AFC East: Steve Spagnuolo

From lockup to lockout, Burress needs a job

June, 6, 2011
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Out of prison, Plaxico Burress will be pursued by NFL teams and won't have trouble finding work in 2011.

That's what his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, claimed in an email to The Associated Press: "Many teams will want [Burress]. He will be a top free agent. He is healthy and ready to go. He will be signed shortly after the lockout ends."

Rosenhaus has been known to bluff about interest in his clients before. He declared "several teams" were hot for Terrell Owens in 2009, when the receiver made the Buffalo Bills his first visit and then signed before leaving town.

Teams must approach Burress with a healthy amount of skepticism. He will be 34 in August, hasn't caught a pass since before Thanksgiving 2008 and was slowing down even then. His average yards per catch had diminished for four straight seasons.

That said, Burress still is 6-foot-5 and can outmaneuver defensive backs as a third-down and red-zone threat.

Michael Vick's successful NFL return from prison also will make more teams open-minded about Burress, who spent 20 months in prison on handgun charges.

ESPN analyst Cris Carter estimated "a half-dozen" teams would be interested in Burress but expressed concern over Burress' ability to remain explosive. Burress had motivation problems to begin with and has had limited access to training facilities for nearly two years. Carter used New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis as an example. Revis merely missed training camp last year, yet was dogged by hamstring problems. Revis is eight years younger than Burress.

ESPN.com's blog network examined each NFL club's potential interest in Burress. You can read the rundown in chart form. I predicted the Jets would be the most interested, the Miami Dolphins would be lukewarm and the Bills and New England Patriots largely uninterested.

No contest: Belichick wins coach of the year

February, 2, 2011
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The decision wasn't a foregone conclusion like Tom Brady one night before, but New England Patriots boss Bill Belichick handily won the Associated Press 2010 NFL Coach of the Year Award.

Belichick
Belichick
Belichick guided the Patriots to another division title and an NFL-best 14 victories despite challenging circumstances detailed on the AFC East blog Wednesday morning.

While Belichick had the benefit of Brady at quarterback, the Patriots went through a transitional phase both offensively and defensively. They traded Randy Moss, dealt with Logan Mankins' long contract holdout, endured injuries that would rattle other teams, and successfully infused several young players into key roles.

The Patriots dominated the regular season. They led the NFL in scoring and ranked eighth in points allowed. They broke the NFL record for fewest turnovers in a season with 10.

Belichick, who also oversees New England's personnel, operated without any coordinators in 2010.

While the honor went to the best candidate, I was surprised to learn Belichick won in a landslide. He received 30 of the 50 votes cast. The award often is given to a coach who has dramatically improved his team. The Patriots were expected to be good in 2010, while there were a few who turned losers into playoff teams -- or came darn close.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers second-year coach Raheem Morris was a distant second with 11.5 votes. Kansas City Chiefs coach Todd Haley was third with 4.5 votes. Mike Smith of the Atlanta Falcons, Andy Reid of the Philadelphia Eagles, Lovie Smith of the Chicago Bears and Steve Spagnuolo of the St. Louis Rams each received one vote.

Bills competing with Patriots for Tinoisamoa

May, 26, 2009
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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

If the Buffalo Bills still want to sign linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa, they have another competitor to worry about. This one is in the AFC East.

Mike Reiss of the Boston Globe reports Tinoisamoa visited the New England Patriots on Tuesday. Tinoisamoa also has visited the Chicago Bears, but canceled a recent appointment with the Philadelphia Eagles.

CBSSpots.com senior writer Clark Judge reported last week the Bills offered Tinoisamoa a contract before he left Orchard Park, N.Y., which was his first stop after the St. Louis Rams cut him.

Tinoisamoa led St. Louis in tackles four of his six seasons there, but new coach Steve Spagnuolo released him because of a bigger-backer philosophy and the addition of rookie James Laurinaitis. Tinoisamoa was listed at 6-foot-1, 240 pounds, but he played about 20 pounds lighter last year.

He recorded 135 tackles last year with three sacks and two forced fumbles.

Tinoisamoa would supplant Keith Ellison in Buffalo's 4-3 defense.

With the 3-4 Patriots, Tinoisamoa would play inside linebacker, a position that was impacted when third-round draft pick Tyrone Mckenzie suffered a season-ending knee injury at rookie minicamp.

