AFC East: Charlie Weis

Here are the most interesting stories Thursday morning in the AFC East:
  • New England Patriots' offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien reportedly could be close to becoming the next head coach at Penn State.
Morning take: This will be a nice step up for O'Brien after the season. If you recall another offensive coordinator, Charlie Weis, also left Bill Belichick to become a head coach in college (Notre Dame).
  • It looks like it could come down to the Miami Dolphins and St. Louis Rams for longtime head coach Jeff Fisher.
Morning take: If it comes down to money, the Dolphins have a chance. But Fisher could go for the better organizational setup, which exists in St. Louis.
Morning take: The Bills should address their defense. But there are a couple holes such of offensive tackle and maybe a receiver that Buffalo could consider.
  • Hall of Fame quarterback Terry Bradshaw says he would cut New York Jets receiver Santonio Holmes.
Morning take: Bradshaw is on the outside looking in and doesn't understand the financial ramifications of cutting Holmes. He’s also the Jets’ only true receiving threat.

Where would Jets be if Belichick stayed?

January, 10, 2011
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What if Bill Belichick hadn't scribbled his resignation on a napkin and remained the head coach of the New York Jets?

New York Post columnist Mike Vaccaro explores that daydream with the Jets about to play the New England Patriots in the playoffs.

The Jets and Patriots form one of the NFL's most intense rivalries, and Belichick's stunning decision to jilt the Jets is a prominent reason.

Belichick was supposed to succeed Bill Parcells as head coach 11 years ago last week, but his introductory news conference turned into a resignation. He joined the Patriots quickly thereafter.

Vaccaro writes:
The underlying, overriding issue was always the looming specter of Parcells. By the time Belichick held his "Blair Witch" press conference, he had clearly grown tired of his Parcellian link. Eleven years later, we know why: Parcells has never been to a Super Bowl without Belichick; Belichick has won three without Parcells. But in 2000, that notion would've seemed ludicrous. He had to strike out on his own.

Vaccaro notes Belichick's staff would have been in place with the Jets. Assistant coaches Charlie Weis, Romeo Crennel, Al Groh and Eric Mangini followed him from the Jets to the Patriots. So did personnel executive Scott Pioli.

That's quite an infrastructure the Jets would've had in place.

But would the Jets have had the fortune of drafting Tom Brady?

The Patriots selected him 199th overall in 2000. The Jets had four first-round picks that year. They had three choices between the third and sixth rounds and another in the 218th slot. Based on Brady's profile leaving Michigan, there's a good chance he still would have been on the board then.

What do you think would have happened?

Brady, Wake on my ballot for NFL's best

December, 31, 2010
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I realize there's one game remaining on the schedule.

After four months of football, Week 17 shouldn't determine the year's best.

Many of the top teams will bench their players for significant portions -- if not all -- of the regular-season finales. There's a reason smart fantasy leagues held their Super Bowls last week.

So with that in mind and 2010 about to expire, here's my ballot for the Pro Football Weekly/Pro Football Writers Association annual awards:

[+] EnlargeTom Brady
Greg M. Cooper/US PresswireTom Brady is the runaway choice for league MVP.
Overall NFL MVP: Tom Brady, Patriots quarterback. He's one of the greatest of all-time, and he's putting together one of the finest seasons of his career. You can argue he never has been better.

Offensive MVP: Tom Brady, Patriots quarterback. Some outlets will break up this award, listing different players for overall MVP and offensive or defensive MVP. In those instances, you'll probably see Brady for one and Michael Vick for the other. We don't do that here.

Defensive MVP: Julius Peppers, Bears defensive end. His sack numbers aren't inspiring, but his presence in Chicago's defense has forced other teams to game plan specifically to stop him, creating opportunities for teammates. He finished with eight sacks, three forced fumbles and 11 passes defensed. Nobody else among the top 85 sackers had more than eight passes defensed.

Coach of the Year: Bill Belichick, Patriots. The Patriots revamped their offense, traded Randy Moss and used several rookies on defense. And they own the NFL's best record.

Comeback Player of the Year: E.J. Henderson, Vikings linebacker. Vick will be a popular choice here, but I have two problems with choosing him over Henderson: 1) Vick's off-field actions are what removed him from the game to begin with; 2) Vick played last year. Henderson wasn't supposed to return at all from a broken femur in December 2009. He amassed over 100 tackles and three interceptions with a titanium rod in his leg.

