NFC South: Herm Edwards

One thing coach Lovie Smith has said several times is he wants to make the Tampa Bay Buccaneers relevant again.

Arians
Edwards
They haven’t been to the playoffs since 2007 and haven’t won a postseason game since their Super Bowl victory more than a decade ago. They are coming off a 4-12 season and have a bunch of new faces and a new coaching staff.

But one expert already sees the Bucs as relevant. That is ESPN analyst Herm Edwards, a former Tampa Bay assistant. Edwards predicted the Bucs and the Pittsburgh Steelers as his two Super Bowl teams for the upcoming season.

That might be a stretch, because neither team made the playoffs last season. I’m not sure the Bucs are Super Bowl ready, but I do think they will be one of the league’s most improved teams and will have a shot at the playoffs.

My logic is pretty simple. Good defense makes you competitive, and I think the Bucs are going to have an excellent defense. They have defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and outside linebacker Lavonte David, who might be the best in the league at their positions. They also have plenty of competent role players on defense.

I think the defense alone could make the Bucs a .500 team. If the offense is even halfway decent, Tampa Bay could have double-digit wins. If the offense is good, Edwards’ prediction might not be too far off.

Film of the NFC South chat

January, 4, 2013
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The passion of NFC South fans never ceases to amaze me.

Although the Falcons don’t play until next week (and we don’t know yet who they’ll play) and the other three teams are done for the season, Friday’s NFC South chat was even more active than a lot of our chats during the regular season.

Let’s take a team-by team look at some of the highlights:

ATLANTA FALCONS

Johnny B/ sw Florida [via mobile]: Do you feel that Mike Smith's approach for the week 17 game against the Bucs was more about staying sharp than actually (to the dismay of Herm Edwards) "winning" the game? Does that bode well for falcons starters in the divisional round or does this loss cause regression?

Pat Yasinskas: Don't think it will cause regression. If anything, it might have been a bit of a wake-up call.

Thomas (ATL): Think Harry Douglas could have more catches if the o-line gave Ryan more time to go through his progressions. With Jones, White and Gonzo, hea??s usually a last ditch effort.

PY: Yeah, but might also be because Jones, White and Gonzo always get open.

Jeremy Cartersville GA [via mobile]: What do the falcons do at RB in the off season this feels like turners last year?

PY: No doubt it's Turner's last year with Falcons. They'll bring in an RB to go with Rodgers. Just don't know if it will be through draft or free agency.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

justin (Woodruff South Carolina): hey pat, honestly do you feel that ron rivera will return to the carolina panthers in 2013 and with the same coaching staff?

PY: I'm not saying that's the right call, but it is what I think is going to happen. However, I think there probably will be some changes on the coaching staff. Not necessarily the coordinators.

Paul (Charlotte): Hi Pat, what do you know about Brandon Beane's background? Does he have scouting experience? Don't want a Hurney re-tread in Charlotte.

PY: Brandon Beane is a great guy. But, no, no scouting experience. He's been their logistics guy -- setting up travel, setting up training camp, etc.

mike (greensboro): pat, why would panthers let williams go? look what he did when stuart got hurt (which is always!). i like stuart, but williams, even with a big contract is a better runner in my opionon

PY: I've said all along I think Williams is better than Stewart. But the fact is they need salary cap room. They can get it by letting Williams go. They'd lose cap room if they let Stewart go.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Ronen (México): Is it only me or did you also see flash of greatness in the young Akeem Hicks, for a third round in a awful defence, he had some good plays right?

PY: He certainly showed some promise. One of the few bright spots for that defense.

Mookie (Snellville): I know it's Spagnuolo's first year, but in my mind 7,042 yards given up in his first season means he has to get fired. I don't want this team, while trying to figure out Spags defense, ruin the 4 years Brees has left on his contract, Any chance they take that into consideration and fire him ?

PY: I think anything is possible on that one. That story that came out the other day certainly didn't reflect well on Spags.

Davis (Virginia): It seems like the Saints have lots of needs on defense and another WR and have no cap room, what is the best we can hope for next year?

