Colts, Jim Irsay congratulate Frank Reich for landing on his feet

Indianapolis Colts Introduce Frank Reich
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Former Colts coach Frank Reich, fired after nine games in 2022, has landed on his feet in Carolina. The Colts are happy about that.

The team’s twitter account has congratulated Reich. Owner Jim Irsay did, too.

And it’s not just false praise. The Colts and Irsay have reason to be happy. With Reich getting another head-coaching job, the buyout for Reich dropped dramatically if not evaporated completely.

Irsay has saved millions, the same way Panthers owner David Tepper saved millions when Matt Rhule became the head coach at Nebraska.

The Colts and Irsay might not be as happy if, for example, Reich beats the Colts when they play in 2023. Or if the Panthers thrive under Reich, and the Colts struggle under, for example, Jeff Saturday.

In fact, it’s fair to wonder whether Reich getting hired so quickly could prompt Irsay to shy away from giving Saturday a chance to continue his on-the-job training. It won’t look very good for Irsay if Reich’s Panthers win the division — and if the Colts go 3-14 — next year.

So maybe Reich getting hired not only will save Irsay plenty of money but also prompt him to not entrust the permanent gig to someone whose best qualification comes from the fact that he got an eight-game interim audition with no qualifications.

Mecole Hardman remains limited at Chiefs practice

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The Chiefs have not had wide receiver Mecole Hardman in the lineup for quite a while and his status for Sunday’s AFC Championship Game against the Bengals remains up in the air.

Hardman has been out with a pelvis injury and a setback in practice kept him from playing when he was activated from injured reserve late in the regular season. Hardman was a limited participant in practice for the second straight day on Thursday and head coach Andy Reid

“I’m just going to take it day by day. He’s busting his tail,” Reid said, via Matt McMullen of the team’s website. “We’ll just see how it rolls.”

Quarterback Patrick Mahomes (ankle) was a full participant for the second day in a row. Linebacker Willie Gay (toe) and running back Jerick McKinnon (ankle) also got in full practice sessions.

Dan Quinn staying in Dallas, won’t pursue head coaching jobs

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Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn plans to stay in Dallas for the 2023 season.

Quinn, who was a candidate for three different head-coaching vacancies this offseason, has informed those teams that he plans to remain in Dallas, according to multiple reports.

The Cardinals, Colts and Broncos had all shown interest in hiring Quinn as head coach. It’s unclear whether Quinn was the first choice of any of those teams, however, and he may have decided to stay in Dallas only when he got the feeling that he wasn’t going to get a head-coaching job.

The 52-year-old Quinn has spent the last two seasons as the Cowboys’ defensive coordinator. He previously spent six seasons as head coach of the Falcons and has also been a defensive coordinator in Seattle, as well as for the Florida Gators.

Hayden Hurst added to Thursday injury report

NFL: JAN 08 Ravens at Bengals
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The Bengals have added tight end Hayden Hurst to their injury report with a calf issue.

Hurst was limited in Thursday’s practice.

The tight end previously missed three games with a calf injury in December. It’s unclear if this instance of missing practice is related to Hurst’s previous calf injury.

In his first season with the Bengals, Hurst caught 52 passes for 414 yards with two touchdowns in 13 games. He’s caught nine passes for 104 yards with a touchdown in Cincinnati’s two postseason matchups.

Left tackle Jonah Williams (knee) and guard Alex Cappa (ankle) remained out of practice with their respective injuries. That puts Jackson Carman and Max Scharping in line to start the conference title game.

Linebacker Joe Bachie (foot) remained limited.

Cornerback Tre Flowers (hamstring) was upgraded from limited to full.

Defensive end Sam Hubbard and D.J. Reader were both full participants after they were limited and didn’t practice, respectively, on Wednesday with rest.

Lane Johnson, Avonte Maddox remain limited at Eagles practice

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Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni said on Thursday that cornerback Avonte Maddox‘s toe injury is improving every day, but his practice participation remained the same.

Maddox was a limited participant in practice for the second straight day. Maddox has missed the last three games as a result of the injury.

