NFC East: Rich Gannon

What to make of Rex Grossman?

September, 16, 2011
9/16/11
11:05
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I read this ESPN Insider piece by Chris Sprow on Washington Redskins quarterback Rex Grossman, mainly because I was hoping it would help provide some clarity on how to feel about him. Grossman is a conundrum. We watch him play, he looks fine, but we can't shake this idea that it's all liable to fall apart at some point because it's Rex Grossman.

Grossman's haunting me right now. I didn't think he had a real shot to win the job in preseason and he proved me wrong. Now everywhere I look there's a story about whether he might actually be turning a corner in his career. I'm trying to decide whether to trade Fred Jackson for him in a fantasy league where we have to start two quarterbacks and I only have one. The guy won't leave me alone.

So I consulted Sprow, who has some theories as to why Grossman might be able to sustain the little bit of success he's had so far in Washington. Reasons include the Redskins' soft schedule, the similarities between this Redskins offense and the Chicago Bears one Grossman took to the Super Bowl and a chart showing other quarterbacks such as Warren Moon, Roger Staubach and Vinny Testaverde whose post-30 production exceeded what they did in their 20s:
There's no evidence that a quarterback can't greatly enhance his career beyond his age-30 season. There are 67 quarterbacks who've thrown for more yards past that point than they did before it, and at the top of the list, there aren't just some good names, there are instances of dramatic improvement. Trent Green couldn't get on the field, or stay consistently healthy up to age 30, but after, in a better situation, he threw for another 22,971 yards and, like many of the guys you see in the chart, dramatically improved his accuracy. Grossman can't be confused with Green, or the limited but steady Brad Johnson, or even the late-blooming, accurate Rich Gannon (Johnson at 34 and Gannon at 37 met in the Super Bowl). But none of the guys listed here, at age 30, would be confused with how we perceive them now.

So I don't know. If you have the Insider access, give it a look and let me know what you think. I will say that Grossman does seem to be in a system that suits him well, as long as the supporting cast of running backs, receivers and offensive line holds up around him. That was Mike Shanahan's biggest concern when I spoke with him in training camp -- not whether he had the right quarterback but whether that quarterback, whoever it was, would have enough around him. I thought he was messing with me, or nuts, but now I wonder. We always wonder when it comes to Grossman.

Who's next for the Cowboys?

November, 8, 2010
11/08/10
6:21
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Owners typically hire a new coach with the opposite demeanor of the old coach.

For Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, it’s uncertain whether he will follow tradition in replacing Wade Phillips and new interim head coach Jason Garrett after the season. Phillips has always been a coach who creates a positive, supportive environment for players, which has led to criticism his teams sometimes were undisciplined.

The logical move would be to hire a disciplinarian, as Jones did in 2003 when he chose Bill Parcells to replace Dave Campo. Logic would point to a big-name coach with winning experience.

Although successful, the Parcells experience was tough on Jones. Parcells wanted a big voice in personnel. Jones likes to pick the players and have coaches teach them. That’s why Bill Cowher -- perhaps the biggest winning name available -- probably won’t get the job. Since leaving the Steelers, Cowher has been looking for a head-coaching job that pays top dollar on a franchise that has an elite quarterback. Like Parcells, Cowher wants control of the personnel office. That’s why he probably isn’t a fit. Remember, Jones could have hired Mike Shanahan during the offseason but decided to stay with Phillips. Expect Garrett to be interviewed, but I don't think he will get this job.

Here are the main candidates for the Cowboys’ job:

Jon Gruden, former head coach of the Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Gruden is the perfect choice, but there is more of a chance he will stay in broadcasting until at least 2012. Should Gruden decide to coach in 2011, Mike Holmgren of the Cleveland Browns could be after him, but Jones will be all over him. Gruden, who signed a multiyear extension with ESPN last November, has a brilliant offensive mind. He is a master of the West Coast offense, but he also orchestrates a well-structured running attack. Some of Gruden’s run schemes are the most innovative in football. Gruden would be a nice mentor for Tony Romo. Though he can be tough on veteran quarterbacks, Gruden got the best out of Rich Gannon when he was with the Raiders and Brad Johnson when he was with the Bucs. This could be Gruden’s job to lose, but don’t be surprised if he passes on the opportunity.

