Posts by Erik Oehler

Draft Profile: Jack Allen, MSU

Wherever Jack Allen lines up, his impact is palpable.

Anchoring the line as center at Hinsdale Central High School, in west suburban Chicago and then at Michigan State, Allen sets a standard of excellence. When the National Football League draft takes place in Chicago, Il. [April 28-30], Allen will be watching at home with

Wherever Jack Allen lines up, his impact is palpable.

Anchoring the line as center at Hinsdale Central High School, in west suburban Chicago and then at Michigan State, Allen sets a standard of excellence. When the National Football League draft takes place in Chicago, Il. [April 28-30], Allen will be watching at home with his parents, John and Leslie, and two brothers, waiting to hear where he will be heading for his professional career.

Allen felt a comfort zone visiting the East Lansing, Mi. campus.

“I had three offers, Wisconsin, which wanted me to play nose tackle, Iowa and Michigan State,” he said. “The big selling point Michigan State made was how hard it would be, in practice and in the offseason.

Allen, Jack

Photo courtesy of Michigan State Athletic Communications

“The first thing [strength and conditioning] coach Ken Mannie said, ‘If you don’t like to work hard, this is not the place for you! That’s been true from day one; we take a lot of pride in our work ethic as a team.”

A four-year starter and two-time All-American, Allen’s weight was felt on the line and locker room. A state champion wrestler and three-time finalist, his mat skills translated quite well to the gridiron.

“Wrestling helped me more than anything else in my career; I’d never be in the position where I am now,” said Allen, whose dad, wrestled at Hinsdale Central and was a heavyweight at Purdue in the 1980s. Jack had his first match in second grade. Brothers Brian (2013) and Matt (2016) were also state champions. “The hand fighting, body position, leverage, mental toughness and hard work all apply to playing the line.”

A four-time All-Academic Big Ten selection, who graduated last December with a degree in business hospitality, Allen came in at 285, was up to 315, but is currently under 300. A top five center in all draft publications, who was interviewed by 27 teams, Allen projects as a third-fifth round selection.

“I feel quick at this weight,” he said. “I’ve studied a lot of film and I feel I know offensive schemes like the back of my hand. I’ve tried to excel in everything I do. It’s been a step by step process to get here. I have no idea who is interested in me, but I am anxious to get started.”

Allen’s adroit assets where appreciated by offensive line coach Mark Staten.

Jack Allen

Photo courtesy of Michigan State Athletic Communications

“Jack’s wrestling background definitely helps,” said Staten. “On the line, it’s an individual matchup. A wrestler’s mentality is, ‘I have to beat my guy.’ All the Allen brothers [Brian, who started last fall at left guard, Matt will be a freshman at MSU in the fall] carry that trait well. Leverage is a big part, he can feel which way guys are moving and use his leverage against them. I’ve seen Jack overpower a lot of guys who were bigger than him.

“Our whole line and team fed off Jack, he’s a tremendous leader and I know he’ll continue to be in the NFL. Jack has an incredible skill set. He’s capable of playing guard, he has terrific quickness and a great first step. He has a great desire to learn and sharp football mind. He’ll spend hours studying to figure out an opponent’s weakness. He’s got the mark of a champion.”

Staten wouldn’t be surprised if Allen was used as a goal line fullback.

“Jack is a great athlete,” he said. “Using him at fullback allowed us to give the defense different looks and gave us plenty of thump at the point of attack. He’s also able to catch if you want to throw it to him.”

Seth Schwartz is a freelance writer in Chicago. He can be reached atseth.schwartz@sbcglobal.net

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Rex, please don’t do this…

Hi, Rex. It's me, Erik. Great win Saturday!

I mean it, you guys looked great!

Yeah, I know! EJ looked good! I saw both of his touchdowns.

Yeah...that's kinda what I'm calling about. Listen, I know you're getting it from all sides right now. You've got guys in your ear, in the locker room, maybe even

Hi, Rex. It’s me, Erik. Great win Saturday!

I mean it, you guys looked great!

Yeah, I know! EJ looked good! I saw both of his touchdowns.

Yeah…that’s kinda what I’m calling about. Listen, I know you’re getting it from all sides right now. You’ve got guys in your ear, in the locker room, maybe even in the front office, and they’re telling you things. Things that don’t sound so bad right now. Things that, after yesterday, you might be thinking about.

Well, things like the Earth is flat, dinosaurs didn’t exist, EJ is the guy…but yeah, mainly EJ is the guy.

No, I know. I know. I’m not saying he didn’t play really well Saturday. He did! Absolutely! But Rex, I’ve been here a while. I’ve watched a LOT of bad quarterbacks. And I’ve watched a lot of new coaches try to work with those bad quarterbacks. It’s not pretty, Rex. But, I’ve got good news for you. You don’t have to do that! You went out there. You got not one, but TWO solid guys in Matt Cassell and FROM VIRIGINIA TECH, WEARING NUMBER 5, YOUR STARTING QUARTERBACK OF THE FUTURE, TYROOOOOOOOOOOOOD TAYYYYYYYLOR-AYLOR-LOR!!!!!!

No, I don’t really have a favorite.

I mean, yeah, if you’re asking me, Tyrod played pretty well…Great, even! And then there’s Matt right behind him. And then EJ.

Yeah, so actually it’s just like Tyrod and then Matt…yeah.

So basically, Tyrod.

Tyrod.

Tyrod.

NOOOOOO! REX! No, Rex don’t do this! Don’t do this Rex. Rex, I want to tell you a story. A story about wasted years and lessons learned. It’s a story about a guy named “Dick”. Dick got a head coaching gig, right around here actually, and inherited the previous guy’s quarterback: a first round pick. We’ll call him “JP”. Dick liked what he saw of JP in camp and in the preseason, and couldn’t believe what they were hearing about him from the year before.

Oh, just things like, “He’s a bust”, and “We should draft another quarterback”, and “We benched him for Kelly Holcomb”.

Yeah, THAT Kelly Holcomb.

Well, if you really want to know, they were 7-9, Rex.

SEVEN and NINE. Oh, no, he wasn’t benched after that year. Oh no! You see, he had played JUST well enough to start again the NEXT year, even over the guy they drafted. He got injured shortly into the season, and they switched to another in a long line of sub-par QB’s…

But that’s nothing like this situation, no, not at all…except…

Well, except, you didn’t draft EJ, right?

Yeah, you didn’t draft him, and, oh wait, this is weird…but, he did get benched last year, pretty quickly for Kyle Orton, right? Kinda like JP did, right?

And they were both first round picks weren’t they?

At least their names aren’t similar or anything. JP. EJ. Losman. Manual. Man. J. J. Man.

Yeah, not similar at all…

Oh, Dick’s second year? 7-9.

Third was 7-9, too.

Fourth was 3-6 and they fired him.

Yeah, I’m not sure how he lasted that long either. But you know, new owners now. Team with playoff potential. Shorter leash, if you know what I mean.

What do you mean what do I mean? I just mean that maybe you should go with your gut back before this game. Let’s pretend this game didn’t happen. Wipe it out. I mean, it wasn’t exactly Revis and Cromartie out there. So, go back. And what was your gut saying?

Yeah? Mine too. Mine too, Rex.

Why should we forget how that felt just because we feel another way now? And why should we start JP, I MEAN EJ, when we’ve got someone you “hand-picked“, that you knew back when you were with the Jets was something special.

Do the right thing, Rex. We’re ready for something exciting in Buffalo. Someone who takes off forward when the pocket collapses, not someone who runs for their life. We want someone with a non-acronym first name, even if it makes people who don’t follow football think you’re talking about a car repair at first. We want someone with a visor, dammit.

That’s right Rex. It’s Tyrod time.

Follow me on Twitter @erikoehler

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Scouting Bootcamp in Chicago recap

This weekend, aspiring evaluators, coaches, writers, and General Managers from around the country attended our Scouting Bootcamp course in Chicago, with more joining via a live stream. The course spanned three days and covered, in depth, player evaluation at every position, and the life of a scout. Taught by former Bears' Director of Scouting, Greg

This weekend, aspiring evaluators, coaches, writers, and General Managers from around the country attended our Scouting Bootcamp course in Chicago, with more joining via a live stream. The course spanned three days and covered, in depth, player evaluation at every position, and the life of a scout. Taught by former Bears’ Director of Scouting, Greg Gabriel, and held at University Conference Center, the course was well received and enthusiastic students made it an outstanding experience. Our sincerest thanks to those who attended, and we hope to offer the course again soon. A recording of the entire weekend will be available for purchase soon as well.

Below are some photos from the event:
IMG_2269IMG_2273unnamed

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“Typical” Bills no more

I remember the Music City Miracle like it was yesterday. I was home on break from college and had to work. I was a pit man at a now defunct oil change shop in Cheektowaga (suburb of Buffalo). Y2K had come and gone without a hitch. And for some reason that stumps people in bars throughout

I remember the Music City Miracle like it was yesterday. I was home on break from college and had to work. I was a pit man at a now defunct oil change shop in Cheektowaga (suburb of Buffalo). Y2K had come and gone without a hitch. And for some reason that stumps people in bars throughout Buffalo every time that game comes up, Rob Johnson got the start over Doug Flutie. You know how it ends. We sat there, huddled around a TV the manager brought in as Kevin Dyson scored, and somebody said, “Next year I guess.” Of course! Next year. There was always next year. Almost every year of my adolescence involved Bills’ football in January. Had I foreseen the decade-and-a-half playoff drought that would follow, I could have saved myself a lot of disappointment and bitterness.

And those are all from the same game! I’m not proud of this. It has made me the worst kind of Bills’ fan. I’m the guy you hate to watch games with. As soon as I see EJ Fitzlospatricktonwards (pick any of them) go three-and-out, I’m the first one to throw in the towel. I’ve explained this in previous articles and an unhealthy amount of gameday tweets, but this off-season has changed me.

The 2015 Buffalo Bills are a different team. For 15 seasons, I’ve watched defensive stars, just entering their prime, walk away at the end of their contracts, yet I woke up this morning to find Jerry Hughes resigned. I’ve watched teams so devoid of offensive firepower that Stevie Johnson was the number one receiver for SEVERAL YEARS and a front office that limps into free agency like they are walking to their death. This year, they traded an unnecessary part for a star running back before it even started. I’ve watched coaches who are almost apologetic for being the Bills in their play-calling. Now we’ve got a coach who wants to bully the Patriots and made his truck into a tailgater’s dream. These are not the traits of the same team that lost 6-3 against Cleveland in 2009 or the team that couldn’t beat the Raiders with their season on the line in 2014.

It’s different. And it’s going to take a while for the Buffalo faithful to come around to accepting it and to avoid applying what have become cliches in #BillsMafia. “We just don’t spend the money.” “They just don’t seem to want it.” “Typical Bills.” Stop. I call upon you all to erase those from your memory, and give Rex Ryan, this defense of monsters, and the one-two punch of Sammy Watkins and LeSean McCoy your full and undivided attention for the next few years. I’m not sure if it will translate to 11-5 or 1-15, but I know for the first year in many, I’m not dreading the first Patriots’ game this season.

The city of Buffalo, the people within it, and everything about Sunday are so much better when they’re good. What I remember most about the aforementioned Music City Miracle game was that we didn’t see a single car come through our shop the entire day. Even if we did, I’m not sure our manager would have let us work on it. The playoffs are holidays in Buffalo. A holiday that has been indefinitely suspended for 15 years. Get your Zubaz ready, Buffalo. It’s time.

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Wait, what?: McCoy/Alonso trade

Is there a more exciting offseason transaction than a star player for star player, straight-up trade with your team involved? When the words hit my screen, every word of the headline on ESPN raised my heart rate just a little bit.

MCCOY! TO BILLS! IN BLOCKBUSTER!?!?!?

How? Who? What? Is

Is there a more exciting offseason transaction than a star player for star player, straight-up trade with your team involved? When the words hit my screen, every word of the headline on ESPN raised my heart rate just a little bit.

MCCOY! TO BILLS! IN BLOCKBUSTER!?!?!?

How? Who? What? Is this real life?

This is a paradox. Not because it doesn’t make sense for either team. It’s actually perfect for both of them. It’s the kind of trade you’d talk through with football cards when you were 10, but rarely see executed. When was the last time you saw all three of the following in one NFL trade?:

-Good player-for-good player on opposite sides of the ball
-No draft picks involved
-Both teams improve as a result

It doesn’t happen. Ever. The stars so rarely align with situations equal enough to get a deal like this done without additional compensation, even if it’s an extra 7th thrown in.

WHY BUFFALO WINS:

Rex Ryan wants to run the ball. A lot. C.J. Spiller never developed into the 20 carry back that merits a first round pick. Fred Jackson is in perennial, “He’s probably got another year in him” mode. Kiko Alonso had a sensational rookie year, but Buffalo didn’t exactly miss him in 2014 when he missed the entire season with a torn ACL. It was the most ferocious defense in years. And it may get even better under Ryan.

WHY PHILLY WINS:

McCoy just wasn’t working in Philly. Part of it might have been Chip Kelly wanting to spread it around conflicting with McCoy’s preseason quest for 2000 yards. Part of it might have been the beleaguered line throughout 2014. Who knows. And the Eagles’ defense, which saw great improvement in 2014, can take a step towards the elite with the addition of Alonso, whose versatile skillset shores up a suspect linebacking corps. Not to mention the cap implication for the Eagles, now on the hook for $1 million with Kiko as opposed to $11.95 million for McCoy.

Now if we can only talk them into a Foles for EJ Manuel trade…

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WATCH: Full Jarryd Hayne Press Conference

Rugby League star Jarryd Hayne joined the San Francisco 49ers Monday night, making the announcement on Australian TV. Watch the press conference below.

We also have an extended look at Hayne's pro day which was held for NFL Scouts.

Follow @erikoehler on Twitter

Rugby League star Jarryd Hayne joined the San Francisco 49ers Monday night, making the announcement on Australian TV. Watch the press conference below.

We also have an extended look at Hayne’s pro day which was held for NFL Scouts.

Follow @erikoehler on Twitter

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Extended look: Jarryd Hayne’s Pro Day video

Monday evening, Rugby League star Jarryd Hayne announced he would be joining the San Francisco 49ers.

Here is an extended look at Hayne's Pro Day, during which he ran drills and was measured for NFL scouts.

Follow @erikoehler on Twitter

Monday evening, Rugby League star Jarryd Hayne announced he would be joining the San Francisco 49ers.

Here is an extended look at Hayne’s Pro Day, during which he ran drills and was measured for NFL scouts.

Follow @erikoehler on Twitter

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5 college reunions that could happen in the NFL Draft

1) Chip Kelly and Marcus Mariota

I imagine the Roseman/Kelly saga involved a conversation like this:

Roseman: Chip, where are the results?

Kelly: I just need the right guys! I told you, I need Oregon guys in the draft, and what do you give me?

Roseman: I did! I drafted Josh Huff and Taylor

1) Chip Kelly and Marcus Mariota

I imagine the Roseman/Kelly saga involved a conversation like this:

Roseman: Chip, where are the results?

Kelly: I just need the right guys! I told you, I need Oregon guys in the draft, and what do you give me?

Roseman: I did! I drafted Josh Huff and Taylor Hart!

Kelly: Yeah, no. I meant ALL Oregon guys. Give them all to me. They’re the only ones who truly understand me. Just let me do it next year.

This is the obvious one getting all the press, but Kelly’s love for Mariota (and many of his former players at Oregon) is well documented. With the 20th pick, it’s definitely a long-shot, but if Kelly isn’t sold on his current personnel, some of those pieces would be very attractive to some of the Top 5 teams. I’m looking at you Jags (McCoy?) and Titans (Foles?). Throw in a 3rd or a 4th, and it’s a deal. I don’t even like the Eagles, but it would be awesome to see Kelly’s offense take even 80% of the form it had in Oregon.

2) Teddy Bridgewater and DeVante Parker

If you put 2013 Bridgewater with 2014 Parker (who put up comparable numbers to his 2013 stats in half the games), I think Louisville has a better run than they did. Still, they were impressive together. Vikings’ GM Rick Spielman has already talked with Parker, and despite saying Bridgewater has nothing to do with it, it has to be tempting.

Look at these highlights. They’re like one singular mind, always knowing exactly where to place and find the ball.

3) Blake Bortles and Breshad Perriman

This would be a tough one to pull off. It would be insane to take him with the third pick with the other needs in Jacksonville (RB, OT, CB, etc..) and he might not last until the second round, but Perriman was Bortles favorite deep ball target at UCF. A trade down, or a trade back into the mid-to-late first might be worth it.

4) Teddy Bridgewater and Amari Cooper

This reunion is less talked about that Parker/Bridgewater, but the one that makes more sense for the Vikings. They played together at Miami Northwestern. Cooper is almost “uncoverable” in medium routes, an area where the Vikings were lacking in 2014. Parker is more of a deep threat. It comes down to whether Minnesota is convinced that Jarius Wright and/or Charles Johnson can become the primary long-ball target.

5) Jeremy Hill and Connor Neighbors

This is my sleeper pick. Hill had an impressive rookie year in Cincinnati averaging 5.1 yards per carry behind a sub-par line. The fullback is a dying breed in the NFL, and one I’d love to see resurrected. Watch this (at :46) or any number of Hill’s LSU highlights, and you’ll see Neighbors frequently paving the way. He’ll be available in the 6th or 7th round, so what have you got to lose?

Follow me on Twitter @erikoehler

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Josh McCown is a busy man

Earlier today, ESPN.com's Vaughn McClure posted:

Just a few days earlier, he was spotted at a Sabres' game (because when you want to impress, take your potential quarterback to watch your record-settingly

Earlier today, ESPN.com’s Vaughn McClure posted:

Just a few days earlier, he was spotted at a Sabres’ game (because when you want to impress, take your potential quarterback to watch your record-settingly bad, kind of intentionally tanking hockey team) with Greg Roman.

If you see McCown in an Applebee’s or an indoor soccer game in your city, don’t get too excited. You’re not the first.

Joking aside, McCown is very fortunate to be in the right place at the right time. With at least 10 teams having question marks at the quarterback position, a sub-par free agent pool, and no can’t-miss draft prospects, McCown, only two seasons removed from his best football can probably land himself a 2-3 year deal comparable to what Kyle Orton managed in Buffalo. (a little more if it is with the intention of making him the starter)

Follow me on Twitter @erikoehler

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Redskins: “Gruden anticipates RGIII being the starter going into the 2015 season.”

In an odd move, the Washington Redskins' Twitter account posted this:

What's odd about that? When was the last time you heard anyone name a starter

In an odd move, the Washington Redskins’ Twitter account posted this:

What’s odd about that? When was the last time you heard anyone name a starter in as shaky a QB situation as there seems to be in Washington before Free Agency even starts?

Whenever things like this “leak”, I’m always left questioning the motivation. In this case, this is either the start of what Greg Gabriel calls, “The Lying Season”, or they are really over assuring us. My bet is on the former, as there would be no reason why you would officially marry yourself to a starter with all the possibilities ahead of you. They are setting the market, trying to prop RGIII up as unattainable, and hoping to get a nice price for him.

Follow me on Twitter @erikoehler

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To pass or run?

by Joshua K. Connelly, Head NFL Writer, The Sports Quotient

It is no secret that the NFL has evolved into a pass-first league over the past 30 years. When Dan Marino became the first quarterback to throw for 5,000 yards in a season and added 48 touchdown passes for good measure

by Joshua K. Connelly, Head NFL Writer, The Sports Quotient

It is no secret that the NFL has evolved into a pass-first league over the past 30 years. When Dan Marino became the first quarterback to throw for 5,000 yards in a season and added 48 touchdown passes for good measure (obliterating George Blanda’s then-record 36), the true age of the passing offense was ushered in. Despite the constant increase in passing attempts, Marino’s single-season records stood for years. Peyton Manning finally broke the single-season touchdown record in 2004, 20 years after Marino set it. The single-season passing yards record lasted even longer — 27 years! — before falling to Drew Brees in 2011.

Despite the increased role of the quarterback over the past three decades, a common belief still exists among NFL fans and experts alike that strong defense and rush offense are more important when it comes to winning a championship. This idea stems from the early days of the NFL, when rushing the ball was far more common than passing. Even in the first five Super Bowls combined, rushing attempts outnumbered pass attempts 678 to 525. It was not until the 1980s that passing truly took off.

Now, getting to the Super Bowl is one thing, but once a team arrives in the host city and begins game preparation, is it more beneficial to run the ball or pass it? A definitive answer may not exist, but looking back at previous Super Bowls may provide insight that could at least get the ball rolling.

