Raiders request permission to interview Mike Tice

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As the Oakland Raiders continue to seek a new head coach, another candidate has emerged: Mike Tice.

The Chicago Tribune reports that the Raiders have asked the Bears for permission to interview Tice, whom the Bears promoted from offensive line coach to offensive coordinator this month.

Tice was named interim head coach of the Vikings for the final game of the 2001 season, after Dennis Green was fired, and kept the job from 2002 through 2005. As a head coach he went 32-33 in the regular season and 1-1 in the playoffs.

After getting fired in Minnesota, Tice spent three years as an assistant head coach in Jacksonville before joining the Bears’ staff in 2009.

The rapidly expanding list of candidates for the top job in Oakland also includes Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, Broncos defensive coordinator Dennis Allen, Saints offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael, Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers and Packers assistant head coach/linebackers coach Winston Moss.

Tebow passes on invitation from CBS

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The folks at CBS wanted to add Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow to Sunday’s conference championship coverage.

And Tebow passed.

Tim Tebow has decided not to appear,” CBS Sports president Sean McManus told Michael Hiestand of USA Today, via  McManus added that the network “is perfectly fine with the [on-air] lineup we have.”

(That last little part seems unnecessarily defensive.  If they were “perfectly fine” with the lineup, they wouldn’t have tried to tap into Tebowmania.)

Regardless, Tebow’s response isn’t a surprise.  We reported in December that Tebow has been rejecting such opportunities (including an invitation to host Saturday Night Live) because he desperately wants to remain one of the guys.

Even though he most certainly isn’t.

Kroenke passes on opportunity to renew commitment to St. Louis


On Tuesday, the Rams introduced new head coach Jeff Fisher.  Apart from the predictable stuff, like Fisher gushing about his new employer, tap-dancing around the issue of who’ll have final say, and personally denying that he leveraged the Rams against the Dolphins (even though anyone with a pulse and common sense knows he did), owner Stan Kroenke had a chance to put to rest the renewed talk of a move to Los Angeles, which arose from a recent report that Fisher had concerns about joining the franchise give the possibility of a relocation.

“I think this is all out there,” Kroenke said of a lease that allows the Rams to leave after the 2014 season if the Edward Jones Dome isn’t among the top 25 percent of all NFL stadiums.  “The chronology of what occurs with the lease is public knowledge.  I don’t think that for me to comment on that process is particularly timely.  The city or the authority has within their power, they’re dealing with their side of it and they present a proposal to us by February 1.  There’s a team in place that deals with all that, so we’ll see how that process sorts itself out.  It’s a thing that takes place over time.

“As I said earlier, I started in St. Louis, in one year from now, that will be 20 years, so I’ve been around here a long time,” Kroenke added.  “Contrary to a lot of reports, I haven’t taken a lot of ‘jack’ out of the market.  I think that’s what’s reported.  I have put a lot of ‘jack’ into the market.”

(For the record, we like any NFL owner who publicly refers to money as “jack”.)

So, given that Kroenke is a year away from 20 in St. Louis, will he be there in another 20?

“We’ll see how that process works out,” Kroenke said.

Somewhere in L.A., they’re already starting to hollow out their watermelons and otherwise squirreling away discretionary “jack” for the purchase of season tickets.

Saints fan describes bad experience at Candlestick Park

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The NFL hopes to maximize in-person attendance at its games.  To ensure that the stands at every stadium are consistently filled, fans of the visiting team need to feel comfortable with the prospect of showing up in enemy territory and rooting for the road team.

In San Francisco, the resurgence of the 49ers apparently has created an environment of “hostility, vulgarity and intimidation” for fans of the road team, according to a letter to the editor published by the San Francisco Chronicle.

Don Moses of Mill Valley details the disastrous day that he and his daughters endured, both in the parking lot and in the stadium.  It’s a fairly short letter, and it’s worth a read.

Though conduct like this is wrong, it’s virtually impossible to prevent it at NFL stadiums, especially when the zealous fans the NFL craves have their tongues loosened by a bottle of beer, or four.

The smart move when rooting for a visiting team is to dress in neutral clothing and cheer discreetly.  But it shouldn’t have to be that way.  The reality is that, in many NFL cities, that’s the way it will be.  Especially if the teams are going to continue to sell beer and otherwise play up the importance of a loud, raucous home crowd.

Chargers fill offensive coordinator position from within

Last week, the Chargers suddenly needed an offensive coordinator.  This week, the Chargers suddenly have one.

Clarence Shelmon decided that he was done after 10 seasons in San Diego.  And the team has decided to promote offensive line coach Hal Hunter, adding the title of offensive coordinator to his existing offensive line duties.

“Hal has been an important part of our offense since I’ve been here,” coach Norv Turner said.  “He has a complete understanding of what we want to do in the run and the pass.”

Also, the Chargers have added veteran coach Steve Fairchild as senior offensive assistant/special assignments.  He most recently served as head coach at Colorado State.  Before that, Fairchild worked as the Rams’ assistant offensive coordinator from 2003-05 and the Bills offensive coordinator in 2006 and 2007.

It’s the latest change on a coaching staff that many fans still wish would change its head coach.

Rooney: Steelers don’t want to “tear things apart”

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Steelers club president Art Rooney recognizes this will be a challenging offseason.

The team has salary cap issues and a number of veterans that cost more than they are worth. Their aging defense needs to be re-tooled.

Rooney told Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh-Post Gazette the Steelers will not “tear things apart” and start over from scratch.

“Obviously, we have some decisions to make with certain players and their contracts,” Rooney said.

Let’s run through a few of them.

Hines Ward: Rooney has already spoken with Ward about his future. Ward will likely have to take a pay cut just for a chance to stay.

Chris Hoke and Aaron Smith, defensive linemen: Local reports indicate Hoke will retire. Smith also seems likely to retire if the Steelers don’t bring him back. Both players are free agents. Smith has meant so much to the team, the Steelers could offer him a low-cost one-year deal to see how he looks in camp.

Casey Hampton, nose tackle: He’s due almost $5 million and is coming off an ACL injury at age 35. Hampton is a candidate to get released if he won’t take a pay cut.

Ryan Clark, safety: The 32-year-old is still playing at a high level and relatively affordable at $3 million. We’d expect him to be back.

James Farrior, linebacker: Farrior is due a reasonable sum of $2.825 million. Still, Farrior is 37 years old. If the Steelers want to get younger and faster, moving on from Farrior wouldn’t be a surprise.

Larry Foote, linebacker: He’s due $3 million, which may be too much for the role he plays on the team. Perhaps the Steelers could keep Farrior and dump Foote.

Brett Keisel, defensive end: He played far too well in 2011 to consider cutting him at a salary under $3 million, even if he’s coming off a serious groin injury. His beard also provides far-reaching intangible benefits.

Chris Kemoeatu and Johnathan Scott, offensive line: Here are some relatively easy cuts. We’d be shocked if the Steelers kept Kemoeatu at $2.4 million or Scott at $2.2 million.

Bryant McFadden, cornerback: He’s no longer a starter, so he’s probably no longer worth keeping at $2.5 million.

We don’t think the Steelers will consider cutting a bigger name like James Harrison. The rest of their salary numbers are manageable.

Pittsburgh needs to trim the fat, though, so they can start to re-sign players like Mike Wallace. Rooney called Wallace’s next contract a priority.

Mornhinweg on the Raiders’ radar


On the same day that a vacancy opened with a franchise now run by Ryan Grigson, a man who has spent several years working with Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, the former Lions coach’s name has arisen in connection with another head-coaching job.

The Raiders have requested permission to interview Mornhinweg, according to Jason LaCanfora of NFL Network.

Mornhinweg becomes the seventh candidate for job that was, per reports originating elsewhere, supposed to have only three or four candidates — and that was supposed to be resolved via a “quick decision.”

Instead, the process has bogged down.  The reported candidates are Mornhinweg, Dolphins interim head coach Todd Bowles, Broncos defensive coordinator Dennis Allen, Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, Saints offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael, Packers assistant head coach/inside linebackers Winston Moss, and Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers.

That’s a few more than three or four.  And that’s not the kind of situation that will lead to a quick decision.

Steve Spagnuolo to meet with Saints Wednesday


Saints coach Sean Payton said he would look far and wide for the most talented coach available to be his next defensive coordinator.

He will start that search with Steve Spagnuolo. It wouldn’t surprise us if the search ended there as well.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports the former Rams head coach will meet with the Saints on Wednesday. We suspect New Orleans wouldn’t meet with the former head coach unless they were ready to hire him.

Spagnuolo may have his choice of jobs. Indianapolis could be interested and Philadelphia might also be a fit. New Orleans would seem to be the most attractive because of the presence of Drew Brees.

The quickest route for Spagnuolo to get back on the head coaching radar is to win another Super Bowl as a coordinator.

Unless, of course, Spags is already on the head coaching radar with the Colts.

Dolphins schedule second interview with Mike McCoy


After interviewing Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy once, the Dolphins were sufficiently impressed that they want to interview him again.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that the Dolphins have scheduled a second interview with McCoy, and that interview will take place with Dolphins owner Stephen Ross in New York on Thursday.

McCoy has already interviewed for the Dolphins head-coaching position once, in Miami.

After re-shaping his offense to capitalize on the skills of Tim Tebow, McCoy emerged as one of the hot assistants in the NFL during the regular season. The Raiders have also asked for permission to interview McCoy, and the Jaguars were interested in McCoy before deciding after the Broncos won their first playoff game that they didn’t want to wait until the Broncos’ season was over, and instead hiring Mike Mularkey.

UPDATE: Schefter also reports that Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin will get a second interview with Ross, as will Todd Bowles, who ended the season as the Dolphins’ interim head coach.

Falcons will remain a 4-3 defense

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The Falcons named Mike Nolan their defensive coordinator on Tuesday, which raised some questions about what the Falcons defense will look like in 2012.

