Tag:Mike Shanahan
Posted on: January 11, 2012 8:03 pm
Edited on: January 11, 2012 8:23 pm
 

Raheem Morris lands DB assistant job in WAS

Morris

By Josh Katzowitz

Raheem Morris has found a new job, and he’s had to take a rather large demotion to get it. As the Tampa Bay Times reports, Morris has been hired as the Redskins defensive backs coach, meaning Morris won’t even get to be a coordinator in his first job since the Buccaneers fired him as head coach.

Not that he’s ever been an NFL defensive coordinator before anyway. Three years ago, the Tampa Bay front office was so impressed by Morris’ work as the Buccaneers secondary coach, the ownership elevated him to the head coaching spot.

Morris' Next Move
After a 2010 season in which the Buccaneers finished a surprising 10-6, the team folded into a 4-12 squad this year while seemingly quitting on Morris with about a month left in the season.

But Morris has a previous relationship with Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan (the two were assistant coaches together in Tampa Bay from 2004-05) and knows Redskins general manager Bruce Allen well (Allen was the Buccaneers GM at the time).

While the Buccaneers defense last season finished last in points allowed and 30th in yards, the pass defense was only the 12th-worst team in the league of yards given up (what’s not so good is that the team faced the fourth-least amount of passes).

The Redskins, meanwhile, ranked 12th in the league in passing yards allowed, but earlier Wednesday night, the Washington Post reported that the contract of long-time Redskins safeties coach Steve Jackson would not be renewed.

According to the paper, Morris has an understanding with coach Mike Shanahan that if he's offered a defensive coordinator job, he can bail out from Washington. Morris also has interviewed for the Vikings defensive coordinator position.

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Posted on: January 5, 2012 9:01 pm
Edited on: January 5, 2012 9:02 pm
 

Let 'Redskins will trade up for RGIII' rumors fly

Washington needs a quarterback, obviously. The question is who will it be in 2012? (US PRESSWIRE)

By Ryan Wilson

For 20 NFL teams, the 2011 season ended last Sunday. For the Redskins under owner Dan Snyder, this time of year has become known as their offseason Super Bowl. It's an unflattering commentary on their free-spending personnel decisions in free agency and the draft that ratchets up fans' hopes before crushing them, usually around Halloween. It's became an annual event, though less so under head coach Mike Shanahan and general manager Bruce Allen.

But as the saying goes, old habits die hard. With the free agency two months off and the NFL Draft some six weeks after that, the speculation has begun.

2012 NFL Draft
This isn't surprising based on recent team history and the Redskins' dire need for a quarterback. Even Joe Gibbs, the man who traded for Mark Brunell and installed him as the starter in 2004, acknowledges as much.

"Generally for me the number one thing you want to try to do, whatever the cost, is try to solve the quarterback situation, get that thing solidified," he said during an appearance on ESPN 980. "I think the Redskins are going through that process, [to find] a solid starter that’ll been there every game for them, somebody they really can say can take them to the promised land."

In early December, we wondered if Peyton Manning might be in Washington's future before the media rumor mill started throwing around the idea that the 'Skins might be in the "trading up for Andrew Luck" business.

Here's the latest, via ESPN's John Clayton, who appeared on Vinny Cerrato's Baltimore radio show earlier this week (transcription courtesy of the Sports Bog's Dan Steinberg): Washington should draft Baylor's Robert Griffin III.

“You can see how the dynamics go,” Clayton said. “You’re at the mercy of the draft. I would have to think if you’re gonna be Matt Flynn, send a nice thank you to Matt Barkley for making you $12 million, because think about where he would fit in.

“If you’re Cleveland, you do have a chance to trade up to get RGIII, but if you can’t get him, then you might consider Matt Flynn because he’s in that Green Bay West Coast offense system. Seattle, sitting down with the what 11th or 12th pick depending on the coin toss, they’re gonna be out of position to get a quarterback, so I think they’re gonna have to be in the mix. Miami is gonna have to choose between Orton or Matt Flynn.”

When Cerrato asked about the 'Skins, Clayton responded, almost reflexively: “Ah, they’ll trade with St. Louis and get RGIII.”

The Colts have the top pick in April's draft followed by the Rams. Indianapolis has an obvious need at quarterback (even if Manning's healthy, he ain't playing forever) but St. Louis took their franchise quarterback, Sam Bradford, with the 2010 first-overall pick. If the demand for Griffin is sufficiently high, the Rams may be willing to trade down.

Helping Griffin's stock? The news Thursday afternoon that Oklahoma's Landry Jones will return to school.

This comes two weeks after USC's Matt Barkley announced he was staying for his senior season, taking two possible first-round talents out of this year's draft pool. The other beneficiary in addition to Griffin? Matt Flynn, of course.

