Thursday, January 31, 2013

Falcons lobbying Tony Gonzalez for one more year

Tight end Tony Gonzalez’s chances of retiring were up to 97 percent by the end of the season, but the Falcons are making sure that three percent doesn’t go away without being contemplated in full.
General Manager Thomas Dimitroff said that he is making sure that Gonzalez is aware of just how much the Falcons want him as part of the team in 2013. Dimitroff said that it doesn’t seem like time to move on when you’re catching more than 100 passes — playoffs included — even if your age says that it is time to contemplate the next stage in your career.
“Tony’s a man and he’s got to make his own decision,” Dimitroff said, via Pat Yasinskas of “Suffice it to say that it’s not going to be an easy decision for him one way or another because he knows that he still has fuel in the tank and it’s very legitimate fuel in the tank.”
The legitimacy of that fuel is the best argument that the Falcons have going for them. Leaving with that much left to give on the game has to be something weighing on Gonzalez’s mind as he makes his final decision, especially with the Falcons getting so close to the Super Bowl this season. As Yasinskas points out, the Falcons are going to have some work to do to keep their passing game at optimal efficiency if Gonzalez is deleted from the roster so you can bet Dimitroff and others will be hammering away at Gonzalez until he tells them that he’s 100 percent retired

Author: Josh Alper
AP Photo

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Jim Harbaugh: Alex Smith’s feelings “absolutely” impact 49ers decision

49ers CEO Jed York said on PFT Live Tuesday that the 49ers hope to keep both Colin Kaepernick and Alex Smith for next season.
That’s a different approach than anyone’s been predicting and it is one that 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh seemed to dismiss at the Super Bowl on Wednesday. Harbaugh responded to a question about Smith wanting to be released, which we reported over the weekend, by saying that Smith’s feelings “absolutely” will be part of the equation of how they handle things this offseason. And nothing he said suggested they won’t be handling things by letting Smith go one way or the other.
“We won’t get into talking about the speculation or the what-ifs,” Harbaugh said, via “I’m sure that will play out, but he is a starting quarterback. He’s got a desire to be a starting quarterback, and I’m sure that will play out.”
Smith’s made that desire clear this week while simultaneously talking about being ready to help the 49ers should circumstances force him into the game. It’s a fence he shouldn’t have to straddle after Sunday’s game since there seems to be agreement from both sides – even York said Smith deserves the chance to figure out what he wants to do — that his future isn’t in San Francisco.

Author: Josh Alper
AP Photo Kathy Willens

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

LaMichael James: Chip Kelly’s offense is already working in the NFL

Some people doubt that new Eagles coach Chip Kelly can succeed in the NFL with the same kind of offense he ran at Oregon. But 49ers running back LaMichael James, who played for Kelly at Oregon, has news for those doubters: James says Kelly’s offense is already working in the NFL.
According to James, the offense that the 49ers have been running since Colin Kaepernick became their starting quarterback employs the same concepts that made Oregon’s spread offense work.
“Once Kaepernick got in there, we went to a lot of spread stuff so it is a lot of the same stuff I have been doing,” James said at Super Bowl Media Day. “It is pretty much similar. You are in the gun and is pretty much a zone read offense. It has been doing a great job helping me out being a young player and doing some stuff I am familiar with.”
Asked if a read-option offense can succeed over the long term in the NFL, even after defenses have had a lot of film to study and a lot of time to prepare for it, James said, “I believe so. Anytime you have a quarterback like Colin Kaepernick you can pretty much do anything.”
James also said he’s confident that Kelly is going to win with the Eagles.
“I think he is going to do a great job,” James said of Kelly. “He gets the best out of his players and he is going to be a phenomenal coach out there.”
With Kelly taking over the Eagles and Kaepernick taking the 49ers to the Super Bowl, we may be seeing a major offensive shift in the NFL.

Author: Michael David Smith
Photo: Doug Pensinger, Getty Images

Roger Goodell not welcome at several New Orleans bars

Despite an appeal from Saints head coach Sean Payton to give commissioner Roger Goodell a warm welcome, the city of New Orleans is still holding a grudge over Bountygate.
According to Tim Graham of the Buffalo News, at least one local bar is taking an active role in expressing their displeasure of Goodell. “The Jimani,” a small bar located near the team hotel for the San Francisco 49ers, will not serve Goodell if he happens to wander into their establishment.
They have a photo of Goodell posted behind their bar with a message saying “Do not serve this man.”
They are far from the only place of business in New Orleans where Goodell isn’t welcome. Finn McCool’s Pub and the Parkview Tavern (pictured) also have displays disparaging Goodell.

