB Shaun Draughn

Shaun Draughn AP

As expected, the Chargers have moved to bolster their running back depth.

The club announced the signing of ex-Bears tailback Shaun Draughn on Tuesday. Draughn tried out for San Diego today before signing, a league source told PFT.

Draughn, 26, played in the first two games of the season for Chicago, which waived him one week ago. He will likely back up Donald Brown and Branden Oliver in Sunday’s game vs. Jacksonville.

The signing of Draughn comes on the same day the team officially placed Danny Woodhead on injured reserve with a broken leg. The Chargers were already without Ryan Mathews (MCL sprain) when Woodhead suffered his season-ending injury on Sunday.

In other moves Tuesday, the Chargers signed outside linebacker Cordarro Law and inside linebacker Kevin Reddick to the roster while waiving defensive end Lawrence Guy. The Chargers have injury concerns at both LB spots. Inside linebacker Manti Te’o has a broken foot expected to keep him out multiple games, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. Also, the club’s OLB depth is a concern. Reserve Reggie Walker suffered an ankle injury in Sunday’s win at Buffalo, per the Union-Tribune, and rookie Jerry Attaochu is dealing with a hamstring ailment.

Finally, the Chargers also signed rookie tailback D.J. Adams, third-year tight end David Paulson and rookie inebacker Colton Underwood to the practice squad, while safety Adrian Phillips was released.

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Jordan Reed likely out for Week Four

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Washington looks set to again be without one of its key passing game targets.

According to John Keim of ESPN.com and multiple other reporters who cover the team, tight end Jordan Reed indicated Tuesday he’s doubtful to play Thursday night vs. the Giants because of a lingering hamstring injury.

Reed, who did not practice on Tuesday, has missed the last two games. Niles Paul has been the primary pass-catching option at tight end in his absence for Washington (1-2).

In addition to Reed, left guard Shawn Lauvao (knee) sat out practice on Tuesday. Josh LeRibeus is listed as the top backup to Lauvao on the depth chart.

Nine Washington players were limited on Tuesday, including wide receiver DeSean Jackson (shoulder) and outside linebacker Brian Orakpo (finger). Orakpo has signaled he will play against New York.

Also, tailback Alfred Morris (knee) was among five Washington players who put in full practices Tuesday despite landing on the injury report.

For the Giants (1-2), six players were limited on Tuesday, including linebacker Jon Beason (foot, toe), wideout Odell Beckham (hamstring) and punter Steve Weatherford (left ankle). For Beckham, the club’s No. 1 pick in May, the practice is his first of the regular season; he’s missed the first three games with his injury.

Reserve outside linebacker Devon Kennard (hamstring) was the only Giants player to sit out practice on Tuesday, according to the injury report.

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With Pitta gone, Ravens kick tires on tight ends

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Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta has dislocated the same hip he dislocated in training camp a year ago.  He’s done for the year, and the Ravens are looking for help.

Per a league source, the Ravens worked out four tight ends on Tuesday:  Kellen Davis (pictured), Matthew Mulligan, Jake Murphy, and Emmanuel Ogbuehi.

Veteran Owen Daniels becomes the top option for the Ravens, with Pitta gone.  Also on the roster at tight end are Crockett Gillmore (or is it Gillmore Crockett?) and Phillip Supernaw.

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Jags, Raiders, Bucs acquire dibs on waivers

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From the end of one regular season through the third week of the next regular season, the team with the worst reason in the prior season has dibs on all players placed on waivers.

This year, that was the Texans, from February through today.

As of today, that ended.  The Jaguars, Raiders, and Buccaneers — all 0-3 and tied when it comes to strength of schedule played so far — are tied for the top spot.  If two or more make a waivers claim for the same player, the issue will be resolved by the flip of a coin.

The Jets and Rams are tied for fourth position, and the Chiefs, Vikings, and Saints are tied at No. 6.  Again, coin flips would decide priority.

A five-way tie exists at No. 9, with the Browns, Packers, Colts, Dolphins, and Washington.  Ditto for the coin flips.

The Bengals currently are last on the 32-team pecking order.

The deck will now be reshuffled on a weekly basis, based on won-loss record and schedule strength.  Through the trade deadline, all players with less than four years of service pass through waivers.  After the trade deadline, all players who are released must first go through waivers.

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Titans cut T.J. Graham, sign Chase Coffman

T.J. Graham AP

Wide receiver T.J. Graham’s career prospects looked pretty bright when the Bills drafted him in the third round of the 2012 draft, but they’ve dimmed significantly this season.

