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Eric Mangini Out in Cleveland, Browns’ Problems Extend Beyond Head Coach

The Cleveland Browns have fired head coach Eric Mangini after two-straight 5-11 seasons. Mangini was hired by the Browns in 2009 after being fired by the New York Jets. Mangini was 23-25 during his time in New York. He may not be a great coach, but when are the people in Cleveland going to realize there might be a bigger problem than the coach. Mangini has had his issues in Cleveland and certainly was not the most likelable guy, but he’s not the first coach to struggle there.

Since they were re-established in Cleveland in 1999, the Browns have had five coaches, including interim coaches. They’ve had more than four times as many seasons of at least 10 losses (9) than they have had winning seasons (2). In that time they’ve made the playoffs once. In that same span, only seven teams have employed more coaches than the Browns; the Falcons (6), Bills (6), Lions (7), Dolphins (6), Raiders (6), Rams (6) and Redskins (7). Every team on that list, aside from maybe the Falcons, has been generally horrible since ’99.

Those two winning seasons ties the Browns with the Cardinals, Bills and Bengals, and puts them just ahead of the Lions (1). That one playoff appearance ties them with the Bills and Lions for the least in that span. Are you noticing the common names on these lists? He’s another one. Cleveland’s nine seasons with at least 10 losses is matched only by the Lions.

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NFL Playoff Schedule: FOX Has Best Wild Card Weekend Matchup

The 2010 NFL regular season is in the books and the playoffs are set to begin on Saturday. The Pats and Steelers earned first-round byes in the AFC and all the teams in that conference have at least double-digit wins. The Falcons and Bears earned the byes in the NFC while the Saints (the second-best record in the NFC at 11-5) got in with a wild card berth. Oh yeah, and for the first time ever, a team with a losing record won its division, keeping two 10-6 teams (the Giants and Buccaneers) at home. Here’s your NFL playoffs TV watching schedule to prepare for the next month via NFL.com (all times Eastern):

Wild Card Weekend

Saturday, Jan 8th: (5) Saints at (4) Seahawks 4pm NBC; (6) Jets at (3) Colts 8pm NBC

Sunday, Jan 9th: (5) Ravens at (4) Chiefs 1pm CBS; (6) Packers at (3) Eagles 4:30pm FOX

Divisional Round

Saturday, Jan 15th: highest seed left between Colts/Chiefs/Ravens at (2) Steelers 4:30pm CBS; lowest seed left between Seahawks, Saints, Packers at (1) Falcons 8pm FOX

Sunday, Jan 16th: higher-seeded wild card game winner at (2) Bears 1pm FOX; lower-seeded wild card game winner at (1) Patriots 4:30pm CBS

Conference Championships

Sunday, Jan 23rd: NFC Championship Game 3pm FOX; AFC Championship Game 6:30pm CBS

Super Bowl XLV will be played between the Patriots and Falcons on Sunday, February 6th 6:30pm on FOX.

Arian Foster Closes Out Best Season by Undrafted Rookie Running Back

The first time we wrote about Arian Foster at LBS, he was blitzing the Colts in week one for a franchise record 231 yards. Not much has changed for the second-year player from Tennessee — Foster closed out the season with 180 rushing yards in a win over the Jags. The spectacular performances bookended a special season for the running back.

The 180 rushing yards helped Foster regain the league rushing lead from Jamaal Charles who surpassed Arian earlier in the day. Additionally, the monster game against the Jags gave Foster 1,616 rushing yards on the season, the most by an undrafted player since Priest Holmes ran for 1,615 in 2002 (read more of Foster’s story here). As if the 1,616 total wasn’t already impressive enough, Foster added 66 catches for 604 yards and two touchdowns.

Not only did Arian win the rushing title in the NFL, but he also ended the season as the top scoring running back in fantasy football, and depending on the league, the top scoring player overall. I was huge on Arian entering into the season, going so far as to make him a franchise player in a keeper league. The man did not disappoint, proving he was a perfect fit for Gary Kubiak’s offense based on the zone blocking scheme.

It seems likely that Houston will keep Kubiak’s offense around, but they also need a defense makeover in order to win more games. Could anyone have figured at this point that the answer to Houston’s problems would be none other than Wade Phillips?

Photo Credit: Bob Levey/Getty Images

Colt McCoy Takes Steps Back to End Season, Losing Franchise QB Status?

Colt McCoy’s NFL career started off on a disappointing note — he wasn’t drafted until late in the third round by the Cleveland Browns, and that was after the Browns said they would take him higher. Colt struggled in the preseason and went into the year as the team’s third stringer. After sitting on the bench the first five weeks of the year, starter Jake Delhomme and backup Seneca Wallace hurt their ankles, leaving McCoy as the only healthy Cleveland quarterback for week six.

