AFC West: Bill Parcells

Curley Culp knows he’s an NFL name of the past.

He knows there are a couple of generations of NFL fans who might not know who he is. But it doesn’t matter, because on Saturday Culp will officially become an NFL immortal when he is inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Culp was a Senior Committee nominee.

Culp played for the Kansas City Chiefs from 1968-74. He went on to play seven seasons in Houston and two more in Detroit, but he became known as a dominant interior defensive lineman while with the Chiefs.

Culp, who won the NCAA heavyweight wrestling title while at Arizona State, was a unique player. In the Chiefs’ Super Bowl IV win against Minnesota, Hall of Fame coach Hank Stram put Culp over the center, which opened up plays for future Hall of Famers Buck Buchanan and Willie Lanier. Many people credit it for the beginning of the 3-4 defense.

At 67, Culp is a member of the Chiefs’ Hall of Fame, and he has close ties with the organization.

While the spotlight Saturday will be on NFL household names such as Warren Sapp, Cris Carter and Bill Parcells, Culp, who runs a car service in Austin, Texas, knows he will be a blast from the past when his son Chad presents him into the Canton, Ohio, museum.

“To me, it seems just yesterday,” Culp said in a July phone interview. “But it’s been four decades. That’s a long time. I’m just very grateful to get this honor. It crosses my mind at least once or twice a day. I realize what an honor it is, and it’s very exciting to know that it is finally coming.”
Jim Harbaugh could have been a Chief.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter details how the Chiefs, in the early days of the Scott Pioli era in 2009, tried to talk to Harbaugh but the timing was not right. The Chiefs instead hired Todd Haley.

I think Pioli was set on Haley all along. They both had Bill Parcells ties and had previously worked together. Pioli waited several weeks for Haley and the Cardinals to play the Super Bowl before hiring him. Yes, he talked to other people, but Haley was the target.

Yes, Harbaugh should have been. I’m sure he would have found a way to fix the Chiefs’ quarterback problem by now. Instead, Harbaugh is going to the Super Bowl with San Francisco while Pioli has been fired and the Chiefs are starting the Andy Reid era. He is the Chiefs’ third head coach since the Pioli hire.

In other AFC West news: Here is a podcast with Denver receiver Eric Decker explaining why he will not watch Sunday’s Super Bowl which features Baltimore, the team that knocked Denver out of the playoffs.
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- One of the first impressions I have gotten from the Kansas City Chiefs' training camp is that Dontari Poe hasn’t been a disappointment to the team.

There have been some indications that the No. 11 overall pick in the April is behind the curve or hasn’t lived up to expectations.

The truth is, Poe has been in the Chiefs’ training camp for less than three weeks. The early returns are not dire, according to several folks with the team I have talked to. The team is actually pleased with the progress the massive defensive tackle is making.

I think a part of the issue is that Kansas City coach Romeo Crennel is being measured with his words about Poe. Make no mistake, however, Crennel hasn’t been critical.

Crennel’s theme when asked about Poe’s progress is that he has a lot to work to do. It’s true. He is a rookie. Rookies have a lot to work to do. Remember, Crennel is an old-school coach. He comes from the Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick mold. These guys have never been known to pump up players just to do so.

Rookies have to earn praise. That’s the approach Crennel has always taken. He always will.

But the key to Crennel’s words about Poe is that he is working hard and he wants to improve. For a player who was questioned about his motivation, that is a positive sign. We don’t know if Poe will be a good player or not. It’s only August 14. But rest assured, the Chiefs have zero buyer’s remorse on Poe. They think he is on pace to become a productive player.

He just isn’t one yet. Nor is any rookie in the NFL.
Scott Pioli is a branch of the Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick trees.

Now, Pioli may have a tree growing himself.

CSN Chicago reports the Chicago Bears have offered their general manager job to Phil Emery. The team has said no decision has been made. He has spent the past three seasons as the Chiefs’ director of college scouting. He joined the team in 2009, which was Pioli’s first season as the Chiefs’ general manager.

Emery was an area scout for the Bears from 1998-2004. San Diego’s Jimmy Raye was also a candidate for the Chicago job.
The idea of getting a second chance has long driven Romeo Crennel.

Getting back in the head-coaching chair he fought so long and hard to get into in the first place, has fueled Crennel -- long respected as one of the NFL’s best defensive minds -- since he was fired as the head coach in Cleveland in 2008 after four seasons.

[+] EnlargeRomeo Crennel
Denny Medley/US PresswireRomeo Crennel completed his stint as the Chiefs' interim coach with a 2-1 record, including a win against the unbeaten Packers.
Now that he has secured that second chance, Crennel said he hasn’t had much time to reflect on the opportunity. He is too busy diving into his role as the head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs. Time spent congratulating himself on achieving his goal would be time wasted.