Author: Curtis Crabtree
Photo from WWLTV,

Monday, January 28, 2013

Alex Smith is expected to seek his release before free agency

It’s widely believed that the 49ers will trade quarterback Alex Smith.  The former starter is due to earn $8.5 million in 2013, with $1 million guaranteed now and the balance guaranteed as of April 1.   It makes him a luxury that the team can’t afford.
But the player prefers not to afford the 49ers a chance to trade him.  Instead, a source with knowledge of the situation tells PFT that Smith is expected to seek his release before the start of free agency.
It’s a calculated risk for Smith.  On one hand, he’s be able to join any team he wants.  On the other hand, he’d be losing the $8.5 million that he’d earn this year if his contract is traded.
Of course, that contract could make it harder to trade him.  And the 49ers will have plenty of time to explore their options for trading Smith before the new league year (and the free-agency period) begins.
Unless they can send him to a team for which he really wants to play, the fair move would be to let him go.  He has been a loyal member of the organization since he was the first pick in the 2005 draft, and he caused no trouble when he was benched during a very good season after suffering a concussion.

Author: Mike Florio
Photo Credit: Ben Liebenberg/NFL

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Trent Williams was hit by a champagne bottle, Tasered in fight

The NFL has confirmed the information we reported earlier tonight:  Redskins tackle Trent Williams was the victim, not the aggressor, during a fight early Friday in Hawaii.
“Trent Williams was the victim of an assault at a night club in central Honolulu early this morning and another individual has been arrested,” an NFL spokesman said.  “Due to an injury sustained during the assault, he will not play in the Pro Bowl and has been replaced by Matt Kalil.  Trent is still a member of this year’s NFC All-Star team and will be on the sidelines this Sunday wearing his jersey.  He will be credited with a Pro Bowl appearance and receive a full player’s share.”
Meanwhile, the Honolulu Police Department has issued a statement regarding the incident.
“At 1:30 am this morning, Honolulu Police Department (HPD) officers responded to a report of a large affray at a night club in central Honolulu,” the HPD said.  “Three males were injured during the affray.  Two were treated and released from the hospital, and the third male declined treatment.
“One male was arrested for Assault in the 3rd Degree and additional arrests are likely.  The HPD has opened an Assault 2nd and four Assault 3rd investigations.  The investigation into these offenses continue.”
Per Adam Schefter of ESPN, Williams was struck with a champagne bottle and Tasered — not by the police but by the aggressor.

Author: Mike Florio
Photo:  Paul Frederiksen-USA TODAY Sports from

Friday, January 25, 2013

Rashard Mendenhall’s future in Pittsburgh doesn’t look too bright

When Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert promised changes to the team in his season-ending press conference, many people pointed to the running back spot as an area likely to look different next season.
Injuries and inconsistency helped the Steelers to their fewest rushing yards since 2003, which was also a year that ended without a playoff spot for Pittsburgh. Jonathan Dwyer, Isaac Redman and Rashard Mendenhall all had turns in the starting lineup and none of them proved up to the task of holding the job for more than a few games at a time. Mendenhall is a free agent after the season and team president Art Rooney II’s comments to the team website don’t paint a picture of a 2013 featuring Mendenhall in the lineup.
“The season Rashard had was not what we would have hoped for,” Rooney said. “Obviously, we knew he was coming back from an injury so there were some unknowns there. So, without getting into the real specifics with Rashard, it’s fair to say that we are going to need a better performance out of the running back position if we’re going to be successful, Whether it’s Rashard or Jonathan or Isaac or somebody else, we have to be better at that position, as well as others, but certainly at that position. In this offseason that’s something we’ve got to look at and decide how we get better and who we get better with.”
The website goes on to say that Mendenhall “seemed to cross the Rubicon” by not showing up for the team’s game against the Chargers this season, a decision that earned him a one-game suspension from the team. The team’s going to find someone to be the lead dog in the backfield next season, but it looks like a safe bet that said person’s name will not be Mendenhall.

