Each Sunday, the FO staff sends around e-mails to each other, both during and after the games. It lets us share ideas for columns and comments, and get an idea of how teams that we can't watch are playing. Be aware that the material in this roundtable might seem a bit disjointed and un-edited. It also might still show up later in the week in other columns, or in comments in PFP 2008. Games are chosen based on our own personal viewing preferences, and are going to reflect the teams we support and the cities where we live.
Week 17 Pregame Bluesâ€¦
Aaron Schatz: Am I the only one who feels like most of today's games are just a total anticlimax? I know Saints-Bears matters, but I don't really care much. I'm only really interested in Washington and Tennessee...
Doug Farrar: I was excited to watch Jacksonville and Houston until I saw no David Garrard, no Fred Taylor and no Pocket Hercules.
Ryan Wilson: Um, Chris Weinke is playing for the 49ers. How is that not some deranged, train-wreck version of must-see television?
Aaron Schatz: Weinke Dinky Dog -- isn't that beautiful? C'mon, say it with me: Weinke ... Dinky ... DOG!
Ben Riley: What, you aren't watching the Seahawks-Falcons game? This is the second straight week the Seahawks have been deprived of a high-definition broadcast, and sadly, I can't really argue with the decision (other than to point out that it's completely ridiculous that all games aren't broadcast in HD).
Aaron Schatz: I thought FOX had every game in HD, and it was CBS that didn't have enough trucks.
Ben Riley: No, CBS and FOX are both short of trucks, or whatever it is they need. I remember reading somewhere that all games will have to be in HD next year, or maybe by 2009.
Michael David Smith: I don't get why the teams that are playing for nothing except to rest their starters for the playoffs don't try more wacky stuff -- go for two after every touchdown, lots of trick plays, etc. -- just for the sake of practicing something you might need, and for the sake of putting things on film that your playoff opponents will feel the need to prepare for.
Sean McCormick: I've got nine months until my next Jets game, with only the draft lurking like an oasis in the desert. I'm plenty interested in this week.
Buffalo Bills 9 at Philadelphia Eagles 17
Sean McCormick: Sav Rocca of the Eagles just made the greatest tackle I've ever seen from a punter. Roscoe Parrish had broken through the first level and was on his way if he got past the punter. Not only did he not get past Rocca, but he got crushed with a textbook tackle. Rocca wrapped up, planted Parrish, and then pushed his helmet into the turf for good measure. Basically, this is why every punter in the league should get his start in Australian Rules Football.
New Orleans Saints 25 at Chicago Bears 33
Michael David Smith: Kudos to Kyle Orton for obviously working hard during all this time he's spent on the bench. I don't know if he'll ever be a legitimate NFL starter, but he's a significantly better player now than he was the last time he got substantial playing time.
Doug Farrar: Clearly, we need to do something in PFP 2008 about the totemic and metaphysical value of hair, facial or otherwise. From the days of Johnny U's flat-top and Broadway Joe's Fu Manchu to the current power of Jared Allen's mullet, this has been an NFL truism. The Orton neckbeard may have a new kind of force, given its ability to counteract meteorological elements aligned against the Bears.
Aaron Schatz: Facial hair is the secret of New England's offensive line dominance. Those may be the greatest beards in offensive line history.
Ben Riley: Um, Sean Payton, it's the first quarter, you're on trailing by 10, and the Saints have fourth-and-2 on the Bears' 28-yard line. Kick the field goal, man! Instead, it's a failed screen pass, and the Bears take over on downs. There are still three quarters to play, but I think we can safely cross New Orleans off the playoff list.
Hey, another blown call in an important game with playoff implications. Bears' safety Brandon McGowan just got called for pass interference in the end zone while covering Marques Colston, even though Colston wasn't actually interfered with, and McGowan made a beautiful play on the ball. Sigh.
Aaron Schatz: I don't think there's anything wrong with going for it there, although the play call might not be the right choice.
Without Mike McKenzie, the Saints pass defense can't stop anything. By "anything," I mean Kyle Orton. We know the Saints have a good offense, so let's play a game: Fix the New Orleans pass defense. What would you do during the off-season? Use the first-round pick on a cornerback? Blow your wad on Asante Samuel or Marcus Trufant? Replace safeties? Improve pass rush? Does anyone know what the Saints' cap situation is like?
