I can’t blame people looking for solace anywhere they can find it, but the comforting notion that the defense is just a few big plays away from being OK is, at best, half right. Most of these columns were in…
Iggles Blog – Philadelphia Eagles Blog
There’s going to be plenty of coverage (and already has been) on former Kansas City Chiefs OC Charlie Weis taking the head coaching job at the University of Kansas. Many of the media outlets that covered him with the Chiefs — the KC Star, the local TV stations, 810 WHB, 610 Sports, etc. — are now covering him with the Jayhawks.
There’s plenty of talk about the move, which will be officially announced this evening at a 5:00 p.m. press conference, so I figured we’d take a look at what people are saying about the news.
We’ll start with KU’s initial statement that Weis was headed to Lawrence:
Kansas Athletics will introduce Charlie Weis, former New England Patriots offensive coordinator, former Notre Dame head coach and current offensive coordinator at the University of Florida, as its new football coach at a press conference tomorrow (Friday) afternoon. (Time TBA).
Interesting that one job is missing there — the Chiefs. Assuming KU didn’t simply rush this statement and forget the Chiefs, it’s interesting that they made the decision not to include his second-to-last job in there. Why?
More reactions after the jump…
Chiefs GM Scott Pioli has issued statements to the Star and the (other) AP: “I’m very happy for Charlie and we wish him nothing but the best in his new endeavor as the head coach at Kansas.”
This has to be weird for the Chiefs. He just left 11 months ago. There are a couple of ways to look at this. First, does Weis now coming to KU strengthen the arguments that he and Todd Haley didn’t get along? That’s the definitely the route some of the Chiefs-centric reactions are going. But another way to look at it: the Chiefs are simply the third of four stops for Weis in the last four years. He’s a football version of a nomad. Maybe this is more or as much about Weis than it is Haley (though you can say the same about Haley and his annual OC search).
Kansas AD Sheahon Zenger: “At the end of the day,” Zenger told The Star, “I would tell you, what Charlie Weis brings to Kansas is someone who is regarded as one of the brightest X’s and O’s minds in the country and a national profile that we’ve not had at this institution in football before.”
Weis gives KU a big name at head coach, which is what they needed, I think. The college game is about recruiting and Weis had some solid classes early on at Notre Dame so there’s potential.
(Side note: I’ll never forget hearing the story about someone from my high school was getting recruited by Weis to play at Notre Dame. He walks onto campus and sits down with Weis in his office, stretches his hand out — with all his Super Bowl rings on. He committed to ND.)
This game is also about quarterbacks and, if I’m a 17-year old quarterback, I’m thinking long and hard about the guy who coached Tom Brady, Brady Quinn, Jimmy Clausen and Matt Cassel (the 2010 version). Those guys all had a lot of success under Weis, you can’t ignore that.
Kent Babb of the KC Star had this tweet that sums up my feeling on the hire: “For where KU football is now, Zenger hit a home run. He might be KU’s Huggins, here and gone, but he knows his way around a football field.”
Sam Mellinger, KC Star: “This is what desperation looks like.” …. “Weis will try to sell this as his second chance to run a college football program, while most people with even short-term memory can see him as a failed head coach with a list of health problems now taking a fourth job in four years.”
As much as I think Weis is a good hire, there are plenty of other reasons why it’s not. Check out Sam’s piece for some of those reasons.
Bud Elliott, SB Nation: “Charlie Weis’ timing was really quite poor for the Florida Gators. After a poor offensive showing in his only year with Florida, Weis abruptly quit and took the Kansas head coaching job. And he did so less than 36 hours before Florida was set to host one of, it notthe biggest recruiting weekends it will have in the 2011-2012 recruiting cycle.“
It’s interesting to look at his departure from KC and now his departure from Florida — both came at poor times. For the Chiefs, that came directly after the final regular season game and a week before the playoff game. For the Gators, that came before one of the biggest recruiting weekends of the year.
Georgia entered the SEC Championship Game as a trendy upset pick, having won 10 straight and being beneficiaries of playing in their own state.