“I have 1,000 things to do to get this thing going,” Crennel said. “This is an opportunity that I want to take advantage of … I am happy to get that second chance and there were times I didn’t think it would happen.”

Thus, when the door opened for Crennel, his determination to earn a second chance was evident. Crennel, who took a season off after being fired in Cleveland, became the Chiefs’ defensive coordinator in 2010. When he was named the interim coach after the Chiefs fired Todd Haley with three games remaining this season, there was talk Crennel had a chance to become the permanent coach.

In Crennel’s first game as the head coach, the Chiefs knocked off the Packers. It was Green Bay’s only loss of the regular season. After losing in overtime at home to the Raiders in Week 16, the Chiefs won in Denver in a game the Broncos could have clinched the division title outright with a win. Talk about taking advantage of an opportunity.

Kansas City conducted some other interviews after the season, but the inevitable happened Jan. 9 when Crennel officially got his second chance. At the age of 64, Crennel wasn’t exactly counting on being a head coach again. He is now the second-oldest active head coach in the NFL behind the New York Giants’ Tom Coughlin, who is 65.

Now that he has received his second chance, Crennel is determined to prove he isn’t another name in the “good coordinator, bad head coach” bin.

Crennel, who was bypassed by six teams in 2003 after interviewing for head-coaching jobs when he was the Patriots' defensive coordinator, was 24-40 in Cleveland. The Browns did go 10-6 in 2007 under Crennel, but didn’t make the playoffs.

“We had a 10-win season there and I knew we did some good things there,” Crennel said. “I want to prove what we can do given this opportunity.”

Crennel said he has already applied lessons learned in Cleveland in his short time in Kansas City. Crennel’s first act as the interim coach was to replace quarterback Tyler Palko with Kyle Orton. Crennel struggled with a quarterback controversy in Cleveland between Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson. He was determined to avoid one this time.

Another reason Crennel is fueled for his second chance is he knows he is in a better situation. He acknowledged that the talented Chiefs’ roster is better than the roster he inherited in Cleveland.

“This is a passionate group of players,” Crennel said. ”We want to develop a good team chemistry and we think we have a good nucleus here.”

It starts with Crennel. Chiefs owner Clark Hunt has said one of the reasons he hired Crennel is his competitive nature. Hunt was impressed when Crennel told him he wanted to be the Chiefs’ head coach because he wanted to win the Super Bowl.

If the performance of the Chiefs' players under Crennel in the final three games of the season is any indication, they are ready to make a Super Bowl run under Crennel’s guidance.

“I represent four players on the team,” said Joe Linta, Crennel’s agent. “All four of them are thrilled that Romeo got the job. His players love him.”

Crennel is known for his genial way and his patience. Crennel is a steady hand, who is always there for an encouraging word. His four Super Bowl rings (one with the Giants and three with the Patriots) earned as an assistant coach doesn’t hurt his credibility, either.

“I’ve been very fortune to be around some great players and great coaches like Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick,” Crennel said. “I have had a long history and I wouldn’t change anything as I prepare for this job.”

There is a strong chance this will be Crennel’s final job. It has been an incredible journey for the Lynchburg, Va., native who played offensive and defensive lineman at Western Kentucky. As he begins his second chance, Crennel reflected on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday this week. Crennel was a 20-year-old college student when King was killed.

“It was an emotional time.” Crennel said. “As a minority, I was worried about the progress Dr. King made would be stopped because of his death, but the movement kept going and I’m sure he would be very proud of it. I’m pleased it kept going and I’m very appreciative of every chance I’ve gotten because of his hard work.”

Who is affected by Haley firing?

December, 12, 2011
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Whenever a coaching change is made, it puts the future of some players in question. That is the case in Kansas City when the Chiefs fired Todd Haley on Monday. Let’s look at some players on the Chiefs’ roster who could be affected by the change:

Dwayne Bowe, receiver: He is a free agent at the end of the season. Bowe had his moments with Haley and was in the coach’s doghouse for a while. But Bowe responded and played well under Haley. The question is whether or not Bowe will be moved by Kansas City general manager Scott Pioli, and I don’t think the coaching change will play a big role.

Matt Cassel, quarterback: Cassel is tied more to Pioli than Haley. Cassel and Haley clashed at times, but Haley made some strides under Haley. I think Pioli is still behind him. I think the only way Cassel could be in trouble is if a strong coach is brought in and he dislikes Cassel enough to convince Pioli to make a change. If Josh McDaniels is the hire, Cassel is in great shape. The two had great success in New England and the entire Jay Cutler fiasco started because McDaniels wanted to continue to work with Cassel.

