NFC North: Perry Fewell

We're Black and Blue All Over:

Former NFL defensive tackle Warren Sapp piled on Tuesday to the season-long criticism of Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh during a media session at the site of Super Bowl XLVI, wondering "what universe" Suh is living in after minimizing his culpability in various interviews. (Anwar S. Richardson of has more.)

But what I found far more interesting was Sapp's analysis of Suh's performance on the field, which dipped significantly in 2011 from a statistical standpoint. As Chris McCosky of the Detroit News points out, Sapp wonders if the offseason surgery Suh had last season on his shoulder sapped some strength and exposed his lack of technique in the pass rush.

"He plays such a power game," Sapp said, "just grabbing people and slinging them out of the way. He had rotator cuff surgery. I had one on each shoulder and I know what that's like."

Sapp added: "From his first year to his second year, he hasn't worked on anything. We're looking at the same guy rushing in the same fashion as he did when he first got into the league. You can get away with that at first because they haven't seen you. But that second year, you've got to come show me something, son. He came with that same bull rush."

As we've said many times, the best way for Suh to overcome criticism of his style is to be an elite producer on the field. Sapp's insight on that issue is not to be ignored.

Continuing around the NFC North:
  • Lions defensive end Cliff Avril during a radio interview, via the Detroit Free Press: "[I] would love to be a Lion, I'd love to be in Detroit. I've been here four years, I see how good the team can be, and I'd like to be a part of it. But it's also a business. Like I said, I think it will play itself out and hopefully I'm here."
  • Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers reiterated on his ESPN 540 radio show that he hopes quarterbacks coach Tom Clements stays with the team in some capacity in 2012. Jason Wilde of explains.
  • Kareem Copeland of the Green Bay Press-Gazette checks in with former Packers offensive lineman Nick McDonald, who caught on this season with the New England Patriots.
  • New York Giants receiver Hakeem Nicks remains "baffled" by how the Packers defended him on a Hail Mary touchdown pass two weeks ago at Lambeau Field, according to Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
  • Tom Pelissero of grades the Minnesota Vikings' offense.
  • Minnesota leaders are confident that the legalization of electronic pulltabs in bars could generate $72 million annually, more than enough to fund the state's share of a new Vikings stadium, according to the Star Tribune.
  • The Vikings signed linebacker Solomon Elimimian, who was named the hardest hitter of last season in the CFL, notes Mark Craig of the Star Tribune.
  • Former Chicago Bears defensive end Mark Anderson has thrived in the Patriots' 3-4 defense, writes Jeff Dickerson of
  • New Bears general manager Phil Emery will bring a different philosophy of scouting to the franchise, notes Michael C. Wright of
  • Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell on why he turned down a similar job with the Bears in 2010, via Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun-Times: "I love Lovie Smith and enjoyed my time in Chicago. [but] I knew that was Coach Smith's defense. He is an excellent defensive coach and I just thought that at the time, I probably needed to step out on my own and run my own defense. It was always going to be coach Smith's defense and if I was going to make my mark in coaching I had to do it Perry Fewell's way, and that was one of the main reasons I came to New York."

BBAO: Giants vow to hit Aaron Rodgers

December, 2, 2011
We're Black and Blue All Over:

I probably didn't pay enough attention Thursday to some aggressive words that came from New York Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell, especially considering how closely some members of the Green Bay Packers follow what it said and written about them. Here's how Fewell said his team will defend Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers this Sunday, via NFC East colleague Dan Graziano:
"We have to be very disciplined in our rush lanes. But more so than disciplined, we got to get after his [expletive]. If we do that and he scrambles, then that is the price he is going to have to pay because we are going to hit him. We are going to hit him."

Fewell was obviously upset about the way his defense played in a disastrous loss Monday to the New Orleans Saints, and part of his tirade was no doubt meant as motivation for his team. But he also threw down the gauntlet at Rodgers and the Packers' pass protection as well. We'll see how it works out for him.

Continuing around the NFC North:

NFC North at night

December, 1, 2011
Let's get to Thursday's newsbits in the NFC North, including an eye-opening quote from the defensive coordinator of the next team that will try to knock the Green Bay Packers off their undefeated perch:

Chicago Bears: Cornerback Charles Tillman (knee) and Zack Bowman (groin) were back to full participants in practice. Defensive lineman Anthony Adams (back) did not practice. Receiver/kick returner Devin Hester missed practice for personal reasons.