PY: Difference between the Saints and Panthers is there are reasonable ways for the Saints to free up some cap room. They're not completely buried under long-term contracts. Loomis will get them to a spot where they can at least bring in some free-agent help.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Brandon (Vancouver): I really can't believe how many Buc fans are calling for Freeman's head because he had two bad games. The Bucs didn't make the playoffs this year because our secondary and pass rush were awful.

PY: I'm with you on that. Freeman was far from perfect. But, at times, he did some good things. That team had much bigger problems in other places.

Kevin (Tallahasseee): Greg Schiano seems to be a reincarnation of Ray Perkins...Perkins was also known to run his teams ragged and the teams fade throughout the season.

PY: Yeah, but it's not quite the same. Perkins was doing three-a-day practices in training camp. The new rules don't allow Schiano to do anything close to that.

Mario (Tampa): But in Tampa, isn't there a lack of leadership in Freeman? I know there are problems in other areas, but starts from QB, don't you think?

PY: Lack of leadership??? Never seen or heard anything to suggest that about him. You certainly can question his play, but not his leadership.

Here’s the complete transcript of Friday’s NFC South chat.
We’ve hit you with a lot of predictions in recent days. Get ready for some more. John Clayton, Herm Edwards, Ron Jaworski, Mel Kiper Jr., Chris Mortensen, Bill Polian and Adam Schefter have their predictions on who will play in the Super Bowl.

Only one of the seven has an NFC South team making it to the Super Bowl. It’s Polian, who is going with the Atlanta Falcons. Polian says this is the year Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan truly blossoms.

“I really think Ryan is going to grow under new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, and I look for him to take a pretty big leap because of the nature of the offense,’’ Polian said. “It will not be the run-heavy offense of the past. It will be more wide open, and Ryan will get a chance to spread his wings.’’

Ironically, Polian has the Falcons playing the Baltimore Ravens in the Super Bowl. Ryan is forever linked to Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco because they came out in the same draft class. However, Polian’s pick doesn’t come with a totally happy ending for Atlanta fans. He has the Ravens beating the Falcons in the Super Bowl.
Check out Herm Edwards’ Insider piece in which he ranks all the NFL head coaches.

I can’t give you the whole rundown here, but let’s just say he’s got the NFC South head coaches about where you would expect. We obviously still are finding out what Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano is all about and, to a lesser extent, I think the same can be said about Carolina’s Ron Rivera.
So let’s talk about where Edwards ranked New Orleans’ Sean Payton and Atlanta’s Mike Smith.

Edwards has Payton in the “elite’’ category. No argument here since Payton has won a Super Bowl and a lot of other games. But Payton is kind of a moot point right now since he’s serving a season-long suspension. I think the real question is if assistant head coach Joe Vitt, who will return from a suspension after six games, and offensive line coach Aaron Kromer, who will take on the duties of head coach in the first six games, can come anywhere close to Payton’s level of success.

Despite all the Saints have been through this offseason, I wouldn’t bet against Kromer or Vitt. I think any head coach that has Drew Brees as his quarterback has a chance to look pretty good.

Now, let’s turn to Smith. Edwards ranks him in the “ascending’’ category. I think Smith is a very good coach, but I don’t think ascending is the word I’d use to describe his current status. I do think Smith, who has won 43 games in his first four seasons, could ascend into the elite category if he wins a couple of playoff games this season. But, until Smith does show he can win in the postseason, I think you have to come up with a different category for him. The phrase “holding pattern’’ comes to mind. We’ll find out in January if Smith is cleared for landing.
One common complaint we talk about often in these parts is how the NFC South sometimes gets lost in the shadows of divisions or teams with bigger markets and higher profiles.

Well, maybe we should be careful what we wish for. The NFC South is about to take center stage on a national platform for all the wrong reasons.

The scandal involving the New Orleans Saints and what the NFL says was a “bounty program" designed to reward defensive players for intentionally injuring opponents, will be the topic of an hourlong NFL Live special on ESPN at 4 p.m. ET Monday.

Trey Wingo is scheduled to host. He’ll be joined in studio by Tedy Bruschi, Darren Woodson, Mike Golic and Marcellus Wiley. Former NFL quarterback Steve Young and former NFL defensive back and head coach Herm Edwards will join them via satellite, and there could be other special guests.