Kyle Orton, quarterback: He is a free agent at the end of the season. If McDaniels is brought in, I think he’d prefer Cassel over Orton. Remember, McDaniels drafted Tim Tebow in the first round after one year of working with Orton.

Ricky Stanzi, quarterback: He could be golden if his coach at Iowa, Kirk Ferentz, ends up in Kansas City. Otherwise, I don’t think Stanzi is affected by the hire.

Meanwhile, in Haley-firing related news:

The Kansas City Star reports Haley considered resigning as the Chiefs’ head coach last week. Haley made the right decision. I don’t think anyone would ever want to hire someone who quit on his team.

Another name to consider to replace Haley is new Miami interim coach Todd Bowles. He has Bill Parcells ties and that is important to Pioli. He is the son-in-law of Parcells. Haley was also a Parcells protégé.
We knew Scott Pioli wasn't going to lose this battle.

There have been rumblings of a major rift between Pioli, the Chiefs' GM, and Kansas City coach Todd Haley since shortly after the Chiefs were bounced in the first round of the playoffs last season. The talk continued through the offseason and into training camp. Reports of problems between Pioli and Haley churned nearly on a weekly basis during this season of disappointment for the Chiefs.

[+] EnlargeScott Pioli
Denny Medley/US PresswireKansas City GM Scott Pioli will have plenty of names to choose from as he prepares to hire his second head coach for the Chiefs.
It reached a head Monday morning when Haley was fired after posting a 19-27 record in Kansas City. His four-year contract expires after next season. The Chiefs clearly didn’t feel that they could move on with Haley after they were blown out 37-10 by the New York Jets on Sunday. It was the Chiefs’ fifth loss of 27 points or more this season. They are 5-8 and have the toughest remaining schedule in the NFL, starting with a home game Sunday against 13-0 Green Bay.

Now that the Chiefs are moving on without Haley, the focus is solely on Pioli. He needs to get the next move right to keep this program on the right track. Despite the team’s poor record and its inability to compete in many games, I believe the Kansas City program is heading the right direction in the big picture. I realize the NFL has become a microwave league where fast success is now expected. But Pioli has built a good core group that has a chance to compete for several years.

I pin this poor season on injuries that decimated this team. You can’t expect to compete when youngsters Tony Moeaki, Eric Berry and Jamaal Charles were all lost for the season with knee injuries before October. Plus, quarterback Matt Cassel is out for the season.

So, the Chiefs have a chance to get better quickly when these players return. It’s all on Pioli.

He has to ensure that the Chiefs rebound in 2012. If not, he could soon be on the hot seat.

He was the one who hired Haley, so he must take responsibility for it. Hiring Haley -- an old colleague from their shared Bill Parcells days -- was Pioli’s first move in Kansas City after being hired in January 2009.

If they couldn’t get along, it is partly Pioli’s fault. He must be able to get along with his head coach. That’s why it is so important that he makes the right call with his next hire. If the next coach is a failure or if Pioli butts heads with him, it probably will be Pioli’s turn to pay the price.

We will hear plenty of names connected to this job, including former Broncos coach Josh McDaniels, Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz and former NFL coach Eric Mangini. Expect Pioli to take his time as he tries to get his second coaching hire right.

Pioli has to know his long-term future in Kansas City is reliant on him making the right call.
In an Insider piece, ESPN.com’s playoff predictor pegs the Raiders as the No. 4 seed in the AFC playoffs. It gives the Raiders a 67 percent chance of making the postseason for the first time in nine years. It gives Denver a 37.4 chance of making the playoffs, but ultimately falling just shy of the playoffs.

Oakland is 7-4 and Denver (which has won five of its last six games) is 6-5 and a game out of the division and wild-card race. It should be a fun final five weeks in the division.

In other AFC West nuggets:

Count Bill Parcells as among those in Tim Tebow’s camp. This is what Parcells had to say on a Florida radio station: “You have to give the player [Tebow] a chance to play, and he’s playing and winning for your team. And if he continues to do that, then he will get more chances, because if you win, you get to do that. That’s both playing and coaching and being a general manager. If you don’t win, and you don’t play well, and you don’t coach well, then you don’t get to stay. He’s done a remarkable job and they [Broncos] are doing pretty well, and the division, although its competitive, there’s no powerhouse team in that AFC West. So I think Denver right now, they’re trailing Oakland, but they have just a good chance as anyone the way they are going.”