The popular belief that running the ball wins championships suggests that the NFL’s pass-first attitude is left at the door when it is time for the Super Bowl, but looking at the pass-rush splits in each Super Bowl suggests the opposite.

The trend of passing overtaking rushing — in the Super Bowl, at least — has been evident increasing since Super Bowl XVIII, back in 1983, with a brief exception in Super Bowl XXV (1990), where run and pass play calls were split directly in half. Beginning in 1991 and continuing to this day, not a single Super Bowl has seen more rush attempts than pass attempts. The fact that 23 consecutive Super Bowls have featured more pass plays than run plays is a testament to the evolution of the game. (Fun Fact: The last time the number of runs in a Super Bowl was more than the number of passes was Super Bowl XVII, after the 1982 season.)

The differential between pass plays and run plays throughout Super Bowl history has been extreme at points. More than 60% of offensive plays in Super Bowls VI through IX comprised rushes, while passing made up 70% of the offense in Super Bowls XLIV (2009) and XLV (2010). There have been limited occasions over the past 20 years where passes and rush attempts have been nearly equal. Super Bowls XXXII and XXXIII saw 52/48 and 53/47 splits, respectively. Super Bowl XLI in 2006 was another instance where passing made up on 53% of the offensive play calling. The lowest margin between passes and rushes since 1990 came in Super Bowl XLVII, in 2012, when the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers combined to pass only 51% of the time.

All of this is intriguing, but it doesn’t answer the question: Can you still win the Super Bowl if you pass more than you run? So far, these stats have shown the combined offensive play calling of the two Super Bowl participants. What happens when you break the data apart and compare the winning teams to the losing teams?

Because more recent Super Bowl data is more helpful than that of 30 or 40 years ago, only the past 15 Super Bowls (1999 season and onward) will be taken into account when looking at pass-rush splits between Super-Bowl-winning teams and Super-Bowl-losing teams. As the graph above shows, only five Super Bowl Champions ran the ball more often than they passed: the 2000 Baltimore Ravens, 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers, 2006 Indianapolis Colts and 2013 Seattle Seahawks. Of those five teams, none ran the ball more than 59% of the time in their respective games, and only one ran on more than 55% of its offensive snaps. The fact that two-thirds of the past 15 Super Bowl Champions passed more than they ran seems to dispel the idea that teams must have a strong run game in order to win an NFL title.

What about the losing teams? Again, looking at the past 15 Super Bowls, of the losing teams, none ran the ball more than they passed. The 1999 Tennessee Titans came the closest, rushing on 49% of their plays from scrimmage. The 2002 Oakland Raiders threw more often than any other Super Bowl loser of the past 15 years (on 82% of snaps).

It is true that, in some of these cases, this heavy favoring of the passing game came as a result of the losing team being down for a good part of the game, which would result in a higher percentage of pass attempts. However, eight of the past 15 Super Bowls were decided by one possession. A ninth was decided by two possessions, but only because of a late pick-six by the trailing team. The fact that the majority of these games have been so close sheds doubt on the idea that passing numbers were boosted by trailing teams. There are certainly instances of this happening — the 2000 New York Giants, 2002 Oakland Raiders and 2013 Denver Broncos — but the majority of losing teams were very much in their games until the end.

In addition, some of the losing teams — especially the 2009 Indianapolis Colts and 2011 New England Patriots — featured strong passing offenses with little to offer in the running game. Could this lack of a rushing presence have contributed to the teams’ Super Bowl losses? Definitely. However, because the NFL has become a pass-first league, using a run-first approach may not have done much for the losing teams anyway. They may simply have been outmatched regardless.

The problem that arises when comparing Super Bowl winners and losers in this way is the fact that this ongoing pass-first trend means almost all Super Bowl teams – at least in the past 15 years – pass more than they run. Of the past 30 Super Bowl participants, only five ran more often than they passed, a measly 17%. This realization is one of the reasons why these statistics are inconclusive, regardless of how interesting they may be.

In the end, it may not be possible to determine a Super Bowl winner ahead of time, just by looking at stats from previous games – especially when all Super Bowl teams pass as often as they do – but doing so can still provide insight into the NFL’s most-important game. When watching this Sunday’s game, keep an eye out for which team runs the ball more; which team passes from the get-go; and which team has to play catch-up. And remember that run-first offense does not automatically lead to victory, even in the Super Bowl.

Article and graphics both by Joshua K. Connelly,
Super Bowl pass-rush splits provided by Pro Football Reference

Visit thesportsquotient.com for more!

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Let’s go for a ride

For 15 seasons, the head coach at One Bills Drive just hasn't belonged. Gregg Williams shut himself off from the city after getting drunk, having a fight with his wife, and falling in a pond. Mike Mularkey couldn't handle his "detractors" in the local media. Dick Jauron sounded star-struck when he would

For 15 seasons, the head coach at One Bills Drive just hasn’t belonged. Gregg Williams shut himself off from the city after getting drunk, having a fight with his wife, and falling in a pond. Mike Mularkey couldn’t handle his “detractors” in the local media. Dick Jauron sounded star-struck when he would talk about New England, a contender for the most hated franchise in the history of Buffalo sports. The Doug Marrone saga speaks for itself.

They weren’t Buffalonians. I don’t mean that they weren’t born here. They didn’t understand how to handle the circus that is the NFL in a small market city that cares about little else for 4-5 months out of the year. They didn’t have the ability, like everyone I know from that city does, to laugh at themselves while being unabashedly proud of the team and the city they represented. If it sounds like I’m placing too much importance on the “representing the city” angle. Consider this: if you live outside of Western New York, do you know who the mayor of Buffalo is? Do you know who Doug Marrone is?

The Head Coach of the Buffalo Bills doesn’t need to go 11-5 (though it would be nice once per decade). They just have to care as much as we do. And for 15 years, I’ve watched coaches who coached not to lose. Coaches who let players leave the field with a minute to go. Coaches who punted away entire seasons.

Whether you love Rex Ryan or not, he isn’t any of these things. He hates Bill Belichick as much as I do, and that feels really good. If we go 6-10 next season, but he buries a gameball in the ECC lots if they get blown out by New England, I’m at least having fun. I can tolerate losing. I’ve had a lot of practice. I can’t stand losing the way Buffalo has lost: “meh” coaches with “meh” excuses for their “meh” decisions. Rex Ryan isn’t the best coach in the league, but he unapologetically will try to be, and be anything but “meh” along the way.

Follow me on Twitter @erikoehler and at Fanual.com

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Jonas Gray, Josh Boyce, Cameron Fleming among inactives for Patriots

The Patriots inactives for today's game with Baltimore are WR Josh Boyce, RB Jonas Gray, T Cam Fleming, and a few others in the list, posted by their Twitter account this afternoon. The complete list is below.

Follow @erikoehler on Twitter

The Patriots inactives for today’s game with Baltimore are WR Josh Boyce, RB Jonas Gray, T Cam Fleming, and a few others in the list, posted by their Twitter account this afternoon. The complete list is below.

Follow @erikoehler on Twitter

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Chris Johnson arrested on gun charge

Ian Rapoport is reporting Chris Johnson was arrested in his hometown of Orlando, Florida on Friday after being pulled over for rolling through a stop sign. An officer searched his car and found his licensed and registered firearm in a book bag under a seat (instead of locked up inside the car).

He

Ian Rapoport is reporting Chris Johnson was arrested in his hometown of Orlando, Florida on Friday after being pulled over for rolling through a stop sign. An officer searched his car and found his licensed and registered firearm in a book bag under a seat (instead of locked up inside the car).

He was charged with a second-degree misdemeanor of open carrying of weapons/firearms.

Johnson is coming off of a disappointing season in NY and facing a new General Manager and coach in the coming weeks who will be deciding whether to bring him back.

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Super Bowl futures: bet the dogs

You see the article usually a day or two after the Super Bowl. "(fill in name of sportsbook) releases next year's Super Bowl odds". It's my place to hopefully get a shred of optimism if the Bills are listed at anything better than 50/1 (which they usually aren't). They wouldn't do it if

You see the article usually a day or two after the Super Bowl. “(fill in name of sportsbook) releases next year’s Super Bowl odds”. It’s my place to hopefully get a shred of optimism if the Bills are listed at anything better than 50/1 (which they usually aren’t). They wouldn’t do it if nobody played it, but it always seemed a little crazy to try to bet that far out, when if you wait until today, you can still get phenomenal odds on one of 12 teams that actually has a chance.

And despite there usually being an overwhelming favorite at the start of the playoffs. A team that looks unbeatable. The last five seasons paint a different picture, as the underdogs (the bottom six for purposes of this) have won three out of the last five Super Bowls.

Let’s look at the bottom six going back to 2009, their pre-playoff odds, and what $100 bets on all of them would have yielded to this point.

SB XLIV (2009)
Eagles 16/1 -$100
Cardinals 20/1 -$100
Packers 20/1 -$100
Ravens 25/1 -$100
Bengals 33/1 -$100
Jets 35/1 -$100

RESULT: -$600 (-$600 net to date)

SB XLV (2010)
Packers 12/1 (WINNER) +$1200
Ravens 14/1 -$100
Colts 16/1 -$100
Jets 20/1 -$100
Chiefs 40/1 -$100
Seahawks 100/1 -$100

RESULT: +$700 (+$100 net to date)

SB XLVI (2011)
Giants 20/1 (WINNER) +$2000
Falcons 35/1 -$100
Lions 40/1 -$100
Texans 40/1 $-100
Broncos 50/1 $-100
Bengals 65/1 $-100

RESULT: +$1500 (+$1600 net to date)

SB XLVII (2012)
Seahawks 9/1 -$100
Redskins 20/1 -$100
Texans 20/1 -$100
Ravens 25/1 (WINNER) +$2500
Bengals 50/1 -$100
Vikings 75/1 -$100

RESULT: +$2000 (+$3600 net to date)

SB XLVII (2013)
Texans 14/1 -$100
Redskins 18/1 -$100
Ravens 22/1 -$100
Vikings 35/1 -$100
Bengals 45/1 -$100
Colts 45/1 -$100

RESULT: -$600 (+$3000 net to date)

It might be an anomaly. The data going back five years earlier sees only the ’07 Giants winning at 35/1. Or it could mean the low seeds aren’t as low as they once were. And when you look at how this season played out, week after week teams that looked unbeatable would stumble, and teams that were written off coming through, I don’t think the bottom six this year look all that unreasonable. Here they are (as of this morning) and why I think they could win.

6. Arizona (49/1) – Ok, so I don’t think Arizona can win. Just thinking the phrase Super Bowl winning quarterback Ryan Lindley makes my brain hurt. If you bet the bottom six, consider the bottom five. But hey, it’s the NFL. You never know. (yeah you do, skip them)

5. Detroit (45/1) – This is where it gets interesting to me. Stafford’s failures in big situations is just the kind of storyline that I can see him finally rising to overcome. And it’s up against Tony Romo’s history this weekend. Who will choke the least? They’ve on 4 out of their last 5, and if they get past Dallas, they go to Seattle where they….ok, skip them, too.

4. Cincinnati (31/1) – Another one where you can almost hear Jim Nantz saying, “Can Marvin Lewis and Andy Dalton get their first playoff win together?”.

3. Baltimore (31/1) – This could be a bargain if Joe Flacco wakes up. They look like a first round exit, but win at Pittsburgh in January and you’re pretty battle tested for the next two rounds.

2. Carolina (29/1) – They’re 7-8-1, but they’re playing well. I don’t know that they get past Seattle or Green Bay, but at the very least, you’ve probably got them alive for another week.

1. Indianapolis (29/1) – I think T.Y. Hilton meant more to this offense than even Indy knew. He’s back. They’re at home. And Andrew Luck can get hot at any time.

HONORABLE MENTION: Consider skipping Arizona and putting that money on Pittsburgh, who at 19/1 feels like a bargain and has made it from the wildcard round to the title before.

Follow me on Twitter @erikoehler

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No shame in punting

I appreciate what Doug Marrone did for the Bills. For 14 seasons, you could hear the same things muttered by the Buffalo faithful every Sunday. "This team doesn't want it." "They look lost out there." "No heart." My disagreements with his in-game management aside, (and more recently) I couldn't say anything about

I appreciate what Doug Marrone did for the Bills. For 14 seasons, you could hear the same things muttered by the Buffalo faithful every Sunday. “This team doesn’t want it.” “They look lost out there.” “No heart.” My disagreements with his in-game management aside, (and more recently) I couldn’t say anything about this team’s heart or will to win this season. Monday through Saturday, he got this team that, on paper, looked medicore and turned them into contenders. No matter how many three-and-outs you’d see for the first three quarters, you’d keep watching, because the defense could make things happen.

He was almost the guy. And a lot of Buffalonians, so desperate for a return to the glory years of the early 90’s, probably don’t understand why I’m calling this the best possible thing that could have happened to this team at this time, but it is.

Finding the head coach that comes to define your franchise for an extended run (your Belichicks, your Cowhers) is rare. But when you’ve got him, you know it. You know it, because when you watch your team, regardless of the opponent, you know your guy is just smarter than the coach on the opposite sideline. When the talent on the field is a draw, your guy is going to know when to gamble, how to use his timeouts, and when not to punt. Marrone failed in every one of those areas, week after week. And this team was never good enough on the field to overcome it. He brought them into every Sunday believing they could win, and their play reflected it. But we need that extra step. We need a coach who knows that late in a game, down two scores, that he can’t punt on 4th and 1 when he’s past the 50. That doing so is a disservice to a team that, for the first time in a long time, can get you that extra yard. Ask Fred Jackson to get you that yard, and time after time, he gets you two. Two more 2014 regular season wins, and this article is probably about me being on cloud nine traveling to my first NFL playoff game in 15 years. I watched him cost us those two wins (and at least 2 more).

And so, when faced with the option to opt out, to punt, career-wise, to hope that the defense can get you another shot and your reputation can get you another gig, Marrone did. And he’ll get another job, probably as a head coach. Because there a lot of teams that are still ok with punting on every literal and metaphorical 4th and 1.

But we can do better, Buffalo. We deserve better. Without getting too sappy about it or attaching too much meaning to the Head Coach position, we deserve a coach that reflects what this city has done over the past decade. This city is proud. When everyone ws writing it off, and young graduates were moving away in droves, others stepped up and are transforming downtown Buffalo into someplace you want to go, instead of someplace you need to go to when you have traffic court or someone at work gave you Sabres’ tickets. We’re overdue for a coach that can turn a silo into a climbing gym or an old warehouse into a brewery. I don’t know if Jim Schwartz is that guy, or if he’s lurking somewhere in a DIII school, but I hope the Pegulas or Doug Whaley or whoever leads the search can find him.

Follow me on Twitter @erikoehler or fanual.com

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Dear Bills: it’s not the refs, it’s your coach

"No Goal" ruined sports for a lot of us in Buffalo. I imagine Lakers-Kings Game 6 did the same for Sacramento. When you've been legitimately, provably screwed over by officials, it changes you. You watch every game with a little zebra-clad devil on your shoulder telling you it's happening to

No Goal” ruined sports for a lot of us in Buffalo. I imagine Lakers-Kings Game 6 did the same for Sacramento. When you’ve been legitimately, provably screwed over by officials, it changes you. You watch every game with a little zebra-clad devil on your shoulder telling you it’s happening to you again. I get it. That isn’t what happened in Denver Sunday.

Grand conspiracy? Or “hey, good job!”

#BillsMafia erupted after refs, who were working together to determine if C.J. Anderson got the ball past the plane or not, fistbumped after declaring it a touchdown. Sure enough, the aformentioned devil was right there telling me it was happening again. They’re out to get us! The world hates Buffalo! We could have been the next New York City if railroads hadn’t replaced canals! Homerun throwback! No goal!

Saftey Aaron Williams didn’t help matters on Twitter when he said “No excuse for my performance but we can’t win playing 16 vs 11” This all, tragically, misdirected our rage away from the real problem, Doug Marrone.

For almost two quarters of football, Jerry Hughes, arguably your 2014 Bills’ MVP, sat on the sidelines. It was originally reported that it was due to an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, and they wanted to make sure he “cools down”. Hughes cooled down alright, sitting in the cold Denver air for 24 of the next 36 snaps. All this could still be explainable, if the head coach actually knew about it! That’s right. Marrone, in the most meaningful game of the season, did not know that his best defensive player was not on the field for almost two quarters of football.

Add to this, his decision to punt on 4th-and-2 while down two scores with five minutes left, and you have, yet again, beaten yourself. There is a laundry list of these decisions in every Bills’ loss this season. He has lost them all for you. There’s a little blame to go around. Orton didn’t do them any favors sliding for a loss on a 3rd and 1. A lot of poor penalties (are there many non-poor penalties?) and some costly turnovers stacked the deck. But those need to be atoned for by the guy who doesn’t have to rely on muscle memory or split second decisions or the calls of imperfect officials. He needs to make the right choices, and he can’t. He just can’t.

I wrote about it in the beginning of the year, and I am more convinced than ever: he is just not ready to be an NFL coach. He is grossly unaware of clock management, in-game probabilities, and the relatively simple task of being aware of who is actually on the field. He could probably be a great assistant, where he can focus on one area. He could probably return to Syracuse and be as mediocre as he left. But you can’t correct these deficiencies. They are either things that you inherently understand, or you don’t. And until it’s changed, the Bills aren’t going to have a chance of being legitimately screwed in something as meaningful as a playoff game.

Follow me on Twitter @erikoehler or at fanual.com

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Too good to pass up

With 30 players drafted in the 1960s, scouts in the National Football League became well versed on the route to Grambling, La., home of the Grambling State University. In the fall of 1968, wide receiver Charlie Joiner [drafted in the fourth round by the Houston Oilers and voted into the NFL Hall of Fame

With 30 players drafted in the 1960s, scouts in the National Football League became well versed on the route to Grambling, La., home of the Grambling State University. In the fall of 1968, wide receiver Charlie Joiner [drafted in the fourth round by the Houston Oilers and voted into the NFL Hall of Fame after a 18-year career] and quarterback James Harris were putting on quite a show.

“We had seven or eight scouts at every game,” said Douglas Porter, who was the offensive coordinator from 1966-74. He was the head coach at Howard [1974-78 and Fort Valley State [1979-1996] before returning to live in Grambling. “With the players we had: running back Essex Johnson [1968, sixth round by Cincinnati], defensive back Delles Howell [1970, fourth round New Orleans] and receiver Frank Lewis [1971, first round Pittsburgh] there were always guys here. Jackie Graves [who became director of player personnel with the Eagles], Joe Perry [49ers], Emlen Tunnell [Giants], Bill Nunn [Steelers] and Elbert Dubenion [Bills] were some of the regulars. They’d come in on Wednesday and stay through Saturday.”

Still, there was no indication if Harris would be drafted.

Harris drops back to pass with the Buffalo Bills.

“The scouts were very discreet,” said Porter. “We thought there might be an opportunity with the Rams because of Tank Younger, but we really had no idea. He was planning on getting into coaching after college. In our mind, there was no doubt that Harris could be a starting quarterback in the NFL. With his arm, size and overall understanding of the game, we knew he’d be able to adapt to any offense. We had a great quarterback with Mike Howell [1964], but he didn’t have the size and the Browns [1965-72] made him a defensive back.”

The Howell brothers [Lane, Mike and Delles] grew up across from Harris on Atkinson St. in the Bryant’s Addition neighborhood and attended Carroll High School in Monroe, La. All three went to Grambling and played in the NFL. “Coach Rob [Eddie Robinson] felt he would be our first quarterback to make it into the NFL when he brought him in,” said Porter. “I had a chance to see Harris against Coleman High School [of Greenville, Miss.] and you could tell he was a special player. They beat Coleman which was quarterbacked by George Scott [who played first base for the Boston Red Sox and Milwaukee Brewers] and the top team in Mississippi. We always tried to get as much information on any techniques we could use from all the scouts who came through. Coach Rob was always adding new things on offense and defense. We learned a lot from Dub Jones.” Jones was quarterback Otto Graham’s primary receiver when the Browns won titles in 1950, ’54 and ’55 and their offensive coordinator from 1963-68. Jones lived in neighboring Ruston, La., his son Bert Jones was a quarterback for the Baltimore Colts in 1973-81.

Two scouts responsible for Harris getting drafted were Bill Groman and Elbert Dubenion. Growing up in Tiffin, Oh., Groman lived at home while attending Heidelberg University, riding his bike one mile to campus. Setting a number of records in football and track, Groman was signed as a free agent by the Houston Oilers [1960]. Catching 72 passes and 12 touchdowns from George Blanda as a rookie [he was tied for second in the AFL with Don Maynard], he followed up his second year with 50 and 17 touchdowns. The Oilers beat the Los Angeles Chargers 24-16 for the title in 1960. They beat the Chargers 10-3 for the championship in 1961 [the Chargers moved to San Diego in ‘61]. The Oilers lost in 1962 to the Dallas Texans 20-17 in double overtime. Groman’s last two years were with the Bills 1964 and ‘65 championships; they beat San Diego 20-7 and 23-0. His roommate was quarterback Jack Kemp.

