AFC North: Jerry Jones
Holmgren stopped into the Browns media room Monday to deny circulating rumors he's interested in coaching the Cowboys if they fired Jason Garrett. "I don't know how any of that stuff gets started," Holmgren told reporters, via The Plain Dealer. "The last time I talked to anybody about my future was in this room. I honestly don't know what I want to do."
CBS Sports reported Sunday that sources close to Holmgren said he would be interested in coaching the Cowboys because of the competitiveness of the roster, the skill players present and his long relationship with owner Jerry Jones.
Holmgren told Cleveland reporters that the plan is for him to remain with the team through the season. He said he hopes to say hello to Jones when in Dallas but insisted he hasn't inquired about the job.
While Holmgren may not be interested in the job right now -- well, for one reason, it's not even open yet -- this is the one of the few jobs that would likely grab his attention. Holmgren is a Super Bowl-winning coach and led two franchises there. He's going to be very selective if he decides to return to coaching. At the age of 64, Holmgren isn't going to consider the likes of Kansas City or another rebuilding team. He'll want to win immediately, and a team like the Cowboys have the talent to do so.
There was a mystery team connected to the Dallas Cowboys before Tuesday’s trade deadline, and according to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen, that team was the Cincinnati Bengals.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones told reporters a team put forth a "significant" offer for one of his players this week that Jones turned down. Mortensen reports the player was Cowboys backup tight end Martellus Bennett and the team was the first-place Bengals (4-2).
It makes sense. Cincinnati has been banged up at tight end as Reggie Kelly (Achilles) and Ben Utecht (concussion) both went down early with season-ending injuries. Daniel Coats, a tight end/fullback hybrid, has struggled catching the ball. The Bengals also have a pair of young, developing tight ends on their roster in J.P. Foschi and Chase Coffman.
Cincinnati rarely makes many splashes in the trade market. But at least the reported attempt this week shows the Bengals are trying to win now and hold onto the AFC North division lead.
Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker
This is the final installment of the seven-step drop to wrap up what has been an amazing football season in the AFC North.
- Let's start by saying there is no doubt that the Cardinals belonged in this game. They proved they were a legit Super Bowl team with their performance. The Cardinals were the hottest team in the NFL coming in, but Pittsburgh turned out to be the better team and needed the entire four quarters to prove it.
- If Steelers receiver Santonio Holmes can display consistency, he could take over as Pittsburgh's No. 1 receiver -- possibly as soon as next season. Holmes has the talent, as evidenced by winning MVP honors with nine catches for 131 yards and a touchdown. He's also clutch and has the knack for the big play. But it's the routine plays week to week that sometimes get away from Holmes. Leaving those easy plays on the field is the difference between being a perennial 1,000-yard receiver and an 800-yard receiver.
- The locker room atmosphere after the game was electric. Family, friends, players and team employees were all stuffed into the locker room to celebrate Pittsburgh's title. Most players wanted to hold the trophy alone, take a picture and savor the moment. Sometimes we forget that pro football -- like most sports -- is a child's game played only by the very best as adults. Then you see some of the toughest athletes in the world crying, hugging, dancing, celebrating and screaming like kids again, and it reminds you why they got into the game in the first place.
- Do not underestimate the chemistry on this team. Pittsburgh was a tight-knit group from the first day of training camp and that played a factor in the Steelers handling all types of adversity this year. With most teams, winning breeds togetherness. But the Steelers were already close, which helped breed winning.
- It's time to put Ben Roethlisberger "right up there with the big boys." Those were the words of Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians Sunday night, and we agree. Roethlisberger was 21 of 30 for 256 yards, one touchdown, one interception and a 93.2 passer rating on his way to winning his second ring. He has more championships than Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Tony Romo, Jay Cutler and Philip Rivers combined. Roethlisberger's backyard style will never look pretty, but it's time to appreciate his ability to lead and win big games.
