Posted on: February 5, 2010 8:35 am

Forward-looking thoughts on Tomlinson

With the news that San Diego running back LaDainian Tomlinson believing that he won't be back in a Chargers uniform next season, it's time to re-evaluate him and what his options are.

Let's begin with an assessment that many people who I've spoken with this week agree on: Tomlinson simply is not the same running back that he once was. Can he still digest a playbook, catch a pass, set a block and find the end zone? No doubt. Can he run? Not with as much consistency as he could as little as three years ago. Does he still have breakaway speed? If he does, he hasn't shown it lately. The overriding belief is that Tomlinson can still be an effective back, but not for nearly the amount of work he'd like. He is -- at best -- a tandem-situation running back.

So, who could use a split-time rusher with a wealth of experience? Lots of teams, but you can be sure that Tomlinson won't chase dollar Bills like Terrell Owens did last year and sign with a team with little chance of making the postseason. Tomlinson, like most other players, wants a championship. He'll want to play somewhere where that can happen.

With those parameters in place, here are some candidates for Tomlinson upon his release from San Diego (in alphabetical order):

Houston: They're on the brink of competing for at least a wild card berth, and they'd have to win every game possible just to have a shot at breaking the Colts' hammerlock at the top of the division (beating them sure would help). Tomlinson has the skill set to be successful in Houston, and he's a Texas native to boot.

New England: Bill Belichick loves veterans looking for a final shot at glory, and there's no doubt that he has profound respect for Tomlinson. Whether or not he has respect for Tomlinson's skills is another story altogether, not to mention having the space amid a crowded running back corps for him.

Philadelphia: If Brian Westbrook is headed the way of Isaac Bruce and Kurt Warner, then Tomlinson would be a neat one-year insurance policy in case LeSean McCoy can't pick up the slack. True, this would be a nightmare for Fantasy owners who are waiting for McCoy to pop in 2010 but the Eagles weren't shy about using three backs last season and could easily do it again. Like in Houston, Tomlinson has the right skill set for the Eagles.

Pittsburgh: Tomlinson wouldn't have much of a chance to start with the Steelers, but being a 10-carry-per-game guy behind Rashard Mendenhall would be a nice fit for him. He'd be a heck of an upgrade over Willie Parker.

There are other spots too -- Cleveland, Detroit, Seattle -- that could be interested in Tomlinson, but they're not playoff contenders.

And there's one last place where L.T. could be wanted -- maybe -- and that's San Diego. Norv Turner was mum on the L.T. topic with me when I asked him about it last week, but Tomlinson is the one saying he'll refuse a pay cut. It's not a case of the team saying "get outta here." If Tomlinson did an about face and accepted an, ahem, salary correction, then he'd probably get a chance to stay and maybe even get 250 touches. And last I checked, the Chargers were a playoff contender.

Seems like a great fit to me.

Posted on: February 4, 2010 4:47 pm
Edited on: February 9, 2010 11:19 am

Gonzalez: 2010 'potentially' final season

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Speaking with from the Super Bowl XLIV Media Center on Thursday, Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez admitted to very lofty expectations for the upcoming season while also hinting that it might be his last.

Gonzalez, a sure-fire first-ballot Hall of Famer, was traded from Kansas City to Atlanta last offseason with the hope of winning an elusive championship ring. His first year with them was a success as he gave the Falcons a much-needed option aside from receiver Roddy White and running back Michael Turner. But injuries, Gonzalez said, were partially to blame for the team's 9-7 finish as Turner, quarterback Matt Ryan, guard Harvey Dahl and tackle Sam Baker all missed significant time.

"Staying healthy will be huge," Gonzalez said. "I really think that if we stay healthy and we improve off of what we did last year, selecting those plays that really worked for us and bringing in some more plays that work, we're going to be real good.

"This will be the best team that I ever played on, and that's music to my ears because this could potentially be my last season in the NFL. I'd love to go out on top, I'd love to be sitting here getting prepared to play next week."

