NFC East: Jim Mora
Here are the other teams that have recovered from a three-win season or worse to make the playoffs the following season, according to Elias Sports Bureau:
- 2013 Kansas City Chiefs (11-5, lost in the wild-card round of the playoffs): Andy Reid took over a team that had six players who made the Pro Bowl for the previous season, which ended with a 2-14 record. They also added quarterback Alex Smith, who made the Pro Bowl along with nine other players. An excellent defensive line and strong running game led by Jamaal Charles made a difference as both the offense and defense finished in the top six in points per game.
- 2012 Minnesota Vikings (10-6, lost in the wild-card round): Running back Adrian Peterson had an historic season, rushing for 2,075 yards to lead the turnaround. The big jump occurred defensively where the Vikings went from 31st in points allowed to 14th. Nine of their 13 losses in 2011 were by seven points or less. By comparison, the Redskins had seven such games.
- 2012 Indianapolis Colts (11-5, lost in the wild-card round): Like the Chiefs, the Colts had a first-year coach in Chuck Pagano. They also had a rookie quarterback in Andrew Luck, who threw 23 touchdown passes to 18 interceptions. They did not go crazy in free agency despite a 2-14 finish the previous season and, in fact, lost receiver Pierre Garcon to the Redskins. They even lost Pagano for 12 games while undergoing cancer treatment, yet went 9-3 in that span. The offense jumped in points per game from 28th a year earlier to 18th while the defense went from 28th to 21st.
- 2008 Miami Dolphins (11-5, lost in the wild-card round): After a 1-15 season, the Dolphins hired Bill Parcells as team president and later Tony Sparano as head coach. They did not make a major splash in free agency, with their big signings being guard Justin Smiley and defensive end Randy Starks. However, after the Jets released Chad Pennington that August, the Dolphins pounced. And steady quarterback play made a big difference as Pennington threw 19 touchdown passes and only seven interceptions. That certainly topped the efforts of the 2007 group of Trent Green (five starts), Cleo Lemon (seven starts) and John Beck (four starts). The defense made a huge jump, going from 30th in points allowed to ninth.
- 2006 New Orleans Saints (10-6, lost in conference championship): Hurricane Katrina disrupted the 2005 season under then-coach Jim Haslett, leading to a 3-13 record. But the Saints made two fantastic moves in the offseason: Hiring head coach Sean Payton and signing quarterback Drew Brees. They also drafted well, with running back Reggie Bush, safety Roman Harper, tackle Jahri Evans and receiver Marques Colston among the additions.
- 2000 New Orleans Saints (10-6, lost in divisional playoff round): Haslett took over for Mike Ditka and found instant success, earning coach of the year honors. They had a terrific pass rush with La’Roi Glover (17 sacks), Joe Johnson (12) and rookie Darren Howard (11) as the defense went from 28th in points allowed to 10th. They did not have great quarterback play, but Jeff Blake was good enough as he threw 13 touchdown passes and nine interceptions in 11 starts. Receiver Joe Horn stood out with 94 receptions for 1,340 yards and eight touchdowns.
- 1999 Indianapolis Colts (13-3, lost in divisional round): They had finished 3-13 for two consecutive seasons before this stunning turnaround under second-year head coach Jim Mora, who had previously won 93 games in 11 seasons with New Orleans. Second-year quarterback Peyton Manning, who threw the same number of touchdown passes (26) that he did as a rookie but 13 fewer interceptions (15).
- 1987 Indianapolis Colts (9-6, lost in the divisional round): They had won a combined 12 games in the previous three seasons, including only three in 1986. But in the strike-shortened season, the Colts’ defense ended up first in points per game. The Colts acquired running back Eric Dickerson during the season; he rushed for 1,011 yards in nine games.
- 1982 New England Patriots (5-4, lost in the first round): Another strike-shortened season helped the Patriots recover from a 2-14 season (that was preceded by a 10-6 one). They did not receive great quarterback play, though Steve Grogan was steady in his six starts. The defense ranked seventh in points per game.
Tim MacMahon credits Rob Ryan for taking a Cowboys defense that was one of the league's worst last year and turning it into an above-average one. But as talk has begun to swirl about Ryan's head-coaching future, Tim thought it was worth taking a step back and pointing out that Ryan still has work to do to turn this Dallas defense into a championship-level one. It certainly played that way early in the year, but the recent success that mediocre quarterbacks have had against it calls into question whether Ryan's work here is actually done.