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Posted on: December 31, 2011 11:42 am
 

Jags owner Weaver regrets firing Tom Coughlin

WeaverBy Josh Katzowitz

With his time as the Jaguars owner coming to an end (the team will be turned over to Shahid Khan next Wednesday), Wayne Weaver took a look back at the past 17 years he was in charge of the organization.

In this interview with the team’s official website, he was in a nostalgic mood and he shared perhaps his biggest regret as owner: firing original head coach Tom Coughlin in 2002.

At the time, Weaver said the franchise needed to go in a new direction -- Coughlin had been there eight years at that point -- and pointed out, “There's a point in this business where you have to say, 'We need innovative new ideas, new fresh approaches,' and you have to move in different directions and that's what this is really all about.”

A decade later, Weaver is remorseful about that stance (which, by the way, must make Jack Del Rio feel pretty special).

“If hindsight you could change, I’ll be honest with you: I probably would have never changed Coughlin,” Weaver said. “I would have tried to have Tom take a step back and just be the coach. I thought about it, but I didn’t think Tom would do it. I thought Tom’s pride would never allow him to take a step back and me take the general manager’s position and all power and say, ‘Go coach the football team.’ He did that in New York, but I thought it would hurt his pride too much.”

Weaver also blamed himself for not fully understanding the salary cap and all its implications when Jacksonville first entered the league. In retrospect, though, it’s easy to regret firing the coach who took your expansion team to the playoffs in four of its first eight seasons.

“If you remember, my three short list names I had narrowed it down to were (Mike) Shanahan, (Tony) Dungy and Tom,” Weaver said. “I hired Tom because I felt he was more autocratic and I felt that not knowing anything about this business I needed somebody where I could say, ‘You set the stage here. You build the platform we have to build this franchise around.’ I felt he would be the best guy to do it and as it turned out, he was the best guy to do it. We had tremendous success. Our draft choices were probably better than the average team at the time. That was Tom’s work ethic. He was very involved and he was a good evaluator. He held people accountable to develop those players.”

Alas, this seems to be Coughlin’s lot in life. He can take your expansion team and make it a winner almost immediately and he can win the Super Bowl for his second franchise, but for some reason, he always seems to be on the precipice of getting fired.

Jacksonville did it and now regrets the move. You wonder if the Giants will make the same mistake.

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Posted on: December 30, 2011 4:57 pm
Edited on: December 30, 2011 4:58 pm
 

Top Ten with a Twist: Draft needs

A. Luck should be a No. 1 selection in next year's draft. Who will select him, though (US Presswire).

By Josh Katzowitz

As we enter the final weekend of the season, a number of squads are just playing out the string, hoping to put a solid performance on film, ready to clean out their lockers and look ahead to next year. While only four games on this week’s schedule mean absolutely nothing in terms of the postseason, quite a few of those teams are just looking to play spoiler.

And looking to the 2012 draft, where they can begin to rebuild their team or shore up that one position that could put them over the hump for next season. That’s why we’re taking the 10-worst teams in the league this year and finding one major flaw that needs to be fixed from April 26-28 in New York City’s Radio Music Hall.

For these teams -- and their fans -- the time has come to salivate at the prospects of landing the exact right guy that could change their fortunes for years to come.

10. Bills: Defensive line -- I didn’t like the Ryan Fitzpatrick $59 million extension earlier this year, and I hate it now. But I think Buffalo has other concerns for the moment, and they come on defense. For one, Buffalo has a tough time stopping the run. First-round pick Marcell Dareus has been a bit inconsistent at the nose tackle, but he also has the ability to play like a monster. The 3-4  ends, though, need to be better. Injured tackle Kyle Williams obviously will help when he returns next season, but the ability to rush the passer once in a while also would help (Buffalo’s 25 sacks ranks 30th in the league).

9. Dolphins: Quarterback -- Look, the Dolphins have some talent. They proved that when Tony Sparano’s job was on the line, and they started winning games. They proved it by nearly beating Tom Brady, and they proved it by nearly beating Tim Tebow (that last point was a joke). While Matt Moore has been much better than expected after taking over for Chad Henne, he’s a Band-Aid. I think most of us would agree that Henne isn’t the answer as the starter, and perhaps, he and Moore could have a battle to see who could back-up a legit starting quarterback. Reggie Bush established himself as a 1,000-yard rusher, and with a talented quarterback like Robert Griffin III (if he lasts that long in the draft), the Dolphins could begin pushing for AFC East crowns.