Dubenion, who grew up in Griffin, Ga., attended Bluffton University in Bluffton, Oh. Drafted in 1959 in the 14th round by the Browns, a leg injury prevented him from attending training camp. Picked up by the Bills as a free agent, Dubenion [1960-68] is ninth on their all-time receiving list with 294 receptions, and 35 touchdowns. Nicknamed ‘Golden Wheels’, in 1964 he was All-Pro catching 42 passes for 10 touchdowns and a 27-yard average. Dubenion became an area scout in 1969.

Groman, who spent 36 years scouting for the Bills, Blesto, Oilers and Falcons, was absolutely certain about Harris’ NFL makeup. “There was no question about James Harris,” said Groman, who was the Oilers director of player personal in 1977 and ’78. “We both gave him high grades and said he should be drafted in the top three rounds. If he was white and from a big school that’s where he would’ve been drafted. He was like a black Joe Namath, but bigger [at 6-4]. Harris had size, was strong, threw the ball very well, was able to take a hit and get away from the grasp of the defender. He was a leader and you could see what he was doing would translate well at the pro level. Harris and Charlie Joiner had a special chemistry, they complimented each other; they understood the offense and knew how to play the game. I traveled to games working [only] on the weekends then. I had the Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma area. I’d watch tape with coach Robinson; he offered me a job coaching the wide receivers. Going to Grambling or Jackson State [In 1968 Jackson State had 11 players drafted and five signed as free agents under coach Rod Paige, who later became the United States Secretary of Education under President George W. Bush] back then was like going to Alabama or USC today. You’d have eight- ten-twelve guys to watch who had the ability to play in the NFL.
“When we gave our report to the general manager Harvey Johnson a couple weeks before the draft, he asked, ‘Can he play tight end?’ I said, ‘He’s not a tight end, he’s a quarterback!’ We kept pushing for him and it’s a good thing [area scout] Elbert Dobinion was there to back me up. I think he just got tired of us talking about Harris and finally pulled the trigger.”

Seth Schwartz is a freelance writer in Chicago. He can be reached at seth.schwartz@sbcglobal.net

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Bills on the table

<p> Tuesday marked the deadline for interested buyers of the Buffalo Bills to identify themselves by submitting paperwork to the team declaring an interest in bidding. WGR’s Joe Buscaglia<a href="http://www.wgr550.com/Bills-enter-next-chapter-of-sale--so-what-s-next-/9034669?pid=417745"> cites an undisclosed source</a> saying that the interested groups were to submit a non-binding bid to the trust with an idea of a purchase price. While

<p> Tuesday marked the deadline for interested buyers of the Buffalo Bills to identify themselves by submitting paperwork to the team declaring an interest in bidding. WGR’s Joe Buscaglia<a href=”http://www.wgr550.com/Bills-enter-next-chapter-of-sale–so-what-s-next-/9034669?pid=417745″> cites an undisclosed source</a> saying that the interested groups were to submit a non-binding bid to the trust with an idea of a purchase price. While there may be more names that emerge over the next few weeks, there are three we know so far. The trust will work over the next month to narrow down the list of prospective buyers to those they believe most suitable to own the team. I can save them time.</p> <p> <strong>The favorite: Terry Pegula</strong></p> <p> <strong>Net worth:</strong><a href=”http://www.forbes.com/profile/terrence-pegula/” target=”_blank”> $3.3 Billion (Forbes)</a></p> <p> <strong>Claims to fame: </strong>Founded and sold East Resources, a natural gas drilling company, <a href=”http://www.nhl.com/ice/news.htm?id=640889″ target=”_blank”>savior of downtown Buffalo</a> and <a href=”http://www.uscho.com/2010/09/17/penn-state-makes-it-official-varsity-programs-on-the-way/” target=”_blank”>Penn State hockey</a>.</p> <p> <strong>Why he should win:</strong> There aren’t many Buffalonians that don’t want to see this happen. We would sell him the entire city, secede from the country, and make him king if he asked nicely. He brought in “business slugger” Steve Greenberg <a href=”http://bills.buffalonews.com/2014/07/02/pegulas-hire-sports-business-slugger-steve-greenberg-oversee-pursuit-bills/”>to assist in the process</a>. It’s conceiveable that he has more liquidity than most of the other candidates after <a href=”http://bills.buffalonews.com/2014/06/11/terry-pegula-cash-hand-1-75-billion-sale-oil-acreage/” target=”_blank”>a recent $1.75 billion sale of Utica and Marcellus shale leases</a>. His commitment to the area, deep, philanthropic pockets, and win-at-all-costs attitude put him at the top of the list. A report that he <a href=”http://footballpost.wpengine.com/Opening-bid-for-Bills-over-1-billion.html”>has initially bid over $1 billion</a> has already surfaced. </p> <p> <strong>Why he might not win:</strong> This is the part that no one wants to talk about. It will even get you labeled as anti-Buffalo and near fisticuffs if you bring up at the wrong drunken tailgate, but the existing stadium lease expires in 2023. The current round of stadium renovations, with a pricetag of $130 million, was primarily funded by a combined $90 million in state and country taxpayer funds, and it took Erie County executive Chris Collins negotiating to get it to that number. This raised a lot of eyebrows, <a href=”http://www.buffalonews.com/sports/bills-nfl/cuomo-expresses-concern-about-taxpayer-costs-for-a-new-bills-stadium-20140604″>especially with the Governor’s office</a>. Estimates state the Bills generate $20 million in tax revenue for the state annually, so the cost was justifiable in the renovation case. This will be a tougher sell towards the end of the current lease (2023), when it is a near certainty that a new stadium will be required, and the cost should easily topple $1 billion. Governor Cuomo has been very active in <a href=”http://buffalo.twcnews.com/content/news/747721/cuomo–not-convinced–bills-need-new-stadium/”>discussion about a new stadium</a> and most noteably, the amount of money the state would need to contribute, even forming a new stadium exploration committee. It stands to reason that he at least has the ear of those involved in the sale and the potential buyers. I don’t know how much Mr. Pegula would or wouldn’t need from the taxpayers for a hypothetical stadium almost 10 years from now, but it’s naive to think it might not be discussed, and it is the biggest X-factor in this process.</p> <p> <strong>The bad guys: Jon Bon Jovi/Rogers/Larry Tanenbaum</strong></p> <p> <strong>Net worth: </strong>a lot</p> <p> <strong>Claims to fame: </strong>Formerly awesome music/cellular overlords/business</p> <p class=”co_image co_image_right inline_right”> <img alt=”Ban Bon Jovi” src=”http://cdn.cloudfiles.mosso.com/c1910342/media_center/images/rendered/blog/wysiwyg/Capture2-4472.PNG” />We know what you’re up to Bon Jovi.</p> <p> <strong>Why they might win:</strong> The fear is that the Canadian-based group will move the team to Toronto. Though the cost to do so before 2020 is absurd (to the tune of $400 million), we don’t actually know how deep their pockets are. They already have had <a href=”http://www.thestar.com/sports/football/2014/07/18/bon_jovi_tanenbaum_rogers_bid_for_buffalo_bills_takes_shape.html “>discussions with Roger Goodell</a> and Goodell has made no secret of his desire to expand the NFL outside of the US.</p> <p> <strong>The timeline: </strong>It started in 2006 when Rogers and Tanenbaum <a href=”http://www.cbc.ca/sports/indepth/analysis-nfltoronto.html”>expressed an interest</a> in getting an NFL team in Toronto. In 2007, Ralph Wilson asked, and was granted permission to “sell” games to be played in Toronto, citing ticket sale unsustainability in the Buffalo region. Over the next six seasons, they would play eight games (two preseason, six regular season) in Toronto. It didn’t go well. Attendance was lower than expected. The 2013 game versus Atlanta saw fewer than 40,000 in attendance. (well below Rogers’ Centre capacity) The reaction in Buffalo went from begrudging acceptance to outright anger at having one less Sunday to spend with our stadium family, and rightfully so. The same thing happened to a lot of us when we were 14, and our best friend got a girlfriend before we did. We saw him less and less, until eventually, he spent all his time with her. Her name is Toronto.</p> <p> <strong>But they said…:</strong> Despite <a href=”http://www.torontosun.com/2014/07/19/toronto-bid-group-wants-to-keep-bills-in-buffalo-sources “>the bidding group saying they have no interest in moving the team</a>, (yes, Buffalo, they are saying that), that’s what your best friend’s girlfriend said! “I don’t want to change who you are.” “You can still spend time with your friends.” We’ve heard it all before. We know what you’re up to, and we’re not having any of it. Reports of <a href=”http://nypost.com/2014/07/25/is-bon-jovi-trying-to-steer-the-bills-to-toronto/”>some initial stadium studies in Toronto</a> began the descent into Bon Jovi Toronto paranoia that has consumed the fan base. <a href=”http://nypost.com/2014/07/29/bills-great-andre-reed-man-f-k-bon-jovi/” target=”_blank”>Andre Reed</a> and <a href=”http://bills.buffalonews.com/2014/07/30/jimmy-kimmel-last-night-bills-go-toronto-going-war-canada/”>Jimmy Kimmel</a> are on board, and hell hath no fury like <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/billsmafia”>#billsmafia.</a></p> <p> <strong>That escalated quickly:</strong> Up until last month, if you walked into a bar in Buffalo on a karaoke night, there were two guarantees: $5 pitchers of Blue and a group of girls would get up and sing “Livin’ on a Prayer”. <a href=”http://www.foxsports.com/nfl/story/some-buffalo-businesses-start-ban-of-bon-jovi-music-fear-bills-bid-073014″ target=”_blank”>Kiss the latter goodbye. Forever.</a>  We don’t forget in Buffalo. </p> <p> <strong>The dark horse: Donald Trump </strong></p> <p> <strong>Net worth:</strong> <a href=”http://www.forbes.com/profile/donald-trump/”>$3.9 Billion (Forbes)</a></p> <p> <strong>Claims to fame:</strong> Real estate/business/casino magnate/punchline</p> <p> <strong>Why I’m not writing him off:</strong> Over the course of my lifetime, I’ve watched Trump rise, fall, fire people on TV, consider running for the Presidency, and incredibly, find a way to stay relevant through it all. But the one thing that remains consistent in almost every one of his headline-seeking ventures is his almost defiant insistance about his probability of succeeding, even when he clearly won’t. He’s <a href=”http://pro32.ap.org/article/trump-says-his-buffalo-bills-bid-unlikely-win”>doing the complete opposite in this situation</a>, almost humbly joking how small his chances are of winning the bidding. This is so out of character and the perfect slow play if there ever was one.</p> <p> <strong>Why it wouldn’t be so bad:</strong> He’s openly said <a href=”http://www.buffalonews.com/sports/bills-nfl/trump-says-he-is-only-bidder-who-would-keep-bills-in-western-new-york-20140624″>he would keep the team in Buffalo</a>, and selfishly, it would be nice to have them be relevant again, even if only for the spectacle. After 14 playoff-free, 6-10 syndrome seasons, I’m open to anything. It wouldn’t be so bad, would it? Ok, it would. Go Pegula!</p> <p> Follow <a href=”http://www.twitter.com/erikoehler”>@erikoehler</a> on Twitter</p>

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2014 Big Ten Media Days notebook

<p> <a class="twitter-follow-button" data-show-count="false" href="https://twitter.com/Miller_Dave">Follow @Miller_Dave</a><script>!function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");</script></p> <p> <strong>CHICAGO — </strong>The Big Ten held its annual Media Days event on Monday and Tuesday at the Hilton Chicago.</p> <p> Here are some news, notes and thoughts from the two-day gathering of coaches and players.</p> <p> <strong>— </strong>Purdue head coach Darrell Hazell danced around the question of

<p> <a class=”twitter-follow-button” data-show-count=”false” href=”https://twitter.com/Miller_Dave”>Follow @Miller_Dave</a><script>!function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src=”//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js”;fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,”script”,”twitter-wjs”);</script></p> <p> <strong>CHICAGO — </strong>The Big Ten held its annual Media Days event on Monday and Tuesday at the Hilton Chicago.</p> <p> Here are some news, notes and thoughts from the two-day gathering of coaches and players.</p> <p> <strong>— </strong>Purdue head coach Darrell Hazell danced around the question of what his realistic expectations are for the new season, stating that he just wants his team ready to compete in Week 1. The Boilermakers were 0-8 in conference play last season, but the second-year head coach said his players are more confident and the program has made “significant strides” from year one to year two heading into the new campaign. Hazell isn’t going anywhere, but progress needs to be made in West Lafayette.</p> <p class=”co_image co_image_right inline_right”> <img alt=”Gary Andersen” src=”http://cdn.cloudfiles.mosso.com/c1910342/media_center/images/rendered/blog/wysiwyg/GARY.jpg” /><span>US PRESSWIRE</span>Gary Andersen and the Badgers will face LSU in their season opener.</p> <p> — There’s no doubt that Wisconsin has a chance to be highly ranked by the end of the season because of the team’s less-than-daunting schedule, which head coach Gary Andersen stated is “very challenging.” Well, the truth is that it’s not really difficult. The Badgers have a tough challenge in Week 1 in Texas against LSU, but the rest of the slate is very manageable even with a rebuilt front seven and questions at quarterback, where Joel Stave and Tanner McEvoy will initially split the reps at QB in camp. Andersen has put “no timeline” on naming a starter. While I believe Stave would start if the season began today, McEvoy is the dual-threat who could diversify the offense a bit more.</p> <p> — Wisconsin is not the only team that has a manageable slate, as Iowa has a chance to enter November unscathed if it can get past Iowa State and Pittsburgh in nonconference play. If the Hawkeyes get good enough quarterback play, which is the question in Madison as well, the Big Ten could have a nice national presence by the end of the year. Hawkeyes head coach Kirk Ferentz said Jake Rudock has more confidence and has all of the intangibles to be a successful quarterback.</p> <p> — Illinois head coach Tim Beckman said that former top in-state recruit Aaron Bailey will remain at quarterback and not switch positions. Oklahoma State transfer Wes Lunt is going to be the starter in Week 1 despite not having officially won the job yet, but Bailey has a bright future. Will he line up at various spots this fall if Lunt is the starter under center? On defense, eighteen of 22 defenders from last year’s two-deep are back this year. Is that a good or a bad thing? Beckman said tremendous strides need to occur on that side of the ball.</p> <p> — Michigan head coach Brady Hoke said new coordinator Doug Nussmeier has done a tremendous job since his arrival, and the team’s offense will tell the tale of whether the Wolverines can once again be a Big Ten contender. “The only pressure is every day preparing those guys for life after football,” Hoke said, when asked if he is feeling the heat entering the new season.</p> <p> — Rutgers head coach Kyle Flood said he believes the school’s affiliation with its new conference will be a “tremendous marriage,” and he noted that the recruiting footprint for the program has expanded a bit since the news of the move to the Big Ten. Maryland head man Randy Edsall echoed the recruiting sentiments of Flood. But will either the Scarlet Knights or Terps be able to compete immediately in the tough East division? Flood said QB Gary Nova has really taken to what new OC Ralph Friedgen is teaching. Consistency has been Nova’s biggest issue throughout his career. Meanwhile, the Terps have one of the nation’s most exciting players in receiver Stefon Diggs, who caught 34 passes for 587 yards and three touchdowns before his injury last season.</p> <p> — Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer said star dual-threat QB Braxton Miller is in the best shape of his life, and Miller later confirmed those words to reporters. Miller has been banged-up a lot in the past, so the Heisman Trophy contender should be the most prepared he’s ever been to carry a lot of the load in Meyer’s Power Spread scheme. Also keep an eye on Dontre Wilson, whom Meyer said will be an “impact guy” in a lot of ways. There has been a lot of offseason buzz for the talented hybrid athlete. Defensively, Meyer praised the work of Chris Ash, whose priority as new DC has been fixing the pass defense woes from last year.</p> <p> — Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio on what keeps the fire burning in the rivalry with the Wolverines: “I continue to live in Michigan. That ought to do it.” Okay then. Meanwhile, expect the Spartans to have another dynamite season despite some key losses on defense. They still have Pat Narduzzi running that unit, and he’s one of the top coordinators in the country.</p> <p> — Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini, when discussing his sometimes demonstrative nature on the sideline: “I’m not that intense, competitive animal all the time.” He said he’s laid back off the field and trying to show that more on the sideline. Yeah, I don’t buy it either. But I am buying the Huskers’ defense, which should be consistent and strong enough to help Pelini get past his four-loss hex in Lincoln.</p> <p> — James Franklin is going to own State College. He also inherited a quarterback in sophomore Christian Hackenberg, who could ultimately be the top overall pick in a future NFL Draft. Franklin said he’s impressed by Hackenberg’s hunger to learn and his humility, but the focus is on developing help around him.</p> <p> And…</p> <p> In regards to Bob Bowlsby’s comments at Big 12 Media Days, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said that the major five conferences need to get together over the next year to eighteen months to achieve a new model for compliance and enforcement. Delany also said that he expects autonomy to pass in August and believes the desires of the major conferences will be met … Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald compared QB Trevor Siemian’s personality to that of country music star Luke Bryan (laid-back if you’re not familiar with the country music scene) … Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill said he’s well aware of the team’s losing streak to Wisconsin … Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson believes the Hoosiers will be “significantly better” on defense this fall.</p> <p> <em>Dave Miller, the college football editor for the National Football Post, is on Twitter <a href=”https://twitter.com/Miller_Dave” target=”_blank”>@Miller_Dave</a>.</em></p>

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2014 Big Ten Media Days preview

<p> <a class="twitter-follow-button" data-show-count="false" href="https://twitter.com/Miller_Dave">Follow @Miller_Dave</a><script>!function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");</script></p> <p> <strong>CHICAGO — </strong>With the SEC, ACC, Big 12 and Pac-12 having concluded their Media Days, it's time to turn our attention to the Big Ten, which takes center stage on Monday and Tuesday at the Hilton Chicago.</p> <p> Here are some things to keep an eye on

