Posted on: November 16, 2009 4:25 pm

Jay Cutler Wants Lovie Out of Chicago

Here's a scnadalous rumor I am just now coming up with.  Mike Shanahan is a native of Oak Park, Illinois; nearby suburb west of Chicago.  Jay Cutler plays quarterback for the Chicago Bears.  Both men were employed by the Denver Broncos last season and got along very well, especially as most QB/head coach relationships go.  It seems to me as if Jay Cutler has been throwing some passes so bad, it's as though he's trying to get his current coach Lovie Smith fired, perhaps in order to give the Bears a reason to bring in a future Hall of Fame coach and native son of the Windy City.

We shall see, but I'd be willing to bet that if things keep up like this in Chicago, then Mike Shanahan will be tops on the short list to be the Bears new head coach.
Posted on: January 19, 2009 11:29 pm
Edited on: January 19, 2009 11:49 pm

Ravens AFC Champions Gear For Sale!

Yeah, you read that right.  Chuck Finder of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette blogs today that the NFL Shop still has a link that's seemingly active where one can purchase an assortment of Baltimore Ravens 2008 AFC Champions merchandise.

What?  No, your eyes are not playing a trick on you.

Personally, I'd go for the "AFC Conference Runners Up Faux Leather Helmet," a relative steal at $36.99 + tax and postage!

And the Runners-Up Tapestry Throw is guaranteed by NFL Shop to be more accurate than a Joe Flacco throw!  $39.99 + tx & post.

Don't forget the lady in your life with the Women's Ray Lewis Super Bowl XLIII Replica Jersey.  She won't know it's a replica, guys, so you'll save a bundle with that $64.99 price tag as she'll think it's one of the authentic models.  And, really, what player endears himself more to the NFL's female demographic than Ray Lewis?

Man, Baltimore could have really rubbed it in Pittsburgh's face had they actually won...with this item, the Trophy Towel.  If I were a Ravens' fan, I'd order a hundred of these today, hopefully the league would give me a nice bulk discount.

And yeah, I realize all this crap is probably available over at the Steelers page on  But these items are funnier because, well, the Ravens lost.

I love Chuck's take on it, too.  This stuff may end up as part of a shipment of donated goods.  It's always interesting to read those stories about the unused/loser of the championship gear.  Everytime one of my friends or relatives travels to some exotic faraway place, I tell them to be on the lookout for things like this.  If someone ever spots a 1990 Pittsburgh Pirates NL Champions cap or t-shirt, by all means I want to know!

Posted on: January 19, 2009 2:12 pm
Edited on: January 19, 2009 2:23 pm

Bye Week: Will It Slow Down the Cardinal Express?

The always-grueling Super Bowl bye week may turn out to hurt Arizona, big time.  The general consensus in sports suggests that when you are that hot, you do NOT want to wait that long to play again.  Moreover in this case give Steelers Defensive Coordinator Dick LeBeau that much more time to devise a strategy to shut down your potent offense. Advantage, Pittsburgh.

In better news for players on both teams, it seems that the media for the next two weeks will be focused squarely on the coaching matchup.  Even in the week leading up to the AFC and NFC Championship games yesterday, some were anticipating some kind of grudge match pitting Ken Whisenhunt and Russ Grimm's Cardinals vs. The Rooney Family and Mike Tomlin's Steelers.  Whisenhunt did say after the NFC game but before the Steelers-Ravens game that he preferred to face Pittsburgh.  But he said so more out of respect. He knows that he wouldn't be a head coach anywhere without his time on Bill Cowher's staff.  Sure, he wanted to stay in Pittsburgh, in part so that he didn't have to move his family cross country.  But I honestly don't think Whisenhunt can actually be upset by the Rooneys' decision and certainly not upset at Mike Tomlin in particular.  If anything, maybe he should be upset at Bill Cowher.  I mean, Cowher certainly seemed to earn the ability to name his successor like all these college coaches with much less success.