Sean McCormick: I would think they're going to be in a good spot to take a corner, just judging from where they'll be and from my very preliminary look at how the draft board is shaping up. I don't know that I would throw a ton of money at either Samuel or Trufant -- Trufant is still a little soft, and I would be worried about Samuel operating in a different defense, especially one that demanded a lot of man coverage.
Probably the best thing the Saints can do is look at the Colts for a model. They've got an offense that can score, so find some pass rushers and some young, cheap secondary players who can play zone and just go from there.
Aaron Schatz: Hey, I know a cornerback who can play zone: Jason David! Seriously, the Saints linebackers don't really fit a majority Cover-2 scheme. If they did that, the number one thing on their to-do list switches from a new cornerback to a new middle linebacker. Brian Simmons or Mark Simoneau in the Tampa-2? Yikes. I do think the Patriots use Samuel in man coverage much more than the Seahawks use Trufant in man coverage.
Sean McCormick: The quickest fix would probably be another edge rusher and a defensive tackle who can penetrate.
Vince Verhei: I'd just like to thank the New Orleans coaching staff for kicking to Devin Hester even though they still had a chance to make the playoffs. It was the way to kick to Hester, if you're going to do it: a high punt, near the sidelines, giving him little room to maneuver. Unfortunately, he's Devin Hester, and they're the Bears, and sometimes there's just nothing you can do about it. So thank you, Saints, for one of the highlights on an otherwise pretty flat final Sunday.
Jacksonville Jaguars 28 at Houston Texans 42
Doug Farrar: And speaking of ridiculous return men: Ladies and Gentlemen, Andre Davis. The AFC South finishes without a losing team, the first division since 2002 to do so, when the AFC East and AFC West did it. And three teams from that division make the playoffs.
Aaron Schatz: I don't know if there's a rule change, a change in how people build their special teams units, or just the random influx of talented return men, but the colossal league-wide jump in kick and punt returns this year is remarkable. Not counting any random touchdown returns on onside kickoffs:
- 2005: 9 punt return touchdowns, 12 kickoff return touchdowns.
- 2006: 9 punt return touchdowns, 15 kickoff return touchdowns.
- 2007: 17 punt return touchdowns, 24 kickoff return touchdowns.
The odd other side of the coin? In 2005 there was one punt returned for a touchdown by the punting team due to a block or fumble. In 2006, there were three. In 2007, there have been seven.
Will Carroll: Is it the cap? With teams top-loading their lineups, is there less money available for better backups? I see that a bit in injuries, but might it not transfer down to special teams as well?
Tim Gerheim: But the cap's been around for 14 years. That shouldn't be something that would show up this year for the first time. Maybe it's the new K-balls they introduced this year, although I have no idea why that would have an effect, but it's the thing that first comes to mind that's different this year and has to do with the kicking game.
Michael David Smith: Has the number of touchdowns called back by penalty changed? Have they called fewer holds, illegal blocks, etc., on returns?
Aaron Schatz: The number of touchdowns called back is hard to tell, because some official scorers will list the full yardage of a play shortened by a penalty, while others will only list the yardage that counts as if the yardage after the point of the penalty never happened.
However -- this is shocking, because I felt last year like I was seeing block in the back called on nearly every return -- punt and kickoff penalties are indeed down the last three years. Punt penalties (both kicking and returning) have gone from 506 to 375 to 317 (through 16 games). Kickoff penalties have gone from 249 to 189 to 164 (through 16 games).
Seattle Seahawks 41 at Atlanta Falcons 44
Doug Farrar: The Seahawks looked very good on the ground on their opening scoring drive; both Maurice Morris and Shaun Alexander bit off long chunks of yardage behind the kind of solid blocking that Seahawks fans had almost given up on. Morris' run was notable for the downfield blocks of receivers Ben Obomanu and Nate Burleson, and Alexander's benefited from D.J. Hackett's block. The Packers, Mike Holmgren's old team, had cornered the market on blocking receivers; maybe Seattle's coach is picking up something from his past. And as we said about the Pack earlier this season, watch out for this Seattle team if they can add consistent rushing yardage to their aerial game and defense. Note: Walter Jones is out in order to preserve him for the playoffs, replaced by Floyd "I plan to pull a muscle by halftime" Womack.
Ben Riley: I've learned that the Seahawks have been the least penalized team in the NFL this season. He may be confused by clock management, but Mike Holmgren does do some things correctly.