- Although I am tired of discussing the subject, once again the officiating was sub par on both sides. There were two missed calls that Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt had to challenge to get right. There were ticky-tack personal fouls on two teams trying to be physical in a championship game. There was no replay of Kurt Warner's fumble in the final minute, although I believe they got that call right. Overall, it was a shoddy performance from a crew the NFL felt was the league's best. Sorry for the rant.
- Pittsburgh owner Dan Rooney now has bragging rights over Jerry Jones, the Dallas Cowboys, and the rest of the NFL. The Steelers became the first team to get their sixth Super Bowl championship. Dallas has five. There is a large trophy case at the Steelers' training facility that currently holds five Lombardi Trophies, and now more room needs to be made for another one.
But even Bengals players are enticed by the Cowboys' mystique.
"Personally, I grew up a Cowboys fan," quarterback Carson Palmer said in his weekly news conference in Cincinnati. "It's a place I've never been and I've always wanted to play. I've always wanted to see it. I'm excited to see the old stadium and I'd love to see the new stadium. It looks like it'll be a number of years before we get back there.
"But it's America's Team. It has a perception of being the classiest organization. A lot of guys won't admit it, but everybody wants to play for the Cowboys. Everyone wants to get drafted by the Cowboys, the way the organization is set up and the way they treat their players."
Palmer's statements can be taken with a grain of salt. He's the face of the Bengals franchise and signed a nine-year, $118.75 million contract that will keep him in Cincinnati through 2013. Besides, the last position the Cowboys are thinking about upgrading is quarterback.
But receiver Chad Ocho Cinco's comments to the Dallas media were much more telling. He made numerous trade demands this past offseason and once cited Dallas as a dream scenario.
This week, courtesy of the transcript provided by the Dallas Morning News, Ocho Cinco reopened that can of worms.
"I tried," Ocho Cinco said. "I talked to 81 [Terrell Owens] almost every day, man. I love 81. We talk all the time. That would've been a circus...Tell [Cowboys owner] Jerry Jones I said hello and give me a call some time."
It was clear in the offseason that Ocho Cinco no longer wanted to be a Bengal. There's nothing he can do about it right now. But these statements could be a brief prelude to Ocho Cinco once again asking out of Cincinnati in 2009.
Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker
|AP Photo/Frank Franklin II|
|The Browns drafted Brady Quinn in 2007 with a draft pick acquired in a trade with the Cowboys.|
Also a year ago, the Browns thought they had their franchise quarterback in first-rounder Brady Quinn, courtesy of the Cowboys.
Neither turned out as well as each team had anticipated.
So who got the better of the deal?
Dallas owner Jerry Jones and Cleveland general manager Phil Savage both agreed to a risky trade during the 2007 draft, shipping the Cowboys' first-rounder that year to the Browns for Cleveland's 2008 first-round pick and a second-round pick in 2007.
Jones was thinking of a running back from his alma mater in Arkansas: Darren McFadden. But the Browns thwarted those plans with a surprising 10-6 season, and Jones had to settle for another Razorback in Felix Jones with the No. 22 overall pick.
Savage was thinking he had the new face of his team in Brady Quinn. But quarterback Derek Anderson thwarted those plans with a surprising Pro Bowl season, and Quinn is holding a clipboard for the second consecutive year.
Quinn likely will start for someone soon. But whether it happens in Cleveland depends on how well Anderson performs in his second full season as a starter. Jones will not start in Dallas anytime soon because of tailback Marion Barber, but the rookie will at least receive playing time, starting with Sunday's game against the Browns.
We can also further tip the scales in Dallas' favor if you throw in the Cowboys trading Cleveland's second pick to a third party -- the Philadelphia Eagles -- to move into the first round and get linebacker Anthony Spencer, who is another backup.
Since both players see the field, the Cowboys are getting a little more in return right now. But we will reserve judgment until we see if Quinn turns out to be Cleveland's franchise quarterback down the road.