8. Browns: Pass rushers -- Cleveland got two defensive linemen early last year (tackle Phil Taylor in the first round and end Jabaal Sheard in the second), and they’ve done a nice job on the left side of the defensive line. But the defense ranks 25th in the league in sacks, and defensive end Jayme Mitchell hasn’t had a great season. Marcus Benard, coming off a solid rookie season last year, is on IR, and if the Browns could get one more high-end rusher in the draft, they’d have talent and depth.

7. Redskins: Quarterback -- It’s probably time for Mike Shanahan to come to the realization that his quarterback picks the past two years have been disastrous (Donovan McNabb, Rex Grossman, John Beck). He said the other day that the rebuild of this franchise has taken more time than he thought, but a standout quarterback obviously would help that process along. Shanahan also said that there was no question in his mind that he’d be back next season, but unless he finds a way to invigorate his offense, that might be a different story this time next year.

6. Chiefs: Right tackle -- Looking across Kansas City’s depth chart, there’s not one position group that so obviously needs to be overhauled. The Chiefs have talent, even if some of those positions don’t have much depth. But right tackle Barry Richardson has badly struggled this season. According Pro Football Focus, Richardson is the worst-rated offensive tackle in the league (the decision to cut Jared Gaither near the end of the season was a bad one). Left tackle Branden Albert is solid, but the right side of the line needs to be reworked.

Minnesota's secondary has been a big concern this year (US Presswire).5. Buccaneers: Run defenders -- The Buccaneers tried to shore up their defensive end spots last draft, taking Adrian Clayborn in the first round and Da’Quan Bowers in the second round. Considering Tampa Bay ranks dead last in sacks, the experiment hasn’t paid off immediate dividends. But the Buccaneers are also terrible against the run, and even though tackle Albert Haynesworth has played better than most of us had a right to expect, there are still huge holes to fill in the lineup.

4. Vikings: Secondary -- The Vikings rank as the 31st-worst defense in the NFL, but in reality, their front seven has talent (for instance, Jared Allen, Kevin Williams and Chad Greenway). Minnesota lost Antoine Winfield (its best corner) early in the year, Chris Cook has legal troubles, safety Jamarca  Sanford has struggled badly and the rest of the safeties have been ravaged by injuries. It’s no  wonder opposing quarterbacks dominate the Vikings defensive backs. On the season, Minnesota has recorded seven interceptions, worst in the NFL. The Vikings need to find somebody who can force turnovers in order to improve this unit.

3. Jaguars: Receivers – Oh, how they need receivers. Yes, Blaine Gabbert has been, by far, the worst rookie quarterback to play this year, but Jacksonville, even with new ownership and a new coach, probably needs to give him more than a season to see if he’s a quarterback of the future. He also needs somebody who can catch his passes. Here are Jacksonville’s top-three receivers: Mike Thomas, Jarret Dillard, and yeah, nobody else. In fact, there’s a good chance running back Maurice Jones-Drew will end up as the team’s leading pass-catcher this season. Hard to blame Gabbert completely when his receiving corps is so bad.

2. Colts: Running backs -- Assuming Peyton Manning returns healthy next season -- admittedly, a huge assumption -- his receivers should continue to be fine (this, of course, depends on what happens with free agents Reggie Wayne and Pierre Garcon). But we’ve seen this year that without a running game, a Manning-less Colts squad has very little chance of doing anything (mostly because Manning makes up for SO many team deficiencies). Joseph Addai, who’s averaging 3.8 yards per carry and probably won’t get to 500 rushing yards on the season for the second year in a row, might be released into free agency, and Donald Brown, while improved, isn’t a legit No. 1 running back. The Colts obviously have a big decision to make regarding Manning and Andrew Luck, but taking a running back probably wouldn’t be a bad idea.

1.Rams: Offensive linemen -- There’s been talk that maybe the Rams should grab Luck if they end up with the No. 1 pick. Which, with Sam Bradford on the team, would be ludicrous. Instead, St. Louis should be focused on how to put together an offensive line that doesn’t lead the league in sacks allowed. The biggest problem, not including injuries to Jason Smith and Jacob Bell that have hurt the unit, has been the line’s interior. Linemen aren’t the sexiest position, but damn, St. Louis needs to find some that can stay healthy and keep Bradford and Steven Jackson out of danger.

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Posted on: December 27, 2011 2:35 pm
Edited on: December 27, 2011 2:36 pm
 

Redskins release RB Ryan Torain

Torain was buried on the depth chart and Washington decided to move on without him. (US PRESSWIRE)

By Ryan Wilson

Ryan Torain started just four games for the Redskins this season and averaged 3.4 yards a carry. And on Tuesday, the team released him, according to ESPN 980's Chris Russell.