For approximately a quarter-and-a-half, those calling for an upset seemed as if they were onto something. Then, turnovers and special teams put the Dawgs at a disadvantage, and they were unable to finish.
They only have one game left, most likely a New Year’s Day Bowl somewhere in Florida. But what did we learn about Georgia today that we didn’t already know? What can we now reference in regards to the Dawgs as they prepare for their bowl game?
Pro Football Focus C.O.O. Khaled Elsayed agreed to an email interview exclusively with BTSC writer Neal Coolong. Elsayed and the PFF Staff compile play-by-play statistical analysis of each game, and provides some excellent insight into the success and failure of players at every position. Although some of the site is premium content (you have to pay for it), there are still free portions of it.
The site has become one of the most popular NFL-related web sites, and is a must-read for the serious football fan. Check out the interview after the jump.
BTSC: Let’s start off briefly talking about the Steelers/Seahawks game. I remember telling friends at the bar PFF’s grade for Seahawks CB Brandon Browner would be the lowest I’ve ever seen for a cornerback. -5.9 in pass coverage is particularly bad. Mike Wallace can do that to people though. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin is quick to call Wallace a “one trick pony,” probably in efforts to keep Wallace and the media grounded about how good he is. I tend to agree with Tomlin, I don’t see Wallace as a pure No. 1 receiver in the sense he doesn’t run all routes at all distances quite yet. Where do you think Wallace sits among the elite receivers in the game?
KE: I’d most certainly have him in the conversation of being in the elite receivers in the game – he’s too much of a weapon not to. What he does, and how the Steelers use, him is extremely hard to deal with. You have to respect the possibility of him going deep on every play. But if you respect that too much he’ll pick up easy chunks of yardage on comeback routes all day long. You’re kind of damned if you, damned if you don’t when it comes to how to cover Wallace. We’ll probably see more of that this year, and it’s interesting to note he’s only been targeted on a ball thrown further than 20 yards once this year so far.
So he’d be firmly in my top ten because of what he offers.
BTSC: I really liked your piece from Sept. 22, “Race for Rookie of the Year.” It’s interesting to see rookies compared across both sides of the ball.
What stands out to me so far this season is the amount of rookies playing at a high level. Obviously, Cam Newton is playing great football right now, and so is Bengals QB Andy Dalton. Dalton’s success is being bolstered by A.J. Green, which I’m not at all surprised about, but Denarius Moore is right there with him in terms of productive rookie WRs. I figured Cleveland DT Phil Taylor would be an impact guy right away, but so his his teammate, DE Jabal Sheard. Surprising to Steelers fans, Maurkice isn’t the best Pouncey brother right now.
Considering the lockout, I don’t think anyone expected so many rookies to be playing at such a high level. Do you think that’s because 2011 will end up being one of the better drafts top to bottom in recent memory, or are veterans actually the ones affected by the time away from the team this off-season?
KE: It is peculiar when one class of rookies can come in and seem more NFL ready than last years. Especially with the lockout. I couldn’t put my finger on why but this year we’ve just had some talents who have come in to the NFL and the adjustment period has been near enough instantaneous. Some of it is down to the skill sets of the players involved. You mentioned Newton and Green, and they have the kind of ability that can make up for those typical rookie errors you see. Others, like Von Miller in Denver, just look that good. While you can’t evaluate an NFL draft class until a few years down the line, the kind of impact these rookies have made suggests to me the talent may just be a bit more NFL ready.
BTSC: I had ESPN on while working yesterday, and I don’t know which analyst it was, but he completely dismissed Buffalo as having any kind of shot at beating New England this weekend, because, “the Bills are still the Bills.”
I absolutely hate that kind of analysis. Not only is it not true, unfunny and ignorant, it cuts into one of the better storylines so far in 2011. Pro Football Focus has the Bills scored very highly after two games. Yesterday only served as a reminder to me why I don’t watch ESPN for anything other than background noise, so I’ll ask you, what are your thoughts on the Bills so far, and while it probably isn’t likely, would a win over the Patriots make the Bills a legit team to beat in the AFC?
