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JANUARY 18, 2009

TRACKCOACHING AND FRONT-OFFICE INTERVIEWS AND HIRINGS... ONLYATPROFOOTBALLWEEKLY.COM


2008
All-NFL
team
Ed Reed
ALSO INSIDE
LOOKING AHEAD TO
THE 2009 NFL DRAFT
CHAMPIONSHIP PREVIEWS
Justin Tuck Michael Turner Jordan Gross Nnamdi Asomugha
2008
All-NFL
team
AWARDS ISSUE: MVP

COACH OF THE YEAR

ALL-ROOKIE TEAM
Matthew Stafford is a top QB option in this years draft.
CREATORS & FOUNDERS
Arthur Arkush, Robert Drazkowski and Joel Buchsbaum
ADMINISTRATION
Publisher/Editor Hub Arkush
General manager Mike Waters
EDITORIAL
Editor-in-chief Keith Schleiden
Managing editor Mike Holbrook
Executive editors Dan Arkush
Neil Warner
Senior editors Nolan Nawrocki
Eric Edholm
Mike Wilkening
Associate editors Matt Sohn
Dan Parr
Michael Blunda
Production assistant Matt Quinnan
Editorial assistants Matt Feminis
Seth Gruen
COLUMNISTS
Ron Borges, Barry Jackson, Jerry Magee
AFC REPORTERS
Baltimore Ravens Jamison Hensley
Buffalo Bills Chuck Pollock
Cincinnati Bengals Mark Curnutte
Cleveland Browns Tony Grossi
Denver Broncos Frank Schwab
Houston Texans Megan Manfull
Indianapolis Colts Tom James
Jacksonville Jaguars Vito Stellino
Kansas City Chiefs Rick Dean
Miami Dolphins Harvey Fialkov
New England Patriots John Tomase
New York Jets Mark Cannizzaro
Oakland Raiders Michael Wagaman
Pittsburgh Steelers Jim Wexell
San Diego Chargers Chris Jenkins
Tennessee Titans Jim Wyatt
NFC REPORTERS
Arizona Cardinals Kent Somers
Atlanta Falcons D. Orlando Ledbetter
Carolina Panthers Charles Chandler
Chicago Bears Bob LeGere
Dallas Cowboys Mickey Spagnola
Detroit Lions Nicholas J. Cotsonika
Green Bay Packers Bob McGinn
Minnesota Vikings Sean Jensen
New Orleans Saints Mike Triplett
New York Giants Paul Schwartz
Philadelphia Eagles Dave Weinberg
St. Louis Rams Jim Thomas
San Francisco 49ers Kevin Lynch
Seattle Seahawks Clare Farnsworth
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Roy Cummings
Washington Redskins John Keim
CONTRIBUTING WRITERS
Tom Danyluk, Art Edelstein,
Pat Fitzmaurice, Court E. Mann
STATISTICIAN
Rick Arkush
NEWMEDIA
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BUSINESS OFFICE
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31
CONTENTS
2 Pro Football Weekly January 18, 2009
AWARDS SECTION 13
Pro Football Weekly and the Professional Football Writers of America
proudly present their annual All-Pro team, headlined by MVP Peyton
Manning and Defensive Player of the Year James Harrison. Also, find
out who our picks are for top executive, top head coach, top assistant
coach, best offensive rookie, best defensive rookie, Comeback Player
of the Year and Most Improved Player. Plus, see who made our All-AFC
and All-NFC teams and All-Rookie team for the entire league.
ON THE CLOCK 31
We asked our correspondents in Detroit, St. Louis, Kansas City and
Seattle the first four teams scheduled to select in the 2009 NFL
draft to analyze their respective teams and tell you the top three po-
sitions each franchise needs to address in the draft.