<p> <a class=”twitter-follow-button” data-show-count=”false” href=”https://twitter.com/Miller_Dave”>Follow @Miller_Dave</a><script>!function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src=”//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js”;fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,”script”,”twitter-wjs”);</script></p> <p> <strong>CHICAGO — </strong>With the SEC, ACC, Big 12 and Pac-12 having concluded their Media Days, it’s time to turn our attention to the Big Ten, which takes center stage on Monday and Tuesday at the Hilton Chicago.</p> <p> Here are some things to keep an eye on when members of the media talk to coaches and players.</p> <p> <strong>— The newbies:</strong> Maryland and Rutgers are officially members of the league after leaving the ACC and American Athletic, respectively. BTN was able to expand its footprint with the move, and both the Terrapins and the Scarlet Knights were able to secure more money for their athletic departments moving forward. But it will be a tough road for both squads in the East division, where Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan and Penn State reside. Rutgers brings a power offense with a conservative flair to the league, but can they match up physically along both lines of scrimmage? And while the Terps bring back a lot of talent, can they stay healthy?</p> <p class=”co_image co_image_right inline_right”> <img alt=”Jim Delany” src=”http://cdn.cloudfiles.mosso.com/c1910342/media_center/images/rendered/blog/wysiwyg/delany1-4488.jpg” /><span>US PRESSWIRE</span>Jim Delany is one of the most powerful individuals in college athletics.</p> <p> <strong>— The commish:</strong> Jim Delany, who along with the SEC’s Mike Slive is one of the most powerful individuals in college athletics, will certainly address some of the bigger issues plaguing the sport, including the impending vote by the NCAA’s Board of Directors to give autonomy to the Power Five as well as Ed O’Bannon’s antitrust lawsuit against the NCAA. Slive threatened to leave Division I if the Power Five didn’t get autonomy, while Big 12 boss Bob Bowlsby took a shot at NCAA enforcement. Delany should provide a few good quotes.</p> <p> <strong>— Hot seat talk:</strong> When I posted my article describing <a href=”http://footballpost.wpengine.com/Top-10-coaching-hot-seats-in-2014.html” target=”_self”>the head coaches whose seats were the hottest</a>, four of the ten program leaders were from the Big Ten: Michigan’s Brady Hoke, Indiana’s Kevin Wilson, Rutgers’ Kyle Flood and Illinois’ Tim Beckman. In my opinion, the Wolverines will be able to bounce back from their rough 2013 campaign if they get improvement from the offensive line both in pass protection and in opening up bigger holes for the running backs. And new coordinator Doug Nussmeier should bring a more consistent and improved identity on offense. For Indiana, a minor bowl bid could be on the horizon because the Hoosiers may have enough offensive talent to get to six wins. There is reason for optimism in Bloomington. In the case of Flood, we just don’t know which direction his program is headed after initially keeping things sound following Greg Schiano’s departure. Former Maryland head coach Ralph Friedgen is now running the offense, and Joe Rossi is leading the defense. The step up in competition in a division featuring Ohio State, Michigan State, Penn State and Michigan will prove challenging. Finally, in Champaign, Beckman needs coordinator Bill Cubit to keep the offense rolling with former Oklahoma State signal-caller Wes Lunt at the helm. Beckman could probably survive a bowl-less season, but improvement must continue to be made and there needs to be a reason to believe in the future.</p> <p> <strong>— Digging deeper: </strong>It’s safe to assume that Ohio State and Michigan State will be involved in the national conversation for a majority of the season even if the Spartans are unable to notch a win <a href=”http://footballpost.wpengine.com/The-top-nonconference-games-in-2014.html” target=”_self”>in Eugene in Week 2</a>. Both the Buckeyes and Spartans are strong candidates to return to Indianapolis and play for the league title (they are in the same division now, however). But can the league find greater depth at the top with teams such as Wisconsin, Nebraska and Michigan becoming legitimate league title contenders? The Badgers have a chance to be <a href=”http://footballpost.wpengine.com/College-Football-Playoff-sleepers-for-2014.html” target=”_self”>a dark horse College Football Playoff contender</a> if they can get past LSU in Week 1, and Iowa has a chance to be unbeaten heading into its stretch run of November because the Hawkeyes’ schedule is very favorable.</p> <p> <strong>— Franklin’s debut:</strong> James Franklin will make his Big Ten Media Days debut after coming over from Vanderbilt, although he will be less impressed by the media turnout considering he dealt with the circus in Hoover every year while with the Commodores. He’ll likely be asked about PSU’s lingering sanctions as well as star quarterback Christian Hackenberg, who is already one of the best players in the country. He is one of eleven returning starting quarterbacks in the league. Keep in mind thay Kerry Collins was the last Big Ten signal-caller drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft.</p> <p> <strong>— Kill’s health:</strong> Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill’s bouts with epileptic seizures have been well documented, and he was forced to coach from upstairs for a good portion of last season. While he is healthy and ready to put those issues behind him, Kill may have to answer questions about whether he’s concerned about possible recurrences moving forward.</p> <p> <strong>— The new postseason:</strong> For the first time ever, major college football has a playoff system in place to crown a national champion. The College Football Playoff has replaced the BCS, so expect nearly every head coach and player in attendance to be asked to give his thoughts on the matter.</p> <p> <strong>— Paying players: </strong>Even the casual college football fan is aware of the various issues the NCAA has been dealing with both in the courts and outside of them, including autonomy for the Power Five conferences. Big Ten players will likely be asked to give their thoughts about issues such as cost of attendance, unionization, getting paid to play, etc., in addition to queries about the new playoff. And it’s likely that Northwestern players Ibraheim Campbell, Collin Ellis and Trevor Siemian will have to deal with a surplus of media asking about player unionization.</p> <p> <strong>— Abdullah’s speech:</strong> Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah will speak on Tuesday at the kickoff luncheon, and the former unheralded recruit should share his story of growing up in a large family in Alabama and discuss his journey toward becoming one of the best running backs in the country.</p> <p> <em>Dave Miller, the college football editor for the National Football Post, is on Twitter <a href=”https://twitter.com/Miller_Dave” target=”_blank”>@Miller_Dave</a>.</em></p>

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Lighter in the pockets

<p> The NFL announced on Wednesday that Philadelphia Eagles offensive tackle Lane Johnson has been <a href="http://footballpost.wpengine.com/Eagles-announce-Lane-Johnsons-fourgame-PED-suspension.html" target="_self">suspended for the first four games</a> of the regular season for violating its performance enhancing drugs policy.</p> <p> Johnson received a fully guaranteed four-year, $19,853,104 contract, which included a $12,818,620 signing bonus, as the fourth overall pick of

<p> The NFL announced on Wednesday that Philadelphia Eagles offensive tackle Lane Johnson has been <a href=”http://footballpost.wpengine.com/Eagles-announce-Lane-Johnsons-fourgame-PED-suspension.html” target=”_self”>suspended for the first four games</a> of the regular season for violating its performance enhancing drugs policy.</p> <p> Johnson received a fully guaranteed four-year, $19,853,104 contract, which included a $12,818,620 signing bonus, as the fourth overall pick of the 2013 NFL draft. His 2014 salary consists of a $495,000 base salary and an $812,414 fifth day of training camp roster bonus.</p> <p class=”co_image co_image_right inline_right”> <img alt=”Lane Johnson” src=”http://cdn.cloudfiles.mosso.com/c1910342/media_center/images/rendered/blog/wysiwyg/lj11.jpg” />Johnson will miss the first four games of the 2014 regular season.</p> <p> Johnson’s suspension will cost him $934,224. He will lose $116,470 (4/17ths) of his base salary. The Eagles will recoup the same proportion (4/17ths) of the prorated amount of his signing bonus ($3,204,655) as he’s losing in base salary. This amounts to $754,036. Under the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement, the standard of recoupment is different for roster, reporting and option bonuses than with signing bonuses, but Johnson will also forfeit $63,718 of his roster bonus. Johnson will be playing the 2014 season for $373,190 instead of the $1,307,414 he was originally scheduled to make.</p> <p> Johnson’s contract contains language that voids the remaining salary guarantees with a suspension. Most NFL contracts have these types of clauses. Johnson’s suspension wipes out the $6,629,484 of salary guarantees he had in his 2014 through 2016 contract years.</p> <p> The voiding of Johnson’s guarantees gives the Eagles leverage to ask Johnson for a pay cut in the future and lowers the salary cap charges if they release him. For instance, Johnson’s entire $6,316,897 2016 cap number would have counted against the Eagles’ cap upon release in 2016 without the suspension. Since Johnson’s $3,112,242 2016 salary ($675,000 base salary and $2,437,242 fifth day of training camp roster bonus) is no longer guaranteed, the only cap charge for the Eagles will be $3,204,665 of signing bonus proration if he is cut in 2016.</p> <p> The ramifications for Dion Jordan, the third overall pick of the 2013 NFL draft by the Miami Dolphins, with his <a href=”http://footballpost.wpengine.com/Dolphins-Dion-Jordan-suspended-for-four-games-for-PED-violation.html” target=”_self”>four-game performance enhancing drugs suspension</a> are like Johnson’s, but a little steeper since he got $719,194 more for being selected one pick higher.</p> <p> <strong>Follow me on Twitter:</strong> @<a href=”http://www.twitter.com/corryjoel” target=”_blank”>corryjoel</a></p> <p> <em><strong>Joel Corry is a former sports agent who helped found Premier Sports & Entertainment, a sports management firm that represents professional athletes and coaches. Prior to his tenure at Premier, Joel worked for Management Plus Enterprises, which represented Shaquille O’Neal, Hakeem Olajuwon and Ronnie Lott. You can email Joel at jccorry@gmail.com. </strong></em></p>

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The top nonconference games in 2014

<p> <a class="twitter-follow-button" data-show-count="false" href="https://twitter.com/Miller_Dave">Follow @Miller_Dave</a><script>!function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");</script></p> <p> There's nothing better in college football than when conference play begins and teams start competing for league titles.</p> <p> But before we get into late September and early October when league action kicks into high gear, nonconference play is all the rage. And, as usual, late November

<p> <a class=”twitter-follow-button” data-show-count=”false” href=”https://twitter.com/Miller_Dave”>Follow @Miller_Dave</a><script>!function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src=”//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js”;fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,”script”,”twitter-wjs”);</script></p> <p> There’s nothing better in college football than when conference play begins and teams start competing for league titles.</p> <p> But before we get into late September and early October when league action kicks into high gear, nonconference play is all the rage. And, as usual, late November features in-state battles that could have College Football Playoff berths on the line. Plus, there’s always the intriguing Notre Dame schedule to keep an eye on.</p> <p> Let’s take a look at some of the biggest nonconference contests on the slate for 2014.</p> <p> <strong>Saturday, Aug. 30</strong></p> <p class=”co_image co_image_right inline_right”> <img alt=”John Chavis” src=”http://cdn.cloudfiles.mosso.com/c1910342/media_center/images/rendered/blog/wysiwyg/John-Chavis.jpg” />What does LSU’s John Chavis have in store for the Wisconsin ground game?</p> <p> <strong>LSU vs. Wisconsin (in Houston): </strong>If the Badgers are able to get by a Tigers squad that will be dominated by youth on the offensive side of the ball, the schedule sets up nicely for Gary Andersen’s squad to be a <a href=”http://footballpost.wpengine.com/College-Football-Playoff-sleepers-for-2014.html” target=”_self”>dark horse contender for a spot</a> in the first-ever College Football Playoff. Meanwhile, John Chavis will be looking to see what young defenders are ready to become stars for the Bayou Bengals. One thing is certain: this game will feature two clinics in the power run game.</p> <p> <strong>Clemson at Georgia:</strong> There’s a chance this game could top last year’s clash, although Clemson’s offense will be breaking in several new starters at the skill positions in addition to quarterback Cole Stoudt. Meanwhile, Jeremy Pruitt will be making his debut as Georgia’s defensive coordinator, though the unit may be susceptible to Chad Morris and that Tigers offensive attack. Both teams have a chance to notch a big early season win. The Bulldogs are loaded on offense, but the Tigers finally have a defense capable of helping the team claim an ACC title.</p> <p> <strong>Florida State vs. Oklahoma State (in Arlington): </strong>The Seminoles will kick off the defense of their national championship with a game against a Cowboys team that lost a lot of talent from a squad that thoroughly defeated then-unbeaten Baylor last fall. Will the Pokes be ready for the moment in Jerry’s World?</p> <p> <strong>Saturday, Sept. 6</strong></p> <p> <strong>Michigan State at Oregon:</strong> This game is still going a bit under the radar nationally in my opinion, because this clash has a chance to be the nonconference game of the year. Despite losing some pieces to the NFL, Mark Dantonio and Pat Narduzzi’s defense should still be stout. But it will face a Heisman Trophy-contending quarterback in Marcus Mariota and the high-powered offense overseen by Mark Helfrich and Scott Frost.</p> <p> <strong>Virginia Tech at Ohio State:</strong> Hokies head coach Frank Beamer believes that he’ll get improved play along the offensive line and at running back, two areas that the team has struggled in the past two seasons. That will be necessary if the Hokies have any chance of regaining upper-echelon status in the ACC this year. They will face one of the best defensive lines in the country, however, and the Urban Meyer Power Spread offense in this early season matchup. What does Hokies DC Bud Foster have cooked up for Braxton Miller and a revamped offensive line?</p> <p> <strong>Saturday, Sept. 13</strong></p> <p> <strong>Texas vs. UCLA (in Arlington):</strong> One week after hosting BYU in a rematch from their debacle last season (Cougars QB Taysom Hill is still running wild against the Longhorns’ rushing defense), the ‘Horns face the biggest test of the very young Charlie Strong era when Jim L. Mora’s Bruins arrive in the Lone Star State. The Longhorns should be both physically and mentally stronger under their new head coach, but Brett Hundley could be primed for a special season in his third year under center for the Bruins.</p> <p> <strong>Thursday, Sept. 18</strong></p> <p> <strong>Auburn at Kansas State:</strong> The Wildcats have a chance to alter the course of the national championship picture with a win in the Little Apple against the BCS title runner-ups from last season. Gus Malzahn’s offense is expected to be even better with Nick Marshall’s improved passing game, playmakers all around as well as a veteran offensive line. But the K-State defense will be primed for this Thursday night showdown, especially after a bye week. Never overlook a Bill Snyder-coached squad.</p> <p> <strong>Saturday, Sept. 20</strong></p> <p class=”co_image co_image_right inline_right”> <img alt=”Ryan Williams” src=”http://cdn.cloudfiles.mosso.com/c1910342/media_center/images/rendered/blog/wysiwyg/Ryan-Williams-1603.jpg” />Will Ryan Williams be under center when the ‘Canes battle in Lincoln?</p> <p> <strong>Miami (FL) at Nebraska:</strong> The Hurricanes have a very difficult September slate, and it continues with an old-school nonconference tilt in Lincoln against the Cornhuskers before a tricky home game against Duke. Once a fixture of national title and Orange Bowl games (including the classic 1984 tilt), these two programs are looking to become household names again. Will Ryan Williams be back under center for the ‘Canes after his ACL injury, and are the Blackshirts really back for the ‘Huskers?</p> <p> <strong>Saturday, Oct. 4</strong></p> <p> <strong>Stanford at Notre Dame: </strong>The Cardinal lost a lot of talent on defense, but the type of athletes David Shaw and his staff have been able to bring in the last few recruiting cycles should keep the unit sound. However, Brian Kelly and the Irish will lean a bit more on the offense this season. And while he has not officially won the starting job, Everett Golson <a href=”http://footballpost.wpengine.com/OConnell-so-impressed-with-Golsons-overall-skill-set.html” target=”_self”>is primed for a huge 2014 campaign</a>. The Irish took the contest in 2012 in the memorable “goal-line stand” game, while the Cardinal pounded out a seven-point victory a year ago.</p> <p> <strong>Saturday, Oct. 18</strong></p> <p> <strong>Notre Dame at Florida State:</strong> A week after hosting a dangerous North Carolina squad, the Irish play the best team in the ACC in Tallahassee. While the oddsmakers don’t love the Irish on the road, this should still be a test for the ‘Noles. As mentioned above, ND should be prolific on offense. But the ‘Noles have talent littered across the defense under new DC Charles Kelly. Offensively, Jameis Winston and Co. will put pressure on the ND defense all night. FSU has won the last two meetings in 2003 and 2011.</p> <p> <strong>Friday, Oct. 24</strong></p> <p> <strong>BYU at Boise State: </strong>There are few things as satisfying as an exciting West Coast game on a Friday night, and this game shouldn’t disappoint. The Cougars snagged a win last year in Provo, and this will be the third consecutive season these programs are meeting. First-year Broncos head coach Bryan Harsin will be looking for a marquee noncon win as he leads his team through the Mountain West schedule, but Cougars quarterback Taysom Hill will try to steal the show with his dual-threat ways.</p> <p> <strong>Saturday, Nov. 8</strong></p> <p> <strong>Notre Dame at Arizona State: </strong>Are the Sun Devils a legitimate national title contender? We’ll find out how they stack up against the Irish this season after falling to ND 37-34 a year ago in Arlington. Turnovers were the issue for the Sun Devils in that loss, as they gave the ball to the Irish three times. Will Todd Graham’s team be in sync defensively by the time the calendar flips to November?</p> <p> <strong>Saturday, Nov. 29</strong></p> <p> <strong>South Carolina at Clemson:</strong> Have you heard Steve Spurrier recently any time he has been around a mic? The Gamecocks’ advantage over the Tigers in recent years is brought up most every time (the ‘Cocks haven’t lost to the Tigers since 2008), so Dabo Swinney and Co. will try to reverse the trend in this Palmetto State clash. How deeply entrenched (or not) will both teams be in the College Football Playoff race when they meet?</p> <p> <strong>Florida at Florida State: </strong>How improved will the Gators be this fall? I believe that the addition of Kurt Roper will be huge for this team and help save <a href=”http://footballpost.wpengine.com/Top-10-coaching-hot-seats-in-2014.html” target=”_self”>Will Muschamp’s job</a> (much like Chad Morris did for Dabo Swinney a few years back), and Muschamp has stated that he believes this is his most talented team yet. But this Sunshine State game is in Tallahassee. Will the ‘Noles be en route to a berth in the College Football Playoff?</p> <p> <strong>Note: </strong>For the sake of some brevity, not every intriguing nonconference game is included on this list. However, these contests are also certainly worth watching: Boise State-Ole Miss (in Atlanta), Kentucky-Louisville, Michigan-Notre Dame, Arkansas-Texas Tech, Minnesota-TCU, Iowa-Pittsburgh, North Carolina-Notre Dame, Louisville-Notre Dame, Georgia Tech-Georgia and Notre Dame-USC.</p> <p> <em>Dave Miller, the college football editor for the National Football Post, is on Twitter <a href=”https://twitter.com/Miller_Dave” target=”_blank”>@Miller_Dave</a>.</em></p>

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2014 Big 12 Media Days preview

<p> <a class="twitter-follow-button" data-show-count="false" href="https://twitter.com/Miller_Dave">Follow @Miller_Dave</a><script>!function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");</script></p> <p> With SEC Media Days complete and the ACC concluding its gathering today, the Big 12 is set to take center stage for its Media Days on Monday and Tuesday in Dallas.</p> <p> Here are some things to keep an eye on when members of the media talk

<p> <a class=”twitter-follow-button” data-show-count=”false” href=”https://twitter.com/Miller_Dave”>Follow @Miller_Dave</a><script>!function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src=”//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js”;fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,”script”,”twitter-wjs”);</script></p> <p> With SEC Media Days complete and the ACC concluding its gathering today, the Big 12 is set to take center stage for its Media Days on Monday and Tuesday in Dallas.</p> <p> Here are some things to keep an eye on when members of the media talk to coaches and players.</p> <p> <strong>— A Strong start in Austin?: </strong>Longtime Texas head coach Mack Brown is no longer in Austin, as Charlie Strong has arrived from Louisville looking to make the Longhorns the top brand in the state once again. We know that Strong will bring a newfound mental and physical toughness to the program, but will that translate into more wins in 2014 while navigating a tough schedule?</p> <p class=”co_image co_image_right inline_right”> <img alt=”Dana Holgorsen” src=”http://cdn.cloudfiles.mosso.com/c1910342/media_center/images/rendered/blog/wysiwyg/holgie.jpg” />Is Dana Holgorsen the longterm answer in Morgantown?</p> <p> <strong>— Hot seat talk: </strong>West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen and Kansas head coach Charlie Weis occupy <a href=”http://footballpost.wpengine.com/Top-10-coaching-hot-seats-in-2014.html” target=”_self”>two of the hottest coaching seats in the country</a>. The shine is off of the Mountaineer armor since the 70-point effort against Clemson in the Orange Bowl to conclude Holgorsen’s 10-3 debut campaign. Since then, WVU compiled a 7-6 mark the following season after jumping out to a 5-0 start behind Geno Smith and Co., and last year the squad bottomed out at 4-8 — including losses to Kansas and Iowa State. The Mountaineers have posted just a 6-14 mark in their past 20 Big 12 games. Meanwhile, Weis has compiled a 4-20 mark in his two seasons with the Jayhawks. While it’s not exactly easy to win in Lawrence, two of his wins were against South Dakota State and South Dakota. Weis limped out of South Bend, so it doesn’t appear that program-building is a strength of the longtime NFL coordinator.</p> <p> <strong>An early season statement?: </strong>I posted a piece recently about <a href=”http://footballpost.wpengine.com/College-Football-Playoff-sleepers-for-2014.html” target=”_self”>potential College Football Playoff sleepers</a>, and one of the teams I listed was Kansas State. Bill Snyder’s squad rebounded nicely last fall after stumbling out of the gate at 2-4, as the Wildcats won six of their final seven to close out 2013. Jake Waters will have a full season as the starter under center, and receiver Tyler Lockett is one of the most explosive and productive players in the country. The reason I included K-State on the list, however, is because of the schedule. The ‘Cats have a chance to make noise on the national landscape with a win on September 18 at home against BCS title runner-up Auburn following a bye week. And while road games loom at Oklahoma and Baylor, the strength of schedule factor would make a one-loss Big 12 team appealing to the selection committee. However, it will be interesting to see how the committee handles a team from the league, which does not hold a conference championship game. Meanwhile. could Baylor’s nonconference slate end up hurting a potential one-loss Bears squad led by <a href=”http://footballpost.wpengine.com/PostSpring-potential-2014-Heisman-Trophy-contenders.html” target=”_self”>Heisman Trophy-contending quarterback</a> Bryce Petty?</p> <p> <strong>Don’t sleep on TCU:</strong> The Horned Frogs landed quarterback Matt Joeckel via transfer from Texas A&M, and he should be able to help improve the team’s offense. The fifth-year senior will improve the decision-making at the position, and it will allow Trevone Boykin to focus on being a receiver. The Frogs brought in co-offensive coordinators Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie to run an up-tempo spread scheme, so there is optimism in Fort Worth.</p> <p> <strong>— The debut of a playoff: </strong>For the first time ever, major college football has a playoff system in place for the postseason. The College Football Playoff has replaced the BCS, so most every coach and player in attendance will likely be asked to give his thoughts on the matter.</p> <p> <strong>— Paying players:</strong> The NCAA has been dealing with a plethora of issues both in the courts and outside of them, including autonomy for the Power Five conferences. Players will likely be asked to give their thoughts about issues such as cost of attendance, unionization, getting paid to play, etc. Besides those about the new playoff, questions on these matters will be tossed around during this event.</p> <p> <strong>— The schedule (all times ET):</strong></p> <p> <strong>Monday</strong><br /> <br /> 10 a.m.: Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby<br /> 11 a.m.: Baylor head coach Art Briles, quarterback Bryce Petty, wide receiver Antwan Goodley, linebacker Bryce Hager and defensive end Shawn Oakman<br /> 11:30 a.m.: Kansas head coach Charlie Weis, wide receiver Nick Harwell, linebacker Ben Heeney, tight end Jimmay Mundine and safety Cassius Sendish<br /> 12 p.m.: TCU head coach Gary Patterson, safety Sam Carter, defensive tackle Chucky Hunter, center Joey Hunt and wide receiver David Porter<br /> 12:30 p.m.: Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy, wide receiver Jhajuan Seales, cornerback Kevin Peterson and linebacker Ryan Simmons<br /> 1 p.m.: Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury, wide receiver Bradley Marquez, linebacker Sam Eguavoen and running back Kenny Williams</p> <p> <strong>Tuesday</strong><br /> <br /> 9:30 a.m.: Big 12 coordinator of officials Walt Anderson<br /> 10:30 a.m.: College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock<br /> 11 a.m.: Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops, quarterback Trevor Knight, linebacker Geneo Grissom, defensive tackle Chuka Ndulue, offensive tackle Daryl Williams and safety Julian Wilson<br /> 11:30 a.m.: Iowa State head coach Paul Rhoads, offensive lineman Tom Farnick, defensive end Cory Morrissey, tight end E.J. Bibbs and linebacker Jevohn Miller<br /> 12 p.m.: West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen, wide receiver Kevin White, cornerback Daryl Worley and punter Nick O’Toole<br /> 12:30 p.m.: Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder, wide receiver Tyler Lockett, quarterback Jake Waters, defensive end Ryan Mueller, linebacker Jonathan Truman and offensive lineman B.J. Finney<br /> 1 p.m.: Texas head coach Charlie Strong, center Dominic Espinosa, running back Malcolm Brown, cornerback Quandre Diggs and defensive end Cedric Reed</p> <p> <em>Dave Miller, the college football editor for the National Football Post, is on Twitter <a href=”https://twitter.com/Miller_Dave” target=”_blank”>@Miller_Dave</a>.</em></p>

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Could Tim Tebow end up in the CFL?

<p> Every so often Montreal Alouettes general manager Jim Popp checks in with Tim Tebow’s agent in hopes of bringing the former University of Florida star north of the border.</p> <p> “We would love to see him,” Popp told NFP.</p> <p> Perhaps that’s not just wishful thinking by Popp, who has spoken with Tebow’s father,

<p> Every so often Montreal Alouettes general manager Jim Popp checks in with Tim Tebow’s agent in hopes of bringing the former University of Florida star north of the border.</p> <p> “We would love to see him,” Popp told NFP.</p> <p> Perhaps that’s not just wishful thinking by Popp, who has spoken with Tebow’s father, Bob, but never with the quarterback himself.</p> <p> After all, his Canadian Football League team holds Tebow’s playing rights.</p> <p> <strong>The CFL negotiation list</strong></p> <p> The CFL has a draft, but it is only for Canadian citizens. Free agents can be placed on a negotiation list of 35 players. It is a first-come, first-serve, private list only known to CFL teams and the league office.</p> <p> The Alouettes could leave Tebow on that indefinitely. But if he wants to sign, Montreal, according to league rules, has to offer a contract within 10 days or take him off the list.</p> <p> CFL teams can take a player off at any time but cannot tamper with someone else’s list. Hypothetically, they could even put high school players on that list, though they cannot negotiate with them or college players until they have declared for the draft or already have spent four years in college.</p> <p class=”co_image co_image_right inline_right”> <img alt=”Tim Tebow” src=”http://cdn.cloudfiles.mosso.com/c1910342/media_center/images/rendered/blog/wysiwyg/icon19491753.jpg” /><span>ICON</span>Tebow’s stint with the New York Jets included just eight pass attempts over 12 games.</p> <p> The latter was the case with Russell Wilson, who spent four years at North Carolina State (including one red-shirt season). Marc Trestman, the offensive coordinator at N.C. State before leaving to coach the Alouettes prior to Wilson’s arrival, helped recruit the quarterback to the Wolfpack.</p> <p> Because some deemed Wilson too short to play in the NFL, there was talk that he might join the Alouettes, who are always watchful for players overlooked by the NFL.</p> <p> “This is what we have to do in our league,” Popp said. “You’ve got to project pro players and how they fit into a system.”</p> <p> Wilson, of course, opted to transfer to Wisconsin, had an outstanding year and ultimately led the Seahawks to a Super Bowl victory.</p> <p> Other noteworthy players who were once on the Alouettes’ negotiation list include Clay Matthews (a former USC walk-on once considered too slight) and Colin Kaepernick (once considered a product of a gimmicky system at Nevada).</p> <p> Michael Sam is on the Alouettes’ negotiation list in case the pass rusher does not make it in the NFL.</p> <p> Tebow, like Wilson, has a connection to the Alouettes through Trestman. Before entering the NFL, Tebow received tutoring from the quarterback guru, then-Alouettes head coach and current Chicago Bears head coach.</p> <p> <strong>A welcome opportunity</strong></p> <p> If the CFL acquiring a former first-round pick and Heisman Trophy winner like Tebow still sounds preposterous, <a href=”http://footballpost.wpengine.com/Inside-Chad-Johnsons-foray-into-the-CFL.html” target=”_self”>consider the Alouettes signed Chad Johnson</a>, a six-time Pro Bowler with the Bengals, and the wide receiver plays for them this season.</p> <p> Johnson catches passes from Troy Smith, the Ohio State quarterback who won the Heisman Trophy in 2006, the year before Tebow captured the award.</p> <p> Smith was part of the plan to fill a void left by Anthony Calvillo, who threw for 79,816 yards — more than any other quarterback in pro football history — before retiring in January, five months after suffering a concussion.</p> <p> “If there was ever a time when (Tebow) wanted a great shot,” Popp said, “now is the time.”</p> <p> One obvious drawback, though, is that Tebow likely would have to take a pay cut from what he could potentially earn doing lucrative speaking engagements.</p> <p> The CFL has a $5 million salary cap in 2014, and the average salary is about $89,285.</p> <p> Tebow, who has joined the SEC Network as an analyst, has said that he will continue pursuing an NFL playing career.</p> <p> “I’m training every day and feel like I’m the best that I’ve ever been,” Tebow told <em><strong>The Tennessean</strong></em> last month. “I still love it, love playing, talking about it and I’m just excited about whatever the future holds. Who knows what could happen?”</p> <p> The Patriots cut Tebow during the 2013 preseason. He spent the 2010 and 2011 seasons with the Broncos and 2012 with the Jets. Though his Broncos tenure included inconsistent play and wobbly passes, he led Denver to an AFC West title in 2011. Despite completing just 46.5 percent of his passes, Tebow used the read-option to pilot Denver during his 7-4 regular season record and won a playoff game on an 80-yard TD pass.</p> <p> “He may not be conventional,” Popp said. “We know the character. We know he’s been a champion. We know he’s a winner.”</p> <p> Even if the two-time BCS national champion decides to play in the CFL, some believe he would not be a good fit. The inclement weather represents a challenge for the passer — as does the wide field. Twelve yards wider than the NFL’s, it places an emphasis on passing accuracy, which has been Tebow’s greatest flaw.</p> <p> Will Tebow ever take snaps on that wide field for the Alouettes?</p> <p> “I don’t really for sure know,” Popp said. “His agent’s always given us the same answer: ‘He’s still trying to get back in the NFL, and that’s what he’s concentrating on.’”</p> <p> <strong>Follow Jeff on Twitter:</strong> @<a href=”http://www.twitter.com/jfedotin” target=”_blank”>JFedotin</a></p> <p> <em><strong>Jeff Fedotin has written for Packers.com, Pro Football Weekly, ESPN The Magazine, the Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World and Rivals.com. After graduating from Northwestern University, he interned for the Buffalo Bills. During his football playing days at Pembroke Hill (Mo.) School, Fedotin was known for his bad knees and even worse blocking. </strong></em></p>

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2014 ACC Media Days preview

<p> <a class="twitter-follow-button" data-show-count="false" href="https://twitter.com/Miller_Dave">Follow @Miller_Dave</a><script>!function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");</script></p> <p> With SEC Media Days complete, we move onto the gathering for members of the ACC.</p> <p> The league's Football Kickoff takes place on Sunday and Monday at the Grandover Resort in Greensboro, N.C.</p> <p> Here are some things to keep an eye on when members of the

<p> <a class=”twitter-follow-button” data-show-count=”false” href=”https://twitter.com/Miller_Dave”>Follow @Miller_Dave</a><script>!function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src=”//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js”;fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,”script”,”twitter-wjs”);</script></p> <p> With SEC Media Days complete, we move onto the gathering for members of the ACC.</p> <p> The league’s Football Kickoff takes place on Sunday and Monday at the Grandover Resort in Greensboro, N.C.</p> <p> Here are some things to keep an eye on when members of the media talk to coaches and players.</p> <p class=”co_image co_image_right inline_right”> <img alt=”Jameis Winston” src=”http://cdn.cloudfiles.mosso.com/c1910342/media_center/images/rendered/blog/wysiwyg/Jameis-Winston5.jpg” /><span>US PRESSWIRE</span>Jameis Winston will be at the ACC’s Football Kickoff.</p> <p> <strong>— Famous Jameis: </strong>Defending Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston will be in attendance, and he’ll likely be asked about his citation for stealing crab legs but also the rape investigation that took place before that as well. The expectations are super high for the talented signal-caller, his teammates and head coach Jimbo Fisher as they look to defend their national championship.</p> <p> <strong>— The champs:</strong> The Seminoles have 14 starters back from last season’s squad that won the final BCS national title, including Winston. Fisher’s team should be able to retain its prolific ways on offense despite losing some weapons, and there is plenty of talent such as Mario Edwards Jr., Ronald Darby and Jalen Ramsey on the defensive unit now led by coordinator Charles Kelly. And the ‘Noles get Clemson at home, although <a href=”http://footballpost.wpengine.com/College-Football-Playoff-sleepers-for-2014.html” target=”_self”>the Tigers are one of my playoff sleepers</a>. Can the ACC win another title after ending the SEC’s crystal ball dominance? We’ll get our usual ACC-SEC regular season matchups in the form of Clemson-Georgia, Georgia-Georgia Tech, Florida-Florida State, Kentucky-Louisville, South Carolina-Clemson, etc. The ACC hasn’t had a winning record against the SEC since 2003.</p> <p> <strong>— The playoff: </strong>For the first time ever, <a href=”http://footballpost.wpengine.com/Top-contenders-for-the-first-College-Football-Playoff.html” target=”_self”>major college football has a playoff system in place</a> for the postseason. The College Football Playoff has replaced the BCS, so it’s likely that most every coach and player in attendance will be asked to give his thoughts on the matter.</p> <p> <strong>— Petrino:</strong> Bobby Petrino is back at Louisville, but this time around the Cardinals will play in the ACC, which welcomes the program as well as partial football member Notre Dame. Petrino will attract a large media swarm because of the way he was dismissed from Arkansas and the way he left Louisville when he was first with the Cardinals. Is Louisville being overlooked in the ACC Atlantic?</p> <p> <strong>— Hot seat talk: </strong>Virginia’s Mike London occupies the hottest coaching seat in the country <a href=”http://footballpost.wpengine.com/Top-10-coaching-hot-seats-in-2014.html” target=”_self”>outside of Florida’s Will Muschamp</a>. The boss of the Hoos is 18-31 in five seasons in Charlottesville, and his lone bowl appearance came in 2011 when he led the team to an 8-5 mark. The Cavaliers bottomed out last year, going winless in the ACC. He was able to still land stud recruits Andrew Brown and Quin Blanding to help out coordinator Jon Tenuta’s defense. But he has an uphill battle in 2014 because in addition to an improved ACC slate, UVA has to face UCLA and BYU in nonconference play. Meanwhile, Georgia Tech’s Paul Johnson has not taken the Yellow Jackets on an upward climb since their Orange Bowl berth in the 2009 season, losing at least six games in three of the last four years in a mediocre ACC Coastal division. There were whispers that Johnson was not happy with his current situation, but the real question is whether the GT administration will be happy with him following this season.</p> <p> <strong>— Paying players:</strong> The NCAA is dealing with a variety of issues both in court and outside of it, including autonomy from the Power Five. So what do players think about cost of attendance, unionization, getting paid to play, etc.? Besides those about the new playoff, questions on these matters will be tossed around.</p> <p> <strong>— The commish: </strong>League commissioner John Swofford will discuss the current and future states of the conference as well as possibly an ACC Network. He’ll also likely discuss issues such as Power Five autonomy, much like SEC commissioner Mike Slive did earlier in the week.</p> <p> <strong>— The schedule (all times ET):</strong><br /> <br /> <strong>Sunday</strong></p> <p> 12:30 p.m.: ACC commissioner John Swofford<br /> 2 p.m.: Virginia running back Kevin Parks and safety Anthony Harris<br /> 2:15 p.m.: Duke offensive guard Laken Tomlinson and linebacker Kelby Brown<br /> 2:30 p.m.: Clemson quarterback Cole Stoudt and defensive end Vic Beasley<br /> 2:45 p.m.: North Carolina quarterback Marquise Williams and outside linebacker Norkeithus Otis<br /> 3 p.m.: Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston and cornerback P.J. Williams<br /> 3:15 p.m.: Wake Forest fullback Jordan Garside and cornerback Kevin Johnson<br /> 3:30 p.m.: Boston College center Andy Gallik and defensive back Dominique Williams<br /> 3:56 p.m.: NC State running back Tony Creecy and defensive end Art Norman<br /> 4:11 p.m.: Virginia Tech wide receiver Willie Byrn and defensive tackle Luther Maddy.<br /> 4:26 p.m.: Georgia Tech offensive lineman Shaquille Mason and linebacker Quayshawn Nealy<br /> 5:01 p.m.: Pittsburgh wide receiver Tyler Boyd and defensive back Ray Vinopal<br /> 5:16 p.m.: Miami (FL) running back Duke Johnson and linebacker Denzel Perryman<br /> 5:31 p.m.: Louisville wide receiver DeVante Parker and defensive end Lorenzo Mauldin<br /> 5:46 p.m.: Syracuse offensive tackle Sean Hickey and linebacker Cameron Lynch</p> <p> <strong>Monday</strong><br /> <br /> 2 p.m.: North Carolina head coach Larry Fedora<br /> 2:15 p.m.: Virginia head coach Mike London<br /> 2:30 p.m.: Wake Forest head coach Dave Clawson<br /> 2:45 p.m.: ACC commissioner John Swofford<br /> 3:10 p.m.: Boston College head coach Steve Addazio<br /> 3:25 p.m.: Duke head coach David Cutcliffe<br /> 3:40 p.m.: Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher<br /> 3:55 p.m.: NC State head coach Dave Doeren<br /> 4:10 p.m.: Miami (FL) head coach Al Golden<br /> 4:25 p.m.: Pittsburgh head coach Paul Chryst<br /> 4:40 p.m.: Syracuse head coach Scott Shafer<br /> 4:55 p.m.: Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson<br /> 5:10 p.m.: Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino<br /> 5:25 p.m.: Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer<br /> 5:40 p.m.: Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney</p> <p> <em>Dave Miller, the college football editor for the National Football Post, is on Twitter <a href=”https://twitter.com/Miller_Dave” target=”_blank”>@Miller_Dave</a>.</em></p>

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Throwbacks #4: Origins

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How did the draft and the NFL become what it is today? We tell you the stories of the first NFL Draft, as well as the one

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How did the draft and the NFL become what it is today? We tell you the stories of the first NFL Draft, as well as the one man whose vision molded the league you know and love.

Music featured in this episode by the following (in order of appearance):  
Ending Satellites – A Day in Port-Royal

Dexter Britain – Summers Coming

Simon Robinson – Country Trouble

Jaakko – Rosa Mota

Monster Rally – Sun Bum

Dexter Britain – From the Dream of Life

Explosions in the Sky – Welcome, Ghosts

The Freak Fandango Orchestra – Requiem for a Fish

Our first story, “Joe Carr’s Vision” was written by Chris Willis and originally appeared in a 2003 edition of the Coffin Corner. 

Our second story was written by Ken Crippen and originally appeared on National Football Post.

If you like the show, want to be a part of it, or want to see us cover a great story, please reach out to me at erik.oehler@nationalfootballpost.com.

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With the 21st pick in the draft, the Green Bay Packers select…

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, FS, Alabama (6-1, 208 pounds)

Packers GM Ted Thompson has consistently addded to his defensive backfield in recent years, this time with safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix coming at a plus value, Thompson opted for the best player available and landed one of the best defensive backs in the draft.

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, FS, Alabama (6-1, 208 pounds)

Packers GM Ted Thompson has consistently addded to his defensive backfield in recent years, this time with safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix coming at a plus value, Thompson opted for the best player available and landed one of the best defensive backs in the draft.

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Throwbacks #3: Mysterious

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President Nixon wasn't the only president to resign on August 8th, 1974. This week, we tell the story of the downfall of the WFL, as well as

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President Nixon wasn’t the only president to resign on August 8th, 1974. This week, we tell the story of the downfall of the WFL, as well as the story of the most hyped player to never play a game. Or did he?

Music featured in this episode by the following (in order of appearance):  

et_ – Kopeika
YACHT – Holly Roller

Milt Buckner – The Beast

Los Amigos Invisibles – ChaChaborro

Remus – Resistance main theme

Charles Atlas – Demus

Jose Travieso – Zombie Nation

Hugh Masekela – Grazing in the Grass

The Freak Fandango Orchestra – Requiem for a Fish

Our first story, “Papergate and the demise of the WFL” was written and read by Denis M. Crawford. He is a freelance writer in Boardman, Ohio. He is the author of “McKay’s Men” and “Hugh Culverhouse and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers”. Denis is an assitant editor of the Coffin Corner and his currently working on this third book, a biography of sports entrepreneur John Bassett.

Our second story was written by Michael D. Benter. He is a freelance writer and sports historian from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. A member of the Professional Football Researchers Association and the North American Society for Sport History, Benter has written three books, two football-related: The Badgers: Milwaukee’s NFL Entry of 1922-1926 (St. Johann Press, 2013) and The Green and Gold Glory Years Quiz Book: Green Bay’s Championship Teams of the 1960s (Benterprises Publications). He is an occasional contributor to Coffin Corner, a publication of the PFRA. 

If you like the show, want to be a part of it, or want to see us cover a great story, please reach out to me at erik.oehler@nationalfootballpost.com.

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Cowboys win coin toss vs. Ravens, get 16th overall pick

The Dallas Cowboys will pick 16th overall in the upcoming NFL draft after winning a coin toss early Wednesday morning.

The Cowboys and the Baltimore Ravens both finished 8-8 and had the same opponents' winning percentage. Therefore a coin flip decided which team would pick where.

The NFL draft will take place

The Dallas Cowboys will pick 16th overall in the upcoming NFL draft after winning a coin toss early Wednesday morning.

The Cowboys and the Baltimore Ravens both finished 8-8 and had the same opponents’ winning percentage. Therefore a coin flip decided which team would pick where.

The NFL draft will take place from May 8-10.

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Richie Incognito back on Twitter; rubberneckers rejoice

Richie Incognito deleted his account Friday night following a blaze of glory in which he took on all comers. He retweeted messages of support as well as threats, responding to some. This evening, the account resurfaced with several tweets expressing remorse and positivity moving forward.

Richie Incognito deleted his account Friday night following a blaze of glory in which he took on all comers. He retweeted messages of support as well as threats, responding to some. This evening, the account resurfaced with several tweets expressing remorse and positivity moving forward.

If he is paying anyone, in any capacity, to provide him with Public Relations consulting, and that person is aware he is active on Twitter, that person is failing, miserably.