Overall NFL Rookie of the Year: Sam Bradford, Rams quarterback. You can't dispute his impact on the Rams. Even if they don't go to the playoffs, Bradford has played like a seasoned veteran and posted respectable stats despite a raggedy receiver corps.

Offensive Rookie of the Year: Sam Bradford, Rams quarterback. Same policy as noted above for offensive MVP.

[+] EnlargeCameron Wake
AP Photo/J.Pat CarterDolphins linebacker Cameron Wake currently leads the NFL in sacks with 14.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Ndamukong Suh, Lions defensive tackle. Some think he should be considered overall defensive player of the year. He has been that dominant.

Most Improved Player of the Year: Cameron Wake, Dolphins outside linebacker. Two months after being publicly ridiculed by then-teammate Joey Porter for not being good enough to take reps away from the veteran pass-rusher, Wake leads the NFL with 14 sacks. Porter has five for the Cardinals.

Executive of the Year: Scott Pioli, Chiefs general manager. He assembled a collection of coaches and players that quickly turned the Chiefs into a formidable franchise.

Assistant Coach of the Year: Charlie Weis, Chiefs offensive coordinator. His offense ranks ninth overall and first in rushing. He has put quarterback Matt Cassel in situations that make him look like a star.

Is Jimmy Clausen the next J.P. Losman?

February, 15, 2010
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Buffalo Bills fans are eager to learn how their team will address that enormous quarterback question mark and wonder whether they'll go after a hot shot with their ninth overall draft choice.

In my recent rundown of mock drafts, Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen appears in a few forecasts.

But ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay douses the optimism by daring to compare Clausen to Bills pariah J.P. Losman.

McShay and Mel Kiper recently broke down some of the bigger names -- and a name you might not know -- available in this year's class. McShay deemed Clausen the biggest risk of the lot.

"I'm not sure that he has as much room to grow," McShay said. "I think he may be maxed out both physically and from a coaching perspective because he is so well-coached. He's not going to get any better, I think, at the next level.

"And secondly, I have concerns about the intangibles. Maybe not the toughness or necessarily the in-game leadership, but how he carries himself, just the way he handles the quarterback position. Other guys like J.P. Losman have come into the league with similar immaturity and have struggled as first-round picks.

"If you're going to draft Jimmy Clausen high, and some team's going to in the top 10, 15 picks, you're talking somewhere around $15 million to $20 million guaranteed. I think that's an awfully big risk on Clausen."

Kiper makes another AFC East-flavored comparison. He views Central Michigan's Dan LeFevour as a Chad Pennington-type leader.

video

Pats won't have any coordinators in 2010

February, 5, 2010
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Here's a way for Bill Belichick and Amos Alonzo Stagg to be mentioned in the same sentence.

In a move straight out of the leather-helmet era, the New England Patriots have revealed they won't have any coordinators for 2010. No offensive, no defensive, no special teams.

The news came to light on the team's official Web site. The Patriots didn't have an offensive coordinator last year. They parted ways with defensive coordinator Dean Pees last month and apparently won't replace him, choosing to spread the duties with no designated helmsman.

"Titles are fine, nothing wrong with them, but the most important thing is each person's role, that we do everything we can to help the players succeed -- everyone collectively getting the job done," Belichick said in the Web story.

Quarterbacks coach Bill O'Brien handled most of the play-calling responsibilities last year after Josh McDaniels left to become head coach of the Denver Broncos. McDaniels, who had a similar combo role after Charlie Weis left for Notre Dame, was given the title of offensive coordinator after a year of calling plays. O'Brien apparently won't be elevated likewise.

On Friday morning, ESPNBoston's Mike Reiss presciently analyzed the Patriots' staff situation.

The snub scale: Bills job doesn't rate

January, 17, 2010
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CBS Sports analyst Charley Casserly on Saturday reported the Buffalo Bills offered their head-coaching position to Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh, but he turned them down.

The scoop was another big blow to a wounded organization's reputation.

Who wants this job?

The Bills have had two months to replace Dick Jauron. Two other clubs have fired coaches and replaced them within a week. It will be interesting to see if the Oakland Raiders fire Tom Cable and hire someone before the Bills announce Jauron's replacement.