THE WAYWE SEE IT..................3
POWER RANKINGS ..................3
THE WAYWE HEAR IT ..............4
OPINION: Editorial, letters,
Publishers Pen ..........................12
COLUMNISTS:
Jerry Magee, Barry Jackson,
Dan Arkushs A-bombs ..........25
HANDICAPPERS CORNER:
Staff selections,
Stephen Nover column ..........26
NFL TRANSACTIONS..............27
CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP
PREVIEWS ................................28
DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS COVERAGE....30
AUDIBLES................................35
NFLIST: Ranking the backup
quarterbacks for the final
four playoff teams ..................35
ONLYAT PROFOOTBALLWEEKLY.COM
THE WAYWE HEAR IT With the offseason right around the corner, we
look ahead to some potential veteran movement via free agency or
trades. Well give hints on the futures of a handful of intriguing players, in-
cluding WR Anquan Boldin, QB Donovan McNabb and RB Darren Sproles.
DRAFT NEEDS As a companion to our On the Clock feature for the top
four teams in the 2009 NFL draft, find out the top three positions of
need for the remaining 28 teams heading into the offseason.
HANDICAPPING COLUMN Each week during the season, Mike
Wilkening has selected his four top plays against the spread. He brings
a sterling 41-31-4 record into this weekend.
Cover photo by AP
FEATURES
DEPARTMENTS
QB Jake Delhommes abysmal performance in the playoffs has given the Panthers serious pause regarding his future with the team.
GREAT DEBATE
IS WINNING A
FIRST-ROUND BYE
AND HOME-FIELD
ADVANTAGE
OVERRATED?
Two of the four teams left in the playoffs
(Baltimore and Philadelphia) are wild cards.
A third team, Arizona, was the lowest-
seeded NFC divisional winner and had to beat
Atlanta and travel to Carolina to get to the NFC
championship game.
Considering the success of these clubs and
that the last three Super Bowl winners did not
have the benefit of a first-round bye and that
the 05 Steelers and 07 Giants had to win
three straight road games to make it to the
Super Bowl there will be a lot of discussion
of the value of home-field advantage this week.
Heres a look at both sides of the issue:
YES
I admit that this year was a bit fluky with
three of the four road teams winning in the di-
visional round, but I do think howyou are play-
ing this time of year matters more than where
you are playing.
There have been major upsets each of the
past few seasons by road teams. The Giants
pulled three en route to Super Bowl XLII last
season, and both AFC title-game participants
in the 06 season New England and Indi-
anapolis scored major road shockers at San
Diego and Baltimore, respectively. In the 05
season, the Steelers won three road games as
the sixth-seed, and the season before, the Pa-
triots won at 15-1 Pittsburgh, where they had
been killed in the regular season.
It happens every year. The team that goes
on to win the Super Bowl at some point has to
prove itself on the road. The past four champs
were non-No. 1 seeds, and that means they
went on the road at some point and proved
themselves. In fact, as much as I like the Steel-
ers this year, I think it just might happen again.
After all, the odds are in my favor.
Eric Edholm
NO
Home-field advantage hasnt been as potent
an edge in recent years, and it certainly did
nothing to help the Titans, Panthers and Giants
this season.
But Im not going to say having a bye and an
extra week of rest is suddenly less valuable be-
cause of a few special wild-card teams and a
couple of division-title winners who hit their
stride at precisely the right time. By and large,
youre better off having the bye and playing at
home than not having it.
I think the bigger issue to ponder is whether
the top seeds in both conferences are starting
to get weaker. Thats a topic thats a natural to
ask after watching the Panthers and Giants
lose by double digits. Those teams couldnt
make use of the bye, but take a look at how
those 1990s Cowboys teams fared when they
had the bye. From 1992-95, Dallas never lost in
the divisional round coming off the bye, and it
won each of those games by at least 10 points.
Give a really, really good team that extra
week to rest and prepare and its generally not
going to squander it. Are those teams getting
harder to find? Interesting question.
