NFC South: Jim Skipper
They’ve hired Ken Dorsey as quarterbacks coach, Jim Skipper as running backs coach and Al Holcomb as linebackers coach. Skipper previously spent nine seasons (2002 through 2010) with the Panthers and was with the Tennessee Titans the last two seasons. Holcomb spent the last four seasons with the New York Giants.
But the most significant hire might be Dorsey. He’ll be Cam Newton’s position coach.
Mike Shula was in that role the past two seasons. Shula was promoted to offensive coordinator after Rob Chudzinski left to become the head coach in Cleveland.
This will be Dorsey’s first job as an NFL assistant. He spent the last two seasons as a pro scout for the Panthers. Dorsey played quarterback for Cleveland and San Francisco for seven seasons and also played for Toronto in the Canadian Football League.
Atlanta tight end Tony Gonzalez moved into first place all-time with his sixth Pro Bowl touchdown catch.
Despite lobbying from some players, Jim Skipper will not be returning as Carolina's running backs coach.
Jeff Duncan takes a look at how some teams, including the Saints, sometimes play a little loose with the injury rules.
Fred Graves reportedly will be Carolina's wide receivers coach. He previously held the same job with the Tennessee Titans.
Falcons owner Arthur Blank is optimistic that a new labor deal can be reached and that there will be a 2011 season.
Here’s a look at Atlanta’s offense and some thoughts on why the play calling may be too conservative. I’m in partial agreement here. I’ve often said I’d like to see the Falcons open things up just a little bit more for quarterback Matt Ryan. But, at the same time, I realize coach Mike Smith believes in a system that includes a healthy dose of the running game. When you’ve got a running back like Michael Turner, you don’t totally abandon the running game.
Here’s one measure that says the Falcons and Buccaneers got the most out of their payrolls, while the Panthers got the least. I believe this formula has some truth to it in the case of the Falcons and the Bucs. But with the Panthers, I think the fact they won only two games, puts a pretty strong clamp on how you can quantify their use of payroll.
Former Tampa Bay linebacker Shelton Quarles talks about his rise to the position of coordinator of pro scouting for the Buccaneers.
Jim Skipper, who had been running backs coach for Carolina during the John Fox tenure, interviewed with new Panthers coach Ron Rivera. But it reportedly doesn’t look as if Skipper will remain with the Panthers. He has a standing invitation to join Fox’s staff in Denver.
The Saints suffered a pretty big loss Monday night. Secondary coach Dennis Allen will leave to become defensive coordinator in Denver. Aside from the playoff loss to Seattle, New Orleans’ secondary was a strong point last season.
It’s a bigger story for Williamson than for us, but it still is a big deal in the NFC South world. After all, Fox spent nine years coaching the Carolina Panthers and was the dean of NFC South coaches -- a title now held by New Orleans’ Sean Payton.
I think Denver fans should be excited by this move. Yeah, I know Fox went 2-14 in his final season with the Panthers, but I still think he was the best candidate on the market. Say what you want about the end of Fox’s tenure in Carolina.
But the guy did a good job for a long time. His message might have gotten stale in the later years and his relationship with ownership deteriorated. But Fox can flat-out coach and he’ll bring some instant energy to the Broncos.
Fox needs to take a couple of lessons from his early Carolina days to make things work in Denver. First, he needs to go out and get a top-notch offensive coordinator and Fox might want to give that guy a little more flexibility than he ever gave Dan Henning or Jeff Davidson.
As soon as he hires a coordinator, Fox needs to decide on a quarterback. It doesn’t matter if it’s Kyle Orton or Tim Tebow. Let the coordinator and whoever the quarterbacks coach is handle the quarterback.
The best thing Fox can do is focus on the defense and the overall running of the team and keep his hands off the offense.
By the way, Fox already is in the process of filling his coaching staff. That could mean he'll bring in some guys who were with him in Carolina. I'd keep an eye on running backs coach Jim Skipper and defensive coordinator Ron Meeks.