In this audio clip with Herm Edwards filling in for Mike Golic, he and Mike Greenberg talk about the Drew Brees contract situation.

Like just about everyone else, Edwards and Greenberg are stunned that Brees and the New Orleans Saints don’t have a deal already. They reportedly remain far apart and the Saints are prepared to use the franchise tag on Brees if a deal isn’t reached by Monday.

If it comes to the franchise tag on Brees, that’s pretty much a disaster for the Saints. Brees isn’t going to be happy if he doesn’t have a long-term deal and the last thing the Saints want is an unhappy Brees.

On top of that, franchising Brees means the Saints won’t have the tag available to use on guard Carl Nicks and receiver Marques Colston. Without the tag available and with Brees taking up more than $14 million in cap space, it will be pretty much impossible for the Saints to keep Nicks and Colston.

This is approaching crisis stage. The Saints are on the verge of losing Colston and Nicks and they’ll probably need to cut several other prominent players to stay under the salary cap. The Saints will be able to keep Brees, one way or another, but it’s looking like their roster won’t be nearly the same.

Those changes won’t be for the better.

Suggested reading on the Buccaneers

November, 20, 2011
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If you haven’t seen it already, I strongly suggest you take a look at this story by Rick Stroud that explores different theories on what is wrong with the Buccaneers.

It includes some really strong comments from Herm Edwards, now an ESPN analyst, but a former assistant with the Bucs and a head coach for the Jets and Chiefs.

Some of what Edwards had to say is similar to some things that have been written in this space. Let’s start with quarterback Josh Freeman. I have written several times that, although Freeman certainly deserves part of the blame, most of it should fall on the guys around him. I’ve heard from a few readers who suggest I’m “coddling" Freeman.

I stand by what I said about his problems being due primarily to the poor play of wide receiver Mike Williams and running back LeGarrette Blount. Edwards said pretty much the same thing.

"I feel a little for [Freeman] because he's a good player," Edwards said. "I look at the personalities he has to deal with -- Kellen Winslow, Mike Williams, LeGarrette Blount. He's looking at all this mess saying, 'Really?'"

I’m not sure if Winslow really belongs in there. The tight end hasn’t been putting up big numbers and he’s been accused of being a selfish player in the past. But he’s behaved pretty well since he joined the Bucs. Winslow spent most of the lockout working out with Freeman. That can’t really be said about Williams and Blount. Each of them showed up for workouts at times, but they weren’t regulars.

Edwards also criticized the Bucs harshly for picking up defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth.

"Why bring in a guy who doesn't like football?" Edwards said. "You want that guy influencing your young football team?"

That leads to another hot topic. There have been suggestions from many corners that the Bucs have some players who are not strong character guys and don’t have any very strong leaders.

"I see that [Coach] Raheem [Morris] got on them for not giving effort," Edwards said. “But when you have players who have some character flaws in the locker room, there's no steady force. When you're winning, it's okay. When you hit tough times, they take over. And when you lose, it's magnified."

It’s been kind of a crazy stretch for the Bucs. Morris has sniped at several writers, publicly and privately. He’s also pointed to a difficult schedule, which has led some people to say he’s making excuses. The past week or two has reminded me a little bit of the days when Sam Wyche was coaching the Buccaneers.

Let’s just say there never was a lot of stability when Wyche was running the show. I’m not quite ready to say the current Bucs are out of control, but there certainly have been signs they might be headed in that direction.

If the Bucs go into Lambeau Field and somehow beat the undefeated Green Bay Packers, everything suddenly will be fine with Tampa Bay. If not, the strange times might get even stranger.
We first told you back in March that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were getting strong consideration to be the team featured in this summer’s edition of HBO’s “Hard Knocks."

Well, it looks like that’s getting closer to being a reality. No deal has been agreed to yet, but Scott Reynolds reports that the show has been offered to the Buccaneers and it’s up to the Bucs to decide if they want to take all the good and the bad that comes with opening all your doors, windows and closets to NFL Films for more than a month.