Detroit Lions: Running back Kevin Smith (ankle) returned to practice on a limited basis, spurring hopes he could play Thursday against the New Orleans Saints. Safety Louis Delmas (knee), cornerback Chris Houston (knee) and cornerback Brandon McDonald (thigh) all missed practice again.

Green Bay Packers: Linebackers A.J. Hawk (calf) and Desmond Bishop (calf) both sat out a second consecutive day of practice. Coach Mike McCarthy said the Packers have given Brad Jones some practice snaps at inside linebacker for depth purposes if Hawk and/or Bishop can't play Sunday against the New York Giants. Meanwhile, Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell told reporters in New York that his players will get after Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers on Sunday. Fewell, via Mike Garafalo of the Newark Star-Ledger: "[W]e just have to get after his [butt], okay? And if we do that and he scrambles then that's the price he's going to have to pay because we're going to hit him. We're going to hit him."

Minnesota Vikings: Joe Webb will move up to No. 2 quarterback in the wake of Donovan McNabb's departure, a move that will change plans to use Webb more as a receiver over the final five games. Running back Adrian Peterson (ankle) and linebacker E.J. Henderson (shoulder) again missed practice. Peterson told reporters that he hasn't given up hope for playing Sunday against the Denver Broncos. Meanwhile, the Minnesota state government announced it has an unexpected $876 million budget surplus over the next two years. But for those who hope that money could go toward a new Vikings stadium, be advised that the state is legally obligated to use the entire amount to replenish emergency reserve accounts.’s NFL writers rank the top 10 up-and-coming assistant coaches in the league today. Next week: Top players overall.

Seven NFL teams named new head coaches after last season, tapping into a pool that included experienced coordinators and relatively unknown assistants alike. The class of 2011 featured longtime candidates (Leslie Frazier, Ron Rivera). It also included a trusted position coach in Mike Munchak (Tennessee Titans) and a couple of relative hotshots in Hue Jackson (Oakland Raiders) and Pat Shurmur (Cleveland Browns).

Who will comprise the NFL's next batch of head-coaching candidates? That was the question hoped to answer in this week's edition of the offseason Power Rankings. We established one ground rule by eliminating any assistant who has already had a permanent head-coaching job. The idea was to develop a list that focused on the "next wave" of coaching candidates.

No less than 24 NFL assistants received at least one vote, a reflection of both the variables involved in head-coaching searches and the relative lack of national name recognition for all but the most highly regarded assistants.

So in that vein, it was no surprise to see four well-known assistants at the top of our list, headed by New York Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell -- who placed first or second on six of the eight ballots. Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan finished second, followed by New York Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and Arizona offensive line coach Russ Grimm.

Fewell is an ideal candidate in many ways, having spent time as the Buffalo Bills' interim coach in 2009 and leading a substantial turnaround of the Giants' defense last season. Fewell interviewed for four head-coaching jobs last winter, and NFC East blogger Dan Graziano suggested that experience, along with a high profile afforded to coaches in New York, make him "the most likely guy on the list to be a head coach soon."

Just don't bother forwarding his name to AFC South colleague Paul Kuharsky, who couldn't find room for Fewell on his 10-man ballot. Kuharsky noted the Giants' poor performance in Week 2 last season against the Indianapolis Colts, during which quarterback Peyton Manning threw three touchdowns and cruised to an easy 38-14 victory.

"Certainly I'm letting one game overinfluence my ballot," Kuharsky muttered. "But Fewell's plan for the Giants against the Colts last season was so bad that I could not help but score him down for it. Was he not familiar with how Peyton Manning and Indianapolis operate?"

We can't cover every coach who received votes in this exercise, but let's hit some of the more interesting names that received attention.

Another Ryan? Deserved or not, Ryan has long been considered a loose cannon. There is little doubt about his schematic prowess, but hiring him would require a confident owner ready to make a leap of faith.

The success of twin brother Rex Ryan with the Jets might have softened the perception of that risk, and collectively we see Rob Ryan on the doorstep of a job.

"Similar to Rex, Rob Ryan is good with X's and O's and has the type of outgoing personality players want to be around," AFC North blogger James Walker said. "I think both are equally important in today's NFL. Both brothers say exactly what's on their mind, and before that scared off a lot of teams. But Rex broke the ice with his success in New York and that could help Rob in the future."