Oh, and Shaun Alexander scored his 100th rushing touchdown a moment ago, passing Barry Sanders. No comment.
Doug Farrar: This is for Aaron, who wondered earlier this year if Hasselbeck had problems with convincing play-action fakes: On Seattle's second drive, he executed a great play fake to Morris that froze everybody. He seems to like that play to the left before a sprint right.
Vince Verhei: I've noticed that too, as the Seahawks have gone to a pass-heavy offense, they've started using a lot of play-action bootlegs. Kind of curious timing, since you'd think the impotent run game would have killed the effectiveness of the play fake, but it seems to be working.
Ben Riley: OK, that was weird. FOX just ran a montage of the Falcons' crappy season with some sort of advent calendar graphic, while the Counting Crows warbled in the background. Way to rub salt in the paper cut, FOX.
Doug Farrar: Jason Sehorn obviously graduated from the Bryant Gumbel School of Journalism â€“- he just called Atlanta defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer "Don."
Leroy Hill, the unheralded third of Seattle's linebackers, is all around the ball today. Outstanding run-stopper. Opposing teams are going to have a better shot running at Julian Peterson than Hill, though there's no guarantee of success either way. This is the best defense of the Holmgren era, and it's a lot of fun to watch. I think they'd like to show off a little for Jim Mora, who's back in Atlanta after for the first time since his New Year's Day firing after a great season helping Seattle's secondary.
However, Craig Terrill is getting pushed out of play after play inside as Rocky Bernard's replacement. I felt that Bernard was a Pro Bowl snub, and it looks like he's going to prove his worth in his absence.
Toward the end of the first half, major leaks were springing in Seattle's pass blocking, leading to a Hasselbeck fumble on something like second-and-53. Why Hasselbeck went back in on the series after that is kind of a mystery. He needs to throw a couple slants to Bobby Engram and get the hell out of there.
Ben Riley: Ugly series in Atlanta. On second down, Seattle's patchwork offensive line allows three men to penetrate, prompting Matt Hasselbeck to sprint 30 yards backwards and then hurl the ball out of bounds, which prompts an intentional grounding call from Big Arms Hochuli. The next play, on third-and-40 (seriously), the Falcons blow through the line again and Hasselbeck fumbles. The Babineaux brother who plays for the Falcons picks it up, runs 10 yards, fumbles. It bounces through the arms of a few Seahawk players, then back out, and out of bounds. Ball is eventually awarded to Falcons.
Doug Farrar: Well, I don't think this game showed us anything we didn't already know about Seattle. It's never a good idea to project problems from what you see in a season-ender with so much time for the scrubs. The defensive line is in trouble if Rocky Bernard's not in there for any serious length of time, and that State Farm commercial in which Seattle's offensive line morphs from behemoths to kickers, resulting in Matt Hasselbeck's demise, is entirely fact-based. On the Atlanta side, I saw a group of players with heart and a desire to end an unbelievably horrid season on a positive note. In short, a team that deserved one hell of a lot better than Bobby Petrino. And probably deserves better than Arthur Blank.
Vince Verhei: Just a quick thought from this game: As we wonder whether Atlanta's former quarterback will be able to return to football after several years in exile, Atlanta's current quarterback, who returned this season after three years out of football, played the best game of his career today.
San Francisco 49ers 7 at Cleveland Browns 20
Sean McCormick: Brady Quinn's first drive is a pretty good one. He tried checking down on his first two attempts, both of which ended up as incompletions, but after that he made some sharp downfield throws with some velocity to them. Quinn drove the Browns into the red zone, and on third down he hit Kellen Winslow between the numbers in the end zone on a curl route, but Winslow couldn't hold on. So, three points for Padawan Quinn.
Doug Farrar: Farewell, Bryant Young. We're not going to see another one like you for a long time.
Minnesota Vikings 19 at Denver Broncos 22
(After Chester Taylor fumbled right at the pylon and out of bounds at the Denver end zone in the first quarter, the play was initially ruled a touchdown, but Denver challenged the play and won, with the refs changing the call to a touchback.)
Bill Barnwell: Is anyone watching this game and can explain why that wasn't a touchdown?
Stuart Fraser: I saw a replay. I can only assume, since they gave a touchback, that Taylor was ruled to not be in control of the ball when he bashed it onto the pylon. Looked fine to me though.