Right tackle Lane Johnson was also limited for the second time this week. Johnson returned last Saturday after missing multiple weeks with a groin injury that will require surgery.

Several other Eagles were listed as limited on Thursday, but they were all cutting down their work in order to get rest. Cornerback James Bradberry, wide receiver A.J. Brown, defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, guard Landon Dickerson, defensive end Brandon Graham, center Jason Kelce, defensive end Robert Quinn, guard Isaac Seumalo, cornerback Darius Slay, and defensive end Josh Sweat made up that group.

Mike McCarthy doesn’t guarantee Kellen Moore will return

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Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore was a candidate for the Panthers’ head coaching job. He didn’t get that job, with the Panthers announcing Frank Reich as their new head coach Thursday.

The question now is: Will Moore have a job with the Cowboys after this week?

The Cowboys surely did not want to sabotage Moore’s chances of getting the Panthers’ job, but now that Carolina has a head coach, the team could move on from Moore.

Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy did not guarantee Moore’s return during his news conference Thursday. McCarthy said he will meet with Moore possibly as soon as Friday and called the evaluation process ongoing.

“I really don’t want to play this game today,” McCarthy said when asked a second time about Moore. “It’s been a long couple of days. Kellen Moore, just like the rest of the coaches, will be evaluated. Every coach will be evaluated. The evaluations, it takes more than one day.”

Moore has served as the team’s offensive coordinator for four seasons, keeping the job after McCarthy become the head coach in 2020. With Moore calling the plays, the Cowboys twice ranked first in yards (2019, 2021) and once ranked first in points (2021). They were 11th in yards and fourth in points this season, but they have not gotten beyond the divisional round since 1995.

McCarthy said he does not have a timeline for finishing staff evaluations.

The Cowboys announced they have parted ways with six assistants whose contracts are expiring at the end of the 2022 league year. They still could lose defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, who is a candidate for the Broncos’ head coaching job.

“I feel good about where we are,” McCarthy said of Quinn’s possible departure for a head coaching job. “I feel good about our assistant coaches and what we’ve established on defense. In two years, we took a step. I think from a staff structure, we’ll give Dan his due time. Hopefully we’ll have an answer sooner than later.”

Willie Gay: “Nothing” impresses me the most about the Bengals offense

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The Chiefs and Bengals have met three times since the start of the 2021 season and their fourth meeting is on tap for Sunday, so that leaves plenty of time for players on both sides to draw strong impressions of their opponents.

Chiefs linebacker Willie Gay shared one of those impressions in the team’s locker room on Thursday. Gay was asked what impresses him the most about the Bengals offense.

Nothing,” Gay said, via PJ Green of Fox 4 Kansas City.

The Bengals’ offensive performance in Week 13 may not have impressed Gay, but they rolled up 431 yards in a 27-24 win. They ran for 152 of those yards and Gay said he’s expecting the Bengals to try a similar approach this weekend.

“They gonna try to do that, to act like they can big boy us, but front six, seven gonna definitely do our job and try to slow that down,” Gay said.

The Bengals had success on the ground in last season’s AFC Championship Game as well, which should make doing a better job on that front a top priority for Kansas City.

Patrick Mahomes on his ankle: Wednesday’s practice was probably better than I expected

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Quarterback Patrick Mahomes has maintained that he’s going to play in the AFC Championship Game since suffering a high ankle sprain in Kansas City’s victory over Jacksonville last week.

But he wasn’t even limited in Wednesday’s practice, which says plenty about his status heading into the rematch against Cincinnati.

“I thought I had a good day yesterday,” Mahomes said in his Thursday press conference. “Obviously, there’s things you’ve got to work through here and there. But overall, probably better than I expected — being able to go out there, throw the football around, and get the reps in that I needed to get in.”

Mahomes added that he feels like he can still do plenty on the field but he’s not truly going to be sure of his capabilities with the injured ankle until kickoff on Sunday.