The next generation: Schottenheimer has turned down more opportunities to interview for head-coaching jobs than he has actually submitted to. He has nixed requests from the Miami Dolphins and Bills in recent years, but he did interview for the Jets' job that ultimately went to Ryan. I placed him atop my ballot (he finished No. 3 overall) because I think NFL people have made up their mind that he is the kind of young and innovative assistant who can turn around their franchise. (Think: Cowboys coach Jason Garrett.)

Schottenheimer's pedigree doesn't hurt -- he's the son of longtime NFL coach Marty Schottenheimer -- and I'm not sure how closely teams will dissect the specifics of the Jets' offensive performance. Graziano, on the other hand, thinks Schottenheimer is close to coaching his way out of the golden-child image he cultivated and left him off his ballot.

"Having spent a good amount of time around that team the past couple of years, I just feel like defensive coordinator Mike Pettine is the more likely guy to end up a head coach," Graziano said. "Schottenheimer's under a ton of pressure as Ryan defers the offensive responsibilities to him. I feel like, if the offense has a bad year, he could end up in trouble or even out of a job. And given their youth at quarterback and running back and the uncertainty of their receiver situation, a bad year for the Jets' offense is possible.

"Now, he could be a genius, make chicken salad and be the next hot name eight months from now. But I think there's the potential that he may have already peaked as a hot coaching prospect and that he might not be set up to succeed in New York."

The big fella: Four years ago, Grimm thought he would be the next Pittsburgh Steelers coach. He moved to Arizona after the Steelers selected Mike Tomlin instead, and we view his status as a head-coaching candidate with wide disparity.

AFC West blogger Bill Williamson put Grimm atop his ballot, and AFC East blogger Tim Graham had him No. 2. Kuharsky and I left him off.

Williamson thinks Grimm has moved to "the top of the food chain" largely because most of his "hot-name" contemporaries have already gotten jobs. As well, Graham suggested that it will soon be Grimm's turn because he is still well-regarded throughout the league.

Personally, I couldn't get past Grimm's well-publicized gaffe after interviewing with the Chicago Bears, after which he referred to the team owners as the "McClaskey" family. I also agree with NFC West blogger Mike Sando, who ranked Grimm No. 8 and wondered: "Is he still ascending? Grimm seems content coaching the line in Arizona. He has plateaued and doesn't seem to be losing any sleep over it."

Welcome back: Unless you're a college football fan, you might not have heard of Jacksonville Jaguars offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter. He spent six years as the head coach at Arizona State, but has drawn some quiet acclaim for his work with the Jaguars and made a strong impression while interviewing with the Denver Broncos last winter.

"In a setting where he won't have to deal with boosters and can shine for being a smart X's and O's guy with strong coaching DNA," Kuharsky said, "I think he'd do far better. He's smart and will interview quite well. He really impressed John Elway and the Broncos before losing out to John Fox's experience. St. Louis wanted him as coordinator, but Jacksonville wouldn't let him go. He's heading into the final year of his contract. How Blaine Gabbert develops early on will have a big bearing on Koetter's future."

Secret weapon: In two years, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have developed quarterback Josh Freeman into one of the better starters in the league. The man largely responsible is offensive coordinator Greg Olson, who navigated a disastrous 2009 preseason -- coach Raheem Morris promoted him in the middle of training camp after firing Jeff Jagodzinski -- and NFL teams often seek out coaches with success developing young quarterbacks.

"I think Olson deserves a ton of credit for developing Freeman so quickly," said NFC South blogger Pat Yasinskas. "Freeman threw for 25 touchdowns and six interceptions in his first full season as a starter and carried an incredibly young team to a 10-6 record. I also think people need to look at what Olson did last year with rookie running back LeGarrette Blount and rookie receiver Mike Williams. He helped make them into instant stars."

Super Bowl entitlement: The Green Bay Packers were the only team to place more than one name in the top 10, as would be expected from a championship team. Assistant head coach/inside linebackers Winston Moss is at No. 6, while safeties coach Darren Perry finished No. 10. I also voted for receivers coach Edgar Bennett, who has moved over from running backs coach and is clearly being groomed for bigger things.

