NFC North: Andy Reid
Part of that is probably because of Carroll's player-friendly style; his attempts to break down the stereotypical football practice atmosphere in Seattle have been well-documented. As we discussed earlier this month, NFL coaches have to use a different approach to relate to modern players than they might have in the past. But it's also worth noting that the coaches who got the most respect from players are also getting results; Carroll is coaching in his first Super Bowl on Sunday, and the runner-up (Pittsburgh's Mike Tomlin) has been to two Super Bowls in the past six seasons. Next was Denver's John Fox, followed by New England's Bill Belichick and the New York Jets' Rex Ryan, and then by Kansas City's Andy Reid and New Orleans' Sean Payton. All of those coaches have either been to a Super Bowl or made multiple trips to a conference championship game. There are numerous coaching styles represented here, but all of the coaches mentioned are proving they can win.
The survey provides an interesting backdrop for the arrival of new Vikings coach Mike Zimmer, who will undoubtedly take a different approach than his predecessor, Leslie Frazier. Zimmer will likely be more animated in practice and on the sidelines than Frazier was, but he's won widespread praise from his players over the years, largely for his passion and his directness. If he can find the same kind of success as a head coach that he has as a defensive coordinator, he might receive votes in this survey in future years. The underlying theme for these coaches has been success, and if there's any kind of trend evident from our survey, it's that success begets respect among players.
Those of you who are hoping for an imminent reconciliation between former quarterback Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers would be disappointed to learn what former team president Bob Harlan told ESPN 540 on Tuesday morning. According to Harlan, it appears Favre has declined an invitation to attend and/or participate in former coach Mike Holmgren's induction into the Packers Hall of Fame this summer.
Harlan envisioned the appearance as a first step toward a reconciliation and still holds out hope that Favre himself will be inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame before his presumptive 2016 enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The full podcast of Harlan's appearance is available, but here is a portion of what Harlan said:
"We had a meeting about two months ago and talked about who should be invited back [for Holmgen's ceremony] -- Jon Gruden, Andy Reid, people like that. And, we talked about players. And I said to the group, 'What about No. 4? This would be the perfect time for him to come back, come into Green Bay.'
"The crowd at the Hall of Fame banquet is an adoring crowd, they're as loyal to the Green Bay Packers as anybody. And unfortunately, I don't think he’s going to do it. We did approach his agent, and I don't think Brett's going to do it. I feel badly about that."
It's reasonable to think Favre and the Packers will come together sometime in the next five years. But it doesn't appear that will happen in the summer of 2012.
Andy Reid was an offensive lineman during his playing career and coached the Green Bay Packers' tight ends and offensive linemen for five years until then-coach Mike Holmgren switched him to quarterbacks. The move worked for the Packers, Reid and quarterback Brett Favre alike, and it's a model -- coincidental or otherwise -- that current Packers coach Mike McCarthy followed this winter.
Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com points out the parallel in reporting the shift of tight ends coach Ben McAdoo to the quarterbacks coach role. McAdoo is one of several rising stars on the Packers' coaching staff and will get a chance to demonstrate his abilities by taking over two important jobs: Mentoring MVP Aaron Rodgers and developing his next backup, be it Graham Harrell or someone else.
Wilde reports that Joel Hilgenberg, a quality control coach in 2011, is the likely replacement for McAdoo to coach tight ends.
Continuing around the division on a quiet morning in the NFC North:
- McAdoo lost a significant amount of money when the Packers blocked him from interviewing for two offensive coordinator jobs, notes Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
- The city of Minneapolis' financing plan for a new Minnesota Vikings stadium has a funding shortfall, according to Tim Nelson of Minnesota Public Radio.
- Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun-Times looks into the time new Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery spent at the U.S. Naval Academy.
- There isn't a big difference between teams contending for the Super Bowl, Detroit Lions coach Jim Schwartz said, via Anwar S. Richardson of Mlive.com.
I thought lead2victory's mailbag objection was worth examining:
I'm curious why you put Tomlin ahead of McCarthy. I think that the argument for MM ahead of Tomlin is quite strong considering three points: 1) Navigating [Brett] Favre drama; 2) Developing [Aaron] Rodgers; 3) Prevailing admits adversity of injuries.
Furthermore, both coaches stepped into stable franchises (debatable with Packers because of Favre), and both have had great success. Yeah, Tomlin has been to two Super Bowls, but McCarthy has had to rebuild with a new QB. Tomlin is good, I just don't see the logic... enlighten me.