“You can’t fully do exactly what you’re going to be [doing] in those moments in the game,” Mahomes said. “But all I can do is prepare myself the best way possible and then when we get in the game, you hope adrenaline kind of takes over and you can make those throws when you need to.”

While Mahomes’ injury is certainly worth monitoring for the rest of the week, it increasingly sounds like he may not even have a game status when Kansas City’s final practice report comes out on Friday afternoon.

Lawyer representing Steve Wilks: “There is a legitimate race problem in the NFL”

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When Panthers owner David Tepper made Steve Wilks the interim head coach on October 10, Tepper was asked whether Wilks had a shot to keep the job beyond 2022.

If he does an incredible job, he has to be in consideration,” Tepper said.

Wilks arguably did an incredible job. He forced the team into playoff contention. He won the loyalty, admiration, and respect of his players. Players spoke up in his favor.

Now, the team that fired its head coach during the season has hired a coach who was fired by another team during the season, instead of Wilks. And Doug Wigdor, who represents Wilks in the pending Brian Flores racial discrimination case against the league and several teams, has made it clear that Wigdor and Wilks have a problem with the move.

“We are shocked and disturbed that after the incredible job Coach Wilks did as the interim coach, including bringing the team back into playoff contention and garnering the support of the players and fans, that he was passed over for the head coach position by David Tepper,” Wigdor said in a statement that was both circulated by email and tweeted. “There is a legitimate race problem in the NFL, and we can assure you that we will have more to say in the coming days.”

This clearly implies that the Panthers could soon be added to the pending lawsuit as yet another defendant, for not giving Wilks a chance to do from scratch that which he was able to do after Tepper tasked Wilks with the inherently difficult position of trying to win with a team that was bad enough to get its coach fired less than a month into the season.

Brandon Beane: Bills expect Von Miller to play a good portion of 2023, maybe all of 2023

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Bills edge rusher Von Miller tore his ACL on Thanksgiving, but General Manager Brandon Beane thinks Miller will be ready to make a big impact in 2023.

“I think Von’s in a good spot. I think he’s doing well,” Beane said, via the Buffalo News. “I expect him for a good portion of 2023; I’m not ruling out all of 2023, but I don’t want to say that, either. I think it’s too early.”

The Bills’ defense fell off after Miller’s injury, and Beane acknowledged that replacing him proved difficult.

“You don’t have a replacement in the cabinet for Von Miller, and our D-line was really playing well with Von out there,” Beane said. “He allows more guys to be singled up.”

Miller said this week that he thinks the Bills’ Super Bowl window is still open. Miller and Beane are both expecting Miller to be a big part of a big season, one that they hope is still going a year from now.

Zac Taylor “not ready” to rule Alex Cappa, Jonah Williams out

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The Bengals have not had right guard Alex Cappa or left tackle Jonah Williams on the field for the last two weeks, but Bengals head coach Zac Taylor isn’t saying that they’ll miss Sunday’s game against the Chiefs.

Taylor told reporters on Thursday that he’s “not ready” to make a call on the availability of either player for the AFC Championship Game. Cappa is sidelined by an ankle injury and Williams has a knee injury, but Taylor said that both players are improving every day.

Friday will bring another practice session and it will be very difficult to see either player in the lineup if they miss that session as well.

Jackson Carman started in place of Williams last Sunday and Max Scharping played in Cappa’s place.

Report: Anthony Campanile will interview for Dolphins’ defensive coordinator job Friday

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The Dolphins are interviewing linebackers coach Anthony Campanile for the team’s defensive coordinator job on Friday, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN reports.

The Dolphins fired Josh Boyer on Jan. 19 after three seasons.

His unit ranked sixth in points allowed in his first year as defensive coordinator but ranked 16th in 2021 and 24th this past season.

The other candidates for the job are Seahawks associate head coach for defense Sean Desai, former Broncos head coach Vic Fangio and Saints co-defensive coordinator/secondary coach Kris Richard. Richard had his interview Thursday, per Fowler.

Campanile, 40, joined the Dolphins in 2020 and remained on staff after the head coaching change from Brian Flores to Mike McDaniel. He previously coached at Michigan, Boston College and Rutgers.

