NFC South: Good Guy Award

Around the NFC South

December, 29, 2012
Time for a look at the top Saturday morning headlines from around the division:


Safety Thomas DeCoud won the Good Guy Award from the local chapter of the Pro Football Writers of America. Good choice. DeCoud is one of the best interviews in the NFC South.

The Falcons have declared safety William Moore (hamstring) and cornerback Christopher Owens (hamstring) out for Sunday’s game with Tampa Bay. Defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux (ribs), receiver Roddy White (knee), defensive tackle Corey Peters (knee) and defensive end Cliff Matthews (hamstring) are listed as questionable. Since the Falcons already have clinched all there is to clinch, I’d expect coach Mike Smith to be very cautious with the guys that are questionable.


Quarterback Cam Newton was fined $31,000 for kicking an opponent and making physical contact with an official during Sunday’s win against Oakland. Defensive end Greg Hardy was fined $25,000 for hitting quarterback Carson Palmer with his helmet. Safety Charles Godfrey was fined $21,000 for hitting a receiver in the head.

Center Geoff Hangartner, running back Jonathan Stewart and linebacker James Anderson all are listed as questionable for Sunday’s game with New Orleans.


Mike Triplett writes that it’s a good thing the Saints and coach Sean Payton agreed to a contract extension when they did. If this situation had dragged into next week when other teams start firing coaches, things could have gotten ugly. Payton could have been at the center of a bidding war and the Saints could have permanently lost their coach, which would have been catastrophic.

Running back Pierre Thomas, defensive tackle Akiem Hicks and cornerback Jabari Greer have all been declared out for the final game because of injuries.


Stephen Holder speculates that the Bucs might hold cornerback Eric Wright, who just returned from a suspension, out of Sunday’s game with Atlanta. It makes perfect sense to hold Wright out to avoid injury, if the Bucs are planning to release him after the season. I think that’s a good possibility. I think it’s highly unlikely the Bucs will pay Wright $7.75 million in base salary when they can free up the exact same amount in salary-cap space by releasing him. The only way I see Wright staying with the Bucs is if he takes a pay cut. Wright’s first season with the Bucs was plagued by injuries and the suspension and, when he was on the field, he didn’t do anything special.

Tampa Bay's defensive backfield has taken lots of criticism, but here's an article that praises the play of the front seven.

Around the NFC South

January, 22, 2012
Before the conference championship games get going later Sunday, let’s take a look at some of the top headlines from around the NFC South.

There was at least one report that said Joe Philbin was a finalist for the Tampa Bay job before he became Miami’s head coach. If so, that may be a sign that the Bucs are getting around to narrowing their list and potentially bringing back a few candidates for second interviews. But I’m not sure the report about Philbin is true. I also wouldn’t be surprised if the Bucs still interview a candidate or two still involved in the postseason. There has been a lot of speculation that the Bucs may want to interview New York Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell.

Roddy White has been recognized by the Atlanta chapter of the Pro Football Writers of America with the Good Guy award. The honor is supposed to go to the player who is most helpful to the media in doing its job. I think the writers got this one right. As someone who has spent a fair amount of time covering the Falcons, I can verify that White is accessible after wins and losses. More importantly, he’s a guy who is almost always willing to speak candidly.

There’s a lot of excitement in New Orleans about the hiring of defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. But Jeff Duncan notes that former coordinators Gregg Williams, Gary Gibbs, Rick Venturi and Ron Zook also arrived with a lot of excitement and left without big production. He notes the last defensive coordinator to leave New Orleans on good terms was Monte Kiffin in 1995. In other words, Spagnuolo has a great reputation, but he’ll have to get the defense to produce to keep that reputation.

Here’s an overview of Carolina’s linebacker situation for 2012. The Panthers have James Anderson, a quality player at one outside spot. But middle linebacker Jon Beason and outside linebacker Thomas Davis missed most of the 2011 season with injuries. Beason’s return should boost this unit considerably. But there are no guarantees. His lengthy history of injuries and the structure of his contract make it likely the Panthers will cut Davis. They eventually could bring him back at a lower salary, but Davis has torn his ACL three times and it remains to be seen if he still can be anywhere close to the player he used to be. Jordan Senn did some promising things last season and could factor into the mix going forward. But backup middle linebacker Dan Connor is a potential free agent. The Panthers may have to add a little linebacker depth in the draft or free agency.

PFWA awards for Brees, Finney

June, 8, 2010
We’ve got two NFC South winners among this year’s Pro Football Writers of America Awards.

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees won the Good Guy Award for the player who is most helpful to the media.

"I am honored to be recognized by the Professional Football Writers with their annual Good Guy Award," Brees said. “The media is our strongest connection to our fans and it is important that we make ourselves available and be accountable when the time calls for us to meet with the media. The media tell our story and I recognize the important job that they have. Joining a select group of previous winners such as Kurt Warner, Brett Favre, LaDainian Tomlinson, Tiki Barber and Jerome Bettis shows that it is not only important to lead on the field like these guys have, but also to lead off of it as well.”

The other winner also is from New Orleans. Peter Finney has won the McCann Award, for long and distinguished service to the media. Finney is a long-time columnist for the New Orleans Times-Picayune and one of the finest gentlemen in the business.

Finney has been covering sports in the New Orleans area for 64 years. He covered 40 straight Super Bowls after missing the first two because his editor at the time thought the game was “just a fad."

Finney also represents the New Orleans market on the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s board of selectors and was responsible for successfully presenting Rickey Jackson’s case for election. Jackson will be inducted in August.
I just sent in my final ballot for the Pro Football Writers of America annual awards and it’s fair to say there were a number of NFC South votes on there.

The ballot had been narrowed down to five finalists for each award. I had made an NFC South nomination in each of the five categories and I do have to admit I’m a little disappointed that former Tampa Tribune sports editor Tom McEwen was not a finalist for the McCann Award and former Carolina fullback Brad Hoover didn’t make the final cut for the Good Guy Award. I had nominated both and felt very strongly about those nominations.

Anyway, we’ll move on to the people who are finalists for each of the awards. Tampa Bay running back Cadillac Williams, who has overcome two major knee injuries, is a finalist for the Halas Award, which is given to the person who overcomes the most adversity.

Atlanta’s top-notch public relations staff of Reggie Roberts, Frank Kleha, Matt Conti and Brian Cearns is a finalist for the Rozelle Award, for the league’s most helpful PR staff, for the second straight year.

Longtime New Orleans Times-Picayune columnist Peter Finney is a finalist for the McCann Award, which goes to a writer for long-term contributions to the business. That helped me absorb the McEwen blow. Finney is to New Orleans what McEwen is to Tampa Bay -- a sports face of the area. McEwen gave me my first job in the business, so I’m admittedly partial. But I’ve gotten to know Finney through the years and he’s a fine gentleman and a very worthy candidate.

New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees is a finalist for the Good Guy Award, which goes to the player who does the most to help the media do its job. No argument against Brees. One other thing on Brees I should share with you: A lot of times, the media might paint a guy to be better than he is just because he can throw a football -- or run fast or whatever. But Brees is one of those guys who is every bit as good of a person as you'd imagine.

There is no NFC South tie to the five finalists for the Horrigan Award, which goes to a person who is not a player or public relations worker, who does the most to help the media do its job. I made a nomination for a certain NFC South executive. He didn’t make the cut, so I won’t name him. He’d be embarrassed (and turn red) anyway because he doesn’t like attention.