As I pointed out in this post back in March, there are all sorts of good and bad things that can come with something like this. It could help boost the profile a young team that appears to be rising but still is having trouble selling tickets. It also could put coaches and players into spots that could portray them in a negative light.

In this story, Rick Stroud has more on the pros and cons of appearing on “Hard Knocks." He caught up with Herm Edwards, who was coaching Kansas City when the Chiefs were featured on the show. Edwards does a nice job explaining the good and the bad sides.

Of course, the labor situation could make this all a moot point. If there is no training camp, there won’t be a new edition of “Hard Knocks." But that’s out of Tampa Bay’s control.

The Bucs have to make a big decision as an organization on this one. There’s little doubt the exposure would be beneficial. But the other thing they have to be willing to accept is the fact that, if they sign off on this, things will be out of their control.

The camera crews will be free to capture everything. The Bucs, like any NFL team, have some wonderful things going on and personalities like coach Raheem Morris and quarterback Josh Freeman could really shine in this environment. But, like any other NFL team, the Bucs also have some things and players that may not come across in a positive light.

They’ve got to put it all on a scale and ultimately decide if the good outweighs the bad.

NFC South Hall of Fame debate

July, 6, 2010
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A weeklong look at current or former players or coaches with Hall of Fame potential in the division.

Saints: Drew Brees, quarterback.

Claim to fame: He led the 2009 Saints to their first Super Bowl championship while throwing for 34 touchdowns and posting a career-best 109.6 passer rating. Brees threw for a career-best 5,069 yards in 2008. He has thrown for 30,646 yards in a nine-year career.

Case for enshrinement: Brees has been more than a quarterback for the Saints. Arriving as a free agent in 2006, Brees has helped New Orleans and the entire Gulf region rebound from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Brees has taken an extremely active role in the community and has done just as much on the field.

He is the perfect quarterback for coach Sean Payton’s offense. Brees has made the Saints one of the most fun teams in the league to watch while putting up huge offensive numbers. With Brees, the Saints have reached heights the franchise never came close to before.

Case against enshrinement: This almost certainly will change in another few years, assuming Brees continues to play anything like he has the past few seasons. But, at this moment, Brees would not be a slam dunk for the Hall of Fame because he’s only spent eight seasons as a starter and his years in San Diego were very good, but not great.

A couple more years of big numbers and another Super Bowl title, or at least some more playoff victories, should put Brees over the top.

Bottom line: Barring major injury, Brees is well on his way to the Hall of Fame.

[+] EnlargeTony Dungy
Andy Lyons/Allsport/Getty ImagesTony Dungy laid the foundation for a Super Bowl winner in Tampa.
Buccaneers: Tony Dungy, former coach.

Claim to fame: He took over a disaster of a franchise in 1996 and turned the Bucs into a consistently respectable team for the first time in franchise history. Dungy went on to coach the Indianapolis Colts and won a Super Bowl.

Case for enshrinement: The knock on Dungy in Tampa was that he couldn’t win the big one and the Bucs had to turn to Jon Gruden to get them their Super Bowl victory. But Dungy was largely responsible for building that team and changing the entire football climate in Tampa Bay. Building around Derrick Brooks, Warren Sapp and John Lynch, Dungy took the defensive philosophy he learned in Pittsburgh and built the famed “Tampa 2’’ defense, which became a phenomenon around the league. He also built a lengthy coaching tree with Herm Edwards, Jim Caldwell, Lovie Smith, Rod Marinelli and Mike Tomlin going on to become head coaches.

Case against enshrinement: With all of the defensive talent he had in Tampa Bay and Peyton Manning in Indianapolis, Dungy only won one Super Bowl title.

Bottom line: If I’m voting at the time Dungy comes up for the Hall of Fame, he’s the first name on my ballot. Aside from his record on the field, Dungy brought all sorts of good things to every place he’s ever been. He won with class and did things the right way. He still does things the right way. There was a recent tragedy involving a family member of a former Dungy player. I wish I could tell you the story of how Dungy reached out, but I’m sworn to secrecy. Let’s just say it was a Hall of Fame move.

Panthers: Steve Smith, wide receiver.