Bill Barnwell: I was hoping he was given the touchdown, but then a penalty for spiking the ball onto the pylon.
Vince Verhei: This game, the second half in particular, was the best I've ever seen Tarvaris Jackson play. I've been a critic of his since day one, and when his team was down by 16 in the fourth quarter, I thought they were dead, dead, dead. Instead, he started playing out of his mind, scrambling, throwing on the run, finding receivers, running for first downs. He played better than his numbers -- his receivers dropped several passes, including one that would have been an automatic 60-ish-yard touchdown. It's only one game, but for the first time, I saw why the Vikings have faith in the guy.
The Broncos, meanwhile, showed how to attack the Vikings defense: You don't run at them, you run around them. They were running to the perimeter for good gains all day. And if you can get past that defensive line, the rest of the defense really isn't that good.
Dallas Cowboys 6 at Washington Redskins 27
Stuart Fraser: Does anybody else find it wonderfully comic when two defenders (say hi, Anthony Henry and Roy Williams) go to tackle a ballcarrier (Clinton Portis) and bounce off each other, allowing the runner to continue unimpeded (into the end zone, in this case)?
Note to Dallas: when you introduce Terry Glenn for the first time all season, maybe you might not want to throw to him straight away. They'll be expecting that. If you really must throw to him, maybe Romo should stare him down less. Not that it mattered overly, since Portis fumbled the ball back.
Bill Barnwell: What does Roy Williams do well at this point? Recover? Horse-collaring doesn't count as an acceptable answer.
Stuart Fraser: He pushes many children on swings.
Doug Farrar: Yes, but even then, he has a spokesman who admits that Williams needs help.
Sean McCormick: Only when the children get behind him.
Doug Farrar: So ... yeesh. Dallas' offense in the first half: Six possessions, two first downs, three yards rushing on eight attempts. 73 total yards. They couldn't gain a single yard from their own 1-yard line, and they lost a yard on three plays on a drive that started from Washington's 18-yard line after a Todd Collins fumble. Then, a missed field goal. This wouldn't be so much of a concern if the Cowboys had played like a one-seed in their last few games, but they really haven't.
Washington, on the other hand, continues to play inspired football. Todd Collins makes this passing game more productive and diverse. They're spreading the ball around in bad weather and playing with a lot of confidence. And the Redskins' defense has a little something to do with Dallas' offensive ineffectiveness today.
Aaron Schatz: I'm trying to remember another game like this, where a top team came out in Week 17 with nothing to play for, played the starters anyway instead of resting people, and completely looked like ass. I can't believe the Cowboys are only losing by 10 at halftime. Jones and Barber have combined for eight carries and three yards. THREE.
Stuart Fraser: Wacky situation here in Washington. Collins throws a 15-yard out to Santana Moss, who makes the catch initially but fumbles around and drops the ball at some point after he rolls over, whilst being tackled by a Cowboy defensive back. The ruling on the field is forceout, which is obviously nonsense -- apart from anything else, Moss was down in bounds. The booth goes to review and changes the ruling to an incomplete pass. Isn't a forceout non-reviewable?
Doug Farrar: I'd like to know what's up with the Cowboys' offensive line. That sack of Romo at the end of the first half seemed to be a pretty big indictment of their protection -- Washington brought pressure more often than they played "prevent," and didn't have any trouble getting the sack. Is Andre Gurode's absence that big a deal? One guy's out and the whole thing falls apart?
Stuart Fraser: Gurode's absence means that the Dallas standby play of "shotgun snap over Romo's head, everybody scrambles around and he hits a completely open wide receiver downfield for a big gain" is out of the playbook.
Has anybody ever seen a quarterback look as nonchalant in the pocket as Todd Collins?
Tim Gerheim: I was appalled by the Anthony Henry pass interference call in, let's say, the third quarter. It wasn't a big play, so it probably won't make highlights, but it was basically a 50/50 ball on a quick out, and Henry and, I think, Randle El had to run through each other to get to it. Both were going for the ball and they ran into each other at almost the exact same time that they got to the ball. Flag. If that's pass interference, then there is no such thing as pass defense. The league really needs to fix pass interference in the off-season. It's reached the point, and I think this is new this year, where every contested pass play results in both players looking for a flag with no idea whether one will come, because there really is no rule at this point. It looks like the unwatchable NBA, when somebody drives the lane and there's no way of knowing whether a foul will be called on the shot. If the NFL turns into the NBA, it would be a tragedy of national proportions.