Pat Yasinskas: Michael Vick and White were very close friends when they played together. But Vick was not the most accurate of passers in those days. White emerged in the 2007 season with Harrington and Redman playing a lot. I wouldn’t credit them all that much for his emergence, but I think they played a small part. More importantly, I think the influences of Joe Horn and Paul Petrino, as discussed in the column, really triggered the turnaround and the arrival of Matt Ryan in 2008 helped put White over the top.
Haiile in Durham, N.C., writes: Do you think Julius Peppers is looking at the situation in Carolina and saying "I saw that coming"?
Pat Yasinskas: I covered Peppers for most of his career, but I would never try to read his mind. That’s because Peppers is a very private and complex person and he never really shared his thoughts on much of anything. I will say I don’t think Peppers is the type to gloat. I think he just had been very unhappy in Carolina and wanted out of there for several years. My best guess is he’s just happy to be out of there and doesn’t really care what’s happening to the Panthers.
Richard in Ann Arbor, Mich. writes: With regards to the stat about Carolina winning 7 of the last 10 regular season games against New Orleans, I think it's worth mentioning that, in two of those victories, the Saints were playing a "meaningless" game in which they made no real effort to win. In the 2006 finale, Drew Brees played two series, produced a touchdown, hit the bench. In last year's finale, Brees did not even play; Mark Brunell went all the way. Those are still victories for the Panthers, of course, but it's hard to take them seriously with regards to the division rivalry.
Pat Yasinskas: Some valid points there. This year, I view Carolina as a sinking ship. If the Saints make the Panthers 0-4 on Sunday, I think the bottom really is going to start to fall out in Carolina.
Robert in Dallas, Texas, writes: Just saw some of the Albert Haynesworth interview on ESPN-in your opinion do you think his attitude would be different if he would have signed with Tampa?
Pat Yasinskas: Believe it or not, things might have turned out even worse if Haynesworth had come to the Buccaneers, who actually offered him more money than the Redskins. Haynesworth said one of the reasons he decided not to come to Tampa Bay was that there were too many distractions and he wanted to go to a place where he could concentrate on football. It’s pretty obvious Haynesworth hasn’t been real focused in Washington. So, if he had doubts about his ability to focus in Tampa …well, let’s just say it’s probably best the Bucs didn’t sign him.
Sam in Raleigh, N.C., writes: You have often said that when there are head coaching changes coaching staffs tend to get dismantled. If John Fox leaves what are the chances that an up and comer like Jim Skipper would stick around as RB coach or OC?
Pat Yasinskas: I’ve known Jim Skipper for years. I think he’s one of the best assistant coaches in the league and he’s also a person I truly respect. But I don’t think you can call Skipper an up-and-comer. He’s 61 and will turn 62 in January. Plus, Skipper has been on Fox’s staff from the start. If Fox goes, Skipper almost certainly goes with him. Fox shouldn’t have a problem getting a job somewhere else. If that happens, I think there’s a pretty good chance Skipper ends up on his new staff.
Best coordinator: Gregg Williams. There’s no way I’d even try to argue with the consensus on this one. Hiring Williams to run the New Orleans defense is the main reason Sean Payton and the Saints won the Super Bowl last season.
A lot of readers also mentioned Tampa Bay special-teams coach Rich Biasaccia in this category. No argument here. Biasaccia is as good as any special-teams coach in the league and he didn’t have a lot to work with last year. I’ll also project a bit and say you could see Atlanta offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey and defensive coordinator Brian Van Gorder surge this year.
Best position coach: Paul Boudreau. Carolina running backs coach Jim Skipper and New Orleans receivers coach Curtis Johnson were the popular choices among readers. I’m not disputing that Skipper and Johnson are excellent coaches, but they’ve got some talent to work with. I’m going with Boudreau because, for the last two seasons, he’s been getting a lot out of an Atlanta offensive line that’s not stacked with blue-chip players.
|Who's not in the Hall of Fame who should be? ESPN.com's panel makes the case for Dermontti Dawson, Cris Carter, Doug Flutie and Rickey Jackson in future classes.|
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
But future classes should.