Blogging the Boys looked at the five sacks of Tony Romo in Sunday's game and concluded that two of them were directly Romo's fault, two were the fault of the protection (though he could have checked out of one) and one was the fault of both equally. In the end, BTB believes it's a good thing that the Cowboys won't see another 3-4 defense this year, since they seem to struggle for whatever reason in pass protection against those looks.
New York Giants
Justin Tuck says he's struggling to understand why the Giants' passion and sense of urgency seem to fade in and out from week to week -- i.e., why so flat against the Eagles and Saints but so focused and intense against the 49ers and Packers. My personal theory is that the Giants are weak in a couple of the areas (rush offense, rush defense, pass coverage) that can help teams control games. You can win games with a strong passing attack and pass rush, but it's easier to control games when you can run the ball, stop the run and cover receivers consistently. So a team that struggles in those areas, to me, shouldn't be surprised to find itself showing up as inconsistent from week to week. Just my theory.
If it really is about passion and urgency, though, the Giants seem to believe the return of running back Ahmad Bradshaw from his foot injury helped on Sunday and will continue to help going forward. Bradshaw helps in a lot of ways, but the quotes in this story seem to indicate he helps a lot with the team's on-field attitude and seriousness.
Phil Sheridan writes that Vince Young played poorly enough to make Michael Vick look good. But Phil's not buying it. Not buying that Vick is the long-term answer at quarterback, not buying that the team's commitment to Vick should spare Andy Reid's job ... basically, Phil's fed up and thinks everybody's awful and should go. Hey, he's not the only one in Philly who thinks that way these days.
And for those dreaming of a post-Reid time in Philadelphia, Paul Domowitch offers a list of seven potential replacements. The list includes the three usual suspects plus former Falcons and Seahawks coach Jim Mora, current Cincinnati and San Francisco defensive coordinators Mike Zimmer and Vic Fangio and Cardinals offensive line coach Russ Grimm.
On Tuesday evening, the NFL officially announced the four-game suspensions for left tackle Trent Williams and tight end Fred Davis for violations of the league's substance abuse policy. The next time you'll see Williams and Davis in a game is 2012, and it's not going to be easy for the Redskins to score points down the stretch this season without them.
That's going to put even more pressure on the Redskins' defense, which has been among the league leaders in sacks this season but, Ryan Kerrigan says, was "disappointed" not to get any Sunday against the Jets and Mark Sanchez. I was a little surprised about that, too, given the pass-protection issues the Jets have had this season. (Former Redskin Andre Carter sacked Sanchez 4.5 times in one game.) It's not out of the question that a Redskins defense of which so much has been asked might be slowing down in the season's final weeks.
Jan. 17: Sean McDermott hired as defensive coordinator in Carolina by new head coach and former Eagles assistant Ron Rivera. Andy Reid leaves on Caribbean vacation, thus depleting rayon supplies throughout the Lesser Antilles.
Jan. 21: Eagles defensive backs coach Dick Jauron hired as defensive coordinator in Cleveland. Jim Mora removes name from consideration for Denver and Philadelphia jobs. Leaves door open to becoming ambassador to France. Tanned and rested, Reid returns to Philadelphia.
Jan. 26: Mike Trgovac, interviewed by reporters in Green Bay, says he's only thinking about beating the Pittsburgh Steelers and won't comment on anything other than the game. "There's no 'I' in Trgovac," he says, but won't divulge what happened to the "u" and the "e."
Jan. 30: Michael Vick is MVP at Pro Bowl in Hawaii. Cornerback Asante Samuel was selected to roster, but doesn't play because of lingering injury. Jay Cutler on Twitter: "U kid'n me? Sam got to man up, dog!!"
Feb. 4: Allegedly unhappy with housing market in the Charlotte area, McDermott abruptly resigns as coordinator of the Panthers.
Feb. 5: Reid returns from lunch trip to Martinique, calls 5 p.m. news conference and announces the new defensive coordinator is . . . Sean McDermott. "We looked around and he's still our guy," Reid says. "I know that he's going to do nothing but improve as a coach, just like all of us, with experience. I've got a lot of respect for him and the way he does business."
By the way, Paul Domowitch from the Daily News has put together a list of five candidates for the Eagles' vacancy at defensive coordinator. You'll notice that every one of them is involved in coaching the Super Bowl.