Several have spurned the Bills' overtures. Below is a rejection rundown with a "snub scale" for how much Bills fans should be bothered by each rebuff. I'm not going to bother analyzing Bill Cowher, Jon Gruden or Mike Holmgren, all of whom have been approached in some manner by the Bills and turned down.

Confirmed interviews

Free-agent coach Mike Shanahan: Accepted head-coaching post with the Washington Redskins. Snub scale (out of 10): 1. The Redskins are a high-profile franchise that spends a lot of money. A no-brainer for Shanahan.

Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier: Still alive in the playoffs, and we don't know how interested he is in the Bills. What if Frazier turns them down, too? Snub scale: Incomplete.

Bills interim coach Perry Fewell: Would rather take a defensive coordinator job with the New York Giants than wait for the possibility of a head coaching job. Snub scale: 3. If your dream is to be an NFL head coach, then you'd normally wait before accepting a lesser job, but Fewell saw the writing on the wall.

Reported offer

Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh: Would rather remain in the Pac-10 than be Bills head coach. Snub scale: 10. For wanting to remain with a second-tier college program rather than be head coach for Buffalo.

Declined interviews

New York Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer: Would rather remain a coordinator than run the Bills. Snub scale: 8. For preferring to have success as a supporting cast member than be a head coach, which he harbors dreams of doing.

San Diego Chargers defensive coordinator Ron Rivera: Reportedly told the Bills and Seattle Seahawks he wasn't interested in interviewing for their jobs. We still haven't heard from Rivera on this like we've heard from Schottenheimer. Snub scale: If true, an Incomplete because he hasn't gone on record to say he definitely wouldn't interview when the Chargers are eliminated.

Former Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis: Would rather be the offensive coordinator of the Kansas City Chiefs. John Murphy, sports director of Buffalo CBS affiliate WIVB and the Bills' play-by-play radio voice, reported the Bills' interest in Weis. Snub scale: 9. For signing up to be an underling on a four-win club, but at least he's joining old friends he's comfortable with.

Might decline an interview

Arizona Cardinals assistant head coach Russ Grimm: Buffalo News reporter Allen Wilson reported Grimm likely will turn down the Bills' request to interview. Snub scale: If Grimm follows through, a 10 for shunning one of the NFL's precious 32 roles he covets.

AFC East mailbag on your doorstep

January, 16, 2010
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John in La Jolla, Calif., writes in with a complaint: "Tim, why do you have so little respect for the Chargers? I can't wait for your response. Hardly anyone at ESPN ever mentions them."

Tim Graham: The fact the San Diego Chargers play in the AFC West and this is an AFC East blog might have a little something to do with it. That would explain my lack of Chargers coverage over the past two years.

As for a lack of respect, I've gone on record as predicting the Chargers will beat the New York Jets on Sunday. So have all eight ESPN experts who pick the games, AccuScore and the SportsNation poll. Notice those 10 yellow lightning bolts all in a row? That means they're predicting a Chargers victory.

Ethan in Austin, Texas, thinks the Buffalo Bills' inability to land a coach has been "overplayed" because of his belief that Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer is the only one to have turned down an interview, that Chargers defensive coordinator Ron Rivera eventually will interview and that there have been no confirmed reports Bill Cowher is out of the mix.

TG: That's an awful lot of blind hope. In all fairness, Ethan submitted his question before Saturday's report in the Buffalo News that Arizona Cardinals assistant head coach Russ Grimm likely won't accept the Bills' invitation to interview either. Even so, these men also spurned overtures from the Bills: Jon Gruden, Mike Holmgren and Charlie Weis. Mike Shanahan interviewed and went elsewhere. That's a lot of rejection.

Interim coach Perry Fewell would rather have the New York Giants' defensive coordinator job than the possibility of the Bills' head-coaching position. That leaves one candidate we know they've interviewed and still is available, Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier.

As for still waiting on Cowher, what are you basing that hope on? Other reports that state the Bills have been pursuing him? You can't listen only to the stories that tell you what you want to hear. ESPN's Adam Schefter and John Clayton and Sports Illustrated's Peter King all have reported Cowher isn't coming to Buffalo.

Tony in Madison, Wisc., wants to know what the Miami Dolphins should do in the draft. He mentions the defensive line, receiver and safety.

TG: Let's not forget inside linebacker. The Dolphins need to upgrade there, too. They were ready to walk away from Channing Crowder last year and let him become a free agent. Crowder gave them a discount rate to remain with the team. Otherwise, the Dolphins would have gone a different direction a while ago. Akin Ayodele hasn't been a difference-maker, either.