Torain struggled with injuries and competition in Washington; rookie Roy Helu emerged as a legitimate NFL starter (147 carries, 635 yards in 14 games) after Tim Hightower went down with a season-ending knee injury in October, and Evan Royster was impressive against the Vikings last Saturday (19 carries, 132 yards).

Torain took the news about like you'd expect.

"It's a business," he said according to Redskins beat reporter Grant Paulsen. "This is how it goes. It's ugly."

Torain was originally a fifth-round pick of the Broncos in the 2008 draft, and arrived in Washington prior to the 2010 season. In Week 4, Torain had his best game as a member of the Redskins, rushing for 135 yards on 19 carries against the Rams.

“It was a very emotional game for me just wanting to get out there and play,” he said at the time. “I just wanted to give it my all.”

Head coach Mike Shanahan added: “He looked like he was [playing] at a different level. Like he was possessed, breaking tackles and making plays.”

On Monday, Shanahan noted that the Redskins had plenty of depth at running back, praising Royster's effort against the Vikings. But he also seemed confused by Torain's struggles. Which explains why, a day later, the team decided to move on without him.

Washington heads into the offseason with plenty of questions but Shanahan sees reason for optimism as he concludes his second season as the 'Skins' head coach.

“Oh yeah, [progress has taken] a lot longer than I first anticipated,” he said. “We had less depth than I thought. We were a little bit older at a few different positions and I thought we might keep those players a little bit longer than we did.”

But Shanahan added that he sees a big difference in this team when compared to two years ago, with improved youth and depth among the biggest changes. Next up: a solid free agency and draft. (And who knows, maybe this guy is in Washington's future.)

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Posted on: December 16, 2011 11:31 pm
Edited on: December 17, 2011 12:11 am
 

Are Landry's chances of a big contract fizzling?

L. Landry likely will be placed on the IR list with an Achilles problem (US Presswire).By Josh Katzowitz

Safety LaRon Landry was the No. 6 overall pick in the 2007 draft, and as he nears the end of his initial rookie contract, his hope of finding a big payday seems to have decreased.

Namely, because he ended last year on the IR list with an Achilles tendon issue and because the Redskins have done the same thing to him this season for the same injury.

Making matters worse: he needs surgery.

“I think everybody will be taking a look at it,” Washington coach Mike Shanahan said, via the Washington Post. “Not just us, saying, ‘Hey, let’s look at the surgery, let’s take a look at what Dr. (Robert) Anderson says, how long the rehab will be, how long it will take to come back full-speed.’ I think everybody will make decisions then.”

According to the paper, Landry, who is making $3.175 million this year, has been wrestling with the decision to undergo surgery on his foot or just try to play through the injury in order to make himself more appealing to potential employers but also risk hurting himself more.

“I think it’s been more frustrating than anything,” said safeties coach Steve Jackson. “Not only is it a contract year, but after the season he started off with last year, he wanted to surpass that. There were a lot of expectations he put on himself, and unfortunately with the injuries, he hasn’t been able to achieve his goals.”

It is unfortunate for Landry, who was enjoying a career year last season (85 tackles, a sack and an interception in nine games) before his tendon ended it all. He didn’t have surgery in the offseason (instead, he underwent shockwave therapy and plasma treatments) and hoped his tendon would respond well. But midway through this season, he strained it again.

Now, his hopes for a big second contract are dwindling.

“I’m even considering coming here and signing another one-year” contract, Landry said recently. “Even if I have to come here and sign a one-year just to solidify myself and not have to worry about trying to get the big-dollar [contract this year], I’d do that. Because I admit, this season has been kind of shaky.

“But this would let me come back. . . and show what I’m really capable of doing, which is the only right thing to do in my mind. But I haven’t talked to my agent about this yet. Every time I get ready to call him, I just get frustrated, and then I end up not being able to talk (it)."

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Posted on: December 10, 2011 2:59 pm
Edited on: December 10, 2011 5:51 pm
 

Are the Redskins in Peyton Manning's future?

We've seen this cartoon before: player smiles, signs for big bucks, then underperforms, hates life. (CBSSports.com illustration)

By Ryan Wilson

Peyton Manning is due a $28 million option bonus this spring. Given that he's 35, hasn't played a down this season (and likely won't), and that the Colts are perfectly positioned to draft Andrew Luck with the first overall pick, there's a chance that Manning won't be in Indianapolis in 2012.

We discussed it on Friday's Pick-6 Podcast:


With a month left in the regular season, there's plenty of speculation about future landing spots for Peyton should his career with the Colts come to an abrupt, inglorious end. 

In the last week, no fewer than five national media types weighed in on where Manning could end up next season, and no fewer than five national media types mentioned the same team: the Washington Redskins.

Shocking, we know.

