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Browns players not ready to give job to Johnny Manziel

NFL Draft Football AP

Browns players are happy to have Johnny Manziel, but for the moment, they’ve got Brian Hoyer’s back.

Several players said Monday they expected Manziel to add some energy and competition, but weren’t ready to rule out Hoyer keeping the starting quarterback job.

I think good old Johnny Football is going to be a good addition to Cleveland,” center Alex Mack said , via Pat McManamon of ESPN.com. “Don’t know who the starter is going to be, though.”

Linebacker Jabaal Sheard said “Hoyer’s going to come out fighting,” while others shrugged about the level of attention coming their way.

“It’ll help sell tickets, which will make a lot of people smile in the building,” left tackle Joe Thomas said. “That’s a good thing, . . . New England is probably the most secretive of any NFL program, and they still have Tom Brady doing Ugg commercials. He has TMZ following him everywhere he goes.

“It’s just a matter of how the player handles it. I don’t know Johnny and I haven’t met him, but I’m sure he’ll have a lot of guidance in how he handles things around here with the attention he’s getting.”

Of course, if Manziel proves himself their best bet on the field, they’ll all be in his corner. And probably looking to hang out with him and Drake.

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Cardinals G.M. “hopeful” Drew Stanton can play this week

Arizona Cardinals v St. Louis Rams Getty Images

Meanwhile in Arizona, there’s a playoff team hoping to get its first backup quarterback back for a playoff game.

Cardinals General Manager Steve Keim made his usual appearance on Arizona Sports 98.7 Monday morning, and had a positive tome when asked about the possibility of Drew Stanton making Saturday’s playoff game with the Panthers.

At this point it’s day-to-day, but we’re hopeful,” Keim said.

Getting Stanton back would be a huge boost to the Cardinals, who have floundered badly under third-choice Ryan Lindley.

Stanton was recovering well from his previous knee injury when he had to be treated for an infection last week, an infection the team believes was picked up outside its auspices.

The Cardinals would still likely be underdogs on the road Saturday, but would have a more compelling chance against a suddenly hot Panthers Defense.

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Report: Thomas Dimitroff safe, but changes coming to staff

Dimitroff AP

With head coach Mike Smith fired this morning, the only unanswered question was whether he’d be alone.

But according to Albert Breer of the NFL Network, General Manager Thomas Dimitroff is safe, with conditions.

Owner Arthur Blank “plans on shaking up the organizational structure, which would naturaly erode some of the stability Dimitroff has built.

Blank wasn’t bringing former Eagles and Browns executive Joe Banner in just to pick out curtains for the new stadium, so some restructuring seemed inevitable.

How that applies to Dimitroff and his staff — or to team president Rich McKay — remains to be seen.

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Bears fire Marc Trestman, too

Trestman Getty Images

Moments after the first shoe dropped, the second shoe has dropped as well.

Just minutes after news first broke that the Bears have fired General Manager Phil Emery, news also broke that head coach Marc Trestman was fired. Jay Glazer of FOX Sports first broke the Trestman news.

Trestman was a surprising, outside-the-box choice as the Bears’ head coach, coming as he did from the Canadian Football League. But in his first season as the head coach of the Bears, he showed a lot of promise as an offensive innovator.

Unfortunately, Trestman’s second season was a disaster, as the Bears appeared to quit on the season. Few teams played worse down the stretch than Chicago.

Now the Bears will attempt to pick up the pieces, with a new coach and a new general manager inheriting the mess that Emery and Trestman have left behind.

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Bears move on from Phil Emery

Emery AP

As the Bears stumbled through the 2014 season, more and more fingers were pointed at the man who decided to hire a CFL head coach and to give a market-value franchise quarterback to a guy who has yet to prove he’s a true franchise quarterback.

Per a league source, the Bears have held G.M. Phil Emery responsible for those decisions with his job.

Emery was fired after three years on the job and only one head-coaching hire.  (At least he got one; former Jets G.M. John Idzik never got to hire a coach at all.)

It seems to be only a matter of time before coach Marc Trestman gets fired.  The real question is whether Jay Cutler remains after a contract that paid him $38 million fully guaranteed on signing, with another $10 million becoming fully guaranteed in March.

Whether Cutler remains depends on who the next coach will be.  If the Bears hire Illinois native Mike Shanahan, who drafted Cutler nearly nine years ago, maybe Cutler sticks around.

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Falcons fire Mike Smith

Smith AP

And then there were four.

With the Raiders, 49ers, and Jets jobs open, add Atlanta to the mix.  The Falcons have announced that coach Mike Smith has been released from his contract.