I'll detail my ranking of the Packers' assistants, including why I think so highly of Perry, in a future post for NFC North readers. But we'll say this for now: Moss is a strong leader who has drawn interest from the Raiders, while Perry is a disciple of Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers and his coveted 3-4 scheme.

Final Word: NFC North

October, 1, 2010
» NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 4:

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers can set an obscure NFL record if he throws for at least 300 yards Sunday against the Detroit Lions. Rodgers is tied for the most 300-yard games against one opponent to open a career (four). Sunday would be his fifth. In his career against the Lions, Rodgers has completed 70.3 percent of his passes for an average of 335.5 yards per game. He has 11 touchdown passes and one interception in those games. This season, the Lions' pass defense is allowing an average of 265 yards per game, ranking them No. 26 among NFL teams. I like Rodgers' chances, unless the Packers overtly try to establish their running game after some disappointing production over the past few weeks.

[+] EnlargeShaun Hill
AP Photo/Andy KingThe Lions will be trying to stop their 22-game road losing streak with Shaun Hill at quarterback.
The Lions' 0-3 start has brought an avalanche of almost unbelievable marks of futility. They have lost 40 of their past 43 games dating to 2007, the worst 43-game record in NFL history, according to STATS Inc. With a loss Sunday, the Lions can set a record for consecutive road defeats to one opponent. A loss Sunday would be their 19th consecutive in Wisconsin, not including a 1994 playoff game. It would also extend the Lions' overall road losing streak to 23 games, tying the second-longest mark in NFL history. The longest? That's right. It's the Lions' 24-game road losing streak from 2001-04. Ugh.

It's hard to imagine the Lions pulling an upset without tailback Jahvid Best in the lineup, and it's harder still to imagine Best at full strength after a turf toe injury sidelined him for most of the practice week. A foot injury for any speed-based player must be taken seriously. But as we discussed Thursday, the Lions really need Best and his open-field running threat to combat the deep zones they're seeing. If the Packers choose to focus on receiver Calvin Johnson, you would think that Best, along with tight ends Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler, would have openings in the flat and intermediate areas.

The Chicago Bears are the only 3-0 team in the NFC, but they're not getting much love from the prognosticators. Five of ESPN's 10 NFL experts picked the New York Giants to win Sunday night's game at the New Meadowlands Stadium. Our friends at AccuScore found that the Giants won 62 percent of their digital game simulations, primarily because quarterback Eli Manning held down his turnovers. The Giants have played better than their 1-2 record, and it's fair to say the Bears' defense will have to force Manning into mistakes to ensure a victory. So far this season, Manning has thrown six interceptions, lost two fumbles and been sacked seven times.

Don't look now, but Bears quarterback Jay Cutler has thrown for more yards in the season's first three games (870) than any passer in team history. He'll have an interesting matchup against the Giants' defense, the NFL's fourth-best pass defense based on total yards allowed (169.3 per game) but one that has only a modest six sacks, tied for No. 13 in the league. It's interesting to note that Cutler and the Bears will match wits against Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell, who spurned an offer to become defensive coordinator in Chicago this year and went to New York instead.
The offseason is nearly over. NFL vacations are under way, and we're going to follow suit here on the NFC North blog next week. We've got a few things to get to first, and we'll start with a look at the road we've traveled over the past five months.

There are any number of ways we can examine it, but I'm going to place 10 key offseason decisions into two categories: "smart" and "questionable." (Very creative, I know.) The final tally was just a nice round number, but I do think we can safely say it will take at least 10 victories for any NFC North team to make the 2010 playoffs.

So let's get to it:

[+] EnlargeNate Burleson
AP Photo/Paul SancyaNate Burleson gives the Lions another threat to score through the passing game.

