NFC North: Dave Toub

BBAO: Fresh start for Devin Hester?

February, 4, 2013
2/04/13
7:45
AM ET
We're Black and Blue All Over:

The NFL's 2012 season concluded Sunday night with Super Bowl XLVII, although we in the NFC North have been on hiatus for a month already. Now, we all enter into the offseason mode of the kind of player movement that Chicago Bears kick returner Devin Hester hinted at over the weekend.

In an interview with Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune, Hester said he wants to continue playing -- backing down from last month's threat to retire -- but suggested he might benefit from a fresh start with a new team.

Because he is under contract for 2013, Hester would need to convince the Bears to trade or release him in order to move on. It's not clear yet how new coach Marc Trestman would use him, but at 30, you would think Hester has several productive years ahead of him.

Hester is the best return man in the history of the NFL, and that fact alone should force the Bears to exhaust every effort to keep him. On the other hand, sitting on prominent players who want out is never a good team-building policy.

We also shouldn't disregard the financial side of this situation. Hester has only one year remaining on his contract. I'm guessing he wouldn't be looking for a fresh start anymore if the Bears offer him a market-level contract extension.

Continuing around the NFC North:
  • AFC West blogger Bill Williamson wonders if Hester could wind up with the Kansas City Chiefs, who hired longtime Bears special teams coordinator Dave Toub.
  • Hester's agent, Eugene Parker, told Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun-Times: "Once the Bears conclude their evaluation of their players and their team, I expect to have discussions about Devin's future. Until they finish that, everything is premature to talk about."
  • Former Green Bay Packers linebacker Dave Robinson was "Lawrence Taylor before there was a Lawrence Taylor," writes Cliff Christl of the Green Bay Press-Gazette. Robinson was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday.
  • Robinson, via Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "I wasn't surprised as much as I was just relieved. If I didn't make it this time, I didn't know what I was going to do. You can't get back on as a senior candidate. I'm 71 years old. I would never be back. This would be my one last shot."
  • Minnesota Vikings tailback Adrian Peterson was "the logical and obvious choice" for the NFL's Most Valuable Player award, writes Judd Zulgad of 1500ESPN.com.
  • Former Vikings receiver Cris Carter's son, Duron, will present him at the Hall of Fame induction ceremony next summer, notes Mark Craig of the Star Tribune.
  • Defensive lineman Curley Culp became the 19th player to enter the Hall of Fame who once played for the Detroit Lions, notes Tim Twentyman of the Lions' website.
By the end of Sunday, it's possible the Chicago Bears will have concluded their first round of interviews in what has already been an epic coaching search. Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians was scheduled to be the 13th known candidate to speak with general manager Phil Emery. If there are more first-round interviews scheduled, they haven't been reported.

My educated guess is that some interviews have been completed in secrecy, so I wouldn't be surprised if Emery has spoken with 15 or more candidates. We've discussed the possibility that Emery is using this opportunity to pick the brains of as many smart assistant coaches as he can, but I think we have also seen an undeniable quality emerge as well.

Here's how Tennessee Titans general manger Ruston Webster put it last week during an interview with my AFC South colleague Paul Kuharsky on 104.5-FM in Nashville: "I know Phil Emery, and Phil Emery is about as thorough of a human being as I've ever known."

Meanwhile, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter, two of the coaches Emery has spoken with said "they never have interviewed with anyone as prepared and detailed" as him.

So before we try to ascribe some kind of ulterior motive to Emery's approach, and rather than conclude he is flailing blindly in the night, perhaps this search is best viewed as a physical extension of Emery's meticulous personality. Where and when it ends remains anyone's guess. Former NFL coach Jimmy Johnson tweeted that Emery favored his former assistant, current Montreal Alouettes coach Marc Trestman, but nothing more has come of what appears to be Johnson's personal view.

For the record, here are the Bears' Lucky 13 to this point:
  1. Arians
  2. Atlanta Falcons special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong
  3. Seattle Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell
  4. New Orleans Saints offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr.
  5. Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator Tom Clements
  6. Dallas Cowboys special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis
  7. Houston Texans offensive coordinator Rick Dennison
  8. Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy
  9. Minnesota Vikings special teams coordinator Mike Priefer
  10. Vikings special assistant to the head coach Mike Singletary.
  11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan
  12. Trestman
  13. Bears special teams coordinator Dave Toub
I can tell that a few of you are starting to get antsy about the Chicago Bears' coaching search, which is now well into its second week. All I can tell you at this point is that it appears the first round of interviews will continue at least through Sunday.