Claim to fame: Smith has 574 career receptions for 8,330 yards and 50 touchdowns. With all sorts of injuries at running back, Smith put the 2005 Carolina offense on his back and carried the Panthers to the NFC Championship Game. That season, Smith had 103 catches for 1,563 yards and 12 touchdowns.

[+] EnlargeSteve Smith
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesA few more postseason appearances could help solidify Steve Smith's Hall of Fame status.
Case for enshrinement: He’s the best player in the history of the franchise. Initially expected to be nothing more than a kick returner, Smith made himself into one of the most dynamic receivers in the NFL.

His touchdown catch in double overtime in the divisional playoff round against St. Louis put the 2003 Panthers into the NFC Championship Game.

Case against enshrinement: It’s getting more difficult for receivers to get into the Hall of Fame as the NFL has evolved into more of a passing league. At the moment, Smith’s numbers aren’t even close to Hall of Fame material.

Smith’s also had some troubles. On three different occasions, he has had physical altercations with teammates. Playing in a small market with a franchise that’s never had back-to-back winning seasons doesn’t help either.

Bottom line: Let’s not count Smith out of the Hall of Fame race yet. He’s 31, but he really hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down. He’s going to miss some time in training camp as he recovers from a broken arm, but he should be ready for the start of the regular season.

With either Matt Moore or Jimmy Clausen taking over as the new starting quarterback, Smith’s numbers could suffer. But he remains Carolina’s only proven threat in the passing game. If he can play another four or five years at a high level and get his career yardage above 13,000, he could have a shot. Of course, it would only help if the Panthers can have a few more playoff seasons.

Falcons: Dan Reeves, former coach.

Claim to fame: He led Atlanta to a franchise-best 14-2 record in 1998 and the only Super Bowl berth in team history. Reeves also led the Broncos to three Super Bowls in four years.

Case for enshrinement: Reeves, who also played in the NFL, wasn’t the best head coach ever and he wasn’t the best player ever. But combine what he did as a player and a coach and you’ve got a pretty impressive résumé. Reeves was a very solid player for the Dallas Cowboys in the 1960s and early ‘70s. He primarily was a running back, but also played some quarterback and receiver. He threw a touchdown pass in the legendary "Ice Bowl." The Cowboys made the playoffs every year Reeves played for them. He became Denver’s head coach in 1981. In 12 seasons, Reeves led the Broncos to six playoff appearances, five division titles and three Super Bowls. He took the New York Giants to the playoffs in his first season with that team and took the Falcons to the Super Bowl in his second season with the team.

Case against enshrinement: Reeves’ coaching career was better than his playing career, and you can poke some holes in that coaching career. The strongest argument against Reeves is that he never won a Super Bowl with the Broncos, despite having John Elway in his prime. Despite his early success with the Giants and Falcons, Reeves wasn’t able to keep the level of play that high for very long with either team.

Bottom line: A very tough call because Reeves doesn’t have one overwhelming accomplishment going for him. If he just had been able to win one Super Bowl with Elway, the path would be much easier.

Your reaction to Dungy choice

June, 16, 2010
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Lots of good reaction in the mailbag to Tuesday’s column in which I gave my opinion that Tony Dungy is the best coach in the history of the NFC South.

Craig in Fort Worth, Texas, writes: Tony Dungy never coached in the NFC south, right? Jon Gruden was the coach of the Bucs in 2002, when the division got its start.

Pat Yasinskas: Absolutely correct. Not sure if you’re suggesting that should make Dungy ineligible, but I think I made it very clear throughout the process that anyone who ever coached for one of the four franchises that now make up the NFC South was eligible. In other words, guys like Jim Mora and John McKay also were eligible.


Steven in Ontario, Calif., writes: I am a Bucs fan and I read your blog before anything else about the Bucs. I respect your knowledge, but without Manning and what he did with the Colts, Dungy would be with Jim Mora on your list. I am sure Gruden is a pain (for the media), but he got the Bucs to the "holy land". Football is about winning and the best play.

