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#pounditFriday, January 28, 2022

Stories by Steve DelVecchio:

Matt Eberflus hired as Bears head coach

Matt Eberflus on the sideline

Matt Eberflus was a surprise name that entered the mix for the Chicago Bears head coach job recently, and apparently he could not have made a better impression with the team.

Eberflus has been hired as the head coach of the Bears, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports.

Eberflus has been the defensive coordinator of the Indianapolis Colts since 2018. Former Colts executive Bill Polian was involved in the Bears’ search for a new head coach, so that connection likely helped Eberflus land the job.

Bears fans may not be thrilled about the Eberflus hire, especially after the way the season ended in Indianapolis. The Colts allowed 26 points in a loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 18, though the real issue in that game was Carson Wentz and the offense putting the defense in bad spots.

Eberflus has been an assistant coach in the NFL since 2009, but he has no head coaching experience. He was with the Dallas Cowboys for seven years prior to the Colts hiring him as defensive coordinator.

Photo: Jan 5, 2019; Houston, TX, USA; Indianapolis Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus against the Houston Texans during the AFC Wild Card at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Joe Burrow reveals Bengals’ headsets went out during playoff win

Joe Burrow on the field

Joe Burrow has been nothing shy of remarkable in his second NFL season, and his body of work became even more impressive after a revelation he made about the Cincinnati Bengals’ win over the Tennessee Titans.

Burrow told reporters on Wednesday that he had to call his own plays for a stretch on Saturday after the Bengals’ headsets went out. He said it was “kind of exciting for me” since head coach Zac Taylor had joked with him before about not pretending the communications went down as an excuse to ignore playcalls.

Burrow led the Bengals to a 19-16 win. He said the plays he called all “worked,” but he didn’t specify which ones they were. Burrow finished the game 28/37 with 348 yards, no touchdowns and an interception. Though, there was some controversy surrounding the pick.

It’s easy to see why Burrow has quickly become one of the most popular players in the NFL. His rookie season was cut short by a major knee injury last year, but he has bounced back to play at a Pro Bowl level. The fact that he managed to successfully call his own plays in a playoff game is yet another example of his impressive football IQ.

Photo: Sam Greene/The Enquirer/USA TODAY NETWORK

Ben Roethlisberger officially announces retirement with video

Ben Roethlisberger throws a pass

Ben Roethlisberger has been indicating for weeks that he will not play in 2022, and the quarterback has now made it official.

Roethlisberger shared a video on Thursday announcing his retirement. He thanked his family, coaches, fans and everyone with the Steelers organization for “believing in me and allowing me to battle with you in the pursuit of excellence.”

Roethlisberger had been hinting for quite some time that the 2021 season would be his last. He got to play in one last playoff game after a wild end to the regular season, though the Steelers lost to the Kansas City Chiefs.

The next stop for Big Ben will almost certainly be the Hall of Fame. His 64,088 passing yards and 418 touchdowns are both the most for any quarterback in Steelers history. The yardage ranks fifth among NFL quarterbacks all time and the touchdowns place him eighth.

What’s more impressive is that Roethlisberger was never part of a losing team in 18 seasons with the Steelers. He won two Super Bowls with the team and was named to the Pro Bowl six times. Pittsburgh will have a difficult time replacing him, though head coach Mike Tomlin seems to have a plan.

Photo: Dec 19, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) warms up before the game against the Tennessee Titans at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Kobe Bryant, daughter Gigi honored with statue at crash site

Gianna Kobe Bryant

Wednesday marked the two-year anniversary of the fatal helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven other people in California. One local artist worked extremely hard to pay tribute to the victims.

Dan Medina, a sculptor from West Hills, made a statue depicting Kobe with his arm around Gianna. He dragged the 160-pound statue to the site of the Jan. 26, 2020 Calabasas crash at 4 a.m. on Wednesday morning. The statue also features the names of the seven other victims and the quote “Heroes come and go but legends are forever.”

Medina says the bronze statue is a smaller version of a life-size one he is working on.

“You come up here and it is kind of emotional,” Medina told Richard Winton of the Los Angeles Times. “The flowers, the jerseys, the hats blow away, and I think we need something more permanent.”

It’s unclear how permanent the statue will be, however. The plan was to remove it at sundown on Wednesday, as Medina said he is aware he would need permits to place it there permanently. He is hoping the larger version will be on display in downtown Los Angeles someday.

The site where the helicopter crashed is located about 1,000 feet above the road. Medina towed the sculpture up the hill on a cart. He said the handle of his cart broke and he had to use tape to keep it together for the last part of the trek.

We’ve seen some outstanding tributes to Kobe and Gianna over the last two years. Medina’s sculpture was certainly one of the more impressive ones.

Photo: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Nathaniel Hackett hired as Broncos head coach

Nathaniel Hackett on the practice field

The Denver Broncos have found a new head coach, and the hire is one that will likely excite their fans for a number of reasons.

The Broncos have hired Nathaniel Hackett as their next head coach, Tom Pelissero of NFL Network reports. Hackett is the first to land a head coaching job from the NFL’s nine vacancies this offseason.

Hackett drew interest from a number of teams. He was scheduled to interview with the Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday, which is part of the reason the Broncos moved quickly to hire him.

Hackett spent the last three seasons as the offensive coordinator of the Green Bay Packers. It just so happens that the Broncos are viewed as a potential candidate to land Aaron Rodgers should he want out of Green Bay. That speculation will only heat up now.

One report this week claimed Rodgers and another Packers star want to team up in Denver. The Hackett hire may increase the likelihood of that happening, though it still seems somewhat unlikely.