According to this timeline from Michael C. Wright of ESPNChicago.com, the Bears were scheduled to interview Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator Tom Clements on Thursday. Houston Texans offensive coordinator Rick Dennison will interview Friday, Seattle Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell on Saturday, and Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians will meet with them Sunday.

All told, the Bears have sought out first-round interviews with at least 13 candidates, including their special teams coordinator, Dave Toub. According to the Chicago Tribune, however, Toub interviewed recently for a job as an assistant with the Carolina Panthers, and also has a meeting scheduled with the Kansas City Chiefs.

At some point, the Bears presumably will narrow down their field and bring finalists to Halas Hall for second interviews. But you're looking at next week at the earliest for that portion of the process, assuming the second round doesn't start until the first round ends. Stay tuned.
We're Black and Blue All Over:

Our friends at ESPN Stats & Information have posted a statistic- and history-based spin on the discussion we've been having on Minnesota Vikings tailback Adrian Peterson's competition with Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning for the NFL's Comeback Player of the Year award.

You can read the entire post here. John McTigue offered these points among others in Peterson's favor:

Peterson's average of 112.8 yards per game and 5.8 yards per attempt have been carried out over a full season only four times in NFL history. On three of those occasions, the running back won the NFL's MVP award. It's a pretty elite list: Jim Brown, O.J. Simpson and Barry Sanders.

Peterson is averaging 6.3 yards per carry when defenders put at least eight men in the box. No NFL running back has faced such fronts more often than him.

Continuing around the NFC North:
  • Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher appears to consider the concussion issue as some do global warming, writes Rick Morrissey of the Chicago Sun-Times: "open to interpretation."
  • Bears tight end Kellen Davis is eager to put aside his poor performance last Sunday night, writes Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune.
  • Bears special-teams coordinator Dave Toub on punter Adam Podlesh, via Jeff Dickerson of ESPNChicago.com: "Podlesh is fine. He understands this a performance-based business that we are in, and we brought guys in just to see where they are at right now."
  • Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press: "The Lions are the only NFL team without a run of at least 20 yards this year, and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said that might have something to do with how defenses are playing Calvin Johnson."
  • The Lions are still trying to find an offensive balance, writes Chris McCosky of the Detroit News.
  • Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh on his game last Sunday against the Vikings, via Justin Rogers of Mlive.com: "Honestly, no performance is really good enough when you're not winning. I may have played well individually, but it wasn't enough as a team effort, and I didn't do enough to help my other teammates so we could win the game."
  • It doesn't appear that Green Bay Packers cornerback Sam Shields will play Sunday against the Lions, writes Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
  • Is Packers tight ends coach Jerry Fontenot a head coach in waiting? Quarterback Aaron Rodgers thinks so, writes Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com.
  • Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette: "James Starks probably has surpassed Alex Green as the Green Bay Packers’ primary running back, at least until Cedric Benson is back from a sprained foot."

BBAO: Bud Grant advised Seahawks on QB

September, 21, 2012
9/21/12
9:39
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We're Black and Blue All Over. (We're also on Facebook and Twitter.)


Here's an interesting side note to the Seattle Seahawks' decision to draft Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson, whose height -- just under 5-foot-11 -- had challenged conventional wisdom about the physical makeup of successful quarterbacks.

As Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette writes, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll reached out to former Minnesota Vikings coach Bud Grant, whom he had worked for in 1985. Carroll probed Grant about the pros and cons of Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton's relatively diminutive stature at 6-feet.

Carroll: "[Grant] relieved any concerns that I might have had, just because of the way he talked about what Fran was like. I know there’s not a lot of guys like this, but Russell's that exceptional and that unique. So we thought we had a real good one, and it's looking like he's on his way to a good start to his career."

So if Wilson and the Seahawks defeat the Green Bay Packers on "Monday Night Football", perhaps Grant can share in the victory.

