NFC North: Phil Simms
The firing of Minnesota Vikings coach Brad Childress this week has overshadowed a much more positive trend among NFC North coaches: Two of them are candidates for NFL coach of the year.
The Chicago Bears' Lovie Smith has helped resurrect his team from what appeared to be lame-duck status this season. The Green Bay Packers' Mike McCarthy, meanwhile, has navigated his team through an injury-ravaged first half to emerge as one of the league's top teams.
Smith was on the proverbial hot seat when the season began, and many of us in the media were busy trying to figure out the buyout on his contract. Now he has his team on a playoff run and will be entering the final year of his contract in 2011. So instead of firing Smith, should the Bears be working on a contract extension?
Not yet, writes David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune.
Haugh: "It looks encouraging enough heading into Sunday's showdown against the [Philadelphia] Eagles for general manager Jerry Angelo to issue an unsolicited vote of confidence for Smith last week. But if the Bears miss the playoffs for the fourth straight year despite a surprising start, can a franchise justify bringing back a coach who would have qualified for the postseason in only two of seven seasons?"
In other words, there is no rush.
Continuing around the NFC North:
- Sunday's game against the Eagles will be the Bears' moment of truth, writes Mike Mulligan of the Chicago Sun-Times.
- Michael C. Wright of ESPNChicago.com looks at the highs and lows of the Bears' week.
- Packers receiver Greg Jennings is making his case for the Pro Bowl this season, writes Lori Nickel of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
- Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette looks at the value, or lack thereof, to playing well in the second half of the NFL season.
- McCarthy is one of three coaches in the class of 2006 to still have his job, writes Mike Vandermause of the Press-Gazette.
- Did a former New York Jets sideline reporter try to get a financial settlement with Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre? Not surprisingly, the story differs, according to the Associated Press. The question is probably moot now that Jenn Sterger has already cooperated with the NFL.
- Questions remain about how the Vikings will change under new coach Leslie Frazier, writes Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com.
- In addition to their coaching situation, the Vikings have a long list of expiring player contracts to examine, notes Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune.
- Vikings receiver Bernard Berrian referred to Childress as "confrontational" during a radio appearance Tuesday, according to Jeremy Fowler of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
- New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick compared Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford to former New York Giants quarterback Phil Simms during a Tuesday conference call, notes Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press. Like Stafford, Simms was injury-prone early in his career.
- Lions guard Stephen Peterman has already set a personal high in penalties for a season, notes Monarrez.
- Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh said he apologized to Dallas Cowboys tailback Marion Barber for tackling him by his hair last Sunday, writes Tim Twentyman of the Detroit News.
So check it out as we continue to count down the minutes until the start of training camp:
10. Kordell Stewart (Dec. 28, 2003)
9. Jake Plummer (Dec. 31, 2006)
8. Scott Mitchell (Nov. 25, 2001)
7. Jim Harbaugh (Nov. 12, 2000)
6. Trent Green (Nov. 23, 2008)
5. Phil Simms (Jan. 15, 1994)
4. Drew Bledsoe (Oct. 23, 2006)
3. Ken Stabler (Oct. 21, 1984)
2. George Blanda (Dec. 21, 1975)
1. Sonny Jurgensen (Dec. 22, 1974)
Posted by ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert
Circumstances prevented us from attending Brett Favre’s weekly media gathering Wednesday, but the miracle of modern science (and team transcripts) allows us to join the throng in wishing him a happy 40th birthday Saturday. And, while we’re at it, good luck.
Among all of his other potential accomplishments this season, Favre is hoping to become the first 40-year-old quarterback to start a playoff game in NFL history. Only one quarterback aged 40 or older, Warren Moon, has made a Pro Bowl. None has started 16 games in a season.
Speaking to reporters at Minnesota’s practice facility, Favre said he gets no extra satisfaction from his early-season performance as he approaches the age milestone.
Favre: “I am pleased with the play I’ve played. It’s four games. There are 12 games left. Hopefully we go on after that. Believe me, I know as well as anybody how long a season can be and more so, for an older guy mentally. Physically, you are going to feel the aches and pains. There is no doubt about that, but mentally, being able to overcome them and get through the week [are important]. So I don’t know if there is any added feeling on my part that, ‘Hey, look at me, I’m playing.’ It’s what I expected to do. It’s what I’ve always expected to do. If I’m going to play, I want to play well. I can’t use age as an excuse, although people want to do that, good or bad. So it just is what it is. I just hope I continue to play and lead at the level I have to this point.”In recent memory, one of the few graybeard success stories has been former New York Giants quarterback Phil Simms, who started 16 games and led the Giants to the playoffs at age 38 in 1993. The Giants were bounced from the playoffs before Simms was 39, however, and he retired that offseason.
Two of the more prominent names circulating as possible quarterback targets for Chicago are pending free agents Chris Simms (Tennessee) and Byron Leftwich (Pittsburgh). Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times takes the pulse of both situations in his Inside the Bears blog.
Leftwich is two years removed as a starter. But speaking to reporters in Tampa this week, he said his year with the Steelers has made him a better quarterback:
"Just picking up from a Pro Bowl quarterback like Ben [Roethlisberger], the way he does things. And just being around good football players, any time you are around good football players, the Troy Polamalus and Hines Wards, you become a better player by understanding guys who have been in this league longer than you and what they do on a day-to-day basis."
Meanwhile, Simms' father said he is unaware of any interest the Bears might have in his son but said he is the "wrong guy to ask." Phil Simms, who was in Tampa this week as part of his broadcasting duties with Inside the NFL, also said he believes that potential free agents won't view Chicago as a place they can go to win a job:
"I was on the record all year, I know Kyle Orton. I followed him through college, I saw him early with the Bears and I thought he grew up. He was a different-looking guy this year. I thought he had a little moxie to him. There is a little something he has that I like. Whoever goes in there, it would be awfully tough to think that you're going to take Kyle Orton's job. I know that.''
Orton will be the Bears' starter in 2009, but backup Rex Grossman is likely to depart and the Bears probably don't want to enter training camp with second-year player Caleb Hanie as their backup. Simms is right: Whomever Chicago signs will almost certainly be in line for a role as a strict backup.
Continuing around the NFC North on a Thursday morning:
- Former Bears defensive tackle Bryan Robinson, who now starts for Arizona, said he knows what most Bears fans are asking: "I know people may be like, 'How is Bryan Robinson still in the league?'" David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune checks in with Robinson at the Super Bowl.
- Green Bay will hire Dave Redding as its new strength and conditioning coach, according to Greg A. Bedard of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Redding is considered one of the pioneers of modern strength training in the NFL. He worked for Kansas City when current Packers coach Mike McCarthy was the Chiefs' quarterbacks coach.
- Former Packers defensive coordinator Bob Sanders has surfaced as Buffalo's new defensive line coach. Here is the Bills' press release on the news.
- Former Detroit president/general manager and current NBC broadcaster Matt Millen isn't talking to the media during the Super Bowl buildup, but he did take a blimp ride with Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times.
- Minnesota tailback Adrian Peterson won the FedEx NFL Ground Player of the Year award. FedEx will donate $25,000 to Safe Kids USA in Minneapolis in Peterson's honor.