Tinoisamoa still considering Bills

May, 19, 2009
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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

The Buffalo Bills still are in the running for linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa, a league source has informed ESPN.com.

Tinoisamoa, cut by the St. Louis Rams because new coach Steve Spagnuolo wants bigger linebackers, visited the Bills last week. Tinoisamoa is scheduled to visit the Chicago Bears and Philadelphia Eagles within the next few days and then choose the best fit among the three suitors.

Tinoisamoa led the Rams in tackles four of his six seasons. He recorded 135 last year, with three sacks and two forced fumbles.

Bills coach Dick Jauron has been known to sacrifice size for mobility at linebacker. Tinoisamoais listed at 6-foot-1 and 240 pounds, but he reportedly played closer to 220 pounds last year.

Tinoisamoa played weak-side linebacker in the Rams' 4-3 alignment. The Bills, the AFC East's only 4-3 team, could upgrade that spot.

Keith Ellison is their returning starter, but the Bills could do better than the former sixth-round pick. He would make a fine backup at a position the Bills have lacked depth.

Source: Bills will host linebacker Tinoisamoa

May, 11, 2009
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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

The Buffalo Bills are bringing in linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa for an interview Wednesday, and a source familiar with the trip believes the tackling machine is particularly excited about the opportunity.

Tinoisamoa led the Rams in tackles four of his six seasons. He recorded 135 last year, with three sacks and two forced fumbles.

But the Rams cut their former defensive captain last week mainly because new head coach Steve Spagnuolo likes bigger linebackers. Tinoisamoa is listed at 6-foot-1, 240 pounds. But St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Jim Thomas noted Tomoisamoa played at 220 pounds last year. The Rams also drafted Ohio State linebacker James Laurinaitis.

Bills coach Dick Jauron doesn't mind smaller, quicker linebackers. Tinoisamoa played the weak-side slot in the Rams' 4-3 defense, and the Bills happen to have a need there.

Keith Ellison is Buffalo's returning starter, but the Bills could do better than the former sixth-round pick. Ellison would make a fine backup at a position the Bills have lacked depth.

A linebacking corps with Paul Posluszny between Tinoisamoa and strong-side linebacker Kawika Mitchell doesn't sound too shabby.

I'm thankful they wouldn't be a double-play combination I would have to enunciate -- or type out -- often.

Spagnulolo hire impacts AFC East

January, 17, 2009
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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

The St. Louis Rams' hiring of Steve Spagnuolo will have implications for the AFC East.

The most obvious is that Rex Ryan becomes the clear frontrunner for the New York Jets' vacancy.

Several media outlets previously reported Ryan was the preferred candidate, but now we know two things:

a) He no longer has the Rams as an option, and

b) The Jets' other top applicant now is off the board.

Spagnuolo had a secret meeting with Jets owner Woody Johnson on Tuesday.

Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer still is being mentioned as a possibility to replace Eric Mangini, but his credentials don't stack up next to Ryan's.

Spagnuolo to St. Louis also means Miami Dolphins secondary coach Todd Bowles likely will stick around. Bowles supposedly interviewed well for the Rams, Denver Broncos and Detroit Lions vacancies, but didn't get a new gig.

With Bowles around, the Dolphins could better withstand a Paul Pasqualoni departure. NFL Network's Adam Schefter reported the Dolphins' defensive coordinator was a "person of interest" for the Kansas City Chiefs if they decide to get rid of Herm Edwards.

If Pasqualoni were to leave the Dolphins, then Bowles would be the obvious replacement.

Around the AFC East: No surgery for Edwards

January, 16, 2009
1/16/09
2:23
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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

Buffalo Bills

Miami Dolphins New England Patriots

New York Jets

Around the AFC East: Ryan in lead for Jets job

January, 14, 2009
1/14/09
1:44
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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

New York Jets

  • Rich Cimini of the New York Daily News reports Rex Ryan is the preferred choice to replace Eric Mangini. 
  • Newsday's Erik Boland reports Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum is "leaning" toward Ryan over Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.

Buffalo Bills

Miami Dolphins

New England Patriots

Jets to interview Meeks and other updates

January, 6, 2009
1/06/09
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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

There have been a few developments in the New York Jets' coaching search.

So I thought it was a good time to give an update as to where the process stands after one week based strictly on information I'm highly confident is factual. In other words, I'm not going to guess what's going on in Mike Shanahan's head.