Continuing around the NFC North:
  • Packers linebacker Erik Walden worked on getting his life in order after last year's legal troubles. Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel explains.
  • The Detroit Lions insist that safety Louis Delmas has not suffered a setback in his recovery from knee surgery last month, but coach Jim Schwartz acknowledged Delmas is still "week-to-week." Chris McCosky of the Detroit News has more.
  • Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan on what's wrong with quarterback Matthew Stafford, via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press: "Nothing in my mind. I think he's done a great job of preparing for the games and executing the game plans. Sure, there's a few plays we'd like to have back, but he's played within everything that we've asked him to do, and he's worked at such length at other parts of his game that may not necessarily show up on the box [score], that as time goes on are going to pay off for us."
  • Justin Rogers of Mlive.com checks in with Lions linebacker Stephen Tulloch and defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch as they prepare to play against the Tennessee Titans, their former team.
  • Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher on quarterback Jay Cutler, via Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune: "I didn't pay attention to it locally or nationally. Everyone was asking me about it, but I still haven't seen what happened. And I don't really care what happened. Whatever happened, it's over with now. We've moved on. It doesn't seem to be an issue. Someone told me there was a mutiny against Jay in our locker room. If there was, I didn't know about it. I guess we're supposed to be mad at him, but things happen on the sideline."
  • Bears defensive tackle Henry Melton has three sacks in two games, notes Jeff Dickerson of ESPNChicago.com.
  • Bears special teams coordinator Dave Toub vowed that his group will stay aggressive, writes Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun-Times.
  • Minnesota Vikings opponents are continuing to throw the ball at will against their defense, writes Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com.
  • The Vikings didn't find out that linebacker Erin Henderson had a concussion until Wednesday, notes Dan Wiederer of the Star Tribune.
  • The Vikings have taken defensive tackle Kevin Williams off the field on some third-down situations, which Williams called "shocking." Jeremy Fowler of the St. Paul Pioneer Press has more.
We're Black and Blue All Over:

It sounds as though Chicago Bears cornerback Charles Tillman will be available for Thursday's game against the Green Bay Packers. But Tillman didn't practice Tuesday because of a shin injury, and it's fair to ask why that injury occurred while Tillman was on the punt return team in the first half of last Sunday's victory over the Indianapolis Colts.

Is it worth risking injury to your No. 1 cornerback, one who is now 31 years old, on special teams? It's not a new question, and here's how special teams coordinator Dave Toub addressed it, according to the Chicago Tribune: "We've got to have him on the field because he's the best guy that we've got. He can shut down a gunner single-handedly. There are not many guys that can do that.''

Toub said that about seven starters play at least one phase of special teams. Given how many games Toub's group has helped the Bears win over the years, it's hard to argue with his methods or coach Lovie Smith's personnel decisions. A cornerback can get kicked in the shin on defense as easily as he can on special teams.

Continuing around the NFC North:
We're Black and Blue All Over:

One potentially significant injury that has fallen under the radar, at least on this blog, is the hip flexor suffered Saturday night by Chicago Bears punter Adam Podlesh. The injury is to Podlesh's left (non-kicking) hip, but generally, any lower-body injury has the potential to throw off a punter's or place-kicker's effectiveness.

The injury has not been advertised as long-term, but special-teams coordinator Dave Toub said Tuesday that he is "very concerned" and revealed Podlesh is visiting specialists to "figure out what we need to do."

Undrafted rookie Ryan Quigley will punt Friday for the Bears against the New York Giants, but the Bears must decide after that point whether Podlesh will be ready for the regular season or if they need to make other plans. They were scheduled to work out free agent Matt Dodge on Tuesday and could monitor the waiver wire during final cuts as well.

