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#pounditSaturday, January 22, 2022

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Was Zac Taylor trying to call timeout before game-changing interception?

Zac Taylor running

The Cincinnati Bengals pulled out a miracle victory in the final minute of their divisional playoff game against the Tennessee Titans on Saturday. But Bengals coach Zac Taylor almost prevented it from happening altogether.

Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill threw a game-changing interception as the team was driving with less than 30 seconds left in a 16-16 ballgame.

The interception gave Cincinnati the ball near midfield. A 19-yard pass play from Joe Burrow to Ja’Marr Chase on the very next play put the Bengals in field-goal range. Cincinnati kicker Evan McPherson then won the game with a 52-yard field goal as time expired.

Going back to the crucial Tannehill interception, video went viral of Taylor appearing to be calling for a timeout before the ball was even snapped. In the video, Taylor could be seen running up to the line official but failing to get his attention. The play proceeded, and Tannehill threw the pick.

Others also noticed that Taylor seemed to be asking for a timeout.

The Bengals had two timeouts remaining at the time, and using one might have made sense since the Titans were on third down. Getting a stop on third down would have forced a punt and left at least some time for Cincinnati to do something before time expired in regulation.

Others pointed out though that Taylor may have been calling for a penalty against Tennessee. In the video above, you can see Titans left tackle Taylor Lewan moving before the snap, potentially creating grounds for a false start.

In any case, the interception sequence ended up putting the Bengals in a position to win the game. If he actually was trying to call a timeout there, you can bet that Taylor is thanking his lucky stars that it was not granted. Otherwise he might have dethroned this fellow head coach for the worst timeout call of the NFL season.

Buccaneers players believe Tom Brady may retire?

Tom Brady ready to pass

Tom Brady has long maintained he is theoretically able to play until he turns 50, but that doesn’t stop the occasional retirement rumor from popping up. That is the case again Saturday on the eve of the team’s playoff game against the Los Angeles Rams.

Citing a source close to Brady, CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora reported Saturday that there is a sense the 2022 season might be Brady’s last. The source said it “wouldn’t be surprising” if Brady opted to retire following the playoffs.

La Canfora also cited a Buccaneers source who said there is a “sense among some guys in the locker room” that this could be Brady’s final run, though the source admitted that the speculation could turn out to be “nothing.”

Brady retirement rumors aren’t necessarily anything new. La Canfora notes that the Buccaneers will face challenges to keep the team together in 2022, and that coach Bruce Arians is coaching on a year-to-year basis.

As recently as August, Brady suggested he would keep playing as long as he can contribute and has a chance to win a title. He certainly hasn’t been a liability in 2021, throwing for a career-best 5,316 yards with 43 touchdown passes to 12 interceptions. If he feels like the Buccaneers can’t win a Super Bowl next season, he could have a decision to make. However, it seems like any team he plays for will have a shot at a title.

Photo: Jan 16, 2022; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) drops back to pass in the first half against the Philadelphia Eagles in a NFC Wild Card playoff football game at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Jerry Jones has telling quote about Mike McCarthy’s status as coach

Jerry Jones wears sunglasses

Mike McCarthy appears poised to remain head coach of the Dallas Cowboys for the 2022 season. However, it certainly does not sound like he should feel particularly secure in the position.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones did not give a particularly strong endorsement of McCarthy in a Friday appearance on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas. Jones seemed to suggest that the things the Cowboys need to fix should have been dealt with sooner, and more or less said that if he felt there was a better option than McCarthy available, he would make a change.

“If I thought changing out men at any level would improve us, I would change it out,” Jones said, via Jon Machota of The Athletic. “I see a lot of names, a lot of great names, a lot of great names from colleges. I see them coming through. I’ve seen a lot of great names at various duties in the NFL come and go over the last 30 years. I haven’t seen but a couple of them that I thought might have a straight shot in at what’s up above. That’s (Bill) Belichick up there in New England, his record has been unbelievable.

“But aside from that, I’ll be very candid with you. I see human beings, human frailties, human work ethic, human excelling and coming up with a way to go.”

That is not exactly a vote of confidence in McCarthy to say the least. Jones’ standards are high, which may be saving the coach right now, but it’s certainly clear that Jones is not totally satisfied with the job McCarthy did this year. Some of McCarthy’s comments after Sunday’s playoff loss probably haven’t helped either.

Stephen Jones has been firm that McCarthy will return in 2022. That may still be true, but it sounds like the coach will be on the hot seat from day one of training camp.

Photo: Sep 19, 2021; Inglewood, California, USA; Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones before the game against the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Texans reportedly have surprising wish for Josh McCown

Josh McCown throwing

The Houston Texans’ public flirtation with Josh McCown as a head coach candidate looks more than legitimate at this point.

