Tag:Ryan Wilson
Posted on: January 19, 2012 6:21 pm
Edited on: January 19, 2012 7:21 pm
 

Steve Spagnuolo joins Saints staff

Spags will join Payton in New Orleans for 2012. (US Presswire)

By Ryan Wilson

Earlier this week, Gregg Williams, the Saints' defensive coordinator for the previous three seasons, took the same job in St. Louis to work for his old boss in Tennesse, newly named Rams head coach Jeff Fisher in St. Louis. There had been speculation before New Orleans' season ended in San Francisco last Saturday that Williams might choose to follow Fisher so it wasn't surprising when it eventually happened.

Williams was reportedly torn about leaving the Saints but the defense, which struggled against the run in 2011, could be better in 2012: CBSSports.com Rapid Reporter Larry Holder confirms through a league source that New Orleans has hired Steve Spagnuolo who, up until two and a half weeks ago, was the Rams head coach. He landed that gig after serving capably as the Giants' defensive coordinator in 2007-2008, which includes shutting down the 2007 Patriots, one of the most high-powered offenses in NFL history, in Super Bowl XLII.  He was fired from St. Louis after sandwiching a 7-9 season around one- and two-win seasons. 

Now he'll join Sean Payton's staff. And unlike St. Louis, where injuries and lack of talent meant that the Rams had to hold opponents to fewer than 10 points to have a chance to win, Spags will lead a defense whose best weapon isn't named Vilma or Smith or Ellis, but some guy named Drew Brees. And he's good for at least 35 points every time he steps on the field.

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Posted on: January 19, 2012 4:45 pm
Edited on: January 22, 2012 10:55 am
 

10 years later: the 'tuck rule' anniversary

Before January 19, 2001 everybody thought this was a fumble. (Getty Images)

By Ryan Wilson

It's been exactly 10 years since two organizations, with vastly different histories up till that point, saw their fates changed forever. The Patriots were hosting the Raiders in an AFC Divisional matchup. With 2:24 left in a game played in blizzard-like conditions, and with Oakland leading 13-10, cornerback Charles Woodson stripped quarterback Tom Brady, the Raiders recovered, and they appeared headed to the conference championship.

Except that the tuck rule -- a term no one had heard of to that point -- saved Brady and the Patriots, and, you could argue, altered the future of both organizations. New England would go on to win this game, the Super Bowl, and two more before 2005. The Raiders, meanwhile, lost Jon Gruden to the Buccaneers a few weeks later and wouldn't win more than five games for the next seven seasons.

Time supposedly heals all wounds but whoever uttered those words couldn't have been a sports fan. Ask Raiders fans or former players about the immaculate reception and you can see the blood rush to their face. Bring up the tuck rule and they'll have their hands around your neck as you try not to lose consciousness.


Depending on your perspective, this was either "fun" or some "bulls---."

"We were robbed, and I still get sick thinking about it," Woodson, now a Packer, said when the Raiders played Green Bay last month.

He was slightly more emotional during his post-game comments at the time (and understandably so):  "It's some bulls---, it's some bulls---," Woodson said according to ESPN.com. "That's exactly how I feel, I feel like it was a bulls--- call. It never should have been overturned."

He makes a decent point. Up till that moment, nobody knew what a "tuck rule" was. Even Mike Periera, the former head of officials (a job he held on this fateful night, too) who now works for Fox Sports admits that the rule is a cop out for what everybody knows is a fumble.

"A pass should only be ruled incomplete if the ball comes loose in the actual act of passing the ball," he said. "If it comes loose in the tucking motion, then it should be a fumble."

Now we reflexively shout "tuck rule" anytime a quarterback fakes a throw, resets, and loses the ball after getting smacked by a defender. Even though common sense says it's clearly a fumble. It's the football version of the "I know it when I see it" explanation for what is and isn't obscene.

Last October, when the Patriots faced the Raiders, Brady, no doubt fighting back uncontrollable laughter at his good fortune, admitted that "We got a few breaks and situationally, we made some plays."

You don't say. Richard Seymour, who was with the Patriots at the time but now plays for the Raiders, couldn't contain a smile but wasn't interested in talking in specifics.

"I was on the opposite side of it, so I don't have a comment on it…" he said according to the San Francisco Chronicle, a grin now about to swallow his face. "What's funny is that me and (Steve) Wisniewski, Coach Wisniewski, we were lined up against each other that whole game."

In his book published in 2004, "Do You Love Football?!: Winning with Heart, Passion, and Not Much Sleep," Gruden addressed what happened in Foxboro on January 19, 2002. After referee Walt Coleman invoked the tuck rule Gruden wrote that:

"We had one timeout left, but I wasn't going to use it. As a result, the Patriots had to send out … Adam Vinatieri to try a 43-yard field goal. I didn't want to try and 'ice' (him) because I didn't want to give the Patriots' ground crew time for the same thing that had happened in that same stadium in 1982, when a work-release convict used a snowplow to clear a spot for John Smith to kick the winning field goal in New England's 3-0 victory over Miami."

Ah yes...


New England didn't need the help of the Massachusetts Dept. of Correction against Oakland.

Gruden continued: "Vinatieri was kicking the ball literally out of five inches of snow, into the wind. He made it, sending the game into overtime. In overtime, Vinatieri kicked another field goal out of all that snow." 

Vinatieri's recollection of those final few moments: "My holder and I are trying to kick as much snow out of the way as possible and the offensive linemen were sweeping and sweeping. Oakland calls a timeout to ice the kicker. I think it helped us out. We cleared a pretty decent spot. At least my footing was better for that one. Game winners in playoff games are never easy. They have a whole different feel. But after making the best kick of my life, I felt like I just couldn't miss that night. That one went right down the middle and it was over. That was fun."

That was the last time Gruden coached the Raiders. "… If my recalling of this game is matter-of-fact," he said in his book, "it's because it kills me to recall this sequence of plays."

Doesn't sound like that much fun.

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Posted on: January 17, 2012 5:09 pm
Edited on: January 17, 2012 5:11 pm
 

The next Colts head coach: the early candidates

Who are the likely coaching candidates now that Jim Caldwell is out in Indy? (Getty Images/US PRESSWIRE)

By Will Brinson and Ryan Wilson

It's that time of year: head coaches get fired and we speculate as to who will replace them. On Tuesday, the Colts dismissed Jim Caldwell after a 2-14 effort this season. Perhaps the biggest surprise is that it took so long. Owner Jim Irsay got rid of Bill and Chris Polian early this month but Caldwell's future hung in the balance until Indianapolis hired a new general manager. The team announced Ryan Grigson in that role last Wednesday, and six days later, Caldwell was let go.


Which brings us to this: who's on our very early list of potential replacements? Glad you asked.

Brad Childress

Any other head-coaching gig and Childress probably wouldn't get much consideration. But the Colts are different. Whatever their plans are for Peyton Manning and/or Andrew Luck, the coach, at least in recent history, has served more as facilitator than a fire-and-brimstone motivator. Childress is best (and perhaps unfairly) remembered for selling his soul to convince Brett Favre to be Minnesota's quarterback.

That PR disaster aside, Childress was 39-35 in five years with Minnesota (including 10- and 12-win seasons in 2008 and 2009), and the Vikings were one Favre interception away from the Super Bowl in '09.

Before arriving in Minnesota, Childress served capably as Philadelphia's offensive coordinator (2003-05). Since the Colts already have a franchise QB (possibly two by late April), Childress won't have to worry about shuttling players to Mississippi to convince an over-the-hill quarterback to play one more season.

Marty Mornhinweg

Some might cringe at Mornhinwheg here considering he won five games in two seasons in a previous stint as an NFL head coach. But he's got an easy out: that was with the Lions. Also, he's worked for the Eagles since 2006, meaning he and Grigson have plenty of time as colleagues. Mornhinwheg's passing offenses have been consistently ranked in the top 10 or 15 in the NFL, and that's a huge plus for a team that's likely draft Andrew Luck first overall in three months. Mornhinwheg would go into a situation where the expectations would be low with a rebuilding franchise. Grigson running the show would mean that Mornhinwheg would get significantly more patience from his bosses than he might in a different situation.

Wade Phillips

Much like Childress, Phillips wouldn't be the first name that came to mind for most head-coaching opportunities. But again, Indy's a different situation, and Phillips, while short on charisma, is long on experience. He's also a proven defensive coordinator, something the Colts are going to need if the Luck era begins this summer.

Plus, there's this: Grigson is 39 years old. Would Irsay want an unproven GM paired with an unproven head coach? One or the other, fine. Both, however, could delay a rebuilding process that Irsay has already admitted won't happen overnight.

Phillips withdrew his name for the Buccaneers head-coaching search last week, stating that he preferred to stay in Houston as the defensive coordinator. It was the right decision, but Indy ain't Tampa Bay. This is a team that, prior to 2011, had won at least 10 games in 11 of the last 12 seasons, appeared in the Super Bowl in '09 and won the Super Bowl in '06. There's a recent history of success there that most other organizations can't match.

Rob Chudzinski

If we're Grigson and Irsay, we call up Chud and offer him a pile of money to run the offense and grow with Luck. Or, worst case, Chud comes in and works with Manning, if they keep him. The work that Chudzinski did in Carolina this year with Cam Newton can't be understated, and nothing's more important for the future of the Colts than preparing Luck to succeed going forward. Chud's shown that he can get a rookie quarterback up and running pretty quickly, and without requiring too much in the way of offensive weapons (grab some tight ends, sign a marquee, young wideout, draft an offensive lineman and you're good).  The obvious exception to this, of course: Chud's unproven (see Phillips above). 

Steve Spagnuolo

Shortly after Caldwell was dismissed Tuesday, FOX Sports' Jay Glazer reported that Spagnuolo interviewed for the Colts' defensive coordinator position earlier this week and Caldwell was one of the people Spagnuolo interviewed with. (We're immediately reminded of the Bobs asking "What would you say you do here?")

If the Colts thought enough of Spags for the DC gig, maybe they also think he deserves consideration for Caldwell's old job. Spagnuolo sandwiched one- and two-win seasons in St. Louis around a 7-9 effort, so his resume alone doesn't make him a particularly attractive candidate. But again, this isn't a typical head-coaching position and Spagnuolo appears to have the right demeanor for the situation. Which is to say that he's not a showman (see Ryan, Rex or Rob) or a screamer (Todd Haley, for example). We also shouldn't underestimate his ties to the Eagles -- just like Childress, Mornhinweg and Grigson.

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Posted on: January 17, 2012 5:07 pm
Edited on: January 17, 2012 5:08 pm
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Posted on: January 17, 2012 4:50 pm
 

Pick-Six Podcast: Jim Caldwell fired by Colts

By Will Brinson & Ryan Wilson

Jim Caldwell was fired on Tuesday by the Colts. Right before we were about to record a podcast, which is fortunate for everyone involved.

Well, except Caldwell. We broke down why this happened, what it means for Peyton Manning, what it means for the Colts going forward, who could replace Caldwell as the Colts coach.

We also talk to our good friend Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk and get him to rank the remaining quarterbacks in the playoffs, discuss whether Joe Flacco should get paid, whether any veteran would want to join Tim Tebow in Denver and much, much more.

(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: January 17, 2012 2:44 pm
Edited on: January 17, 2012 4:58 pm
 

Colts fire head coach Jim Caldwell

Jim Caldwell was fired by the Colts on Monday afternoon. (Getty Images)

By Ryan Wilson

Colts head coach Jim Caldwell's job appeared safe as recently as Tuesday morning. By Tuesday afternoon, he had been fired.

"This was a difficult decision," owner Jim Irsay said. "I wanted to make sure we took all the time we needed to make sure it was the right decision. ... And just like 14 years, ago, it's a big change for the franchise and at the same time, there's players, coaches, many people on the staff that will go into the new day and get on with the work of 2012."

Caldwell joined the organization in 2002 as the quarterbacks coach before succeeding Tony Dungy as head coach in 2009. In his first year as Dungy's replacement, Indianapolis made it to the Super Bowl, losing to the Saints.

Two years later, and without franchise quarterback Peyton Manning, the Colts went 2-14.


On January 2, shortly after Irsay fired team vice chairman Bill Polian and his son, Chris, the Colts' general manager, he told the media that Caldwell had done some good things this season but that, ultimately, the coach's fate would be decided after a new general manager was hired.

"[Caldwell] could very well be back this year, that is not out of the realm of possibility," the Colts owner said at the time. "Jim and I had a good conversation in terms of the immediate future." 

Colts Offseas

Irsay acknowledged that fans would probably like to see a change at head coach but supported Caldwell, calling him "a very bright guy, a great teacher, and a great personnel evaluator who prepares the team well." 

But when you lose 14 of 16 games, there are issues and Irsay recognized those, too. He said defensive coordinator Larry Coyer was a mistake (not a "good match as a Cover 2 guy") and that Caldwell struggled at times with game and clock management. 

Last Wednesday, Ryan Grigson was introduced as Indianapolis' new GM and today the team is looking for a new head coach. Presumably someone comfortable working with two franchise quarterbacks at opposite ends of their careers.

"Change sometimes isn't always the easiest transition to make but it's part of this game, part of this league and part of the direction we need to get going in this new era of Colts football," Grigson said Tuesday.

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Posted on: January 17, 2012 1:42 pm
 

Would Browns trade up to get Robert Griffin III?

Would Cleveland give McCoy the Heisman and go with Griffin? (Getty Images/US PRESSWIRE)

By Ryan Wilson

We wondered last week if the Browns, who hold the No. 4 pick in the April draft, might give serious consideration to taking Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III. CBSSports.com mock draft experts Rob Rang and Dane Brugler both have Cleveland grabbing RGIII, decisions no doubt made easier by Colt McCoy's struggles in 2011 coupled with head coach Pat Shurmur's indifferent take on McCoy's future as the starter.

“As we go forward here with Colt, he’s done some really good things,” Shurmur said shortly after the Browns' season ended. “Get him back healthy, get him in an offseason where he has a chance to develop. I expect that Colt will improve just like I expect (backup) Seneca (Wallace) will improve and whoever the quarterbacks are here. I think that can be said for all positions, so the best quarterback will play when we start the season.”

In his mock draft posted Tuesday, NFL.com's Sam Wyche has the Browns trading up two spots to No. 2 to take -- you guessed it -- Griffin. He writes that "Several teams are going to try and move up to get Griffin but the Browns have the most ammo -- the fourth overall pick and a late first-rounder or high picks in later rounds. Cleveland needs Griffin -- and wants him, according to league sources -- and the Rams will still get their man."

Seems reasonable, even given what Browns general manager Tom Heckert said recently (via the Canton Repository):

“In a perfect world, we would stay at 4, but it’s not a perfect world," he noted. "If we think we can get the same guy by moving down a few spots getting an extra pick or picks, why not do that?”

And then there's this from last week, by way of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer's Tony Grossi: "I would not automatically eliminate the Baylor quarterback from consideration with the Browns' top pick simply because he is a product of the one-read, shotgun spread offense."

Of course, Kevin Kolb was also mentioned as a possibility should the Cardinals decide that they'd seen enough after one uninspiring season. As we wrote previously, we're not convinced Kolb is much of an upgrade over McCoy, and certainly not at starting-quarterback money. But whatever happens this much is certain: the Browns absolutely have to nail this draft. It's up to team president Mike Holmgren, Heckert and Shurmur to figure out if Griffin is part of that conversation.

And if he's not, there are sure to be teams interested in trading up to grab him. Earlier this month we mentioned the Redskins as a possibility, something draft expert Chris Steuber echoed again Tuesday.

"We all agree that a team will trade up for RG3. My money is on the Redskins. Daniel Snyder, for better or worse, rolls high stakes dice."

If there's any team that needs a quarterback more than the Browns, it's the Redskins.

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Posted on: January 17, 2012 12:05 pm
Edited on: January 17, 2012 12:08 pm
 

Coach Killers, Week 19: Drops, picks and sacks

Coach Killers is your postseason look around the league at those performances, decisions and "Wait, what did he just do?!" moments that ends Super Bowl aspirations and begins "So, where should we vacation?" discussions.

By Ryan Wilson

Jacoby Jones, T.J. Yates - Houston

Jacoby Jones is the easy choice here because in the time it took him to try to field a punt with his face, he swung the momentum in the Ravens' favor. The Texans' opening drive led to three points, and the defense had forced Baltimore to punt on their first possession. Then Jones happened. (To his credit, he fell on an Arian Foster fumble later in the game. It doesn't make up for his first-quarter punt but it's something.) But he's not the only reason the Texans lost.

Jones had a long day in Baltimore. (US PRESSWIRE)
It's probably unfair to call out Yates here; he's a rookie who played collegiately at a basketball school that had never produced a starting NFL quarterback. His 2011 destiny was to spend the season running the scout team during the week and sitting comfortably on the bench on Sundays.

Then Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart were lost for the season, the Texans' playoff hopes didn't seem far behind, and the offense was suddenly Yates'. And he played beyond everyone's expectations. Which is why we don't feel quite so bad for name-checking him now.

Against Baltimore, he was 17 of 35 for 184 yards, no touchdowns and three interceptions. And if Yates had found a way to complete just one of those picks to someone not wearing purple and black, the outcome of this game could've been different. In fact, midway through the final quarter we actually had this thought: What if Yates leads Houston to a win (easily the biggest in franchise history)? No matter what happens in the conference championship, he's now entered Matt Flynn airspace.