“Smitty’s contributions to our club, team and city over the last seven years are numerous,” owner Arthur Blank said in a release.  “His accomplishments on the field made him the most successful coach in the 49-year history of the Falcons, and we are grateful for the foundation he has laid for us for the future.”

Before Smith arrived, the Falcons had never had consecutive winning seasons.  Under Smith, they had five in a row.

But postseason failures, including a blowout loss at home while the No. 1 seed in 2010 and an inability to hold leads as the No. 1 seed in 2012, surely made it hard for Blank to remain supportive after two straight losing seasons.

Also working against Smith is a history of bad decisions, especially when it comes to clock management.  This year alone, losses to Detroit and Cleveland were fueled in large part by mismanagement of the clock.  With those two losses converted to wins, the Falcons easily would have won the NFC South.

The next question becomes whether Blank will keep G.M. Thomas Dimitroff.  The hiring of a search firm to help identify a new coach suggests that Dimitroff has been undermined.  But Dimitroff’s ability to find talented players is well documented.  With former Patriots V.P. of player personnel and former Chiefs G.M. Scott Pioli also in the building, the foundation is in place to build around players like quarterback Matt Ryan and receiver Julio Jones.

If Dimitroff is fired, look for other teams to line up to hire him.  Which could be the best argument in favor of keeping him.

As to Smith, his five-year run also merits consideration elsewhere.  At a minimum, teams should be clamoring to hire him as a defensive coordinator.

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Woody Johnson should consider firing himself

Woody AP

One of the best things about owning a business is that the owner can’t be fired.  Sometimes, however, he should be.

When it comes to the Jets, owner Woody Johnson deserves much of the blame for the mess that culminated in Monday’s house cleaning.  By firing G.M. Mike Tannenbaum two years ago but insisting on keeping coach Rex Ryan two weeks ago, Johnson created a mess that was destined to lead to what should have happened two years ago.

The statement from Johnson announcing the termination of G.M. John Idzik and coach Rex Ryan confirms that Johnson will obtain “guidance and support” from Charley Casserly and Ron Wolf.

“We will consider all options to improve the Jets,” Johnson said.   “Getting the Jets back on track is my top priority, and today’s decisions are important steps towards achieving our goals.”

The way for the Jets to achieve their goals includes the owner getting out of the way.  While he’ll never fire himself, he needs to resist the urge to tinker or to make changes.  Find people who know what they are doing and let them do it.

Go to the games.  Have fun.  Sign the checks.  And keep away from the team.

It’s a smart approach for most NFL owners.  For Johnson, it’ll be one of the key ingredients to getting the Jets to where Johnson wants them to be.

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Ravens confident Haloti Ngata will be ready to help them this week

Baltimore Ravens v Pittsburgh Steelers Getty Images

When the Ravens were trailing the Browns in the second half on Sunday, it looked like their season might end before defensive tackle Haloti Ngata could return from a four-game suspension for violating the performance-enhancing drug policy.

The Ravens rallied, though, and beat the Browns 20-10 to secure the final playoff spot in the AFC. That means they’ll be in Pittsburgh on Saturday and that Ngata will be in the fold to help them try to defeat their AFC North rivals.

The question now becomes how much Ngata will be able to help them after four weeks away from the team. His physical condition will be of particular interest, but coach John Harbaugh didn’t show much concern about Ngata being ready for action.

“I’m confident Haloti will be ready to go. That’s his job, to be ready to go,” Harbaugh said, via ESPN.com. “I’m confident he’ll do it. He has done it before. He has been there, he knows what’s at stake.”

The Ravens run defense held up well while Ngata was out of the lineup, but a return at full speed would still be a major boost to their defensive efforts against Pittsburgh. Ngata had two sacks and two interceptions in 12 games this season and that work may be in high demand if the Steelers are forced to the air more often as a result of Le’Veon Bell’s knee injury.

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Falcons call press conference for 11 a.m. to fire people

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We know when Falcons owner Arthur Blank is talking, we just have to wait to see how many firings he’s talking about.

According to D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Falcons have called a press conference at 11 a.m., at the Blank Family Foundation offices, as opposed to Falcons HQ.

It’s expected that coach Mike Smith will officially get the ax at that moment, but the interesting part in Atlanta will be whether General Manager Thomas Dimitroff is able to — or should — hang on.

The two had a remarkable five-year run of winning seasons, after the Falcons had gone nearly 40 years without back-to-back winning seasons. They even pushed through their glass ceiling of a playoff win before falling through the floor the last two years.

The Falcons have impressive skill-position talent and a top quarterback under control. But their lack of playmakers on both lines doomed them, and the guy who built a top-heavy roster might be held accountable as well.

