- Pat Yasinskas, ESPN Staff Writer
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I just arrived back at NFC South blog headquarters, so let’s take a quick run through some headlines from around the division:
Coach Mike Smith needs to shut down Roddy White’s Twitter account. White, who has a history of offending people on Twitter, criticized Jeff Green of the Boston Celtics. I stopped following the NBA after Larry Bird, Robert Parrish and Kevin McHale left the Celtics and find the NBA quite boring these days. But the last thing I want to hear is White’s opinion on anything outside of football. And I'm not even sure that letting White share his opinions on football is a very good idea.
Center/guard Joe Hawley will return to the team Tuesday after serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. I wouldn’t count on Hawley’s return making much difference. Hawley is a guy the Falcons once hoped would be the eventual replacement for veteran center Todd McClure. But I don’t think the team’s hopes for Hawley are too high these days.
Tom Sorensen writes that a lot of people within the Panthers’ organization believe that the season could have gone in a totally different direction if the Panthers had held on in and won against the Falcons in the Georgia Dome in a game in late September. The fact is the Panthers didn’t win that game and it put their season into a downward spiral. They won the rematch with Atlanta, they won on Sunday at San Diego and, if they finish their season with strong performances in the final two games, coach Ron Rivera stands a good chance of keeping his job.
A group of Panthers’ fans took out a full-page ad (there's no indication center Ryan Kalil was involved in this one) in The Charlotte Observer on Monday, imploring owner Jerry Richardson to get rid of Rivera. I’m happy to see advertising money flowing to any newspaper at a time when the industry is struggling. But I’m not so sure the plea carries much weight. Like I said above, I think there’s a decent chance Rivera keeps his job. I also think there’s a growing chance interim general manager Brandon Beane moves into that role on a permanent basis.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Jeff Duncan writes that there still is a very remote chance the Saints could make the playoffs. It would take something close to a miracle. But, hey, if it doesn’t happen, maybe the Saints can file another appeal.
Nakia Hogan writes that Sunday marked the first time a defense coached by Steve Spagnuolo ever shut out an opponent. That’s great. But don’t get too excited. Tampa Bay was dismal on offense and that might have had as much to do with the shutout as anything the Saints did.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
Quarterback Josh Freeman said that a team that got shut out by the NFL’s worst defense still is “unified.’’ I don’t think the Bucs are in complete disarray like they were under former coach Raheem Morris at the end of last season. But I think new coach Greg Schiano needs to get better results out of his team in the final two games or else the Bucs will face a very long offseason. Schiano’s hard-line approach seemed to work nicely early in the season, but what’s happened recently makes you wonder if his methods are wearing thin on his players.