Mike Wilkening
Flacco, Ryan paving new
path for rookie QBs
The rules have changed. With Joe
Flacco throwing darts and responding
appropriately to whatever Tennessee
threw at him in the Ravens triumph
over the Titans, he confirmed what he
and Matt Ryan suggested with their
standout play throughout the season:
No longer should elite quarterback tal-
ent fester on the bench just because
theyre rookies. Rookies are more pre-
pared than ever to handle the physical
and mental demands of the NFL, and
redshirting them merely sets their team
back a season. Matt Sohn
Panthers QB Jake Delhomme didnt lose the game by himself,
but he had by far the biggest hand in Carolinas deflating defeat
to the Cardinals. He committed six turnovers, including five in-
terceptions and one lost fumble, in what will go down as one of
the worst postseason performances by a quarterback in NFL his-
tory. The level of Delhommes futility was jarring, considering he
entered the matchup vs. Arizona with a 5-2 playoff record and a
95.0 career postseason passer rating.
There were warning signs throughout this season. A zero-TD,
three-interception game in Week Six vs. Tampa Bay and a one-
TD, four-pick showing against the Raiders in Week 10 gave us a
glimpse of what ultimately came at the worst possible moment.
As the sting of a disappointing finish claims its victims, Del-
homme could be one of its first when the Panthers front office
sits down to plan for the offseason. Delhomme is due a $1 mil-
lion roster bonus in March, so Carolina will need to decide on its
course of action quickly. He has a team-high $11 million salary-
cap figure next season, and the Panthers would save $6.325 mil-
lion against the cap by releasing him.
Delhomme isnt worth that price. If hes unwilling to restructure
that contract to make signing free-agent Pro Bowlers DE Julius Pep-
pers and OLT Jordan Gross much easier, then the Panthers should
absolutely move in a different direction. There may not be any great
replacements to choose from Jeff Garcia, Brett Favre and
Derek Anderson shouldnt excite anyone but another go-round
with Delhomme doesnt inspire any confidence, either. Dan Parr
Panthers must explore other QB options
STUNNING COLLAPSE
LET EM PLAY
Pacman hardly helps
cause in strange interview
Was it just me, or did Adam Pacman
Jones look like he was on something in
his interview on CBS NFL pregame show
before the Ravens-Titans playoff game?
Look, I would love it if Pacman could ac-
tually clean up his act. But when he told
James Brown in the interview that he
hasnt been in a strip club in what, two
years now, a year and a half, three years,
whatever it is, all I could do is shake my
head. Jones also mumbled that he had a
feeling hed eventually return to the Cow-
boys. I wont be losing any sleep in the
meantime. Dan Arkush
CONFUSING MESSAGE
Giants failures on fourth
down cost them game
Tom Coughlin said after the Giants
loss to the Eagles that hell take the
blame for the second of two failed
fourth-down tries. Ill give him the blame
for both. On the first try, he misjudged
the spot of the ball and called for a bad
challenge. And all that time reviewing
the play gave Eagles coordinator Jim
Johnson a plan on how to stop the
fourth-down run. The second fourth-
down try, the direct snap to Derrick
Ward, never had a chance. The team
that ran the ball all year long failed in its
two biggest attempts. Eric Edholm
FALLING SHORT
Our weekly take on the hottest
topics from around the NFL.
THE WAY WE SEE IT
A
P
3 Pro Football Weekly January 18, 2009
THE WAY WE HEAR IT
AFC EASTBy Matt Sohn
WHISPERS
With the news of
Pacman Jones re-
lease in Dallas, atten-
tion shifted
immediately to po-
tential landing spots
for the troubled cor-
nerback. Because of
its need at the posi-
tion and flirtation
with Jones and the
Titans last offseason,
New England loomed
as a possible destina-
tion. Although Jones
past transgressions
could be tolerated if
the Patriots saw him
as their missing de-
fensive link, we hear
that his middling play
this past season ef-
fectively eliminates
him from their plans.
Although its clear
that 2006 first-round
DT John McCargo
can be considered a
bust in part be-
cause of injury con-
cerns that nixed a
swap with the Colts
at the trading dead-
line the Bills are
high on their DT rota-
tion because of how
well free-agent acqui-
sition Spencer
Johnson panned out
in his first season in
Buffalo. The 27-year-
old No. 3 defensive
tackle contributed 31
tackles to the Bills
cause.
Tony Sparano
recognizes that the
Dolphins success
this season could re-
sult in other clubs or
college programs
raiding his staff, but
dont expect him to
bemoan that reality.