Would the team transition to a 3-4 defense, which Nolan has primarily coached in his career?

D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports the team will primarily be a 4-3 defense despite Nolan’s hire. That makes sense considering the roster they have in place.

The 4-3 or 3-4 tags can get a little overplayed. Almost every defense is multiple and a coach with the experience of Nolan should be more than able to coach a variety of ways. Bill Belichick, the dean of 3-4 defenses in the league, has essentially coached a team with a four man defensive line all season.

Coaching matters less than personnel. Atlanta G.M. Thomas Dimitroff has stressed “urgent athleticism” with his draft picks, looking for players that are explosive rather than focusing on size.

The Falcons have a cohesive organization from owner Arthur Blank to Dimitroff and coach Mike Smith. Everyone should be on the same page with the type of defense they want to put together.

If they think Nolan is the right fit to coach this style of defense, they deserve the benefit of the doubt.

Kirby Wilson faces a long road to recovery

On the Friday before the Steelers’ season ended with a 29-23 overtime loss in Denver, running backs coach Kirby Wilson was seriously injured in a house fire.

The attachment of the label “not life-threatening” created a sense of relief, but it’s now clear that Wilson faces a long and difficult road to recovery.

The Steelers issued the following statement on behalf of Wilson’s family today, 11 days after the incident:  “Mr. Kirby Wilson remains in critical condition in the Trauma Burn Center at UPMC Mercy in Pittsburgh.  In addition to burns sustained over 45 percent of his body, he has suffered a smoke inhalation injury and will require multiple operative procedures in the future.”

Wilson, 50, joined the Steelers in 2007.  He also has coached with the Cardinals, Buccaneers, Redskins, and Patriots.  He spent nine years coaching at the college level.

We wish him a full, complete, and speedy recovery, and we hope that his long coaching career will be able to continue in 2012.

Dan Rooney expected to return to Steelers in 2012

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Dan Rooney’s run as ambassador to Ireland is expected to come to an end this year.

Steelers club president Art Rooney told Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he expects his father to step down from his ambassador position and re-join the Steelers in some capacity in 2012.

Art Rooney spoke at length about a number of issues, stressing the team needed to improve their scoring on offense and create more turnovers and sacks on defense.

Rooney also mentioned that Ben Roethlisberger needs to take less sacks as he approaches age 30. The offensive line has been a problem spot for Pittsburgh for too long and it sounds like the organization recognizes they need to do more about it.

Grigson says Colts’ quarterback, coach are separate considerations


In announcing the firing of head coach Jim Caldwell, Colts G.M. Ryan Grigson says today’s decision has no bearing on the future of quarterback Peyton Manning.

Instead, Grigson said, the decision about whether Manning will remain with the Colts or be released will be decided at a later date, separate from the decision to fire Caldwell.

“In regards to Peyton, we’re not even there with anything involving Peyton Manning quite yet,” Grigson said. “We have to know about his medical — there’s so many things, I’m not even there yet. This is about Jim Caldwell, his departure and moving forward in that direction. In regards to Peyton, I have not gone in that direction yet. That’s something that has not been discussed.”

It strains credulity to suggest that Manning’s situation hasn’t even been discussed yet, but the Manning situation is on a separate time frame from the coaching situation. The Colts will hire a new head coach well before they make the decision in early March about whether to pay Manning his $28 million bonus or let him go.

Whether the Colts have Manning or Andrew Luck or both on the roster next season will have a huge impact on the next coach. But the Colts’ brass knew they were ready to fire the old coach before knowing who their starting quarterback will be in 2012.

Aaron Rodgers: Rust had nothing to do with how Packers played

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The Packers turned in their worst performance of the season at the worst possible time on Sunday, and that has lots of people asking whether the combination of resting some key players in Week 17 and getting a first-round playoff bye made the Packers rusty at playoff time.

But Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers doesn’t buy it.

“That had nothing to do with us playing,” Rodgers said on 540 ESPN Milwaukee. “To say that we were rusty is disrespectful to the Giants and their defense and the effort they put out. They played a game. They beat us. You know, we beat ourselves enough with the turnovers and the mistakes and the drops and the poor plays, but they beat us. They played better on Sunday than we did. They executed better. I don’t think rust played any part in it.”

Those comments echo what Rodgers said immediately following the game, that the Giants won because the Giants were the better team on Sunday. Rodgers clearly thinks this game was more about what the Giants did well than about what the Packers did poorly.

But while Rodgers might not have felt rusty, he did look rusty on Sunday, and it’s easy to see how he could get rusty when he didn’t play at all between the Packers’ December 25 game against the Bears and their January 15 game against the Giants. That’s a long time off that, in hindsight, Rodgers may have been better off not having.

Around the NFL

Mike Florio gives us his daily NFL Rundown, including John Elway’s Tim Tebow statement, Oakland’s expanded head coaching search, and the Rams hiring of Jeff Fisher as their new head coach.

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