John Fox, Carolina Panthers head coach: There would be no better compromise candidate than Fox. He’s a winner. He fits in Dallas because he doesn’t demand control of personnel. He’s a coach’s coach. Fox, in the last year of his contract with the Panthers, has taken players given to him in Carolina and made the most of the situation. With Jones, Fox would be getting an owner who isn’t afraid to spend and keep a talented team together. Fox is considered a players’ coach, but he is organized and runs a disciplined operation in which players enjoy the experience.

Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals head coach: Lewis, whose contract is up after the season, has won two division titles for Mike Brown in Cincinnati. He would like more control of personnel in Cincinnati. Although he might not get that control in Dallas, coaching for one of the best brands in sports is highly appealing. Jones knows Lewis well from their time together on the Competition Committee.

Leslie Frazier, Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator: Frazier is one of the league’s hotter assistant coaches, but it’s debatable whether Jones will go for an assistant. Phillips was the Chargers’ defensive coordinator when Jones hired him as Dallas’ head coach. Phillips’ head-coaching experience in Denver and Buffalo appealed to Jones. This would be Frazier’s first chance to be a head coach.

Ron Rivera, San Diego Chargers defensive coordinator: Rivera was a hot name a few years ago when he was the Chicago Bears 'defensive coordinator. He’s getting hot again because of the work he has done in San Diego, which has the league’s second-ranked defense. Rivera took a chance in joining the Chargers to learn the 3-4 scheme. Even though the talent base of the Chargers has dropped off the past couple of years, Rivera has put together creative schemes.

Mike Zimmer, Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator: A former position coach and defensive coordinator in Dallas, Zimmer is disciplined and aggressive, and players like playing for him. And Jones knows him, a big plus.

What they're saying about Westbrook

November, 18, 2009
11/18/09
10:45
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Let's take a quick look at all the stories written about Eagles running back Brian Westbrook this morning.

  • Paul Domowitch of the Daily News doesn't think the Eagles can make it to the playoffs without Westbrook in the lineup.
  • Bob Brookover of the Inquirer catches up with Rich Gannon to talk about concussions. He also had an interesting conversation with a professor of neurology from the University of Pennsylvania. Asked about Westbrook's injury, Dr. Douglas H. Smith said, "It's not that you've just lost cognitive skills, but you've also increased the chances of having a worse problem later on in life. It's a very serious risk." It's important to note that Smith does not have direct knowledge of Westbrook's injury.
  • Marcus Hayes of the Daily News caught up with former Giants defensive end Michael Strahan to talk about Westbrook's concussions. Here's how Strahan described what one of his friends from the league goes through on a daily basis: "One of my good friends takes Alzheimer's medicine right now to combat some of the issues with concussions," Strahan said. "The memory loss, and all those things. He's in his 30s. It's unfortunate to see that in such a young person."
  • Reuben Frank of the Burlington County Times looks back at a story that was written about Troy Polamalu in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. There's apparently no magic number in terms of how many concussions can end a player's career.
  • Brian Seltzer of ESPN 950 has an in-depth look at the sort of testing that Westbrook will undergo today.
  • Here's what the Beast wrote about Westbrook on Tuesday evening.

Emmitt Smith predicts seven wins for Cowboys

September, 9, 2009
9/09/09
12:14
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley


Former Cowboys great Emmitt Smith has been making the media rounds the last few days and he's not too optimistic about his former team. He was actually fairly positive on a a Sirius NFL Radio interview with Rich Gannon and Adam Schein, but then he changed directions while appearing on ESPN Radio with Colin Cowherd.
US Presswire
Former Cowboy great Emmitt Smith called out Wade Phillips and Roy Williams in a recent interview.

"Realistically, I think that the Cowboys can win seven games," Smith said.

Really? Seven games? With a relatively easy schedule out of the gates, the Cowboys would have to completely collapse to end up with seven wins. Even the most cynical pundits (like this one) have the Cowboys winning at least nine games. So what does the former "Dancing With the Stars" winner think about the Cowboys' current locker room chemistry sans Terrell Owens?

"I mean, when I start hearing things are going to change, I keep asking myself as a player, how much are they going to change?" Smith said. "Are you going to be a hard-nosed coach now since things are going to change? Are you going to be more focused than you were last year? Those kind of things, I'm like, 'C'mon.' This is not a game where you can just turn it on and turn it off."

Sounds like that criticism was lobbed in the direction of coach Wade Phillips. And Smith wasn't finished. Before he hung up the phone, he took a few parting shots at wide receiver Roy Williams.