The Dolphins own the No. 12 selection. A receiver there would be the sexiest pick. Chad Henne could use a formidable and reliable downfield target. But if the Dolphins identify a nose tackle they like, and who projects worthy of the draft slot, then that could be the way to go. Nose tackle is critical to a 3-4 defense. Jason Ferguson is a free agent, would turn 36 next season and is coming off a leg injury that limited him to nine games. Paul Soliai was adequate in Ferguson's place, but the Dolphins probably wouldn't mind improving there.

Carlos posted a question on my Facebook wall about how the Patriots might change on the offensive line to make room for Sebastian Vollmer. (If anybody else wants to friend me on Facebook, you can get alerts on my blogs the second they're posted.)

TG: Although receiver Julian Edelman was the biggest name at the end of the year, Vollmer was the prize of New England's 2009 rookie class. Vollmer showed he was capable of being a franchise left tackle, but the Patriots would be better off if they kept the aging-but-still-capable Matt Light through the final year of his contract and insert Vollmer on the right side for Nick Kaczur. If the Patriots wanted to cut payroll, however, then they could start Vollmer at left tackle next year with no problem.

In response to the debate about whether Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis deserved to win the AP's Defensive Player of the Year Award instead of Green Bay Packers defensive back Charles Woodson, Kevin in Menlo Park, Calif., wants to know how each player compared from a penalty standpoint.

TG: Revis was penalized four times for 20 yards. Three flags were for illegal contact. The other was for defensive holding. No pass interference calls.

Woodson was penalized eight times for 68 yards. He was called for pass interference three times, defensive holding three times and facemask twice.

Steve in Middlesex, N.J., writes in with a correction. He points out that twice I erroneously cited the Dallas Cowboys finished with a better scoring defense while, in fact, the Jets gave up fewer points.

TG: Guilty as charged. I have no explanation other than I must've looked up the stat incorrectly the first time and then committed those false numbers to memory. For the record, the Jets allowed a league-low 236 points for an average of 14.8 points per game. The Cowboys allowed 250 points for an average of 15.6 points per game.

Gene in Rochester, N.Y., writes: "Do you ever get tired putting down the Bills all the time? Its getting old."

TG: After a full decade without making the playoffs, the only way I can avoid writing anything negative about the Bills would be not to cover them at all.

In two months, any Bills progress?

January, 14, 2010
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The Buffalo Bills have had two months to interview candidates and hire a new head coach.

In that span -- unless they held some more stealth meetings -- the Bills have formally interviewed one candidate who's still available.

Getting antsy, Bills fans?

The New York Giants announced Thursday that Perry Fewell will be their defensive coordinator. Fewell was the Bills' interim head coach and interviewed for their permanent job last week.

Fewell wasn't going to return to the Bills anyway, but the fact he and other members of their fired staff are finding work within two weeks (special teams coordinator Bobby April joined the Philadelphia Eagles, and offensive line coach Sean Kugler joined the Pittsburgh Steelers) while the Bills are spinning their wheels doesn't look good.

Since the regular season ended, two NFL clubs have fired their head coaches and hired replacements.

With Fewell off the market, that leaves Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier the lone applicant to have interviewed that we know about. The Bills met with Frazier on Thursday.

Since then, we've learned New York Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and San Diego Chargers defensive coordinator Ron Rivera have rejected overtures from the Bills.

Arizona Cardinals assistant head coach Russ Grimm reportedly has agreed to a Bills interview request, but he isn't expected to sit down with them until after the playoffs.

The Bills interviewed Mike Shanahan in November. He accepted the Washington Redskins' gig. ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported the Bills held a "stealth meeting" with Bill Cowher two weeks ago. The Bills reportedly approached former Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis, who took a job as Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator.

Maybe this process is going exactly the way the Bills envisioned, but somehow I doubt it.

Buffalo coaching search on hold

December, 29, 2009
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A pair of insightful blogs have been posted about the Buffalo Bills' approach to finding their next head coach.

Buffalo News reporter Mark Gaughan writes the Bills will not hire a coach until they bring in a legitimate general manager. The Bills have operated without a traditional GM or football operations boss, choosing instead to let team president Russ Brandon, who has a marketing background, handle the role.

NFL Network reporter Jason La Canfora, citing an unnamed source, provides an update on the coaching search: There really hasn't been one yet.