Author: Josh Alper

Rachel Nichols Leaves ESPN for CNN/Turner

Rachel Nichols, an ESPN fixture covering nearly every sport since 2004, is leaving the network for CNN/Turner. CNN announced the move late this afternoon.
ESPN employees privately expressed shock at her departure, which comes on the heels of losing Sportscenter host Cindy Brunson in October, and Erin Andrews and Michelle Beadle last summer. One could argue that after Hannah Storm, Nichols was ESPN’s most prominent female voice (host or reporter). Who takes that spot now? Suzy Kolber? Sage Steele? Chris McKendry? Lisa Salters?
Nichols starts at CNN Jan. 28th, and she’ll be anchoring the network’s Super Bowl coverage from New Orleans with Ernie Johnson. Expect to see her doing plenty of NBA work, as well as MLB in the postseason.
A source said Nichols had two offers from major networks, and one from an all-sports network, and ESPN’s offer was “tremendous.” It didn’t, however, include hosting duties. The move has been in the works since about October, the source said.
We’ll drop in this “big names to leave ESPN” list from 2011; but ESPN will quickly counter that it retained 97 percent of its talent last year.

Source:  BigLeadSports from USA Today Sports, (
Author:  Jason McIntyre
Photo from

2012 Championship Game Football ERA Results

The Football ERA Formula outputs a result that runs on a scale from approximately 4000 points to -4000 with losing teams that are dominated getting pushed into the negative numbers by their opponents.  Defensive Elements of the Formula contribute to this negative score in games constituting blowouts.  A few years back, developed a formula that translates the Final Game Results of The Football ERA into Composite Scores that resemble football scores as much as possible.  Here are this week's Football ERA Formula Results and their corresponding Composite Scores:




(AP Photo/

2012 Championship Game Football ERA Composite Scores



(Getty Images from Blog.Zap2It)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Katie Couric asks Manti Te’o if he’s gay, his answer speaks volumes

The long-awaited Katie Couric-Manti Te’o interview aired this afternoon, and for people who have followed the story of the bizarre hoax that led to Te’o claiming to have a girlfriend who didn’t exist, not a lot of new ground was broken: Te’o is sticking to his story that he was a victim, not a perpetrator, of the hoax, while acknowledging that he did lie to his family about having met his nonexistent girlfriend in person, and that he lied to the media even after learning that she didn’t exist.
But one brief exchange within the interview has people talking: Couric asked Te’o, “Are you gay?”
Te’o, who up to that point had calmly answered questions suggesting that he’s naive, stupid and a liar, grew emphatic as he insisted that he is heterosexual.
“No, far from it. Far from it,” Te’o said.
The emphasis Te’o placed on being “far from” gay was striking. At other times in the interview, Couric grilled Te’o about being “the most naive person on the planet” involved in a “web of lies,” and Te’o didn’t flinch. But when Couric asked Te’o if he’s gay, Te’o took umbrage. Te’o seemed to be saying, “Katie, you can call me naive, call me stupid, call me a liar. But don’t dare call me gay.”
And that may say a lot about how a gay player would be treated in the National Football League. Although there have been encouraging stories recently about more accepting attitudes in NFL locker rooms, we may still be a long way off from a day when a football player could answer the question, “Are you gay?” with a simple, “Yes” and not fear being shunned by teammates, downgraded by coaches and heckled by fans.
The bad news is that Te’o seems to think that if you’re an aspiring professional football player, you’re better off being labeled naive and stupid than gay. The awful news is that he might be right.

Author: Michael David Smith
AP Photo from

Future Ray Lewis employer dredges up murder case

If members of the Ravens heckled a reporter from USA Today who dared to ask linebacker Ray Lewis about an unsolved double murder case, they could soon be getting the rotten tomatoes and eggs ready for anyone with a four-letter network affiliation.
ESPN, which reportedly will hire Lewis after he retires, devoted an entire episode of Outside The Lines to the impact of the 13-year-old murder case on the legacy of one of the greatest players in NFL history.
A pre-taped item narrated by Bob Ley revisited the aftermath of the case, which resulted in Lewis being charged with murder and eventually pleading guilty to obstruction of justice.  The package included defiant quotes from former Ravens tight end Shannon Sharpe and former Ravens coach Brian Billick from the week preceding Super Bowl XXXV, which were intended to force the media to turn the page permanently (or at least until after the game) on any talk of the unsolved murders.
“I find it inexcusable that that organization from the top down from the owner to the coach went into that Super Bowl and somehow acted like Ray Lewis got a bad deal,” Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post said during the segment.  “Ray Lewis got a raw deal?  Compared to who?  The dead guy?”
Lewis may find it inexcusable that so much time has been spent by his future employer on a 13-year old case, which he refused to discuss earlier this month when questioned about it by USA Today.  ESPN’s decision to devote 30 full minutes to the topic arguably makes the subject fair game for everyone else.
Michael Hiestand of USA Today participated in the live discussion that followed.  “There’s certainly nothing wrong with anyone raising questions about murders that are unsolved,” Hiestand said.
Indeed, if the media outlet that will soon be issuing paychecks to Lewis can raise those questions, then anyone can

