NFC East: Scott Pioli

Greetings from Indy!

February, 25, 2010
2/25/10
10:14
AM ET
INDIANAPOLIS -- We are only minutes away from the official opening of the NFL combine here at Lucas Oil Field. San Francisco general manager Scot McCloughan is about to take the main podium and he'll be followed by Hall of Famer Mike Singletary. Here's the rest of the schedule this morning:

10:30 a.m. ET: Jim Schwartz, head coach of the Detroit Lions

10:45: Chan Gailey, Buffalo Bills head coach

11:00: Kevin Colbert, director of football operations for the Steelers

noon: Jeff Ireland, Miami Dolphins general manager

2:15: Scott Pioli, Kansas City Chiefs general manager

I'll ask Schwartz about how he thinks Albert Haynesworth will do in Jim Haslett's 3-4 scheme. Schwartz coached Haynesworth when he was the defensive coordinator for the Titans. Mike Singletary should have some thoughts on a couple of linebackers the Giants will be observing at this combine.

Chan Gailey can talk about what he learned during his head-coaching experience with the Dallas Cowboys. And I'll ask Jeff Ireland who should get the credit for "discovering" Cowboys wide receiver Miles Austin. Ireland was serving under Bill Parcells and Jerry Jones when Austin was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2006.

Schwartz is a guy I used to talk to a lot when he was with the Titans. He does a great job of explaining complicated defensive schemes to dense reporters such as myself. OK, I'm off to visit with my childhood hero, Singletary. He once broke eight helmets while playing linebacker for Grant Teaff at Baylor -- in one season.

Final Word: NFC East

October, 9, 2009
10/09/09
4:02
PM ET
NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley


Five nuggets of knowledge about Sunday’s games:

 
 John Rieger/US Presswire
 Todd Haley's familiarity with the Cowboys organization could give him an advantage.
Chiefs coach Todd Haley knows the Cowboys' personnel and would love to beat his former employer. Haley still has a lot of friends in the Cowboys organization, but he knows what a win could do for his credibility. Haley and general manager Scott Pioli have done a lot of interesting things to try to change the culture with the Chiefs, but winning is the only thing that will truly do the trick. I thought Haley and his defensive coordinator, Clancy Pendergast, put a tremendous game plan together to help the Cardinals beat the Cowboys in '08. Haley told me Thursday that he's watched that game on film twice this week. The Cowboys should win the game, but don't discount how important Haley's knowledge of the Dallas personnel will be in this game.

The Giants are going to beat the Raiders with or without Eli Manning. Who are we kidding? Coach Tom Coughlin's not going to let his team lose to a Tom Cable outfit. Steve Smith has been one of the best wide receivers in the league through four games -- and it will take more than the best cornerback in the game to slow him down. I talked to Justin Tuck on Thursday afternoon and he talked about how the Giants always seem to rally around injuries and other distractions. If Manning doesn't play, I think David Carr will be just fine. As long as he doesn't have any flashbacks of playing behind the Texans' offensive line, it shouldn't be much of a problem.

Can Jim Zorn find a way to lead his team to a win with all this turmoil going on? Dan Snyder and Vinny Cerrato have made an interesting move in bringing in offensive consultant Sherman Lewis to help right the offensive ship. What they've done is embarrass a good man in the process. Bully for offensive coordinator Sherman Smith for saying what was on his mind once Lewis was hired. This is franchise stumbling all over itself right now. Would anyone be surprised if they lost to the Panthers on Sunday? Didn't think so.

The Beast is headed to Philly to watch Donovan McNabb and Michael Vick on the same field: I'm anxious to see how many snaps Eagles coach Andy Reid gives Vick in the shot gun. My best guess is eight or nine. And I think he'll see some snaps in the red zone. How will McNabb react? We're about to find out. If it's a blowout -- as I expect it to be -- then there won't be any problem. I think poor Josh Johnson's in for a long day. He'll be scrambling for his life -- and Eagles defensive end Trent Cole will have at least two sacks. Huge day coming for Brent Celek. Write that one down, folks. Clip and save.

Could Wade Phillips' job be in jeopardy if the Cowboys lose at Arrowhead? Jerry Jones has never fired a coach during the season, but this would be a huge embarrassment. Jones said Friday that Phillips' job would not be in jeopardy if he lost to the Chiefs, but let's wait and see what happens. One of the problems is that you really don't have an interim guy who could handle things. It's not like Jason Garrett is inspiring a ton of confidence right now. I guess former head coach Dave Campo might get the nod -- and Garrett could remain as offensive coordinator. Have a head coach, defensive coordinator and offensive coordinator ever been fired at the same time during a season? I'll try to look that up for you guys. Have a tremendous weekend.