Most important, L2V, is I don't think "yeah" goes in front of "Tomlin has been to two Super Bowls." That's an incredible achievement in the first four years of a coaching regime, stable franchise or otherwise. It was the only factor I considered when slotting Tomlin at No. 2. McCarthy has been to one Super Bowl and won it, which is why I placed him ahead of the Philadelphia Eagles' Andy Reid (who finished No. 3 overall).
As to your points, I think you're selling Tomlin short on the adversities he has faced and navigated. In Pittsburgh, the continuing Ben Roethlisberger saga has been comparable to the issues McCarthy faced with Favre. In some ways it is more difficult, because the Steelers didn't have a ready-made replacement available to replace him. Tomlin has had no choice but to make it work with Roethlisberger.
And while McCarthy had more injuries to deal with in 2010, Tomlin had to work his share of personnel magic as well. Not only did he have to start backup quarterbacks for the first four games of last season, but he also had to reconfigure his offensive line and wound up playing the season with veteran left tackle Flozell Adams at right tackle. Meanwhile, don't forget that safety Troy Polamalu missed a couple games because of a sore left Achilles.
Both men have a 5-2 postseason ranking, but Tomlin's regular season winning percentage (.672) is even higher than McCarthy's (.600).
There's no shame in a No. 3 ranking among 32 NFL head coaches. Other than the fact that McCarthy beat Tomlin in Super Bowl XLV, I couldn't think of an empirical reason to place him higher in our power rankings.
INDIANAPOLIS -- We start the news cycle early here at the NFL scouting combine. At about 9 a.m. ET, the Chicago Bears announced they have completed contract discussions with coach Lovie Smith by agreeing to a two-year extension. Smith is now signed through the 2013 season.
General manager Jerry Angelo said last month that the Bears' run to the NFC Championship Game had solidified Smith's future with the team. It would have been an upset had he not received an extension, and Friday was a soft deadline given Smith's previously scheduled 10 a.m. appearance in the combine media center.
I'll have more after Smith addresses the news, but for now we can note that Smith is now tied for the fifth-longest tenure among NFL coaches. Hired in 2004, Smith has been in his job longer than every coach but Andy Reid (Philadelphia Eagles), Bill Belichick (New England Patriots), Marvin Lewis (Cincinnati Bengals), Jack Del Rio (Jacksonville Jaguars) and Tom Coughlin (New York Giants).
From a long-term perspective, this extension reconciles Smith's future with Angelo's. Both men are now signed through 2013. More in a bit.
If Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy's new contract is worth $5 million annually when it is finalized, as reported by Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, then Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith can't expect much of a raise in his impending extension.
That's the conclusion drawn by Neil Hayes of the Chicago Sun-Times, who notes Smith is already earning about that total in his current deal, which expires next year. Hayes: "How can Smith claim he is worth more than the coach of the defending Super Bowl champions?"
Coaching salaries are a pretty well-kept secret around the NFL. But according to a recent Forbes.com report, the NFL's highest-paid coaches are Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots and Mike Shanahan of the Washington Redskins, both of whom are at about $7 million annually. Pete Carroll of the Seattle Seahawks is third, at a little over $6 million per year, and Andy Reid of the Philadelphia Eagles is fourth at $5.5 million per year.
It's been more than three weeks since the Bears' season ended with general manager Jerry Angelo confirming he planned to offer Smith an extension. There is no rush on those negotiations, but if Smith is looking for a significant raise, the discussions could take some time.
Continuing around the NFC North:
- Bears tight end Brandon Manumaleuna is scheduled for arthroscopic surgery on his right knee soon, according to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune.
- Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette wonders if the Packers will assign the franchise tag to any of their impending free agents. Place-kicker Mason Crosby is one possibility.
- Packers running back James Starks was back in his home state Wednesday and discussed his climb up the depth chart and winning the Super Bowl.
- Minnesota Vikings tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, via Frank Tadych of NFL.com: "I feel like the window is still open. It's definitely getting smaller to me, before the rebuilding process [starts]. We have so many veterans and elite players right now on our team. A roster full of great players. ... Offensively, we have all the skill positions [filled]. It's an offensive coordinator's dream. Those are weapons that are definite mismatches if put in the right position."
- Sid Hartman of the Star Tribune suggests the Vikings will use their franchise tag on linebacker Chad Greenway.
- Jeremy Fowler of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reviews the Vikings' 2010 draft.
- Elliot Harrison of NFL.com offers five questions about the Detroit Lions' future.
Sunday at Lambeau Field, Green Bay Packers running back John Kuhn took a handoff at the New York Giants' 8-yard line and rumbled toward the end zone. Referee Walt Anderson's crew awarded Kuhn a touchdown, and almost immediately, Kuhn jumped up and started sprinting toward the sideline. As he ran, Kuhn was rolling his right index finger to encourage the Packers' extra-point team to hurry onto the field.
The play occurred with 1 minute, 54 seconds remaining in the second quarter, meaning that only the replay official in the booth -- and not New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin -- could initiate a review. Initial replays showed Kuhn's right knee touching the ground with the ball close enough to the goal line to merit a review, but the Packers got the extra point quickly enough to avoid it.
Afterwards, Kuhn said: "I felt like it was pretty close. I wasn't sure if I was down first, but I felt like my knee hit right near the goal line, so I wanted to make sure we got out there and kicked it as fast as we could."
It was a smart reaction by Kuhn and absolutely within the rules. But getting a call right shouldn't be a race. Teams shouldn't have the opportunity to beat replay officials to the punch. We don't know for sure if that's what happened in this case, but it's certainly what Kuhn was trying to do. Quite simply, that option shouldn't exist. No team should be disadvantaged by a strategy that externally speeds up the replay process. Booth officials should have the option of stopping the next play until determining, in a thorough and sensible manner, whether a review is necessary.
Meanwhile, in the fourth quarter, the Giants were unable to challenge an obvious mistake. Packers nickel back Sam Shields was awarded an interception at the Giants' 46-yard line even though his left foot clearly came down out of bounds. Coughlin, however, had used two challenges in the third quarter. The second was unsuccessful, therefore leaving him without an available red flag for Shields' interception.
You could blame Coughlin for making a poor decision to challenge Brandon Jacobs' fumble in the third quarter, but to me, that shouldn't be part of the equation. Coaches shouldn't have to weigh the potential for challenging bad calls later in the game when deciding whether to throw the red flag now. The goal should always be getting every call right, one that could be achieved by expanding the number of challenges available or moving complete responsibility to the booth.
To be clear, this rant is not to suggest the Packers stole a victory or cheated or did anything other than what they should have done Sunday. This is not about the Packers or the Giants. It's about removing teams and strategy from efforts to ensure a well-called game, and instead placing it totally within the third-party area that officials are intended to inhabit.
And finally, it's not about the Minnesota Vikings, either. If you were watching their game in the fourth quarter Tuesday night, you saw quarterback Joe Webb get credit for a 6-yard run on third-down-and-6 -- a play that allowed the Vikings to run off another three minutes while nursing a 10-point lead over the Philadelphia Eagles.
Replays showed Webb's right knee hit the ground with the ball a full yard behind the first-down marker. It was a poor spot, but Eagles coach Andy Reid was powerless to do anything about it. Why? Because he had already used all of his timeouts and, thus, with about four minutes remaining in the game, lost the opportunity to challenge. (A challenge costs a timeout if it fails, so you can't buy one without it.)
In this case, you couldn't blame Reid for using up his challenges. He simply used his final timeout on the play before to stop the clock. To me, it doesn't seem fair for teams to save a timeout for a possible late-game challenge. That's a strategy that gets in the way of, rather than promotes, a well-officiated game.
Again, finally, and for the last time (I think): There should be no limitations on correcting bad calls.
And, oh, Happy New Year.
And now, on to our penultimate Challenge Tracker:
1. Pessimism in the NFC North: For the first time all season, the division had an undefeated week. Better later than never, right? What's more, all four victories were notably impressive. The Chicago Bears scored 38 points on the New York Jets' supposedly vaunted defense. The Green Bay Packers dropped 45 points on the New York Giants. The Detroit Lions scored 17 points in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter to win a road game in Miami. And the Minnesota Vikings upset one of the NFL's best teams on their own field after waiting 48 hours in a hotel for a delayed kickoff. Take a bow, Black and Blue.
2. Drama in Chicago: When the season began, who would have guessed the Bears would not only have the division locked up before the Week 17 matchup against the Packers, but also the NFC's No. 2 seed? The Bears remain an enigma to some, but I would count myself among their believers since they dismantled the Eagles last month. The Bears would be well-advised to keep pushing through their game against the Packers, regardless of the stakes. But at the very least, they'll have a well-deserved stress reduction this week.
3. Mistakes by Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears quarterback: Admit it. When Jets safety Dwight Lowery returned an interception 20 yards for a touchdown Sunday, you thought something along these lines: "Here it comes." Cutler has limited his interceptions all season after throwing an NFL-high 26 last year, but the national consensus seems to be that it is only a matter of time before he reverts. Instead, Cutler rallied to throw three long touchdown passes in the second half without another interception. He has 14 in 14 starts this season, four of which came in one game against the Washington Redskins. That means Cutler has 10 interceptions in his other 13 starts. Those are playoff-caliber numbers.
2. B.J. Raji, Green Bay Packers defensive tackle: As we discussed during training camp, the Packers needed Raji to be a difference-maker in his second season. Quietly, Raji has done just that. His sack of the Giants' Eli Manning last Sunday gave him 6.5 this season, the third-most of any defensive tackle in the NFL. Raji has been the workhorse and stalwart of an otherwise injury-plagued position group, rarely leaving the field and playing in just about every alignment that defensive coordinator Dom Capers conjures up. It was going to be difficult for Raji to make the Pro Bowl ahead of the Detroit Lions' Ndamukong Suh, whose nine sacks made him a lock, but he has definitely produced a Pro Bowl-caliber season.
3. Nate Vasher, Detroit Lions cornerback: There is no doubt that the Miami Dolphins targeted Vasher last Sunday. If I had Brandon Marshall on my team, I would do the same thing. Marshall was targeted on 16 passes, and he caught 10 for 102 yards. But Vasher provided a few glimpses of the cornerback he used to be, rallying to grab a key fourth-quarter interception and also tackling Dolphins tailback Ronnie Brown in bounds on the final play as the clock expired. Vasher shouldn't be starting in the NFL at this point, and he wouldn't be if it weren't for a rash of injuries in Detroit. But his career might not be over, either.
The Minnesota Vikings will be featured in four prime-time games, including the regular-season opener Sept. 9 at the New Orleans Saints. They'll play on ESPN's "Monday Night Football" on Oct. 11 (at the New York Jets) and Dec. 20 (Chicago Bears). Finally, they'll play a Sunday night game Oct. 24 (at the Green Bay Packers).
Let's see. The Saints were Favre's boyhood team before pummeling him in the NFC Championship Game. His two previous teams are the Packers and the Jets. His history with the Bears speaks for itself. That Metrodome game could be flexed out if Favre retires. But no one seems to think that's a possibility. Favremania has given the Vikings the highest of high-profile schedules.
Complaint department: Three games before the bye? Most teams consider an ideal bye week at midseason, but the Vikings will have nowhere close to that luxury. Two early home games means the Vikings should probably be 2-1 entering their Oct. 3 bye. But playing the final 13 games in succession isn't ideal for a team that hopes to make a deep run into the playoffs.
Getting "chilly:" Coach Brad Childress will have another chance to defeat his close friend and mentor, Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid, in a Dec. 26 game that could well carry significant NFC playoff implications. In four years, Childress is 0-2 against Reid. Both losses have been at the Metrodome.
Vikings Regular Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Thursday, Sep. 9, at New Orleans, 8:30 PM
Week 2: Sunday, Sep. 19, Miami, 1:00 PM
Week 3: Sunday, Sep. 26, Detroit, 1:00 PM
Week 4: BYE
Week 5: Monday, Oct. 11, at NY Jets, 8:30 PM
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 17, Dallas, 4:15 PM
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 24, at Green Bay, 8:20 PM
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 31, at New England, 4:15 PM
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 7, Arizona, 1:00 PM
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 14, at Chicago, 1:00 PM
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 21, Green Bay, 1:00 PM
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 28, at Washington, 1:00 PM
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 5, Buffalo, 1:00 PM
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 12, NY Giants, 1:00 PM
Week 15: Monday, Dec. 20, Chicago, 8:30 PM
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 26, at Philadelphia, 1:00 PM
Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 2, at Detroit, 1:00 PM
My first reaction: Pure fantasy. No NFC team would turn down a competitive offer from two AFC teams, and instead make a trade within a division, as a favor to the player being traded. The easy conclusion is that the Raiders and Bills fell short, if they even made an offer at all, and that the Redskins were the most serious suitor.
