AFC West: Gunther Cunningham

San Diego star receiver Vincent Jackson missed his second consecutive day of practice Thursday with a groin injury. The team is hoping he can play Saturday at Detroit. Linebacker Travis LaBoy, suffering from a knee injury, also missed practice for the second day in a row. Defensive tackle Antonio Garay was limited Thursday with a toe injury after he didn’t practice Wednesday.

In other AFC West news:

Oakland coach Hue Jackson has not ruled running back Darren McFadden, receiver Jacoby Ford, safety Michael Huff and defensive tackle John Henderson out of Saturday’s game at Kansas City. Still, it doesn’t look good that any of them will play.

Kansas City center Casey Wiegmann (calf) and safety Jon McGraw (ankle) were limited in practice for the second straight day.

Former Kansas City defensive coordinator and current Detroit defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham talked about the evolution of Antonio Gates’ game. Heading into his Chargers' game at Detroit on Saturday, the tight end is three catches from becoming San Diego's all-time leading receiver. He will get his chance to set the record in his hometown this weekend.

Denver safety Brian Dawkins was limited in practice for the second consecutive day after missing Sunday’s game against New England with a neck injury.
The Raiders placed cornerback Chris Johnson on the reserve/non-football illness list Saturday. Johnson’s sister was shot to death and his mother was wounded in an attack in Texas recently; Johnson has been traveling back and forth from California.

The Raiders signed defensive end Mason Brodine to the 53-man roster to fill Johnson's spot.

In other AFC West news:

The Patriots ruled out Deion Branch, Patrick Chung, Shane Vereen, Brandon Spikes and Sebastian Vollmer for Sunday’s game at Denver.

Denver signed safety Kyle McCarthy and cut fullback Quinn Johnson. McCarthy was cut earlier in the week. The Broncos are banged up at safety — starter Brian Dawkins is questionable with a neck injury that knocked him out of the Chicago game and held him out of two days of practice.

Detroit safety Louis Delmas has been downgraded to out for Sunday’s game at Oakland.

Offensive coordinator Bill Muir is back to the press box to call the game as the Chiefs shift from the Todd Haley regime to the Romeo Crennel regime.

Gunther Cunningham, who spent many years in the AFC West before landing in his current gig as Detroit defensive coordinator, is looking forward to going back to the Black Hole on Sunday with the Lions.

Major kudos to Oakland quarterback Jason Campbell for continuing to be a stalwart in the community after being injured. It’s been a tough season for Campbell, but he’s handled the situation with immense class.

AFC West evening notes

February, 24, 2011
2/24/11
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INDIANAPOLIS -- The Denver Broncos are considering pursuing safety O.J. Atogwe.

The St. Louis Rams cut Atogwe on Friday after six seasons. The Washington Redskins and Buffalo Bills are two other teams that have shown interest. The Atogwe talks may not move fast, but the Broncos could end up bringing him in for a visit.

Denver is expected to make major changes on defense. There is a chance Denver won’t bring back Brian Dawkins because of his high price tag.

Detroit Lions coach Jim Schwartz indicated that Detroit will appeal their tampering charge. Defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham was found guilty of tampering with a Kansas City Chiefs player, believed to be former safety Jarrad Page. The Chiefs will now draft No. 9 and the Lions will draft No. 23 in the fifth round. Detroit was also docked a seventh-round pick.

New Denver coach John Fox and new Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera embraced when they ran into each other at the NFL combine on Thursday. Rivera, the San Diego Chargers' former defensive coordinator, replaced Fox in Carolina.

The San Diego Union Tribune reports that the Chargers are prepared to place the restricted free agency tender tags on Eric Weddle and Malcom Floyd.
The good news for the Kansas City Chiefs is that they won their tampering case against the Detroit Lions.

But the reality is, the Chiefs didn’t benefit much from the victory.

The NFL announced that the Chiefs and Lions will swap fifth-round picks this year. Instead of drafting No. 23 in the round, the Chiefs will pick ninth. Detroit also lost a seventh-round pick. Both teams can appeal the decision. You’d think a tampering victory would be worth more than 16 draft slots. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Chiefs asked for better compensation.

The case reportedly stems from Detroit defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham's pursuit of Kansas City safety Jarrad Page while Page was under contract with the Chiefs. Cunningham was the former defensive coordinator in Kansas City and Page, who was holding out from the Chiefs at the time, has since been traded to New England.