Follow me on Twitter @erikoehler

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The red flag report: Taylor Lewan

The red flag report will sort out the truth from the rumors in the sea of draft coverage and make an unbiased evaluation of the risk, if any.

Taylor Lewan - LT - Michigan (SCOUTING REPORT)

The flags: Off and on field conduct

The red flag report will sort out the truth from the rumors in the sea of draft coverage and make an unbiased evaluation of the risk, if any.

>

Taylor Lewan – LT – Michigan (SCOUTING REPORT)

The flags: Off and on field conduct

What we know: In August 2013, a website published a story about rape allegations against kicker, Brandon Gibbons from 2009. Lewan became involved when, according to a police report from 2009, Lewan told a friend of the woman in the story that she had better not press charges or, “I’m going to rape her because [Gibbons] didn’t.”

Lewan was not arrested, but was formally warned by police.

Lewan was also investigated for the assault of an Ohio State fan after Michigan’s loss on November 30th. He was not formally charged. More details of the account are in the speculation section below.

Lewan’s on-field conduct has been questioned, with his critics citing his behavior in the Michigan State game from this year, in which he was seen repeatedly grabbing the facemasks of Michigan State defenders.

The backstory, which didn’t get as much attention, was that two years prior, Michigan State’s William Gholston twisted Denard Robinson’s helmet and then punched Lewan.

Lewan said openly before the game that Michigan State had “bullied” the Wolverines, and vowed to not let it happen again. It is hard to hold the one game against him. The facemask holds were not a trend in other games from 2013. He came under fire in 2010 for an abundance of personal foul penalties, often killing drives, but has improved with each season since.

Speculation: A very detailed account of the allegations surrounding the Ohio State fan assault can be found here. It was not enough for charges to be filed.

What he says: On the assault allegations, in an interview with the Arizona Republic, Lewan said, “I’m not going to get into too many details, I wasn’t in any fight. I didn’t hit anybody. I was really just trying to help out a situation and break up something. I can’t really go into any more details than that. I didn’t hit anybody or do anything like that. My focus is here. I’m sure the truth will come out and it’ll all work out.”

Regarding the Michigan State facemask holds, “A couple of those facemask deals were on accident,” Lewis said in a November interview ” … A couple of those were very blatant and I apologize for that. There are different ways to go about it, but I lost my composure for a second. That’s not OK to do. That’s not representing the University of Michigan the way it should be. That’s not taking pride in the rivalry that we have with Michigan State.”

Risk: 4/10 (MEDIUM-LOW) – Lewan is difficult to judge. I don’t believe there is enough off-field to have to worry about him getting into trouble there, but it’s still in my mind. The 2009 threat allegations, if true, are psychopath-tier behavior, but as no charges were ever filed, I can’t factor it into the risk too much. And I’m completely dismissing the assault allegations as there, once again, wasn’t enough substatial evidence to press charges. On the field, his passion may get him into trouble in the NFL. The league is less tolerant than ever when it comes to personal fouls (ask Ndamukong Suh). Lewan’s draft stock took a hit in 2013 for sure. But he’s still incredibly physically gifted, and doesn’t have enough red flags where teams will pass on him for too long.

UPDATE 3/9: Douglas Smith of Washtenaw Watchdogs informed me the investigation has been turned over to prosecutors and a decision is pending. With regards to the threat allegations, Smith said, “With regard to why there were no charges brought against Lewan for threatening the rape victim, I was told by UM Police Chief Robert Neumann (at the time he was a lieutenant), that he discussed bringing charges against Lewan with the prosecutor’s office but he was told that in order to charge him with intimidating a witness there had to be an underlying felony charge and since rape charges were not filed against Gibbons, they could not charge him with intimidating a witness (Neumann told me he had notes on the conversation but when I submitted a FOIA request for the notes the University told me there were no notes).”

Follow me on Twitter @erikoehler

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The red flag report: Jeremy Hill

The red flag report will sort out the truth from the rumors in the sea of draft coverage and make an unbiased evaluation of the risk, if any.

Jeremy Hill - RB - LSU (SCOUTING REPORT)

The flag: Multiple arrests

The red flag report will sort out the truth from the rumors in the sea of draft coverage and make an unbiased evaluation of the risk, if any.

Jeremy Hill – RB – LSU (SCOUTING REPORT)

The flag: Multiple arrests

Jeremy Hill in the Outback Bowl against Iowa

What we know: On January 12, 2011, while in high school, having already committed to LSU, Hill was arrested for the alleged sexual assault of a 14 year-old girl. (charged officially with oral sexual battery) The Baton Rouge Police Department said Hill and another student pressured the girl to perform oral sex in the boys’ locker room. (SOURCE)

LSU allowed him to sign, and he sat out the 2011 season as the legal process played out.
In January 2012, he plead guilty to “carnal knowledge of a juvenile”, which is a misdemeanor. He was sentenced to two years probation. (SOURCE)

On April 27th, 2013, Hill was arrested for simple battery in connection with a fight outside Reggie’s Bar in Tigerland. Hill was suspended from the team.

On July 8th, 2013, Hill was formally charged with simple battery, and a video of the incident was released to the public.

On July 12th, Hill plead guilty and was sentenced to two years unsupervised probation, a $375 fine for the victim’s medical bills, forced to write a letter of apology, and complete 50 hours of community service. (SOURCE) He was also ordered to not comment to the press or use social media, attend anger management classes, and was given a 9 PM curfew (later extended to 11 PM in December 2013)

On August 5th, 2013, a judge extended his probation, for having violated the terms of his original probation for two more years. Hill was reinstated to the team hours later. (SOURCE)

Speculation: Many reports of the April fight claimed Hill sucker punched the victim from behind. The video of the fight is out of context, the complete details of the night were never made public, and nowhere in it is a clear punch from behind thrown by Hill, who approaches and punches the victim on the left side.

The reinstatement of Hill to the team on August 5th was almost universally reported as being done by way of team vote. Les Miles came under fire for this, but has since clarified that the reinstatement was initiated by LSU and himself, and finalized with the consent of the team.

What others say: In May 2013, Hill’s attorney said that in the events leading up to the fight, Hill was heckled about his past. Without giving specific details, attorney Marci Blaize said “There’s no denying he’s on the video, but the video is 15 seconds long and certainly doesn’t tell you everything that happened that evening. In my experience and the cases I’ve had, there’s usually a reason why a person will strike another individual and I can tell you that’s the case here.” (SOURCE)

Of Hill, Les Miles said, “”The guy is a good person, a good college student, a guy who has not had constant bad behavior.” (SOURCE)

After Hill’s reinstatement, Quarterback Stephen Rivers said, “”It’s not like him to be in that situation. He used to live next door to me. He’s a great guy who was in the wrong spot at the wrong time. He has leadership capabilities. He showed that last year before the incident. That will be great for our team.”

What he says: Hill’s most detailed discussion of the events was at the 2013 LSU media day. He expressed remorse and a desire to move forward.

He reopened his twitter account in January, using it to declare he’d be entering the NFL draft. He has made no direct mention of either incident through it.

Risk: 6/10 (MEDIUM-HIGH) – His two arrests before the age of 21 for completely unrelated crimes do not inspire confidence in his decision making matrix, particularly with regards to their timing. The first, occurring before National signing day, with only an informal commitment to LSU jeopardized his entire college career. The second, coming while on probation, heading into what ended up being his last season at LSU, could have easily landed him jail time with a different judge at the August hearing. As a teammate, though, you can’t find a player with a single negative thing to say about him. He’s easily NFL talent, but as Greg Gabriel wrote in his scouting report of Hill, with the running back position being devalued in the draft lately, many teams will not be as open to a player with Hill’s past as Les Miles was, twice.

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The red flag report: Austin Seferian-Jenkins

The red flag report will sort out the truth from the rumors in the sea of draft coverage and make an unbiased evaluation of the risk, if any.

Austin Seferian-Jenkins - TE - Washington

The flag: DUI arrest

What we know: On March 9th,

The red flag report will sort out the truth from the rumors in the sea of draft coverage and make an unbiased evaluation of the risk, if any.

Austin Seferian-Jenkins – TE – Washington

The flag: DUI arrest

What we know: On March 9th, 2013, when he was 20 years old, Seferin-Jenkins was cited for driving under the influence in the University District in Seattle after his car was found in a drainage ditch in the south end of Ravenna Park. He hit his head on the windshield and was found with a bloody face. (SOURCE)

His blood alcohol level was .18 (SOURCE)

Seferian-Jenkins knows he was drinking at a party with friends before crashing his vehicle, but he doesn’t remember much about the arrest. (SOURCE)

Seferian-Jenkins from the October 19th game at Arizona State.

On July 15th, at his pre-trial hearing, he changed his plea from not guilty to guilty, and issued the following statement:

“On March 9, 2013, I fell well short of what is expected of me as a student athlete and a citizen of this community. I want everyone to know how sorry I am for the disappointment and embarrassment that I have caused. I especially want to apologize to my teammates, my coaches and particularly my family. I also want to apologize to the entire University of Washington family for not living up to my expectations. I hope that everyone can learn from my mistake so that they do not commit the same lapse in judgment that I committed this past March. I was always raised to be a man of my word, and I promised everyone shortly after this incident that I would accept responsibility for my actions. Today, I kept my word and will accept my punishment because I deserve it. I also want everyone to know that I will continue to learn from this mistake and will attempt to educate others to the dangers of drinking and driving. I understand that I am very fortunate that no one else was injured by my terrible lapse in judgment. To all my supporters, thank you for standing by me, but please learn from my mistake and never, ever drink and drive. I plan to move on from this, and continue to work hard to earn your respect back. Again, I am deeply sorry for my actions and I hope that at some point, you can all forgive me.” (SOURCE)

He served one day in jail in July of 2013, and was suspended for the home opener against Boise State. (SOURCE)

Speculation: The initial reporting was responsible for the most part, if not, lenient on the Seferian-Jenkins. There were a few accounts that incorrectly speculated he may not have been the driver of the vehicle.

Almost every news account stated that his blood alcohol level was .18, “nearly twice the legal limit.” It would be twice the legal limit if he were 21 years old (the limit is .08). He was 20 at the time. Washington law states that a minor driver may be charged with a DUI with an alcohol level of .02. He was, in effect, more than nine times the legal limit. (SOURCE)

The biggest misinformation I could find, though, was in the wording of articles and scouting reports since the arrest. Too often, I saw it reported, “He has had trouble with off the field issues in the past” or a similar variation. Unless there is another transgression I’m unaware of, this is a disingenuous way to phrase an isolated incident. Even NFL.com was guilty of this.

What others say: On May 6th, coach Steve Sarkisian said “To Austin’s credit, he’s done everything we could have asked and beyond. He’s done a nice job in school, in the community, he’s done all the counseling we’ve asked him to do. To his credit, he’s stayed ahead of this thing. One of the keys for me was, was (the incident) truly indicative of a young man’s character, or was it truly a mistake? It was a mistake. He’s a good individual.” (SOURCE)

Falcons’ cornerback Desmond Trufant, Seferian-Jenkins’ teammate in 2011 and 2012 said: “He made a mistake, but he’s a young kid in college. Certain things go on and sometimes you get caught up. Unfortunately, it was him, but he is definitely a good kid. I can say that for him.” (SOURCE)

What he says: His first, and most candid discussion of the incident was in December 2013 speaking to Ballard High School.

Very few athletes come off as genuinely contrite as ASJ does in that clip. And every other interview I’ve seen or read has had a similar tone. I have no reason to doubt his sincerity. There isn’t a negative feeling anywhere in his twitter account either.

Risk: 2/10 (VERY LOW) – Based on the isolated nature of the incident, and his actions since, it wouldn’t be reasonable to get overly concerned about drafting Seferian-Jenkins. Some NFL players with college DUI convictions become problems like Justin Blackmon (2010), who repeated the offense in 2012, and had two subsequent violations of the league’s substance abuse policy in 2013. Others like Kiko Alonso (2010) and Michael Floyd (2011) manage to turn things around and become steals for the NFL teams that take a chance on them. Every player is different. His on the field talent and very positive attitude should make it very easy to convince any team that does their homework on him to draft him high.

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The 6-10 syndrome

8-8, 3-13, 8-8, 6-10, 9-7, 5-11, 7-9, 7-9, 7-9, 6-10, 4-12, 6-10, 6-10, 6-10

That nauseating sequence of numbers is what the last 14 playoff-free seasons have looked like for Bills’ fans.

Over that time, I’ve seen unwatchable games, like the 2009 6-3 home loss to Cleveland. I’ve seen a

8-8, 3-13, 8-8, 6-10, 9-7, 5-11, 7-9, 7-9, 7-9, 6-10, 4-12, 6-10, 6-10, 6-10

That nauseating sequence of numbers is what the last 14 playoff-free seasons have looked like for Bills’ fans.

Over that time, I’ve seen unwatchable games, like the 2009 6-3 home loss to Cleveland. I’ve seen a lot of bad calls, like the pass interference call this season that gave Atlanta a game-tying touchdown towards the end of regulation. But mostly, I’ve seen 14 years of inexplicably poor decisions in every aspect of football operations from scouting to draft day to in-game management. I know this sounds like hyperbole, but consider the following example.

In this season’s home opener. In the second quarter of Doug Marrone’s first game as the Bills’ coach, down 10-0 to a Patriots team that looked uncharacteristically vulnerable, I sat in Ralph Wilson stadium as the Bills were facing a fourth-and-two from the Pats’ 40. C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson, and a mix of short dump passes and read options were moving the ball well for the first time in the game. This was our chance to look the perennial class of the division in the eye and let them know this year would be different. We weren’t going to be the team that lays down while they coast to another division title.

Then, it happened. Our rookie coach, the symbolic fresh start, in his first game of a four-year contract, never having more leeway to make mistakes, punted. The punt sailed into the endzone for a net of 20 yards. I turned to my friend, Pete, and said, “That’s it.”

What? No! Why?

That wasn’t the only sign that day. The few times EJ Manuel threw beyond 20 yards, it was wounded duck ugly. The Bills came back and made a game of it, ultimately losing 23-21. They won two of their next three to get to 2-2, but that game was always in my mind. Still, I held out hope longer than many, and even at 3-6, was still looking ahead on the schedule imagining they could go on a run against a string of sub-.500 opponents. I didn’t completely accept the reality of another wasted season until week 10. Down 17-3, with a little over 14 minutes left, the Bills faced a fourth-and-five on the Pittsburgh 36. They punted. Again. From the Pittsburgh 36.

The percentages of fourth down conversions aside, I’ve decided that should be a fire-able offense given the context. It should be in Doug Marrone’s contract: “If you are down 14, on the road, in the fourth quarter, with any hope of saving your season, and you punt from the opposition’s 36, you’re fired. No questions asked.” Like Chan Gailey, Dick Jauron, Mike Mularkey, and Greg Williams before him, Marrone made at least three decisions each game that I wouldn’t have made in college, playing Madden, drunk. If anything, that number is conservative. I won’t bore you any more specific plays, but I can recall every one of them because I watched every second of the cesspool of mediocrity better known as the 2013 Bills’ season.

If your team has been in the playoffs in the past decade, it probably sounds like I’m making too big a deal out of it, but they’ve punted (figuratively) on that play for the past 14 playoff-free seasons, and it’s a sickness. I’m coining this affliction, “The 6-10 Syndrome.” It’s a limbo that the Bills have been joined in by the Raiders, Browns, and the occasional transient for nearly half my lifetime. They’ve never been bad enough to get Andrew Luck, and they’ve always won just enough games to maintain the appearance that they are one piece away from turning it around. As evidenced by continually increasing season ticket sales, they succeed in selling the fans, including myself, on the same delusion.

So what’s the cure? Short of tanking intentionally, they’ve tried all the tricks. They tried signing the best available free agent (Mario Williams). They’ve replaced the GM, coach, and quarterback in the same year, twice (2010 and 2013). This brings me to Cleveland. Lombardi and company came under fire for their decisions this season, and particularly, the firing of Rob Chudzinski, but I think they may be onto something.

Greg Gabriel wrote about it, and I agree. You, sometimes, have to do things regardless of how they’re perceived because you just know it’s the right thing to do. The Bills have been doing this same dance in two, three, and four year incremental experiments of sub-par coaches and quarterbacks for 14 years. And every second or third year of those experiments, I’ve been convincing myself that they just need another year to “grow”. I’m not doing it this time. I, and the Buffalo faithful, have more than enough experience to know what bad looks like. Manuel and Marrone are bad. How you’re perceived is irrelevant. Because, currently, the perception is that every team in the league looks at us on their schedule, and pencils in a win. You should keep drafting quarterbacks until you find the right one, and you should keep looking for coaches until you find one that, literally and figuratively, isn’t going to punt from the 36.

Follow me on Twitter @erikoehler

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NFP Prospect Grading System

A 6.6 and higher – a player you would draft in the first 2 rounds
B 6.4 – 6.6 – A player you would draft in the third and fourth rounds
C 6.3 – 6.4 – a Player you would draft in rounds five thru seven.
D 6.1 – 6.2 –

A 6.6 and higher – a player you would draft in the first 2 rounds
B 6.4 – 6.6 – A player you would draft in the third and fourth rounds
C 6.3 – 6.4 – a Player you would draft in rounds five thru seven.
D 6.1 – 6.2 – a free agent
R 4.9 – reject

9.9 – 8.0 – A franchise player in the NFL with NO holes. Has to be able to carry a team at a premium position (QB, Pass Rusher). Has to be a consistently dominant player at the college level and will continue that play in the NFL. Will make a team better and take them to the next level. Has few if any flaws and multiple rare traits. You are lucky to see a player like this once in every 5 drafts.

7.9 – 7.0 – Same as above but at a non premium position. QB’s and pass rushers can be is this level but are not quite as good as an 8.0 or better player. Would be a player you would consider in the top 10 – 12 in any draft.

6.9 – 6.8 – A player who is not quite as talented as a 7.0. Should start early in his career perhaps as a rookie depending on need. Had the potential to ascend into a Pro Bowl type player. Will be one of the better players on your team. Has multiple traits for the position. Can be dominant at times. A top 20 – 22 pick in a Strong Draft.

6.7 – 6.6 – A very good college player who should develop into a solid and consistent NFL player after a period of adjustment. Will eventually start and help a championship team win on a consistent basis. A late first or top half of the second round player. You win BECAUSE of this type of player

6.5 – Same as above but to a lesser degree. Will need a little more time to develop but should become a solid starter. Will be a quality backup his first and maybe his second year depending on a teams needs and strengths but could start earlier if a top team is weak at the position. A late second to third round pick. You win WITH this type of player.

6.4 – A solid college player who has traits to succeed at the next level. He may ultimately become a 6.5 or better player and become a starter. You view this player as a solid backup type. Provides good depth for a championship team and should be able to play in a rotation. A backup with staying power.

6.3 – Will become a good backup type in the NFL. Will never be a starter but will help you if he needs to play. Is a contributor. May eventually work himself into a starters position in time but mostly seen as a backup. If he is a starter he is someone you are looking to replace. You would want to draft this player.

6.2 – A player you would not draft. Still he has the traits to compete for a roster spot or a practice squad spot while in camp. A very solid camp player.

6.1 – Same as above but to a lesser degree.

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NFP Sunday Blitz

Among the many old and hackneyed saws connected to the NFL are these two: There is nothing new under the sun in the league. And second, as noted hundreds of times already on NFP, the NFL is the consummate copycat league.

Combine the two and what do you get? Well, you get the

Among the many old and hackneyed saws connected to the NFL are these two: There is nothing new under the sun in the league. And second, as noted hundreds of times already on NFP, the NFL is the consummate copycat league.

Combine the two and what do you get? Well, you get the Seattle Seahawks’ desire for big cornerbacks and the rest of the league’s sudden love affair to emulate that with coverage defenders who can not only knock down a pass but also knock a wide receiver off his route before he even has a chance to get to the ball.

Nothing succeeds quite like success in the NFL, and with the Seahawks having carved out the best record in the NFC and advanced to Super Bowl XLVIII next Sunday with safety- or even linebacker-sized defensive backs, they have unwittingly established the template for other franchises. And as evidence of that, despite the seemingly recent phenomenon of trying to unearth bullish cornerbacks, understand that Seattle coach Pete Carroll first became enamored of the idea more than 30 years ago.

Yeah, thirty-something years ago.

As a nondescript defensive assistant at North Carolina State, Carroll was watching a training camp practice matching the Oakland Raiders and San Francisco 49ers in the early 1980s, a joint session rare in those days. This was in an era in which San Francisco coach Bill Walsh, even in the earliest days of the West Coast offense, favored big receivers such as Dwight Clark. The Raiders, not necessarily because of the 49ers, but because owner Al Davis coveted size and speed, countered with cornerbacks Mike Haynes and Lester Hayes.