  1. The Detroit Lions gave quarterback Matthew Stafford some tools. Receiver Nate Burleson, tight end Tony Scheffler, running back Jahvid Best are all independent playmakers who are threats to score anytime they touch the ball. New left guard Rob Sims should help stabilize the offensive line. From the outside, this infusion gives the Lions the beginnings of a personality. A number of questions remain on defense, but the Lions should be able to match the explosiveness of most opposing offenses. For the first time in several years, we at least have an idea of how the Lions plan to win games.
  2. In searching for a new offensive coordinator, the Chicago Bears did the best they could under the circumstances. Team president Ted Phillips has left little doubt that substantial improvement will be necessary this season for coach Lovie Smith to keep his job, an ultimatum that considerably limited the candidates for this job. Mike Martz has his faults, but he also has the ideal résumé for this situation: Experience, a scheme that has always scored points and a hit-the-ground sprinting mentality that should have the Bears improved from Week 1. Under its current circumstances, this team couldn't afford to take a chance on an unproven coordinator.
  3. The Green Bay Packers recognized their age and depth issues along the offensive line and took appropriate steps to remedy them. They re-signed tackles Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher but have also identified successors for both. Coach Mike McCarthy said rookie Bryan Bulaga will continue practicing behind Clifton at left tackle, so far resisting the urge to insert him into the competition at left guard. Meanwhile, T.J. Lang will be focused on the right side behind Tauscher. The combination gives the Packers a layer of competence followed by a layer of depth, two dynamics that were lacking when they opened the 2009 season.
  4. [+] EnlargeBryan Bulaga
    AP Photo/Morry GashRookie Bryan Bulaga gives the Packers added depth along the offensive line.
  5. The Minnesota Vikings played ball with quarterback Brett Favre. You might be tempted to ask if they had any other option, but we should still recognize the non-traditional approach Vikings coach Brad Childress openly took in dealing with his 40-year-old quarterback. Childress knows he has a much better chance to win the Super Bowl with Favre than without him, so he has given Favre the space to call his own shots. That freedom likely will include an excused absence from training camp. You might consider Childress hamstrung in this regard, but not every coach would openly admit to a separate set of standards among players. Had he pressured Favre at all, he would be looking at the likelihood of Tarvaris Jackson as his 2010 starter.
  6. NFC North teams recognized the division's substantive shift to the passing game and reacted accordingly. The Bears spent lavishly to sign pass-rusher Julius Peppers. Detroit coach Jim Schwartz was on the doorstep of defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch when the free-agent market opened, part of a massive overhaul of the Lions' defensive line. The Packers shifted B.J. Raji to nose tackle, the most natural position for him in a 3-4 scheme, in hopes of increasing their interior push on first and second downs. And the Vikings issued defensive end Ray Edwards a first-round tender as a restricted free agent, a move that ensured no one would sign him to an offer sheet.

  1. In focusing on their defensive line this offseason, the Lions left their linebacking and secondary exposed. I'm not yet convinced this was the wrong approach, and I'm glad the Lions didn't feel compelled to sign another layer of veteran "bridge" players who are either past their primes or never had one. But the bottom line is we can reasonably expect new, inexperienced starters at two linebacker spots, along with cornerback, nickelback and safety. The Lions have decided to take the plunge and trust their draft and development systems. It might work out, but there is measurable risk involved.
  2. Rod Marinelli
    Warren Wimmer/Icon SMIRod Marinelli knows there is work to be done with Chicago's defense.

  3. The Bears wanted Perry Fewell to join them as defensive coordinator, but Fewell spurned them to join the New York Giants instead. Left with few other options, the Bears promoted defensive line coach Rod Marinelli to the job. Marinelli initially was hesitant about the job; he has never been an NFL coordinator and now will have a whole new set of responsibilities on game day. Marinelli's close relationship with Smith suggests more status quo and less tweaking. Are those the appropriate ingredients for a defense that has been slipping slowly for three years?
  4. Green Bay safety Atari Bigby, legitimately handed a tough situation by changes to the NFL's offseason rules, skipped the entire offseason -- including mandatory minicamp. Much of his absence came after the Packers traded up to draft safety Morgan Burnett in what should have been a clear message to Bigby. Burnett performed well enough in spring practices to create the possibility he could displace Bigby entirely with a strong training camp. If Bigby wanted out of Green Bay all along, he's done everything right. But if he envisions a long-term career with the Packers, he probably should have returned at least for minicamp.
  5. [+] EnlargeBrett Favre
    AP Photo/Andy KingThe Vikings still haven't found a long-term replacement for Brett Favre.
  6. The Vikings allowed another offseason to pass without making an effort to identify a long-term starter to succeed Favre (someday). Sage Rosenfels appears on the way out. Jackson was issued a low tender and still received no interest on the restricted free-agent market. Rookie Joe Webb wasn't considered a quarterback prospect by most teams before the draft, including the Vikings. This wasn't the best year for drafting quarterbacks, and the Vikings were buried with the No. 30 overall pick. But if rookies are going to have as hard of a time making this team as the Vikings say they are, why not package a few picks to take a chance with Tim Tebow? Or use a second- or third-round pick to take a Jimmy Clausen or Colt McCoy? The only thing worse than missing is not taking a swing at all.
  7. For reasons that are not entirely clear, the Vikings and tailback Adrian Peterson appear to have developed a disconnect. Peterson trained on his own in Houston, was unable to break away from a hometown parade that conflicted with veteran minicamp and was the subject of an uncomfortable NFL Network video in which running backs coach Eric Bieniemy tore apart his 2009 performance. Does Peterson want a new contract? Has he suddenly transformed into a diva? Is he chafing at Bieniemy's tough love? No one has confirmed or denied anything, but the team needs to ensure it is on common ground with Peterson before training camp opens.
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- I made no bones about being an unabashed advocate for Chicago hiring Mike Martz as its offensive coordinator. And so I don’t mind telling you that I see no upside in promoting Rod Marinelli to defensive coordinator.

