The situation surrounding Marshawn Lynch’s availability for Sunday’s playoff game at Minnesota has been confounding to say the least.
Lynch practiced this week and Pete Carroll said he expected the running back to start and carry the load for the Seahawks against the Vikings. Lynch was listed as questionable and was expected to play in the game, but he didn’t make the trip to Minnesota, seemingly out of nowhere.
A report said Lynch made the decision that he could not play in the game and that’s why he didn’t make the trip. Former Seahawks fullback Michael Robinson, who is now with NFL Network, said Saturday that Lynch “wasn’t quite right” and not “explosive” during the week.
"He wasn’t quite right & he’s not going to get on the field until he feels like he’s right." — @RealMikeRob on Marshawn Lynch
— NFL Media (@NFLMedia) January 9, 2016
"During the week he wasn’t explosive." — @RealMikeRob on Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch
— NFL Media (@NFLMedia) January 9, 2016
It’s difficult to reconcile the information presented by Robinson with what Carroll said. Carroll and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said during the week that Lynch looked good in practice. Hearing that Lynch looked good and then seeing the running back not make the trip to Minnesota makes him look bad. And should we doubt Robinson, who is pretty plugged-in to all things Seahawks, about what he reported?
The only situation where it wouldn’t appear like Seattle’s coaches were throwing Lynch under the bus would be if they talked him up to the media intentionally as a strategy to make Minnesota think Lynch would be playing, forcing them to prepare for him all week, while knowing the whole time that Lynch might not be ready to play.
- Marshawn Lynch
The Houston Texans were desperate for anything to provide a spark in their AFC Wild-Card playoff game against the Kansas Chiefs on Saturday. They even tried to use JJ Watt on offense as their Wildcat quarterback down near the goal line.
Down 13-0 to the Chiefs, the Texans had the ball inside the five. On a first-and-goal play from the two, Texans head coach Bill O’Brien decided to bring in Vince Wilfork as a lead blocker and have Watt serve as the Wildcat quarterback taking the direct snap.
J.J. Watt and Vince Wilfork on the goal line. Wildcat, direct snap to Watt. pic.twitter.com/dsCSBXKTN6
— MarcusD (@_MarcusD_) January 9, 2016
Watt lost a yard on the play. He previously played tight end in college, and he has demonstrated many times in the past that he is capable of catching passes on offense, especially by the goal line. But serving as a direct snap QB? That’s an entirely different story.
On the next play Brian Hoyer was intercepted, so I suppose even Watt’s effort was better than that.
- J.J. Watt
The New York Giants head coaching job is vacant for the first time in over a decade, and the search to fill it appears to be a wide-ranging one.
According to a report by NFL insider Adam Schefter of ESPN on Saturday, the Giants have scheduled a meeting with former Falcons head coach Mike Smith to interview for the position.
Giants scheduling former Falcons' HC Mike Smith to interview for their HC job, per league sources.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 9, 2016
Smith, 56, was head coach in Atlanta from 2008 to his firing in 2014, compiling a 66-46 record over that span. He led the Falcons to four postseason appearances and two division titles but fell out of favor after a four-win season in 2013, followed by a six-win season in 2014.
Hiring a defensive-minded head coach like Smith as the successor to Tom Coughlin, who resigned Monday after 12 seasons at the helm of the team, would be a noticeable paradigm shift for the Giants. But after fielding a defense that ranked just 20th in DVOA this season (per Football Outsiders), it’s probably the type of change that needs to be made.
- Mike Smith
Dabo Swinney sounds like he’ll be getting a raise whether he wins the national championship game or not.
Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich confirmed Saturday that he will open negotiations for a new contract with Swinney after Monday night’s championship game, according to ESPN’s Mark Schlabach.
“We’ve been in lockstep on it that we weren’t going to talk about any of that until after the season was over,” Radakovich said. “He and his staff have done a tremendous job, and that’s certainly something that will be looked at once the season is over.”
Radakovich said that he had already had one preliminary discussion about renegotiating Swinney’s deal with his agent.
Swinney currently makes $3.3 million annually, 26th among FBS coaches over the past season. According to Schlabach, the raise could put Swinney’s salary in the $5 million range, which would bump him into the top ten.