Watching the practice, and taking note of the difficulty the San Francisco receivers had in getting releases and moving into their routes, the synapses fired in Carroll’s fertile cranium. While he hasn’t always succeeded in finding bigger cornerbacks in his various incarnations as a head coach at the college and the professional levels, Carroll recalled that innocuous practice at every stop. He tied the adage that “bigger is better” to a position where it historically hadn’t always been applied.

For whatever reason – and despite the successes of teams like Pittsburgh, which had Hall of Fame cornerback Mel Blount, a horse of a man at nearly 6-feet-4 – the notion of big cornerbacks was hardly a widespread one. But Carroll, who concedes he is hardly a visionary, saw the possibilities. “I just thought that adding another kind of physical (obstacle) that receivers would have to deal with was a way to go,” he said. “It was just obvious watching that (1980s) practice.”

Recalled the verbose Hayes, who has been considered in the past for Hall of Fame induction, and probably should keep company with his old buddy Haynes in the Canton shrine: “I remember that (wide receivers) didn’t like playing us. We were good. We were physical. And, man, we were big. I mean, you didn’t see guys who were 6 feet, 6-1, whatever out there at corner that much, you know?”

Thirty years later, the bigger cornerbacks aren’t as prevalent as some coaches likely wish they were – “Hey, try finding a 6(-foot) something guy that can run that well. It’s just not that easy,” one AFC defensive coordinator said this week – but perhaps the success of the Seahawks is changing the paradigm a bit.

Richard ShermanSherman stands 6-3 and was found in the fifth round of the 2011 draft.

If you want evidence of that, look no further than the Senior Bowl practices from last week. Even reviewing the sessions on television instead of in-person, and looking over the video of the practices, it’s obvious that size is definitely “in” at the cornerback slot. Senior Bowl executive director Phil Savage said the collection of bigger cornerbacks wasn’t necessarily a conscious decision, and that’s true. But Savage has an NFL pedigree, keeps close tabs on what’s happening in a league where he was once a standout talent scout and general manager, and it’s not totally happenstance that the game included five cornerbacks of impressive size.

Perhaps were the Senior Bowl able to recruit underclass players (at which point it would no longer be the Senior Bowl, right?), the size component at cornerback would not have been so profound. Still, of the consensus top six cornerbacks cited by most scouts to whom NFP regularly speaks, three are 6 feet or taller. Oklahoma State standout Justin Gilbert, generally thought to be either the No. 1 or 2 prospect at the position, told NFP: “It’s kind of the old ‘tit for tat.’ The receivers have gotten bigger, so the (cornerbacks) had to as well.”

The Senior Bowl practices featured corners such as Utah’s Keith McGill (6-3, 215), Pierre Desir of Lindenwood (6-1 1/8, 195), Nebraska’s Stanley Jean-Baptiste (6-2 3/8, 214), Walt Aiken of Liberty (6-0 5/8, 205) and Dontae Johnson of North Carolina State (6-2, 199). Maybe given the origination of Carroll’s penchant for size at the position, it was fitting a North Carolina State player would be in the group.

“I’d like to think that size is just one of the reasons I’m here,” Nebraska’s Jean-Baptiste told NFP from Mobile last week. “But I do think that, with guys like (Seattle’s Richard) Sherman, the thinking has changed some. Maybe a few years ago, I would have just been pegged as a safety (and some scouts still think that might be where he best projects), and wouldn’t have even had the chance to line up (at cornerback). But that’s not how it is now. Teams are looking at you differently if you’re a corner with size. Receivers don’t necessarily like it, but that’s the way it is.”

It’s certainly the way it is for Carroll and the Seahawks, whose scouting department has been well schooled in the preferences of its staff. There are five cornerbacks on Seattle’s active roster heading into next Sunday’s title game. And all but Walter Thurmond are at least 6 feet tall; all weigh at least 190 pounds. The emphasis on size extends even to the cover guys on the team’s various reserve lists. Rookie Tharold Simon, for instance, is 6-3 and weighs about 205.

A fifth-round draft pick from LSU, Simon is on the physically unable to perform list, but the Seahawks quietly acknowledge they feel the youngster will be a player at some point. And it doesn’t hurt that he fits the “bigger is better” template.

“I’ve got some good size myself,” said Denver cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, the biggest of the Broncos’ cover guys. “But their people are huge.”

Of course, the models for the template were to have been the tandem of Sherman and Brandon Browner until the latter was suspended indefinitely for a violation of the NFL’s illegal substance policy. Browner was a monster at 6-4, a thumper who reveled in mixing it up, whose size and strong hands could redirect a receiver, and who could run. When he was suspended, though, the Seahawks didn’t have to look very far for a corner to line up opposite Sherman. Not that the replacements were as good as Browner, whose future is uncertain, given his long suspension and pending status as a free agent. But the style of play didn’t have to change.

“You miss (Browner), sure. But schematically, It’s not like we had to go back to the drawing board or anything,” Sherman said.

That said, scouts are going back to their draft boards and probably re-thinking some old philosophies about the cornerback position. It took 30 years, but Carroll’s idea seems to have gained considerable traction in the league.

+AROUND THE LEAGUE

*Arguably the guy who most dominated the Senior Bowl practices last week, Pitt defensive tackle Aaron Donald, is also the player who has scouts most puzzled. There is no doubt that Donald, who won four major college awards for linemen or defensive performers, is a player. But he measured in at just a shade over 6 feet and was 288 pounds, and doesn’t quite fit the mold of an NFL tackle. But Donald did what he always seemed to do at Pitt, use his great leverage, ability with his hands and incredible quickness to wreak havoc and win most one-on-one battles with the offensive linemen. Donald is most often compared to Cincinnati star tackle Geno Atkins, but isn’t quite as big.

“(But) he might be, technique-wise, the best ‘three’-(technique tackle) I’ve seen in a long time,” one NFC scout with keen interest in Donald told NFP. “He’s just one of those guys who has it, whatever it is.”

The big consensus is that Donald almost certainly has to go to a 4-3 team where he can play the “3” spot. In a few drills, he was actually lined up at end, a position he played at times for Pitt when the Panthers coaches wanted to create a certain matchup, but he isn’t as effective on the outside. Donald regularly dominated good players such as Baylor guard Cyril Richardson, and he’s just a tremendous two-gap defender who can get his shoulders through openings and be disruptive. “You know how they say rats can get through the smallest openings?” one scout said. “He’s like that.” The question becomes whether some team, even at the end of the round, will invest a first-rounder in Donald. The guess is that he’ll go in the second round . . . and be more productive than a lot of players chosen ahead of him.

Greg HardyThe Falcons are more than familiar with soon-to-be free agent Greg Hardy’s skill set.

*Atlanta will almost certainly dip into free agency for a veteran free safety to pair with strong safety William Moore in 2014, which means incumbent Thomas DeCoud could be in trouble. And while the Falcons’ brass has said it won’t necessarily make any big free agent splashes, expect Atlanta to go hard for a pass-rusher like Michael Johnson (Cincinnati, and former Georgia Tech player). If the Falcons wanted to spend really big, they’re pretty familiar with a guy from their division, Carolina’s Greg Hardy, who abused the Falcons’ tackles for four sacks in the season finale. The Falcons tried to pry then-free agent end Charles Johnson away from their NFC South rivals a few years ago, but he signed an extension. They could go back to the well again and hope for better results. Meanwhile, the team still hasn’t begun to address the defensive tackle situation, where its top three players, including standout Jon Babineaux, are slated for free agency.

*Denver mammoth defensive tackle Terrance “Pot Roast” Knighton, who figures to be a key as the Broncos attempt to slow Marshawn Lynch next Sunday, allowed that he didn’t have a lot of options in unrestricted free agency last spring. But when the phone rang and it was former Jacksonville coach Jack Del Rio, the man who drafted him for the Jaguars, there was no hesitation about reuniting with the defensive coordinator of the Broncos. “The thing about Jack,” said Knighton, “is that, even when he got on me about my weight, he was trying to make me better. It was always about being a better player. I kind of knew, because of our familiarity, that he understood how to use me and put me in situations to succeed. He’s given me a second crack at things.” The Broncos may approach Knighton about a contract extension to the two-year, $4.5 million deal to which he’s signed. Knighton is earning only $1.5 million this season between salary and bonuses. And that makes him one of the best bargains in the league, given his performance. Denver would also like to keep end/linebacker Shaun Phillips, another one-year bargain who led the team in sacks in 2013.

*In announcing the hiring of Mike Pettine as their new coach, Browns officials played up big-time the fact he understands what it takes to win in the AFC North. Maybe so, since Pettine’s resume includes a tenure as an assistant at Baltimore for seven seasons (2002-2008). The bigger question: Do they? Pettine becomes the seventh full-time coach – not counting interim boss Terry Robiskie in 2004 — since the Cleveland franchise was taken out of mothballs in 1999. That’s seven head coaches in what will be the team’s 16th season in 2013. Chris Palmer, the initial coach of the reborn franchise, lasted two seasons. Butch Davis was around five games shy of four years. Romeo Crennel got four seasons, Eric Mangini two, Pat Shurmur two, Rob Chudzinski one. So since Crennel was hired in 2005, the Browns are working on their fourth head coach.

In the same stretch, the Browns’ division opponents have had an aggregate five head coaches. Extending things to the ’99 rebirth of the Browns, the team, as noted, is now on its seventh different full-time coach. Baltimore, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, among them, have had seven coaches in that period. So perhaps one of the biggest elements a coach needs to win in the tough division is patience from his bosses. Clearly, Chudzinski didn’t get it. Hopefully, Pettine got at least the promise of more than one season. Team president Joe Banner and general manager Michael Lombardi said some of the same things of Pettine that they did of Chudzinski a year ago. They shouldn’t get a mulligan from owner Jimmy Haslam on the Chudzinski hiring. And if Pettine doesn’t work out, especially after the seemingly endless search, they certainly should be held accountable.

*The loneliest guy, or more accurately the least-used, on the Denver roster? Punter Britton Colquitt, who has one kick in two playoff games. Denver has registered 16 possessions in its two playoff victories and scored 10 times (five touchdowns and five field goals). In addition to the one Colquitt punt, the other five possessions have ended thusly: one missed field goal, one lost fumble, one interception, and two series that concluded in the end of the game. Besides the fumble, the Broncos have had just one three-and-out series and only two possessions in all in which Denver failed to register at least two first downs. “If my biggest concern (in the Super Bowl) is staying warm,” Colquitt said, “that’s fine with me.” Colquitt, by the way, will try to join his father, Craig, as a Super Bowl champion punter. The elder statesman of what is arguably the NFL’s greatest punting tree won a pair of Super Bowl titles (XIII and XIV) with the Pittsburgh Steelers in the ‘70s.

Mark RichtICONRicht (above) opted for Florida State’s Jeremy Pruitt.

*A few weeks ago, we mentioned in this space that at least a couple NFL assistant coaches were “sniffing around” the University of Georgia defensive coordinator job, which came vacant when Todd Grantham departed for Louisville. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, through a Freedom of Information Act request, last week identified the two as Vance Joseph and Bob Slowik. The former, who had been the secondary coach for the Houston Texans but lost his job when the team hired Bill O’Brien, caught on with the Cincinnati Bengals in the same capacity. Slowik, a longtime league assistant and coordinator, who was the Washington linebackers coach until Mike Shanahan was dismissed, remains out of work. Both men sent letters of application to UGA coach Mark Richt, but there is no indication that they were interviewed before he hired Jeremy Pruitt of Florida State as the Bulldogs’ new defensive coordinator. It’s likely, though, that either was making (or will make) close to the $850,000 Pruitt will be paid. Which might be a

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2014 Senior Bowl weigh-in results

MOBILE, AL--Monday morning marked the start of Senior Bowl week in Mobile, Alabama, where many of the college football world's top NFL prospects have gathered for a week of practices and evaluations. Each team's first practice takes place Monday afternoon, but the process got underway Monday morning with the annual weigh-in.

Here are

MOBILE, AL–Monday morning marked the start of Senior Bowl week in Mobile, Alabama, where many of the college football world’s top NFL prospects have gathered for a week of practices and evaluations. Each team’s first practice takes place Monday afternoon, but the process got underway Monday morning with the annual weigh-in.

Here are the results from Mobile:

NORTH TEAM

odds chart

SOUTH TEAM

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East-West Shrine Game notebook: Day 1

ST. PETERSBERG, FL--After one day of practices, the Shrine Game has already provided storylines, flashed the good and bad in many prospects and set expectations for the rest of the week. While there’s still three more days of practice and the game to add to players’ reports this week, some took advantage of the

ST. PETERSBERG, FL–After one day of practices, the Shrine Game has already provided storylines, flashed the good and bad in many prospects and set expectations for the rest of the week. While there’s still three more days of practice and the game to add to players’ reports this week, some took advantage of the early opportunity to stand out on Day 1.

Jeff Mathews of Cornell, Jordan Najvar of Baylor and Andre Hal of Vanderbilt lead a group of players who impressed, while some along the offensive line and a heavy linebacker led the list of those who added some concerns to their scouting reports.

Those who impressed

1. Jeff Mathews, QB, Cornell

Clearly the best quarterback on either team Monday, Mathews appeared to quickly make up for his struggles as a senior at Cornell. Garnering a second-round grade coming into his senior season, Mathews showcased arm talent, velocity control and vertical placement on day one. He’ll look to build on a strong initial practice as the week progresses, but the key for evaluating Mathews will be to see how he handles a pass rush—which is where he struggles most—footwork-wise.

2. Jordan Najvar, TE, Baylor

A late invite, Najvar has already made the most of his opportunity. He didn’t always get a chance to show it at Baylor, but the sure-handed pass-catcher made several smooth, in-traffic catches Monday when working down the field. Separating from linebackers and attacking the ball at the highest point against zone coverage, Najvar has emerged as a “move tight end” prospect that scouts will follow this week.

3. Andre Hal, CB, Vanderbilt

Hailing from a solid, yet underappreciated, Vanderbilt defense, Hal showcased plus fluidity and quickness his senior year. However, his adjustments to the ball and overall footwork were inconsistent and he was out of position at times this season despite having the athleticism to finish plays. One day one, however, Hal consistently won in the red zone, getting his head around quickly and denying his receiver. With Missouri’s E.J. Gaines out of the game due to injury, Hal has been pegged as the top defensive back in attendance.

Jeff MathewsCornell quarterback Jeff Mathews was one of several players who stood out Monday in Florida.

4. Hakeem Smith, SAF, Louisville

Smith may be undersized and the less heralded of the two Louisville safeties in this class (junior Calvin Pryor is reportedly the top safety on some teams’ boards), but he impressed in his first day at the Shrine Game. Playing both safety spots, Smith filled in the box with authority and displayed impressive positioning for a day one practice and looked balanced and controlled in nickel coverage. If he can bulk up during the draft process, Smith could emerge as a top-5 safety in this year’s class.

5. Matt Hazel, WR, Coastal Carolina

One of the many small school players in attendance, Hazel earned his invite thanks to strong hands and his ability to finish at the catch point. And on day one he won in exactly those two areas, finishing catches in traffic and providing his quarterbacks a big target on the outside on the many hitch routes the offense ran on day one. Hazel may not be the best deep threat, but he’s quickly emerging as the go-to receiver for the East quarterbacks during practice.

Those who struggled

1. Most Offensive Linemen

The West didn’t get a chance to practice with pads and the East only did limited pure lineman drills, but the lack of talent on both lines is apparent. While a few stood out in their limited opportunities (Oklahoma’s Gabe Ikard, Furman’s Dakota Dozier and Belhaven’s Matt Hall), most offensive linemen succumbed to the remarkable defensive line talent in atendance. I’d expect this trend to continue throughout the week and into the game.

2. Max Bullough at the Weigh-In

While I didn’t gather anything on the Michigan State linebacker during practice, the news of Max Bullough’s reported 265-pound weigh-in result is certainly a concern. In my current scouting report, I compared Bullough to a less athletic, but more physical version of Manti Te’o. His anticipation and high IQ were constantly on display at Michigan State, but if he’s above 260, Bullough likely limits himself strictly to 3-4 defenses.

3. Jeremy Gallon, WR, Michigan

Gallon certainly didn’t do anything to hurt his draft stock, but for a 5’8 receiver, he has little room for error. He didn’t get a chance to gain separation much of the day with the routes the team was running, but a drop in the red zone and limited open space for quarterbacks to target him concerned me. He’ll look to bounce back Tuesday and beyond, especially with quarterbacks and receivers having more of an opportunity to get on the same page.

Who To Watch For Tuesday

1. Offensive/Defensive Linemen in “The Pit” Drill

Tuesday at the All-Star games is usually the start of the highly anticipated “Pit” drills, where linemen go one-on-one and get to put their muscle and quickness to the test. These drills will comprise the bulk of my notes for Tuesday and we’ll learn a lot about these defensive linemen, and more importantly, how they compare to each other, after the practice.

2. Pierre Desir, CB, Lindenwood

With Missouri’s E.J. Gaines gone, Desir has the most upside of any cornerback here. At around 6’2, he is built remarkably well throughout his frame. At small school Lindenwood, Desir wasn’t targeted much during his senior year and that trend continued Monday. Look for him to thoroughly impress once the squads get into team drills more frequently.

3. Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, Eastern Illinois

Despite Jeff Mathews of Cornell earning the “Best Quarterback of the Day” award, Garoppolo should bounce back and have a solid week. A potential Senior Bowl call-up, Garoppolo should find more chemistry with his receivers by Day Two, giving him the chance to really showcase his quick release, placement and timing on the edge, and the talent level that has pushed him into the high Day Two discussion.

Follow Eric on Twitter: @OptimumScouting</a>

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Draft myths: Manziel ‘too reliant’ on Evans?

It’s inevitable that a polarizing college athlete will be subject to extra scrutiny, especially when that person is a Heisman Trophy winning quarterback with a larger-than-life moniker. Like many before him, Johnny Manziel will fall under a particularly large magnifying glass in this year’s draft build-up, as countless NFL evaluators and online enthusiasts begin

It’s inevitable that a polarizing college athlete will be subject to extra scrutiny, especially when that person is a Heisman Trophy winning quarterback with a larger-than-life moniker. Like many before him, Johnny Manziel will fall under a particularly large magnifying glass in this year’s draft build-up, as countless NFL evaluators and online enthusiasts begin compiling calculated reports on the Texas A&M star’s pro prospects.

Questions about the player generally circulate around his rather diminutive stature and whether or not his arm talent or performance within the pocket are advanced enough for the NFL level. These are legitimate gripes worth discussing regarding Manziel’s game, which I – after evaluating him myself – have no qualms with.

However, one myth about the player’s game that occasionally gets tossed around interweb circles is that he’s reliant on hulking, box-out receiver and Aggies teammate Mike Evans – another declared underclassman of the upcoming draft. The theory was even mildly propagated in August by Aggies’ quarterback coach Jake Spavital, who branded the wideout as his prot

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Run, baby, run

In the Nov. 10 Carolina-at-San Francisco matchup during the regular season, a 10-9 upset victory for the visitors, quarterbacks Colin Kaepernick of the 49ers and Cam Newton of the Panthers combined for only eight rushes and 31 yards.

Only four times in 26 career starts (including playoff games) has Kaepernick posted fewer rushing

In the Nov. 10 Carolina-at-San Francisco matchup during the regular season, a 10-9 upset victory for the visitors, quarterbacks Colin Kaepernick of the 49ers and Cam Newton of the Panthers combined for only eight rushes and 31 yards.

Only four times in 26 career starts (including playoff games) has Kaepernick posted fewer rushing yards than the 16 he squeezed out that day. Newton, who is in the playoffs for the first time, started all 16 regular-season games his first three years in the league, and played just six of 48 contests in which he rushed for fewer than the 15 yards that he managed against the stingy 49ers’ defense.

But there’s a good chance, given the stakes involved in the game and the ability of both of the quarterbacks in Sunday’s rematch to win games with their feet, that the two signal-callers could each have single runs longer than the 31 yards that they totaled in that game eight weeks ago. It’s hard to imagine Kaepernick and Newton subjugating their rushing skills on Sunday afternoon.

Unless, of course, those running abilities are subjugated for them.

As defensive coordinators Vic Fangio of San Francisco and Sean McDermott of the Panthers began installing the rudiments of their respective game plans Monday, limiting the out-of-pocket forays by the opposing quarterback was almost certainly one of the top priorities for both men. Both coordinators are stop-the-run-first guys. That’s their shared mantra and their charges have bought in to the mindset. But stopping the run in this case also means slowing the opposition quarterback. And that’s probably going to be a challenge.

