Bears announce the promotion of Sean Desai to defensive coordinator

NFL: OCT 04 Colts at Bears
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The Bears announced the promotion of Sean Desai from safeties coach to defensive coordinator. Desai, 37, replaces Chuck Pagano, who announced his retirement Jan. 13 after 36 years in coaching.

Desai originally joined the Bears in 2013 and is the only remaining holdover from former coach Marc Trestman’s staff. Desai spent six seasons as a defensive quality control assistant from 2013-18 before the Bears promoted him to safeties coach in 2019.

“We are very fortunate and excited to promote from within and announce Sean Desai has been named defensive coordinator for our football team,” coach Matt Nagy said in a statement. “He is a person of high football intelligence, extremely detail-oriented, has a very strong work ethic and I cannot think of someone more deserving to lead our defense.

“Sean is a family man of high character and the respect he has within our building from coaches, players and staff is unparalleled.”

Former Bears, Broncos kicker Roger LeClerc dies at 84

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Former Bears kicker Roger LeClerc died Thursday, the team announced. He was 84.

LeClerc was a member of the Bears’ 1963 NFL championship team.

The Bears selected LeClerc in the 15th round of the 1959 draft out of Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. He spent the first seven seasons of his eight-year NFL career with the Bears.

From 1960-66, LeClerc appeared in 96 games. He made 76 of 152 field-goal attempts (50 percent) with a long of 50 yards and 152 of 158 extra-point tries (96.2 percent).

LeClerc also played center and linebacker. He registered his only career interception in a 1963 game, and, in 1964, he made 12 of his 17 career starts at linebacker.

LeClerc spent his final season in the American Football League with the Denver Broncos in 1967.

LeClerc taught math in the Agawam, Massachusetts, school system for 30 years after his retirement from football.

Ravens announce the hirings of Rob Ryan, Anthony Weaver

Washington Redskins v Miami Dolphins
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The Ravens announced the hirings of Rob Ryan and Anthony Weaver to their defensive staff. Ryan will serve as inside linebackers coach and Weaver as run game coordinator/defensive line coach.

In a news release, head coach John Harbaugh said the team continues to interview candidates for their defensive backs coaching position.

“Rob is a proven NFL coach who brings extensive experience to the Ravens,” Harbaugh said in a statement. “In addition to his passion for the game, he has an outstanding ability to connect with and teach players.

“Anthony is highly regarded throughout the NFL. As a former Ravens’ draft pick who made significant contributions while playing here, he understands the culture of our organization and the standard to which Baltimore defense is held.”

Ryan, 58, is a 20-year NFL coaching veteran who most recently served in the same role for the Washington Football Team in 2019.

Weaver enters his 12th season of coaching, including his 10th in the NFL. He played seven NFL seasons, including his first four seasons in Baltimore. Weaver began coaching in 2010.

Weaver served as defensive coordinator/defensive line coach for the Texans in 2020.

Texans’ Josh McCown interview makes mockery of process

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Josh McCown is a great player and a great person, one of the most underrated quarterbacks of the past generation. But McCown should not be considered for a head-coaching position in the NFL. Not yet.

Maybe in time he’ll become a head coach, and maybe he’ll be a great one. Maybe he’ll win Super Bowls. Maybe there eventually will be a bronze bust in the Hall of Fame that looks conspicuously like Dolph Lundgren.

That doesn’t mean that the Texans or anyone else should interview someone with no coaching experience to be an NFL head coach. And it reveals a stunning lack of self-awareness by the Texans, a franchise that has become regarded as the most dysfunctional in football.

Or maybe the Texans are fully aware, and maybe they’ve extended a middle finger to anyone who would say that Jack Easterby isn’t qualified to serve as executive V.P. of football operations and/or that Easterby has owner Cal McNair somewhere between bamboozled and hypnotized. It’s fitting, frankly, that a team with a grossly unfit executive V.P. of football operations would consider a grossly unprepared candidate for coach.

