Sorting out coaching, front office changes at offseason's start
Bears inability to fix their offensive line likely led to Jerry Angelo's firing
Jeff Fisher will interview with Rams; St. Louis is the most appealing opportunity
NFL should rethink giving division winners a home playoff game, but won't
Anxious to get those quiz answers from yesterday's column? Hang on just a moment now. Almost here.
Making sense of the first two days of what's going to be a newsy offseason:
The Chargers' unexpected decision to retain coach Norv Turner and GM A.J. Smith now makes the Rams the favorite to land Jeff Fisher.
Just an educated guess, but I think the removal of GM Jerry Angelo in Chicago had something to do with the continued failure of Angelo to fix a terrible offensive line -- the Bears allowed a league-high 105 sacks over the last two seasons -- and their collapse this season after losing Jay Cutler. Trotting out J'Marcus Webb for the last 32 games at starting tackle is a continuing embarrassment; according to ProFootballFocus.com, Webb has allowed 24 sacks and 77 quarterback pressure in the last two years. This is the best the Bears can do? And to continue to play Caleb Hanie while Rome burned ... I'll join the cacophony of Chicagoans who have asked: Are you saying Donovan McNabb wasn't better than that? (Note: Mike Martz resigned as Bears offensive coordinator later Tuesday.)
Dallas won't go get a strong GM. We knew that. It's Jerry Jones' team, and it's his call, and he's not giving up personnel control. If he didn't give it to Bill Parcells after three straight 6-10 seasons, he's not giving it to anyone now. That being said, I'd call Bill Polian and offer him a nice little consultant's contract right now -- and I'd put Polian in the room on draft day for advice.
But I'd call Polian, too, if I were the Bears.
Best two front office guys right now: Indy director of player personnel (for now) Tom Telesco, and right-hand-of-Ozzie-Newsome Eric DeCosta, likely the heir to Newsome in Baltimore.
If the Rams hire Fisher -- he'll interview there this week -- I'd go hard after Telesco to be the GM. Fisher is a good coach to have for a GM because he respects the personnel side of it and will let the general manager do his job. And on draft day, he doesn't have to be the one to make the picks, though he wants to have a say.
Said it before, and I'll say it again: No question the best job out there is St. Louis. Three reasons: Incumbent quarterback, more money to spend in free agency than any team in 2013, and because of the second overall pick this year when a very good quarterback will be on the board means you can use the pick to ransom to the highest bidder
Quiz answers. Here they are. Grading system:
45 or more correct: You Googled
40-44: Get a life
35-39: You read Monday Morning Quarterback and have a good memory
30-34: You skim MMQB
Anything below 30: You are a normal person
Here's we go:
General, Sublime and Ridiculous Section
1. What team, in a January playoff game, had 11 defensive backs dress for the game -- a quarter of the active roster -- and won the game because of that defensive depth? New York Jets.
2. A 40-yard-line seat at the first Super Bowl cost $12. A ticket to watch the Super Bowl last February in Dallas on a big-screen TV in an exclusive roped-off area outside Dallas Cowboys Stadium cost how much? $200.
3. Which first-round pick in the 2011 draft has sisters named Passionate and Peace? Prince Amukamara of the Giants.
4. Five hours after the players and owners broke off talks in March in the nation's capital, which two negotiators were seen at the Westend Bistro in Washington with five empty beers bottles on the table -- and, I might add, were not very happy to be seen? Commissioner Roger Goodell and players union negotiator Jeff Saturday.
5. What Midwestern NFL franchise has traded up in the draft twice in its history? Cincinnati.
6. Which father and son were taken with the exact same draft pick 24 years apart, the son being picked last April? Mark Ingram (Giants, 1987) and Mark Ingram (Saints, 2011)
7. An NFL kicker competed in the Preakness Cornhole Tournament in the infield at the famed horse race in Baltimore. Which kicker? Billy Cundiff of the Ravens.
8. Which NFL player's new book had readers standing in line to buy it 31 hours before it was placed on the shelves last June? Tim Tebow's.
9. Under the new labor agreement, how many padded practices per season can an NFL team have? Fourteen.
10. Owners voted 31-0 in July to approve a 10-year labor agreement with players. Which team, not surprisingly, abstained? Oakland.
11. One of the big keys for players in the new labor deal was earning a bumped-up percentage of all future television revenue. What percentage of TV revenue will players get over the 10 years of the current agreement? Fifty-five percent.
12. In training camp, which owner, after watching a stretch of hard practices for his team, arranged for two ice-cream trucks, with chimes ringing, to drive onto the practice field after a hot three-hour practice? Baltimore's Steve Bisciotti.
13. Who are the Buffalo Bills offensive and defensive coordinators? Curtis Modkins (offense) and George Edwards (defense), until Edwards was fired later Monday and replaced by Dave Wannstedt.
14. Which NFL coach is the only player ever to play for Joe Paterno at Penn State and go on to be a head coach in the NFL? Mike Munchak of the Titans.