Swinney has certainly earned it. He has a 75-26 record as Clemson coach since taking over midway through the 2008 season. Under his leadership, the Tigers have won at least ten games every season over the last five years, a mark that only Monday night’s opponent, Alabama, can claim as well. He’s taken Clemson from a good program to an elite one, and he’s even come close to burying the word “Clemsoning,” so he deserves the rewards.
- Filed Under:
- College Football
- Dabo Swinney
Kevin Sumlin may be going through some tough times at Texas A&M, but that does not mean he is not thought highly of as a coach. According to a report, at least one NFL team had interest in Sumlin for their head coaching vacancy.
NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport says the Philadelphia Eagles had interest in Sumlin for their vacancy.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 9, 2016
Rapoport previously reported during the week that Sumlin and UCLA’s Jim Mora had put out feelers because they were trying to get into the NFL. Obviously this piece of information conflicts with his previous report. On one hand Rapoport said Sumlin was interested in the NFL, and now he’s saying the coach is not.
Sumlin has been mentioned in connection with NFL jobs the past few years. The interest began after he helped lead the Aggies to an 11-2 season with Johnny Manziel at quarterback. Prior to that, Sumlin helped build up the Houston Cougars program and led them to a 12-1 season.
Sumlin is trying to straighten out his program, which lost quarterbacks Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray last month after both transferred. He did get quarterback Trevor Knight to transfer in from Oklahoma, but the program may be limited next season. Either way, Aggies fans have to be pretty happy knowing Sumlin is staying at College Station.
- Kevin Sumlin
Talk of DeMar DeRozan’s potential free agency has heated up this week, but the Raptors swingman says he only wants to play in Toronto.
The 26-year-old has an opt out clause in his contract after the season, and he is widely expected to exercise it to take advantage of the impending salary cap hike. The Toronto Sun reported on Thursday that the Lakers have “long had interest” in DeRozan; the swingman is from Compton and attended USC, and could be a long-term replacement for the retiring Kobe Bryant.
DeRozan, however, has a deep affinity for the team that drafted him, and he reasserted that on Friday morning when speaking to Toronto’s SportsNet 590 The Fan.
“That’s one you thing you can never question: my loyalty to the city,” DeRozan said, via Jeff Simmons of SportsNet. “How much I really love and appreciate the team and the organization. I think all the fans understand that. A lot of times they don’t understand how contracts or things like that. But I’ve always stressed that this is where I want to be my whole career.
“Since Day One in Toronto, I’ve been so prideful of the city and the country.”
All things being equal, DeRozan sounds like he’d prefer to stay in Toronto. He loves playing there, and the fans love him. If he really felt like he wanted to go elsewhere, I doubt he’d be so public in voicing his affection for the city and the organization. You’d expect that the two would be able to get something done.
- Filed Under:
- DeMar DeRozan
The Houston Texans decided that Jadeveon Clowney wasn’t healthy enough to play in Saturday’s AFC Wild Card game. Clowney reportedly vehemently disagreed, and he made it pretty clear.
According to ESPN’s Lisa Salters, Clowney stormed out of the locker room and completely left the stadium when he was informed that he would be on the inactive list for the game against the Chiefs. Clowney reportedly believed he was healthy enough to play.
The Texans confirmed that Clowney had left the stadium, but said he would return before the beginning of the game. According to Jason La Canfora, inactive players are not required to be at the stadium during the game, so this is just bad form and not a violation of any team or league rules.
Clowney was listed as questionable in the week leading up to the game, having suffered a foot injury two weeks ago against Tennessee. He practiced on a limited basis Thursday but not on Friday. He clearly felt ready to contribute, but the team felt otherwise.
However, multiple other reporters dispute this report and say Clowney was just upset he wouldn’t be able to help the team. The Houston Chronicle’s John McClain says Clowney left the stadium to give tickets to his family.
Clowney has known since after practice Wednesday he wasn't playing. Left stadium to take tickets to family.
— John McClain (@McClain_on_NFL) January 9, 2016
You can understand that Clowney is upset to be missing out on the team’s biggest game of the season. It’s basically the reverse of this situation. On the bright side, at least Clowney found out about this decision directly from the team instead of through the media.
- Jadeveon Clowney
Perhaps it’s time for Lions head coach Jim Caldwell to start sleeping with one eye open.
According to a report by Ian Rapoport of NFL.com on Saturday, Caldwell’s job is not safe as new Detroit general manager Bob Quinn is looking to evaluate the team’s coaching situation.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 9, 2016
Caldwell, 60, was hired by the Lions in 2014, and now has been at the helm of the team for two full seasons. Caldwell did lead them to an 11-5 record and a surprise Wild Card berth last year. But he regressed in a big-time way in 2015 as the Lions flailed their way to a 7-9 season thanks to a dismal 1-7 start.
Caldwell deserves some credit, however, as the Lions fired offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi and other members of the coaching staff after that start and gave the playcalling responsibilities to him. Caldwell responded by guiding Detroit to a 6-2 finish the rest of the way.
Still, Caldwell failed to hold himself accountable for the team’s struggles, passing the buck to everyone from his players to the media. Ultimately, he also failed to be the emotional leader the Lions needed to succeed and fell flat on his face in big moments.
Now, the team has hired a GM in Quinn, New England’s former director of pro scouting, that will hold Caldwell accountable. Whether that is to the extent of removing Caldwell from his position as head coach remains to be seen.
- Jim Caldwell
It appears that Jonathan Papelbon may have won the power struggle at the back of the Washington Nationals bullpen.
Nationals GM Mike Rizzo hosted a conference call after trading Drew Storen to Toronto, and naturally, he was asked what the deal meant for Papelbon. Rizzo quickly went into a defense of his closer.
“We make baseball trades,” Rizzo told reporters Saturday, via CSN Mid-Atlantic’s Chase Hughes. “If there’s a baseball trade out there, then we’ll make it. We see Papelbon as being one of our late-inning relievers. He’s been very effective at it his entire career, including last year except for the last portion of the season. This guy is a quality reliever, quality closer. He’s been in the biggest stage that you can be in. He pitched the last out of a World Series game and has a World Series ring. He knows how to win. He brings a swagger to the bullpen and he’s a guy that we’re going to rely on to pitch late and leverage innings.”
There’s definitely an underlying factor in Rizzo’s comments, though. Papelbon has been the subject of trade rumors, and he’s not going to publicly say anything to damage the value of his asset.
Trading Papelbon would be no easy task, though. He’s owed $11 million in 2016 and has 17 teams on his no-trade list. Not only that, but he’s pretty much wrecked his reputation after choking out Bryce Harper in the dugout at the end of last season. The two have reportedly smoothed things out, but the reputation as a combustible figure isn’t going away anytime soon, and neither is the fact that he’s filed a grievance against his current team. Between all that and the dearth of available relief arms at this stage of the offseason, Rizzo and the Nationals may have no choice but to buy what they’re selling and put Papelbon at the back of the bullpen again, for better or for worse.
- Filed Under:
The Minnesota Vikings will have a unique, inherent advantage on Sunday when the Seattle Seahawks visit Minneapolis for the NFC Wildcard Game: the warmer sideline.
Temperatures for Sunday afternoon’s game are forecast to be near zero, with a wind chill that could drop as low as twenty below zero. The Winona Daily News characterized the forecast as “soul-crushingly cold.” It will pose a unique challenge for both teams.
However, Minnesota may have a tiny bit of an advantage. According to ProFootballTalk’s Michael David Smith, during their brief stay at TCF Bank Stadium, the Vikings elected to use the north sideline as the home one, in contrast to the regular tenants, the Golden Gophers, who use the south one. The reasoning is simple: the south end of the stadium hosts the club seats and press box, which cast a shadow over the south sideline, blocking out the sun and making it just a tiny bit cooler. The Vikings will have the sun on Sunday.
Will this make a difference? Well… no, almost certainly not. It’s going to be super cold either way, and depending on the direction of the wind, the features that create the shadows may also block out the winds. In the end, any difference will be negligible. But hey, a nice, if insignificant, bit of clever gamesmanship from the home team. You just knew they had days like this in mind when they made the call. That said, perhaps both teams would prefer to be playing in conditions more similar to these.
- Minnesota Vikings