The premise of this story is much juicier than the actual payoff. But, I guess moving 16 spots near the end of the draft is better than nothing for Kansas City.
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- A goal of Todd Haley’s second training camp as the Kansas City Chiefs coach is to make daily strides.

Every day, Haley looks for progress. Wednesday, in the morning of a double session, Haley believes his team “got a little better.”

The team ended the two-and-a-half hour session with a spirited goal-line drill. Both sides of the ball had their moments. Haley wasn’t sure how the drill was going to transpire after a sluggish start to the final day of double days here.

“It was good to see that after a less-than-perfect practice,” Haley said. “It was a glass-half full day … last year we finished practices how we started … That was good to see.”

Haley is going to be a successful NFL coach. He's detailed oriented and deep in his coaching thoughts. He knows this is a journey and he recognizes key signs, no matter how trivial they may appear.

Haley let his players know they were slacking off early in the morning session. He fired off several verbal jabs in an attempt to get their attention. Apparently, it worked.

The Chiefs break camp Thursday. However, they will resume training camp back in Kansas City next week with two two-a-day sessions planned.
  • Undrafted rookie receiver Jeremy Horne has been impressive. He continued to make some nice grabs. The Massachusetts product still has a lot of work to do to make the 53-man roster
  • Quarterback Matt Cassel knows how much he plays in Kansas City’s second preseason game, at Tampa Bay on Saturday, is not his decision. Still, when asked how much he wants to play, he made it clear he is looking for a lot of work. “The more the merrier,” he said.
  • Haley noted the battle at center going on between Rudy Niswanger and Casey Wiegmann, who has returned to Kansas City after playing in Denver the past two seasons. Haley called a Wiegmann a “football-playing dude.”
  • Could linebacker Derrick Johnson be headed to Detroit? Not sure, but Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham has coached Johnson, so the linebacker-hungry Lions could potentially make a push for Johnson.

Denver and Kansas City notes

February, 16, 2010
2/16/10
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Denver linebacker Darrell Reid told a Denver television station that he is expected to miss training camp as he recovers from a recent knee surgery. It is possible Reid doesn’t return until after the regular season starts.

Reid is a solid rotational player for Denver. He had four sacks last season.

Recent comments about Chiefs players by former Kansas City defensive coordinator and current Detroit defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham are not on the NFL’s radar pertaining potential tampering charges.

Cunningham recently said he’d be interested in some of the Chiefs’ discarded players. Because the comments were not about specific players and he mentioned that he’d want the players after Kansas City decided it didn’t want them anymore, tampering could be difficult to prove even if the Chiefs wanted to pursue charges, which hasn’t been mentioned at this point.

AFC West news and notes

February, 14, 2010
2/14/10
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Three AFC West teams finished in the top 13 in the Dallas Morning News’ ranking of special teams. The rankings are viewed around the league as a top-notch barometer of special teams play. Say what you want about the division, but the AFC West plays some darn good special teams.

The Dolphins have their eye on San Diego receiver Vincent Jackson, who likely will be a restricted free agent. But the problem for Miami is that San Diego does not want to let Jackson go.

The Lions and former Chiefs coach Gunther Cunningham have their eyes on Kansas City discards.

Kansas City quarterback Matt Cassel is already hard at work with the 2010 season in mind.

Denver owner Pat Bowlen has no plans whatsoever of parting ways with his beloved football team.

Turk McBride claimed off waivers

September, 16, 2009
9/16/09
6:40
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Posted by ESPN.com’s Bill Williamson


As expected, Turk McBride wasn’t out of work long.

A day after surprisingly being cut in Kansas City, the former second-round pick was claimed off waivers by the Detroit Lions, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The Lions have the first claiming priority in the NFL.

McBride is reunited with defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham. He was with Kansas City when the Chiefs made McBride a second-round pick in 2007.

It makes sense McBride reunited with someone from the previous Kansas City regime, because the new regime didn’t want anything to do with him.

McBride’s time in Kansas City was put on notice after he was moved to linebacker from defensive end when the Chiefs transitioned to a 3-4 defense. The switch never worked and McBride was jettisoned.

It wouldn’t be a surprise if he flourishes in a familiar setting with Cunningham.
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

If Herm Edwards is going to be the Kansas City Chiefs' coach in 2009, is he going to have any assistants remaining?