Continuing around the NFC North:

CampTour'12: Bears Day 2

July, 27, 2012
7/27/12
7:09
PM ET
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Let's roll through some thoughts and observations after watching the Chicago Bears' second training-camp practice:

  • One of the prettiest plays in 1-on-1 drills came when receiver Earl Bennett hauled in a long pass down the right sideline from quarterback Jay Cutler. Bennett used some crafty veteran contact with his left arm to keep cornerback Kelvin Hayden at bay.
  • After fans cheered Bennett's catch, cornerback Tim Jennings turned to the crowd and said: "Hey, we [cornerbacks] play for you guys, too." Jennings drew a laugh.
  • The Bears' three-receiver set has been pretty consistent: Brandon Marshall, Devin Hester and Bennett usually in the slot. When Hester was shaken up briefly during team drills, rookie Alshon Jeffery replaced him on the outside. So that gives you a clear sense of the depth chart as it stands now. If the Bears keep veterans Devin Thomas and Eric Weems for special-teams purposes, and that is quite possible, it will be difficult for 2011 slot receiver Dane Sanzenbacher to make the team.
  • Special-teams coordinator Dave Toub put out some interesting lineups during kickoff-return drills. Bennett was among those manning a front-line position. Two others were rookies, safety Brandon Hardin and tight end Evan Rodriguez. Historically, it's fair to make assumptions about a young player's chances to make the team based on his standing on special teams. In other words, it's looking good very early for Rodriguez, especially. Hardin was already a lock to make the team.
  • We didn't see new defensive tackle Brian Price on Friday, a day after the Bears acquired him in a trade from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, because his physical was not complete. The Bears indicated that should happen Saturday. According to the collective bargaining agreement, however, Price must ease into training camp with three unpadded practices before he can join the team fully. So it will be a bit of time before Price is up to speed.
  • For those interested in such things, during team drills, it was quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates who relayed plays via radio to Cutler. Bates stood next to offensive coordinator Mike Tice during the process.
  • In person, running back Michael Bush proved to be a much bigger dude than I thought he was. The Bears list him at 6-foot-1 and 245 pounds, but when you see him in a T-shirt on rather than a jersey, you could easily mistake him for a linebacker or even a small defensive end.
  • The Bears' first full-pads practice is scheduled for Saturday night. I won't miss it.

BBAO: Rookie camps complete

May, 14, 2012
5/14/12
7:30
AM ET
We're Black and Blue All Over:

Good morning. Three rookie minicamps over the weekend leaves us with more local links than a person has the right to expect on the second Monday in May. In this post, I've tried to pick out the highlights. Many of them don't relate to rookies, but be aware I'll have a second post up soon that addresses some of the questions we had Friday about these camps.
  • New Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Mike Tice wants players to "play fast" in his scheme, according to Michael C. Wright of ESPNChicago.com. Tice: "We don’t want to be out on the field and have the kids think[ing] too much. We don't want to make it hard for the kids. We want to make sure the kids know exactly what we’re gonna do, when we're gonna call it and why we’re gonna call it. That's our job as coaches. We have some great athletes on offense. We have to put them in a position to show us and show the fans, and show the people that love the Bears, their athleticism and explosiveness. We want to be explosive."
  • Bears special teams coordinator Dave Toub downplayed any possibility other than Devin Hester being his top punt and kickoff returner in 2012. Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune has more.
  • Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun-Times checks in with former Bears defensive tackle Tommie Harris, whose wife died unexpectedly three months ago.
  • New Bears quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates will have starter Jay Cutler rolling more often than he did under Mike Martz, according to Dan Pompei of the Tribune.
  • Detroit Lions defensive end/linebacker Ronnell Lewis is "nicknamed the Hammer for a reason," writes Bob Wojnowski of the Detroit News.
  • Receiver Ryan Broyles was an "impatient observer" at the Lions' rookie minicamp, notes Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.
  • Justin Rogers of Mlive.com offers five observations from the Lions' camp, including: "Linebacker Travis Lewis looked very comfortable in the defensive scheme, playing both outside and middle linebacker."
  • Green Bay Packers tight end Andrew Quarless (knee) isn't expected to be cleared to practice when training camp begins, according to Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
  • Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette takes a look at the Packers' current in-house options as a developmental center. He also notes the Packers have three assistant coaches who played center in the NFL.
  • The Packers might not give much training camp work to defensive linemen Mike Neal and Anthony Hargrove, both of whom are suspended during the early part of the season. Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com has more.
  • Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton will formally sign the Minnesota Vikings' stadium bill on Monday, according to the Associated Press via 1500ESPN.com.
  • Richard Meryhew of the Star Tribune looks at the challenges of designing, planning and building the team's new stadium in a four-year timeline.
  • New Vikings receiver Jerome Simpson on his recent 15-day jail sentence, via Bob Sansevere of the St. Paul Pioneer Press: "It was terrible. It sucked. Any kids out there, that's a place you don't want to be. Somebody tells you when to wake up, when to make your bed, when to take a shower, when you can have a snack. That's an obstacle you don't want to face. I want all kids to learn not to go down that path and to learn from me."
Thanks to everyone who responded to the mailbag request this week. Keep in mind that the best mailbag questions, at least in the mind of the person choosing said questions for publication, have cross-division appeal and usually range in scope beyond simple fact-finding. (Boooring!) Remember, we also tend to have impromptu Q&As on Twitter (@espn_nfcnblog) and on our ranging Facebook page (Kevin Seifert Espn), complete with an awesomely new cover photograph.

