Tag:Ryan Wilson
Posted on: February 12, 2012 12:29 pm
Edited on: February 12, 2012 12:53 pm
 

Can Big Ben and Haley co-exist in Pittsburgh?

Haley may not have been Roethlisberger's (or Tomlin's) first choice, but none of that matters now. (US PRESSWIRE)

By Ryan Wilson

The Steelers have had a run on un-Steelers-like offseasons recently. From Ben Roethlisberger's legal entanglements to Hines Ward's DUI to to Rashard Mendenhall's tweets on foreign policy to James Harrison's guns-ablazin' interview in Mens Journal, it's always something.


Even though this offseason isn't yet a week old, the Steelers are in the news again, this time for forcing offensive coordinator into "retirement" (eight days later, Arians joined the Colts in the same capacity) and hiring Todd Haley as his replacement.

We spoke to Lance Zierlein of TheSidelineView.com about this new dynamic (Lance has special insights into the Steelers -- his dad was Mike Tomlin's offensive line coach in Pittsburgh from 2007-2009) and it basically came down to this: Roethlisberger's been given too much leeway by the organization, there are some things he needs to do to improve, and Haley could be the guy to do it.

Zierlein admitted that Haley's abrasive style will take some getting used to, and the hire is weird in the sense that Haley's only link to Pittsburgh is through his father, Dick, a longtime personnel guy with the Steelers. He has no connection to Tomlin or his coaching tree, and based on Tomlin's comments shortly after the season (he said he expected all his assistants back in 2012), Haley wasn't even on his radar until Arians was pushed out.

In Sunday's Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Joe Starkey writes that Haley's addition is aimed at one thing: corralling Roethlisberger, who pretty much has had the run of the place since he arrived in 2004.

"How does Roethlisberger respond to getting slapped around a little?" Starkey asks. "The organization that granted him nearly unlimited power to play as he saw fit -- heck, to play when he saw fit after his ankle injury -- is trying to reclaim a portion of said power. And there is no delicate way to do that.

"So get your popcorn ready. It's either going to work to spectacular results or blow up in their faces. Applaud the high-risk, high-reward philosophy that has often served the Steelers well. Question their methods. Enjoy the cabaret."

This seems to be the widespread perception -- that Roethlisberger won't handle tough coaching well. But as Zierlein pointed out Friday, While Haley's style isn't buddy-buddy (he's had run-ins with players everywhere he's coached, from divas like Terrell Owens in Dallas to team leaders like Kurt Warner and Matt Cassel in Arizona and Kansas City), he's had a lot of success as completely different kinds of offenses, from the Cards' aerial assault to the Chiefs' run-heavy game plans.

And Haley's in-your-face style isn't all bad. In fact, Arizona wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald is a huge Haley fan.

"I think Todd is a great coach," Fitzgerald said late in 2010 when Haley was leading the Chiefs to the AFC West title. He's fun to play for. "Everybody says he's a hard ass and this … but at the end of the day when Todd came in the locker room he'd give you the biggest hug. He wanted it so bad for us. He prepared so much and he pushed us. I remember after the NFC championship (victory over the Eagles in January 2009) he was in tears. Those moments are what I'll remember."

So maybe Haley isn't Roethlisberger's first choice or Tomlin's "guy," but he'll have plenty of weapons to work with. The Steelers' wide receivers are some of the best in the league, tight end Heath Miller is as good a blocker as a pass catcher, and Big Ben is a top-5 talent. There are worse situations to step into and be expected to succeed.

Ultimately, none of this matters. It'll come down to whether the Steelers' offense in 2012 is better than it was under Arians. That means scoring more points, being more proficient in the red zone, and having a more consistent running game. Do that, and people will gladly overlook how Haley comports himself on the sidelines. Fail and will be looking for work.