Here's the rundown (transcription and links via the Sports Bog's Dan Steinberg):

Michael Lombardi, NFL Network: [The Redskins have] a lot of money, a lot of availability, and oh, by the way, they really need a quarterback badly. They need a signature face on their franchise, and I think ultimately, that would be a great landing spot.

But the interesting factor here is Peyton Manning’s only played in three offenses: high school, at Tennessee, and when you look at Indianapolis. There’ve been three offenses, that’s it. If he goes somewhere, I would not be surprised if Tom Moore didn’t join him.

Chris Mortensen, ESPN: Ok, remember, we said that there’s still a big question mark of health. That’s something that nobody can speak to at this point. But if there’s a reasonable assurance that Peyton’s gonna be healthy, then who’s not gonna line up? The Washington Redskins are one obvious team. That’s unquestioned.

Adam Schefter, ESPN (appearing on Vinny Cerrato's Baltimore radio show): All you have to do is take a look around the league and say, who has a quarterback question? Who has a quarterback question? (“Washington,” Cerrato answers.)

Does Washington? Yes, Washington has a quarterback question. Does Miami have a quarterback question? Yes. Does Kansas City have a quarterback question? I think so. Does Cleveland have a quarterback question? Yes. I think Peyton Manning also is gonna dictate how this ends up and where he goes....I could see Washington involved, I could see Miami involved, I could see Cleveland involved. I could see maybe even — this is gonna sound ludicrous — but if Mark Sanchez flames out down the stretch, the Jets involved.

***

And here's syndicated radio host Dan Patrick from his show earlier in the week: “Looking at the scenarios [on where Peyton could end up], I’m not looking at sort of the obvious places, except for Washington, I understand that…"

But Patrick's guest, Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com, offered a very good reason for why Peyton-to-DC won't work:

“I think Peyton’s gonna want a team that pays him a ton of money and that has the pieces in place for him to be successful. And I don’t know that he’d want to go to Washington, because look at what’s in place there with Mike Shanahan and Kyle Shanahan," he said. "Kyle wants to run that offense like a little kid with a joystick on the sideline. He wants the quarterback to just do whatever Kyle Shanahan wants. I think Kyle Shanahan’s younger than Peyton Manning, so I don’t think that’s gonna go over well if Peyton and Kyle Shanahan are trying to co-exist.”

Just last week, Archie Manning told CBSSports.com's Will Brinson that he thought his son and Andrew Luck could work together. (Archie later stated that he didn't "think [having Luck and Peyton on the same roster] would necessarily be a great fit for either one," before clarifying those remarks by reiterating his original take. "I'm sure they could [work together]," he finally said.)


Of course, there's always the chance the Colts win out, get to 4-12, and in all likelihood, take themselves out of the running for Luck. A quick glance at the schedule suggests that won't happen: they face the Ravens Sunday, then the Titans, Texans and Jaguars.

So, yes, expect to be hearing more about this in the coming weeks and months. And who knows, maybe Peyton just retires and takes the Ole Miss job.

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Posted on: November 28, 2011 1:21 am
Edited on: November 28, 2011 1:38 am
 

Sorting the Sunday Pile: Week 12

Posted by Will Brinson


Sorting the Sunday Pile takes all of Sunday's NFL action and figures out the most important storylines for you to digest. Send your complaints, questions and comments to Will Brinson on Twitter. Make sure and listen to our Week 10 podcast review below as well and feel free to subscribe via iTunes.

 
(Ed. Note: Monday's podcast will be up around lunch due to some travel/family stuff.)

1. Run Like Hell -- Er, Heck

Every week, Tim Tebow takes the field as the Broncos quarterback, and every week everyone sits around and snarks at the Broncos running the ball an obscene number of times. Sunday's 16-13 overtime victory in San Diego featured Tebow toting the rock a ridiculous 22 times.

Just for some historical perspective, Tebow's now the only player in post-merger NFL history to attempt 20 rushes and 10 passes in a single game.

People rip the guy for ruining the quarterback position, or not playing it in a "real" way, but everyone very conveniently ignores three factors. One, he can make throws -- a pair of touchdown strikes to Eric Decker in the past two weeks were the difference between 2-0 and 0-2. Two, Tebow simply doesn't turn the ball over. Only 22 quarterbacks since 1970 have finished the year with 250-plus passing attempts, less than five picks and less than five fumbles. Tebow could be No. 23. (Aaron Rodgers could be No. 24.)

And most importantly, the Broncos have a strong running game with Willis McGahee, and an even stronger defense that no one wants to give credit to. If someone else, like a Brad Johnson-type, is quarterbacking this team, the defense gets all the credit. Because it's Tebow, that's the focus.