Onward…

In his usual diplomatic style, Ben of Denver notes our post on the Minnesota Vikings' plans for the No. 3 overall pick and writes: So I just want to be sure, you would rather have Christian Ponder over Robert Griffin III? (Andrew Luck is going to Indy). The guy who was the best pick in the draft simply because he was a QB taken in the first round, that's the guy you would rather have? Your blind love and endless defense of Ponder since that absurd proclamation entered your mind has been truly funny over the past nearly a full year now, but it has to end. Please.

Kevin Seifert: Shortly after the 2011 draft, I did in fact nominate Ponder as the best pick an NFC North team made. I thought at the time that the Vikings had no choice but to begin the process of finding their next quarterback, and I didn't agree with the idea that they should have waited for a future draft to take a higher-rated prospect. When you're talking about the quarterback position, you throw out conventional draft wisdom if you think you can get someone who can be a consistent starter.

I still think the Vikings made the right decision, but I also have written that Ponder's rookie season was the most disappointing in the division. He'll have an entire offseason to get himself straight and demonstrate why the Vikings went the route they did.

Whether I would pick Griffin this season wasn't the point of the post Ben referred to. All I've said so far is that the Vikings have offered no real indication that they'll consider Griffin, assuming Luck goes No. 1 overall. I haven't made my mind up on whether it would be wise for the Vikings to double up on quarterbacks at this moment. But I promise you, we'll get to that topic over the next few months.


Mike of Atlanta writes: Here's a scenario I haven't really heard anyone talk about: Devin Hester is starting to get up there in years (30 this November). It seems to me that speed is one of those things that drops off faster for players than other attributes that make a player successful in the NFL. The Bears tied up Dave Toub for at least the immediate future, virtually guaranteeing a competitive special teams corps. Wouldn't now be the best time for the Bears to leverage Hester -- who has always underperformed at receiver, which is a position they need to grow at -- to a team that needs a return man, in return for a tight end or a draft pick that could bolster other positions, and use one of their mid-to-late round picks to pick up another speedster?

Kevin Seifert: You're right, Mike. No one has really mentioned that. I have to say I double-checked Hester's birthday to make sure that he will in fact turn 30 during the season. He will. His career has moved quickly.

I think what football people would tell you is that speed is only part of Hester's success. His open-field running skills, his instincts and his innate knowledge of how to set up blocks have all contributed. That's why it's reasonable to believe he'll be really effective for years to come, even if he loses the top end of his speed.

Brian Mitchell, whose return records Hester has broken, was never a speedster. He played until he was 35 years old.


Robin of Chanhassen, Minn., writes: Any possibility the Green Bay Packers surprise us all and go after Cliff Avril?

Kevin Seifert: Any discussion on Avril presumes the Lions decide against using their franchise tag on him and aren't able to get him signed to a long-term deal before free agency opens March 13. And anything connecting the Packers to another team's veteran free agent suggests a reversal of general manager Ted Thompson's recent player acquisition habits.

With those two major caveats, Avril is an intriguing prospect because his size (260 pounds) and athletic ability suggest he could make a successful transition to outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. It probably makes more sense to consider him a linebacker in the Packers' scheme than thinking he might bulk up to become a true 3-4 defensive end.

