Talk out of Pittsburgh last week focused not on whether the Steelers would beat the Jaguars, but on whether they would beat the Patriots after beating the Jaguars. Players on the Jaguars noticed that.
Jaguars defensive tackle Malik Jackson said on PFT Live that after beating the Steelers in the regular season, he and his teammates thought they should have earned the respect as a team to be reckoned with. Instead, they heard all the doubts about their chances of beating the Steelers again.
“We earned the respect we had when we went out there and handled them the first time, to to be disrespected the second time, people said it was a fluke and this and that, it was disrespectful,” Jackson said. “Just tired of being disrespected, tired of being questioned. In the final four, nobody can question you.”
Jackson said he and his teammates absolutely discussed the Steelers’ players talking about the Patriots before the game.
“It gave us a lot of motivation,” Jackson said. “Players on their team were saying it.”
Bill Belichick always keeps his players tight-lipped, so it’s safe to say the Patriots won’t give the Jaguars any bulletin-board material. And it’s also safe to say that if the Jaguars win in New England on Sunday, no one will disrespect them again.
Some Patriots players brushed off Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey telling fans at a pep rally that the Jaguars are going to win the Super Bowl as the musings of a confident player that weren’t a big deal, but a couple of others shared a different view on Wednesday.
Cornerback Eric Rowe said “we saw what happened to the Steelers” in reference to the perception that they were looking past the Jaguars and said he doesn’t think that “mindset” is a good idea. Defensive tackle Adam Butler said he felt Ramsey was putting the cart before the horse “in a sense” and that “you better be able to back it up.”
“It’s a bold statement to make,” Butler said, via ESPN.com. “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out. But like I said, be humble or be humbled. That’s all I can really say about that.”
If the Jaguars do win on Sunday, it’s likely that Ramsey will play a big role in getting them to Minneapolis and his vow to the fans will become part of the franchise’s lore. If not, it might lead to a different approach if Ramsey gets back to this spot in future seasons.
Reports of a hand injury for Tom Brady had Patriots Nation in a tizzy earlier Wednesday. But it appears the blood pressure in New England has dropped significantly since.
Mike Reiss of ESPN, quoting a source close to Brady, said the quarterback’s hand “should be OK.” Per Reiss, the injury could affect Brady “slightly,” but the belief is he “should be good overall.”
The use of the word “should” still raises some concern, but the injury report Thursday and the status report Friday will provide some insight. By all accounts, though, it appears Brady avoided an even bigger scare.
Brady injured his throwing hand with a teammate accidentally ran into him, but X-rays showed no structural damage.
The Patriots carry only one other quarterback on their roster, and veteran Brian Hoyer could get additional snaps in practice this week.
The Steelers have moved a step closer to naming Randy Fichtner as offensive coordinator. All that remains is final approval of his contract, Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.
Fichtner has served as the team’s quarterbacks coach since 2010 and was the wide receivers coach for three years before that. He and offensive line coach Mike Munchak, who declined a second interview with the Cardinals to remain in Pittsburgh, were considered the favorites for the job in order to maintain continuity of the offense.
Fichtner has a long relationship with head coach Mike Tomlin and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
He will replace Todd Haley, who the Steelers fired after the loss to Jacksonville on Sunday.
Fichtner has never carried the title of offensive coordinator in the NFL. He was a coordinator at Arkansas State from 1997-2000, with Tomlin as his receivers coach, and at Memphis from 2001-06.
The Jets have fired offensive coordinator John Morton, Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News reports.
Morton became a first-time play-caller last season, and the Jets finished 28th in total yards, 29th in first downs, 23rd in third-down efficiency, 24th in scoring, 24th in passing yards and 19th in rushing yards. They missed the postseason for a seventh consecutive season.
The Jets have had internal discussions about promoting quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates, according to Mehta, but there is a question about Bates’ interest in the job. The Jets tried to hire Eagles quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo as offensive coordinator to replace Chan Gailey last year, but Philadelphia blocked the interview request, via Mehta.
We don’t know which teams will be playing in Super Bowl LII in Minnesota on February 4, but we do know who will be running the officiating crew.
The NFL announced on Wednesday that Gene Steratore will be the referee for Super Bowl LII. It’s the first time that Steratore, who has been a referee since 2006, has been selected to work the game. His older brother Tony has worked two Super Bowls as a back judge.