Despite his lack of coaching experience, McCown appears to be a serious candidate for the Texans’ head coaching position. In fact, chatter is growing throughout the league that the Texans seriously want to hire McCown, according to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk.

To that end, Florio reports that the Texans are hopeful that another team will interview McCown, believing that would add legitimacy to his candidacy. Perhaps not coincidentally, Pro Football Network’s Aaron Wilson reported Friday that the Jacksonville Jaguars had at least spoken with McCown.

The Texans have to be somewhat serious about McCown if they are speaking to him again. After all, they attracted widespread criticism for interviewing him last year. Though he spent 17 years in the NFL, McCown has no coaching experience at the NFL or college level. Any questions about his qualifications are fair, especially when the team seems to have more accomplished options.

Photo: New York Jets quarterback Josh McCown throws the ball during warm ups. The New York Jets host the Indianapolis Colts in Week 6 on Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018, in East Rutherford. Mandatory Credit: Danielle Parhizkaran/NorthJersey.com

Heated Penny Hardaway calls out media for bulls— stories

Penny Hardaway at a press conference

A heated Penny Hardaway went off on the media after his Memphis squad lost on Thursday night.

Memphis lost 70-62 to SMU to fall to 9-8 on the season and 3-4 in conference. Memphis’ record is disappointing given the recruiting success the program has had. He knows it and is preaching patience.

But one thing Hardaway will not tolerate is “stupid f—ing questions” from the media.

Hardaway was asked after Thursday’s loss whether he can still turn things around. That question set him off.

Hardaway was understandably insulted by the question. He’s a prideful coach and knows he can get the job done. And he obviously doesn’t think the reporter did their homework. If they had, they would place the season in context and recognize that DeAndre Williams, Landers Nolley II, Alex Lomax, Earl Timberlake, Emoni Bates and Jalen Duren have all missed time lately. Memphis was also starting four freshmen in the game.

But that’s the thing: some in the media, and many fans, have no patience or understanding when it comes to injuries and youth. They want results instantly and constantly. And when they don’t see results, they go after the coach. This is part of the territory that comes with the job, and Penny needs to recognize that.

If Penny can’t handle questions from the media at Memphis, how will he handle things in the NBA?

Frank Vogel had Lakers’ blessing to bench Russell Westbrook?

Russell Westbrook warming up

Frank Vogel sent a strong message to the NBA when he benched Russell Westbrook late in Wednesday night’s loss to the Indiana Pacers, but it sounds like the Los Angeles Lakers coach had permission to make the move going into the game.

The Lakers were trailing by seven points when Vogel subbed Westbrook out with seven minutes remaining. According to ESPN’s Dave MacMenamin, Lakers management told Vogel recently that he should coach Westbrook as he sees fit, even if that means putting him on the bench. One source told MacMenamin that L.A.’s brass sent a message to the coaching staff that essentially translated to “you got to do what you got to do.”

Westbrook has been a liability for the Lakers at times this season. He is shooting just 32 percent from the field during the month of January. He was 5-for-17 shooting when he was pulled on Wednesday night. The final straw was apparently a defensive mistake with just over seven minutes remaining.

According to MacMenamin, Lakers coaches had emphasized taking away Caris LeVert’s right hand. Westbrook did not position himself properly on the play before he was benched and allowed LeVert to blow by him for an easy layup.

Vogel and his coaching staff had reportedly been considering benching Westbrook in key situations for weeks, but they were worried about how he might react. Vogel may have pulled the trigger against Indiana because management gave the green light.

Westbrook did not speak with the media after the Lakers’ 111-104 loss. Vogel was asked why he benched Westbrook, and he gave a savage response.

Reports have said Vogel is on the hot seat and being evaluated on a day-to-day basis. He may have benched Westbrook to send a message about what the real problem with the Lakers has been.

Oct 6, 2021; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Los Angeles Lakers guard Russell Westbrook prior to the preseason game against the Phoenix Suns at Footprint Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Frank Vogel had savage quote about benching Russell Westbrook

Frank Vogel coach

If Frank Vogel is going out, he’s going out with a bang.

The Los Angeles Lakers coach benched his $44 million guard at the end of his team’s 111-104 loss to the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night. The Lakers trailed by seven points when Russell Westbrook was subbed out with just under four minutes remaining. They ended up losing by seven points.

Westbrook did not speak with the media after the game.

Vogel was asked after the game why he benched Westbrook. He gave a savage reply and did not go politically correct.

Yes, Vogel said he was “playing the guys I thought we’re gonna win the game.”

That is the truth, and it’s not often you hear a coach say something like that.