Photo: Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett during a joint training camp practice with the Houston Texans at Ray Nitchske Field Tuesday, August 6, 2019, in Ashwaubenon, Wis.

Brett Favre shares his prediction for Aaron Rodgers situation

Brett Favre with an arm raised

Aaron Rodgers has said he will take some time to decide whether he wants to return to the Green Bay Packers next season, and one Hall of Famer who has been in a similar position before has a prediction for how the situation will play out.

Brett Favre was asked about Rodgers’ future in Green Bay during an appearance on WNSP in Alabama this week. The Packers legend said he has a gut feeling that Rodgers has played his last snap in Green Bay. He also advised Rodgers to follow his gut and try to win elsewhere if that is what he wants.

“Nowadays, guys play a lengthy career with a team and move on,” Favre said, as transcribed by Ryan Glasspiegel of the New York Post. “Obviously, Tom Brady, Joe Montana, Peyton Manning. So it’s not uncommon for guys to switch teams after a long, productive career somewhere else — and my advice would be if you’re gut’s telling you, ‘I want to try my hand somewhere else, it’s kind of gotten stale or stagnant here,’ then go give it a try. I think sometimes it’s reinvigorating.”

Favre, of course, had a tense breakup with the Packers when they transitioned from him to Rodgers. He left Green Bay to play for the New York Jets and then divisional rival Minnesota Vikings. Favre also retired and then unretired multiple times, and the Packers did not want him back. The same is not true for Rodgers, and the Packers have made that clear.

Favre acknowledged that, but he encouraged Rodgers to explore other possibilities. Though, he said in a separate interview that he believes Rodgers’ best chance to win another Super Bowl will be in Green Bay.

Rodgers and Favre had an awkward relationship for years, but Favre recently paid the reigning MVP the ultimate compliment. Very few people understand Rodgers’ situation between than Favre, so his opinion on the subject is certainly noteworthy.

Photo: Brett Favre shows off his Pro Football Hall of Fame ring after receive it during halftime of the game against the Dallas Cowboys at Lambeau Field October 16, 2016

Matthew Stafford’s wife Kelly takes vicious shot at Ndamukong Suh

Matthew Stafford and his wife Kelly

Ndamukong Suh and Matthew Stafford were teammates for five seasons, but you never would have known it with the way they interacted during Sunday’s game between the Los Angeles Rams and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Stafford’s wife Kelly says she was shocked and angered by the way Suh came at her husband, though she clearly enjoyed watching the star quarterback get the last laugh.

Suh was penalized for taunting early in his team’s loss to the Rams. The flag was thrown after he pointed in Stafford’s face multiple times and appeared to threaten him. Suh was set off after he felt Stafford kicked him, though replays did not show much of a kick.

In her weekly podcast “The Morning After with Kelly Stafford,” Mrs. Stafford unloaded on Suh. She praised Matthew for throwing a “dime” right in Suh’s face on the pass to Cooper Kupp that set up the game-winning field goal. You can see the clip below, but beware that it contains a curse word:

Kelly also said Suh “doesn’t like Matthew,” though she has no idea why. She said the Rams quarterback doesn’t know either and was genuinely puzzled over why Suh got in his face.

“But it infuriated me. To stand up and tell someone that you’re gonna (expletive) them up after you spent years together in an organization and did appearances together and there were never really issues. … Matthew was like, ‘I don’t know, I guess he doesn’t like me.’ … He kind of giggled about it when I asked about it, he was like, ‘I really have no (expletive) idea what this guy is doing. I don’t know why he’s so angry at me,'” Kelly said, via Marlowe Alter of the Detroit Free Press.

Suh has a long history with cheap shots, but Kelly said she doesn’t hold any of that against him. She said Suh now has a real reason to dislike Matthew after the QB threw a perfect pass to Kupp (video here) while Suh was coming at him.

“I feel like he’s the only player in this league who really dislikes Matthew and we don’t know why,” Kelly said. “We legit don’t know why. … Now he can actually dislike him for a fricking reason. I thoroughly enjoyed it and that’s all I’m gonna say.”

Matthew and his teammates have much bigger things to worry about now. They’re preparing to take on the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game. If Stafford lost a friend while beating the Bucs, he probably isn’t too concerned.

Photo: Nov 17, 2015; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford with wife Kelly Stafford during the game between the Detroit Pistons and the Cleveland Cavaliers at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Tom Brady does not think he deserved unsportsmanlike conduct penalty

Tom Brady screams at referee Shawn Hochuli

Tom Brady admitted last week that officials have let him get away with taunting and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, but the star quarterback does not think he deserved the first one that was ever called against him.

Brady was hit with a 15-yard penalty during Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Rams. The flag as thrown after he screamed in referee Shawn Hochuli’s face over what Brady believed was a missed roughing the passer call. Hochuli said after the game that Brady “got in my face in an aggressive manner and used abusive language.”

Brady discussed the foul during the latest episode of his “Let’s Go!” podcast this week. He said he was shocked the flag was thrown since he didn’t curse.

“If I feel like they miss a call, I want to let the guy know,” Brady said, as transcribed by Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. “And I’ve done that literally a thousand times over the course of my career and never got called. In this instance, before I could realize it, the flag was thrown. And I was looking at the guy like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ I didn’t cuss, I didn’t do any of those things…”

Brady believed Von Miller should have been flagged for roughing the passer. The hit, which you can see here, left Brady with a bloody lip.

Of course, many felt the timing of the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty made perfect sense. Several days earlier, Brady admitted that he receives preferential treatment when it comes to complaining to officials and talking trash to opponents. There was no way he was going to get away with screaming in a ref’s face after he said that.