15. Which team, with six playoff appearances in the last seven years, is 5-25 in its last 30 preseason games? Indianapolis.
16. A female is likely to be doing something in an NFL game for the first time in league history within three years. What will a female be likely to do? Officiate in a game.
17. In Cam Newton's first four games, he threw for 374 yards or more three times. In John Elway's first 170 games, how many times did he throw for 374 yards? Once.
18. This NFL tackle tweeted on his iPhone that he didn't know who Steve Jobs, the inventor of the iPhone, and many other things, was. Michael Oher of the Ravens.
19. Speaking of tweeting: Name the player tweeted this season: "One of the reasons I don't tweet much is cause the weed jokes get kinda old." Ricky Williams of the Ravens.
20. The Rams scored four points in the third quarter at Arizona Nov. 6. How many times had that been done previously in the 92-year history of the NFL? Never.
21. Name the team that started the season 1-4 and finished 0-3 and made the playoffs. Denver.
22. What coach took his team to the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery the day before playing a road game at Washington this year? San Francisco's Jim Harbaugh.
23. What team had two players whose names ended in "kowski'' who combined to outscore the New York Jets by themselves, 25-16, in a 2011 game? New England (Rob Gronkowski with 12, Steven Gostkowski with 13).
24. This Villanova product and urban poet was signed, waived or signed to the practice squad of a team 21 times in the past five months -- and had the grand total of two tackles in 2011. Ross Ventrone.
25. Which NFL executive turned down an opportunity from the Jets in 1983 to be an offensive quality-control coach on coach Joe Walton's staff? Commissioner Roger Goodell.
Who Said It?
26. "In this society, everybody wants to fire the coach all the time. We don't do that here.'' Giants co-owner John Mara.
27. "I've been underestimated. I always find that to be a wonderful competitive advantage.'' San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh.
28. "I hope John does better than I did, because I stunk at it.'' Former Lions GM Matt Millen, on John Elway taking over as Denver's GM.
29. "I spent a lot of time in school psychologist offices. I didn't apply myself. I might have had some learning disability, but they used to give me these IQ tests, and one day my Mom told me, 'You blew away the IQ test -- there's nothing wrong with you.' I said, 'Mom, I just don't like studying.' '' Commissioner Roger Goodell.
30. "They talk about heaven, and I don't know what is waiting for me up there. But I can tell you this: Nothing will happen up there that can duplicate my life down here. Nothing. That life cannot be better than the one I've lived down here, the football life. It's been perfect.'' NFL Films czar Steve Sabol.
31. "If [Ryan Mallett] is not a top 10 player in this draft, then I quit.'' CBS analyst Phil Simms.
32. "If Roger's in office for 25 years, this will be the toughest challenge he'll ever face. However it turns out, it's a resolution he'll have to live with for the rest of his career.'' Carolina owner Jerry Richardson.
33. "Albert Haynesworth can do almost anything he wants. He doesn't want to do anything. To me, that's the issue. He's one of those you walk into a meeting and tell him, 'Put the phone down.' The next day you have to tell him to put down the phone. The next day you tell him to put down the phone.'' Washington defensive coordinator Jim Haslett.
34. "Robert Kraft is a man who helped us save football. Without him, this deal does not get done.'' Indianapolis center Jeff Saturday, on the New England owners' contributions to the labor deal.
35. "I will not play for another team. My last down of football will be with the Colts.'' Peyton Manning.
36. "It's good to be in heaven.'' Chad Ochocinco, upon signing with New England.
37. "We don't have a chip on our shoulders. We've got a bag of Doritos.'' Buffalo quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.
38. "When I was sitting in that Green Room at the draft in New York, and I was dropping, and no one would pick me, the last thing I was thinking was it was a good thing. But I'm glad I got to fall way down. I should be here. It's the place for me. The game is bigger than us. The team is more than us. It's a community team, blue-collar and understated and not at all about self-glorification. Vince Lombardi put it that way: Winning is the only thing that matters.'' Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
39. "I was told, 'Mayor Bloomberg just went on TV, said you should be, you know, punished to the full extent of the law.' I said, 'Who is Mayor Bloomberg?' '' Jets wideout Plaxico Burress.
40. "Al Davis and I would talk for a solid hour, two or three times a month. Nighttime, weekends -- it didn't matter with Al. In all those hours and hours of conversations, Al gave me a Harvard Business School degree in pro football. It's something I could never repay.'' Dallas owner Jerry Jones.
41. "The NFL would fall apart without me.'' Agent Drew Rosenhaus, on "60 Minutes."
42. "As a coach, your only job is to put your players in the best position to win, with all the different skill sets they have. What kind of coach would I be if I didn't look at what my players do best, and try to capitalize on those things?'' Denver coach John Fox.
43. "Have a good day, Mr. King. And God bless you." Tim Tebow, to me.