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Jets clean house, fire John Idzik along with Ryan

John Idzik AP

The Jets are tearing everything down after a 4-12 season.

Shortly after word broke that the team fired coach Rex Ryan, the Jets made an official announcement that Ryan would not return to the team for a seventh season. That announcement also included the news that General Manager John Idzik has been relieved of his duties after two years with the team.

Neither move is a surprise. It’s the fourth straight year that Ryan has missed the playoffs and he had little chance to do anything other than disappoint this season thanks to the undermanned roster he was provided by Idzik. Idzik did a fine job cleaning up the salary cap mess he inherited from former G.M. Mike Tannenbaum, but he failed to address major needs at cornerback and wide receiver while sitting on ample cap space. Coming up empty on immediate contributors despite adding 12 players to the roster in the 2014 draft didn’t help Idzik nor did fan protests that led to billboard and banners in the sky urging owner Woody Johnson to pull the plug.

And, of course, the Jets never found the quarterback that any NFL team needs to contend in this era. How much Geno Smith’s struggles were exacerbated by playing early with a weak supporting cast is a question worth debating, but neither Smith’s play nor the potentially mitigating circumstances reflects well on the job that Idzik’s done over the last two years.

The Jets have retained the services of former NFL exec Charley Casserly and former Packers G.M. Ron Wolf to advise Johnson as they try to find a coach/G.M. combination that can return them to the right side of .500 in 2015 and beyond.

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Jets tell Rex Ryan to hit the road

Rex AP

As expected, the Jets have made a coaching change.

After six seasons and a pair of AFC title-game appearances, Rex Ryan officially has become the former coach of the Jets.  The team announced the move on Monday morning.

Four straight failures to qualify for the playoffs doomed Ryan, the son of former Eagles and Cardinals coach Buddy and twin brother of Saints defensive coordinator Rob.

Rex reportedly has no inclination to become an assistant coach again.  He’ll either take a job in TV or land elsewhere as a head coach.

It’s unclear whether Rex will be a viable candidate for other jobs.  However, he could get consideration for Raiders, Bears, and/or Falcons job.

Anyone who hires Rex will have to consider the negatives and the positives.  He knows how to make a defense aggressive and effective.  But he needs a viable quarterback and a competent offensive coaching staff.

Rex also has a habit of creating distractions, due in part to his habit of drawing fines for firing off a middle finger and dropping “F” bombs.  Just last month, Ryan was fined $100,000 for his latest on-field use of profanity.

Still, players love playing for him, and he has shown that he’s capable of winning big games.  Teams like Oakland, Chicago, and Atlanta could do a lot worse than Ryan, who’ll have even greater motivation in his second job to prove that he can compete at the highest levels of the NFL.

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Mike Tomlin: We’re thankful Le’Veon Bell injury isn’t major

Le'Veon Bell AP

The Steelers won the AFC North on Sunday night by beating the Bengals, but the victory didn’t come without a dark cloud.

Running back Le’Veon Bell was forced out of the game in the second half with a knee injury. The team said that Bell hyperextended his right knee when he took a shot from Bengals safety Reggie Nelson and Bell didn’t need crutches to get around after the game, which fits with coach Mike Tomlin’s description of the severity of the injury.

“We’ll gather more significant information as we proceed through the week,” Tomlin said, via ESPN.com. “We’re thankful that it’s not anything major.”

The definition of major can vary from person to person and the fact that the team is waiting for “significant information” makes it far too early to know if Bell will be available when the Steelers open the playoffs with a renewal of their rivalry with the Ravens.

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Welcome to the offseason

NFL Getty Images

It’s Black Monday, which means a handful of NFL teams will be making big moves.  For 20 total franchises, it’s over.  No playoffs means football season has come to an end.  Which means planning for 2015 starts now.

The offseason has arrived for all teams not in the postseason, which means that plenty of things will be happening.  And we’ll be following all of it right here, every hour of every day until the season begins again in September.

The goal for the 20 teams who didn’t make it to the Super Bowl tournament will be to begin building hope for 2015.  For the 12 teams still left, the goal will be to try to translate the hope built last year into a championship.

In the end, only one team will be satisfied.  Hopefully, we’ll be able to satisfy your thirst for information and analysis throughout the coming offseason, and beyond.

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Top 20 picks in 2015 NFL Draft now in order

Harold Lloyd clock (sepia)

With the 12 playoff teams settled and ready to embark on the tournament, the other 20 can get down to personnel business.

Specifically, the top 20 picks in the 2015 NFL Draft are now settled.

The Buccaneers earned the top spot with a stirring come-from-ahead loss yesterday, and the top of the draft will have a southern accent, with the Titans picking second and the Jaguars third.