Did we overrate the Beast?

October, 1, 2009
10/01/09
3:00
PM ET
 
  Getty Images
 Quarterbacks Donovan McNabb and Jason Campbell lead the two most overrated teams in the Beast.

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley


It's much too early to make any sweeping statements about the '09 season, but I'm planning to do it anyway. The NFC East is overrated.

I know the division is still showing up atop ESPN.com's Power Rankings -- now syndicated in more than 100 nations -- but that will soon change. The NFC North, commonly referred to as the Favre Division, is on pace to overtake the Beast by next Tuesday -- especially if John "The Professor" Clayton continues to rank the mighty New York Giants sixth overall.

As a former power rankings panelist, I believe the Giants are the best team in the league heading into Week 4. But after that, all bets are off. The Cowboys are 2-1, but our four distinguished voters don't even have them in the top half of the league (No. 17). And only by the grace of God and Clayton did the Redskins end up at No. 26 overall. They deserved much worse after their performance in Detroit.

Now let's take a look at all four teams to see where we may have overrated them. We'll assign them an overrated score on a 1-10 scale. The teams with the highest scores are the most overrated. If you're confused by this ranking system, please skip to the next blog entry:

Anyone who says they have the Eagles figured out is not being truthful: Seriously, how in the world are we supposed to have any feel for this team? They opened by destroying Jake Delhomme's fake elbow and the rest of the Panthers. Now that the Panthers are 0-3, that win doesn't seem quite as impressive. And the Eagles' defense, an alleged strength after Week 1, was awful against the high-flying Saints. The Eagles bounced back with a dominating performance against the Chiefs, but that's a team most teams should dominate.

Eagles coach Andy Reid has brought in the prototypical Wildcat quarterback in Michael Vick, but the formation had nothing to do with the Eagles' win over the Chiefs. The Eagles have an aging star quarterback recovering from a cracked rib and an aging star running back trying to bounce back from an ankle injury. There are simply too many uncertainties in Philly to make any logical guess as to where this team is headed. Reid made the mistake of banking on the highly unpredictable Shawn Andrews to start at right tackle. That's already backfired and I'm not convinced Winston Justice is the answer. Some of us thought the Eagles might have one of the better offensive lines in football heading into the season. That doesn't appear to be the case now.

Overrated factor: 7

I'm pretty sure the Cowboys' pass rush is overrated: The Cowboys are about to face one of the worst 3-0 teams (Denver Broncos) since the merger. After wins over Denver and Kansas City, Dallas will head into a bye with a nice-looking 4-1 record. But there are still some flaws that have emerged. A year removed from leading the league in sacks, the Cowboys were shut out the first two games. They had three sacks in the Monday night win over the Panthers, but two of them came after the game had already been decided.

The Cowboys won't win many games scoring 14 points on offense, although they pulled it off against Carolina. Offensive coordinator Jason Garrett seems to be realizing that this team has a new identity. In the post-T.O. era, the Cowboys' best chance for success is in a run-based offense. When Marion Barber, Felix Jones and Tashard Choice are all healthy, the Cowboys potentially have the most dangerous running attack in the league. Unfortunately, Jones and Barber appear to be injury prone at this point in their careers. This may sound crazy, but I think the Cowboys are actually the most underrated team in the division right now. Our power rankings specialists put them at No. 17, which seems ridiculously low.

If this team can find anyone to rush the quarterback opposite DeMarcus Ware (hello, Anthony Spencer?), the Cowboys could get on a roll.

Overrated factor: 3


Why do we always fall for the Skins' offseason tricks? Most of us had the Redskins finishing fourth in the division, but a few brave souls (Mort) felt like they belonged in the playoff conversation. The signing of All-Pro defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth was supposed to make this an intimidating defense. But when Lions rookie Matt Stafford calmly picks your defense apart in a 99-yard drive early in a game, you have some problems.

Redskins owner Dan Snyder spent an enormous amount of money on Haynesworth and cornerback DeAngelo Hall in the offseason, but he neglected other areas. Take the offensive line for instance. The Skins brought in Derrick Dockery to address one of the guard spots and they plucked Mike Williams from the Duke weight loss program. The Skins' other starting guard, Randy Thomas, is already out for the season with a triceps injury and he's been replaced by a former third-round pick who appears to be nothing more than a stopgap.

Throw in the team's embattled head coach/quarterback guru Jim Zorn and you have the recipe for a 6-10 season.

Overrated factor: 9.3

At least the Giants are pulling their weight. Unlike some other coaches in the Beast, Tom Coughlin never makes excuses for his team. This a locker room that has battled through a lot of adversity over the past couple years and it seems to inspire the team rather than bring it down. Losing safety Kenny Phillips to a season-ending knee injury is a big deal because he was on his way to becoming a star, but this team will recover.

Eli Manning's also gaining confidence in his young receivers each week. We spent a large portion of the offseason tracking rumors about Anquan Boldin and Braylon Edwards, but the Giants are getting it done with in-house players. Steve Smith and Mario Manningham have already made some clutch plays this season. I think beating the Cowboys in a close game in front of more than 100,000 fans is something that gave this team a huge boost.

The Giants have definitely replaced the Eagles as the Beast's flagship team. And I don't see that changing any time soon.

Overrated factor: 3.2

Interconference matchups: NFC East/AFC West

July, 16, 2009
7/16/09
12:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

Interconference Matchups
A rundown of seven observations on each division's interconference games:

Tuesday: AFC North vs. NFC North
Wednesday: AFC East vs. NFC South
Thursday: AFC West vs. NFC East

Friday: AFC South vs. NFC West

Though they'd never admit it, you have to know the NFC East teams have been looking forward to facing this division. The Chiefs will eventually be good because Scott Pioli helped Bill Belichick invent football, and Todd Haley's going to be an excellent head coach. But it won't happen for them this quickly. The Broncos aren't poised for a breakout season by any means -- and the Raiders are the Raiders. The biggest challenge will be the Chargers, and that's where I'll spend most of my time during this exciting summer feature. Here are seven things to watch as we prepare for this AFC West-NFC East showdown:

1. Wade Phillips gets a look at his old defense: The Cowboys' head coach helped Shawne Merriman have the best season of his career when he was the defensive coordinator in San Diego. In fact, the Chargers' defense hasn't been nearly as dominant since Phillips brought his version of the 3-4 to Dallas. The Chargers will play on the road against the Browns and then come to Dallas on Dec. 13. It will be a great opportunity to see Merriman and DeMarcus Ware on the same field. The Cowboys opted for Ware over Merriman, and at this point, it looks like they made the right decision.

 
  Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
  When the Chargers visit the Cowboys in December, Wade Phillips will be facing a defense he helped build.

2. Philip Rivers visits the Meadowlands: On Nov. 8, the Chargers will visit Giants Stadium. Obviously Rivers and Giants quarterback Eli Manning will always be linked because of the big trade in 2004. Chargers fans -- and AFC West blogger Bill Williamson -- are convinced that Rivers is a better quarterback than Manning. But Rivers doesn't have a ring, and he puts up a lot of big numbers against inferior teams in the AFC West. Manning and the Giants win this one.

3. Should be an interesting Thanksgiving between the two divisions: Can't wait to watch Cowboys owner Jerry Jones give his mentor, Al Davis, a tour of the new stadium. That velour sweatsuit that Davis pulls out from time to time should keep him toasty in a domed stadium that is a little on the coolish side. I'm actually intrigued to see whether Darrius Heyward-Bey has anything. He'll have some opportunities against a Cowboys secondary that doesn't have a lot of depth and could be banged up. The other matchup, the Giants at Denver, is a lot more interesting. The Broncos could be in full fade mode at this point, but Invesco Field is still a tough place to play at 8:20 p.m. ET on Thanksgiving night. Or at least I think it will be.

4. Another reason I love that Cowboys-Chargers matchup Dec. 13: Chargers coach Norv Turner thinks he should've been the successor to Bill Parcells in Dallas, although he's always very complimentary of Phillips. Turner would've been exactly what Tony Romo needs -- someone who won't accept the careless mistakes. I think Phillips and Turner will bring a little something extra to this game.

2009 team schedules: NFC East
Dallas Cowboys
Philadelphia Eagles
New York Giants
Washington Redskins
5. The DeAngelo Hall "homecoming" game in Oakland: I'm not saying it's going to be a good game, but it will be fun to watch Hall return to Oakland on Dec. 13. Raiders owner Al Davis couldn't wait to dump the cornerback, but Hall has revived his career in Washington. Tom Cable vs. Jim Zorn. Isn't that the one you guys have been waiting for?