Graham caught 54 passes in his first two years with the Bills, but failed to make the team of training camp this summer and was claimed off of waivers by the Titans. He didn’t see action in any of the first three Titans games of the season, however, and the team decided to move in a different direction on Tuesday.

The Titans announced that they have waived Graham and signed tight end Chase Coffman. Coffman has four catches in 22 career games with the Bengals and Falcons and spent training camp with Tennessee before being dropped as the team set its initial 53-man roster.

Graham’s speed was his big calling card coming into the NFL and it could earn him looks from other teams in the future, but it takes more than a good set of wheels to make it in the NFL and Graham is running out of time to show that he has the other requisite skills.

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Joe Philbin again declines to name Ryan Tannehill the starter for Week Four

Kansas City Chiefs v Miami Dolphins Getty Images

On Monday, Dolphins coach Joe Philbin declined to say that Ryan Tannehill would start at quarterback against the Raiders in London this weekend and that guaranteed he’d be asked about it again on Tuesday.

Philbin didn’t change course when the inevitable question came. Philbin said, via Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald, that the team would play the “best 46″ against Oakland and that the team’s coaches would take this week’s practices into account before making the call between Tannehill and Matt Moore.

Dolphins players don’t seem to be buying into the uncertainty at quarterback. Salguero reports that it “seems obvious” to several members of the team that Tannehill will remain the starter this week.

That does seem to be the likeliest outcome. Making a move to Moore at this point would strap Philbin’s future as the team’s coach to Moore’s performance, which is at least as risky a proposition as moving forward with Tannehill and comes with the added demerit that Tannehill hasn’t progressed nearly as much as the team would have hoped under Philbin’s tutelage.

That said, Tannehill hasn’t played well enough to have the job on lockdown and there’s no reason for Philbin to try to make him feel otherwise going into a game that would deal a serious blow to both men if the Dolphins fall to 1-3.

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Goodell meets with former players to discuss conduct policy

Goodell AP

As Commissioner Roger Goodell embarks on an overhaul of the personal-conduct policy, he has done something that some players would say he hasn’t done enough — he has asked former players for input.

According to Mark Maske of the Washington Post, Goodell met with 11 former NFL players to discuss changes to the NFL’s current approach of off-field player misconduct.

Attending the session at 345 Park Avenue were Mike Singletary, Willie McGinest, Roman Oben, Eddie Mason, Matt Birk, Patrick Kerney, Robert Porcher, Charles Way, Scott Turner, Tony Paige, and Marty Lyons.

A 12th former player, Troy Vincent, attended the 3.5-hour meeting in his capacity as the executive V.P. of football operations.

Goodell plans to seek input from other experts and the NFL Players Association, with the goal of unveiling a new conduct policy before the Super Bowl.  The biggest question continues to be Goodell’s role in the enforcement of the new policy.

Currently, Goodell makes the initial decision regarding discipline, and he has the right to handle the appeal of the outcome.  At a minimum, look for him to surrender the initial decision to an expert in disciplinary matters.  Ultimately, Goodell will have a hard time yielding final say regarding any punishment that comes from presiding over the appeal process.

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John Brown unfazed by climb from Pittsburg State to NFL

Brown Getty Images

If Cardinals receiver John Brown were currently where he was a year ago, he’d be preparing to play Fort Hays State.  Instead, Brown’s next game will come against the Denver Broncos.  And he doesn’t seem to be freaked out by that.

“It’s not too much of a big transition,” Brown tells Paul Burmeister of NBCSN’s Pro Football Talk in an interview that will be televised on today’s edition of the show.  “At the end of the day it’s just football to me I just have to do a lot more studying and learn guys.”

One thing he’s learning is to forget about his blunders.

“Just learning from those guys every time I make a mistake they just tell me to forget about it,” Brown said regarding teammates Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd.  “They don’t remember the time they made a mistake, they make me have a short-term memory and just extra work putting it in after practice to be where those guys are.”

Brown already is where those guys are, after only three career regular-season games.  Averaging only three catches per week, he’s already got three touchdowns.

So join us at 5:30 p.m. ET for more from John Brown, along with more from Burmeister, Tony Dungy, Jason Taylor, Ross Tucker, and yours truly.

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Vernon Davis “feeling great” so 49ers cut a tight end

San Francisco 49ers v Dallas Cowboys Getty Images

Late last week, the 49ers promoted tight end Asante Cleveland from the practice squad to give them a healthy body in the event that Vernon Davis and Vance McDonald weren’t able to play against the Cardinals because of injury.

Neither player could go, but things are looking up for Davis this week. Coach Jim Harbaugh said on Monday that he was “optimistic” that Davis would return to the lineup against the Eagles this week and Davis provided more reason for optimism on Tuesday.

