Chat with Ashley Fox
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, ESPN.com NFL columnist Ashley Fox stops by to chat.
Fox joined ESPN.com in 2011 after 11 years as a writer and columnist at the Philadelphia Inquirer, where she covered the National Football League, the Philadelphia Eagles and the Philadelphia 76ers. She also has worked at the Louisville Courier-Journal and Sports Illustrated. A North Carolina native, Fox lives in suburban Philadelphia with her husband, daughter and son.
Send your questions now and join Fox Thursday at 3 p.m. ET!
Ashley Fox (3:00 PM)
Greetings everyone. Nice to be back with you all after a hiatus. Let's get rolling.
Rich (New Jersey)
Hi Ashley, With the recent hiring of Ken Whisenhunt by the Titans on monday & Jim Caldwell of the Lions on Tuesday, is their any possible candidates on the coaching staffs of the Broncos-Patriots-49ers or Seahawks that might go to either the Browns or Vikings as the playoffs are over?
Ashley Fox (3:03 PM)
Hi Rich. I think Denver offensive coordinator Adam Gase will be someone worth watching. He declined to interview for any jobs when the window was open. Said he wanted to wait until after the Broncos were done playing. That decision could put him out of the loop if Denver wins this weekend. But Cleveland owner Jimmy Haslam has said he is willing to be patient to find the right person. We'll see. San Francisco's offensive and defensive coordinators should get looks, too. It sounds like New England OC Josh McDaniels is happy where he is.
Did Detroit "settle" for Jim Caldwell or do they really think he is a good head coach?
Ashley Fox (3:04 PM)
I don't think they settled at all. Jim Caldwell is a very good coach. Peyton Manning, who played for him in Indy, vouched for him, which resonated. He takes over a talented roster and has a quarterback with potential who needs to be developed. I think it's a good fit.
Mike P (Greater KC Metro)
I'm a little confused on as to why the media is saying that both Brady and Manning have to win this year to Validate their careers. brady already has 3 SB rings, Manning 1. Manning has too many passing records to court. If neither one won another Super Bowl they would be in teh GOAT discussion. It blows my mind that someone who has multiple Super Bowl rings has to validate his career? Why also is everyone not saying the same thing about Belicheck then?
Ashley Fox (3:07 PM)
I don't know who in the media has been saying that. I think in Manning's case a second Super Bowl win would bolster his resume and quiet the criticism that for all of his regular-season brilliance, he didn't win multiple Super Bowls. Brady has proven himself. And a New England win would do away with the criticism that Belichick never won one after SpyGate. But you're right, all three men are going to go down as the greatest of all time in their profession, whether they win another Super Bowl or not.
What do you think about Foles heading into next year? Think he is a franchise guy?
Ashley Fox (3:09 PM)
I think it's going to be really interesting to see his progression from Year 1 with Chip Kelly to Year 2. He is still so early in his NFL career. The general rule of thumb is it takes about five years for quarterbacks to really understand all of the nuances of their offense. WIth Foles, we'll see. You had to like what he did this season, with just two picks. He was poised. He was steady. Is he the Eagles' franchise quarterback? He will be the guy for next year, but this year's draft, and next year's, will really show us what Kelly thinks of him.
Tim (El Cajon, CA)
Zimmer for HC and Turner for OC. Good choices in your opinion? Might even help with the QB's we have too. Not saying we couldn't use a better one though.
Ashley Fox (3:11 PM)
I do think they're good choices. I know this about Zimmer: He is a tough, tough coach. He has no problem calling guys out. He is great at identifying talent and developing it. And Turner is good with quarterbacks. It is interesting that Minnesota opted for a defensive minded head coach, but I think it was a solid choice and long overdue for Zimmer.
Landon Gailbreath (Lost Nation iowa)
If the Packers stay healthy next season, what chance do you give them of returning the the Superbowl?
Ashley Fox (3:13 PM)
Well, they have one of the best quarterbacks in the game, so that helps. You saw how valuable he is when he was out. They've got some decisions to make with their roster, but the major pieces are there. Will they get to the Super Bowl? That's so far out and so much can happen between now and then. Plus Seattle and San Francisco have set the bar high for what it takes to get there. But Green Bay has talent, that's for sure.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
Can a Russell Wilson make the throws necessary in the passing game, provided his receivers can separate, for the Seahawks to reach their Super Bowl?
Ashley Fox (3:15 PM)
I think more important than that is can Marshawn Lynch carry the offense? He's the player San Francisco's defense is most concerned with. 49ers safety Donte Whitner identified him as the one player San Francisco must take away. They want Wilson to have to beat them. I give Seattle the edge because of their defense, Lynch and the fact they're playing at home, but it will be interesting to see if Wilson has to win with his arm.
Luke (South Dakota)
Hi Ashley. I was wondering how will the 49ers be able to win at Seattle? Kaepernick is never good when he is under pressure and flustered. Will the 49ers line be able to keep him under control?