KE: I like the Bills. I liked them last year a lot more than most. You’ll remember how close they came to upsetting the Steelers, and they gave the Ravens a real good run for their money. They’ve quietly gone about giving their HC time to mould things into what he wants and they’re starting to reap the benefits. Good running game spearheaded by a guy who is probably the most underrated/ underpaid back in the league, Fred Jackson. He’s a great every down type running back – does everything so well. Even the defense is getting performances out of players like Chris Kelsay that I really never saw coming from him. Definitely a team on an upward trend.
That said it’s too much to ask of their defense (nearly any defense) to slow down the Patriots offense. It’s not that the ‘Bills are the Bills’, but rather the ‘Patriots are the Patriots’. Tom Brady was playing with a point to prove last year – after that defeat to the Jets, he seems to be more determined than ever to destroy the competition. They’ve added some pressure up the middle and off the edge. So I don’t think the Bills will win, but they will score some points, and could seriously pose a threat to the playoff spots if they keep playing the way they are.
BTSC: Last thought on the Bills…with the exception of the Steelers game last year (which they essentially beat Pittsburgh but didn’t get the win), their most talked-about games are always shoot-outs. The Patriots need to worry about stopping Buffalo from scoring, because they are comfortable in coming back from three TD deficits, and beating them 38-35 in the last two minutes. I think this game will show the true colors of the Patriots defense. If they are who everyone says they are, they’ll make stops in the second half, and not count on idiot plays by Mike Tolbert to let their offense win it for them down the stretch.
Let’s dip into the NFC a little bit. Philadelphia spent a lot of money trying to Packer-proof their defense. While Aaron Rodgers is playing very well, what’s impressed me (and PFF as well, it seems) is their offensive line. I don’t see a high level of natural skill in James Starks, yet, he’s one of the most productive backs play-for-play in the league. If the NFC Championship game everyone expects does take place – Eagles at Packers – I think the Packers win by dominating up front more than just having Rodgers throw 45 times. Thoughts?
KE: What we saw against Atlanta from Philadephia was some pretty sizeable holes for Michael Turner to run through. They have a defense that is built to get up field and by it’s nature is very boom or bust (especially given the standard of linebacker play). So it’s all well and good trying to get pressure on Aaron Rodgers, and having a set of defensive backs who can match up with the Packers receivers, but you’re forgetting how good the Packers can be when they run the ball. Josh Sitton earned every penny of his new deal, and Scott Wells has made a tremendous start to the year. It’s not often you’ll see someone move Shaun Rogers the way he did in week one. Even T.J. Lang has settled in very nicely which makes it right now, the best interior line in the league. Given how they could dominate, and the troubles the Eagles had with the tight end in week two, it would be hard to see them stopping the Packers if they were to meet in the post season. But we’re a long way from that. Right now I wouldn’t put the Eagles down as one of the best two teams in the NFC.
BTSC: To you, then, who are the two best teams in the NFC? Who are the best in the AFC, and where do the Steelers fit in?
It’s the Packers and the Saints. I just think when the Saints get going they’ll be hard to stop. Offensively they’re missing Colston and a healthy Lance Moore yet moving the ball well. Drew Brees is primed for a big year, and Pierre Thomas looks healthy. If he can stay healthy that could be a huge difference maker. The Saints were essentially a missed field goal away from the #1 seed in the NFC last year, so they deserve more press because they didn’t stand still like a lot of teams – they got better.
In the AFC I almost typed the Patriots and Colts, as a force of habit. Obviously it won’t be Indianapolis this year, but New England have to be the team to beat at this moment. After that I’m quite high on the Houston Texans, but it will probably be Monday before I stick or twist on that. I want to see what they can do against a very good offensive team before I say they could be legit. Their offense is certainly good enough, and they may have the best offensive line in the league right now. But I need to see that defense tested. If they falter then I’m kissing some backside here and saying the Steelers. So they had a shocker against the Ravens, this team didn’t get bad overnight. They got back on track against Seattle and will get better the healthier James Harrison gets, and upon Big Ben finding his rhythm completely. You can’t under estimate how important a winning culture is for a team, and the Steelers are maybe the team when it comes to knowing how to win.
