Eagles far from giving up on Foles; more combine Day 1 Snaps
INDIANAPOLIS -- Musings, observations and the occasional insight from a somewhat slow first day at the NFL's annual scouting combine at Lucas Oil Stadium...
• New Eagles head coach Chip Kelly met a league-wide media contingent for the first time here Thursday, and if there was any news made, it was him making it clear he doesn't endorse the notion of Philadelphia trading second-year quarterback Nick Foles.
"I want to coach Nick,'' Kelly said. "I want to spend time with him and see him.''
Kelly followed up by adding that any NFL coach or general manager would listen to offers, but said he knew of no trade conversations involving Foles, with Kansas City and ex-Eagles head coach Andy Reid or otherwise.
Sounds reasonable to me. Unless he's 100 percent certain Foles can't run his fast-break style of offense, why should he ship him away and limit his options at the game's most crucial position in year one of his Philadelphia tenure? You don't want to be the next 1992 Atlanta Falcons, making a Brett Favre mistake that you'll have to live with for the next couple decades. In this case, I'd rather make a Foles deal a year too late rather than a year too early.
Kelly didn't sound quite as eager to coach Eagles underachieving and over-paid cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, however. A possible (and some would say likely) salary cap cut, Asomugha was actually benched by Reid in the midst of a Week 17 blowout loss at the Giants, which seemed to signal the end of his two-year stay in Philly. He's due $15 million in 2013, and if he does return to the Eagles, it won't be at that number. When asked Asomugha's status with the team, Kelly did a verbal two-step, declaring "I think Nnamdi has a skill set (awkward pause) that can play football.''
As if there was ever a doubt.
Lastly, Kelly won points with the media when he dropped a line from the movie Wedding Crashers into his comments about reports that he was set to accept the Browns coach job last month. We reporters love it when a head coach shows a little pop culture cred.
"Erroneous,'' said Kelly, of the reporting that he was on his way to Cleveland at one point. "And that's a quote from Wedding Crashers.''
• Former Bears head coach Lovie Smith walked in the door in Chicago in 2004 talking about beating the arch-rival Packers and how much it would mean to his program. New Bears coach Marc Trestman? Not so much.
Trestman surprisingly did everything in his power to downplay the significance of the NFL's oldest and most historic rivalry in speaking with the media on Thursday, and I have to wonder if that's a tone deaf move, given how much the Bears-Packers series means to the McCaskey family, his new boss. Maybe Trestman was just lowering the bar for his team, given that Chicago has lost six in a row to Green Bay and eight of their past nine, but it was still startling to hear a Bears coach all but yawn when the Packers were mentioned.
"I'm not as familiar (with the NFC North) as I'm going to be down the road, but certainly I recognize there's a rivalry in Chicago, and that's important,'' Trestman said. "But we have to treat every team we're playing with the utmost respect. There's difference makers on every team, we all know that, without going into names. And in every game you have to try and neutralize the difference makers first.
"It's a highly competitive division and highly competitive league and everything starts in your division. But you're not going to play your division harder than you're going to play teams outside of your division. That'd be disrespecting the game completely. That's the reality.''
Really? Here's the reality of your new life in Chicago, Marc: They're going to want you to play the hated Packers harder than anyone else, and beat them your fair share of times. No disrespect intended.
Smith finished just 8-11 against Green Bay, after winning seven of his first 10 games against the Packers. As much as any reason, the failure to beat Green Bay in recent years (see 2010 NFC title game in Soldier Field, and an 0-4 mark against the Pack in Chicago's playoff-less 2011-2012) is the cause of Smith being an ex-Bears coach and Trestman's arrival. So maybe Trestman should keep that in mind.
• I like Trestman, have known him since the '90s, and thought the Bears made a good hire when they brought him south from Montreal and the CFL, where he was the Alouettes head coach for the past five years. But I get the concerns about him coming across as too intellectual or too soft-spoken to command a locker room full of today's NFL players. It's a perception he didn't do much to erase Thursday when asked to describe his coaching style.
"It's to create an environment that they (the players) can self-actualize,'' Trestman said, before later going on to talk about having "a daily proactive plan, to create a sense of urgency to accomplish the daily task.''
No word yet on whether Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher will be self-actualizing in Chicago again this year.
• Titans head coach Mike Munchak is the guy who went out on the limb and re-hired disgraced former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. And when it gets down to it, it wasn't only because Williams and he have plenty of history and familiarity, and because there was a crying need to have Williams assist embattled Tennessee defensive coordinator Jerry Gray. All of those things played into his hiring, but there was more to it than just that.
"I felt he deserved a second chance,'' said Munchak of Williams, who was added to the staff two weeks ago as a senior defensive assistant. "I felt the league felt that, and again, I thought he took responsibility for the things that happened (in New Orleans' bounty scandal), and the things he was involved in. And I don't see anything like that ever coming close to happening again.''
Gray may have the defensive coordinator title, but in reality, Williams will have a major role in leading the Titans defense this season. He has been in a supervisory role over Gray three times in their coaching careers, in Tennessee, Buffalo and Washington, and each time Gray's secondary unit or defense had success with Williams calling the ultimate shots.
"I think that's why Jerry was so excited when we talked about him,'' Munchak said. "Some coordinators and some coaches are stubborn, they want to do it their own way, and they don't want help. They don't want to be told there's better ways to do things. But I think Jerry's open to becoming a better coach.
"I think that's refreshing to have coaches like that, to have another resource in the building that he's comfortable with, and that we felt would work well. It's been a great fit, and I think Jerry's going to be a better coordinator because of it, and obviously we assume we're going to be much better defense because of it.''