The hiring of Gunther Cunningham in Detroit as defensive coordinator could be a tell-tale sign that Edwards' time in Kansas City is coming to an end. Cunningham was a right-hand man to Edwards and the two kept in close contact since the season ended.

Also, Cunningham met with new Kansas City general manager Scott Pioli last week. So his decision to make a lateral move with the 0-16 Lions is surely a sign that he didn't feel confident in his current situation.

Cunningham is the third Kansas City assistant to take the job elsewhere. A fourth, offensive coordinator Chan Gailey, is a candidate for the same job in Tampa Bay.

It's been 24 days since the season ended and eight days since Pioli took over, and Edwards remains in limbo. It would be a surprise at this point if Edwards is kept because there would be so many changes that would be needed anyway.

There has been league-wide speculation that Pioli may be waiting to hire Arizona offensive coordinator Todd Haley, who can't do anything until after the Super Bowl on Feb. 1. Haley's mentor is Bill Parcells, who is Pioli's father-in-law.

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

Gunther Cunningham is Detroit's new defensive coordinator, according to a (very) early-morning press release issued by the team. Cunningham has been the clear No. 1 candidate for the job since new Lions coach Jim Schwartz was hired last week. 

I'll be back with analysis a bit later Wednesday morning, but I wanted to make sure everyone was aware of the news. Cunningham and Schwartz worked together on the Tennessee staff from 2001 to 2003.

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

If Herm Edwards remains in Kansas City for the final year of his contract, he may have to reconstruct his coaching staff.

While new Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli continues to ponder whether Edwards will be back or not, his assistants are looking at other jobs. It is being reported that offensive coordinator Chan Gailey is a candidate for the same job in Tampa Bay. Gailey just finished his first season in Kansas City.

Kansas City defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham has talked to the Lions. Last week, secondary coach David Gibbs went to Houston and special teams coach Mike Priefer went to Denver.

The Chiefs coaches have been allowed to pursue other jobs while the Chiefs decide what to do. A decision on Edwards' future is expected sometime this week. The fact that other coaches are looking elsewhere could be an indication that the belief in Kansas City is that Edwards will not be back. But until Pioli makes his decision, Edwards remains in play in Kansas City,

AFC West news and notes

January, 17, 2009
1/17/09
9:13
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Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

It's clear that Josh McDaniels, Denver's new coach, wants to put his own stamp on the Broncos' passing offense.  At the same time however, expect him to be open to finding ways to maintain Denver's successful running game.

McDaniels will call the plays and he has brought in Carolina assistant Mike McCoy to be the passing coordinator. Former San Francisco assistant Adam Gase will coach the receivers. They replace Jeremy Bates and Jedd Fisch, respectively.

Some in Denver's building wanted to keep Bates and Fisch but McDaniels was given the final call. Still, he kept Denver's running attack in place by keeping run-game coordinator/offensive line coach Rick Dennison and running backs coach Bobby Turner. Bates is being considered in Detroit and could emerge as a candidate in Tampa Bay.

Elsewhere in the conference:

The Oakland Tribune reports the Raiders are warning against fans expecting freshly fired Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden and and general manager Bruce Allen to return to Oakland. The return of the two men, especially Gruden, is a long shot for many reasons. Give Oakland credit for trying to keep the speculation of a Gruden return from growing.

The Kansas City Star is reporting defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham is interviewing in Detroit. Two other Kansas City assistants have taken jobs elsewhere. The fact that Cunningham is talking to another team could be a sign inside the building that the expectation is that new general manager Scott Pioli will end up firing coach Herm Edwards.

The idea earlier in the week that Steve Spagnuolo would be high on Pioli's wish list. That, of course, is out of the question as Spagnuolo became the coach in St. Louis Saturday. Chris Mortensen's report that the Giants are targeting Dom Capers as Spagnuolo's replacement could affect Denver's pursuit of him as an assistant.

Former Chicago secondary coach Steve Wilks is a candidate for the same job in San Diego.

AFC West mailbag

January, 10, 2009
1/10/09
12:00
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Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

Weekend mail call:

Conrad from Parker: Broncos draft needs- I prefer Moreno to Wells, but both are studs. I really think the Broncos need help up the middle. They really need a 4-3 NT since Robertson (stunk). They need a true MLB. They need a ball-hawking FS. They need SOLB depth behind Winborn (I'm expecting Boss to be cut). What are they doing with Woodyard? Barrett looks like the SS of the future. If Bly gets cut, like I think, who's playing CB? Williams? I think the Defense needs the love in this draft.