Paul Domowitch of the Philadelphia Daily News has a story this morning about a promise Mora made to his family. And since Mora's current home, Seattle, is closer to Denver than Philadelphia, it looks like Broncos coach John Fox has "home-court" advantage.
If Mora ends up with Denver, the Eagles may have to settle for veteran coach Dick Jauron. It certainly didn't take McDermott long to find a job after being fired by the Eagles. And with such an important decision on the line, does anyone else find it strange that Andy Reid has gone on vacation?
I realize that he can be reached by phone, but it seems like you'd want the lead decision-maker in your organization to be in the building during a coaching search. I'm pretty sure Jason Garrett's been in the office this week while trying to finalize his staff.
The Eagles have been undermined by their defense in consecutive seasons. And that's why this is the most important hire Reid will make in some time.
Mora's been working for the NFL Network after being fired by the Seahawks following the '09 season. The Eagles also had interest in Cleveland Browns defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, but he'll be joining Jason Garrett's staff with the Dallas Cowboys.
Mora and Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg are good friends from their days with the San Francisco 49ers. The Eagles also fired defensive line coach Rory Segrest. McDermott and Segrest were both seen as up-and-coming coaches in the league, but it's tough to overcome giving up 31 touchdown passes. Reid said he wanted all his coaches back last Monday, but it only took him a few days to change his mind.
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
|Drew Hallowell/Getty Images|
|Michael Vick played exclusively at quarterback in his first practice back.|
In what may have been one of the most anticipated training camp practices in Eagles history, quarterback Michael Vick led the scout team through a series of plays Saturday morning and then got a quick weightlifting session in. As we speak, Vick is going through his second practice.
Between practices, coach Andy Reid shed a little light on what type of condition Vick is in. And by the way, I've been sort of surprised at how open Reid has been with the media throughout this process.
"I think he would tell you that he probably needs to lose two pounds and with the next four days, it probably being 90 degrees, that will probably happen," Reid said of Vick. "If you're in a two- to three-pound range or a five-pound range then that's pretty good after a two-year hiatus. But, there's the other part of that, there's throwing the football and timing and all of those factors that go into it and he's been away. So, he's going to need to do that, and not every throw is going to be a perfect throw and he's going to have to get his legs under him.
"We've got a period of time here where we can do that, so we'll just play it by ear as we go. And, I'll communicate with Michael and I'll watch his performance and see how he does."
I think Reid's aware of everyone's desire to figure out how Vick will be used in the Eagles' West Coast offense. The coach thinks that Vick's exposure to the offense in Atlanta under Jim Mora puts him ahead of the curve. Reid also reiterated that Kevin Kolb is still the No. 2 quarterback and that his knee injury is not what dictated the decision to sign Vick. Reid continued to echo owner Jeffrey Lurie's theme about Vick giving back to the community. Asked whether he's measuring Vick's success more as a player or as a person, Reid said:
"I think it's a combination of both. He's been so proactive with the Humane Society and the things that he's done there. When he first got out of jail he worked with the Boys and Girls club. That was the first step and then he went from there, he did a nice job there. I've always told you, these guys are people first. I think the part of the rehabilitation of the person is a work in progress and focused in and you've got the mindset, the confidence that he's going to do the right thing. And then the other side of it is the football side. They're two different things."
My biggest concern with signing Vick would be the potential distractions that his presence could cause. In particular, I'm referring to the seven satellite trucks I saw in the NovaCare Complex parking lot Friday and the increased level of media coverage, which will now include additional news outlets. And while I'm thinking about it, remember to watch Vick's appearance on "60 Minutes" on Sunday night. Something tells me the folks at CBS were able to go back in and include the news of Vick's signing in the package. Here's what Reid had to say about the potential distractions:
"I can only tell you what I've read and then how I've communicated with the players and asked them that same question, 'how are you?' The guys have been so upbeat and positive with it and I haven't really felt a distraction, there's almost a little bit of energy. I think they're all pulling for Michael. We're just kind of a microcosm of the city and really the world with the little football team there. I think people deep down are pulling for him. Now, it's important he does the right thing. He's got to continue doing what he's been doing, and right now he's very focused on that."
Will continue to keep you up to date on the most recognizable third-string quarterback in the league. Yes, I'm assuming that Vick has moved past A.J. Feeley on the depth chart. You think I'm safe there?