Ashley Fox (3:18 PM)
I think they can. You bring up a good point. The battle in the trenches is going to be fascinating to watch, and San Francisco's line has, I believe, three first-round draft picks on it. They're the best line in football. Like it will be for Seattle, the running game will be equally important for San Francisco. I wrote about this today: Typically the best indicator for a team's success is did they win the turnover battle. But in these playoffs, the biggest indicator has been rushing yardage. All eight winners have rushed for 100 yards. Whoever runs the ball better -- which gets back to the lines -- will probably win.
Hi Ashley, love your work, especially the way you defend your opinion and own up to 'mistakes' when your predictions didn't pan out. My question relates to women and the NFL: obviously we have female reports, female owners, and I think a female team president(?). What is the next frontier for women and the NFL? Scouts, coaching, officials, something else? Interested to hear your thoughts!
Ashley Fox (3:21 PM)
Thanks, Gloria. Predictions are fun, but you can't be right all the time. That's how it goes. It's an interesting question you pose. And I'm not sure. Maybe an official? There was a woman working as an official at a preseason joint practice between Philadelphia and New England. I'm not sure if she worked any preseason or regular-season games. I'm guessing not, but I don't know for sure. I don't see it happening in coaching or scouting.
With all the injured guys back, tons of cap space and high draft picks I think ATL is poised to bounce right back next year. I expect Dimitroff to bolster the OL in FA and focus on D in the draft. All the close games we won in '12 on the way to 13 wins were lost last year.
Ashley Fox (3:23 PM)
I would agree with you. And clearly, the priority there is to work on the lines. The offensive line was a mess, largely due to injury. They need another pass rusher. They could use an upgrade to the secondary. They're going to have to start looking at some point for Roddy White's replacement. But I agree that the foundation is certainly there. I like the quarterback and the head coach. I see a bounce back year in 2014.
Rossy Chomes (Motown, NJ)
Not surprised to see Gilbride go, but was surprised to see Giants let go of 2 longtime assistants in Pope & Ingram. Esoecially Pope since he has coached on all 4 SB teams. Guess you are never safe...
Ashley Fox (3:26 PM)
I, too, was really surprised about Pope. He's probably the best tight ends coach in the business. He had been there forever (with a hiatus in the middle). But there was going to be turnover on the offensive side of the ball after the season the Giants had. Tom Coughlin had to make some changes. And clearly he did.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
Is the NFL making progress rehiring two black coaches for the first time in the same season? Do you think it's a coincidence they're disciples of the first African American head coach ever to get a second chance, and be successful?
Ashley Fox (3:27 PM)
I think it is small progress, yes. The coincidence is that both Lovie Smith and Jim Caldwell are good football coaches who have had success in the past. I'd still like to see more progress both in the coaching ranks and in front offices, but yes, this is better than last year, when no African Americans were hired and there were eight head coaching vacancies.
What can the NFL do to improve the consistency of it's part time officials? This season did nothing but highlight the inconsistency from game to game. Certainly a multi billion dollar enterprise can put a much better effort forward, wouldn't you agree?
Ashley Fox (3:30 PM)
I would totally agree. There needs to be more consistency with the officiating and how things are called. I think at some point the league needs to tweak its process of reviewing calls on the field, whether that goes to a centralized location where designated league officials review and rule on the calls. But you're right: There was a lot of inconsistency, a lot of missed calls. We saw it just this past weekend.
Ashley, If it is frigid and snows in NY on Super Bowl Sunday...Rank the 4 remaining teams in order of their chances of winning the Lombardi Trophy...
Ashley Fox (3:31 PM)
I'm having a hard time buying New England as a running team now, but what they did against Indianapolis, with six rushing touchdowns was impressive. I think if it's cold and snowy -- a distinct possibility -- the team that runs the ball the best has the advantage. So I'd go: Seattle, San Francisco, New England, Denver. But I really think it's a toss up at this point.
Mike P (Greater KC Metro)
Is Cleveland the worst NFL Coaching Job in the league right now? It seems like no one and i mean no one wants to come within a 100 foot pole of there. They have talent, i dont undertstand what is causing so many people to say no way, not going there
Ashley Fox (3:34 PM)
When you fire your head coach after one season, that sends up a huge red flag to potential candidates. The Browns folks have said they made a mistake hiring Chud and wanted to correct it sooner rather than later. Fine. But they went into this season in rebuilding mode -- again -- and still got rid of him. That was unfair. Also, the next head coach there doesn't get final say over personnel. That, too, is an issue.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
Did the Seahawks get exactly what they asked for with Percy Harvin? They knew the guy couldn't stay healthy, and now they're on the hook for a huge amount of money. Should he brought up on larceny charges like Matt Flynn? Or do we give him one more year to earn his keep?
Ashley Fox (3:35 PM)
The larceny charges? That's pretty funny. If you ask Minnesota fans, the Seahawks got exactly what they bargained for. Harvin is a talented player, but he's frequently hurt. Ron Jaworski once told me: Fast players are fast, slow players are slow, and injured players are injured. Pretty simple, but it's true.
I know Mike Tomlin and John Harbaugh weren't interviewed by, or considered candidates elsewhere when hired. John Harbaugh certainly doesn't have control over the roster, yet won a SB last season. What is the total number of NFL head coaches that do have the power to make ultimate personnel decisions?