Meanwhile, ESPN.com’s Page 2 believes the option-running Broncos are going back to high school with Tebow leading the way.

A San Diego columnist believes Norv Turner should be fired, but that the team should keep general manager A.J. Smith.

The Broncos made some moves at the bottom of their roster.

Raiders have key injuries

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OAKLAND -- The Raiders are playing without defensive end Matt Shaughnessy, cornerback Chris Johnson, fullback Marcel Reece and special-teams ace Rock Cartwright.

Manase Tonga will start for Reece, rookie DeMarcus Van Dyke will play for Johnson. Jarvis Moss will start for Shaughnessy. Receiver Louis Murphy is active. It will be his first game since he suffered a sports hernia in training camp.

Rookie quarterback Terrelle Pryor is still listed as a roster exemption after his five-game NFL suspension ended. The Raiders will likely activate him Monday.

Meanwhile, here are some highlights from ESPN’s "Sunday NFL Countdown," in which the 3-2 Raiders were a topic:

Tom Jackson: “I’m buying ‘em because they are built in the image of Al Davis.”

Merril Hoge: “The Raiders didn’t get the memo -- that this is a passing league. They didn’t get that memo because they run the football on the perimeter better than anybody.”

Bill Parcells: “If they could cut down a little on that recklessness, cut those penalties down, they’re going to go right to the top of that discipline index, and that usually means winning.”

Early AFC West notes

October, 12, 2011
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Middle linebacker Rolando McClain is among the players not practicing in Oakland on Wednesday. He suffered an ankle injury at Houston on Sunday.

In an Insider piece, KC Joyner believes the Denver Broncos could learn from the Carolina Panthers’ use of Cam Newton as they begin to start Tim Tebow at quarterback. As always, Joyner delivers a well-thought out premise.

The Broncos are hopeful second-year receiver DeMaryius Thomas can play in Week 7 when the Raiders return from their bye. He ruptured his Achilles in February and suffered a finger injury this season. The No. 1 pick in 2010 is a talented player, but he hasn't been able to stay healthy.

Speculation regarding the Raiders’ future without Al Davis continues.

NFL.com reports the Raiders are starting to look for a general manager. Monday, coach Hue Jackson -- who is expected to play a major personal role right now -- said he is not sure if the Raiders need immediate help. We will hear a lot about Oakland’s plans in the coming months.

John Madden thinks it’s too early to think about the future in Oakland.

Bill Parcells tells a humorous story of what he once told his old friend Davis when the Raiders’ owner asked if he’d be interested in coaching his team.

Oakland kicker Sebastian Janikowski was named the AFC special teams player of the week. He tied an NFL record with three field goals of 50 yards or more Sunday in the Raiders’ 25-20 win over the Texans.

Second-year running back Ryan Mathews impresses his teammates in San Diego because of his willingness to play through pain.

In an Insider piece, Adam Schefter discusses the chances of Denver trading quarterback Kyle Orton, who has been replaced by Tebow as the starting quarterback.

Denver linebacker Von Miller remains atop of ESPN.com’s Rookie Watch.

Oakland running back Darren McFadden is eighth on ESPN.com’s MVP Watch.

Hue Jackson discusses future

October, 10, 2011
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After a whirlwind, emotional weekend in Houston, Oakland Raiders coach Hue Jackson had a lengthy interview session with reporters on Monday to discuss how the Raiders' leadership will move on after the death of legendary owner Al Davis.

Davis died Saturday at the age of 82. He led the team -- Jackson said he believes Davis watched film on Friday -- until his death.

Jackson had no concrete answers, but he said he expects to work closely with Mark Davis, the son of Al Davis.

“I’m never going to do anything alone here,” Jackson said. “We’re a team here. So I’m not going to say I’m going to do it alone but I think I’m going to be the person that says hey let’s make sure we take a peek at these things to make sure we’re strengthening our team trying to find a way to get our team the best we can have it the best we can be.”

Jackson was asked if the Raiders will bring in someone to bridge the gap. There has been speculation someone such as John Madden, Ron Wolf or Bill Parcells could come in and help the Raiders. It has been reported the Davis family will eventually hire a general manager. Jackson said the team has had a plan in place on how to operate after Davis’ death.

“If that’s what we decide to do, then that’s what we’ll do,” Jackson said when asked if he the team could bring in someone. “I’m open and I think the organization’s open to doing whatever we need to do to have us be the best we can be."

Asked if adding someone is an urgent need, Jackson said: “I don’t think right this second. Obviously, we’re in the flow of the season.”

I think everything will be on the table in Oakland in the coming months. However, the Raiders are in good hands with its leadership base of CEO Amy Trask, Mark Davis and Jackson. So, if the team remains status quo for now, I think the Raiders will be just fine.