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Posted on: February 12, 2012 9:59 am
Edited on: February 12, 2012 1:52 pm
 

Report: Pierre-Paul to appear on TNA Wrestling

It looks like JPP and Kurt Angle have some differences to settle.  (Ryan Wilson, CBSSports.com/Getty Images)

By Ryan Wilson

UPDATE, 1:45 p.m. ET -- Jason Pierre-Paul has decided against resolving his make-believe issues by donning tights. “He declined because he is exhausted,” Robert Bailey, the president of Rosenhaus Sports, told FOXSports.com (via PFT). 

The list may not be all that distinguished but it is long. And now, it appears, Jason Pierre-Paul will be the latest professional athlete to step into the squared circle in the name of entertainment. According to FOXSports.com's Alex Marvez, the Giants' defensive end is scheduled to make an appearance for Total Nonstop Action Wrestling at a Monday night television taping in Orlando, Florida. The segment will air on TNA's Thursday night Impact Wrestling.

Pierre-Paul would join Dennis Rodman and Ben Roethlisberger as former champions to take up wresting. But non-champions can live out childhood fantasies, too; the Jets' Bart Scott, and former Titans Pacman Jones and Frank Wycheck have also been involved in TNA storylines.

Marvez's source reveals that JPP is "is expected to have an in-ring confrontation with TNA star Kurt Angle."

We eagerly await Tom Coughlin's response to questions about Pierre-Paul's offseason workout regimen. Silver lining: at least he's not dancing! 

(This gives us a fantastic idea: maybe Rodney Harrison and Rob Gronkowski should settle their differences in a pay-per-view wrasslin' match with the proceeds going to charity. If nothing else, it would be an opportunity for Harrison to keep his word about Gronk getting his "head rung" for dancing like he was in Footloose hours after the Pats' Super Bowl loss.)

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Posted on: February 10, 2012 10:26 pm
Edited on: February 11, 2012 10:35 am
 

Bucs hire Mike Sullivan as offensive coordinator

The Bucs hope Sullivan can do for Freeman what he did for Manning in New York. (Getty Images)

By Ryan Wilson

Four years ago, then-Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo was responsible for the game plan that helped New York to an improbable victory over the undefeated Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. A year later, he landed the Rams head-coaching gig based largely off what he accomplished that night.

Things didn't quite go according to plan in St. Louis (Spagnuolo sandwiched one- and two-win seasons around a 7-9 effort in 2010); he was mercifully relieved of his duties this January.

Giants quarterback coach Mike Sullivan appears to be following a similar path; after serving as Eli Manning's quarterback coach for the past two seasons, he has been hired by new Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano to serve as the team's offensive coordinator.

"We are very fortunate to add someone like Mike Sullivan to lead our offensive coaching staff," Schiano said in a statement. "He is a man of character and a complete football coach, who fits with the kind of football team we are building here. His work with the Giants over the past eight seasons speaks for itself. Mike was an integral part of that team winning two Super Bowls in the last five years and we look forward to him bringing that experience and expertise to our club."

Sullivan, who was hired the same day he interviewed for the position, was the Giants' wide receivers coach from 2004-2009 and coached the quarterbacks in 2010-11 after Chris Palmer left for the UFL.

As the Newark Star-Ledger's Mike Garafolo notes, Sulliven was criticized in 2010 when Manning tossed 25 interceptions (even though he also threw for more than 4,000 yards and 31 touchdowns).

A season later, Manning was one of the best quarterbacks in the league. He threw for 4,933 yards -- including 29 touchdowns and 16 picks -- completed 61 percent of his passes and had a career-best 8.4 yards per attempt. According to Football Outsiders' quarterback efficiency metric, Manning ranked sixth in total value behind Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Tony Romo and Matt Stafford.  In four postseason games, including the Super Bowl, Manning had nine touchdowns, a lone pick and a passer rating of 103.3.

Sullivan will be tasked with revitalizing an offense that stagnated last season after a surprising 10-6 effort in 2010. Quarterback Josh Freeman was a top-10 quarterback heading into training camp; he was coming off a 25 TD-6 INT effort in '10 and seemed ready to get the Bucs back to the playoffs. But he -- along with everybody else on the team -- regressed in 2011.

