Mike Zimmer thinks Marvin Lewis should coach Bengals “as long as he wants”

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Marvin Lewis once gave Mike Zimmer a job.

Zimmer could be partly responsible for more pressure on Lewis’ job this week, but the Vikings head coach defended the work his old boss has done with the Bengals.

Lewis is 123-111-3 in 15 years with the Bengals, despite the lack of a playoff win. And they’re 5-8 this year with Lewis entering the final three games of his contract, which has plenty of people wondering whether he’s coaching his last month there.

But Zimmer (who was Lewis’ defensive coordinator from 2008-13) would like to point out the 12 straight non-winning seasons that preceded his mentor’s arrival, when the Bengals were a combined 55-137 (.286 winning percentage) under Dick LeBeau, Bruce Coslet, Dave Shula and the final year of the Sam Wyche era.

When he first started, they weren’t very good,” Zimmer said, via Ben Goessling of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “He got them to a place where they got to six playoffs games [in seven years]. I think he’s a heck of a coach. He does unbelievable things in the community. I learned a lot for him. I’m happy for him. In my opinion he should be able to stay there as long as he wants.”

Zimmer is clearly not unbiased here, but very little has been said about Lewis’ future. He has seemed content to ride out the year without security, and the Bengals may be ready to hit the reset button.

But if that’s the route they choose, Zimmer would only point to the road they’ve already traveled.

Giants interim G.M. would like to see Davis Webb play

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The Giants moved Eli Manning out of the lineup in Week 13 in what was described as an organizational decision to look at other quarterbacks before the year was over.

That move was met with an overwhelmingly negative reaction from the team’s fan base and was followed by the firings of head coach Ben McAdoo and General Manager Jerry Reese a day after Geno Smith piloted the offense in a loss to the Raiders. Manning was re-installed as the starter after that and the entire string of events made it hard to believe the Giants would now swing back the other way.

Interim General Manager Kevin Abrams may feel otherwise. Abrams, who the team says will be considered as a permanent hire, met with the media on Thursday and said, via Paul Schwartz of the New York Post, he’d like to see rookie Davis Webb get playing time before the year is out.

Whether Abrams or someone else is ultimately calling the shots, seeing Webb makes sense from the standpoint of planning for the high draft pick the Giants have earned by winning two of their first 13 games. Abrams’ desire to see it doesn’t mean it will happen however.

Abrams added “you can only play one quarterback at a time” and said interim head coach Steve Spagnuolo will be making any calls about who plays at quarterback the rest of the way.

Sapp’s comments raise questions about internal NFLN training

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Beyond the cartoonish, nonsensical, illogical remarks made by former NFL Network analyst Warren Sapp during his first interview given after being mentioned in a sexual harassment lawsuit against his former employer resides a far more troubling reality for the league. Sapp’s seeming inability to connect giving sex toys to female colleagues to sexual harassment suggests that Sapp never received adequate training from the league regarding the things that are and aren’t allowed in a responsible modern workplace.

It’s possible the NFL never gave him sexual harassment training, which often consists of a once-per-year seminar or online module aimed at teaching employees what they shouldn’t do when interacting with each other, and what they should do if they believe sexual harassment is occurring. It’s possible that the NFL had such training, but that Sapp never submitted to it. It’s possible that Sapp physically attended but paid no attention.

Whatever the explanation, Sapp’s comments operate as a flapping red flag regarding the effectiveness of efforts to make sure all employees know what sexual harassment is.

It comes in two forms: quid pro quo and hostile work environment. The former relates to the supervisor who abuses a position of power to prey upon subordinate colleagues, either by promising benefits for submitting to a physical relationship or threatening reprisal if the advances are rejected. The latter arises when sexual comments, texts, photos, emails, object (like sex toys) are introduced to the workplace, and when the employees subjected to the words and behavior are offended by it.

Quid pro quo liability can arise from a single incident. With hostile work environment sexual harassment, non-supervisors typically get one strike, since there’s no way of knowing whether someone is offended by certain comments or actions unless and until they are exposed to it and they say so. For those employees, responsible employers ensure that easy, quick, and discreet methods are available to alert management of objectionable behavior.

All responsible employers must have those measures in place, and it starts with training all employees on what sexual harassment is, and isn’t. Sapp’s comments from Wednesday show that, regardless of any efforts by the NFL to provide the training, it didn’t take. And that should make the league office far more concerned than the lawsuit that has been filed — because the lawsuit that has been filed could end up being the first of multiple claims.

John Dorsey declines to declare categorically that Hue Jackson will be back

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Whether he intended to or not, new Browns G.M. John Dorsey made plenty of waves on Thursday with a radio appearance in Cleveland.

