Around the NFL for Wile Card week.

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The Coaching carousel spins.

Redskins—Zorn is gone. Former Denver coach Shanahan is in and has total power. See there is not a “no win” policy in Washington. Shanahan is smart and will get a lot more out of the talent that is there. The biggest problems with the Redskins are the O line and QB. The D is solid but has suffered because it has been on the field nearly 40 minutes a game. Shanahan will get the running game going and will move on from QB Campbell soup can.

Browns—Mangenous is still there. Browns Pres. Holmgren announced today that Mangini and his minions will be given one more season. Most observers had hoped that the team would at least demote or fire OC Daboll because he was clearly over his head in that spot. Holmgren is an offensive coach and all the Browns fans can hope is that the he will be puppet master calling the shots for the O.

There are a couple of things going on here that made that decision reasonable. First, there is a 75% chance that there will be no NFL football in 2011. For all the reasons I have published here months ago, there will be no agreement in time to prevent an uncapped year in 2010 and little chance that the two sides will agree to a deal before the drop dead date early in 2011.

The second reason is that I believe the rumors that have Jon “Chuckie” Gruden joining the team after football returns as head coach of the Browns. I would love that combination. I believe it would finally turn the team around. Both Holmgren and Gruden realize what a big job this is going to be. But both thrive in turn around jobs.

Steelers—The staff of coach Tomlin is paying the price for the team not making the playoffs. OL coach Zierlein and not so special teams coach Ligashesky have been fired. This is a move to take some heat off the HC chair. If the team comes around next season, Tomlin will keep his job. If not he will be the next one to get the pink slip out of Steel town.

Giants—O line coach Waufle was fired yesterday. The O line was one of the best in the league in 08 but disintegrated in 09. It caused QB Manning to run for his life on almost every play. The way the team rolled over and died late in the season, the O line is not the only problem. Look for more changes in the Big Apple.

Bears—The Bears fired OL Luke Butkus and quality control/wr assistant coach London. The problem on the O line was age not coaching. OT Williams was the only top 3 round pick in the last 6 years for the team. C Kreutz is a year past serviceable, Gs Garza and Omiyale are “never was” guys that are below starting quality and RT Shaffer is a journeyman. The WR problem is lack of WRs. The combination of Bennett, Davis and Hester don’t equal one #1 NFL quality guy.

Chiefs—Kansas City is trying to become “Patriots West.” As I have written before the only way that coach Haley saved his job was to bring experienced coordinators in like training wheels on a bike. Former ND and Pat OC Weis has been named OC. Look for current DC Pendergast to be the next causality. There are rumors that ex-Brown coach Crennel will be named DC. That might give Haley enough experience on his staff to make up for his lack of it.

The INs and the OUTs.


Jets—The Jets got REALLY lucky being scheduled in their last 2 games against two teams that had already clinched their playoff position. The Jets won those games and they are in. They are playing a little better than they were earlier in the year but you can’t go far with a rookie QB at the helm unless you come from Pittsburg.

Ravens—The Birds won the games they were supposed to win to get WC spot. They are matched up against the Pats and that should be a great game.

Cowboys—Who says threats don’t work to motivate players and coaches? JJ threatened to blow up the team and start over if they missed the playoffs and the team responded. They beat the Eagles easily to win the NFC East. Let’s see how far they go. They will meet the Birds again in the Wild Card round.

Packers—The Pack beat the Cards easily and that will be the Wild Card game. The Cards rested a number of players that were nicked up. They will play this weekend.


Broncos—After a 6-0 start, the team disintegrated going 2-8 and failed to make the playoffs. It was only the 2nd team since the playoffs were expanded to 12 team to go 6-0 and not make the big dance. The problem is the head coach. He ticked off his all pro QB Cutler so badly that he was forced to trade him. Then he benched his all pro WR Marshall twice losing all those games. McD is not qualified to be head coach of a peewee team.

Texans—This team is just not talented enough to be much over .500. They have had some good drafts in the early picks but not enough guys contributing from the middle and late rounds to get over the hump.

Dolphins—One of my readers asked why I didn’t talk more about the Dolphins. Here you are. The Fish amazed everyone in 2008 going from the 1st overall draft pick to the AFC East championship. This year they were scheduled against other playoff teams and that and key injuries to their QB and RB proved to be too much to get to the playoffs for a 2nd year in a row. They are a really good team that has found their QB of the future in Henne.

Steelers—A Steeler team that can’t run the ball won’t make the playoffs. They are going to have to solve the O line problems to both protect the QB and create holes for the RBs. Their D missed Polamalu most of the season. The D has become far too dependent on him to correct mistakes that the other players make.

Giants—A combination of injuries and guys getting old in a hurry killed their chances for the playoffs. This team will be reworked in a big way in the off season.