Cam NewtonICONNewton led all quarterbacks with 585 rushing yards during the regular season.

“You don’t want (Kaepernick) getting loose,” said Carolina linebacker Thomas Davis, who had an outstanding season. “We’ve seen what our guy (Newton) can do, and how frustrating it can be to other teams when they’ve got everything covered and he takes off and makes a play (on the ground). We know, from getting ready for them the last time how dangerous Kaepernick is. We’ve got to be just as disciplined in the (Sunday) game as we were that last time.”

This is not, it should be noted, the first “Zone Option Bowl” in the NFL. Last season, in the wild card round, Seattle (and Russell Wilson) topped Washington (and Robert Griffin III). That was, remember, the game in which RG III injured his knee. The two quarterbacks that day had an aggregate 88 rushing yards. But 67 of those yards belonged to Wilson, who ran the option well but also scrambled for yards.

There have probably been other playoff matchups that featured excellent running quarterbacks – heck, last Saturday’s wild card game with Kansas City’s Alex Smith and Andrew Luck of Indianapolis included two of the league’s underrated runners at the position – but likely only a few that had the potential for both quarterbacks to have such a profound effect with their legs.

Newton led all quarterbacks in rushing during the season with 585 yards and a 6.9-yard average. Kaepernick averaged 5.7 yards and his 524 yards were the fourth most for a quarterback. In truth, neither quarterback has run quite as much lately, and both franchises have reduced the exposure of their stars by cutting back on the zone option reads. Said one San Francisco defensive veteran on Monday afternoon: “You don’t see as many planned runs (by Newton). But he’s always going to be a big ‘red zone’ guy for them. And you won’t want him running all over the middle of the field, either.”

In Sunday’s victory at Green Bay, Kaepernick rushed for 98 yards, the best rushing total of the weekend, but most of that real estate came on scrambles and not option plays. It was a big departure from last season’s win over the Packers when the San Francisco quarterback exploded for 181 yards, with more than 170 of those yards on zone option calls. The difference for both quarterbacks is that Sunday’s game is one in which a victory leaves his team one win shy of a Super Bowl berth. And so it will not be surprising if the teams’ offensive coaches install more options, and if the quarterbacks respond well to the increase.

What will be interesting is how the defensive coordinators, whose teams are among the best pass rushing groups in the league, devise their pressure packages. How, for instance, will McDermott attempt to keep upfield rushers Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy disciplined in their lanes and still have them key against the option? “It’s going to be a huge part of the game,” one Carolina defensive lineman allowed.

It’s difficult to divine how much the two defenses utilized a “spy” or similar shadow defender in the Nov. 10 game. It certainly appears, in review, that was the case on some of the snaps, but hardly all the passing downs. But rest assured that, come Sunday, Fangio and McDermott will pull out all the stops and perhaps even a few wrinkles to try to keep the other team’s quarterback from bolding upfield.

It’s definitely one of the keys to the game.

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Gearing up to cash in

With a half-dozen franchises seeking new head coaches following another “Black Monday” purge, one might assume it was difficult for team officials from at least a few franchises to see the future beyond planning candidate interviews. But contacted at team facilities on a bloody Monday morning, a couple front office guys who

With a half-dozen franchises seeking new head coaches following another “Black Monday” purge, one might assume it was difficult for team officials from at least a few franchises to see the future beyond planning candidate interviews. But contacted at team facilities on a bloody Monday morning, a couple front office guys who retained their jobs despite an exorcism in the coach’s office down the hall actually told NFP they were in the very early stages of planning for veteran free agency in the spring.

Honest.

“We haven’t started watching tape yet . . . but it won’t be long until we do,” said a top personnel executive from one of the clubs that dumped its coach. “It doesn’t matter who the (new) coach is, the legwork still has to get done. It takes time, you know?”

As our good deed for the day, we’ll save the personnel man, and all of his colleagues around the league, some of that precious time. No sense, guys, spending even a few minutes poring over the highlight reel of Carolina defensive end Greg Hardy.

The guy can flat-out play, and when the “league year” commences on March 11, in roughly 2

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All-time football gifts power rankings

No one is messing with you in these bad boys.

10. Zubaz (1988-1996, 2006-present)

Words cannot begin to describe the swagger you'd have in a new pair of Zubaz. You instanly doubled your street cred in every school in America in 1990. The rise of the

No one is messing with you in these bad boys.

10. Zubaz (1988-1996, 2006-present)

Words cannot begin to describe the swagger you’d have in a new pair of Zubaz. You instanly doubled your street cred in every school in America in 1990. The rise of the brand was surreal. It transcended team loyalty. I owned Raiders’ Zubaz. I hated the Raiders. I owned Bills’ Zubaz. I owned a Bills’ Zubaz hat. I even owned the Bills’ generic zubaz they sold at Sears.

They were one of the first socially acceptable versions of pajamas you could wear in public.

The brand went bankrupt at 1996, but resurfaced in 2006. This is a direct quote from their website.

“We’ve decided what the world needs now is another pair of Zubaz and this is the only place to get them. Zubaz pants are available in a variety of colors and sizes with the same great quality, comfort and fit that they were famous for 20 years ago. These pants are the same pants that were worn by pro athletes, rock stars, kings and queens, and anybody who Dared to be Different.”

9. Starting Lineup Figures (1988-2001)

These were kind of ridiculous in retrospect. They were plastic, barely moved, and weren’t even suitable for simulated action like G.I. Joes. It just wasn’t believeable that Emmitt Smith would line up, stiff arm already extended. They make the list because even once you opened them, making them worthless from a collector’s standpoint, they felt like real memorabilia. It was as though you had a three-dimensional card. The potential was limitless if they’d just built in a few extra joints.

8. Nerf Turbo Football (1989-?)

This commercial will speak for itself.

“Go long! Real long!” -every 10-year-old in America at least once in 1990

Look how far he threw that thing! All the PEDs in the world aren’t going to help me half as much as this football. I must have it. Watch out, Jim Kelly! It didn’t matter that every dog in every neighboorhood was drawn to these things more than meat bones, or that they were on borrowed time once you left them out in the rain overnight. These were great. They made even the most incompetently thrown spiral look like it came out of the hand of a Manning.

7. Electric Football (1947-?)

This is before my time, but I respect it’s impact, and played several versions of it in the pre-nintendo days. It just looked like chaos. I had no idea the intricicies involved.

From the electric football wikipedia page:

“The game is played on a small metal field, with plastic players placed on the field in formations, just as in real football. The ball is a football-shaped small piece of foam or felt. When the players are set up, a switch is activated that turns on a small electric motor which causes the field to vibrate, and moves the players around the field. Players then shift around the board in a predictable manner.
Each player is attached to a base, with prongs on the bottom that allow the player to move. Rookie bases are not adjustable and the player hopefully runs forward. Pro bases have a dial that can be turned to have players turn to the right or left.
A special player called the Triple Threat Quarterback (TTQ) allows players to pass, punt or kick field goals. The ball has a slit that lets the game player place it on the TTQ’s arm. The arm is pulled back and released to pass the ball. Use of this figure is a very difficult skill to master and was the primary form of advancing the ball.”

Though a lot like Mouse Trap, I’m sure most people never bothered figuring out the actual way to play the game. It was just fun to turn it on and hope.

6. Receiver Gloves

These were very divisive among my friends. You’d probably get made fun of, at first. But when get 43 catches on 44 targets, you silence the haters pretty quickly. If you didn’t get receiver gloves, batting gloves were a good substitute. Combine them with #2 further later in the list, and you were Megatron.

Hey kid! Gimme your jacket!

5. Starter Jackets (1980s-1990s)

These were expensive. I literally knew kids (plural) who were beaten up and had their starter jackets ripped from their person. It was one of the reasons I wasn’t allowed to get one. That, and the $100 price tag. This was in a middle class suburb of Buffalo, so I have to imagine the fallout was similar or worse nationwide. Still, in the fickle social structure of middle school, these meant you were somebody. You had made it.

4. Deion Sanders’ Shoes (1994)

I didn’t own these, and they weren’t huge in Buffalo, but I have it on good authority that these were gamechangers. They had this commercial with Dennis Hopper, so they had to be pretty good.

There are about 1,000 of these in a Western NY landfill somewhere if you want them.

3. Cards

It didn’t matter if Topps, Pro Set, or Upper Deck was your poison of choice. There is an undeniable magic that comes with unwrapping a fresh pack and furiously sorting through the contents, discarding your fourth copy of Neil Smith, and hoping for a big payoff. Sorry Neil, but I swear you were disproportionately distributed in Buffalo-area Pro Set packs in 1991, and I’m taking it out on you.

2. Hutch Mini-Footballs (1991-?)

Okay, so the Nerf Turbo football wasn’t that practical in anything more than 10 MPH winds, and it didn’t quite have the durability you’d like for a parking lot football. Hutch to the rescue! About the same size as the Turbo, but with a little more weight to them, made of rubber, with your team of choice branded on them, and half the price, these were the go-to for almost every pickup game in my youth, and even make regular appearances at Bills’ tailgating in my thirties. Why? Because you can throw them 1,000 yards, make one-handed catches, and they can take a beating. I’ve seen these get overthrown into traffic, get run over, and come out fine. They weren’t even something that you had to ask if you needed to bring to someone’s house. It was assumed they had one.

This football was probably put through a wood chipper. Looks almost new.

1. Tecmo Super Bowl (1991)

I know for anyone born in 1987-ish onward, this list is going to enrage you at this point. I told myself I’d limit the list to one video game, and for that, I apologize to the Madden fans out there, but TSB was revolutionary in so many ways. It was the first Nintendo family game to be licensed by the NFLPA, meaning I didn’t have to play as the blue Buffalo team anymore. I could play as the Bills. With the exception of a few players (I’m looking at you, Cunningham), you actually played with real players! You would spend hours looking through actual stat leaders, playoff scenarios, the Pro Bowl! I actually looked forward to the Pro Bowl!

It also turned players with otherwise average careers into legends. Watch Christian Okoye annhialate the Colts for an entire quarter on ONE PLAY:

There isn’t a single thing you can do in Madden 25 that compares to the thrill of watching your best friend, sitting next to you, smash the reset button in anger when you tell him you’re running a sweep to Bo Jackson, he picks it, and still can’t stop you.

Happy holidays, everyone!

DISCLAIMER: This list is heavily influenced by the author being born in 1980.

Follow me on twitter @erikoehler

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Throwbacks #2: On second thought

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Not every idea works out. In this episode, we highlight a few from pro football's history that failed. We tell

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Not every idea works out. In this episode, we highlight a few from pro football’s history that failed. We tell the stories of a new uniform numbering system, the biggest waiver steal of all time, and a choose-your-own-adventure football game where the home viewers called the plays.

Music featured in this episode by the following (in order of appearance):

YACHT – Holly Roller
El Chicano – Viva Tirado

The Freak Fandango Orchestra – The Hug

The Penguin Cafe Orchestra – Telephone and Rubber Band

All India Radio – When you are here

Hugh Masekela – Grazing in the Grass
The Freak Fandango Orchestra – Requiem for a Fish

For mobile users, or if the soundcloud player doesn’t load, view on youtube

If you like the show, want to be a part of it, or want to see us cover a great story, please reach out to me at erik.oehler@nationalfootballpost.com.

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First look: “The Big Shootout”

After this weekend's action, it's hard to imagine what the next biggest game in recent memory was. "The Big Shootout", a documentary by filmmaker Mike Looney, will take many back to what might be the first big game of their lives.

After this weekend’s action, it’s hard to imagine what the next biggest game in recent memory was. “The Big Shootout”, a documentary by filmmaker Mike Looney, will take many back to what might be the first big game of their lives.

Coaches Broyles (left) and Royal (right) shake hands

At the start of the 1969 season, ABC publicist Beano Cook was approached and asked to handpick one game from that season’s schedule and move it to December 6th for a made-for-tv spectacle to celebrate the 100th anniversary of college football. The only requirement was that the two teams, before a single game was played, should be #1 and #2 in the nation by the day of the game. In a time before the BCS computer, Cook scrutinized the entire college schedule game by game before finally recommending Texas vs. Arkansas for the date.

The cards that fall in place to result in the game coming to fruition as planned are nothing short of a miracle. Outside the safety of the collegiate bubble, the Vietnam war plays out, claiming friends and family of players on both sides. On campus, African-American students rally to protest Arkansas’ tradition of playing “Dixie” after touchdowns. President Richard Nixon plans to attend the game, another first at the time, apart from Army-Navy matchups.

The film weaves excellent footage from the era, and most importantly the game, with present-day interviews from almost every living member of both sides, including Arkansas coach Frank Broyles, who, until this film, hadn’t ever spoken about the game in public. That fact alone makes this worth seeing. Broyles, this tremendously charismatic figure, even in his mid-80’s, is incredible to listen to. He clearly has some unresolved demons that he wants to exorcise, and the film does the best possible job in letting him do that. As filmmaker Mike Looney told me, “We just turned on the camera, and let him go.”

Broyles’ therapeutic release aside, there’s plenty more to love about the film. Each and every player brings with them a unique perspective on every aspect of the game, the war, and even President Nixon. They are characters, through and through. Though it’s clear that many aspects of the movie could be standalone movies by themselves, just enough time is spent on each part where you never feel shortchanged.

I won’t spoil all of the twists and turns along the journey. Even being familiar with the game and the outcome, I was continually surprised. I think you will be, too.

Our “Throwbacks” podcast, released next week, will highlight the game and include interviews with filmmaker Mike Looney and Texas running back, Bobby Mitchell. The film will be released December 6th, but you can pre-order the movie for yourself using the player below.

Yekra Player

Yekra is a revolutionary new distribution network for feature films.

The Big Shootout

On December 6th, 1969, in the wintry landscape of Fayetteville, Arkansas, The Texas Longhorns and Arkansas Razorbacks met in what was heralded then and in the decades since as the game of the century. The game coined “The Big Shootout”, by Texas coach Darrell Royal, was the brainstorm of television, foreshadowing televised sports’ heavy hand in major sporting events in years to come.

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Throwbacks #1: The Blondy Wallace scandal of 1906

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The year is 1906. Ohio pro teams Canton and Massillon have assembled dream teams consisting of the best players in

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The year is 1906. Ohio pro teams Canton and Massillon have assembled dream teams consisting of the best players in the country. NFP, along with the Professional Football Researchers Association, is proud to bring you the story of the first, and maybe biggest, pro football scandal, ever. Our new podcast, Throwbacks, will tell some of the most compelling stories of football’s past in an engaging way.

Much of the original story appeared in print in the 1984 PFRA Annual #5.

Music featured in this episode by the following (in order of appearance):
Dexter Britain – The Time to Run

Tascott – Shame on You (1905)

The Years – The In Crowd

Football – Dan Quinn (1906)

Simon Robinson – Country Trouble

Jackson F. Smith – Cantina Rag

Link Wray & his Ray Men – Rumble

Booker T. & the MG’s – Soul Dressing

Milt Buckner – The Beast

Hugh Masekela – Grazing in the Grass

Victor Herbet Orchestra – The Ameer (1912)

Combustible Edison – Spy vs Spy

Calexico – Whipping the Horse’s Eye

Bill Frisell, Ron Miles, Curtis Fowlkes, and Eyvind Kang – “Coffaro’s Theme”

Dexter Britain – The Time to Run (Finale)

Red Molly – “Ohio”

For mobile users, or if the soundcloud player doesn’t load, view on youtube:

If you like the show, want to be a part of it, or want to see us cover a great story, please reach out to me at erik.oehler@nationalfootballpost.com.

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Dear NFL: Please, grow up

This isn’t going to be a pious rant about how NFL players should be “role models”. I’m under no such delusion.

This isn’t an expression of faux outrage at the Dolphins' organization or a commentary on bullying in America.

NFL players are some of the highest earning, most visible, and powerful members

This isn’t going to be a pious rant about how NFL players should be “role models”. I’m under no such delusion.

This isn’t an expression of faux outrage at the Dolphins’ organization or a commentary on bullying in America.

NFL players are some of the highest earning, most visible, and powerful members of our society. I’m not asking this as a parent. I’m not asking as their coach or GM. As someone who works nearly 60 hours per week to make a fraction of what they make per game, I just need them to do this for me. I need them to grow up.

US PresswireIncognito and Martin in their game against Atlanta earlier this season

The league is king. I’m never going to walk away from it as long as they keep showing up on Sundays. I just wish they would make it a little easier on us. It’s hard enough to suspend disbelief when I’m told, week after week, that the definition of a catch I’ve known since backyard football is wrong. I struggle, but still manage to turn a blind eye to the absurdity of TV blackouts, the reactive culture surrounding the concussion/CTE link, and the league’s hypocrisy in pretending gambling doesn’t exist. Those things make me angry. But Richie Incognito doesn’t just make me angry, he makes me sad. Sadness and football don’t mix well with me.

We all work with that one guy who doesn’t pick up social cues. He’s the guy you’re surprised still exists, when he uses a racial slur you thought left your life when your grandmother died. He’s the guy who takes the joke a little too far, resulting in that awkward silence and ensuing meeting with HR. He’s the guy who never grew up. Mike Wallace is that guy. Riley Cooper is that guy. Richie Incognito is that guy. In many workplaces, that guy doesn’t last long. He says the wrong thing to the wrong person, and he’s often fired, suspended, or just made to feel like an outcast. In the NFL, I don’t think that guy is alone, and based on how long situations like Incognito’s or bounty-gate are allowed to go on, I don’t even think he’s in the minority. For some reason, even though I’ve known it since I started playing football, that’s a difficult pill to swallow.

I’m not suggesting the league change. I know it’s past that point. Apart from the team-imposed ban from the Dolphins, I’m sure there will be league discipline to follow. I just want these adult men, who consume our attention for roughly half the year, however unrealistically, to just grow up.

The following is an impossibility, but dream with me. As a part of the next CBA, what if it were mandated that the players work a 40-hour offseason week at any minimum wage job? I’m talking about the kind of job that humbles you, checking your ego hour-by-hour, putting life, and your relatively insignificant role in it, into perspective. The kind of job you dread, but need. Working in a late night diner, an oil change pit man, or grocery store shelf stocker all come to mind as jobs I’ve both held and despised, but grown the most from. I worked those jobs through high school, during, and after college, side-by-side with people of different races, sexual orientations, and educations. Those jobs force you to see people in every walk of life as your equal. Your existence as a member of the human race is put into focus. Because at the end of the day, you’re making next to nothing for doing the same grunt work as everyone else. Maybe my idea doesn’t solve a thing, but I’d feel a lot better knowing that, even for just 40 hours, someone like Richie Incognito would know what it’s like to be on our end of this ridiculous spectacle.

Human empathy 101 is a life lesson that some players have clearly missed, having only known the cultural bubble of the gridiron as a workplace. Incognito isn’t just a bully. He’s “that guy”. He ignorantly, and without cause, thinks he is a better human being than Jonathan Martin. He lines up next to him every week, takes the same punishment down after down, and still has the nerve to think he is superior to him. I don’t need these players to start charities or win the Nobel Prize. But to justify the time I invest in consuming the NFL product, I just need them to act like human beings.

Follow me on twitter @erikoehler

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NFLPA asks for stricter protocol after MRSA case

NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith called “for a league-wide, comprehensive and standardized infectious disease protocol” in the aftermath of a third Tampa Bay player being infected with MRSA.
On Friday, the Buccaneers announced that cornerback Johnathan Banks had contracted MRSA. That followed a Thursday announcement that MRSA had resurfaced in the

NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith called “for a league-wide, comprehensive and standardized infectious disease protocol” in the aftermath of a third Tampa Bay player being infected with MRSA.
On Friday, the Buccaneers announced that cornerback Johnathan Banks had contracted MRSA. That followed a Thursday announcement that MRSA had resurfaced in the body of guard Carl Nicks. Altogether, three Bucs players have contracted MRSA since the start of training camp.
The latest outbreak created some concern about whether Tampa Bay and Philadelphia should play their game scheduled for Sunday. The game is currently planned to go on. However, the NFLPA said it was in contact with the union player representatives from both teams to make sure everyone was updated on the risks.
“We have been involved in an ongoing review of the MRSA incidents in Tampa Bay initiated by the concerns we had about the manner in which team officials responded to these cases,” Smith said. “We advised the NFL and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that an outside expert should be brought in to assess the situation and we are pleased with their decision to take that recommendation.
“We have also been in regular contact with the player representatives from Tampa Bay. We will reach out to the Philadelphia Eagles player representatives today and provide them with our best medical guidance and regular updates from the outside experts.”

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