At least that's the argument our four-man panel (Jeremy Green, Matt Williamson -- each from Scouts Inc. -- Football Today producer Jay Soderberg and myself) makes in this edition of Double Coverage. In this series, we usually debate matters. But we're not going to debate this time. We each make our cases and we're going to make them passionately.
That's because each of us reacted strongly when we were asked to nominate a player who is not in the Hall of Fame but deserves to be. As the NFC South blogger, I instantly threw out Jackson's name because Saints fans have been hitting me with pleas for his case since I've taken this job. I know Green spent a large chunk of his life in Minnesota around Carter and he took all of about three seconds to nominate him.
Williamson was so eager to make his case for Dawson that he sent me his argument the day we were assigned this project two weeks ago. Soderberg owns up to the fact he's a Patriots fan, but claims that's not the only reason he thinks Flutie has been shorted.
Enough with the introduction. Listen to the discussion by clicking here , and read the presentations below.
RICKEY JACKSON (by Pat Yasinskas)
I started off this project knowing Jackson was a darn good player. I got hit with statistics and passion when I asked Saints' fans for input. But I didn't want to rely just on my own recollections of Jackson's playing career, the numbers or folks who might be biased.
|Rickey Jackson piled up some impressive numbers: six Pro Bowl selections and 136 sacks.|
I wanted to hear from someone up close why Jackson belongs in the Hall of Fame. That's why I turned to the trusted veteran eyes of Carolina Panthers assistant head coach Jim Skipper. He was a New Orleans assistant coach during Jackson's time with the Saints. He saw him in games, in practice and in the locker room.
"The City Champ belongs in the Hall of Fame, no doubt," Skipper said. "He was as good as anyone who's in there. ... He's the guy who made the Dome Patrol (which also featured linebackers Sam Mills,Pat Swilling and Vaughn Johnson) go and some people say they were the best group of linebackers ever. It all started with him. You want to talk about tough? Rickey was so tough, he once got into a car accident and broke his jaw. He still went out and played in that game."
How do you top that?
You don't. You just throw in the numbers -- six Pro Bowl selections and 136 sacks. You can point to the fact that New Orleans is a small market. But Jackson moved onto San Francisco near the end of his career and got a Super Bowl ring. The only thing he's missing is a spot in the Hall of Fame. It's long overdue.
DERMONTTI DAWSON (by Matt Williamson)
I fully understand that the position of center, and the offensive line in general, is not
a glamour position. Arguing for or against such players as potential Hall of Famers is a very difficult chore. But Dawson deserves enshrinement.
A 10-year starter, Dawson followed Mike Webster, one of only six centers in the Hall of Fame, to establish a legacy at the position like none other in the history of the game. During that stretch, Dawson started 171 straight games, went to seven Pro Bowls, was All Pro six times and was selected to the 1990s All-Decade Team. He started 13 playoff games, three AFC Championships and Super Bowl XXX. In comparison, Hall of Fame center Dwight Stephenson played in just 114 games with five Pro Bowls and four All-Pro selections.
Dawson's statistics are surely impressive, but his scouting report is even more extraordinary. In protection, bull rushing him was nearly an impossible chore, as he pass-blocked with tremendous leverage and technique. The ultra-quick upfield defensive tackles rarely beat Dawson. He routinely snapped the ball, pulled with his great athleticism and led an outside run with precision and grace. He also was able to quickly get into a defensive tackle who was lined up over the guard and neutralize that defender's charge while his teammate acted as a pulling guard. You just don't find centers who do that.
Dawson did it all as well as anyone who has ever played the position and he did it with consistency, longevity and class. It is a crime that he has yet to be inducted into the hallowed Hall of Fame.
CRIS CARTER (by Jeremy Green)
One of the biggest oversights in Hall of Fame voting history is former Minnesota Vikings wide receiver and current ESPN analyst Cris Carter.
|Cris Carter is third on the all-time receptions list with 1,101 catches.|
If there is ever a player who should be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, it's Carter [who became eligible in 2008). He is arguably the second-best wide receiver to ever play the game behind only one man: Jerry Rice, who has yet to become eligible for the Hall of Fame ballot.