Easterby is so far over his skis that he thinks he’s learned to fly. But the only opinion that matters belongs to McNair, who seems to think Easterby is soaring like an eagle.

In this specific case, the decision to consider McCown for a head-coaching job with no coaching experience becomes an affront to all qualified candidates, regardless of race. And, please, don’t play the “he did coaching as a quarterback” card. All quarterbacks worth their cleats do coaching. Does that mean Philip Rivers, who’ll coach high-school football now that he has retired, should have been interviewed by the Chargers?

Does that mean anyone instantly will be offering head-coaching jobs to Drew Brees or Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers as their playing careers end?

In a cycle that has seen five of six head-coaching jobs go to white candidates and no Black coaches hired, the ultimate indignity has come from the Texans, who have interviewed — and by all appearances are considering — making Josh McCown the head coach without ever working as a coach at the college or NFL level.

Former Broncos, Browns offensive lineman Tony Jones dies at 54

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Two-time Super Bowl champion Tony Jones has died, the Broncos announced Friday. He was 54.

The 13-year NFL veteran spent four seasons with the Broncos, playing offensive tackle from 1997-2000. He served as the team’s right tackle during its first championship season in 1997 and held future Hall of Famer Reggie White without a sack in Super Bowl XXXII.

Jones manned the left tackle position in 1998 as Denver earned another title. Jones earned Pro Bowl honors that season as he protected John Elway’s blindside.

Jones started 60 games in his time in Denver.

Jones entered the league as an undrafted free agent with the Browns in 1988 and spent eight seasons in Cleveland. Jones was a second-team All-Pro in 1994.

Jones played for the Ravens in 1996 before the Broncos traded a second-round pick to acquire him in February 1997.

“We lost a great man,” Rod Smith, a Ring of Fame receiver for the Broncos, posted on social media. “Just happened to be a hell of a ball playa. We love you and miss you Bone. One of the Broncos all time best tackles. greatest dresser of ALL-TIME!”

Willie Anderson and Steve Atwater also expressed their condolences.

“He was an amazing guy, a heck of a nice guy,” Atwater said. “Great football player — mean, nasty. That’s the kind of guy that you want to go to war with if you’re going to war.”

Patrick Mahomes says toe “feeling a lot better”

Divisional Round - Cleveland Browns v Kansas City Chiefs
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Patrick Mahomes‘ toe became a footnote when he was diagnosed with a concussion in the second half of last Sunday’s victory over the Browns.

The toe, though, stands as more of a danger of preventing Mahomes from being Mahomes after an independent neurologist cleared the Chiefs quarterback Friday to return to action in the AFC Championship Game.

“Going to the doctors, talking to all the doctors and going through the test, we have the belief that [there] will be no longer effects, and I’ll be able to go out there and be myself and be who I am every single week,” Mahomes said Friday, via Matt Derrick of Chiefs Digest.

Mahomes injured his left big toe in the first quarter against the Browns and was limping on it until he departed with the concussion. No one outside the organization knows exactly how the toe is, because he was limited in every practice with the concussion. (He also was listed with the toe injury, but would the toe have limited him in practice if he hadn’t had the concussion? Only the Chiefs know for sure.)

Andy Reid downplayed the toe injury earlier in the week, and Mahomes did the same Friday.

Mahomes said his toe was “feeling a lot better.”

“The next day was very sore, and every single day since then it’s gotten a lot better,” Mahomes said. “It’s stuff that you deal with being a football player. You deal with injuries. Luckily enough for me, this wasn’t as bad as it looked, and it felt that day of and the day after.”

Nonetheless, expect Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier to attempt to test Mahomes’ mobility early to find out. Mahomes had 10 carries for 36 yards in the Week 6 meeting between the teams, which the Chiefs won 26-17.

Bucs will be fine without Antonio Brown

Atlanta Falcons v Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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Would the Buccaneers be better off with Antonio Brown on Sunday at Green Bay? Sure.  But they won’t be worse off without him.