44. "Hey Ben! You Tebowed 'em!'' Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin, after Ben Roethlisberger's clutch play while injured in a win over Cleveland.
45. "I hope I am the Tim Tebow of the Iowa caucuses.'' Presidential hopeful Rick Perry.
Big Players, Big Games
46. He threw for 854 yards in his first eight NFL quarters. Carolina quarterback Cam Newton.
47. He set an NFL record for field goals in a season. San Francisco kicker David Akers.
48. They committed nine false-start penalties in a very loud road stadium. Chicago.
49. He sacked Matthew Stafford six times this season. Minnesota defensive end Jared Allen.
50. He had games of 19, 17, 16 and 16 tackles but was not elected to the Pro Bowl. Washington linebacker London Fletcher.
Now for your mail:
I DON'T KNOW, BUT I HAVE BEEN RANTING ABOUT IT FOR YEARS. "When is the NFL going to finally change its rules regarding division champs rewarded by hosting playoff games? This year, 12-4 Pittsburgh has to travel to 8-8 Denver, this after 11-5 New Orleans had to travel to 7-9 Seattle last year and in 2008, 12-4 Indianapolis had to travel to 8-8 San Diego. Why reward mediocre teams who win bad divisions by giving them home playoff games as well?''
-- Amar of Indianapolis
Agreed. But the 32 owners feel they want to reward all division winners with a home game. It's ridiculous, but that's the way it is. Totally unfair.
WHY NOT GRONK FOR MVP? "What exactly does a candidate not playing QB have to do to merit consideration in this very quarterbackophilic celebration? For example, what could a tight end like Rob Gronkowski, with numbers - to quote you "Kudos, Rob Gronkowski, for the best offensive season a tight end has had: 90 catches, 1,327 yards (most ever by a tight end), 14.7 yards per catch, 17 touchdowns (most ever by a tight end)" - ever do to convince the voters that the tight end position is worthy of MVP consideration. Or punters like Andy Lee or Shane Lechler?''
-- Steve Postle, of Glen Rock, N.J.
Ask yourself this question and you may have the answer: Would the Patriots win more games if they had to without Tom Brady, or if they had to play without Rob Gronkowski? That's how I determined Brady to be the most valuable player on the Patriots, and, in general, why I think quarterbacks are the best candidates to be MVPs. Now, if a pass-rusher, for instance, got 25 sacks one year and made plays in four or five games that clearly determined the outcome of a game, then I think you could make an argument that he would deserve strong consideration. The quarterback's play determines so much about who wins and who loses.
YOU ARE RIGHT, AND I TWEETED MY IGNORANCE LATER IN THE DAY AFTER BEING CALLED ON IT. "For all of the folks who gave the Packers a pass and roasted the Pats, where is the justice? In your MMQB you mention that the 4,703 passing yards the Pats have allowed is so bad it's almost scandalous. Now, why you don't mention that the Packers are equally as bad is a journalist's choice in a short column, but isn't this a pretty prevalent theme -- that the Packers are faves to win the SB and the Pats' D is too bad for them to get there? Your colleague -- Tony Dungy -- said he felt more comfortable with the Packers because even their back-up QB threw for a ton of yards. I assume he was implying that the Green Bay offense kept pressure on the opposing defense, making the Packers incrementally better. It was so silly, it seemed like Rodney Harrison was going to come out of his shoes. Let me say what Rodney may have been thinking: If not for the amazing Drew Brees, Tom Brady would be having the banner years of Tom Brady banner years. Let us at least be fair and admit that the Packers are at least as bad.''
-- Brett, of New Market, Md.
Got it, and you're right. File that under dumb things I think I think at 4:30 in the morning without looking at every team's numbers. But I still think the Patriots are in trouble if they face one of the big quarterbacks in the playoffs.
NOT SURE ORTON'S AN INSPIRED PICK. "You mentioned four quarterback-hungry teams that might be in the Matt Flynn sweepstakes next year, but what about Kyle Orton? With Matt Cassel likely coming back, I don't see him staying in Kansas City,and he certainly could help a lot of teams. The Bears would likely have made the playoffs with him if Kansas City hadn't grabbed him first when he went on waivers. For that matter, the Bears would not have traded him to Denver in the Cutler deal if Denver hadn't made it the deal breaker if they didn't. Where do you think his future lies? Along the same lines: If Denver had not waived Orton to make way for Tebow Mania, who do you think Denver would start next week in the playoff game?''
-- Hal Taylor, of Reno
I don't know. The Broncos have changed their offense quite a bit to accommodate Tebow, so I don't know if they'd want to change it back before a playoff game. Re: Orton, I like him, and I think he's better than Rex Grossman and probably (but not certainly) better than Matt Moore in Miami. But the problem with Orton, as owner Steve Ross in Miami discovered early this year when he quashed the Orton-to-Miami deal, you have to ask yourself if you're willing to make a multi-year commitment to a guy who's never had a great season, and seems to have a C-plus ceiling.