Aaron Schatz: I will say, no pass interference call was gonna make a difference in that Washington-Dallas game. Washington just dominated the Cowboys -- the Cowboys starters, the players who will be taking the field in the postseason. This is four straight subpar games by the Cowboys: two losses and two narrow "skate" wins over bad teams. The Redskins were just doing anything they wanted against mostly man coverage -- basically just in patterns and out patterns, with one nice go route where Moss schooled The Human Target Jacques Reeves. When the Cowboys had the ball, the offensive line clearly missed Gurode, and when Barber can't find yardage you know something is seriously amiss. If I was a Cowboys fan, I would be worried. I don't know which is worse, to play your starters, have possibly your best game of the season in a hard fought battle, and get a moral victory but suffer three injuries -- or to play your starters, not suffer injuries, but play like discouraging crap.
The one optimistic note for the Cowboys is that T.O. should be back for the playoffs.
Doug Farrar: Seattle and Tampa Bay, the three- and four-seeds in the NFC, have to be looking at their matchups next week with some trepidation. The Seahawks take on the Redskins and Tampa Bay the Giants, and both road teams are coming off incendiary performances. Could be at least one upset, and I don't think I like what I'm thinking about who the NFC's hottest team is right now.
Aaron Schatz:And hey, lookie here... that's two divisions with no losing teams, one in each conference.
San Diego Chargers 30 and Oakland Raiders 17
Doug Farrar: The game plan for JaMarcus Russell's first start seemed to be a lot of checkdowns, which makes sense. Boy, this line cannot pass-block. At all. Barry Sims whiffed a block on Jyles Tucker, which allowed Tucker to sack Russell in the end zone and recover Russell's fumble for a San Diego touchdown. Sims also whiffed on the fumble recovery. Atrocious blocking. Two of the three most penalized players through week 16 were Sims and Robert Gallery (Alex Barron of the Rams was the other, but you can pretty much etch that in stone every season), and Sims was tied with Barron, Flozell Adams and George Foster for the league lead in false starts.
Russell is zipping the ball low and behind his receivers on the short stuff too often. Timing seems to be off just yet. I liked what I saw under the circumstances and I think the Raiders have taken a few steps forward offensively this season, but they have got to get that line fixed. League average would be a superhuman improvement.
Kansas City Chiefs 10 at New York Jets 13
Sean McCormick: Wow, how athletic is Derrick Johnson? He was matched up in single coverage with Jerricho Cotchery and ran step for step with him for 50 yards and was in position to keep Cotchery from coming down with the ball.
Ah, if you enjoy the heady mixture of terrible offensive lines, indecisive quarterbacks and a high number of gadget plays, then this game is for you! (All it needs is some spread option sets and you'd have your average college game. But I digress.) Each of these teams is going to have a high draft pick in a quarterback-rich draft. Brodie Croyle and Kellen Clemens have both looked terrible, but at the same time, they've shown skill sets that make you think they might be able to develop if they weren't stuck behind horrendous offensive lines. So how do you evaluate them? Especially when the very thing that makes Clemens and Croyle appealing (their ratio of skill set to cap value) is the thing that makes them expendable?
Michael David Smith: When was the last time a game-winning field goal got called back on a holding penalty? This Jets-Chiefs game sure has been a thriller.
Tennessee Titans 16 at Indianapolis Colts 10
Doug Farrar: So much for Bob Sanders resting on his new contract. Second play of the game, he hit LenDale White like a dump truck crashing into a house.
Aaron Schatz: Wow, the defensive line introductions for the Colts. Even hardcore fans are asking, "Who the hell are these people?"
Did anyone else scream at the television when Vince Young scrambled with a minute left in the first half? One minute left, you need to get into field goal position, only one timeout remaining. He scrambles, and then instead of a) throwing the ball away or b) running as hard as possible to get out of bounds, he turns upfield and goes directly into Bob Sanders. Learn how the clock rules work, Vince, for crying out loud.
After Colts defensive tackle Darrell Reid re-sets the bar by absolutely demolishing Titans running back Chris Henry on a kick return...
Sean McCormick: Now THAT was the hit of the year.
Russell Levine: I'd have to agree with Madden. I think that might be the biggest hit I've ever seen.