"The question is, can Roy step up and be what they need him to be?" Smith asked. "I don't know. I don't know if it's possible. I do not see him as a No. 1. I never have saw him as a No. 1. Never have. When I say No. 1, I mean your No. 1 go-to guy. He's not your No. 1 go-to guy."

Thanks to my guy Andrew Fitzpatrick over at Sirius, I also have a transcript of what Smith said about Tony Romo's leadership skills:

"Demand excellence. Demand excellence," Smith said of Romo. "That’s what you’re asking. You’re asking him to demand excellence. I used to send Tony Romo texts throughout the season just to encourage him, just to wish him luck and just to tell him to get on his offensive line. I hated watching this young man get sacked as much as he did, especially when it came down to big games. I know how important it is to have your quarterback standing upright. Matter of fact, I know how important it is not to allow someone hit on him period because I want him to think that this pocket is completely safe, no one is going to get to me and I got all the time in the world to make whatever decisions I need to make.

"That did not happen for Tony Romo. The sad part for me is just what you’re talking about, Rich (Gannon). I never saw him go snatch somebody up and say, 'Hey, we can’t win like this. We can’t have guys jumping off-sides. I can’t have somebody coming at me unabated. Who is making the mistakes up front? Why aren’t you picking this guy up? This is not going down this way. If you can’t get your job done get off the football field.’ And that’s the thing that I believe you touched on, Rich, that is missing at that position which boils back down to one word -- leadership."

This is the same thing Smith was saying last season. He wants Romo to holler at the offensive linemen more. Big deal. Would that make Cowboys fans feel better to see Romo screaming at his linemen? What do you think? And here's something else I thought you'd find interesting. Although Smith told Cowherd he thinks the Cowboys will win only seven games, he told the guys at Sirius that Dallas could challenge the division favorites:

"I think they can be good enough to challenge the Giants and the Eagles," Smith said. "When you think about what the Cowboys have offensively -- you have to start there -- they may not have the guy that can stretch the field for them, even though they have Miles Austin who is pretty fast and Patrick Crayton and Sam Hurd can move the chains for them along with Jason Witten. But I think the stars that you should see this year, and if (offensive coordinator) Jason Garrett is looking for that balance and looking to protect the football a little bit is to lean more on Marion Barber, Felix Jones and Tashard Choice. I think those three running backs make the Cowboys offense potent, very potent."

Well, at least Smith's being consistent.

Thursday Beastlines

August, 6, 2009
8/06/09
5:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

Cowboys 

Eagles

  • Lurie paid homage to safety Brian Dawkins. Here's Bob Brookover from the Inquirer with more details.
  • Strong column from the Inquirer's Phil Sheridan today regarding the Juqua Parker arrest. 

Giants

Redskins

  • Matt Terl does an excellent job blogging and tweeting for redskins.com. I'd love to see the Skins give his blog a more prominent spot on the Web site. Here's his morning practice report
  • I'm reviewing the transcript from Jim Zorn's news conference today. May have something on that a little later. 

Beast nuggets you can use to impress co-workers

September, 17, 2008
9/17/08
11:25
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

If you haven't visited the Web site, ColdHardFootballFacts.com, there's no time like the present. In the wake of Monday's epic Cowboys-Eagles game, the folks at Cold, Hard have come up with several fascinating nuggets.

I couldn't hear the broadcast from my seat at Texas Stadium on Monday, but apparently Mike Tirico mentioned that Donovan McNabb was one of only seven quarterbacks in the history of the league to have thrown for 25,000 yards and run for 2,500. So who are the other six?

  • John Elway -- 51,475 passing yards and 3,407 rushing yards
  • Frank Tarkenton -- 47,003 and 3,674
  • Steve Young -- 33,124 and 4,239
  • Steve McNair -- 31,304 and 3,590
  • Randall Cunningham -- 29,979 and 4,928
  • Jim Harbaugh -- 26,288 and 2,787
  • Donovan McNabb -- 25,765 and 2,965

And here are some players who barely missed the mark:

  • Bobby Layne -- 26,768 and 2,451
  • Rich Gannon -- 28,743 and 2,449
  • Mark Brunell -- 31,826 and 2,433 (still has a shot)
  • Terry Bradshaw -- 27,989 and 2,257
  • Steve Grogan -- 26,886 and 2,176

The other item I found interesting is that Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is on his way to having the highest passer rating in the history of the league. Through 28 starts and 919 attempts, Romo now has a 97.6 rating. Steve Young has the highest with 96.8. Romo needs 581 attempts to reach the league minimum for ending up in the record books.

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