Pat Yasinskas: Let me say this: Gruden was not “a pain’’ to cover. In fact, he was great for media purposes. He was colorful as could be, always saying very good quotes and never afraid to be controversial. Dungy, on the other hand, could be very dry and boring for those purposes. I went with Dungy over Gruden (and several other coaches over Gruden) for the reasons I stated in my column.


Mark in Honolulu writes: I have no issues with your selections of best coaches, but think you may have left out one important criteria. One task of management, in all businesses, is the development of those who work for you. Head Coaches are tasked with the development of assistant coaches. How many assistants did the head coach develop into a peer?

Pat Yasinskas: Well, I think that would only support Dungy’s case. Among the guys he had as assistants were Herm Edwards, Lovie Smith, Rod Marinelli, Monte Kiffin, Mike Tomlin and Jim Caldwell. That’s a pretty strong list.


Curtis in Cordova, Tenn. writes: I just finished your blog about the best coach in the NFC South. While your reasoning is strong, I feel there is one thing you left out. Yes, both Sean Payton and Dungy have won a Super Bowl, but you fail to look at the quality of the opponent. Payton and the Saints defeated the Colts and Peyton Manning coming off of a near-perfect season and only one year removed from being led by Dungy. Dungy and the Colts on the other hand defeated Rex Grossman and the Bears. Three years later, Grossman can barely hold a back-up job after imploding in the Super Bowl and the Bears now are largely considered irrelevant. I doubt you'll find anyone that believes the Colts and Manning will be in the same position three years from now. So, are all Super Bowl wins equal?

Pat Yasinskas: Actually, Dungy’s Super Bowl with the Colts had nothing to do with my decision. Nothing Dungy did with the Colts had anything to do with my decision. I think I made it pretty clear I was only looking at what the coach did while he was with an NFC South franchise. If I included other stops, guys like Mora and Dan Reeves would have been higher on the list and Mike Ditka would have made the list.

Vick in the NFC South again?

May, 20, 2009
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Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

ESPN analyst Herm Edwards sees three possible landing spots for Michael Vick -- and two of them are in the NFC South.

  Vick

Edwards mentions Carolina and New Orleans as possibilities along with Jacksonville. And let's remember, Edwards isn't reporting any of these teams are showing interest in Vick -- he's just offering his opinion on three teams he thinks could make sense. I don't disagree with Edwards on New Orleans (more on that in a moment) and Jacksonville, but I respectfully disagree with him on Carolina.

That's entirely because of Panthers owner Jerry Richardson. I just don't see any way Richardson would take a chance on Vick. Richardson has been burned badly twice in the past by Kerry Collins and Rae Carruth.

Those situations bothered Richardson to his very core and he was totally embarrassed that the off-field problems of Collins and Carruth reflected so poorly on a franchise the owner takes enormous pride in. Since Carruth, Richardson has gone out of his way to avoid any player with a checkered past and he's gotten rid of a bunch of other players (Todd Sauerbrun, Chris Terry and Lamar Smith) as soon as they've run into trouble. This one's not going to happen.

As for New Orleans, like I said, I don't disagree with Edwards. His logic is that coach Sean Payton is an offensive guru. Payton has a great quarterback in Drew Brees. But Payton could figure out all sorts of ways to use Vick in a hybrid role or at quarterback in a Wildcat scheme. I say this one's at least possible.

We all know we can rule out a Vick return to Atlanta and Tampa Bay has just made Josh Freeman the franchise quarterback. Although, if Jon Gruden were still coaching the Bucs, they'd almost certainly be in the conversation about Vick.

Is Jenkins a corner or a safety?

April, 22, 2009
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Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

ESPN analyst and former NFL coach Herm Edwards has a pretty strong opinion on what the future should hold for Ohio State defensive back Malcolm Jenkins.

Although a lot of people are projecting Jenkins to move from cornerback to safety in the NFL, Edwards has a different view.

"All you have to do is turn the tape on," Edwards said in a conference call with the media. "The tape doesn't lie, and how this guy plays football, you want him on your team. You let him play corner and see if he can play. There's been a lot of corners that don't run 4.4s and play in this league. Most of our corners in this league don't run 4.4. I think this guy is a solid football player."