Author: Mike Florio
Photo: KIMBERLY SMITH, AFP/Getty Images via

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Surprise contributors borne from great scouting

Very interesting Read from Pro Football Weekly's Eric Edholm--who applies his analysis to the context of excitement generated from the Divisional Playoff Games.  The same analysis applies to the Championship Games as we here at use a three prong Analysis in making our final take on what is actually going on in the NFL---the 2nd of which is an in-depth Lineup Analysis.  Pictured here is Patriot Rookie Defensive End Justin Francis who started against the Ravens in the AFC Championship.  Enjoy Eric Edholm's review of all the surprising lesser-known contributors to this season's exciting PostSeason.

The two conference title games show the value of good scouting and smart front offices. You might not find any better and well-run personnel departments than those of the Ravens, 49ers, Falcons and Patriots.
If you had any wonder why there is so much front-office upheaval this offseason, here’s your proof: Teams are trying to mimic the formulas that these four teams have perfected.
Ozzie Newsome and Eric DeCosta lead an incredible group in Baltimore. Trent Baalke, Tom Gamble and Paraag Marathe have built some monster in San Fran. The Falcons, led by Thomas Dimitroff, are the model for teams that are redoing their personnel departments. And where did Dimitroff cut his teeth? In New England, of course. Bill Belichick and his staff know how to pick players and put them in roles to succeed.
That’s really what all these teams have done well: Build rosters from the bottom up. And it’s really those unsung players and forgotten elements of teams that end up coming up big in the postseason when it’s really most needed.
Sometimes a group just comes to play and carries a team in the playoffs, and here’s a look at the four groups — one for each of the winning teams on Saturday and Sunday — that deserve special mention for their unheralded work.

Ravens defense
Hard to narrow it down further. It was everyone. They were all great, the entire unit. Consider what those defenders went through to earn a second straight trip to the AFC championship game.
Ninety plays a week ago vs. the Colts. Ninety-four against the Broncos in Denver.
At that altitude (you know, a mile). In that cold (you know, approaching zero degrees).
Against a future Hall of Fame quarterback, maybe the best of his generation, in his reckoning season.
There were a ton of individual efforts worth lauding.
Corey Graham, a full-time special teamer a year ago, authoring an early pick-six to flip the game on its head. Terrell Suggs, with one good Achilles and one good arm, sacking Manning twice. Ray Lewis, with one non-robotic arm, making 17 tackles, seven more than anyone else on the field. Paul Kruger with a few big hits on Manning and the massive (if not controversial) fumble recovery. Dannell Ellerbe, Albert McClellan, Haloti Ngata, Bernard Pollard and Ed Reed all were listed on the injury report and clearly were playing hurt.
Only 16 men took defensive snaps for the Ravens on Saturday. By comparison, the Broncos used 20 players on defense. Five Ravens — Graham, Lewis, Ellerbe, Reed and Pollard — took all 94 snaps. There’s really no way to further quantify what they accomplished out there.
The fascinating part is that the Ravens played pretty vanilla in the first half, hardly pressuring Manning. But when they sensed they could get to him, they dialed it up a notch and really came after him. Hit after hit after hit.
Manning's first half passing numbers: 14-of-22 passing, 168 yards, two TDs, that INT off Eric Decker’s hands and no sacks.
And Manning in the second half and both overtimes: 14-of-21 passing, 122 yards, one TD, one fumble lost, one INT and three sacks.