Gonzalez, who is one catch shy of 1,000 for his career, has two simple goals for next season: Make a catch, and win a Super Bowl.

"The catch will come," Gonzalez said. "There is a silver lining -- even though I would have loved to have caught it the last game of the season, but since I didn't, I'm going to start the season off with a bang. If it's a home game then that will be that much more special to do it in front of the fans. But obviously, the Super Bowl, that's what I'm in it for now. I don't care about anything else."

Category: NFL
Posted on: February 2, 2010 9:44 pm

Faulk: Martz will make Bears' offense great

Marshall Faulk knows a thing or two about Mike Martz and his offense. After all, he was easily the most productive running back in Martz's coaching history.

Currently an analyst for NFL Network, Faulk sees Martz as a boon for the Bears, who hired Martz this week to coordinate their offense. Following five seasons of mostly uncreative, vanilla play calling from coordinator Ron Turner, Martz is expected to turn up the juice and give Jay Cutler a shot at maximizing his potential.

If Cutler lets him, Faulk says.

"This will be the first time that Jay Cutler will not have control of the decisions that he wants to make," Faulk said Tuesday from Super Bowl XLIV Media Day. "It will be a challenge to Jay. ... Mike will test his football knowledge. He'll test his willingness to want to get better in the NFL. He'll ask him to do some things that Jay might not feel comfortable with."

Faulk recognizes that Cutler's gunslinger tendencies don't mesh with Martz's offense, which is based on anticipation and putting a ball where a receiver is going to be. But it's something that can be taught, Faulk says. 

"He's a see-it throw-it guy, and when you have a talent that a guy like that has, you sometimes don't rely on your instinct to guide you," Faulk said of Cutler. "That's the part of the game that makes Brett Favre special -- Favre has that arm but he'll throw a ball into a window and wait for the guy to come there instead of throwing the ball after you see the guy because it's too late sometimes.

"Mike will ask him to be an anticipator. And Jay will struggle with it at the beginning but hopefully he'll look at Mike's resume, he'll watch film of Kurt and Marc and Trent Green and he'll [notice]. And it will even be harder with him because he kind of started to do that at the beginning of the year and he threw some picks. Hopefully Mike can get him to move forward beyond that and just accept what it is and to get him to be more responsible with the football."

As you might expect, Faulk's focus is at running back where Matt Forte inherits Martz. While Faulk is a staunch supporter of Martz -- "I'm biased," he said -- he's clearly the only NFL rusher that Martz has had incredible success with. With Martz in Detroit, Kevin Jones posted career-best totals but still never rushed for even 700 yards in a season. And in a 2008 campaign with the 49ers, Frank Gore had his worst season as a starter under Martz's tutelage. There were times in each of Martz's last two stops where he'd call games and seemingly forget the running back.

Forte was a major disappointment in 2009 in spite of totaling 1,400 yards -- a big part of his failure was not getting in the end zone much -- but Faulk thinks Forte will "love" Martz.

"[He needs to] understand and come to grips with the fact that a screen pass or a check-down is just like getting a handoff and breaking the line of scrimmage," Faulk said of Forte. "If you can fix that in your head and not expect to get 30 carries a game, then you can play and play well in Mike's offense."

But the real wild card in the offensive mix in Chicago is at tight end, according to Faulk. Greg Olsen, who had career-best stats in his first season with Cutler, might be the biggest benefactor of all from Martz's playbook. Faulk says Olsen "will be the best tight end that he's ever had."

"Getting a tight end involved, what you're able to do with a running back that can catch the ball and a tight end in that offense, it will be tremendous. It will be hard to stop. ... That combination inside will be tough to defend and it will really open up things on the outside. The Bears might not need a receiver [in the draft]."

But in outlining Martz's offense, Faulk says it all comes back to the quarterback, which is probably a big reason why Martz met with Cutler before the job was officially his. Martz claims he and Cutler had an "instant connection" upon meeting, and Faulk says that it will have to last if this football tandem will work properly.