Falcons—This team was another surprise in 08 that failed to make the dance in 09. They are getting better but had a lot of injuries that hurt its chances of making the post season.

That’s what I think. Tell me what you think.

Bill Smith is a former coach of several semi-pro teams, has officiated both football and basketball, done color on radio for college football and basketball and has scouted talent. He is a senior writer for and edits He has also published several novels on and edits .

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The Chiefs' Plan in 09—Build around their Cassel

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Kansas City GM Scott Pioli has bet a lot on QB Matt Cassel but didn’t give up an arm and a leg to acquire him. Even though Cassel never started at USC and had one good year behind a group of pro bowl players, Pioli had very little to lose. The Chiefs needed a QB and Cassel’s question marks are far fewer than any rookie he could have gotten in the second round.

Cassel is a slightly above average QB in the Pat style O that KC will implement. However, he needs to be more accurate in the red zone to help the pathetic O of the 08 Chiefs claw its way to the middle of the pack. He will need an improved running game and a lot more protection from the line to make the Chiefs competitive.

The success of the running game depends on RB Larry Johnson staying healthy and focused all year. He is still capable of pro bowl level play but injuries and demands for a new contract or a trade have prevented him from showing it over the last two seasons. There is nothing behind him comes close to quality depth.

Cassel will miss the speed of Randy Moss—he’ll even miss the speed of Wes Weilker. What he has is a group of inconsistent less than average speed WRs that tend to drop as many balls as they catch. Both projected starters Dwayne Bowe and Mark Bradley fall into that category. The one hope for the team is vet Bobby Engram is he is healthy. He hasn’t been for the last several years.

Don’t expect any help from the TE. Pioli traded all pro Tony Gonzalez. Now Cassel will have one of the following candidates at the position: Brad Cottam, Sean Ryan, Tony Curtis, or maybe Jake O’Connell. The reason you haven’t heard of most of these guys is they have yet to do anything to get noticed.

In what can only be described as the Bill Belichick way, Pioli and the new head coach Haley managed to piss off one of their best players G Brian Waters over his off season conditioning. Haley wants to have a lighter more mobile line. Waters doesn’t fit that mold. The rest of the line is good and bad. UFA G Mike Goff is solid and is a natural leader. The Chiefs can use all the leadership it can find. LT Branden Albert has a lot of talent and is starting to show it. C Rudy Niswanger and RT Damion McIntosh are very average hole fillers with a little up side. They will get better or get replaced next year. There is not much on the bench to help should someone go down.

On the D line the ends could be very good to outstanding. The problem is finding a NT. The switch to the 3-4 moves DT Glenn Dorsey to DE. He is outstanding when healthy and motivated. Having one of his running mates at LSU on the line may help. I really like rookie DE Tyson Jackson. Jackson did not have as good a year in 08 as he did in 07 because he was double teamed every play. He needs to be more effective at splitting doubles and getting into the backfield. Either Ron Edwards or Tank Tyler will be NT. Neither is capable of being effective at the spot. The depth is inconsistent and lacks athleticism.

OB Mike Vrabel came to KC in the Cassel trade and will be the director of Defense for the team. He knows the D and provides leadership on that side of the ball. UFA MLB Zach Thomas provides leadership as well. IB Derrick Johnson has spectacular ability. The team just wishes it showed a little more often. Projected starting OB B Tamba Hali and reserves Turk McBride and Andy Studebaker are former DEs trying to figure out how to play their new spot. Reserve Monty Beisel is a capable fill in.

At least the DBs know each other and what they are supposed to do. CBs Brandon Flowers and Brandon Carr have upside and were decent last year. Flowers needs to tackle a little better. SS Bernard Pollard and FS Jarrad Page start their 4 year together and should be getting better. 08’s performance didn’t show much improvement. Mike Brown and Jon McGraw are vets that can play and 4th round pick Donald Washington has potential.

OVERALL: The only thing that will keep the Chiefs out of the AFC West basement is the Raiders. They have the potential to get better but it won’t happen this year.

That’s what I think. Tell me what you think.

Bill Smith is a former coach of several semi-pro teams, has officiated both football and basketball, done color on radio for college football and basketball and has scouted talent. He is a senior writer for and edits He has also published several novels on and edits .

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Vegas projects the Browns to win 7 games(???)

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According to the over/under wins list put out by the odds makers in Vegas, the Browns are going to win 7 games but the Bengals are going to win only 6. These numbers look off to me.

The Browns are going to have a new QB, offensive and defensive system, key players on both sides of the ball. They traded their best receiver away and are shopping their only other starting pass catcher on EBAY without a minimum. And their other starting WR is suspended indefinitely by the Commissioner. They also have a new younger version of what they hope is Bill Belichick II in New England and not Bill Belichick I, the guy that they fired in Cleveland.