You can follow Khaled on Twitter: @PFF_Khaled and PFF at @ProFootbalFocus
Back before the start of the 2011 season, I never could have envisioned the Pittsburgh Steelers being 10.5 point favorites in their week three prime time match up in Indianapolis against the Colts, but with Kerry Collins coming out of retirement to replace an injured Peyton Manning at quarterback, that is the case for this coming Sunday night’s contest.
Very few players in recent history have meant more to their team than Peyton Manning has meant to the Colts in his career. And now with him out of the lineup, the once perennial Super Bowl contenders have looked downright awful in their first two games–losing 34-7 to the Houston Texans in week one and going down at home to the Cleveland Browns, of all teams, in week two.
What once was a contest that might have caused thousands of Steelers fans to reach for the antacids–what with their team’s recent history against “elite” quarterbacks–now looks like a game Pittsburgh should control rather-easily. I know I’m fairly-confident about the team’s prospects this coming Sunday night.
However, I can’t help but think back to many years ago when the Steelers faced a somewhat similar situation in their final game of the 1990 season.
After 15 games of the 1990 season, the Steelers were 9-6 and on a bit of a roll after starting out 1-3 and enduring some growing pains under new play caller Joe Walton and his sophisticated game plan. The offense, which failed to produce a single touchdown during the first month, never looked better after a 35-0 whitewashing of Cleveland in the penultimate contest of the regular season.
The Steelers were in first place but needed to go to Houston and defeat their division foes, the Houston Oilers, on Sunday Night Football in the regular season finale in-order to claim their first AFC Central title in six seasons. This was seen as a pretty tall-task as the Astrodome was always a difficult place to play for the Steelers. But Pittsburgh had upset the Oilers in a Wildcard thriller in Houston a year earlier and had defeated Houston at home in week two.
Almost immediately after the Cleveland game, word surfaced that Houston’s all-world quarterback, Warren Moon, would miss the game against Pittsburgh with an injury.
Back up Cody Carlson would take Moon’s place, and I remember people reacting as if this would guarantee victory for the Steelers. I know I felt that way the entire week leading-up to the game. The Steelers defense ranked first in the NFL in yardage allowed in 1990 and had given Moon’s Run and Shoot offense fits in recent meetings. Imagine how much they’d confuse and frustrate Cody Carlson.
I had visions of Pittsburgh destroying Houston and then playing its first home playoff game in eight seasons the following week at Three Rivers.
Unfortunately, with Captain Cody at the helm, the Run and Shoot never looked better. The Oilers jumped-out to a 24-0 halftime lead and cruised to a 34-14 victory.
Carlson went 22-29 for 247 and three touchdowns. The Oilers also racked-up nearly 200 yards on the ground.
The Steelers went from being in-control of their own-destiny to being out of the playoffs altogether.
The popular opinion after the game was that the Steelers relaxed when they found out Moon was injured and weren’t as focused or prepared to face the back-up.
The reason I make this comparison is because, unlike Cody Carlson, Kerry Collins has had a surprisingly decent career, passing for nearly 41,000 yards. He’s also been a bit of a thorn in the side of the Steelers’ defense in recent years. Collins is pretty good at getting rid of the ball quickly, and the two times the Steelers faced him as a starter for the Titans, they failed to generate a solid pass-rush and only sacked him twice. And in a week two match up against Pittsburgh last year, Collins relieved a struggling Vince Young and threw for 149 yards in barely over a quarter, coming within a whisker of bringing the Titans back from a 16-point deficit in the final moments.
Just like that game in 1990 against Carlson, the last thing the Steelers need right now is to march into Indianapolis over-confident and relaxed knowing they will be facing Collins instead of Manning. Hopefully, week one in Baltimore taught Pittsburgh a little lesson about being too confident.