  • The Jets have received permission from the Indianapolis Colts to interview defensive coordinator Ron Meeks. The interview will take place Friday at the Jets' facility in Florham Park, N.J.
  • Meeks is black and would satisify the NFL's "Rooney Rule" that requires teams to interview at least one minority candidate.
  • The Jets will interview Arizona Cardinals offensive line coach Russ Grimm on Thursday in the desert. Owner Woody Johnson will be present for his first interview after being out of the country through the first three.
  • The first two interviews were Friday with Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and offensive line coach Bill Callahan, but Johnson wasn't present. Johnson met with Schottenheimer on Tuesday and will meet with Callahan on Wednesday.
  • Johnson has not met with New York Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, who interviewed Saturday.
  • The Jets have received permission to interview Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan but haven't scheduled an interview yet.
  • Newsday's Erik Boland reports Boston College coach Jeff Jagodzinski interviewed Tuesday. The Jets have declined comment.
  • Bill Cowher still is not interested in coaching in 2009.
  • Francisco Franco is dead.

Days later, Mangini looks better than Jets

January, 4, 2009
1/04/09
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 AP Photo/Bill Kostroun
 Eric Mangini is likely to be an NFL head coach again soon and Brett Favre might be done playing. Meanwhile, the Jets are in disarray.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

In the span of five days, Eric Mangini has evolved from New York Jets scourge to a sympathetic figure. The sentiment changed from "So long, punk!" to "Wait, maybe we misunderstood you."

Who could have imagined Mangini would likely be an NFL head coach again before the Jets had found his replacement?

So much has yet to unfold, but the more we learn, the more Mangini looks like the scapegoat rather than the source of the Jets' problems.

We thought he walked away from the Jets facility in dire need of career rehab. Instead, the Jets might have done him the ultimate favor.

A brief timeline:

  • Chad Pennington steps over the Jets' corpse on his way to the playoffs with the Miami Dolphins.
  • Owner Woody Johnson and general manager Mike Tannenbaum hold a ham-handed news conference to announce Mangini's firing.
  • Tests reveal Brett Favre played with a shredded arm.
  • Bill Cowher and Mike Shanahan deliver stiff arms when approached about applying for the job.
  • Reports surface the Jets would be willing to strip Tannenbaum to appease a coach who wants organizational control.
  • Internal sniping commences over the failed Favre experiment.
  • Pennington takes Comeback Player of the Year honors and finishes second in the MVP race.
  • Mangini, according to multiple reports Friday, emerges as the frontrunner to replace Romeo Crennel as the Cleveland Browns' next coach.

Mangini interviewed with the Browns on Tuesday and apparently made an impression. He has two winning records in his three NFL seasons. Until Favre fell apart down the homestretch, Mangini resembled the wunderkind of his 10-win rookie season.

ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported Browns owner Randy Lerner "is fascinated with" Mangini. Sports Illustrated's Peter King, an analyst on NBC's coverage of Saturday's games, called Mangini the "leader in the clubhouse by far."

Back in the Jets' clubhouse, leadership is dispersing.

They have no coach. Tannenbaum's authority might be permanently undermined if the Jets are willing to marginalize him. Many believe Favre won't be back. As King reported, Favre already has informed Tannenbaum "it may be time to look in a different direction.'' Players are popping off both publicly and anonymously.

At least the Jets are interviewing candidates, right? They spoke Friday to their offensive line assistant Bill Callahan and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. On Saturday, they interviewed New York Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo.

But the New York Daily News reported on Saturday that Johnson is out of the country and not involved in the early interviews. The Daily News story claimed Johnson's unavailability was the final straw in Cowher's decision not to meet with the Jets.

It might not matter where Johnson is now if the Jets decide Spagnuolo is their man because he won't be available until the Giants are done playing anyway.

Then again, Spagnuolo is a popular prospect and will interview with the Denver Broncos, an organization with ownership that is being praised to no end by the coach they just fired.

Do you suppose Spagnuolo came away with a similar vibe from the Jets' front office?

Around the AFC East: Shula's heir finally found

January, 2, 2009
1/02/09
12:04
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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

Miami Dolphins

New York Jets

Buffalo Bills

New England Patriots

Video: Cowher to Jets still possible

December, 30, 2008
12/30/08
3:37
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Newsday beat reporter Erik Boland provides an update on Bill Cowher's candidacy for the New York Jets' head-coaching vacancy.

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