[+] EnlargeRod Marinelli
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesPromoting Rod Marinelli to defensive coordinator appeared to be Chicago's backup plan.
Marinelli has never been a coordinator in 33 years as a coach, and his new responsibilities will take at least some of his focus away from his specialty as a defensive line tutor. Marinelli wasn’t known for his organizational skills as Detroit’s head coach from 2006 to 2008 and he doesn’t seem well-suited for this job.

Frankly, I wonder if Marinelli thinks it’s a good idea. Last month, coach Lovie Smith strongly implied Marinelli didn’t want the job.

Here’s what Smith said Jan. 5: “I’ve talked to Rod about all of the different things I am going to do. Rod would like to be in his position of being an assistant head coach, and helping me with other things like that, and coaching the defensive line. That’s a full-time job.”

So Smith pursued one-time Bears assistant Perry Fewell for the job, only to be spurned when Fewell joined the New York Giants. With few other options, it appears Smith talked Marinelli into making the change. In a statement released Friday, Smith said:

“We considered outside possibilities, but I didn’t feel our defense would benefit the same way it will with Rod in the coordinator role. From the first day I became head coach of the Chicago Bears I envisioned Rod as our defensive coordinator. I considered him for the role last year, but wanted him to have the opportunity to work exclusively with our defensive line and become acclimated to our team. He will remain in our defensive line room, but will add the responsibility of the defensive calls on game day.”

Assistant defensive line coach Eric Washington was promoted to the full-time role, but it sounds as if Marinelli will split his time between the line and his coordinator duties. To me, that presents a problem on both fronts: His influence with the line will be watered down, and the Bears still don’t have a coach to serve solely as the defensive coordinator. Wasn’t that what they needed after Smith gave up those duties after the season?

There are some ways this could work, and it’s worth noting that Marinelli and Smith are united in their advocacy of the Tampa 2 scheme. It’s ingrained in their souls and they should be able to hit the ground running.

But it sure feels like the Bears targeted only one candidate for this job and were at a loss after Fewell went to the Giants. Ultimately, it seems they circled back on an emergency backup plan.

Their offense got better with the additions of Martz and offensive line coach Mike Tice. I can’t say the same about their defense after Friday’s moves.

Black and Blue all over: Bears DC?

February, 2, 2010
MIAMI -- Now that Chicago has hired Mike Martz as its offensive coordinator, the next question becomes whom it will hire as defensive coordinator.

Bears general manager Jerry Angelo admitted during a conference call with reporters that filling both positions at the same time proved overly complicated, so the offensive job was prioritized. Bob LeGere of the Daily Herald has more on that.

To anyone’s knowledge, the only candidate interviewed for the job has been Perry Fewell, who ultimately took a similar position with the New York Giants. Coach Lovie Smith said he has ruled out no candidates, raising speculation he could promote defensive line coach Rod Marinelli or defensive backs coach Jon Hoke.

But based on the way the Bears conducted their search for Martz, it seems likely there will be other interviews. Stay tuned.

For now, let’s take a spin around the division:

Chicago’s efforts to fill two coordinator positions is now the biggest story in the NFC North. Here’s where the situation stands now, based on local and national reporting:

The Bears have sought permission to interview Minnesota quarterbacks coach Kevin Rogers. The Chicago Sun-Times reports the Vikings have given permission. If the interview occurs, Rogers would be the Bears’ third interview and the sixth publicly-identified candidate for the job.