I fully-expect the Steelers to go to Lucas Oil Field and take care of business Sunday night, but don’t put those antacids away just yet. Kerry Collins might make us reach for them a time or two before things are said and done.
Clark Hunt says he would like to apologize to Chiefs fans. That and more about his big role in the NFL’s new CBA in tomorrow’s paper.
Twitter / Sam Mellinger (KC Star)
Sam, what’s this you call the “paper”? Is there an app for that?
Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was asked several questions about the team’s quarterback situation and struggled to say anything positive about rookie Christian Ponder or default incumbent Joe Webb. Peterson suggests he can’t see Ponder starting when the season opens.
Citizens of The Nation, I have the latest sign that the world is going to end much sooner than the Aztecs predicted.
The latest rumor is that the world will end on Saturday, May 21, 2011 at 6 p.m. I am still waiting to hear if that is eastern or central time, or Greenwich Mean Time. We need some clarification here. I need to know how much time I have so I can plan my day accordingly. … [visit site to read more]
Occasionally we get emails from folks that are looking for nothing more than a free PR blast promoting whatever product they’re selling, and the emails usually include lots of exclamation points to show how excited everyone is about said product.
Generally, we ignore these unless they contain something you or other Kansas City Chiefs fans may find interesting. With the NFL lockout, we’re starving for Chiefs news so The Foundry Big and Tall Supply Co. gets a free one today.
The Foundry is a new store opening up in the Kansas City area offering “fashionable choices for big & tall men.” The Chiefs angle in all of this is that the store’s Oak Park Mall location will feature Matt Cassel signing autographs as well as the Chiefs cheerleaders.
The flyer for the event — part of which is seen above — includes this tag line: “Big and tall and about damn time.” Considering Kansas City is the sixth fattest city in the country, it is indeed about damn time.
So if you want to meet Cassel, head to Oak Park Mall between 12:00-2:00 p.m. on Saturday. Maybe he’ll tell you about the informal practices he’s been spear-heading.
Thursday night, in the wake of the first round, a large segment of Cowboys Nation was seemingly disgruntled–not so much by the selection of Tyron Smith (although a couple of outliers stated their preference for Wisconsin’s J.J. Watt), but by Dallas’ decision not to trade down and acquire more picks. Indeed, they had Jacksonville on the phone, with essentially the deal on the table that the Jags made with Washington at the next pick: a nice, fat second-rounder. But the Cowboys turned the deal down because of their love for Smith; apparently, he was the fifth-rated player on their board. I think they love the player and what he brings to the table, especially in terms of his competitiveness and “finish” (Garrett spoke glowingly of his play; go here to read O.C.C.s meticulous translation of RHG’s post-draft comments).
More importantly is the fact that Smith is the best OT candidate for the style of offense that Garrett seemingly wants to run. By drafting Smith, and then two other terrific foot-athletes (who also show some nasty) in David Arkin and Bill Nagy, the Cowboys have introduced an OL profile that, in some ways, they have already stumbled into with the emergence of Doug Free. Gone are the dancing 350 lb. elephants who can be beat to the hole by quickness; the Garrett Cowboys offensive line will look a lot more like Green Bay circa 2010: smart, aware foot athletes, like Daryn Colledge, who can get to the second level and play on the edge, out in space.
Since Free took over for Marc Colombo during 2009′s playoff run, the Cowboys O-line has been schizophrenic, made up of nimble edge guys (Kosier, Free) and lumberers (Flozell Adams, Leonard Davis). A look at the running plays Garrett called in ’09 and ’10 substantiates this: they ran tosses and sweeps to the right, where Kosier (and then Free) were positioned, and power runs to the right, where Davis and Colombo plied their trade. The problem with this division was that other teams soon caught on to the Cowboys limitations; they lined up wide on the left and tight on the right–especially so last season. And, as we saw, such predictability more often than not curtailed the Dallas running game.