La Canfora reports since the Bills interviewed Mike Shanahan and were snubbed by Mike Holmgren, Jon Gruden and Bill Cowher, the club has decided to sit back and wait.

From La Canfora's blog:

According to the source, a resolution is "a long, long ways away," and the franchise is at the start of what will be a "very thorough process." As expected all along, the Bills could look to several emerging coordinators, though there are few options on the offensive side of the ball. Buffalo would like to install an offensive-minded coach and explosive system, if possible, and is looking for someone who can identify and develop a franchise quarterback -- which is why Holmgren, Shanahan and Gruden were so appealing.

Buffalo television station WIVB reported Monday night the Bills had reached out to former Notre Dame head coach and New England Patriots offensive coordinator Charlie Weis through "back channels."

Report: Bills, Weis show mutual interest

December, 28, 2009
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The pipeline for news about the Buffalo Bills' coaching search has been dry for weeks.

Weis
Weis
The Bills sat down with Mike Shanahan and reached out in vain to Bill Cowher, Mike Holmgren and Jon Gruden by Thanksgiving. We haven't heard anything substantive since.

Here's an update:

John Murphy, sports director for CBS affiliate WIVB and play-by-play voice for the team, reports the Bills have reached out to former Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis, and there is mutual interest.

The Bills interviewed Weis for their vacancy in 2004 but eventually hired Mike Mularkey. Weis remained offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots one more season and then took over Notre Dame's program in 2005.

The Bills haven't gone to the playoffs for 10 straight seasons.

They fired Dick Jauron after falling to 3-6 with a Week 10 loss to the Tennessee Titans. The Bills named defensive coordinator Perry Fewell interim head coach and have gone 2-4.

Video: AFC East Huddle

December, 23, 2009
12/23/09
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ESPN.com's John Clayton addresses the major issues for every club in the AFC East. Take a look at the names listed in the tags to get an idea of what kind of ground Clayton covers.

A halftime trip around the AFC East

December, 13, 2009
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Since the AFC East has four games going simultaneously, here are some quick halftime thoughts from around the division:

First of all, I might be in the wrong stadium. The real news will take place in Gillette Stadium if the New England Patriots don't get their act together against the Carolina Panthers. The score is tied at 7, but the Patriots have looked homely. Tom Brady has an interception. Randy Moss lost a fumble. Do you think Bill Belichick has Charlie Weis' updated résumé on file?

The Miami Dolphins appear to be in control against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Dolphins lead 14-7 and should be up by at least 10, but receiver Davone Bess fumbled on a reverse at the Jaguars' 33-yard line right before intermission.

The Dolphins are running and throwing effectively. Ricky Williams has rushed 15 times for 42 yards and a touchdown. Chad Henne, who also has a touchdown run, has completed 14 of 16 attempts -- 13 in a row -- for 146 yards and no interceptions.

The New York Jets are cruising against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 19-0. Jay Feely already has four field goals in his hometown. Rex Ryan was wise not to push rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez back too soon from a knee injury because Kellen Clemens hasn't had to do anything. Clemens is 7-of-16 for 52 yards. But Thomas Jones has 12 carries for 77 yards and a touchdown.

The Jets are getting it done in their last cushy game before a brutal finish against the Atlanta Falcons, Indianapolis Colts and Cincinnati Bengals. The Jets and Dolphins are tied at 6-6, one game behind the Jaguars. If these scores hold up, then we're going to have some fun the rest of December.

And in Kansas City, the Buffalo Bills are up 10-3 in a game that's irrelevant other than establishing the top 10 draft order. Terrell Owens has a 9-yard touchdown reception.

Video: Could Weis kick start Pats?

December, 7, 2009
12/07/09
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video ESPN's Adam Schefter takes a look at the possible locales former Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis could land, including Foxborough, Mass.

Video: AFC East Huddle

December, 2, 2009
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ESPN.com's John Clayton takes a look at the state of the AFC East heading into Week 13, including his analysis of where the New England Patriots are after Monday night's loss in the Superdome, Chad Henne as the Miami Dolphins' franchise quarterback and whether Charlie Weis could be a candidate for the Buffalo Bills' coaching vacancy.

Podcast: Belichick assistants gone bad

November, 24, 2009
11/24/09
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ESPN's Brian Kenny takes a look at the bad karma affecting the Bill Belichick coaching tree.

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