“I’m feeling great,” Davis said, via the Sacramento Bee. “This is going to be a good week for me.”

If Davis is back in action, there’s not much need for Cleveland on the roster and the 49ers made a move Tuesday that showed their confidence in Davis’s condition. They waived Cleveland and re-signed quarterback Josh Johnson, who was dropped to make room for Cleveland on the roster.

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Cary Williams apologizing about his practice gripe

Cary Williams AP

Eagles cornerback Cary Williams apologized for causing a flap by complaining about the length of practices.

Sort of.

Williams said he should have kept the critiques of coach Chip Kelly’s methods in-house.

“I did that out of anger and frustration. I could have been better in that situation,” Williams said, via Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer. “I spoke to the team today. I addressed each man in there. Told them that I was sorry for what I said and put them in a difficult situation. I told them it won’t happen again.

“I told them I won’t talk negatively about the team or where we’re going. We are 3-0. That’s something to be proud of. I am happy that we are 3-0 because things could have gone otherwise.”

At the same time, he didn’t exactly walk back his criticism, saying “I try not to lie. In that situation I don’t think I did.”

Kelly declared it a non-issue yesterday, and the facts in the case seem to bear him out.

As the league noted earlier today, the Eagles have scored 74 second half points this season, more than 21 teams have scored all season.

 

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Aaron Rodgers: Offense will be fine

Aaron Rodgers AP

The Packers offense has not gotten off to the fast start to the season that the team would have liked.

The unit has not looked particularly good outside of scoring 28 points in the second and third quarters of the victory over the Jets in Week Two and last Sunday’s outing against the Lions wasn’t good enough in any respect. The run game never got going, quarterback Aaron Rodgers wasn’t his sharpest and the offensive line didn’t serve either part of the attack all that well.

On his weekly radio show on ESPN Milwaukee, Rodgers copped to some poor throws and said that running 51 plays means the offense didn’t play fast enough in the loss to Detroit. He also said that it wasn’t time to panic or look for deeper reasons for the slow start to the season.

“Five letters. R-E-L-A-X. Relax. We’re going to be fine,” Rodgers said, via Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com.

Rodgers called the Packers a “resilient bunch” and the fact they went from 1-2 to NFC North champs the last two years suggests that there’s something to be said for the patient approach after three weeks of the season.

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Jay Gruden on Cousins keeping job: Crazy things have happened in the NFL

Washington Redskins v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

Quarterback Kirk Cousins provided plenty of support for arguments that he’s a good fit for head coach Jay Gruden’s offensive scheme in Sunday’s start against the Eagles.

Cousins went 30-of-48 for 417 yards in the 37-34 loss with only a slight downgrade for an interception to mar his record for the day. It’s the kind of performance that explains why some believe Cousins should be the team’s starter even when Robert Griffin III is healthy. It also leads to questions for Gruden about whether Griffin could wind up playing the role of Wally Pipp this season. Gruden didn’t rule it out before and he isn’t ruling it out now.

“Crazy things have happened in NFL,” Gruden said, via Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News. “I’m not going to discount anything.”

Cousins has looked very good since replacing Griffin in Week Two and more of the same in the coming weeks would make it very hard for the Redskins to pull the plug even if Griffin hadn’t looked uncomfortable in the offense during the Week One and the preseason. Since there are going to be several games between now and Griffin’s return, there’s not much reason for Washington to make a call either way at this point in the season but the stage is certainly set for Cousins to extend his run.

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Michigan could be moving closer to making a run at Harbaugh

Harbaugh AP

With the University of Michigan struggling to such a bad start that the program has been forced to give tickets away to anyone who purchased a bottle of Coca-Cola (unless it didn’t), the speculation already has begun regarding the next coach of the Wolverines.

Coincidentally, the speculation has been ongoing regarding the future of 49ers coach (and former Michigan quarterback) Jim Harbaugh for a while.  Mired in a contractual impasse that has been tabled until after the season, any college or program now knows that Harbaugh is in play for a jump to a new job come 2015.  With the 49ers already mired in a disappointing, stressful year, that jump could be more likely.

And while other NFL programs technically must wait to openly pursue Harbaugh until after the NFL season ends, Michigan can get a jump on everyone by dumping Brady Hoke and beginning the discussions with a man who has had great success at every stop of his coaching career.

Could Harbaugh be tempted to leave?  If he’d leave the NFL for any job, it surely would be the Michigan job.  And the Michigan job likely won’t be open every few years.  This could be the only time the planets line up just right, allowing Harbaugh to exit the 49ers after four seasons and return to the college game.

Where he can run the show.  And run the town.  And run to the bank with more money than the 49ers will pay him.

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