Headline No. 1: The prior regime didn’t get “real players.”

Headline No. 2: Coach Hue Jackson may not definitely be coming back next year.

In Dorsey’s interview with ESPN Cleveland, the new G.M. was asked to echo the comment twice made by his boss, Jimmy Haslam, that Jackson definitely will return next season. Dorsey didn’t say “of course” or any other version of that message.

Here’s the question from Aaron Goldhammer: “There’s some reports out, and I just want to be clear about this, John, about you potentially at the end of the year, if the Browns don’t win a game, pushing for a coaching change. Are you willing to categorically say today that Hue Jackson will be the coach of the Browns in 2018?”

“I’ve always said I live in the present, and I build for the future,” Dorsey told Goldhammer. “I live in the present. Right now the sun’s out, the tarps are coming off the field, we’re practicing outside, we’re getting ready to play the Baltimore Ravens, which is a divisional game. That’s my sole focus. And then it’s also getting familiar with the whole layout and the organizational structure in terms of creating my daily routine.”

The response serves only to bolster the existing belief that Dorsey will be (or perhaps already is) making the case privately to Haslam that, in order to truly turn things around, Dorsey needs to assemble his own team — of players, executives, and coaches.

How could his “we’ll see” answer be interpreted any differently? The owner twice says Jackson will be back, and the new G.M. opts not to paint himself into that same corner. While it doesn’t mean Jackson definitely won’t be back, it’s obvious that the notion that Jackson definitely will return isn’t nearly as clear as Haslam made it out to be.

Leonard Fournette out of practice again on Thursday

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Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette rebounded from a couple of down games by running for 101 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries in last Sunday’s win over the Seahawks, but he may not be able to build on that performance against the Texans this weekend.

Fournette did not practice on Wednesday because of a quad injury and, per multiple reports from Jacksonville, he remained off the field during the open portion of Thursday’s session as well. Fournette missed one game with an ankle injury earlier this year and he also got benched for a week for a violation of team rules.

The Jaguars may just be managing Fournette’s reps to ensure he’s good to go on Sunday. Friday’s practice and the team’s injury designations for Sunday will provide more of an idea if that’s the case.

T.J. Yeldon and Chris Ivory would be the top backfield options in the event Fournette can’t play.

No structural issues for Justin Pugh

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With Giants offensive lineman Justin Pugh ending his contract year on injured reserve, natural questions will arise regarding whether he’ll be healthy when free agency begins. Those questions can be easily answered.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, Dr. Robert Watkins recently examined Pugh, and Dr. Watkins concluded that Pugh has no structural issues. Pugh, according to Dr. Watkins, simply needs to rest the back for a few weeks.

While this won’t stop interested teams from ensuring that his back is OK, the reality is that it’s expected his back will be OK. And it’s actually a good thing for Pugh that he’ll be out of harm’s way for the final three games, since that ensures the situation will get no worse.

Pugh, who has played all four years of his rookie deal and the option year that applies to all first-round picks (if their teams exercise it), is expected to be one of the top offensive linemen in free agency. Whether the Giants try to keep him will depend largely on who they hire to be the next G.M. and head coach — and how aggressively the coach who drafted him tries to get Pugh to Jacksonville.

Giants will put Justin Pugh on injured reserve

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The Giants haven’t had Justin Pugh in the lineup for several weeks and they won’t be getting him back this season.

According to multiple reports, Pugh will be placed on injured reserve by the 2-11 team this week. Pugh, who was playing right tackle after opening the year at guard, has missed five of the last six games due to a back injury.

Pugh recently went for a second medical opinion to see if he needed to have surgery to resolve the problem. Reports indicate that rest and rehab are the prescribed course of action for the time being.

With Pugh done for the year, he may have played his final game for the Giants. The 2013 first-round pick is set for free agency after the season and the offseason is setting up to be one of major changes for the team.

Pugh’s ability to play both guard and tackle should have appeal to teams, but they will likely be wary of making too big a commitment to a player who also missed five games due to injury last season.

Both Tyrod Taylor and Nathan Peterman practicing again

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Joe Webb is wearing blue again, which makes the Bills the opposite of blue.

According to Mike Rodak of ESPN.com. the Bills third-string quarterback was back to wearing a blue offensive jersey in practice Thursday, instead of the red ones reserved for quarterbacks.

That makes it reasonable to assume the Bills feel good about the chances of both Tyrod Taylor (knee) and Nathan Peterman (concussion) to play Sunday against the Dolphins.

The Bills have said Taylor will start if healthy. Peterman would still need to pass through the concussion protocol with clearance from an independent neurologist.