The Browns have a pair of first-rounders after last year’s trade with the Bills, and they’ll pick 12th and 19th.

The rest of the draft order will be filled in as the playoffs go along, with the wild card weekend losers taking spots 21-24, and divisional round losers 25-28.

Here’s a look at the full order as we know it.

1. Tampa Bay (2-14)

2. Tennessee (2-14)

3. Jacksonville (3-13)

4. Oakland (3-13)

5. Washington (4-12)

6. N.Y. Jets (4-12)

7. Chicago (5-11)

8. Atlanta (6-10)

9. N.Y. Giants (6-10)

10. St. Louis (6-10)

11. Minnesota (7-9)

12. Cleveland (7-9)

13. New Orleans (7-9)

14. Miami (8-8)

15. San Francisco (8-8)

16. Houston (9-7)

17 Kansas City (9-7)

18. San Diego (9-7)

19. Cleveland (from Buffalo 9-7)

20. Philadelphia (10-6).

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LeSean McCoy on future with Eagles: I’m sure we can work something out

Philadelphia Eagles v New York Giants Getty Images

The Eagles season came to an end without a playoff spot, but running back LeSean McCoy finished with a 99-yard effort to help beat the Giants in Week 17.

That left McCoy with 1,319 rushing yards for the season, the second-best total of both his career and his two years playing for head coach Chip Kelly. Given the team’s frequently toasted secondary and turnover issues at quarterback, it would seem that McCoy’s future with the organization would be low on the list of things to worry about heading into the offseason even with some questions early in the season about a drop in production.

After the game, though, McCoy sounded like a man who wasn’t totally convinced that he’d be back in Philadelphia for the 2015 season. McCoy is set to make $9.75 million next year with a cap charge north of $11 million, but said that he’s open to discussions about restructuring the deal because he wants to remain with the team.

“The season just ended, and . . . I’m an Eagle. I love it here,” McCoy said, via the Philadelphia Inquirer. “My six years here have been excellent. I’ve been very, very, very productive here. I have a great relationship with my coaches, the owner. We’ll see what happens. It’s a business. Anything can happen; I know that. But I’m sure we can work something out. And hopefully, everything does work out. They know how I feel about them. I know how they feel about me. So we’ll see what happens. At the end of the day, it’s a business.”

The Eagles spent all season plugging holes along their offensive line, something that certainly impacted McCoy individually and the offense as a whole over the course of the season. That doesn’t mean that McCoy won’t be reworking his deal in the coming months, but Kelly said on WIP Monday that he wants McCoy back and a parting of the ways would be a much bigger surprise that last offseason’s jettisoning of DeSean Jackson.

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League office to review Suh step on Monday

Suh Getty Images

Last Monday, the NFL suspended Lions center Dominic Raiola for one game after he blatantly stomped on the leg of Bears defensive lineman Ego Ferguson.  This week, the NFL will be taking a closer look at another Lions-related incident involving a player with a more notorious history of on-field misconduct and discipline.

The incident involving Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers will be reviewed on Monday.  Per a league source, the NFL will strive for consistency and will adhere to its desire to remove certain types of play from the game.

Replays show Suh stepping twice on Rodgers’ leg.  The first, with the right foot, appears to be clearly accidental.  The second, when studied in slow motion, appears to be intentional, with Suh moving his left foot backward, pressing it into Rodgers’ lower leg, pushing down, and then lifting the right leg off the ground to increase the force applied.

Rodgers’ real-time reaction suggests a strong belief by the quarterback that it was no accident, even if Suh managed to convey nonchalance while doing it.  In some respects, the move resembled Suh’s application of a foot to the crotch of former Texans quarterback Matt Schaub during a 2012 Thanksgiving game.  Suh’s leg swung naturally in Schaub’s direction as Suh fell to the ground after being blocked.  But once Suh’s foot was in the vicinity of Schaub’s groin, Suh subtly pushed the shoe into Schaub.

Suh was fined $30,000 for the Schaub maneuver.

Suh’s history includes a two-game suspension for stomping on the arm of former Packers center Evan Dietrich-Smith on Thanksgiving 2011 and a $100,000 fine for an illegal low block on Vikings center John Sullivan in September 2013.  Suh escaped punishment for a blow to the head of former Cardinals tackle Eric Winston that same month, possibly because the league failed to notice the move.

That history surely will be used against him, both in determining whether it was an accident and in assessing punishment.  Suspension for Sunday’s playoff game against the Cowboys would be surprising, but few players in the league would justify serious consideration of such an outcome.

Either way, more will be known, most likely by the end of the day.

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