Which is to say: assuming that Schaub and Leinart are both healthy by training camp, the Texans could try to trade Yates to a QB-needy team and make a nice little profit on the transaction. (We figured they might be able to get a third-rounder out of it; not bad given that Yates was a fifth-round afterthought last April.)

But that daydream was short-lived. Ed Reed's ball-hawking abilities quickly brought us back to reality and guaranteed that come August, Yates will return to a backup role. For the time being, anyway.

Green Bay 'pass catchers'

Easily the worst-performing bunch of the weekend and it's not close. It's easy to blame rust as the culprit but it could be something much simpler than that: the Packers were off (Hey, Occam's razor). They also have terrible timing.

Bad hands and worse timing for Packers. (Getty Images)
Whatever the explanation, unless Mike McCarthy has a time machine, the fact remains that Green Bay's season is over and it's primarily because their usually sure-handed receivers dropped eight Aaron Rodgers' passes.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Lori Nickel pithily recaps what happened at Lambeau Sunday.

"James Starks, Tom Crabtree, Greg Jennings, (Jordy) Nelson and (Jermichael) Finley all had drops. Aaron Rodgers, Ryan Grant and John Kuhn all lost fumbles."

Nelson was dumbfounded after the game.

"For everyone to do it in the same game," he said. "I don't know . . . I don't want to say it's contagious. But it sure looked like it today."

Finely was more practical. "Trying to do too much," he offered. "We were trying to look upfield, trying to get the YAC, but first you've got to catch the ball."

However you choose to explain it, it was a horrible showing for a team that won 15 games in 2011. Silver lining: Somebody's getting something really nice with the Best Buy gift cards coming their way.

Denver offensive line

Any conversation about the Broncos invariably begins with Tim Tebow. But that's no different than at any other point in his career going back to high school. Tebow is many things to many people, and for Denver, for now, he's theirs starting quarterback. Even following a forgettable performance against the Patriots, seven days after his most impressive showing in two years in the NFL.

But Tebow's final line -- 9 of 26 for 136 yards, 5 rushes for 13 yards, a lost fumble and 10 measly points -- isn't just the latest example that he's a fullback who is occasionally asked to throw the ball.

We've documented in great detail his progress this season. Has Tebow evolved into a franchise quarterback in 13 weeks? No, of course not. But the Broncos learned quickly that the best way to make this relationship work is by accentuating what Tebow does well (the college offense Tebow ran at Florida) and throwing the rest of the playbook in the incinerator (the pro-style offense the team ran with Kyle Orton).

But it's not just Tebow who has to grow into this system, it's his teammates. Specifically, the offensive line, at least based on their performance Saturday. In general, the unit performed well this season, particularly when Denver ran the ball. According to Football Outsiders' metrics, the Broncos' o-line ranked 11th in run-blocking in 2011 but 29th in pass protection.

Clearly, some of that falls on Tebow, who struggles to make correct presnap reads, or work through his progressions after the snap. But against New England, the Broncos had 15 plays that lost yards -- both running and passing (including sacks).

This doesn't mean that Denver needs to overhaul the entire unit. But if the plan is to build an offense around Tebow and the option game, they need to find players that best fit that scheme.

New Orleans secondary

Jenkins' day was much longer than Jacoby Jones'. (AP)
There's plenty of blame to go around, on both sides of the ball, but underwhelming performances by Roman Harper and especially Malcolm Jenkins gives the secondary the edge. Harper was the closest player to Vernon Davis on his game-winning touchdown grab, and afterwards, the 49ers said that they noticed on film that Harper's tendency was to drop several yards into the end zone but never step up to the goal line. Davis ran to the goal line, Alex Smith hit him with a laser, game over.

But a lot had to happen before Harper even got the opportunity to let Davis make the play. Linebacker Scott Shanle never redirected Davis as he came off the line of scrimmage, and linebacker Martez Wilson just missed tipping Smith's pass.

Jenkins, meanwhile, served as Davis' metaphorical punching bag. The poor guys at Canal Street Chronicles relive the horror to provide the play-by-play breakdowns in those fateful final three minutes. The final breakdown was Harper's; the other two are courtesy of Jenkins' inability to stop Davis.

As Brinson wrote in Sorting the Sunday Pile, "You might want to pick on Roman Harper for getting worked over by Vernon Davis in the end zone on the final touchdown, but Jenkins is the reason the Niners even had a shot. First there's the teardrop Alex Smith dropped over Jenkins into Davis' outstretched arms before his now famous touchdown run. Then there's Jenkins coverage on Davis across the middle when he picked up 47 yards on the 49ers final drive. Burnt toast anyone?"

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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