Ashley Fox (3:37 PM)
I don't know the total number off the top of my head. I will say that I think Ozzie Newsome and Harbaugh work in tandem, and certainly Ozzie has proven that he knows how to manage a roster and isn't afraid to make unpopular decisions when players age. Even if a coach doesn't have final say over personnel, what matters is the working relationship between the coach and whoever does, be it the GM or the president or the owner (in Dallas's case). Trust is a huge factor there.
Ed (Queens Village)
What is your take on Rex Ryan extension? The pro I get is continuity and players like playing for Rex. The con Jets have miss playoffs three straight years and it sends message they accepting of being mediocre.
Ashley Fox (3:39 PM)
They had to do something. If they were going to retain Rex, which they said they were, they couldn't let him go into the final year of his contract. That would have been a recipe for disaster. So they extended him with a contract Adam Schefter said was loaded with incentives. Probably smart. I actually thought he did a good job this season. They were way more competitive than I thought they'd be before the season started.
Allen (Columbia, MO)
What do the Chiefs need to get over the hump and finally get a W in the playoffs? To me receiver looks like a major position of need, along with depth in the defensive front 7. No reason they can't rather easily claim the AFC wildcard again next year.
Ashley Fox (3:41 PM)
Agreed on both fronts. I think you saw late in the season once the competition improved that the defense wasn't as good as maybe we thought. They had some injuries, which didn't help, but that's going to happen. I think all of the pieces are there and Alex Smith will benefit from another year in Reid's system. They could use another receiver and a good, pass-catching tight end.
Is Ryan Mallet not a great trade piece for New England this off-season?
Ashley Fox (3:42 PM)
He is if Belichick will give him up. I'm not convinced he will.
You're having a 'hard time' buying New England as a running team right now?? Have you watched any football the last month ?
Ashley Fox (3:42 PM)
I know. I have. I'm just saying, it is a little disconcerting thinking of them as a running team given who they've got at quarterback.
Josh McDaniels had final say in Denver. How did that work out?
Ashley Fox (3:43 PM)
I'm not saying it's perfect. And you can argue about Cleveland all you want. Go ahead. But that place is not highly regarded right now. That's fact.
Dave (Conover, NC)
Ashley, why hasn't Scott Piolli been called down to Miami to interview for the GM position? KC had a great year with Andy Reid playing with Piolli's groceries. I know Reid brought in Smith, but the rest of that team was in place due to Piolli's work. Is there a negative Carl Peterson bias at work, since he's in Steve Ross's ear? Thanks!
Ashley Fox (3:46 PM)
Pioli did a good job with the groceries, as you called it, in Kansas City, but he earned a pretty lousy reputation for how he deals with people. Maybe he's changed. Maybe he learned. He's a good talent evaluator, for sure, but there is more to it then that.
Do you agree with the Raiders retaining Dennis Allen and if so do you think he is the right man to turn the franchise around?
Ashley Fox (3:47 PM)
I think he deserves to keep working at it. I thought he might not get that chance. You've got to remember what he inherited there. It wasn't a lot. That's a rebuild. And it takes time.
Ashley,I know the NFL has become a INYOU'REFACETRASHTALKING league but what I saw from several Carolina defenders was waaaaay over the top....thoughts?
Ashley Fox (3:49 PM)
I thought it went both ways, actually. Don't like to see the head butting. That's uncalled for. But that was a physical game, and both teams are chippy. So it's not all that surprising. You'll see more of that in the NFC championship game on Sunday.
Rich (New Jersey)
Hi Ashley, I enjoyed your column on the 49ers-Seahawks, this game just might be better than the Super Bowl. I'm leaning more toward San Francisco figuring the game might decided by 1 or 2 points and a very low scoring game probably under 30, any predictions on the outcome of this game?
Ashley Fox (3:51 PM)
It might be. I love both of the championship game match ups, especially given how different each will be stylistically. As for Niners-Seahawks, I give the edge to Seattle, particularly given that they're at home, where, you might have heard, they've only lost one game in two seasons. But I agree with you that it should be close. Hope so, anyway.
I agree Ashley, it is hard to imagine a team with Tom Brady as a running team. But that makes them so much more dangerous trust me. If Denver thinks of them as a running team it could spell disaster for them.
Ashley Fox (3:53 PM)
I agree they're dangerous. And I think, as I wrote a few weeks ago, that Belichick deserves Coach of the Year honors. He's done a remarkable job this season, given who all they lost from last year's team and the fact the middle of their defense was gutted by injuries.
Cleveland is interviewing young, up and comer type head coaching candidates. I am all but certain these guys need personnel like a hole in the head. Whoever the Browns hire will earn nothing until he wins. Simple. The same folks blasting the Browns now, blasted the Trent Richardson trade. Maybe, as Peter King and Adam Schefter have suggested, the Browns are actually smart here. Who else has a shot to hire anyone from the final four?
Ashley Fox (3:54 PM)
Maybe they are. I guess we'll see.
Ashley Fox (3:55 PM)
Alright folks. I've got to jump. Thanks for joining me. We'll do it again next week. Enjoy the conference championship games.