Reports have said that Vogel is on the hot seat and that the Lakers were evaluating him on a day-to-day basis. Perhaps feeling that he is being scapegoated by the Lakers, Vogel may have benched Westbrook to send a message that he feels Westbrook is a problem.

The view around the league seems to be that the Lakers’ roster is their biggest issue, not the coaching. Vogel seems to be sending the same message.

Mike McCarthy blames Dak Prescott for final play against 49ers?

Mike McCarthy coaching the Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy has maintained that the final play the team ran in their loss to the San Francisco 49ers was the right one, but he has since shared some interesting new information about it.

McCarthy spoke with reporters on Wednesday about Dak Prescott’s infamous quarterback draw. He said the Cowboys called a pass play but Prescott changed it to a run. McCarthy said he agreed with the decision from Prescott.

One report this week claimed offensive coordinator Kellen Moore called the draw play and McCarthy agreed. According to McCarthy, it was Prescott’s decision. Again, McCarthy insists he feels it was the right one.

It was somewhat surprising to hear McCarthy openly reveal that Prescott was responsible for the play. He then took things a step further, saying the one thing the QB should have done differently was get down after 10 yards.

The Cowboys got the ball trailing 23-17 with 32 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. They needed to go 80 yards for the winning touchdown, and they reached the San Francisco 41-yard line with three straight completions. They then ran the QB draw with no timeouts left. Prescott rushed for 17 yards and quickly handed the ball to his center. An official bumped into the lineman and was unable to spot the ball in time for a spike (video here).

McCarthy said Prescott was right to hand the ball to the center, as that is the way the Cowboys practice the play. Some say Dak should have given the ball to the official, but McCarthy noted that the center can spot the ball and just needs the official to touch it quickly afterword. That is technically true if the center puts the ball in the right spot, but that did not happen in this case. The official had to move the ball back, which took more time off the clock.

McCarthy also maintained that 13 seconds was the threshold for being able to run the draw play successfully and still having time for a spike. The Cowboys had 14 seconds when the ball was snapped. One former NFL quarterback has a different interpretation of the situation than McCarthy.

Very few people believe the Cowboys made the right decision, but McCarthy stood by it. He also opened Prescott up to a lot of scrutiny by revealing that Prescott checked out of a pass play and should have gotten down sooner. It’s unclear how Dak will feel about that.

Photo: Oct 3, 2021; Arlington, Texas, USA; Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy on the field before the game against the New York Giants at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Tom Brady makes surprising admission about favorable treatment from refs

Tom Brady throws a pass

It has been said for years that Tom Brady receives favorable treatment from NFL officials, but we can’t remember him ever admitting it. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers star was surprisingly honest when the topic arose this week.

Brady and the Bucs benefitted from a questionable roughing the passer call (video here) early in their Wild Card win over the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday. Many people immediately chalked the flag up to Brady receiving preferential treatment. However, it should be noted that roughing the passer was only called once on a Brady hit during the regular season.

During the latest episode of his “Let’s Go!” podcast with Jim Gray, Brady discussed the perception that he gets more calls than other players. He said that is not true with roughing the passer, but he surprisingly admitted that he may get away with more taunting and unsportsmanlike conduct than his peers.

“I do know that they probably let me get away with a lot of unsportsmanlike conducts,” Brady said. “You know, talking smack to the other team and talking smack to the refs when I don’t think I get the right call. I’m kind of a pain in their a– if you don’t already know that.”

Brady is right about that. There have been numerous occasions where he was seen screaming the face of an official. Other players might not get away with it, but Brady usually does. That is undoubtedly a product of how many years he has played and how much he has accomplished.

We even saw Brady on the right side of an unsportsmanlike conduct call in the Super Bowl last year, so at least he acknowledges it.

Photo: Dec 26, 2021; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) warms up before the game at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Jimmy Johnson has interesting reaction to Cowboys QB graphic

Jimmy Johnson talks

Jimmy Johnson had a very interesting reaction to a graphic about Dallas Cowboys quarterbacks.

FOX NFL shared a graphic noting that Dak Prescott now has the same playoff record as Tony Romo through their first six seasons as the Cowboys’ starting quarterback: 1-3.

Johnson took note of the graphic and added his commentary, saying “a shame…”

Johnson seems to be suggesting that the Cowboys are underperforming and that both Prescott and Romo should have had better postseason performances. Whether Johnson thinks that’s due to poor coaching or poor clutch play from the players, he seems to feel they should have been doing more.

This season’s Cowboys team went 12-5 in the regular season and then got beat at home 23-17 by the 49ers. The coaches embarrassed themselves with the final play call. Maybe Johnson, who won two Super Bowls with the Cowboys, feels like he could have done better.

Photo: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports