The Titans, as Coach Jeff Fisher always liked to say, had a plan. In the days after a disappointing 2010 season, Titans owner Bud Adams decided to let Fisher coach the final year of his contract. He would be given one more chance to prove his worth, to coach for his future with the franchise. Everything changed on Thursday, however, when the Titans and Fisher decided it would be best to part ways. A number of disagreements in recent days over issues unrelated to Fisher's record prompted the sudden decision, according to sources familiar with the situation. And so ended Fisher's run with the franchise after 16 seasons as its icon, its constant presence.
An ESPN report caused a stir Thursday night, but recently fired Titans coach Jeff Fisher is not going to become the Eagles' next defensive coordinator, according to multiple NFL sources. ESPN reported that Eagles coach Andy Reid had informed candidates that the vacancy at coordinator had been filled. "Do not be surprised if Jeff Fisher winds up as the defensive coordinator in Philadelphia," the network's John Clayton said. The league sources said those statements were not true. As of Thursday, the Eagles had interviewed only one candidate for the job: Saints assistant Dennis Allen, who ended up taking the coordinator's job in Denver.
Bill Cowher and Jon Gruden are certain to be fan favorites, but it is more likely that the next head coach of the Titans will be someone currently on staff or who has a history with the franchise. Given the suddenness of Jeff Fisher's exit and the need for stability, Titans owner Bud Adams is likely to look for someone with whom he has some history — such as Mike Munchak, Dave McGinnis or Gregg Williams. Other possibilities extend to the coaching tree of Mike Holmgren. Titans General Manager Mike Reinfeldt, who is certain to be involved in the coaching search, worked in the front offices at first Green Bay and then Seattle when Holmgren was the head coach.
Teams are expected to still use the franchise tag next month, NFL officials told reporters at the league office on Thursday. That would allow the Ravens to keep defensive tackle Haloti Ngata off the free-agent market this season. The franchise tag on defensive tackles last season was a one-year tender worth $7 million. Under the 2010 rules, Ngata would only be a restricted free agent, and the Ravens could use a first-round tender to protect him. But the rules that define free agents could change in the next Collective Bargaining Agreement, and Ngata might be an unrestricted free agent in the new CBA. To make sure Ngata isn't going anywhere, the Ravens could use the franchise tag on him…..
Coach Ken Whisenhunt wants to interview assistant coaches on both Super Bowl teams before hiring a defensive coordinator, he said on Thursday. "I interviewed a couple of guys at the Senior Bowl and felt good about that," said Whisenhunt from Mobile, Ala. "But there are guys on both teams I'm interested in talking to after the Super Bowl." Whisenhunt acknowledged interviewing Miami secondary coach/assistant head coach Todd Bowles, but declined to reveal any other names.
The Ravens fired Jim Zorn as their quarterbacks coach, a league source said. The team hasn't returned messages from The Sun. Zorn's release came after a seven-hour meeting with coach John Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron in which they questioned Joe Flacco's development this season, the source said. Zorn stayed with Harbaugh and Cameron at Ravens headquarters while the rest of the staff attended the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. The Ravens hired Zorn on Jan. 30, 2010 to replace Hue Jackson, who left to become the Oakland Raiders' offensive coordinator. Zorn had just been fired as the Washington Redskins head coach after the 2009 season.
It was somewhat surprising that Matt Forte was named to USA Today's All-Joe Team, a collection of unsung stars who have quality seasons. That's because Forte has been anything but underappreciated by the Bears. After the dysfunction was taken out of the offense during the off week, Forte excelled. He had 961 yards from scrimmage in the final nine weeks, fifth in the NFL. Forte finished with an average of 4.5 yards per carry, the franchise's best from a back with 200 carries since Neal Anderson in 1989. He joined Walter Payton as the only back in Bears' history to have multiple seasons with 1,600 yards from scrimmage.
As the Jets face an offseason of roster uncertainty, one issue seems to loom over the rest: the who-should-stay/who-should-go dilemma at receiver, where it seems they're going to have to choose between Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes. Both players had terrific seasons for the Jets. Both are extremely talented. And both represent significant off-the-field risks. That makes the decision by Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum and Rex Ryan crucial. Can they keep both? It's possible, but unlikely. The Post yesterday contacted prominent NFL agents who have dealings with the Jets to ask them of their view of the Edwards-Holmes dilemma facing the Jets. The consensus among the agents, none of whom represent either Edwards or Holmes, is that the Jets will let Edwards, who had 53 catches and seven touchdowns and dropped only one pass all year, test the free-agent market and make more of a play to re-sign Holmes, who's the more dangerous game-breaker (eight touchdowns in 15 games, including playoffs). A couple of the agents speculated that the Jets, whose top priorities are re-signing linebacker David Harris and cornerback Antonio Cromartie, might let both Edwards and Holmes test the market. Everything, of course, is contingent upon how the uncertain labor situation unfolds. Holmes, for example, is entering his fifth season, which could mean he's a restricted free agent. Edwards, who's entering his sixth season, will be unrestricted. "I think the Jets are going to let Braylon go to free agency and test the market, see what he can get and then decide if they want to re-sign him," one agent said. "I think the Jets' priority among the two is to keep Santonio, because Santonio is the player among the two that keeps opposing defensive coaches up at night trying to game plan against him. I don't think receiver is a high priority for the Jets. The Jets can still keep Santonio and go out and rent T.O. [Terrell Owens] or Randy Moss or [Chad] Ochocinco for a year. If anyone can coach Randy Moss, it's Rex Ryan."
"When coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider took over the Seahawks last year, no player was safe. The two went through the Seattle roster like mechanics on overtime, overhauling both sides of the ball with a dizzying 284 roster transactions during the 2010 campaign. Current 49ers players – most of them, anyway – can rest more easily this offseason. The 49ers aren't switching defensive schemes and incoming coach Jim Harbaugh's offensive philosophy meshes nicely with the type of players already on the roster. "There's a lot of similarities to what we've done in the past," said Trent Baalke, who was recently promoted to general manager. "We're still working through with the coaches exactly what they're looking for at each position. … But the systems on both sides of the ball should marry up very well with the personnel that we have now and the personnel that we've been looking for." The defense that Vic Fangio ran last year at Stanford, for example, is similar to the one the 49ers used the past four seasons in that it doesn't call for a massive, 350-plus pound nose tackle like some of the three lineman, four linebacker defenses used in the NFL. In fact, Fangio's nose tackle at Stanford, Sione Fua, weighed in at 307 pounds this week at the Senior Bowl. Fua said that Fangio preferred movement to holding one's ground and that the Cardinal defensive linemen were encouraged to use their quickness to make plays in the backfield. "He'd move us around a lot, and we'd run a lot of stunts," Fua said. The 49ers' current nose tackle, Aubrayo Franklin, is listed at 317 pounds. He is known more for quickness and savvy than bulk, and he would appear to be a good fit with Fangio's style. Franklin is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent in 2011 but could be retained with the franchise tag, which the 49ers also used on Franklin in 2010."
ESPN's Mel Kiper continues to link one player with the Redskins: Auburn quarterback Cam Newton. And there's one quarterback he said Mike Shanahan would have drafted last year at No. 4 that might not even go in the first round this year: Washington's Jake Locker. As usual, Kiper touched on a lot of subjects during an approximately 80-minute conference call today. But our main concern for now is quarterback, since the Redskins need one and because they pick high enough in the first round (10th) to land one. And what Kiper said they can't do is trade for another veteran, as they did with Donovan McNabb last season. "Shanahan needs to address the position with a young QB," Kiper said.