49ers offensive line
Colin Kaepernick was superhuman. He was. But did you see the heavens open up … time after time after time? The Packers didn’t do themselves any favors by continuing, time and time again, to lose gap control and overrun plays. Kaepernick’s read-option fakes were a part of that. Frank Gore (23-119-1 rushing) ran exceptionally hard and well. But that line — left to right: Joe Staley, Mike Iupati, Jonathan Goodwin, Alex Boone and Anthony Davis — dominated. The reason the Packers were roasted for 579 yards was because they had no physical answer to the 49ers’ front wall.
I saw two noticeable mistakes all game. Staley — with a right arm that was killing him all night — gave up a sack to Clay Matthews. Goodwin and Kaepernick were off on a shotgun snap count once. That was about it. It was as clean and dominant a game as you can expect a fivesome to put together.
Did you see Iupati pancake Matthews? It was textbook domination. Davis sealed the right edge for several big Kaepernick runs. It gave him time to hit Michael Crabtree for several big plays. LaMichael James provided a spark. Gore had his first 100-yard game with Kaepernick under center. Something was different. It didn’t matter who had the ball — they were going places. That line was an immoveable force.
“Our offensive line came out and they dominated up front, so that makes it easy on a quarterback,” Kaepernick said.

Falcons backfield
I thought the Falcons’ game plan, through most of the win over Seattle anyway, was terrific in terms of setting a tone with the offensive backfield. They mixed in Jacquizz Rodgers (30 of 62 snaps), Michael Turner (22 snaps) and Jason Snelling (13 snaps) beautifully and exposed a Seahawks run defense that had done a nice job most of the season. The Falcons even used a fullback, Morgan Cox on 28 plays, much higher than normal.
Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter called a brilliant game. He inserted Rodgers early for speed and energy. After runs of seven, one, five and one yard, Rodgers burst out for 45 at the end of the first quarter. It appeared to stun the Seahawks. Rodgers broke several tackles and jacked up the crowd.
Then it was Turner’s go at that point: runs of four, two and three yards, followed by — boom! — 33. Another back-breaker that got the Falcons out to midfield. Two plays later, Matt Ryan hit Roddy White for a 47-yard TD that made it 20-zip. It was clear the two backs were pushing each other.
Cox delivered some hearty blows. Snelling snuck in for a five-yard catch that pushed the lead up to 20 again after the Seahawks had countered with a big third-quarter score.
Running the ball and stopping the Seahawks’ run (at least with Marshawn Lynch) were the two big goals the Falcons had to accomplish to win Sunday. They got both done.
Patriots bench
Danny Woodhead hurt his wrist on the first play from scrimmage. A few plays later, Rob Gronkowski’s forearm gave way. Nothing like having your offensive game plan go up in smoke early, eh?
But this is what makes the Patriots so dangerous and Josh McDaniels such a good offensive coach. They have a Plan A, B, C and D and aren’t married to any one approach. Stop them in one area, and they’ll come back somewhere else.
Now it was clear that Shane Vereen would be a big part of the game when he played the first two series and Stevan Ridley sat. But to anyone who guessed Vereen would account for three touchdowns, including two receiving, hats off to thee.
Vereen hadn’t caught the ball like he did (5-83-2, including a gorgeous over-the-shoulder TD from Tom Brady in the fourth quarter to pretty much seal up the victory) since he was at Cal. The Patriots have been patient with Vereen’s development, and it’s clear they had an idea he could be a factor in this one matched up against the Texans’ linebackers and safeties.
TE Michael Hoomanawanui, who quietly has been a key figure lately, stepped up his game Sunday with Gronk out. Although Hoomanawanui didn’t catch a single pass and wasn’t targeted once, he threw several key blocks for both Vereen and Ridley and allowed the Patriots to rush for 122 yards (5.1 yards per carry) against one of the best defensive fronts in football.
The Patriots continued to play a ton of two-TE formations, their offensive bread and butter which kept the Texans in their base defense most of the afternoon, and Hoomanawanui logged 51 important snaps in a 41-point output.
“Hooman was great today,” Belichick said when asked about Gronkowski’s injury.
Another surprise performer: DE Justin Francis. He took over snaps that others previously had taken, and Francis worked inside and outside with great effectiveness.
Although his statistics don’t pop off the page, it was clear he was physically imposing his will, especially when rushing from a DT spot after Chandler Jones went down.
Players such as Vereen, Hoomanawanui and Francis can help you win titles. Belichick always stresses the idea of expecting the unexpected, and though it’s a trite phrase, time and time again it proves to be valid.

Source:  PFW via Yahoo Sports!
Author:  Eric Edholm
Photo from