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Money’s Not a Thing for Sean Payton

If you’re a Saints fan at least you can be happy that you have one side of the ball taken care of. Problem is, that side of the ball’s been fine since Drew Brees came to town; it’s the defense that stinks. The Saints fired their defensive coordinator after the season and wound up in a bidding war to try and convince Gregg Williams to join their staff. Things got pretty interesting according to Jay Glazer:

FOX Sports has learned that Saints head coach Sean Payton wanted Williams so much that he is actually giving up $250,000 of his own salary and shifting it to Williams’ first year of his deal in order to sweeten the pot. Not sure I’ve ever heard of a head coach going that far to get his guy.

I love seeing guys put their money where their mouth is when it comes to winning and this is a prime example. Payton was extended by the franchise recently so he’s pretty secure financially, and he’ll have even more power if New Orleans makes a strong run. And in that tough division, they had to do something to step up. Now they just need to lockup speed racer at linebacker to start the rebirth.

Video: Willis McGahee Hit by Ryan Clark, Leaves on a Stretcher

Something about Willis McGahee getting injured in big games and Ryan Clark delivering big hits. We knew going into the game at Heinz Field that this AFC Championship Game would be a hard-hitting battle, and it proved to be one. In fact, with under four minutes left in the game and the Steelers up by two scores, the hitting was still just as strong as it was in the beginning of the game. Here’s the bone-crushing tackle by Ryan Clark on Willis McGahee at the end of the game that caused McGahee to leave on a stretcher:

Luckily McGahee was moving his arms when he was carted away because the last thing we wanted to see was a major injury suffered. It wasn’t long ago that Kevin Everett collapsed after a hit on a kickoff, getting paralyzed by the blow. The fine Clark will probably receive for the helmet-to-helmet hit won’t pay for the years taken off McGahee’s life with that blow. Goodness.

Buccaneers Players Didn’t Support Jon Gruden in Tampa

Once Mike Shanahan got fired by the Broncos, I figured there was a chance Jon Gruden could get fired in Tampa Bay. It’s like free agency dominoes in baseball — once one goes down they all fall after that. Still, it is mildly surprising to hear that both Jon Gruden and Bruce Allen were fired by the Buccaneers. Perhaps even more surprising was that Raheem Morris, who spent the season as the defensive backs coach, got promoted to head coach. Morris actually was promoted to DC once Monte Kiffin left to join his son Lane at Tennessee, but he really doesn’t have experience as a coordinator. So for all those wondering what fueled the firing in Tampa, Adam Schefter has the scoop:

Over the past couple of weeks, the Glazer family called in various Buccaneers players to solicit their opinions on head coach Jon Gruden.

One of the worst-kept secrets in the league was the way Buccaneers players felt about Gruden. There wasn’t a real affinity there.

Mike Florio at PFT adds that Gruden would say one thing to players one day and then do something completely different the next. OK, given this information the firing makes a lot more sense. The part that’s harder to figure out is why they promoted Raheem Morris so quickly when it seems like he’s inexperienced. I know that the league is trending toward unknowns such as John Harbaugh, Mike Smith and Tony Sparano who never had head coaching experience but were successful, but that’s quite a jump to make. Also consider that Mike Shanahan was available and this really leaves you scratching your head. Maybe the Bucs didn’t want to lose Morris who had been interviewing for other head coaching jobs, and maybe the players lent their support to Raheem. Who knows. Perhaps Morris will show us that the Glazers knew what they were doing.

Bill Cowher and Scott Pioli in KC in 2010?

Bill Cowher made it clear to the Jets that he wasn’t going to coach this coming season, so teams have proceeded in their hirings without considering him. Cowher’s plan all along was to take two years off before deciding if he would return to the NFL. Well now that the Chiefs have wisely hired Scott Pioli as their new GM, Boomer Esiason is speculating that Cowher could join Pioli in KC in 2010:

CBS analyst Boomer Esiason said on his WFAN-NY radio show this week that he wouldn’t be surprised if Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli hired Bill Cowher to coach the team in 2010. This is intriguing on any number of levels. For starters, Esiason works with Cowher and is familiar with his thinking. Then there is the matter of Esiason also saying that Cowher and Pioli are close friends. Also, Cowher served as the Chiefs’ defensive coordinator from 1989 to 1991, so he is familiar with the city.

I know the players in KC like Herm Edwards and that Edwards has another year on his contract. Furthermore, Pioli supposedly likes and respects Herm, so there’s a good possibility Edwards and his staff could be retained for the upcoming season. After that point, if Pioli brought in Bill Cowher, you could really be looking at a blockbuster front office. The only reason for me to think this wouldn’t happen is that KC doesn’t have a clear cut franchise quarterback. Jerome Bettis said in the past that Cowher wished he had a franchise QB in Pittsburgh and will look for a job where he’ll have that. If Cowher does go there, I could see a Miami Dolphins-like turnaround happen pretty quickly, especially with all the draft picks they’ve stockpiled. This would be quite the combination.