NFL teams rarely allow bona fide pass rushers to reach the open market, and if Avril is available, perhaps that would be enough for Thompson to get involved. The Packers have limited salary cap space this offseason, and they already have significant money tied up in linebackers Desmond Bishop and A.J. Hawk, not to mention the looming extension they'll need to give Clay Matthews in the next year or two.

But Thompson would be well advised to give it careful thought, if nothing else, if he has the opportunity to team Matthews with a pass-rusher of Avril's accomplishments and weaken a division rival at the same time.


John of San Diego writes: Avril: "A lot of teams don't think the Lions will let me hit free agency. But a few teams have called." Did the new CBA do away with tampering?

Kevin Seifert: John accurately pulled that quote from a Detroit Free Press story. Tampering is still against NFL rules. I guess the best way to put it is that we would all be naïve to think it doesn't occur at some level. And usually, what goes around comes around. Avril later clarified his comments to the Free Press, saying other players have heard their coaches say they would like to have a player like him.


Dave of Ithaca, New York, writes: How much cap room do you think the Lions can realistically make in order to try and keep Avril and Stephen Tulloch around? Can they keep them both? Do you foresee any surprise cuts for guys like Corey Williams or Stephen Peterman in order to make it happen?

Kevin Seifert: At last check, the Lions were pretty close to the NFL's projected limit of $120 million for 2012. I have to admit that I don't see how the math works for them to re-sign both Avril and Stephen Tulloch, even if they are able to extend the contract of receiver Calvin Johnson and reduce his cap number for 2012. There will also have to be some combination of roster cuts/restructuring and salary cap tricks, including borrowing from future years.

Williams' name surfaces often as a possible cap casualty, mostly because he's scheduled to earn $5 million in 2012 but also because the Lions drafted a defensive tackle (Nick Fairley) in the first round last year. Williams seems a more likely candidate than Peterman.
We can cross off one of the many swirling coaching situations in the NFC North now that the Chicago Bears have re-signed special teams coordinator Dave Toub.

Toub's contract had expired and he recently interviewed for the head-coaching position with the Miami Dolphins. It appears the Dolphins have moved on to a new batch of candidates, and the Bears jumped at the opportunity to bring back one of the game's top special-teams gurus before he began soliciting offers from other teams.

The conclusion to the Toub story leaves us with these coaching storylines in the division:
  1. The Bears still need to hire a quarterbacks coach/passing game coordinator and an offensive line coach to replace Mike Tice, who was promoted to offensive coordinator.
  2. The Minnesota Vikings' entire defensive staff remains in flux without a coordinator in place. Indianapolis Colts defensive backs Alan Williams is the latest candidate to get an interview for that job. Coordinator Fred Pagac and defensive line coach Karl Dunbar have both been fired.
  3. Up to five Green Bay Packers assistants could be candidates for promotion elsewhere, some for the same job. Offensive coordinator Joe Philbin has interviewed for the head coaching job in Miami, has another interview scheduled with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and could generate interest from the Oakland Raiders. Assistant head coach/inside linebackers Winston Moss could be a candidate for the Raiders, as could Philbin, defensive coordinator Dom Capers and safeties coach Darren Perry. Finally, quarterbacks coach Tom Clements has an interview scheduled with the Buccaneers.
Jeff Fisher's decision to join the St. Louis Rams apparently leaves two NFC North assistants in play for the Miami Dolphins job. Fisher chose the Rams over the Dolphins earlier Friday.

The Dolphins have interviewed Bears special-teams coordinator Dave Toub and Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin, among others. Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer is another candidate.

It's impossible to know Philbin's situation relative to the Dolphins job given the tragedy his family suffered this week. The funeral for his son, Michael, was scheduled for Friday. Michael Philbin, 21, drowned Sunday in an icy Wisconsin river.

BBAO: Bears could lose Dave Toub

January, 3, 2012
1/03/12
7:10
AM ET
We're Black and Blue All Over:

With so much discussion recently about the future of Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz, we've hardly noted that another prominent Bears assistant also has an expiring contract and is uncertain to return.

Highly regarded special teams coordinator Dave Toub is a coaching "free agent" and has aspirations to be a head coach. In a story first reported by the Chicago Tribune, Toub is a candidate for the Miami Dolphins' job and has been scheduled for an interview.