6. Eagles have a cross-country trip after an emotional game: The Eagles host the Cowboys in Week 9 and then fly across the country to play the Chargers in Week 10. It's the first part of a really tough stretch for Philly. I think it will be a great test for the Eagles, in part, because this is about the time the Chargers usually start putting things together.

7. Todd Haley will be waiting on the Cowboys: In Week 5, the Cowboys will make the trip to Arrowhead. I think Haley, the former passing game coordinator in Dallas, will take this one personally. He
still knows a lot of people with the organization and he definitely has a tremendous grasp of the Cowboys' personnel. Potential loss for the Cowboys. I assure you Haley already has this one circled.

Who benefits most?

The Redskins have the best schedule against the AFC West. I like that they host the Chiefs and Broncos before they get into late November. The Skins make the trip to Oakland on Dec. 13, and that game doesn't scare me because the Raiders will be out of it. The Redskins finish the season with a cross-country trip to San Diego. Something tells me that game won't matter for the Chargers because they will have sewn up a playoff spot. And that would be a good thing for the Skins if they're actually still in the hunt.

All-decade moments: Manning-to-Tyree tops list

June, 24, 2009
6/24/09
11:00
AM ET
 
  ESPN.com Illustration
  There are many memorable moments from the last 10 years to savor.

 Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

This decade has brought us some amazing moments in the NFL, many of which have been captured during ESPN.com's all-decade week. And if something remarkable happens in '09 (such as the Lions making the playoffs), we reserve the right to amend some of our results.

All-Decade Honors
Monday: Defense
Tuesday: Offense
Wednesday: Moments
Thursday: Team, coach, MVP | Rankings
Friday: Top players | Special teams

Related Content

• Karabell: Decade's top fantasy players
• Rank 'Em: Players of the decade
• Football Outsiders: Most overrated
• Football Outsiders: Most underrated

So far, you've read about the all-decade defensive and offensive teams for the years beginning with 2000 and ending with the '08 season. I spent a good portion of the NFL owners' meeting and my subsequent vacation trying to identify some of the most memorable characters and moments from the decade.

After consulting with coaches, scouts, media guides and fellow bloggers, I've compiled a list of things that stood out over a nine-year period. Please act responsibly as we continue to celebrate ESPN.com's all-decade week -- otherwise known as a blogger's summer oasis.

 
  John David Mercer/US PRESSWIRE
  David Tyree's 32-yard circus catch kept the Giants' game-winning drive alive in Super Bowl XLII.

Play of the decade: In Super Bowl XLII, New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning appeared to be going down for a sack late in the fourth quarter when he somehow escaped and hurled the ball in the general direction of reserve wide receiver David Tyree. Even with Rodney Harrison ripping at him, Tyree somehow trapped the ball against his helmet and came down with it. It was one of the greatest plays in league history -- and it gave Tyree the basis for his first book. There were a lot of memorable plays in the decade, but nothing could match the Manning-to-Tyree special.

Personnel man of the decade: Indianapolis Colts president Bill Polian is ranked pretty high, but everyone you talk to across the league mentions Scott Pioli first. Now the GM for the Kansas City Chiefs, Pioli joined Bill Belichick in building the team of the decade, the New England Patriots. According to one longtime scout, "No one in the league does a better job of scouting their own team, and Pioli was orchestrating all of that."

The Patriots have had the magic touch when it comes to reclamation projects such as Corey Dillon and Randy Moss. But much like the Baltimore Ravens, they always seem to know when it's time to say goodbye to a player. Pioli has a keen eye when it comes to projecting players in Belichick's defense. Now we'll see what he can do with the Chiefs.

Scandal of the decade: Let's stay with the Patriots on this one. The Michael Vick dogfighting story was stunning, but Spygate was bigger because it threatened the integrity of the league. There were so many different layers to the story and it cast doubt on a head coach and his team's remarkable run. Belichick is still regarded as the mad genius in New England, but his violation of league rules will have a lasting impact on his legacy -- unless you're a Patriots fan.

 
  Matt Campbell/AFP/Getty Images
  Tom Brady's apparent fumble was overturned and the Patriots beat the Raiders 16-13 in overtime.