Vince Verhei: Dear God, yes. That right there was "hit pause and run screaming through the apartment to show your non-football fan roommates" material right there.
Will Carroll: Madden's line that "it knocked his hair off" is pretty good.
Doug Farrar: This has been a very physical game all around. Two early Indy pass plays were ended by big hits from Titans defensive backs, through the defenders seemed to get the worst of it in both cases. And here's something else to love about Joseph Addai -- on the Colts' first drive, he just creamed Kyle Vanden Bosch on a chip to the left.
Will Carroll: Just before the one-minute mark of the third quarter, NBC showed the doctor working on Vince Young. He was lying on his back and he was doing a manipulation ... on his hip. That's not a stretch that would loosen up his quad. Add in that he was doing a "head dip" limp and that's two notches on the idea that Young's injury is a hip. Is this a new injury, a cascade from the quad, or info that it was a hip all along? I can't imagine a worse injury for a mobile quarterback than a moderate hip injury.
Aaron Schatz: As people may know, I root for (Titans defensive coordinator) Jim Schwartz for personal reasons. As people may guess, I root for Jeff Fisher out of professional admiration. It feels really good to see them going back to the playoffs. They put together a 10-6 team with their best (OK, second-best) defensive player suspended for the year and an offense consisting of two mediocre running backs, no above-average wide receivers, and a quarterback who hardly ever throws a touchdown pass and doesn't even scramble effectively anymore.
Usually, when the team loses because of a salary cap implosion, the head coach is going to get blamed and fired. There's only so much you can do with a rebuilding talent base. I'm glad Bud Adams didn't get to that point, and I'm glad that Fisher and Schwartz made it through the valley of the shadow of salary cap death. We talk so much about Belichick and Dungy and Shanahan and Holmgren ... well, Jeff Fisher needs to always be remembered when we talk about the best head coaches in the National Football League.
Sean McCormick: Cleveland is a more entertaining team to watch (and the city certainly deserved a playoff game after all they've been through), but I agree completely about Fisher and his staff. I would put them up against anyone, Belichick included, and have faith that they would give their team every chance to win. In fact, I suspect that owners around the league will look at Tennessee and think twice before cashiering their coach after a single losing season or two.
Aaron Schatz: Unless that owner just hired Bill Parcells as Vice President of Football Operations.
Sean McCormick: Yes, that trumps patience.
Who Gets the Axe?
Michael David Smith: How many coaches do we think are going to get fired tomorrow, the next day and (for owners who want to give their coaches a happy New Year) the day after that? Cam Cameron? Brian Billick? Scott Linehan? Mike Nolan? It seems like there are fewer guys on the hot seat than most years, but maybe that just means there will be more surprise firings than usual.
Patrick Laverty: If I have a vote, I'm going to vote that Cameron does not get fired. The reasoning is a little far-fetched, but I'll go with it. Cameron is a big Bob Knight guy, played for him at Indiana. Knight and Parcells are very good friends. Cameron puts in a call to Knight, Knight puts in a call to Parcells, and Cam gets one more year.
Doug Farrar: I've heard weirder things. Parcells might also get trumped in that he wants Dallas guys and Jerry Jones may fight to keep his staff through the draft. But I think Cameron gets swept aside.
As far as who gets the axe ... I could see Marvin Lewis leaving of his own volition, or he could say the wrong thing and get canned. Lots of frustration there. Linehan might get it, but he's also the victim of a horrific injury bug and what I consider to be a subpar personnel office. The Mike Nolan thing is interesting -- if the Martz-to-San Francisco rumors are true, you have to wonder how that would shake things up. Martz' history has me thinking that he'd go with unheralded Shaun Hill over the big-ticket Alex Smith, and maybe that does something to the offense. That could signify a sea change. Maybe Billick -- after all, he did get the dreaded vote of confidence. But you're right in that I don't think there are as many certain departures this year.
Sean McCormick: It's definitely going to be a light year for coaching changes. Scott Linehan is a definite possibility, but I think most of the guys who are theoretically on the hot seat -- Nolan, Billick, etc. -- are going to hang on for another year.
Vince Verhei: The two guys who I think are in the most danger are Cameron and Nolan. Cameron, because Parcells is going to want to bring in his own guy. Nolan, because his team, which everybody thought was on the rise, totally, utterly, imploded, complete with players and coaches taking shots at each other in the media. It's a disaster down there, and they've got to start over.