That's just how it is, and that's fine. After all, Tebow's now beaten every single AFC West rival this season on the road. He is a story. He is the story.

But maybe -- with all due acknowledgement of the silliness involved in "clutchability" -- it shouldn't be all that surprising that Tebow and the Broncos bested Norv Turner and the Chargers in the fourth quarter and overtime. Eking out victories from teams willing to hand over a win thanks to silly mistakes is the modus operandi of the 2011 Broncos, and giving away wins with silly mistakes is what Turner's Bolts teams do best.

San Diego's now last (!) in the AFC West and the only bright spot to this season, outside of Ryan Mathews emerging as a viable feature back if he can stay healthy, is the likelihood of Turner being shipped out of town following this season. You can like or dislike Turner all you want, and he's turned Philip Rivers into one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, but this Chargers team needs some fresh blood.

Denver's one game back of the playoffs thanks to holding a tiebreaker over the Jets, and they've got the tiebreaker over the Bengals too. A game-managing quarterback plus a running game plus a stout defense has had success in the NFL before.

So if you're still hating on Tebow, just quit and enjoy the ride.

2. Bear Down, Again

Ignore for a second the fact that Bears starting quarterback Caleb Hanie doesn't even know how to properly spike the ball at the end of the game. And ignore that he finished 18 of 36 with three interceptions on the day in Chicago's 25-20 loss to Oakland Sunday.

Because the Bears are still going to make the playoffs. Or, at least, they can.

As noted last week, Chicago's still got a very Chicago formula for making it to the postseason, with Devin Hester on special teams (kudos to Hue Jackson and Shane Lechler for avoiding him Sunday) and a defense that sacked Carson Palmer four times Sunday and limited the Raiders to just a single touchdown.

That type of play will go a long way against opponents like the Seahawks, Vikings, Chiefs and Broncos, all of whom are on Chicago's schedule the rest of the way in. And a quick look at our 2011 NFL Playoff Race Tracker reveals that only two worthy teams in the NFC will actually be shut out of the postseason (the Lions and the Giants are currently odd men out).

I'm not a huge fan of moral victories, especially when an actual loss reveals just how poorly your backup quarterback can play. And don't get me wrong -- Hanie has plenty of flaws and won't make things easy for Chicago the rest of the way. But if you're the Bears, you have to believe Sunday's showing means a playoff berth is still possible.

3. T.J. Yates: An All-Time Great

The case of T.J. Yates is a weird one. Thanks to a (likely) season-ending injury to Matt Leinart, Yates appears to be the de facto starter in Houston and, as Pete Prisco pointed out in his grades column, next in line to suffer a nasty injury as a result of the football gods really not wanting the Texans to smell success.

But you know what makes Yates' case even weirder? He's probably the most successful NFL quarterback in North Carolina Tar Heel history, despite being a rookie, having never started a game and despite having accumulated his career passing numbers -- 8/15 for 70 yards and no touchdowns -- on Sunday in backup duty.

That's because the only other option for "top NFL quarterback in UNC football history" is Scott Stankavage, who played in four games over two NFL seasons with the Broncos (three in 1984) and the Dolphins (one in 1987) and managed to complete 32 percent of his 25 attempted passes for 66 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions. (In fairness, Yates is also one of only two UNC quarterbacks drafted since the merger, which is insane.)

His entire career wasn't as successful as Yates' Sunday afternoon in Week 12.

4. "Fire Who?"

The fans want it, as evidenced by the Eagles crowd raining "Fire Andy" chants on the field amid New England's 38-20 shellacking of Philly.

"The way we played, I can understand," Reid said afterward.

It's never easy to sympathize with any supporter of Philly sports, mainly because they're too vitriolic in their reaction. (There's a reason the battery-throwing, Santa Claus-booing stereotype exists.) And it's real easy to laugh at the Eagles plight, especially after they "won the offseason" with a ton of free-agent moves and name-brand signings.

But suggesting that the Eagles should dump Reid is silly, especially when there's a smarter path to success.

1) Fire Juan Castillo. This is coming anyway, you gotta think, and it's not that unreasonable. 2) Re-work the defensive scheme. Hire someone who can take the incredibly talented defensive group Philly has and actually utilize them properly. 3) Dump DeSean Jackson. He's ridiculously talented, but Jackson's got the look of a guy who's wrecking this locker room with contract and attitude problems. (Or maybe, as Clark Judge wrote Sunday, he's a symptom of a larger problem. Either way, he's not helping and he's not happy.) 4) Draft/trade/sign linebackers, safeties and offensive linemen in the offseason and actually address weaknesses.

This isn't an "easy" solution, of course. But this Eagles team has too much talent and Andy Reid's got too much success in Philly to simply blow everything up because the Dream Team experiment went awry in the first season.