When you have suc-
cess, people are
going to want to get
to your coaches, and
thats a compliment
to what weve done,
Sparano told PFW. If
there are head
coaches that are
made out of this,
thats great and its a
positive for the Miami
Dolphins.
This much is clear: (1) Serious
schematic changes need to made to
the Bills offense. (2) Offensive coor-
dinator Turk Schonert is sticking
around after having flopped in his
first season in the post. But the
high-octane passing attack that
Schonert, a former quarterback and
QB coach, aims to implement might
not be the best course of action. In
looking at the Bills offensive per-
sonnel most of which remains
static heading into 09 the simi-
larities to the Dolphins personnel,
which operated a ball-control sys-
tem that worked so effectively, are
striking. Like Miami, Buffalo is led by
a cerebral quarterback whose arm
strength is questionable; both have
a pair of tough, multifaceted run-
ning backs; and both have just one
deep-speed wideout. Taking a page
from the Dolphins, who employ lib-
eral use of the Wildcat and cre-
ative pass patterns underneath
would go a long way in stymieing
the Bills offensive demise.
Its no secret that the Patriots
are in serious need of bolstering
their secondary after the Asante
Samuel-less unit gave up far too
much real estate through the air
in 2008, and, the way we hear it,
help may be coming from an un-
likely source. When SS Rodney
Harrison tore his quadriceps
muscle against the Broncos in
Week Seven, the prevailing senti-
ment around the team was that
the then-35-year-olds career was
over. Things have changed. The
word were now hearing is that
Harrison has dedicated himself
fully to his rehabilitation and ap-
pears primed to make a return to
the gridiron. The fact that hes a
free agent shouldnt be a hin-
drance to getting him back into
the fold due to the mutual respect
he and the organization hold for
one another. Hes a good fit in the
3-4 alignment, which utilizes him
both in coverage and as a nickel
linebacker.
Give the Jets credit for this: They
did virtually everything in their
power to address their glaring defi-
ciency at the cornerback spot op-
posite emerging star Darrelle
Revis. In training camp, they be-
lieved that Justin Miller, an ath-
letic dynamo coming off a serious
knee injury, had rehabbed to the
point that he was the answer.
When they soured on him, they
moved on to rookie Dwight Low-
ery, who looked the part early be-
fore fading in the second half of the
season. They signed former first-
round flameout Ahmad Carroll in
hopes he could find the light in
New York, and they lured back Ty
Lawfor a half-year date. None did
much to alleviate the problem, as
evidenced by their 29th ranking in
pass defense. In response, word
were hearing is that team brass
wont be employing a CB-by-num-
bers approach in 09 and instead
will be targeting a single top-flight
corner this offseason.
Carl Peterson ended days of
speculation that he would take a
post with the Dolphins, saying on
last week that he needed time off
to rest after leading the Chiefs for
the past 20 years. Earlier, he had
been spotted with Dolphins owner-
in-waiting Stephen Ross at Dol-
phin Stadium for the wild-card
game vs. the Ravens. Peterson
claimed he was at the game merely
as a friend of Ross, as their rela-
tionship dates back many years
when Peterson operated the Ross-
owned Philadelphia Stars of the
USFL.
Yet, we hear it would be foolish
to think the teams front-office
setup will maintain the status quo
indefinitely. Peterson has intimated
that hed welcome a return to the
league, and reuniting with his
friend Ross would be a natural
move. Of course, doing so would
appear to undermine Dolphins ex-
ecutive VP of football operations
Bill Parcells. Ross says he wishes
Parcells to remain in his post, and
Parcells said he wont exercise a
clause in his contract that allows
him to leave the team and collect
the balance of his four-year con-
tract if a change in ownership is
made before the 2010 season.
Given the strong personalities of
Parcells and Peterson, the idea of
their potential coexistence is a
recipe for disaster and has little
chance of coming to fruition.