Sean McCormick: Two things might save Nolan. The first is that he is still a popular figure in the Bay Area. The second is that he might be able to avoid responsibility for the Alex Smith pick. He might go, but I live out in the Bay Area and I don't get the sense of impending doom that you usually get when a coach is about to get axed. I think he gets another year with a new offensive coordinator and possibly a new quarterback.
That said, Cam Cameron is getting fired without any question. Not necessarily first thing in the morning, but there is no way Bill Parcells will tolerate him. It's also safe to say that the Dolphins don't need to rush in their coaching search, as the next coach is undoubtedly on the Cowboys staff and won't be available for another two weeks at the earliest.
Michael David Smith: I think Jerry Richardson would love to fire John Fox, but not so much that he'll eat the $15 million he'll owe him. I also think Marv Levy retiring means Dick Jauron needs to at least sweat a little bit until he finds out who his new boss is.
Doug Farrar: Jauron having to sweat would be a real shame. I think he did a great job with so many injuries.
Michael David Smith: Agreed. If I were a general manager coming in to replace Levy, I wouldn't fire Jauron. But I think there are a lot of GMs who would fire the guy who's already there if for no other reason than to establish that they're fully in charge. But, who knows, maybe Ralph Wilson will tell the new GM that keeping Jauron is a condition of taking the job.
Mike Tanier: If the Rams dump Linehan in favor of Jim Haslett, it will be a really dumb move. That's been the scuttlebutt out of St. Louis all year, though. I love Herm Edwards, but does anyone envision a scenario where he rebuilds the Chiefs into a serious contender? The time has really come for Carl Peterson to look beyond his short list
Will Carroll: Is there any way to predict who (or what type of guy) gets hired? When New England first won, Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel were huge. Same with the Ravens. Dungy, not so much, because of age. Is there a style? Does copycatting matter -- will more offensive coordinators get jobs because offensive teams won this season?
Mike Tanier: Will, Jason Garrett is the red-hot name right now because of what he did with the Cowboys.
Will Carroll: Right, but I figure Jerry gave him a wink and a nod about the job when he hired in Bum's kid (Wade Phillips). Also, Knight and Cameron weren't that friendly.
Aaron Schatz: Josh McDaniels is hot as well, because of what the Pats did this year. Both Garrett and McDaniels have the same downside, which is that some people feel they are still too inexperienced, which is less attractive to the other 31 teams than it is to Oakland. That's why Dallas didn't hire Garrett over Wade Phillips a year ago.
Often, big candidates are coordinators coming off a couple of excellent seasons, from teams that didn't make the playoffs this year -- past hot candidates who can now be interviewed earlier in the process. That screams Rob Ryan. Mike Singletary is a top candidate, but that's basically a personality thing. A team that hires Singletary wants a coach who can lead and inspire, not an X's and O's guy. Patrick Willis is swell and all, but Singletary has never been a coordinator.
Doug Farrar: My sense is that Singletary has been for Nolan what Bob Gibson was for Joe Torre when Torre managed the Mets -- the "attitude coach."
Sean McCormick: Oh, Atlanta, which goes without saying. Still, I think we're looking at three openings, four max. Not a lot of spots and a relative paucity of hot names means that teams can afford to wait for the playoffs to get well underway without worrying about getting stuck in the lurch. And if you figure that Marty is going to get one of the jobs -- as well he should -- that slims the pool of open jobs for hot coordinators even more. Now ... will Marty hire Cam Cameron to be his offensive coordinator? Or will he grab Brian Schottenheimer instead?
Stuart Fraser: With regards to coaches, I've been wondering for a while if you could put together some kind of similarity scores for coaches and prospects, to try and identify patterns in hiring (and maybe even success). Tracking age, playing and coaching history, maybe even play-calling tendencies if we have enough data on that.
This year, I think Cameron might well be the only guy fired. I think Billick should be fired, but I don't see it happening. Marty Schottenheimer has suggested he's happy to stay retired, which is probably a negotiating tactic, but it might mean that there's no safe big-name hire available, which might make GMs more reluctant to sack coaches.
As an aside, if he is retired: Hall of Fame? Or not? Can a guy with 200 wins and a .613 winning percentage be kept out?
Doug Farrar: He's worthy, especially when you factor in his playing career, but I think Marty will be back. As Jon Gruden would say, "It's irrelative."