But I wonder if the Eagles didn't learn something from Green Bay and the Brett Favre debacle. The Packers were so focused on shipping Favre out of the division -- and really, out of the NFC -- that they might have inadvertently contributed to Favre's arrival in Minnesota.
As you might remember, the Packers weighed offers from Tampa Bay and the New York Jets. With the Buccaneers, Favre would have been reunited with coach Jon Gruden. Had the Packers accepted that offer, Favre (and Gruden) might still be with the Buccaneers.
Instead, Favre went to a team he had no connections with and no real incentive to stay with. The random destination almost certainly contributed to his motivation to find a way to sign with the Vikings.
You don't have to buy that theory, but trust me when I tell you there are some knowledgeable football people I trust who believe it.
The Eagles know McNabb's contract could expire after this season, and he could refuse an extension with his new team and become a free agent in 2011 if he wanted. By trading him to a mutually agreeable location, the Eagles have minimized the chances of that happening. You would think McNabb will sign an extension with the Redskins, meaning the Eagles will have directed his future more than the Packers did with Favre.
So while McNabb will now be in position to impact the Eagles' future in the NFC East, he will have to do it with the division's least competitive team. The Eagles are confident in their replacement, Kevin Kolb, and didn't see the necessity to banish McNabb to Siberia to protect themselves. It's a novel concept. Was it the right one? We'll soon see.
There have inevitably arisen comparisons between Kolb and Aaron Rodgers, who near-seamlessly took over for Favre in Green Bay. These suggestions are based primarily on the fact that both players spent multiple seasons backing up a Pro Bowl quarterback.
But let's be careful about assuming everything else will fall into place the same way. What Rodgers has done is exceptional, above-the-curve work. Let's not diminish it by suggesting the primary ingredient is having a few years of incubation on the bench.
Detroit should announce the acquisition of cornerback Dante Wesley sometime early this week. But as teams start to batten down for the draft, the Lions still have at least one important order of business remaining: Cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones.
There is clearly no rush to get Jones under contract, and it's possible the Lions will wait to see how they fare in the draft. But it's not out of the question that something could develop over the next week or two.
- Reporters who attended Philadelphia coach Andy Reid's interview session this week left believing McNabb is available via trade.
- The Philadelphia Inquirer reported the Eagles have lowered their asking price to a second-round draft pick.
- McNabb's first NFL quarterbacks coach was current Vikings coach Brad Childress, who has never hid his admiration for McNabb's development into a perennial Pro Bowl player.
- McNabb's position coach at Syracuse, Kevin Rogers, is the Vikings' quarterbacks coach.
- Although many of us expect Brett Favre to return to the Vikings this season, he has made no formal commitment. At age 40, Favre's status is always year-to-year.
There are some members of the Vikings organization who consider McNabb a natural successor to Favre, especially on a veteran team ready to challenge for the Super Bowl. So the Vikings have a decision to make, if they haven't already made it: Do they sit tight and assume Favre will return? Or do they eliminate the risk by trading for McNabb, in the process solidifying the position for more than one year?
To this point, there is no evidence the Vikings have inquired formally about a trade. Childress and Reid are close friends, so it's possible they have kept any conversations about the topic to themselves.
We know from past experience that Favre doesn't react well when pressed for offseason answers on his future. If the Vikings go to him now and say they will trade for McNabb unless he commits to playing, history tells us he will announce his retirement. If (and when) he reconsiders, it will be too late for the Vikings.
There are no obvious answers here. What say you?
Vikings nose tackle Pat Williams, meanwhile, said Brooking was lucky to escape the Minnesota sideline in one piece.
“We don’t care what Keith Brooking says,” Williams said. “He was about to get his ass whupped on our sideline over there. It don’t matter. Nobody said anything when they blew out the Eagles [the past two weeks]. It’s the playoffs. It ain’t no regular-season game. If you lose, you go home. We take no pity on them. Do they expect us to? I don’t care about no Brooking. He can say whatever he wants to say.”
To recap: Ahead 27-3 late in the fourth quarter, Childress left his starters in the game. The Cowboys gave up the ball on downs at their 37-yard line with 5:26 remaining, and the Vikings threw three passes on their ensuing six-play drive. The final one was an 11-yard touchdown pass to tight end Visanthe Shiancoe on fourth-and-3 with 1:55 remaining.