Brown, who has been ruled out for the NFC Championship with a knee injury, joined the team primarily as insurance against an injury to receivers Mike Evans or Chris Godwin. Both are healthy entering this game. Brown, therefore, isn’t as necessary as he would have been.

And his snaps behind the starters will easily be replaced with Scotty Miller and/or Tyler Johnson. Quarterback Tom Brady clearly trusts both players. Indeed, he threw to each of them on third-down plays in the drive that gave Tampa Bay a 23-20 lead over the Saints on Sunday, and they both delivered.

Brady will trust them when he needs to on Sunday, and they’ll likely deliver, again.

That said, if Evans or Godwin get injured on Sunday, Brown won’t be there to step up. In that event, Miller or Johnson will have to get it done. There’s no reason to think they can’t.

Reports: Bears promoting Sean Desai to defensive coordinator

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Chicago has found its replacement for the retired Chuck Pagano.

The Bears will promote safeties coach Sean Desai to defensive coordinator, according to multiple reports.

Desai has been with the Bears since 2013 when he started out as a quality control assistant, working with Chicago’s defensive backs and linebackers. He also assisted the special teams coaches.

He was promoted to safeties coach for the 2019 season. He is believed to be the first coordinator of Indian descent in the NFL.

Pagano retired after the 2020 season following two years as the Bears’ defensive coordinator.

Falcons retire No. 44 for 2021 season in honor of Hank Aaron

Atlanta Braves
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The Atlanta Falcons announced plans to honor the memory of Hank Aaron after Aaron’s death on Friday.

Aaron died at the age of 86 and his passing has led to tributes from all corners of the United States. Many have come from Atlanta, which is where Aaron played after the Braves moved from Milwaukee and where he broke Babe Ruth’s career home run record.

The Falcons announced that they will be retiring the No. 44 for the 2021 season as a tribute to Aaron.

“When you look at icons of Atlanta and the sport of baseball, Hank Aaron is undoubtedly included in that group,” Falcons President and CEO Rich McKay said in a statement. “But he was more than an icon in sports, he was an icon off the field as well in how he carried himself and treated others. Because of that we are honored to celebrate his awe-inspiring life by retiring number 44 this season for our Atlanta Falcons. He was a true icon and yet when you encountered him, he always made you feel special. He was a great ambassador for the game of baseball, a great ambassador of the City of Atlanta and quite simply a great person.”

Cornerback Tyler Hall wore No. 44 during the 2020 season, so he will have to trade that in if he remains with the Falcons into next season.

Report: Matt Patricia returning to Patriots

Houston Texans v Detroit Lions
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Former Lions head coach Matt Patricia is reportedly headed back to New England.

Jim McBride of the Boston Globe reports that Patricia will be joining the Patriots to assist the coaching staff in a variety of roles. There’s no word on what kind of title Patricia will have in his return to the team.

Patricia was the defensive coordinator for the Patriots from 2012 until becoming the Lions head coach after the 2017 season. He was fired last November after going 13-29-1 in Detroit.

McBride adds that Evan Rothstein will be joining Patricia in making the move from the Lions to the Patriots. Rothstein was an assistant to the head coach and worked in analytics with the Lions. He took on a different role calling the team’s defensive plays in Week 16 when COVID-19 protocols left the Lions short on coaches.

Texans interviewed Josh McCown for head coach

Philadelphia Eagles v Miami Dolphins
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The Texans’ bizarre offseason has taken another strange turn, as the team has interviewed quarterback Josh McCown, who was on their active roster at the end of the season.

The Texans announced the McCown interview today.

McCown has done some high school coaching, but to say he’s lacking in the typical qualifications for an NFL head coach would be a major understatement. He hasn’t even been so much as a quality control coach in the NFL or college football.

If McCown were to be hired, it is believed that he would be the first player to go directly from being an active player to an NFL head coach since Norm Van Brocklin, who was the Eagles’ quarterback in 1960 and the Vikings’ head coach in 1961.