Frank Reich gets a crack at the Colts, right away

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It remains to be seen who the Colts will hire to replace Frank Reich. Whoever it is will have to be ready to face Frank Reich, at some point in the 2023 season.

Yes, the Colts are one of the teams the Panthers host next year.

The fact that Reich landed on his feet without sitting out a season becomes a potential referendum on the decision to fire him in the first place. It puts extra pressure on the Colts and owner Jim Irsay to win the game at Carolina — especially if Irsay ultimately picks surprise interim hire Jeff Saturday, who went 2-6 in eight games, to be the head coach moving forward.

Reich played for the Panthers in 1995, the team’s inaugural season. And he coached the Colts for four-plus campaigns, after winning a Super Bowl as offensive coordinator of the Eagles.

Reich took the Colts to the playoffs twice. His first season ended with a loss to the Chiefs in the divisional round. Then things got nutty, with the surprise late-August retirement of Andrew Luck. Reich nevertheless took the Colts to the wild-card round in 2020, where they nearly upended the Bills as the No. 7 seed in the AFC.

The decision to give Reich an immediate shot to coach again after being fired makes even more curious the failure of any of the five teams with vacancies to even consider other former coaches who were and still are available, especially since several of them (Bill O’Brien, Jason Garrett, Marvin Lewis, Mike Zimmer, Chuck Pagano) were more accomplished than Reich.

Of course, Reich likely would have done even more with more luck, and more Luck. And Reich will get a chance to give all fired coaches a boost in the 2024 cycle if he can win right away in Carolina.

Art Rooney II on possibility of neutral site championship games: I hate the idea

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The league may want neutral site championship games, but that doesn’t mean the owners do. The idea will need the approval of 24 owners to become a reality, and that might be a hard sell for teams with weather and/or fan noise that give them a home-field advantage.

Steelers president Art Rooney II strongly opposes the idea.

I hate the idea,” Rooney said Thursday, via audio from 93.7 The Fan. “I don’t like that at all. My sense is that if you put that up for a vote it wouldn’t pass today, but who knows.”

Chiefs founder Lamar Hunt pushed the idea for a long time, but ownership never went for it.

However, neutral site championship games in the future gained some traction after Bills and Chiefs fans bought 50,000 tickets in 24 hours for a potential AFC Championship Game in Atlanta. It didn’t happen, of course, after the Bengals beat the Bills in the divisional round.

But as PFT has reported the NFL envies the atmosphere of major college bowl games as well as the increased revenue stream that would come with having cities bid on the right to host the conference championship games and sponsorship of the games.

The question remains: Even if neutral site championship games means increased revenue for them, will 24 owners ever agree to it?

Christian McCaffrey won’t practice Thursday, but says he’s playing Sunday

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While head coach Kyle Shanahan said he’s expecting his running backs to be available for Sunday’s NFC Championship Game, two of them still won’t practice on Thursday.

Via multiple reporters, Shanahan said in his press conference that Christian McCaffrey and Elijah Mitchell won’t be on the field for Thursday’s session.

But, McCaffrey told reporters there’s “zero” chance he’s missing Sunday’s game.

McCaffrey is dealing with a calf injury. He was shown during the FOX broadcast of last week’s divisional-round win over the Cowboys on the sideline with a wrap on his calf and doing some work to keep it loose. McCaffrey finished that game with 35 yards on 10 carries with a touchdown plus six catches for 22 yards. He was on the field for 67 percent of San Francisco’s offensive plays, which is a down a little from where he’s been since arriving with the club in a midseason trade.

Mitchell (groin) had 51 yards on 14 carries against Dallas last week.

Deebo Samuel (ankle) initially wasn’t supposed to practice on Wednesday but did end up on the field in a limited capacity and will be limited again, Shanahan said.

Defensive lineman Charles Omenihu (oblique) and cornerback Ambry Thomas (ankle) are also slated to be limited on Thursday.

Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, still dealing with a broken foot, won’t practice.