By the time it was over, Freeman had 16 touchdowns and 22 interceptions and Tampa Bay limped into the offseason with a 4-12 record. The result cost Raheem Morris his job, but provided Sullivan an opportunity to hopefully do for Freeman what he did for Manning.

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Posted on: February 10, 2012 9:01 pm
Edited on: February 11, 2012 11:12 am
 

Would Peyton to 'Skins only be about the money?

It's early, but the race for Manning appears to be down to three teams. (AP)

By Ryan Wilson

CBSSSports.com's Will Brinson did the heavy lifting Friday, handicapping the possible landing spots for Peyton Manning in 2012. No matter who's making the list, the Dolphins, Redskins and Jets seem to be the early frontrunners.

Former Washington quarterback Joe Theismann is on record saying that the 'Skins don't need Manning but that puts him squarely in the minority.

The Washington Post's Dan Steinberg has made it his mission to transcribe every Manning-to-Washington-related television or radio conversation, and on Thursday, it was ESPN's Chris Mortensen's turn. He was talking about -- shocker -- Manning, the Redskins came up, as did Theismann's objections.

“Well, I love Joe, but I think that’s just silly,” Mortensen said via Steinberg. “I mean, if we were in the same room, I’m sure we’d have this debate anyway. Why would that be a horrific idea? I think he alluded to that being a band-aid. Well, listen, they need to win. They’re in a very competitive division in the NFC East. And if you’ve got Mike Shanahan, who’s an offensive mind that certainly Peyton Manning would have high regard for, and you’ve got an owner who will go out and get players around you, two or three more players…."

Mortensen says a lot of things, not all of them accurate, but he's right about Manning's regard for Shanahan. Steinberg dug up this three-year-old quote from the Denver Post:

“I would be hard-pressed to find a better offensive mind that Mike Shanahan,” Manning said in February 2009. “I had him [during the Pro Bowl], and that was a special week. They fired Phil Fulmer in Tennessee and, you know, just be careful. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Now Coach Dungy retired. But I think there’s a lot of good football coaches out there, and I think Mike Shanahan is one of the best of them.”

So there's that. Whether that's enough to entice Manning to play for the Redskins is another matter entirely.

The Post's Sally Jenkins writes that "Shanahan is the only head coach in the market for Manning’s services who can say he’s won two Super Bowls, and knows how to work with a fully formed Hall of Famer. He can also say he has made real strides in rebuilding, despite the Redskins’ record."

As for the former, most critics would point to John Elway, not Shanahan, as the reason for the Broncos' two Super Bowls. And the latter is a stretch by any measure; maybe the Redksins have made incremental improvements under Shanahan but let's be honest: he wasn't hired to take a four-win team to the heights of 6-10 and 5-11.

John Feinstein, Jenkins' colleague at the Post, doesn't share her optimism. In fact, he's of the opinion (like a lot of people), that there's only one reason Manning would come to Washington. To quote Randy Moss: straight cash, homey.

“You’re 36 years old, you’ve got a major neck problem, you probably only have so many hits left in you," Feinstein said recently during an radio appearance. "Why would you go to a team with a questionable at best offensive line, where the guy who’s most important to you sat out the last four games because he tested positive for recreational drugs, an organization that is constantly in flux?

“Other than Dan Snyder going into his wallet and giving him guaranteed money where other people are more likely to give him an incentive-laden contract, I can’t think of a single reason why Peyton Manning would want to come here," Feinstein continued. "...The only reason Peyton Manning would come to Washington would be if the money was so much better than anybody else. Because no matter how much these guys make, no matter how much they have made, it is still about money, not only because they want to put it in their bank account, but because it’s an ego thing like it is with everybody.”

The Redskins have been much better about avoiding high-priced soon-to-be-washout free agents in recent years. History suggests they should steer clear of Manning, too. We just wonder if Snyder's impulsiveness will get the best of him.