Regarding Whisenhunt, this suggests two possibilities: 1) Cowher didn't go to bat for Whisenhunt--or Grimm, we have to consider as well--in large part because he had loyalty to both Grimm and Whisenhunt or 2) Cowher's influence in the Rooney "circle of trust"-- to borrow a term from retired CIA Agent Jack Burns in Meet the Parents--wasn't all that great.  Ultimately, the fact that both Grimm and Whisenhunt were vying for the job led the team to go in another direction entirely.  Easier to do that and create something new than split your old loyalty.  You see this in lots of things in life.  I've been at companies where two middle managers are vying for an open upper-level position and the top brass ultimately brings in someone from outside.

Getting back to the point, all this attention given to the coaching matchup will give the players much less time in the spotlight, and should make their preparations for Super Bowl gameday much more efficient and focused.

One random concern I have about the Steelers is the location for this Super Bowl XLIII.  Tampa Bay and its beaches are, shall I say, a bit more lively than Detroit where they played SBXL.  I hope that the players still on the team from that season don't go crazy at the clubs this time 'round.  They may want to stick it to the NFL after being stuck in Motown back in 2006!

Posted on: January 19, 2009 1:05 am
Edited on: January 19, 2009 1:08 am

Tomlin Outcoaches Harbaugh

A quick postmortem on the AFC Title Game before I nod off.

One factor being seriously ignored in the postgame hullaballoo is that Mike Tomlin totally outcoached John Harbaugh from whistle-to-gun.

Tomlin is a real, genuine leader.  He does exactly what needs to be done to each player.  Some need yelled at, some need a pat on the back, some need something else and he knows exactly how to treat all 53.  He's not a one-trick pony like so many coaches who are all rah-rah (Sparano, e.g.) or overly stoic (Reid, e.g.).  On the other hand, the only things I saw Harbaugh doing tonight were throwing his red hankie and unsuccessfully needling the officials after just about every play.  Harbaugh also had a whiny look on his face all night (not unlike former Ravens helmsman Brian Billick, ironically).  Mike Tomlin never has a whiny face, ever.

There are other areas where the Steelers are stronger than Baltimore, but by-and-large this game was won by the better-coached team.

Posted on: January 16, 2009 6:08 pm
Edited on: January 16, 2009 6:57 pm

Jon Gruden/Bruce Allen Out of Work in Tampa Bay

The worst controlled news always breaks after 5pm ET on Friday evenings.  Always.  It's the most down time of the news cycle on most given weeks.

Check the virtual press release time-stamps on the stories for all Hollywood couples getting divorced.  Or stars going to rehab.  Or in this case, an NFL team gutting it's heretofore successful front office and coaching staff starting right at the top.

Adam Schefter is on NFL Network right now reporting that Jon Gruden and Bruce Allen have been let go in Tampa Bay.  This news will certainly send shockwaves throughout the NFL community, as Gruden will instantly become a hot commodity on the open coaching market.  And to think that teams like the Broncos, Lions and Browns didn't even have a chance to consider Chuckie!  Then again, Detroit themselves didn't do so well with their last coach who was poached from Tampa Bay's staff.

But man, where does Tampa Bay go from here?  Paging Tampa-resident, former Bucs coaching great and recent NFL retiree Tony Dungy!

Is St. Louis settled on their guy (Garrett?) or do they want time to go after Gruden now?  What about the Jets?  Do you think Brett Favre would work his tail off one more season or two under Gruden?

And Schefter brings up a great point as the report Al Davis ultimately got a little revenge with the Raiders knocking the Bucs out of the playoffs in the final regular season game of 2008.  Had Tampa made the playoffs, odds are both of his former charges would still be employed by the Bucs.

Speaking of the Raiders...although they only won five games in 2008, three of the teams they beat have dumped their coaches (NYJ, DEN and now TB) and it seems likely that another team they beat, the Chiefs, may be ready to make a coaching move; although that talk seems to be quieting down and maybe **Scott Pioli will stick with Herm Edwards for at least a season?  Anyway, it appears that a loss to the Raiders has turned into a death knell for a head coach these days, which doesn't speak to the respect that the rest of the league has for the sputtering Oakland franchise.