"If the quarterback can call it and learn it, everybody else can call it and learn it because he has more on his plate than anybody else," Faulk said of Martz's playbook. "Everything is based on the quarterback. They're going to run what Cutler can handle; the offensive line coach, it will be on him to make sure they get the protections, the running backs -- protections and run plays, and the receivers coach will be pressed to make sure his guys are, what Mike likes to call 'in the right place at the right time.' In that offense, the quarterback is rarely wrong. Don't fool the quarterback -- he's expecting you to be at a certain spot. That ball will be thrown there. You have to be there. So the learning curve is based on Cutler and what his abilities are. He's a Vanderbilt guy, he should be able to digest it in a week."

After a year of great expectations gone wrong in Chicago, Faulk predicts a big turnaround -- at least offensively -- because of Martz. And he can back it up.

"I think this is a great move for Mike, going to Chicago," Faulk said. "He understands this may be the last chance for him to prove to people that he can get it done, which doesn't make sense because everywhere that he's been the offense has done well."

Posted on: January 27, 2010 4:32 pm

Norv won't speculate on L.T.

I've done my fair share of speculating on LaDainian Tomlinson over the last two seasons. The Chargers' rushing legend and future Hall of Famer is no longer the one-man Fantasy wrecking crew he once was. Sure, he was a touchdown magnet in 2009 but his rushing yardage -- along with his workload -- has dwindled.

So when I had the chance to ask Chargers head coach Norv Turner about Tomlinson after Pro Bowl practice on Wednesday, I jumped on it.

After asking him about free-agent-to-be Vincent Jackson ("We want Vincent on our team for a long time.") and tight end Antonio Gates ("He was the healthiest he's been since he hurt his toe in the playoffs two years ago."), I simply asked Turner what he'd like to see happen with Tomlinson this offseason.

"Well, that's a hard question," Turner said. "The best thing our organization does is step back and wait three or four weeks. We have a lot of meetings we're going to go through, and we're going to evaluate everything about our football team. There are some tough decisions we have to make."

I found it odd that he didn't mention Tomlinson by name, nor did he say rhetoric about L.T. being under contract heading into the offseason. He just talked about "tough decisions."

Tomlinson is technically under contract for two more years: $3 million in 2010 and over $6 million in 2011, according to the NFL Players Association. He also has a $2 million roster bonus due in March. It's not entirely out of the question to think the Chargers won't keep him in 2010, but keep in mind that San Diego also has to formulate a plan for what they want to do with Sproles as the speedster is a free agent come March 1.

Perhaps the Chargers can't find a place for Tomlinson until they get the situation with Sproles figured out first. Or, they already know what the future holds for Tomlinson there and it isn't amicable.

Either way, Turner's lips are sealed.

Posted on: December 23, 2009 2:35 pm
Edited on: December 23, 2009 2:43 pm

Boldin TD ruled a run

The following message was posted in Commissioner leagues on Wednesday:

Please be advised that the following statistical corrections were made by the official stat provider of the NFL and it may impact the results in your league.

Kurt Warner will a lose a TD pass and 5 passing yards. Anquan Boldin will lose a reception, 5 receiving yards and a receiving TD and will gain 5 rushing yards and a rushing TD.

This change should be reflected when makes its next statistical run later today. has made the change in all of its Commissioner leagues, but we implore each league commissioner to make his or her own ruling.

That said, this is a stat-based game, and as such the stats should be honored as they're ruled by the NFL's official stat provider, the Elias Sports Bureau. As an example, the change in scoring will be official in all of the leagues that I commish.

The ruling is different in free and premium leagues based on a rule we established for those leagues years ago. Because the playoff results were recorded and waivers ran, those leagues will not record the scoring change.

Also, it should be noted that Drew Brees' pass to Lance Moore was indeed a forward pass. The play will be ruled as it stood on Saturday night: A touchdown pass from Brees to Moore.

I've been told that all queries should be directed toward the Help Center available to all owners in leagues.