Webb had to finish up last week’s snow game with the Colts after Peterman was concussed, since Taylor was inactive because of a knee injury.

Dorsey’s comments don’t bode well for DePodesta

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Last week, Browns owner Jimmy Haslam said that both coach Hue Jackson and chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta will return next year. It’s now looking less and less likely that at least one of them will be back.

With new G.M. John Dorsey saying that the prior regime “didn’t get real players” and with DePodesta being a key piece of the prior regime, how can DePodesta remain? Why would he even want to?

Consider the full quote: “You know what? I’ll come straight out with it. The guys who were here before, that system, they didn’t get real players.”

Obviously, DePodesta is one of “guys who were here before.” And DePodesta is still there.

Dorsey’s comments make it fairly clear that DePodesta won’t be for long.

Sure, he can stick around and get paid to do something. Whatever he does, however, Dorsey clearly won’t be listening to the former baseball analytics expert’s opinion on football players.

Or, if Dorsey does listen, he’ll be taking DePodesta’s recommendations and doing the opposite.

John Dorsey: Previous regime didn’t get “real players”

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Browns General Manager John Dorsey has been on the job for less than a week, but that’s been enough time for him to draw some conclusions on the roster left behind by his predecessor at the top of the Browns personnel department.

Sashi Brown’s tenure was marked by moves that accumulated a lot of draft picks while the Browns kept losing games on the field, which led to criticism of the personnel department’s ability to evaluate players and a steady flow of reports about tension between Brown’s group and head coach Hue Jackson. During an appearance on WKNR 850 with Aaron Goldhammer on Thursday, Dorsey put himself squarely on the side of those who feel that Brown’s moves were the root of the problems the last two years.

Dorsey said he’ll do his “darnedest” to get Jackson the players he needs while making it clear he thinks such players are in short supply in Cleveland.

“You know what? You’ve got to get a guy like that players,” Dorsey said, via Cleveland.com. “And you know what? I’ll come straight out with it. The guys who were here before, that system, they didn’t get real players.”

That may not sit well with some of the current Browns players, but it’s hard to make a compelling alternative argument about an 0-13 team that won just one game last season. The bright side for Dorsey is that Brown left him with plenty of draft picks to use on real players and Dorsey will get a chance to start putting them to use in a few months.

Joe Flacco, Jeremy Maclin not worried about lack of production

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When the Ravens signed wide receiver Jeremy Maclin following his release by the Chiefs this offseason, the hope was that he’d become their No. 1 receiver and help provide the team with a more potent passing attack.

That’s not quite how things have worked out. Maclin does have the most catches of any wideout on the team, but 39 catches in 11 games and the 30th-ranked passing offense in the league wasn’t quite what the optimists had in mind. Maclin’s production has been particularly erratic of late as he’s caught 12 passes on 29 targets over the last four games.

Neither Maclin nor Flacco expressed much concern about that on Wednesday, however. Flacco said he “wouldn’t overreact” to the recent stretch, which included three catches on 11 targets against the Steelers last weekend, and Maclin

“I’m not going to sit here and say that there is or whatever,” Maclin said, via the Baltimore Sun. “But for whatever reason, especially in the last game, it just didn’t click. I’m not going to beat myself up about it. That’s what preparation is for. So we’ll continue to go out there and continue to get on the same page.”

The lack of spark between Flacco and Maclin hasn’t kept the Ravens from sticking around the playoff hunt, but it would certainly help their chances of earning a Wild Card if the duo can come up with a strong close to the year.

Video emerges of Damontre Moore street fight

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When the Cowboys cut Damontre Moore in October, they said it was strictly for on-field football reasons. However, a report at the time said Moore had been in a street fight just days earlier.

Now TMZ has video of that fight. It appears to show that a group of other men started the fight with Moore, although once the men were separated and Moore had an opportunity to walk away, Moore instead walked back toward the men, continued the fight and then tried to jump onto the roof of a fleeing car to punch one of the men through the sunroof.

According to TMZ, police were called to the area for possible shots fired after the fight, but no arrests were made.

Moore has so much natural talent that early in his college career at Texas A&M there was talk that he could one day be the first overall pick in the NFL draft. But he eventually went to the Giants in the third round, lasted less than three years in New York, and has bounced around the league with Miami, Seattle and Dallas since then. Moore also served a two-game substance-abuse suspension this year, and given his combination of underachieving on the field and getting into trouble off the field, he may be done in the NFL.

PFT’s Week 15 picks

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Like Doug Jones, MDS has an insurmountable lead (seven games) with three weeks left. Like Roy Moore, I’m not conceding.