Cowboys coach Wade Phillips said the Vikings ran up the score. Said Brooking: “I thought it was classless. I thought it was B.S. Granted, we get paid to stop them, but we had zero timeouts left. I didn’t think there was any call for that.”
Told of Brooking’s comments, Shiancoe laughed and said: “OK, we apologize. I’m sorry. Better?”
The Vikings certainly didn’t need that score to win the game, and I stand by what I wrote after the game. But do the Cowboys have a right to be upset? Did they run it up the past two weeks on Philadelphia? Don’t forget that Childress and Eagles coach Andy Reid remain close friends.
Feel free to weigh in both this post and over at SportsNation.
ESPN.com's Matt Mosley and Kevin Seifert have spent most of the week buried in the film room -- er, basement -- refining the blogging plan for the rest of the week. As now they’re ready to start breaking down this most critical game.
Kevin Seifert: Greetings from the North Pole, Matt. Actually, you’re going to get lucky this weekend. We’re expecting unseasonably warm temperatures here this weekend, with highs in the 30s. Normally we call that “May” in Minnesota. Usually at this time of year, you can get frostbite on half your hand while walking from the parking lot to the media entrance at the Dome.
Matt Mosley: I will look for any excuse to visit Minneapolis in mid-January and this game is as good as anything else I might come up with. Sid Hartman and I have been waiting on this postseason matchup for years. Jerry Jones tried to capture the "charm" of the Metrodome in his new Cowboys Stadium, but I'm not sure things worked out. And by the way, Drew Pearson told me to pass along his best wishes to Vikings fans.
KS: OK, Matt. Let’s get down to it. Everyone in the world thinks the Cowboys are going to win this game. Even ESPN’s Trent Dilfer is convinced of it. You’ve been close to the Cowboys this season. Are they as hot as everyone says they are?
MM: Kevin, in my eight years of covering the team, I've never been around a more confident bunch of players. I think they're the hottest team in the NFC right now because of something that took place last month in New Orleans. The players got sick and tired of all the talk of their December failures and went out and overwhelmed a Saints team in the Superdome. That game did wonders for the Cowboys' confidence. No quarterback in the playoffs has performed as well as Tony Romo over the past six games and he benefits from having a dominant defense. So yes, I think the Cowboys are as hot as everyone at the Mall of America is indicating.
KS: Actually, Matt, you need to be more specific. We now have Mall of America Field here in addition to the Mall of America. At Mall of America Field, the conversation is revolving around two things: Are the Vikings willing to accept that they are a pass-first offense? And can their tackles, Bryant McKinnie and Phil Loadholt, keep DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer at bay long enough for Brett Favre to get the ball downfield?
If they come out of the gates aggressively and use their full array of offensive weapons, I think they can put up some serious points against the Cowboys' defense. The Vikings are one of two teams in NFL history to have six players catch at least 40 passes. That’s too many receivers for any defense to keep track of if the pass protection is there.
What’s your take, Matt? Do you think Ware & Co. can be slowed down?
MM: I agree with the aforementioned Dilfer that Loadholt and McKinnie are outmatched by the Cowboys' outside linebackers. Since the last time you saw this team, Spencer has become a force. Cowboys defensive coordinator/head coach Wade Phillips even lines them up next to each other at times. Donovan McNabb didn't have a chance against the Cowboys' pass rush and you can argue that Jason Peters and Winston Justice are superior offensive tackles to what the Vikings have to offer. The Cowboys' plan is to make sure Favre has to test those 40-year-old legs. The last time he saw this defense, he completed 5 of 14 passes and was intercepted twice before being knocked out of the game at Texas Stadium. He was of course with a 10-1 Packers team at the time in '07. Keith Brooking told me Tuesday that the Eagles and Vikings have similar offenses, but he alluded to the fact that Brad Childress is much more likely to use the running game than his mentor, Andy Reid. Of course, that's a lot easier to do when you have the pride of Palestine, Texas, Adrian Peterson, in your backfield. It's been quite a while since a team has put up points on this defense -- and that includes a Chargers team that was held to a season-low in points. I don't think we'll have a shootout on our hands, but Sid might have other ideas.
On the other side, however, is Phillips. Do Minnesota fans have anything to fear in this matchup?