Colt had the tough task of facing the Steelers in his NFL debut, but he didn’t play poorly. He had 281 yards, a touchdown, and two interceptions against the best defense in the league at the time. McCoy appeared to be a revelation after that; he didn’t turn over the ball his next three starts, leading the Browns to upset wins over the Saints and Patriots, and a near win over the Jets.

McCoy hurt his ankle and missed two weeks, but he returned to start the final three games of the year for the Browns — all losses. He was intercepted three times in back-to-back starts, albeit against the strong defenses of Baltimore and Pittsburgh. It took two months, but McCoy finally began to endure typical rookie struggles. Now the question is whether McCoy is still the franchise quarterback he appeared to be, or just another average quarterback.

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Andrew Luck Reportedly Currently Leaning Towards Returning to Stanford, Not Draft

Andrew Luck is the consensus top NFL quarterback prospect in college football. The redshirt sophomore is expected to be the top overall pick in the draft if he elects to come out. Much like Matt Leinart in 2004, people expect the man who has led Stanford to an 11-1 season and Orange Bowl berth will come out of school. But what if he pulls a Leinart and returns? That scenario has been considered far less often, but it’s one proposed by Charlotte Observer columnist Scott Fowler.

In a blog post relayed by Pat Yasinskas, Fowler quotes a source who says Luck is currently leaning towards returning to school for his junior season. According to Fowler, “The source said he ‘knew’ Luck was leaning toward staying at this moment.”

“A lot can happen between now and Jan.15th,” said the source, referring to the date underclassmen must declare themselves eligible. “There will be a lot of conversations still to come. And whenever he goes pro, he will be a fantastic NFL quarterback. But this is a kid who truly enjoys college.”

A kid who truly enjoys college. Where have we heard that before? Oh yeah, Matt Leinart. I don’t know how accurate Fowler’s source is, and we don’t even know whether Luck’s current mindset matters, but the point is valid. Though many people are talking about which team will get Luck, there is no certainty that he even comes out. Remember, Luck is only a redshirt sophomore; he has two years of eligibility left and is no sure thing to leave school.

Rams-Seahawks Flexed to Primetime, Features Little Intrigue

They did it to us. We said they might, but hoped they wouldn’t — they did. For anyone intrested in watching two terrible teams this Sunday night, the NFC West-leading St. Louis Rams (7-8) will take on the second place Seattle Seahawks (6-9) for the division title and the four seed in the NFC playoffs.

The NFL had 16 games to choose from for the primetime slot, and while this game is the only one that will decide a division, it’s not the only one with playoff implications. The difference is the other obvious options — the Giants at the Redskins and the Bears at the Packers — each involve at least one team better than either of the teams playing Sunday night. Honestly, the only game on Sunday that doesn’t fit that criteria is the other NFC West game between Arizona and San Francisco.

Presumably, the NFL wanted to keep both the Packers and Giants at 4:15 EST in order to sustain some drama. If they moved the Packers to Sunday night, and the Giants and Buccaneers lost earlier in the day, the night game would feature two teams that had nothing to play for. This way, the Giants and Packers will be playing simultaneously, with the last Wild-Card spot on-the-line.

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Passer Ratings of 100.0 Skyrocketing in NFL

There are currently four NFL quarterbacks with a passer rating of over 100.0 –  Tom Brady, Philip Rivers, Aaron Rodgers and Michael Vick. Passer rating is calculated using pass attempts, completions, passing yards, touchdowns and interceptions. Since the inception of the NFL, a quarterback has finished a season with rating of at least 100 just 51 times, a feat accomplished by only 35 different quarterbacks including the four listed above from this season.

In the NFL’s first 80 seasons, the mark was reached 26 times. Hall of Fame signal callers Otto Graham and Sid Luckman each had a passer rating of 100.0 or better once in the 1940s. No quarterback hit the mark in the ’50s. In the ’60s, four quarterbacks did it, including Bart Starr and Len Dawson — both during the 1966 season. Roger Staubach and Ken Stabler were two of the three to do it in the ’70s. The 100 mark was reached four times in the ’80s — once by Dan Marino and three times by some guy named Joe Montana. The heir to Montana’s throne in San Francisco, Steve Young, accounted for half of the ’90s total with six, the record for most such seasons by one quarterback.

Then came the new millennium. From 2000-2009, 17 different quarterbacks finished a season with a passer rating of 100.0 or greater 21 times. Five did it last year, including Brett Favre for the first and only time in his career. That’s 25 times since Y2K including this season, or one less than the total from the previous 80 years of professional football combined.

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