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Posted on: February 10, 2012 7:31 pm
Edited on: February 12, 2012 9:43 am
 

Patriots president defends Rob Gronkowski

Jonathan Kraft on Gronkowski: "He hasn't brokan any laws."  (Getty Images)

By Ryan Wilson

Rodney Harrison is particularly passionate and passionately particular. For instance, he proclaimed that Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski "disrespected himself" by partying (and dancing -- topless) in the hours after Sunday's Super Bowl loss. But the same sanctimony was nowhere to be found when coach Bill Belichick headed to California to play in the Pebble Beach Pro-Am this week.

Is one worse than the other? Does a few days really make that big a difference? (Seriously, we're talking about mourning a game that includes dressing up in funny costumes and running into other similarly dressed people.)

Like most things, it depends. Unless, of course, you're Harrison, who appears resolute in his opinions that there are no gray areas when it comes to skimping on the self-flagellation after a devastating loss. (Although he conveniently forgets to call out everybody.)

Gronkowski reportedly had ankle surgery Friday, and that same day team president Jonathan Kraft went on ESPN radio to speak to those who felt compelled to criticize Gronkowski for his postgame party plans.

“One thing I do know is the guy is 100 percent a passionate when it comes to football,” Kraft said (via the Boston Herald). “He loves football. He wants to win. He doesn’t like losing. I don’t know specifically what people are questioning, but he’s an ultimate competitor. I think the team did accomplish a lot this year. Unfortunately, we fell a little bit short of the ultimate goal. I do think that he and other players probably have different ways of both celebrating what we were able to achieve and dealing with the disappointment of the night, and I think it’s hard to personalize how any individual would deal with that and project it on someone else.”

Kraft also pointed out that Gronkowski “...hasn’t broken any laws, he hasn’t done anything else, and I think it’s hard to place value judgments.”

How this isn't obvious to Harrison might be the biggest post-Super Bowl story.

In related news: it's clear that, in addition Gronkowski, Vince Wilfork, Julian Edelman, Tiquan Underwood's flat top and Robert Kraft don't care about winning, either. This must pain Harrison to no end. 

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Posted on: February 10, 2012 12:23 pm
Edited on: February 11, 2012 9:21 pm
 

Pick-Six Podcast: Haley a good fit in Pittsburgh?

Revisiting the week that was in Indianapolis: Super Bowl XLVI. (Getty Images)

By Will Brinson & Ryan Wilson

Ah, the NFL offseason. When every franchise's hopes spring eternal and stuff. Except the Steelers, who are doomed -- DOOMED, WE SAY! -- with the addition of Todd Haley as offensive coordinator. Actually, we don't say that; Ryan says that.

To calm him down, we brought on Lance Zierlein noted Houston sports savant (The Chronicle, Houston radio), co-owner of TheSidelineView.com and son of former Steelers offensive line coach Larry Zierlein to break down the hire.

Ryan and Will then fight about Haley's addition and debate who's the favorite to land Peyton Manning in 2012. They also hit all the latest NFL news fit to print.

(Did we mention that you should subscribe to the podcast via iTunes? And if you can't listen to the podcast below, download it here. And if you'd like to keep working while listening in your browser, pop that puppy out in a new tab here.)


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Posted on: February 8, 2012 11:56 pm
Edited on: February 10, 2012 2:50 pm
 

Harrison: Gronkowski 'disrespected himself'

Gronkowski was a maniac on the floor. Harrison did not approve. (Ryan Wilson, CBSSports.com)

By Ryan Wilson

There was plenty of blame to go around In the hours and days following the Patriots loss to the Giants in Super Bowl XLVI. For the most part, it seemed like a collective knee-jerk reaction from media and fans (and family members) not accustomed to losing. Of course, this is what happens when the hometown team wins three Super Bowls in five seasons and Tom Brady begins his postseason career by going 10-0.

NFL Offseason Begins

Depending on your perspective, any number of people were at fault for the outcome: Brady, Wes Welker, Bill Belichick, the defense and tight end Rob Gronkowski, who was limited by a high-ankle sprain.

But it wasn't Gronkowski's lack of production, or even that he didn't battle Giants linebacker Chase Blackburn for a Brady arm punt that became an interception that upset his critics. It was his after-game exploits that got some folks worked into a lather.