MM: Calling Phillips an elephant is a low blow, Kevin. The man might fill out a pair of Russell coaching shorts, but he deserves better from you. And yes, there's reason for Vikings fans to fear The Wade. No matter what you say about his head-coaching credentials, he's always been an excellent defensive coordinator. He puts players in position to succeed and he does a superb job of exploiting weaknesses. From reading your fine work on a regular basis, I'm aware that Vikings center John Sullivan isn't a large man. He'll be facing one of the best nose tackles in the game in Jay Ratliff. From time to time, the behemoth-type centers give Ratliff a little trouble. But he's been known to destroy the guys who are close to his size. Everyone's focused on the offensive tackles, but I could see the "Ratt" having a big game in the middle. It all starts with him in this defense.
KS: Interesting. OK, Matt. This was great but is only a step in our coverage plan for this week. Keep checking back on the NFC East and NFC North blogs through Sunday.
MM: Just to be honest, my coverage plan for Saturday is a little weak because of travel. But I've thoroughly enjoyed this tremendous show of synergy within the NFL Blog Network. Kevin, I arrive at 8:10 local time on American, so please pass that along to my driver. Peace and courage from the Beast.
Three weeks after the Vikings extended Childress’ contract through the 2013 season, the Eagles did the same Wednesday for Reid. Both coaches’ contracts were due to expire after the 2010 season. They also have the same agent, Bob LaMonte.
Coaches' salaries are among the best-kept secrets in the NFL. But I think it’s fair to say LaMonte used Childress’ numbers as a baseline for negotiations with the Eagles. So it was important for LaMonte to finalize the Childress deal before agreeing to anything with the Eagles. From a business perspective, Reid’s tenure and long-term success dictate his contract should come in higher than Childress’.
Reid and Childress are longtime friends, dating back to their time coaching together at Northern Arizona University in the late 1980s, and they still vacation together. Perhaps Reid should pick up the tab next time.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- That's right. The NFC North Winnebago pulled into the Bay late Sunday night, and I'll be at attention when the Packers open minicamp Monday morning.
(Those who make the trip across Wisconsin state Hwy. 29 will be glad to know that the Wausau overpass has been completed. No stoplights now between I-94 and Shawano. Nice.)
I'll be stationed here for the next couple of days to bring you some perspective on the state of the Packers and their transition to a 3-4 defense. I think I have a pretty good idea of what you're interested in, based on your missives during the offseason, but be sure to leave a note in the comments section of this post if you have any last-minute issues for me to address.
The morning practice starts around 11:15 a.m. ET. Look for some early-afternoon updates before the second practice, scheduled at around 4 p.m. ET.
First, let's catch up on the weekend:
- Mike Vandermause of the Green Bay Press-Gazette documents a 10-day trip that Packers receiver Donald Driver and defensive end Aaron Kampman took to Africa in February. Said Kampman: "You get a different reality of the fact there's a lot of need in the world. Everyone can do this. It doesn't just have to be a professional athlete."
- For those interested in the business side of sports, Green Bay reported a $20.1 million profit for 2008, but an investment loss brought its net income down to about $4 million. Here's a take from Chris Jenkins of the Associated Press. Don Walker of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel broke down the numbers here. The Packers release this information because they are a publicly-owned business.
- The key to the Packers' 2009 season, quarterback Aaron Rodgers tells Greg A. Bedard of the Journal Sentinel, is to avoid distractions. "There are always going to be distractions, we just have to manage them. We have so much talent in this room; the only thing that can stop us is ourselves. And we stopped ourselves way too many times last year. If we can limit the distractions, I think we're going to be in a position to make a big run."
- Rodgers isn't likely to be distracted by Brett Favre's arrival in Minnesota, at least not this week. Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune points out that Vikings coach Brad Childress is on vacation in Alaska, where he is fishing with Philadelphia coach Andy Reid.
- Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune talks to former players about new Bears defensive line coach Rod Marinelli. Said Tampa Bay's Chris Hovan: "I'll never forget this quote from him for the rest of my life: 'If I see a little, I see a lot. If I see a lot, I see nothing.' That's the basis of his teachings. He was always on the details."
- Former NFL receiver Peter Warrick, who is playing for an indoor football league in Illinois, would love to play for the Bears, writes the Tribune's David Haugh.
- Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com looks at the positional battles brewing as Detroit opens minicamp this week. New coach Jim Schwartz literally has no depth chart at this point.