Despite not having blazing speed, Carter adapted into a big-time playmaker in Minnesota. He could play the X and Y positions. He was unbelievable in the slot in the Vikings' 3-deep wide receiver concept during the Dennis Green era [Editor's note: Dennis Green is Jeremy Green's father]. Carter is the second- best route-runner I've ever seen, ranking behind only Rice. I had the pleasure to watch both in numerous practice sessions and live games from both field and coaching box levels.
The numbers do not lie when it comes to Carter. He is third on the all-time receptions list with 1,101, trailing only Rice (1,549) and Marvin Harrison (1,102). Despite playing the majority of his career opposite another receiver who will be in the Hall of Fame in Randy Moss (13,201 career receiving yards), Carter currently ranks seventh on that all-time list with 13,899 yards. Carter is fourth on the all-time touchdown reception list, trailing only Rice (208), Terrell Owens (141) and Moss (136), with 131 receiving touchdowns.
The statistics were there for Carter to be a first-ballot HOF candidate. What I think is almost as important: Carter is a man who changed his life. After battling both alcohol and drug use in his early years with the Philadelphia Eagles and being released, the Vikings were one of the few teams willing to take a chance on him. They picked him up for a $100 waiver claim and Carter rewarded them by changing his life and blossoming. In my mind, he's second-best receiver to play the game.
DOUG FLUTIE (by Jay Soderberg)
We probably should start by saying that my bias for New England Patriots players is well documented, but that is not what has led me to the belief that Doug Flutie belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. What has led me to this conclusion is the name of the shrine in Canton itself: PRO FOOTBALL Hall of Fame, and Doug Flutie was one of the greatest quarterbacks ever in the Canadian Football League.
Flutie, who retired from the NFL in 2006, does not become eligible for Hall Of Fame consideration until 2011. But he's got plenty of ammunition, in my opinion.
His career stats in Canada alone are worth noting: 61.4 completion percentage, 41,355 total passing yards, 270 passing touchdowns and only 155 picks in a pass-oriented league. He was the first quarterback to pass for more than 6,000 yards in a season; he did it twice and came close a third time. He won three Grey Cup championships, and was named the CFL's Most Outstanding Player a record six times.
Flutie was never given a real chance to be a starter in the NFL, whether battling the issue of his height (he's listed as standing 5 feet, 10 inches), battling for a job as a backup (with Rob Johnson in Buffalo, Drew Brees in San Diego), or being labeled a "scab" for crossing the picket lines early in his NFL career with the Patriots. Combine the stats from all three professional leagues he played in (he played one year in the USFL for Donald Trump's New Jersey Generals) and his numbers -- 58,179 total passing yards, 369 passing touchdowns, 6,759 rushing yards and another 82 rushing touchdowns -- are definitely worthy of consideration. Don't forget his numerous, memorable fourth-quarter comebacks.
Just for kicks, let's add that he was the last player to drop-kick an extra point during an NFL game.
Listen to the podcast for more on our nominees and join the discussion below.
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
Just a heads-up that we'll have a Double Coverage feature Wednesday in which I'll make the argument that Rickey Jackson belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
It's going to be a fairly easy assignment, thanks to you. I asked for your help a couple of weeks ago when I first drew this task. Your passionate responses about why Jackson belongs in the Hall of Fame helped me prepare for this one.
I also talked to Carolina assistant head coach Jim Skipper, who was a New Orleans assistant back during the Jackson days. I've also got a request to talk to Panthers assistant coach Sam Mills III Tuesday. Mills grew up around Jackson because his late, great father played with Jackson.Again, thanks to all who responded to help me make Jackson's case for the Hall of Fame.
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
The Carolina Panthers could lose an assistant coach to a head-coaching job -- in the Canadian Football League.
The Toronto Argonauts reportedly are showing strong interest in Carolina running backs coach/assistant head coach Jim Skipper. He hasn't met with team officials yet, but may do that shortly.
Skipper previously was a head coach in the XFL.