Toub would seem likely to return to Chicago if he doesn't get the Dolphins job, but as a free agent he would have the opportunity to field offers to fulfill the same job elsewhere. The Bears might have to match a big contract offer to retain him. Stay tuned.

Continuing around the NFC North:

BBAO: Lions, Packers move on

December, 29, 2011
12/29/11
8:20
AM ET
We're Black and Blue All Over:

As it turns out, the Green Bay Packers' reserve offensive lineman who got stomped on Thanksgiving Day by Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh likely will be in the starting lineup Sunday for the rematch between the two teams. But Suh and guard Evan Dietrich-Smith long ago made amends via phone, and the incident hasn't exactly been at the tip of either teams' lips this week.

"There's no hard feelings and that's pretty much it," Dietrich-Smith told reporters in Green Bay. He'll likely start at left guard Sunday, which would put him on the opposite side that Suh usually lines up on.

Said Suh, according to Chris McCosky of the Detroit News: "My main focus is on the guy who is in front of me. If he's in front of me, then maybe I will chat with him, go against him, beat him and try to get some sacks."

Continuing around the NFC North:

BBAO: Accuracy and Donovan McNabb

September, 29, 2011
9/29/11
7:15
AM ET
We're Black and Blue All Over:

The Minnesota Vikings' quest to smooth out quarterback Donovan McNabb's mechanics, as explained by Jeremy Fowler of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, is a warning sign on several levels.

First, McNabb is in his 13th season and will be 35 in November. You don't typically see NFL teams tinkering with the mechanics of a veteran and presumably established quarterback at that point in his career, especially during the season.

Second, the Vikings have reacted to McNabb missing some open receivers and having some accuracy issues. Quite frankly, McNabb is performing at about his career level in that area. He is completing 58.0 percent of his passes this season. His career completion percentage is 58.9. McNabb has been many things during his career, but the NFL's most accurate passer isn't one of them.

When asked if he needed to change anything Wednesday, McNabb said: "No."

I don't blame him. After 13 years in the NFL, usually you're best off going with what got you here.

Obviously, the Vikings have the right to identify flaws and should attempt to coach any player toward a direction that could makes him better. But when it's the accuracy of your veteran quarterback at issue, there won't be any easy fixes.

Continuing around the NFC North:
  • At a hearing about a referendum on the Vikings' stadium plans, opponents "overwhelmingly" outnumbered those who want to see the stadium built, according to Rochelle Olson of the Star Tribune.
  • The Vikings will induct defensive end Chris Doleman into their Ring of Honor next month, notes Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com.
  • Chicago Bears offensive line coach Mike Tice won't get involved in play calling, according to Jeff Dickerson of ESPNChicago.com.
  • Bears special teams coach Dave Toub on the penalty that nullified the Bears' trick play last Sunday against the Green Bay Packers, via Mark Potash of the Chicago Sun-Times: "I'm not sure what he saw, to be honest with you. I think maybe the official thought [Corey Graham] was trying to prevent [Jarrett Bush] from going to Devin [Hester], which is where we wanted him to go. He was just kind of pushing him that way."
  • Hester said he needs to get more separation from defenders, according to Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune.
  • Sunday's game at the Dallas Cowboys will be a homecoming for Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford. Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press has more.
  • Lions coach Jim Schwartz on the status of defensive tackle Nick Fairley (foot), via Tim Twentyman of the Detroit News: "He's on a good program and he's making improvements and we'll get him back on the field as soon as we can. That's a difficult thing to come back from. I think we're on a good program and we're in a position where we don't have to rush it and put ourselves in a position that's not good for either us or the player."
  • The Lions will face Cowboys pass-rusher DeMarcus Ware after consecutive weeks of facing Jared Allen and Tamba Hali, notes Philip Zaroo of Mlive.com.
  • Packers safety Morgan Burnett is quickly making a name for himself, writes Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
  • Packers center Scott Wells should be in line for a contract extension, writes Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
  • Packers tailback Ryan Grant on the bruised kidney that could keep him out of Sunday's game against the Denver Broncos, via Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com: "I feel fine. That's the problem, I guess -- that I feel fine. I guess that doesn't mean anything."

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NFC NORTH SCOREBOARD

Thursday, 9/4
Sunday, 9/7
Monday, 9/8