The Bengals have a quality experienced QB, the same O and D systems, and a coach that reportedly the players love to play for but is on the hot seat unless they win. My gut tells me that the Bengals are a lot closer to winning 7 or 8 games than the Browns are.

WR Braylon Edwards will have a lot of company when he runs patterns because he is the only deep threat the Browns have. Rookie WR Mohamed Massaquoi has speed but questionable hands. There should be real race to see who drops more passes. After Massaquoi drops more than his share, look for OSU rookie Brian Robiskie or vet Mike Furrey to get into the starting lineup. UFA Robert Royal figures to start at TE by default. He may be the only TE healthy enough to play.

The current depth chart shows turnstile UFA John St. Clair starting at RT. He has gotten QB broken everyplace he has played. Just like last year, the Browns may need 4 or 5 QBs this season if he starts.

The D line still lacks any help for pro bowl NT Shaun Rogers to stop the run. In the AFC North, if you can’t stop the run, you will be on the field a L O N G time. The linebacking corps is anything but settled. It will be a week to week game of who did you sack recently? The backfield looks less strong than it did last year as SS Jones was allowed to leave. Look for ex Jet SS Abram Elam to start. The corner opposite Eric Wright is up for grabs. Don’t look for any great improvement there. Without much of a pass rush, whoever plays will have to cover the opposition long enough to establish voting rights in Ohio on every play.

The best chances for a Browns win will be against Detroit, Kansas City, and Oakland. The rest of their games will be toss ups or worse. For entertainment purposes only BET THE UNDER.

That’s what I think. Tell me what you think.

Bill Smith is a former coach of several semi-pro teams, has officiated both football and basketball, done color on radio for college football and basketball and has scouted talent. He is a senior writer for and edits He has also published several novels on and edits .

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Is Sam Bradford making a mistake by staying at Oklahoma?

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Fryingpan Sports

Is Sam Bradford making a mistake by staying at Oklahoma?

t By Bill Smith

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In a previous article I wrote that Tim Tebow made a great decision by staying at Florida. He was going to be a 2nd or 3rd round choice this year but could work his way into the first round with a strong senior year. However, I believe that Oklahoma QB Bradford is making a mistake by staying.

I am reminded of QB Matt Leinart of USC. He would have been the first overall pick had he come out as a junior. But he stayed in school for his senior year and fell to the 10th pick overall in the 2006 draft. Alex Smith from Utah was the first pick of the 49ers. That decision cost Leinart 3.5 million dollars over the first 3 years of his contract.

There is only one first round QB in the 2009 draft—Matt Stafford of Georgia. While USC’s QB Mark Sanchez will probably be drafted in the first round, at this point I don’t see him as a 1st round talent. QB Akili Smith from Oregon started only one year in the Pac-10 and look how well that turned out for the Bengals.

With no less than 14 teams needing either starting or backup QBs, the need will never be greater and the supply seldom lower. [You can see the list on in my column about the Browns.] In my opinion, Bradford would have been either the first pick by Detroit or the third pick by Kansas City. Bradford would have taken over the top QB ranking at the combine.

Bradford has better accuracy than Stafford but slightly less arm strength. I’m not big on arm strength. Both Vince Young of Tennessee and JaMarcus Russell of Oakland have great arm strength but couldn’t hit snow if they were passing from the North Pole. The NFL has seen dozens of strong armed QBs crash and burn over the last few years. Joe Montana had average arm strength but it got stronger from lifting so many championship trophies.

Bradford is more of a pocket passer than Stafford and has a little more experience throwing after taking snaps from under center than Stafford. That should translate into less trouble mastering the 3, 5, and 7 step drops so critical to developing accuracy in the NFL. Bradford processes information quickly and is accurate. He completed 68% of his passes with 50 touchdowns and 8 interceptions.

Stafford is very inconsistent. Even though he has the better team in all but a hand full of games Georgia played, he still often throws interceptions in critical points in the game. He is not nearly as accurate as Bradford completing 61% of his throws but having only 25 TDs and 10 interceptions.

The risk is that Bradford’s stock will drop in his senior year. He loses WRs Juaquin Iglesias and Manuel Johnson, and probably Jr. TE Jermaine Gresham. While he will still have some good targets, chances are they will not as good or as consistent as those three. They should all be drafted in the first 3 rounds. He will also be missing at least two of his interior linemen Duke Robinson and Brandon Walker as well as his best tackle Phil Loadholt.

Given all the talent the Sooners will lose, it would make more sense to come out now. He will be running for his life whichever bad NFL team he goes to in 2010 and may have to run from less than optimum pass protection next year at Oklahoma. He might as well get paid to do it.

That’s what I think. Tell me what you think.

Bill Smith is a former coach of several semi-pro teams, has officiated both football and basketball, done color on radio for college football and basketball and has scouted talent. He is a senior writer for and edits He has also published several novels on and edits .

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