Category: NFL
Posted on: December 22, 2009 1:14 pm
Edited on: December 22, 2009 1:15 pm

Is Harrison's status worse with Anderson playing?

Say what you will about Derek Anderson, but he does one thing: He helps take pressure off of his running backs.

Anderson will start in place of Brady Quinn (injured reserve) for the Browns' final two games of the 2009 season against the Raiders and Jaguars, both at home. His reputation as a gunslinger makes him far more of a threat than Quinn.

Well, maybe the word isn't "threat." Let's put it this way -- opponents still want Anderson to throw the ball because he will make mistakes with it (nine interceptions in five starts), but they're also aware that he has the stronger arm over Quinn. 

Running backs (excluding Josh Cribbs) have averaged 3.54 yards per carry when Anderson was under center -- take away Harrison's mammoth effort last week and backs averaged 3.32 yards per carry when Quinn played. OK, fine, not much difference over the course of 150 carries or so. But in five starts under Anderson, the Browns have had two 100-yard rushers (Jerome Harrison in Week 4 vs. the Bengals, Jamal Lewis in Week 5 at Buffalo). The only other time a back went for over 100 yards was last week when Harrison scalded the Chiefs for 286.

The bottom line? Harrison should still be just fine with Anderson on the field with him. And the better news is that the Raiders' run defense is as bad as they come. Harrison is a No. 1 Fantasy running back this week with only some mild risk.

Posted on: December 15, 2009 10:35 am

Playoff Tiebreakers

This is a friendly reminder to set your league's playoff tiebreakers now, in case you haven't already.

This morning we had a tie in one of our expert's leagues between Fantasy Baseball genius Eric Mack and our beloved boss, Editorial Director Peter Madden.

Without tiebreakers firmly established, each owner had a claim to winning the game. But as our league commissioner, Jamey Eisenberg, dutifully ruled, the team who scored the most points overall in the game -- that means starters and bench players combined -- got the nod. By a smidge, Peter took home the victory.

The other tiebreaker we considered was the highest seed, which for my money is the most fair and understandable tiebreaker around. Why else have seeding in the playoffs (other than, you know, figuring out who plays who)? Jamey overruled that one citing that the bench points scored was more fair. I disagree with him on this one, but he's the Commish.

One other idea we had was to let both teams advance and have a three-way game between Eric and Peter and the top seed (Scott White). But that penalizes the higher-seeded team because he has to play two teams instead of one. So that got shot down pretty quickly.

The bottom line is that a swift decision was made and both teams accepted the results. Learn a lesson from this: Establish your league's playoff tiebreakers now so there's no drama later on in the unlikely event of a tie.
Posted on: December 9, 2009 5:16 pm

Final word on Meachem Play

For those of you who are 100 percent sure that Robert Meachem's touchdown should have been ruled an offensive fumble return, I have one more piece of evidence for your consideration.

In the NFL's log of stats that encompass the season, they include every kind of touchdown that a player scores. You can sort by rushing touchdowns, receiving touchdowns, etc.

And you can sort by defensive touchdowns.

And when you do, you'll see that Robert Meachem is receiving credit for eight receiving touchdowns and one defensive touchdown.

Because many of you felt that our argument used faulty logic, you went to to get an official word. I don't have a problem with this because the NFL is considered THE source for issues like this. Thus, I don't see how the Meachem Play isn't more official than this:

(Sorry for not posting a direct link, I'm no HTML genius. Please copy and paste into your browser.)

Once more, when Meachem stripped the ball from Kareem Moore, he did so as a defender. Stripping the ball is a defensive play. It cannot possibly be an offensive play -- have you ever seen a player steal the ball from a teammate? The result of stripping the ball was a touchdown, and like we'd do for any time a defender scores a touchdown, it counts for the DST, not Meachem. I promise that if you get over that Meachem is listed as a receiver and therefore assume everything he does MUST be done as an offensive player, the rule makes sense.

Thanks for reading.

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