UPDATE: Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune reports Rogers will interview Thursday.

Sean Jensen of the Sun-Times suggests the Bears pursue Jim Zorn. Jeff Dickerson of ESPN Chicago offers this suggestion: Norm Chow.

Meanwhile, there have been no reports that the Bears have interviewed anyone other than Perry Fewell for their defensive coordinator job. Fewell accepted a similar offer from the New York Giants. Bears assistant head coach/defensive line Rod Marinelli told the Chicago Tribune that he is open to any job coach Lovie Smith needs him to do, including defensive coordinator.

Continuing around the NFC North:

Although it has yet to name an offensive coordinator, Chicago appears intent on building its offensive staff.

The Bears hired Mike Tice last Friday as their offensive line coach, and Tuesday they interviewed Mike DeBord for the job as tight ends coach. DeBord spent the past two seasons on Seattle’s staff and primarily been a college coach throughout his career, highlighted by four seasons as Central Michigan’s head coach (2000-03).

Plenty could change over the next few weeks, but you wonder how the Bears will end up structuring their offensive staff. Will they ultimately hire a coordinator after filling his staff? Or do they plan some sort of job share system among multiple assistants?

Meanwhile, no new names have surfaced publicly for their defensive coordinator job, which they hoped to give to former Buffalo assistant Perry Fewell. But Fewell joined the New York Giants last week.
I was sitting at Brett Favre's Wednesday news conference when he said: “Honestly, I see us sitting here next week having this press conference again. If that doesn't happen, to me it will be a shock.”

It was in response to a question about whether he plans to play next season, and I took it as Favre’s way of saying he hasn’t thought about it because he remains in the routine of the season. He has said many times in his career that the end of the season always comes abruptly and is in fact “a shock.”

I didn’t make anything of it -- and trust me, I’m always looking to make something of nearly nothing. Somehow, however, it ignited a war of words with Dallas safety Gerald Sensabaugh, who joined some media members in claiming Favre had guaranteed a victory over Dallas in Sunday’s divisional playoff game.

“We'd have to beat ourselves to lose," Sensabaugh told local reporters, according to my NFC East buddy Matt Mosley. “The way we're playing right now, I don't think we can be beat.”

Favre made a rare Thursday appearance before local reporters to say “I’m not guaranteeing anything.” According to Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune, Favre added: “The last thing I ever want to do is be bulletin-board material. Of course, I gave the Cowboys a ton of respect. They deserve it. They are playing outstanding. They are playing -- and I'm speaking NFC -- as well if not the best maybe in the league. San Diego, obviously, would argue that. How could I sit there and say, 'Well, next week possibly [we] could be home?' That very well could be true, could be over, for both teams. I'm sure people want to take it [as] he's guaranteeing a victory.”

Favre doesn’t need me to defend him, but I really don’t think anything about what he originally said should be interpreted as a guarantee. It’s silly hype for a huge game that doesn’t need any. Sensabaugh, however, took the bait and offered up a genuine bit of trash talk for the Vikings. Excellent work, Gerald. See you Sunday.

Continuing around the NFC North:
  • Tom Powers of the St. Paul Pioneer Press discusses what life is like to be named Jasper Brinkley, as in the Vikings’ middle linebacker, when your twin brother is named Casper Brinkley.
  • Sid Hartman of the Star Tribune hasn’t gotten over the 1975 “Push Pearson” playoff game between the Vikings and Cowboys.
  • Struggling in its search for coordinators, Chicago should consider Mike Martz for offense. Writes David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune: “If the process remains as open as [general manager Jerry] Angelo says it is, then he needs to open his mind wider than it seems to the idea of Mike Martz. For reasons that defy logic, the most qualified, interested candidate still has his nose pressed against the Halas Hall glass. The most dynamic moves the Bears could make this offseason would be hiring Martz and installing FieldTurf at Soldier Field to provide the right surface for his offense. This organization could use some firm footing.”
  • If there is a Plan B for the Bears defense after getting spurned by Perry Fewell, ESPN Chicago’s Jeff Dickerson isn’t aware of it.
  • Green Bay’s special teams weren’t much better this season than in 2008, writes Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
  • The Packers are awaiting news of CBA negotiations so they know whether a group of eight players, including five starters, will be free agents or not this offseason. Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel looks at the situation.
  • Rookie defensive tackle Sammie Lee Hill made an impact on Detroit’s run defense this season, writes Nicholas J. Cotsonika of the Detroit Free Press.
  • It’s too early to know if Lions coach Jim Schwartz will be a top-flight coach, writes Tom Kowalski of

NFC North at night

January, 14, 2010
Catching up on Thursday’s news in the NFC North:

We haven’t had much injury-related discussion for either Dallas or Minnesota this week, primarily because we’re very nearly in an all-hands-on-deck situation.