Most memorable off
iciating call
: We know what San Diego Chargers fans are thinking, but when thinking back over the decade, the "tuck rule game" has to be the signature call. It was Jan. 19, 2002, and it appeared Oakland Raiders cornerback Charles Woodson had just sealed a trip to the AFC title game by sacking Tom Brady and knocking the ball loose. Instead, Brady's fumble was overturned because of the little-known "tuck rule," which was quietly enacted in 1999. The rule still doesn't make a lot of sense. But it helped launch the Patriots' dynasty. Anyone remember New England's starting wide receivers in the game? That's right, David Patten and Troy Brown.

Best owner: Sort of hard not to give it to Patriots owner Bob Kraft, but let's give a lifetime achievement award to Pittsburgh Steelers co-owner Dan Rooney. After all these years, he's still perhaps the most respected voice in the room. But Kraft wins the all-decade award. He brought a fan's perspective to ownership, and that's what breathed life into the franchise. And he gave Belichick another head-coaching opportunity after a failed stint with the Cleveland Browns.

Best NFL commercial: Since Peyton Manning starred in 82.7 percent of all NFL commercials, it's hard to pass him over. His work for MasterCard stands above the rest. The one where he's doing some yoga with Brian Urlacher and Michael Strahan has stood the test of time -- at least in our minds.

  Polamalu

Most prolific locks: The faux-hawk tried to make a comeback, but Troy Polamalu may be the most identifiable player in uniform because of his unwieldy look. Polamalu achieved it by not getting his hair cut this decade.

Funniest player: The NFL doesn't really have an answer to Charles Barkley, although Clinton Portis had a nice run a few years ago when he came up with several alter egos. Let's give it to one of Portis' teammates, tight end Chris Cooley. Occasionally he crosses the line (accidentally publishing a picture of his manhood on The Cooley Zone blog), but he's consistently funny. Still love that he walked out to midfield a couple of years ago and introduced himself to the opposing captains as "Captain Chaos." There's not enough of that type stuff going around.

Best touchdown celebration: Terrell Owens and Moss had their moments, but Chad Ochocinco is by far the best. He has played golf with the pylon (no longer allowed) and he has donned a replica Hall of Fame coat after a touchdown on "Monday Night Football."

 
  AP Photo/David Kohl
  Chad Ochocinco had a number of the most memorable touchdown celebrations in the last 10 years.

Best first-down celebration: No one celebrates a new set of downs like Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Roy Williams. He takes the ball and delivers an emphatic first-down signal. It's not as good as Ed Hochuli's "Guns of Navarone" approach, but Williams doesn't hold anything back.

The most troubled player award: Adam "Pacman" Jones became the poster child for Roger Goodell's tough stance on player (mis)conduct. Pacman is an "Outside the Lines" report waiting to happen.

Most feared player: Until the horse-collar rule put him out of business, former Cowboys safety Roy Williams was well on his way to winning this title. But his descent into mediocrity was steep. Rodney Harrison of the Patriots wins the award. He was regarded as a dirty player by some, but his presence definitely made receivers think twice about going across the middle. John Lynch was a feared player early in the decade, but Harrison eventually surpassed him. James Harrison is closing fast as we prepare to close the books on the decade.

Best assistant coach: It's a tie between two elder statesmen, Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau and Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson. We're all pulling for Johnson as he battles cancer. He's been remarkably consistent over the years and I put him and LeBeau just barely ahead of former Bucs defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin.

Former Cowboys assistant lands Chiefs job

February, 6, 2009
2/06/09
12:16
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

  Haley

Former Cowboys passing game coordinator and Terrell Owens agitator Todd Haley will be named head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs later this afternoon, according to ESPN's Chris Mortensen. Haley, a devoted reader of this blog, is another branch of the Bill Parcells coaching tree.

It's interesting that the Cowboys' coaching situation seems to be in such disarray when the staff had apparently been filled with so much talent over the years. In 2006, Jerry Jones had future Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano and Haley running his offense. It now appears he had two of the brightest young minds in the game on his staff. And when you throw in Sean Payton from 2003-05, the Cowboys have done their part to make other organizations better.

When Jones interviewed Haley for his head-coaching position after the 2006 season, the young assistant told him he would never be able to win big with Terrell Owens on his team. That story has spread throughout the league, and I think it helped Haley win a lot of respect from his peers.

Haley's lack of playing experience in college has always caused him to work that much harder to earn his players' trust. For those of you who didn't know, Haley played college golf at the University of Florida with PGA Tour star Chris DiMarco. He was brought up as a Steelers fan because his father, Dick Haley, was such a huge part of the organization.

Now he'll join Scott Pioli in trying to turn the Chiefs around. I think the late, great Lamar Hunt would be very proud of this hire.

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