Steratore was involved in one of the oddest officiating moments of the year when he broke out an index card as part of his process for measuring a first down during a December game between the Cowboys and Raiders. The league said there is no rule barring officials from using a card that way, but head of officiating Alberto Riveron later said that referees have been told not to do it again.
The rest of the crew will be made up of umpire Roy Ellison, down judge Jerry Bergman, line judge Byron Boston, field judge Tom Hill, side judge Scott Edwards and back judge Perry Paganelli. Bergman joins Steratore as first-timers at the Super Bowl.
The Jaguars had two players out of practice on Wednesday.
Safety Tashaun Gipson sat out because of the foot injury he suffered in last weekend’s victory over the Steelers. Gipson said earlier this week that expects to be well enough to play against the Patriots on Sunday. Jarrod Wilson stepped in when Gipson went down against Pittsburgh.
Left guard Patrick Omameh was held out of practice due to an illness. A return to work on Thursday should leave him on track to play this weekend.
Running back Leonard Fournette headlines a group of three players who were limited participants. Fournette returned to last Sunday’s game to score a touchdown after going to the locker room before the end of the second quarter with an ankle injury.
Defensive tackle Malik Jackson was also limited by an ankle injury while safety Barry Chuch was listed with a shoulder ailment.
The Patriots announced that quarterback Tom Brady was skipping his media availability on Wednesday while meeting with the team’s medical staff about an issue that remained undisclosed until they released their injury report for the day.
Brady was listed as a limited participant in Wednesday’s practice due to a right hand injury. It’s not the first time that Brady has been listed on the injury report this season and he’s often sits out Wednesday practices, so there’s not much reason to think this will have bearing on his availability for Sunday unless things take a turn for the worse as the week plays out.
Three other Patriots players joined Brady as limited participants on Wednesday, including running back Rex Burkhead. Burkhead has not played since Week 15 due to a knee injury, but word earlier this week was that he’s expected to be back in the lineup against the Jaguars.
Defensive tackle Alan Branch and running back Mike Gillislee were also limited by knee injuries.
UPDATE 4:44 p.m. ET: After the release of the injury report, the Patriots circled back and announced that right tackle LaAdrian Waddle was limited with a knee injury.
Tom Brady missed his scheduled media availability session Wednesday. The Patriots announced he was in with the team’s medical staff getting treatment and would appear on the injury report.
The Patriots have listed Brady with an Achilles injury several times in recent weeks, and he has missed some Wednesday practices this season while getting treatment. He also has shown up on the report with a left shoulder injury.
Brady was not on the team’s injury report last week.
Brady played 1,116 of the team’s offensive snaps this season, or 97.98 percent. Brian Hoyer took 23 snaps.
Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles has taken heavy criticism throughout his NFL career, and this year, even with Jacksonville in the AFC Championship Game, the criticism hasn’t let up. Some of Bortles’ teammates are getting sick of that.
Bortles was asked today about the steady stream of praise for him that has come from the Jaguars’ locker room, as other Jaguars players have repeatedly told fans and the media to show Bortles some respect.
“That type of stuff for me is big. I don’t care much about what is said outside our locker room. What I care about is inside that locker room. Those are the opinions I care about. When other people say stuff, it doesn’t bother me. But to see guys in that locker room stand up for me and say stuff, it’s pretty cool,” Bortles said. “Because those are the opinions I value and the guys I want to impress and do well for.”
If Bortles plays well on Sunday and the Jaguars get to the Super Bowl, he may finally stop hearing all that criticism, and vindicate his teammates’ faith in him.
Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley will not return for the 2018 season.
Haley’s contract is expiring and he won’t be getting a new contract to remain in Pittsburgh, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports.
That’s not a big surprise: There’s been increasing talk that Haley wasn’t seeing eye to eye with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, and that head coach Mike Tomlin was ready to move on.
Haley has consistently coordinated a strong offense in Pittsburgh, but he’s long been viewed as someone who can be difficult to get along with, and the speculation that he wasn’t long for Pittsburgh has been ongoing for quite a while now.