In case you missed it, Gronkowski, along with teammate Matt Light, were spotted dancing (topless, no less!) at an Super Bowl party hours after the game.

Scandalous, we know.

(If the sarcasm dripping off that last sentence isn't obvious enough, we'll just repeat what we said on the Pick-6 Podcast: what's Gronkowski supposed to do? Sit in his room and cry himself to sleep? Will that make him a better player for the Pats' next game in six months? No? So what's the problem then?)

This makes no difference to NBC analyst and former Patriots safety Rodney Harrison, who is very upset with Gronk's decision to gyrate his hips after a loss.

“I guarantee you this, if Willie McGinest, Tedy Bruschi, Larry Izzo, Richard Seymour or myself had been at that party, [Gronkowski] probably would have got his head rung,” Harrison told ESPN 1000 in Chicago (via PFT). “There’s no reason for that to happen.”

Oh god. Nothing like an old-timer invoking old times. Yes, Rodney, we know. You had to walk 10 miles to practice, uphill each way, you didn't have shoes and it always snowed.

(Worth mentioning: back in September, the aforementioned Bruschi happily called out Chad Ochocinco for tweeting. We have yet to hear his mock outrage over Gronkowski blowing off steam early Monday morning.)

Harrison wasn't done. 

“When we lost the Super Bowl, any of my Super Bowl losses, I was so devastated the last thing I ever wanted to do was party, let alone dance or take off your shirt,” Harrison said. “It’s just immaturity. It’s not right. He made a mistake and I’m sure he feels absolutely stupid about it at this point. There’s a time and place for everything.”

Rodney's right: there is a time and place for everything. Time: after the season is over -- check. Place: party where music is played and dancing is encouraged -- check.

This is almost as ridiculous as Gronkowki having to apologize for having his picture taken with a porn star. Almost.

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Posted on: February 8, 2012 10:27 pm
 

Harbaugh wants Smith back in SF as starting QB

Smith could be back.  (Ryan Wilson, CBSSports.com)
By Ryan Wilson

Jim Harbaugh has been an Alex Smith supporter at least as far back as last summer when, during the lockout, the first-year 49ers head coach announced that he wanted the then-free agent quarterback in San Francisco as his starter. This must've seemed odd to Smith, whose NFL career up to that point had been full of underachievement and disappointment (though, to be fair, it wasn't completely his fault; this is what happens when you play in an new offense virtually every season in an organization that lacked stability until recently).

Now fresh off a 13-3 season, the NFC West title, and a trip to the NFC Championship Game, Harbaugh wants Smith, set to be a free agent in March, back for 2012. Even though the team selected quarterback-of-the-future Colin Kaepernick in the second round of the 2011 draft. Smith finished the season with 3,144 passing yards, 17 touchdowns, 5 interceptions, and ranked 13th in Football Outsiders' quarterback efficiency metric ahead of Joe Flacco and Cam Newton.

Three days after Smith accepted the NFL Coach of the Year award on behalf of Harbaugh at the inaugural NFL Awards during Super Bowl Weekend in Indy, the two played golf together at a Pebble Beach charity event. (And via CSNBayArea.com's Matt Maiocco, Smith will serve as Harbaugh's caddie on Day 1 of the Pebble Beach Pro-Am.) To hear the 49ers head coach, it sounds like he's in no hurry to break up the band.

"We're all in lockstep as an organization that Alex Smith is our guy. It's well-documented. You saw the way he played this year," Harbaugh told "Chronicle Live" host Jim Kozimor, according to Maiocco. "(He is a) tremendous leader on our football team.

"There's Alex and there are other guys, too, that are high priorities. We want our guys. There are guys who play like 49ers, and what they do is they play their hearts out for our team. So Alex and others, (it's) going to be a high-priority to get those guys signed."

Despite a career year, Smith understands he has to improve.

"For me, it's all about strengthening your weaknesses -- getting better," Smith said, "really analyzing where you need to get better and being honest with yourself, as a player and as a team. That's what will happen in the coming weeks."

The 49ers were a fantastic story in 2011 but the real test will be if they can sustain their success from one season to the next.

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