Bill Williamson: I agree that defense has to be the focus. Linebackers will get the first look. Also a safety like Taylor Mays from USC will also be considered. Even before Mike Shanahan was fired, the plan was to go defense heavy in the draft. That is still the clear choice. Look for Denver to try to add at linebacker, defensive tackle, defensive end and at safety. Yes, it has needs nearly everywhere on defense.


Big J from Sactown: B-dub, is it safe to say that whoever the Chiefs next Gm is, Gunther Cunningham will be gone? I love Gunther, but I can't understand how so much young talent (DJ, Page, Pollard, Dorsey) could underachieve so much. I keep hearing that he has been using Dorsey the wrong way, and the LB's seem to be getting worse. Is Gun being handicapped by Herm's scheme?

BW: Gunther Cunningham is an fixture in Kansas City. If Herman Edwards is kept as coach, Cunningham may stay. The losing wasn't all on Cunningham. The entire program was lacking. He's a fine teacher. But if there is a new coach in Kansas City, there will likely be wholesale changes on the coaching staff.


Bobby: Bill what is your take on the "payton Manning rule" to change overtime since alot of east coast sports people ala Jim Nantz, Phil Simms had a debate about how unfair it was that payton didnt get a chance to play in there overtime loss to the Chargers. I mean come on had my Bolts lost do you think they would have ever talked about how unfair it was that Rivers didnt get a chance to play in OT. The Colts cried when the Patriots were covering there receivers to close thus the next year the rules were changed in there favor when will east coast bias stop.

BW: I don't buy it. If the Colts had won the coin flip and Peyton Manning would have led the Colts to a score on the first drive of overtime it wouldn't have been fair to Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, either. But that's just way it is. The rules are the rules.


George from Sacramento: What is the chance Al Davis will be back Tom Cable? After the last 2 wins I think most Raider fans see promise in him. Do You think Davis will as well?

BW: It's starting to look good. The Raiders have interviewed Cable along with Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride and it has been reported that Green Bay defensive assistant Winston Moss will interview this weekend. Still, there is a belief around the league Cable will get a long look. He ended the season well and he has the support of key Oakland players. His chances of being retained appear fairly strong.

Around the AFC West

November, 25, 2008
11/25/08
6:25
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Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

Denver

The Broncos no longer have that special Mile High feeling.

My take: Denver is 13-12 at home in its last 25 home games. Denver has lost three straight home games after starting the season with three straight home wins. If the Broncos don't take advantage of playing at home in their two final home games, against Kansas City and Buffalo, they may not advance to the playoffs. This has been a problem since the AFC championship game in January 2006, when Denver lost at home to Pittsburgh after a perfect regular season at home. Denver needs to figure out what's going on and get that Mile High magic back.

Kansas City

Gunther Cunningham has had a lot of sleepless nights these days.

My take: Cunningham is a good coach but the Chiefs' defense has been terrible. The Chiefs have given up 84 points in the last two games including 54 points against Buffalo on Sunday. The 54 points allowed is a Kansas City record. Once the Chiefs' young players get experience, this unit has a chance to be a good defense down the road and Cunningham could be part of it. But right now, the sleepless nights are understandable.

Oakland

The Raiders think they are still in the AFC West race.

My take: The only way Oakland can get into this race is if it beats visiting Kansas City on Sunday and Denver loses to the Jets and then Oakland wins at San Diego next Thursday. Then Oakland would be 5-8 and it would be in the mix. Until then it's way too early to speculate.

San Diego

Norv Turner admitted he made a time-out gaffe late in Sunday's loss to the Colts.

My take: Turner stood up and took the heat and that's impressive. But if he makes a few more of these types of mistakes and the Chargers finish under .500, and don't make the playoffs, he could be on the chopping block. Yes, the Chargers' brass did say he'll be back next year. But if things go south the rest of the way, there's nothing to say ownership won't change its mind.

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

The Chiefs replaced Napoleon Harris, cut Tuesday, with another veteran linebacker.

The Chiefs signed Rocky Boiman on Wednesday morning. Boiman has 19 career starts in his six-year NFL career. He spent his first four seasons with Tennessee and his last two in Indianapolis. Boiman played for Kansas City defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham in Tennessee.

Boiman was released by Philadelphia in training camp this summer.

He is expected to add depth and potentially play special teams in Kansas City.

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