It better work, and everybody in Tennessee knows it. Munchak and Co. are all coaching for their jobs in 2013, and if the Williams hiring doesn't go well for the Titans, it may be difficult to see him ever getting another NFL opportunity.
• I'm beginning to think we'll have a whole generation of kids growing up in America between the time the NFL and its players union agree to start testing for HGH, and when the actual testing begins. Or do I overstate things?
On Tuesday this week, the NFLPA held a media conference call to bemoan the lack of trust players have in league commissioner Roger Goodell in the post-Saints bounty saga era, implying that it has impacted and slowed action on a number of issues, HGH testing among them.
On Thursday, the NFL's senior vice president of law and labor policy, Adolpho Birch, countered with claims that the NFLPA has essentially tried to re-negotiate parts of the 2011 collective bargaining agreement as it pertains to HGH testing and the scope of the commissioner's authority. The union, Birch told a gathering of reporters here, is basically seeking to chip away at or renegotiate parts of the CBA they don't like.
"There is an effort to go back and re-visit a lot of things that were agreed to, negotiated on extensively and agreed to by the parties,'' Birch said. "And you can name any number of things over the past several months that represent efforts to take another look at things that are already decided. That's everything from the implementation of HGH testing, to the commissioner's authority on conduct detrimental cases, to any number of things.''
The union has been engaged in what seems to be a rather sustained practice of moving the goalposts when it comes to the implementation of HGH testing, first claiming it needed more research done via population studies on the testing levels of NFL players, and more recently seeking a stronger appeals process for players who produce positive tests.
"Those are the only type of conclusions that can be reached,'' Birch said, of the union's pattern of stalling on HGH, perhaps linking that issue to other issues it has problems with in regards to the recent CBA. "I do think, at the end of the day, that it is a disservice to all for us not to be able to focus on the issue at hand, particularly in the context of HGH testing.
"I know it has been a stall. I don't know if it is a tactic. You can characterize it as you wish, but there is absolutely no reason for this to have taken this long and for us not to have testing implemented. We should have been more than a year into this (testing program) by now.''
• Scott Pioli and Mike Tannenbaum are solid people and football men and I know they'll both be back working in the league soon enough. But I do find it curious that both recently fired general managers, who had their high-profile personnel swings and misses in recent years, are immediately put on television and asked to assess and predict the personnel moves that each and every NFL team needs to make this offseason.
And nobody even bats an eye, because that's how the system works. Lose your football job because of shoddy personnel decision making, and immediately become a football expert who picks apart the personnel decision making of employed general managers. Is this a great country, or what?
• Count Detroit head coach Jim Schwartz among those who don't seem worried about BYU defensive end Ezekiel Ansah being too much of a football novice to go in the top half of the first round. Schwartz coached the native of Ghana at the Senior Bowl last month, and came away impressed by his ability to absorb new information despite playing organized football since only 2010. Ansah is a freakishly gifted athlete, and figures to be one of the combine workout stars in Indy.
"A guy like him, he's sort of new to the game, and really coming in from a different background,'' Schwartz said. "It was interesting to see him being able to grasp new concepts. It's one thing when you're out of school for three or four years and you can sort of learn as you go, but to see him go in and improve every day in practice, and have the game that he had -- he had a very productive game -- I think he went a long way to answering a lot of questions about his background and his aptitude at a setting like the Senior Bowl. He put down some good game tape.''
Ansah measured 6-foot-5 1/4, 274 pounds at the Senior Bowl, and he's a former track star who once ran 200 meters in 21.9 seconds. He had never even seen an American football game before he came to the States, and the Cougars played him at end, nose tackle, defensive tackle and outside linebacker. The comparisons to Giants 2010 first-round pick Jason Pierre-Paul have come fast and furious for Ansah in recent months, with 62 tackles in 2012, including 13 tackles for loss, 4 1/2 sacks, nine pass deflections, one interception and a forced fumble.
• Offensive linemen are usually on one particular side of the blame game, but Texas A&M offensive tackle Luke Joeckel -- a potential first overall pick in this year's draft -- actually flipped the script once, yelling at his quarterback for being sacked. The audacity.
The quarterback in this case was his twin brother, Matt, who was born two minutes before he was, so I suppose Joeckel knew he could get away with the breech in etiquette and protocol.
"My junior year in (high school) I was pancaking this guy, and Matt bounces out of the pocket, and I pancake the guy right into Matt's legs,'' Joeckel told the media throng at the combine. "I get up and instead of him yelling at me, I start yelling at him, saying, 'You gave me a sack. You've got to be a better athlete than that.' He never chewed me out for giving up sacks. I chewed him out once for making me give up a sack. That's kind of how our relationship is.''
• Quote of the day, from the Bears' Trestman, when asked about the NFL possibly moving to widen the field in a player safety move, a'la the CFL's wider field:
"I've got some plays if we ever go to a bigger field. The field (in the CFL) is a mile long and a mile wide, and obviously we're playing with 12 (men) with multiple motion. It's a different game but it's a terribly exciting game, a great game, and it's been around 100 years up there, so they must be doing something right.''
• Seen the outfit they're making the combine participants wear this year for workouts? It's an orange, black and yellow ensemble, with some black and orange camouflage elements to the shirt. It looks like a paint store exploded and there were no survivors on the dignity front.
And the socks. The socks are so multi-colored and hideously loud that even the Steelers refused to wear them as part of their throwback uniforms in 2013. It would seem the NFL's new aptitude test is really a test of how its potential new players deal with the specter of public embarrassment and humiliation.