That makes some sense and few know defensive backs better than Edwards, who played defensive back in the NFL and was a secondary coach before becoming a head coach. The Saints and Buccaneers are the two NFC South teams that could have a shot at drafting Jenkins.

I think Jenkins can play either position, but I also think whoever drafts him should already have decided which spot he'll play in that system. I once saw former Carolina coach George Seifert use a first-round pick on Rashard Anderson without knowing if he wanted him to be a safety or a cornerback.

Seifert never firmly made that decision and shuffled Anderson between the two positions. That was too much for Anderson to handle. He also had some significant off-field issues and wound up being a huge bust.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

All right, after getting through mailbags for the Saints and Falcons, it's time to get back to the NFC South's favorite topic.

That's Jay Cutler and that means it's time for a mailbag on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Hundreds of you are asking about the possibility of the Bucs trading for the Denver quarterback.

Let's start by saying there are no definite indications that the Bucs and Broncos are even talking at this point. But they did discuss a deal back at the start of free agency and that leaves plenty of room for speculation as the sparks continue to fly between Cutler and the Broncos.

Again, there's no way to answer all of your great questions, so I'll choose a few that seem to represent what's on a majority of minds. I'll put the Cutler questions first and, then, move on to a few other matters.

Brian in Rochester, N.Y., writes: What are the chances the Bucs actually land Cutler??

Pat Yasinskas: Your question pretty well summarize a lot of questions. Again, nobody knows exactly how the Jay Cutler scenario is going to play out in Denver. But you're asking for my opinion and speculation. I'm going to say the same thing to all of you that I just said to my good friend and renowned Tampa singer/guitarist and Bucs fan Johnny G. Lyon. He was on his way to set up for his Saint Patrick's gig with JGLB, but called to ask if there was anything new on Cutler. No new developments, but if Cutler truly is on the market, I think the Bucs HAVE to go out and get him. It just makes sense on a lot of levels. First, Cutler's a downfield thrower and coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski wants a passing game that can go downfield. Second, the Bucs are pretty well set up with the rest of their offense. You can make a case that all the Bucs need is a quarterback. Third, and don't overlook this one, the Bucs could use a splash. After getting rid of Jon Gruden and Derrick Brooks, the Bucs don't exactly have a lot of star power. Ownership is aware of that and ownership here likes star power. This wouldn't be quite as big as going after Brett Favre last summer -- on the surface. But, in the long run, a trade for Cutler could be even bigger for the Bucs. Cutler has some star power. He also has lots of ability and he's 25. There's room for him to build that star power with the Bucs.


Mikey in Iraq writes: Pat, Bucs fan here. Ive been deployed over in Iraq, and dont get much information. Was wondering if Tampa, does go after cutler, what is it that tampa has to work with besides Draft Picks?

Pat Yasinskas: Well, the draft picks are the most important thing. I'm just guessing here that it would take a first-round pick and one other choice to get Cutler, if the Broncos do trade him. An existing player could be part of a deal, but I don't see that as being a huge priority. The one thing that might coax the Broncos would be a quarterback to replace Cutler. I don't see Brian Griese returning to Denver as something the Broncos would be interested in, so I think it will come down to draft picks.


Paul in Houston, Texas, writes: Pat, I've been wondering alot about what the Glazers have been thinking sticking Raheem Morris in the 'line of fire' regarding his new job as head coach of the Bucs. Its my thinking only but do you think as well that if he doesn't perform very well in his first year that the ownership could opt to release him and bring in the likes of Bill Cowher or Mike Shannahan when they return to coaching in 2010?

Pat Yasinskas: Possible. But I think the Glazers are thinking Raheem Morris can do very well in his first year. That's why they hired him. They're following a leaguewide trend of going with young coaches. There's a reason for that trend. It's guys like Atlanta's Mike Smith and Baltimore's John Harbaugh, who took their teams to the playoffs in their first season as head coaches. Morris was going to be a head coach somewhere before too long. Maybe the Glazers sped up that process a bit, but they've seen a lot of assistant coaches come through their system (Lovie Smith, Herm Edwards and Mike Tomlin to name a few) and go on to have success elsewhere. Makes sense. But it also makes sense that if young head coaches don't continue to have success, you could see a trend back to recycling former head coaches.