The only player for either team who sat out of practice Thursday was Vikings fullback Naufahu Tahi, who developed a back condition after practicing Wednesday. Dallas tailback Marion Barber (knee), who missed practice Wednesday, was on the field in a limited capacity Thursday. It’s hard to imagine him missing a game in front of hometown fans in Minnesota.

There was never any evidence to suggest a connection between Detroit firing special teams coordinator Stan Kwan at a time when one of the game’s best special teams coaches was available, but now we can close the book. Former Buffalo assistant Bobby April signed on Thursday with Philadelphia. If he spoke with Detroit officials, it went unreported.

There has been no official confirmation, but Jason La Canfora of has joined ESPN’s Adam Schefter in reporting that Chicago will lose out on the bidding for defensive coordinator candidate Perry Fewell. It’s expected that Fewell will join the New York Giants instead.

Minnesota defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier declined to rehash his awkward interview for Seattle’s head coaching job, one that came after it was reported Pete Carroll would get the job. “There will be a time to talk about what happened a week ago,” Frazier said, according to a transcript distributed by the team. “But I don’t necessarily know if this is maybe the most appropriate time. But there will be a time.”

Schefter: Fewell will spurn Bears

January, 14, 2010
Just making sure you’re aware of this report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter, who indicates Chicago is about to lose out on its top defensive coordinator candidate.

Former Buffalo assistant Perry Fewell has chosen the New York Giants over the Bears, according to Schefter. Assuming Fewell agrees on contract terms, the Bears would be back to the drawing board. If they’ve interviewed anyone besides Fewell for the job, it has gone unreported.

From the outside, the Bears don’t appear to be an attractive opportunity for quality assistant coaches. Team president Ted Phillips did nothing in a press conference last week to dissuade the notion that coach Lovie Smith’s job depends on a winning season in 2010.

While all coaches are expected to win, most of them don’t enter the season with such a stark mandate. Smith bristled at that notion last week, saying he expected “a lot of candidates” to be interested in his open defensive and offensive coordinator jobs. But Fewell would join new Seattle offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates as candidates who have chosen to go elsewhere.

According to the Bears’ Web site, Jacksonville assistant head coach/tight ends Mike Tice remained Thursday at Halas Hall to continue discussing an “offensive coaching position” with the Bears. There have been conflicting reports about whether Tice is a candidate for offensive coordinator or another job.
Having missed on its first two choices for offensive coordinator, Chicago was down to this dilemma: Pursue a little-wanted veteran (Mike Martz) or a relatively unknown up-and-comer. The Bears chose the latter.

Cincinnati quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese began interviewing Tuesday for the job, according to Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune. Zampese, the son of former long-time NFL coach Ernie Zampese, is considered a front-runner for the job.

The Bengals are looking for a swift decision, so we could have resolution to this issue soon. Meanwhile, the Bears are awaiting a decision from Perry Fewell as to whether he will take their defensive coordinator job. Fewell interviewed Monday, but is also being pursued by the New York Giants and remains a candidate for Buffalo’s head-coaching job.

Continuing around the NFC North:

Fewell meeting with Bears

January, 11, 2010
Chicago is confirming on its Web site that former Buffalo interim coach Perry Fewell is interviewing Monday for the Bears’ defensive coordinator job at Halas Hall.

Fewell appears to be the front-runner for the job, assuming he does not get Buffalo’s permanent position. An announcement could come at any time, provided he prefers the Bears over the New York Giants, who interviewed him last week.

Here’s our friend Jeff Dickerson’s take on the Bears’ multi-pronged search for coordinators over on ESPN Chicago. With Jeremy Bates apparently no longer an option for offensive coordinator, Dickerson suggest Mike Martz and Green Bay quarterbacks coach Tom Clements as alternatives.