Tomlin, who has faced criticism for his coaching after the Steelers were upset by the Jaguars on Sunday, now has to make one of the most important decisions of his coaching career in finding Haley’s replacement. And some other team looking for an offensive coordinator will have to make a decision about whether Haley is a good fit.
Dolphins wide receiver Jarvis Landry said in late December that he wants to stay with the Dolphins and was “encouraged” that he would do that after the team started talking about a new contract with free agency looming in March.
Landry sounds a bit less encouraged about where things stand a month later. Landry and his agent Damarius Bilbo told Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald that they countered a Dolphins offer in mid-December and have yet to hear anything back from the team since then. Landry called that “disrespectful” and wonders how that sends a message that the team wants him back in 2018.
That hasn’t erased Landry’s desire to remain, but it has complicated his feelings.
“I’ve got so many mixed emotions,” Landry said. “I am at peace. I understand the situation. Regardless of if I am a Dolphin next year or not, my hard work will pay off.”
Bilbo also took issue with some things in a recent column by Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald outlining reservations the Dolphins reportedly have with committing to Landry. They include a lack of attention to detail, a lack of respect for coaches, Landry’s emotional outbursts and inconsistent route running, all of which Bilbo argued are mischaracterizations of his client and noted his 400 catches over four years as a counter to the final point.
No Dolphins employees are quoted in Salguero’s piece, but Bilbo believes “someone trying to gain leverage by devaluing him to the rest of the NFL” and says it is “unfair” if the Dolphins are doing that because the team has “never said you have to change.” There’s time for the issues to get sorted out before Landry would hit the open market and it seems there’s some work to do if the two sides are going to remain together.
Jaguars coach Doug Marrone was asked today about his team’s status as a 9.5-point underdog at New England in the AFC Championship Game, and he said today that he wouldn’t expect anything different.
Marrone noted that the Patriots are always favored, and he’s right: The Patriots have been the favorites in all 18 games they’ve had this season and postseason.
“When you’re playing against New England, who hasn’t been an underdog?” Marrone said.
To find the answer to that question, we have to go back to Tom Brady‘s Deflategate suspension at the start of the 2016 season: In Week One of 2016, the Cardinals were nine-point favorites. That’s the last time the Patriots were underdogs. New England won that game 23-21 with Jimmy Garoppolo starting. Two weeks later, with Garoppolo injured, the Patriots had even odds against the Texans. New England won that game 27-0 with Jacoby Brissett starting.
The last time the Patriots were underdogs with Tom Brady was November 30, 2014 at Green Bay. The Packers, favored by 3, won 26-21. So Marrone is right: When you’re playing Tom Brady, you can expect to be an underdog.
Tuesday’s updates on the Cardinals’ coaching search involved word that the team wanted to schedule second interviews with Steelers offensive line coach Mike Munchak and Eagles quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo, but at least one of those candidates is reportedly passing on the opportunity.
Chris Mortensen of ESPN reports that Munchak has declined the opportunity to speak to the Cardinals again. There’s no reason cited for Munchak’s decision, although it’s not unreasonable to think the prospect of a change at offensive coordinator in Pittsburgh could be a factor.
Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer reported on Tuesday that “as of now” DeFilippo is expected to interview with the Cardinals again.
Mortensen adds that Patriots linebackers coach Brian Flores is “now in play.” If he’s going to interview with Arizona again, he will be eligible to do it next week whether the Patriots win or lose on Sunday. The same is true for DeFilippo and any other candidates from the four teams still playing.
When the Jaguars committed to playing a “home” game in London every year, there was speculation that they might be setting the table for moving the franchise there permanently. That speculation has largely disappeared as the Jacksonville fan base has supported the team so well that this year the infamous tarps were removed for the playoffs.
But Jaguars senior vice president Hussain Naqi still believes an NFL franchise in London is worth considering.
“The UK and London is an amazing market potential,” Naqi told the UK-based Sky Sports. “The fans have shown that they have a great deal of support, whether that means a full-time franchise down the road, we’ll see. But certainly there is a lot of support and the trajectory is going in the right direction.”
The NFL has already announced its three London games for 2018 and has said there will be four games there in 2019 and likely beyond. But that’s a long way from putting a team in London for eight games a year, every year, and expecting American players and coaches to make it their permanent home base. A franchise in London appears to be a long way off and may never happen but league officials continue to be bullish on the future of American football in London.