Although it’s going to require plenty of skill and luck. This week, we disagree on only three games. Which means I need a sweep in order to even have a remote chance to catch him.

For all of the Week 15 picks, do the mouse/finger thing.

Broncos at Colts

MDS’s take: The season’s last Thursday night game is not a good one. But the Broncos showed enough signs of life last week that I’ll pick them to win on the road.

MDS’s pick: Broncos 16, Colts 13.

Florio’s take: John Elway stuck it to the Colts decades ago, when he told them not to draft him. He’ll stick it to them again tonight.

Florio’s pick: Broncos 27, Colts 20.

Bears at Lions

MDS’s take: Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky has been playing better football of late, and that makes me tempted to pick an upset. But with Jim Caldwell coaching for his job, I think the Lions will do just enough to win.

MDS’s pick: Lions 24, Bears 23.

Florio’s take: A team that had won three games in 13 weeks isn’t going to be winning twice in six days. #analysis.

Florio’s pick: Lions 30, Bears 14.

Chargers at Chiefs

MDS’s take: This is a huge game that may determine the winner of the AFC West, and I think the Chargers’ late-season surge is going to continue and push them toward a playoff game in their tiny stadium.

MDS’s pick: Chargers 34, Chiefs 31.

Florio’s take: One of the hottest teams in football gets a chance to show the Chiefs (and everyone else) how far they’ve come.

Florio’s pick: Chargers 31, Chiefs 21.

Texans at Jaguars

MDS’s take: The Jaguars’ pass defense is going to make life miserable for T.J. Yates.

MDS’s pick: Jaguars 20, Texans 3.

Florio’s take: If the Jaguars truly have matured, they’ll avoid stepping into a pothole against an overmatched Texans team.

Florio’s pick: Jaguars 30, Texans 13.

Ravens at Browns

MDS’s take: The Browns may have missed their best opportunity to eat a W on Sunday against the Packers. I can’t see them beating a Ravens team that is hungry to earn a wild card spot.

MDS’s pick: Ravens 28, Browns 13.

Florio’s take: Nearly 10 years to the day after the Ravens “helped” the Dolphins avoid an 0-16 season, the team that used to be the Browns gets a chance to assist the current Browns in the avoidance of the ultimate embarrassment. Don’t count on it happening; after blowing a 14-point lead against the Packers and bungling a chance to salvage victory in overtime, the Browns seem to be ready to accept their fate.

Florio’s pick: Ravens 27, Browns 10.

Packers at Panthers

MDS’s take: The return of Aaron Rodgers will be spoiled by a good Panthers defense that will hold a rusty Rodgers in check and pretty much end the Packers’ playoff hopes.

MDS’s pick: Panthers 20, Packers 17.

Florio’s take: If the Packers make the playoffs, they’ll make it to the Super Bowl. But if they lose to the Panthers, the Packers won’t make it to the playoffs. Ipso facto, don’t make reservations for Minnesota in late January, Cheeseheads.

Florio’s pick: Panthers 27, Packers 23.

Dolphins at Bills

MDS’s take: The Dolphins surprised me on Monday night, but I think the Jay Cutler-led offense is going to struggle on a cold day in Buffalo.

MDS’s pick: Bills 13, Dolphins 10.

Florio’s take: The Dolphins finally found the gas pedal. Is it too late?

Florio’s pick: Dolphins 24, Bills 21.

Bengals at Vikings

MDS’s take: The Vikings have a good shot at earning home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs, and they’re not throwing away their shot against the Bengals.

MDS’s pick: Vikings 28, Bengals 10.

Florio’s take: Old friends Mike Zimmer and Marvin Lewis meet, with Marvin on the hot seat. If Zimmer blows this one, he should be, too.

Florio’s pick: Vikings 31, Bengals 17.

Cardinals at Washington

MDS’s take: Two teams that thought they were playoff contenders but now find themselves playing out the string. Kirk Cousins still has something to play for, and I think he’ll have a big game.

MDS’s pick: Washington 31, Cardinals 17.

Florio’s take: A pair of former NFC East rivals get together. And that’s the only thing interesting about this game.

Florio’s pick: Washington 23, Cardinals 20.

Eagles at Giants

MDS’s take: Nick Foles gets an easy opponent in his first start, and he’ll play well as the Eagles cruise to another win.

MDS’s pick: Eagles 24, Giants 14.

Florio’s take: It’s easy to exude confidence to the point of delusion about succeeding without Carson Wentz . . . before actually playing a game without Carson Wentz.

Florio’s pick: Giants 21, Eagles 20.

Jets at Saints

MDS’s take: Josh McCown played well this year, but now that he’s done the Jets are going to look like the team everyone thought they’d be back in September. The Saints will win this one easily.