Felix in parts unknown writes: Hey pat, I'm curious on who is going to be the starting corner opposite of Aqib Talib?

Pat Yasinskas: At the moment, it's Ronde Barber, but I think that's far from being set in stone. Barber survived the purge of old guys and that's a sign that Morris, who was the secondary coach last season, believes he has something left. But the Bucs have entertained a fair amount of free-agent cornerbacks. They haven't landed any, but that tells me they're looking for options. I think Barber could end up as the nickelback. The Bucs could draft someone like Malcolm Jenkins or Vontae Davis and use Barber to help ease the transition or they still could sign a free agent with some experience.


Rio in Tampa writes: What are we going to do about our defensive tackle situation? Do we have a solution in house or is it our main draft concern?

Pat Yasinskas: I don't think it would be a stretch to say defensive tackle is a huge concern. Jovan Haye left through free agency, Chris Hovan's not getting any younger and Jimmy Wilkerson is a nice backup who can swing between end and tackle. New coordinator Jim Bates likes bigger defensive tackles. I still think the Bucs are looking hard at this area in free agency and may have a solution before long. But, if that doesn't happen, defensive tackle could be a top priority on draft day.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

As we've pointed out already, Kansas City's firing of coach Herm Edwards generates instant speculation about him ending up with Carolina.

After all, the Panthers have a vacancy at defensive coordinator and Edwards has a history with coach John Fox. They played in the same defensive backfield for San Diego State.

It would be a logical fit on many levels. But, on one other level, it wouldn't be a good fit at all. This likely wouldn't be a deal-breaker, but Edwards and Fox have one very big difference. Edwards loves the media and is one of the most-open and quotable coaches to ever come through the league. Although Fox isn't generally unpleasant, he says almost nothing to the media.

Again, I don't think that would stop the possibility of this pairing. But having an extremely talkative assistant coach who used to be a head coach might make things a little awkward. At very least, Fox and Edwards would have to discuss how Edwards would handle a lower profile.

Although, after dealing with the pressure of being a head coach (for the Jets and Chiefs), Edwards might welcome a chance to simply get back to coaching and staying out of the spotlight.

By the way, don't expect an immediate resolution on Carolina's open spot. The Panthers still are in a bit of shock after the mass exodus of their defensive coaching staff and are going through the list of possible candidates. Edwards could join that list and we're told Jim Haslett also is a possibility.

NFC South coaching roundup

January, 23, 2009
1/23/09
5:37
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Some very interesting things going on in the world of assistant coaches and head coaches that could have a pretty big impact on the NFC South.

First, the Kansas City Chiefs have fired head coach Herm Edwards. Look for his name to pop up in connection with Carolina's vacancy at defensive coordinator. Edwards is a good coach, plus he's got one other thing no other candidate has -- he played in the same secondary with Carolina coach John Fox at San Diego State many years ago.

A high-profile hire like Edwards might make the recent exodus of most of Carolina's defensive staff look a lot better.

Elsewhere, Scott Linehan is going to be Detroit's offensive coordinator. Depending on what side you believe, the Bucs weren't sold on Linehan or he wasn't sold on them. That leaves Tampa Bay searching for an offensive coordinator.

The Bucs are talking to New England tight ends coach Pete Mangurian and Chan Gailey and Rob Chudzinski also are believed to be on the short list. It's clear new coach Raheem Morris wants an experienced coach to run his offense.

In that vein, let's throw out one other name. There has been no indication the Bucs have approached Dan Reeves, but maybe they should. Reeves has expressed an interest in returning to coaching and is talking to the 49ers about their offensive coordinator spot. Hiring someone like Reeves to run the Tampa Bay offense would be a little like what Fox did when he first came to Carolina with a defensive background in 2002. He went out and hired Dan Henning, who had been a head coach and had tons of offensive experience. That formula worked out very nicely, at least for a few years.

One other update, Mike Trgovac, who left Carolina to "explore other possibilities'', apparently has found one. Trgovac's set to join the Packers as defensive line coach. That's not exactly a step up.

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