More on the draft and the Cowboys’ offense after the jump…
This predictability was exacerbated by their running backs: Felix Jones runs inside acceptably, but he can be electrifying in space, excelling on edge plays, tosses and screens (last year, these were almost always to the left). On the other hand, in 2010, Marion Barber–who has, in the past has been a superb inside runner who could also get to the edge well enough to keep teams from collapsing inside, lost the ability to outflank defenders. An “inside-outside” running tandem only works if each runner is capable of filling the other’s role (in other words, the “outside” runner has to have the ability to run between the tackles, as Felix Jones does); in 2010, the Cowboys could no longer make that work.
If this was painful for us to watch, it must have been excruciating for Jason Garrett. In the last two seasons, he knew that, if he put Barber into the game, defenses would simply collapse inside because # 24 posed no legitimate outside threat. This doesn’t mean that Garret didn’t try to get him to the edge to keep defenses honest; the beat-up horse simply couldn’t do it, even with scheming help (recall the failed pitch to Barber in the Minnesota playoff game, if you must).
For the Cowboys running game to regain any degree of effectiveness, each side of the line needed to be able to execute a variety of plays, and the same play had to pose a similar threat when run to either side. Moreover, whichever running back was in the game must both thunder and lightning in him. At first, when I looked at the list of running backs who were invited to Valley Ranch, it seemed apparent that Dallas wanted to replace Marion Barber. Many of them were effective between the tackles guys; others of them were also third-down types, which led me to think that Tashard Choice would take Barber’s place as “Mr. Inside.” In either case, it appeared that they wanted to keep the running back division of labor–and hence their offensive identity–essentially the same
Given the players Dallas drafted, I’ve had to rethink that supposition. Think about the overall offseason offensive haul: a cadre of fleet o-linemen who can get to the edge; a productive, physical receiver who can man the slot and catches everything within reach; a fullback who can block, but is also a strong ball-carrier and a very good receiver; a receivers coach, Jimmy Robinson, plucked from Green Bay, where he was instrumental in developing a deep wideout corps that provided significant matchup problems for opposing secondaries in spread formations. I am now envisioning a wide-open offense that puts tremendous pressure on defenses–especially on the perimeter, where nimble o-linemen pull or easily get downfield on screens.
Such an offense will certainly benefit a player like Jones–but, given his fragility, it absolutely needed another running back to spell or supplement his game–in fact, every back in the stable should, ideally pose such a multiple threat. I think DeMarco Murray was near the top of their running back board precisely because he can do this: he’s a big back AND a third-down back: he can run effectively between the tackles but, more importantly, get to the edge, run in open space, and catch the ball like a wide receiver. After Murray was drafted, many of us in Cowboys Nation were wringing our hands, wondering: why so high? I think the answer lies in this: without him (or a player like him) Jason Garrett can’t run the offense he wants to run in 2010.
This leads me to the next point: personnel diversity. I’d expect to see a lot of packages where Murray lines up in the slot, a la Jason Witten. But think of the other newly-acquired offensive guys who can pose multiple threats: Witten can play H-back, TE or wideout; John Phillips can play H-back or TE; Shaun Chapas poses enough of a receiving threat that Garrett can probably dust off some of the route combination that Moose Johnston and Jay Novacek used to run in the bang-bang nineties; Harris gives them four or (if Ogletree can rediscover his mojo) five legitimate receiving threats in spread formations (which means that a quality receiver is getting the other team’s backup safety or fifth corner).
In short, I see an offense resembling Green Bay’s, where Tony Romo can be more like Aaron Rodgers, quickly distributing the ball to a stable of guys capable of making plays in space. Last year, the Packers captured a Lombardi with a running game that was effective largely because their passing game posed such a threat. When they did run, it was usually after they had a lead or had tired the opposing defense. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see the Cowboys pursue a similar strategy; in 2007, Garrett’s first year calling plays, this is precisely what they did: passed to set up the run. I think its his core philosophy–and one that, due to various personnel limitations, he has been forced to get away from in order to keep his quarterback alive.
From here, it looks as if he’s spent the offseason finding ways to get back to 2007.