Mike Shanahan being let go in Denver after a rare late-season collapse was a real shocker, and now a second firing of the same magnitude.  The NFL coaching hot seat is definitely at Code Red.

**Is everybody in football a "close friend" of this guy?  He might be the most social football executive in history.  Married to a Parcells daughter.  Close to Bill Belichick, to whom no one seems close to.  Tight with Kirk Ferentz at Iowa.  Now we learn he's a good pal of Bill Cowher.  I just performed a google search of scott pioli friend.  Seems like he does have quite a few around the sport.

Posted on: January 15, 2009 3:27 pm
Edited on: January 15, 2009 6:07 pm

So Glad Mike Tomlin Coaches My Favorite Team

Mike Tomlin is a wonderful coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers.  He has just the right personality for the job. He opened his press conference on Tuesday by saying with a wry smirk, "Greetings from the non-bird contingent of the final four. It's nice to be here."

I think the conferences are slated to go no further than 40-45 minutes each Tuesday at noon. He starts getting a little agitated around the 12:28 mark just about every week. For the most part of the regular season, they are done by just after 12:30. I think I've watched them all this season on FSN Pittsburgh (DirecTV Ch. 659), what else does a man currently employed by life have to do on Tuesday while enjoying his lunch?

Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin During Weekly News Conference January 13, 2009 (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)Anyway, this week about 12:35, some reporter I don't recognize (it was packed this week with a lot of non-regulars, thus longer than normal) asks about comments made by (un-named of course) veterans after the win over San Diego about him being a better coach in January of his second season as opposed to his rookie season last year and if he feels the same way about his performance? Tomlin has this nonsensical look in his face and replies rather tersely, "Frankly, I'm not interested in evaluating my own performance as a head coach, and I'm certainly not interested in discussing my players' evaluations of my job. It's my job to evaluate their performance just as there are others in this organization that evaluate mine!" By this point, he was kinda steamed and he wanted you to know it, but he did so without looking angry at all, and the room was busting up laughing. After a perfect pause, he finished it off with a great zinger to the reporter, "How's your editor doing (at his job)?"

I have read accounts that Tomlin does a crossword puzzle and the jumble daily. You can tell that he is a man of letters because he is great with the media each Tuesday. Tony Kornheiser heaped all kinds of praise on Tomlin during a Steelers Monday Night Football game earlier this season. Tomlin is humorous yet stern, candid yet reserved, confident in his team yet respectful of all their opponents. He's easy-going yet all-business, too. You can see why all kinds of players perform for him because he's so flexible, personality-wise. From my observation, he has this great presence on the sideline and locker room as well as in the media center.

I liked him the day the Steelers hired him and I grow to like him more and more as a coach with every passing game. I grow to like him more as a person with every passing press conference and interview.  And this week, a brief flash of seemingly-unassuming footage just strengthened my fondness for Mike Tomlin.

On Showtime's Inside the NFL this week, they opened the segment of highlights from the Steelers-Chargers AFC Divisional Playoff game with an NFL Films-shot from the 50 yd.-line; camera on the ground looking up right at Coach Tomlin, before kickoff and just after the team had charged, no pun intended, onto a frozen Heinz Field. He turned around both to face and take in the frenzied crowd; he breathed in the cold air enhanced by falling snow in the twilight.  If October's brown-dead ivy in Wrigley Field is the visual symbol to Cubs fans that it's the postseason taking place now, then the falling snow beneath a January steel-grey sky against a Heinz Field backdrop is the same to sons and daughters of Western Pennsylvania.  Last Sunday's snowflakes sparkled between tens of thousands of gold towels waving above tens of thousands of gold seats that would go practically unused throughout the game.

As Mike Tomlin appreciated this moment, he didn't gesture or play to the crowd--he isn't Ray Lewis and this isn't Baltimore. He just smiled proudly, then turned back to face the field, almost like a conductor would face his orchestra after greeting the audience, then the Head Coach took a deep breath and donned his headset. Another professional football postseason was about to begin at the confluence, and all seemed right in Pittsburgh.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or