MDS’s pick: Saints 30, Jets 7.

Florio’s take: Extra time to prepare plus a sense of urgency to get a win minus Josh McCown for the Jets equals an easy 10th win for the home team.

Florio’s pick: Saints 30, Jets 17.

Rams at Seahawks

MDS’s take: In a huge game for the NFC West race, I like the Seahawks to do just enough on defense to slow down the Rams’ high-scoring offense, and Russell Wilson to make a couple of big plays late to win a close game.

MDS’s pick: Seahawks 28, Rams 27.

Florio’s take: The Rams got their nine wins, but they may not get their playoff berth.

Florio’s pick: Seahawks 27, Rams 24.

Titans at 49ers

MDS’s take: The 49ers are 2-0 since switching to Jimmy Garoppolo. Make it 3-0.

MDS’s pick: 49ers 28, Titans 21.

Florio’s take: The Titans could be in the process of squandering what once seemed like a sure-fire playoff berth. If they don’t get it right now, it could be over.

Florio’s pick: Titans 23, 49ers 16.

Patriots at Steelers

MDS’s take: The Patriots will bounce back from an ugly Monday night loss to win what is the biggest game of the regular season so far.

MDS’s pick: Patriots 27, Steelers 24.

Florio’s take: The Patriots lose so rarely that whenever they do some assume they’ll never win again. Ass. U. Me.

Florio’s pick: Patriots 30, Steelers 27.

Cowboys at Raiders

MDS’s take: Derek Carr has been a disappointment this season, and the Cowboys’ defense is going to have a good game against him on Sunday night.

MDS’s pick: Cowboys 24, Raiders 16.

Florio’s take: Derek Carr was wise to take the $25 million per year; if he hadn’t, he’d be lucky to get half that now.

Florio’s pick: Cowboys 23, Raiders 14.

Falcons at Buccaneers

MDS’s take: The Falcons are still fighting for a playoff berth, and they’re doing it against the Buccaneers, who may be this year’s most disappointing team. Atlanta should get an important win on the road.

MDS’s pick: Falcons 21, Buccaneers 20.

Florio’s take: Jon Gruden will be joining the Ring of Honor. Dirk Koetter may soon be performing the walk of shame.

Florio’s pick: Falcons 34, Buccaneers 20.

Ravens offered Griffin a deal near start of training camp

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Robert Griffin III claims that the Ravens offered him a contract this year. And indeed they did.

Per a league source, the offer came at or about the start of training camp. The terms aren’t known, but Griffin obviously wasn’t offered enough to get him to accept the deal. (Griffin contends that the offer came shortly before the preseason opener against Washington.)

The Ravens publicly debated the possibility of signing Colin Kaepernick after a back problem kept Joe Flacco out of camp for multiple weeks. The Ravens ultimately didn’t sign Kaepernick; according to former Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, a tweet from Kaepernick’s girlfriend that attacked Lewis and owner Steve Bisciotti derailed the move.

The claim that the Cardinals offered Griffin a contract seems more unrealistic, given Griffin’s skill set and the contours of the Bruce Arians offense.

Griffin added in an appearance on ESPN that he hasn’t given up on playing in 2017. Given the inevitable risk of injury, the phone may eventually ring. It’s a bit surprising that the Eagles have decided not to explore adding Griffin or any other veteran quarterbacks, opting instead to ride with Nick Foles and Nate Sudfeld.

We’ll find out whether that bold strategy works for the Eagles soon, beginning with Sunday’s game against the Giants.

Cam Newton runs for touchdowns like no other quarterback — or running back

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Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is one of the greatest rushing quarterbacks in NFL history. But when it comes specifically to running for touchdowns, Newton isn’t just great compared to other quarterbacks. He’s even great compared to running backs.

Newton has five rushing touchdowns so far this season. And he’s had at least five rushing touchdowns every season of his career, which began in 2011. How rare is that? Newton is the only player in the NFL with at least five rushing touchdowns in each of the last seven seasons. Not the only quarterback — the only player.

Only one running back, Mark Ingram, even has six seasons with five or more rushing touchdowns since 2011. Four running backs — LeGarrette Blount, Marshawn Lynch, LeSean McCoy and DeMarco Murray — have reached the end zone at least five times in five of the last seven seasons.

Newton has 53 rushing touchdowns in his NFL career. Only Lynch and McCoy have scored more rushing touchdowns than Newton since 2011. Newton’s 53 rushing touchdowns are the most for any quarterback in NFL history, 10 more than second-place Steve Young. He runs for touchdowns like no other quarterback ever has, and like few running backs have.