Bill Belichick Ripped in Question on Jeopardy for ‘Hissy Fit’

As previously mentioned here at LBS, Bill Belichick has quite the reputation as a poor sport. He’s made plenty of headlines for his lack of handshakes with Eric Mangini, and he even has a history of being a jerk dating back to his time in Cleveland. Even if that’s the case, I’m not sure how that gives a factually-based TV quiz show like Jeopardy the right to rip him in one of their programs. They’ve cracked on Matt Leinart before, and this time it was Belichick who was the victim:

Threw a hissy fit? I’m not so sure that’s the type of language I would have chosen. Seems to me like they’re editorializing more than giving straight facts. If they wanted to get the question across, why didn’t they ask what team lost the Super Bowl after going 16-0 in the regular season?

(via With Leather)

Plaxico Has the Giants by the Balls

I remember reading the same language recently, and it was regarding the Dodgers and Manny. Now that the Giants ended their season losing four of five games, including a playoff loss at home to the Eagles, Plaxico Burress has a ton of leverage. Counting the loss against the Vikings is difficult because the Giants had already clinched the top seed while the Vikings needed the win. Still, the Giants offense while looking good in their first game without Plaxico (a 37-29 win over the Cardinals), was uninspiring without him. The Giants averaged just 17.2 points per game in their final five games. They had routinely scored over 30 points per game before that. The Giants scored just 14 and 11 points in their two losses against the Eagles. Plaxico had four touchdowns and 411 yards in five games against the Eagles the past three seasons. Eli Manning had just two touchdowns and four interceptions in those five games to end the season. Manning had 13 touchdowns and seven picks with Plaxico on the field.

Some of this data is difficult to analyze because the Giants played well in two games without Plaxico during the season (Burress also missed a 44-6 week 5 against Seattle), prior to the whole self shooting thing. But after seeing how poor the offense looked down the stretch without him on the field compared to how good they looked with him (and how much Burress elevated his game in the playoffs last year), there’s no way to say that the team doesn’t need him out there. The Giants, with the exception of the Panthers game where they pounded on the ground, couldn’t move the ball in the last month of the year. Some of that is the weather making things tougher on the air game, but a lot of it is not having a game-breaking receiver who commands attention and often double coverage. The Giants lacked a playmaking threat without Burress.

I don’t like the guy because I feel that he has been a bad teammate (he was fined like 50 times for various things like showing up late and skipping practice), but the team needs him on the field and you can tell that based on what some of the players have said. Even Eli Manning knows he needs Burress as a go-to guy because Plax makes a lot of plays to bail him out. It’s unfortunate that a guy with a bad attitude can come out ahead, but it’s looking like that’s the case. Plaxico certainly has the upper hand in this relationship, the only problem is the government might have him by the balls.

Someone Explain to Me the Broncos’ Hiring of Josh McDaniels

Another year down in the NFL, another year of new hot head coaching candidates. I can’t fault coordinators for jumping at jobs knowing the way things work in this league. Just last off-season Jason Garrett was one of the most highly sought coordinators, now he’s just another name. Same thing with Ron Rivera not long ago. This year’s crop included names like Jim Schwartz, Leslie Frazier, and Josh McDaniels. While the Bill Walsh coaching tree has certainly bred success, the Bill Belichick tree has been anything but.

Charlie Weis has struggled at Notre Dame in the years without primo talent he inherited, Romeo Crennel was shaky at Cleveland, and Eric Mangini wasn’t anything special with the Jets. If those three are any indication, it would be that Belichick’s the mastermind of the staff, not the coordinators. Furthermore, the Patriots’ success speaks to the job Scott Pioli did as the player personnel VP. He acquired Randy Moss, signed Wes Welker, and drafted Matt Cassel as a backup, just to name a few. Pioli seems to have a strong eye for talent while there’s no doubt Belichick brings them in and makes them work. For the Chiefs to hire Pioli it seems like a good move. But for the Broncos to hire McDaniels seems questionable to me.

Not only has pulling from the Belichick tree proven to provide less than desirable results, but McDaniels’ specialty isn’t on the side of the ball that needs the improvement in Denver. When Mike Shanahan was fired by the Broncos, we concluded the team needed to upgrade its defense considering Shanahan was an offensive specialist. That being said, why bring in another offensive-minded guy to run the team? So he can get the offense scoring 30 points again like last year but the defense giving up 35 again? Couldn’t most coaches succeed with the offensive talent they’re inheriting in Denver? Why wouldn’t you bring in a Jim Schwartz or Steve Spagnuolo or Rex Ryan — guys that specialize in defense? This hiring just doesn’t make much sense to me given the Broncos’ current situation.