He's also inherently tied to Philly's franchise quarterback, Michael Vick. One more bad year from both guys and it might be worth discussing a change, but just because Philly fans are naturally angry doesn't mean Eagles management should have a naturally knee-jerk reaction to 2011.

5. Why So Serious?

There's no reason to sit here and get in an uproar over Stevie Johnson's touchdown celebration against the Jets, in which he mocked Plaxico Burress and Santonio Holmes by pretending to shoot himself in the leg and then crash a plane. (Besides, Bob Costas' "get off my lawn" Sunday night halftime rant took care of that.)

I like the move, because it's a big-time slap in the face to the Jets, the Bills need some swagger, and as long as you back up your trash-talk, do what you want.

The problem with Johnson's TD is that as soon as he pulled off a celebration mocking a pair of wideouts on the other team, his game went in the toilet. (Stop me if this sounds familiar.)

Look, I think Johnson's an awesome talent and a great dude and if I'm in charge of meting out discipline, someone who landed a helmet-to-helmet hit on Sunday is washing Johnson's white t-shirt collection, just because his celebrations are hysterical.

But if you're going to publicly mock a colleague for literally shooting himself in the foot, you can't turn around and spend the rest of the game figuratively doing the same thing to yourself and your team, which is precisely what Johnson did when he egged on a would-be game-winning touchdown catch in the fourth quarter:



That's exactly why I refuse to get all amped up about whether what he did was right or wrong. Johnson will almost certainly be fined by the NFL. Johnson will -- as Mike Freeman's already noted -- be subject to league-wide and public scorn. And, most importantly, his team lost because after his premature celebration, the Jets wideouts were substantially better than Johnson was.

6. Shananigans

There's no chance that any other football journalist or fan or couch-bound pundit knows as much about managing a football team as Mike Shanahan. The man has two Super Bowl wins. Enough said.

But why on Earth did it take so long to get Roy Helu touches?

The Redskins rookie running back rumbled for 108 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries and caught seven passes for 54 yards in Washington's surprise 23-17 comeback victory in Seattle Sunday.

This would be shocking, but Helu already set the franchise record for receptions in a game three weeks ago, and averaged five yards per carry more than Ryan Torain two weeks ago, so giving him the rock seemed obvious to everyone ... except Shanahan.

Seattle's rush defense is one of the best in the NFL (3.5 yards per carry allowed going in and coming out of the loss), so it's not like Helu was carving up the Panthers or Colts here.

The obvious reward for his impressive game on the ground and remaining Rex Grossman's most reliable target is a much-deserved, one-carry afternoon next week against the Jets. Don't say I didn't warn you, fantasy owners.

7. 0-Fer

The Colts became the first NFL team to be mathematically eliminated from the playoffs on Sunday, just minutes before the Rams were booted as well, thanks to their 27-19 loss to Carolina in Indy Sunday.

Everyone knew they were already eliminated, of course, and everyone knows they'll land the top-overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, but the big question is, can the 2008 Detroit Lions keep their bottles of Andre on ice for the time being?

Probably not -- Indy looks like a pretty good lock to finish the season at 0-16, based on their remaining schedule.

First up in Week 13 is New England (in Foxboro) and there's no reason to spend time wondering if Bill Belichick and Tom Brady will get trapped against a one-time arch-rival in a free "kick 'em while they're down" game. They won't. At Baltimore in Week 14 should be a lock for a double-digit blowout too. The Ravens have stumbled against bad teams, but not at home, and no one's had a defense as bad as Indy.

Tennessee (Week 15) and Houston (Week 16) at home shouldn't present challenges for Indy when it comes to losing either, considering that both teams appear to have capable rushing attacks. Even if Chris Johnson still looks like he's wading through a giant jar of jelly when he hits the hole, he's been effective against bad rushing defenses this year.

That leaves at Jacksonville in Week 17, and which isn't even their best chance at being favored (read: getting more than a 50 percent chance of winning from Vegas). That will be Tennessee, but the Titans will still be favored by at least three points in Indy, like the Panthers were.

And none of the remaining teams on the schedule have a defense nearly as bad as the Panthers, which means there's a 60-plus percent chance Indy goes winless this year. At least.

8. Rookie of the Year Race

Fortunately, we get to honor a Defensive and Offensive Rookie of the Year in the NFL. Because otherwise, we might have a big old heated argument about who the most deserving rookie in 2011 is. Last week, I threw my [substantial only in the literal sense] weight behind Andy Dalton leaping past Cam Newton for the top rookie, but now I'm not so sure.