That the Texans would even consider McCown indicates either that Jack Easterby is making another weird power play in the front office, or that McCown developed a close bond with quarterback Deshaun Watson, and the Texans think hiring McCown would placate Watson, who is so unhappy with the team it has fueled widespread speculation that he’ll hold out and demand a trade.

The Texans also announced that they have interviewed Jim Caldwell for their head coaching vacancy.

Antoine Winfield questionable for Sunday

NFL: JAN 03 Falcons at Buccaneers
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The Buccaneers have turned in their final injury report of the week and it includes just two players with injury designations for the NFC Championship Game.

Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians revealed that wide receiver Antonio Brown will miss the game with a knee injury before the report was released. Rookie safety Antoine Winfield drew the other designation.

Winfield is listed as questionable with an ankle injury. He was added to the report on Thursday as a full participant in practice, but did not work on Friday.

Winfield had six tackles and forced a fumble by Saints tight end Jared Cook in last Sunday’s win.

Kevin King questionable with back injury, AJ Dillon cleared to play

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Packers cornerback Kevin King did not practice on Friday with a back injury and he’s now been listed as questionable.

Earlier on Friday, head coach Matt LaFleur said the Packers will see how King progresses through the weekend to determine whether he can play in the NFC Championship Game.

Running back AJ Dillon has no injury status after exiting last week’s win over the Rams with a quad injury. He was a limited participant in practice all week.

Kicker Mason Crosby does not have n injury status after suffering a shoulder injury during the victory over the Rams.

Defensive lineman Kingsley Keke (concussion) is the only player Green Bay declared out. He was limited on Wednesday and Thursday but did not practice on Friday.

Linebacker Krys Barnes (thumb), wide receiver Allen Lazard (wrist/back), tight end Marcedes Lewis (knee), safety Will Redmond (knee), linebacker Za’Darius Smith (thumb), wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown (knee/ankle), offensive tackle Rick Wagner (knee), and running back Jamaal Williams (ankle) appeared on the injury report this week but have no injury status for Sunday.

Jerry Hughes: We like that the experts don’t give us credit

Wild Card Round - Indianapolis Colts v Buffalo Bills
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The Bills are underdogs against the Chiefs this weekend and that suits defensive end Jerry Hughes just fine.

Hughes said this week that he’s seen a lot of people picking the Chiefs to beat the Bills and advance to the Super Bowl. He acknowledged that the Chiefs have a number of great players “so you can pump them up,” but that the Bills will work to make sure that they are the team being talked about when the game is over.

“These guys, they don’t watch us,” Hughes said, via Matt Parrino of NewYorkUpstate.com. “They think Kansas City is the top dog and that’s fine. Let them have all that talk and the air waves. . . . We like that the experts don’t respect us and don’t want to acknowledge us or give us credit. That’s fine. We’ll just keep punching people in the mouth until we get that credit. And that’s just how it’s gonna be.”

Hughes had two sacks of Lamar Jackson in last Sunday’s win and finding a way to have that kind of success this weekend would go a long way toward sending the underdog to the Super Bowl.

Report: Philip Rivers could end up in Monday Night Football booth

NFL: OCT 18 Bengals at Colts
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Philip Rivers has retired from the NFL, but NFL fans may still see a lot of him.

Rivers would be a candidate for a Monday Night Football analyst job if he’s interested, according to Andrew Marchand of the New York Post. The current plan is to keep the trio of Steve Levy, Brian Griese and Louis Riddick in the booth, but if Rivers is interested that might change.

After a career in which Rivers was known for entertaining trash talk, many fans have thought he’d be a natural for a TV job. Rivers is reportedly planning to coach high school football this year, but coaching on Fridays wouldn’t necessarily preclude him calling games on Mondays.

Rivers could also be motivated to take a broadcasting job because it would enhance his chances of being selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

It has long been reported that Peyton Manning is ESPN’s first choice for the Monday Night Football booth, but that Manning has turned the job down. Rivers might be the second choice, and it remains to be seen whether he’s interested.