More on Al Davis

October, 10, 2011
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The speculation of what happens in Oakland in the post-Al Davis world has already begun. Expect to hear more speculation in the immediate future.

Former Oakland coaches John Madden and Tom Flores remember Davis in a radio interview with a San Diego station. Madden referred to Davis as his best friend. Expect to continue to hear speculation that Madden could help assist the Raiders as they adjust to a new era. Don’t be surprised if you also hear speculation about Ron Wolf and Bill Parcells in the future. Wolf worked for Davis and Davis and Parcells have a long history.

Here’s a look at how the Raiders’ search for a stadium may change after Davis’ death.

The Raiders were touched when they saw about 500 fans waiting for them at their facility later Sunday night upon their arrival from their victory in Houston. No, this was not an ordinary regular-season win.

AFC West mailbag

October, 30, 2010
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Weekend mail call:

Tre from Troy, NY wants to know if I think the Broncos are rethinking drafting Demaryius Thomas over Dez Bryant.

Bill Williamson: I think you are asking this question because Bryant has played so well early. And it is a legitimate question. Bryant looks like he is going to be a special player. But I don’t think Denver regrets the choice. It really likes Thomas and he has shown flashes of becoming very good player. I wouldn’t be surprised if Thomas becomes a Pro Bowl player. One of the big reasons Thomas was chosen over Bryant is because the Broncos thought he was a better fit and he had less baggage. Remember, Denver had just traded troubled receiver Brandon Marshall before the draft. Denver has made some poor personnel choices, but I can see the reasoning here.

Chris Gumz from Fort Collins, Co. wants to know if I think the Raiders’ 59-14 win at Denver on Sunday was a fluke or a breakout game for the Raiders.

BW: I think it showed Oakland has the ability to dominate games. I don’t think that was a fluke. Can Oakland play consistently? It hasn’t won consecutive games in 23 games. Oakland has to play well against against Seattle and then do it again against the visiting Chiefs before we can feel this team has turned it around. Consistency is the key. But the Raiders showed in Denver they have big ability.

Matt B. from Overland Park, Ks. wants to know if I think Bill Parcells could join his son-in-law, Scott Pioli, in Kansas City.

BW: I’d be surprised. I know Parcells has moved away from his duties in Miami and he has shown that he can’t stay away from the NFL for long. But I don’t think he’d intrude upon Pioli’s program. Parcells is not the type to sit back and watch and Pioli is in control in Kansas City. So, I don’t see that pairing happening unless Parcells someday decided he wanted to be around his family and was truly happy taking a back seat. If it happened, it’d be pretty fun to watch.
The Kansas City Chiefs are having fun.

Continuing to use the sometime unusual methods of his mentor Bill Parcells, Kansas City Todd Haley dipped into his bag of tricks for a different, but fun bye-week practice Tuesday.

Haley told ESPN’s Chris Mortensen he assigned 14 players (the Kansas City Star has the player-coach lineup) to coach Tuesday. The player-coaches, mostly veteran leaders, were dressed in coaching garb and they helped instruct their teammates during drills.

"It was a great day. I'm very fired up about how they responded," Haley told Mortensen.

This is another important step in Haley’s relationship with his players. Last year, things were rocky at times as Haley worked hard to change the atmosphere in Kansas City. Clearly, his players have bought in.

Tuesday’s exercise was a lesson to all players stat they are valued for their knowledge and that this season is a full-team effort. The Chiefs are not a finished product, but this shows that Haley is always thinking of new ways of teaching his team and keeping it fresh.

It may be another reason why Haley has to be considered as a strong early candidate for the NFL coach of the year.
The Kansas City Chiefs may be 2-0 for the first time in five years, but the team is doing everything it can to stay grounded as it heads into its home game Sunday against San Francisco.

Kansas City, which entered this season with 10 wins in the past three seasons combined, is not going crazy with self-admiration. Linebacker Derrick Johnson told the Kansas City Star the team is not getting carried away.

ESPN’s Chris Mortensen had a great nugget Sunday morning, which may be evidence why the Chiefs are not getting too cocky.

Second-year coach Todd Haley borrowed an old trick from his mentor, Bill Parcells, after the team bet San Diego to open the season. Mortensen reported that Haley gave his players a piece of cheese.

The message: Don’t take the bait.

That one was an old standby for Parcells when he thought his team might be getting too confident.

Haley’s ploy worked as the Chiefs went to Cleveland and beat the Browns. Perhaps Haley will have more tricks up his sleeve Sunday for his young team.

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