That's not because Cam went bananas in a win on Sunday so much as it was Dalton only beating the Browns because he's got another rookie -- wideout A.J. Green -- on his team, who might secretly be the best option for the award on the Bengals roster.

Cincy remained in playoff contention -- they're currently the No. 6 seed -- thanks to Green making big catches to set up scores all day.

On the defensive end of things, Von Miller continued to state his case for ROY honors with 10 total tackles and another sack. And what about Patrick Peterson, who returned a fourth punt return for a TD on the year? Dude's defensive improvement is underrated so far this year, especially in a tough situation, and it'll be interesting to see how his game-changing impact on special teams will rate for voters -- three of his teeters have, literally, been game-winning scores.

9. A Quarterback League

Watching the Chiefs stifle the Steelers for much of the Sunday night game -- eventually won by Pittsburgh 13-9 -- was picture proof of how important having a good quarterback really is. Matt Cassel might have struggled against the Steelers defense, but Tyler Palko was absolutely miserable, going 18/28 for 167 yards and three picks.

The same can be said for Jacksonville, who knocked Matt Leinart out against Houston, but couldn't muster any sort of offense because no one would respect Blaine Gabbert, much less McCown.

Teams that don't have a good quarterback can still win by playing smart and running the hell out of the ball, but the Jaguars and Chiefs are great proof as to just how quickly a team can fade out relevancy as a result of lacking substantial skill under center.

The Jacksonville and Kansas City defenses have put their respective offenses in decent position to win games over the past couple of weeks, but an inability to move the ball resulted in a pair of losses for each squad. (Romeo Crennel's defensive scheming against Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger was particularly impressive, and even more depressing when you think about how badly it was wasted.)

Which is precisely why it's impossible to be too bullish about the playoff chances for teams like the Texans and the 49ers.

10. And the Oscar Goes To ...

Jerome Simpson for the flop of the NFL season. And maybe NFL history? It's hard to even call this a "storyline," because it's not. There's no epidemic of flopping hitting the NFL and Christian Ronaldo isn't going to be defecting any time soon.

But Simpson's flop, which you can watch here, is just too amazing to ignore.

Oh yes, and the Bengals snuck one out against the Browns, holding onto their sixth seed in the playoffs. They've got the look of a team that isn't quite ready to quit trying out this possible pipe dream of a postseason run, but if they play like they did against the Browns when they get the Steelers, Texans and Ravens over the next three weeks, it's hard to imagine them sneaking in with three 6-5 teams (Titans, Jets, Broncos) hanging out on the fringe.

And that flop wouldn't be nearly as pretty as Simpson's.

Muffed Punts

Leftovers from Sunday's Action ...
... Percy Harvin's 104-yard kick return that didn't produce a touchdown on Sunday was the longest non-scoring play in NFL history.
... Peterson is also the only player in NFL history with four punt return touchdowns of 80-plus yards or more in a season.
... And the Rams-Cardinals game was the first in NFL history to feature an 80-plus yard punt-return TD from each team.
... Cam Newton is just the fourth post-merger quarterback to rush for 10 touchdowns in a season, joining Steve Grogan, Kordell Stewart and Daunte Culpepper on that list.
... Chris Long recorded his 10th sack of the season, meaning he and dad Howie are just the second father-son combo to record double-digit sacks in a season in their career, along with Clay Matthews and his dad, Clay Matthews.
... The Bengals overcame a 10-point halftime deficit for the third time this season, tied for the most in NFL history, along with the 2011 Lions.
...

Worth 1,000 Words



GIF O' THE WEEK

There might be a better option, but watching Tim Tebow hit his X button two seconds too early and then get laid out is pretty entrancing.


Hot Seat Tracker

  • Norv Turner: Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune believes "no playoffs = no more Norv." So, probably no more Norv.
  • Jim Caldwell: If they go 0-16 and draft a new franchise quarterback, how can they carry over the same staff? They can't right?
  • Steve Spagnuolo: He just lost back-to-back games to Seattle and Arizona. Talk about a free-fall.
  • Jack Del Rio: It's a good rule of thumb that if you're flopping your first-round rookie for a McCown brother that your job is in trouble.
  • Tony Sparano: Even if he keeps winning, you gotta think Stephen Ross goes window shopping this offseason.

Chasing Andrew Luck

The Colts have all but locked up the Luck sweepstakes, and with the remaining schedules, we might as well take the numbers off the board. Congratulations for ruining a mini-feature in this column by Week 12, Curtis Painter. You jerk.

MVP Watch

Speaking of jerks, "tanks for nuthin'" Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers has one more holiday game left -- a Christmas showdown with the Bears. And the Packers could still lose a game and maybe come back towards the Patriots (if Tom Brady stays hot?), but he's all but sewn up this award pretty early in the season.

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