According to a source close to
the situation, Parcells loyalty to
GM Jeff Ireland who, coinci-
dentally, was first hired as a scout
in Kansas City by Peterson
coach Tony Sparano and many of
the other coaches he brought to
Miami is the primary reason hes
declining to exercise the gem of an
out clause in his contract.
Nevertheless, Parcells under-
stands the Peterson connection,
and we hear it wouldnt be at all
surprising to see Parcells agent,
Jimmy Sexton, convince Ross to
extend the exercisability of the es-
cape clause an additional year.
That would allow Parcells to see
Ross in action and decide whether
hes onboard with the method by
which Ross manages the team.
Ross, meanwhile, would have little
leverage in rejecting the extension,
seeing as how Parcells could
threaten to leave right now, in
which case the new owner would
be crucified in the court of public
opinion for running out of town the
man who made the Fins winners
again.
Some suggest the Bills should consider tweaking their offense to better fit QB Trent Edwards strengths.
A
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BUFFALO
BILLS
NEWENGLAND
PATRIOTS
NEWYORK
JETS
MIAMI
DOLPHINS
4 Pro Football Weekly January 18, 2009
THE WAY WE HEAR IT
AFC NORTHBy Mike Wilkening
WHISPERS
The Ravens would
like to re-sign S Jim
Leonhard in the off-
season, the way we
hear it. Leonhard,
whose fumble-forc-
ing hit on Titans TE
Alge Crumpler deep
in Baltimore territory
in the fourth quarter
was one of the key
plays in the Ravens
13-10 divisional-play-
off win at Tennessee,
is slated to be an un-
restricted free agent.
(Leonhard suffered a
concussion on the
play and didnt re-
turn.) If re-signed,
Leonhard would, at
the least, be the fa-
vorite to be the
teams punt returner
in 2009. Leonhard,
who has been the
starter at strong
safety for much of
the 08 campaign
after Dawan Landry
suffered a season-
ending neck injury in
Week Three, could
also compete for
playing time in the
secondary. Leon-
hards emergence as
a punt returner, cou-
pled with rookie S
Tom Zbikowskis
ability to return kick-
offs, casts doubt on
the long-term future
of WR-RS Yamon
Figurs in Baltimore,
a source close to the
club notes.
With unrestricted
free agency pending
for Steelers WR Nate
Washington, the
club is left with an in-
teresting decision on
its hands, a source
close to the club sug-
gests. Washington is
not a starter, but hes
one of the more dan-
gerous No. 3 re-
ceivers in the game,
and hes averaged
better than 15 yards a
catch in each of the
last three seasons.
The way we hear it,
whether the Steelers
bring back Washing-
ton could very well
depend on their faith
in WR Limas Sweed
to show more as a
second-year player
than he did as a
rookie. Sweed caught
only six passes in 11
regular-season
games in 2008, and
he fumbled a pair of
times.
New Browns head coach Eric
Mangini has zeroed in on Jets QB
coach Brian Daboll as his offen-
sive coordinator, and hed like
Raiders defensive coordinator Rob
Ryan to take the same job with the
Browns. Though saying that nothing
is set in stone, Mangini said last
week that his first preference was to
hire Daboll and Ryan. Daboll
coached the Jets quarterbacks
from 2007-08. Ryan, like Daboll,
worked with Mangini in New Eng-
land. Hes run the Raiders defense
for the past five years. Ryans con-
tract is expiring, so hes free to join
the Browns. The Raiders primarily
employed a 4-3 defense last season,
but Ryan is well-versed in the 3-4,
which the Browns will continue to
run. Theres a ton of flexibility, and
it has been very effective over time,
Mangini said of the 3-4, the primary
defensive alignment for the Jets and
Patriots, as well as three AFC teams
that made the divisional round (Bal-
timore, Pittsburgh and San Diego).
Steelers LILB James Farrior
quietly had one of the most pro-
ductive seasons of his career in
2008. Farrior, who turned 34 on
Jan. 6, made 133 tackles, his high-
est total since 03. He also de-
fended five passes and notched 3
1
2
sacks. Hes just a rock, Steelers
defensive coordinator Dick
LeBeau said of Farrior, a team
captain. Hes been everything for
us.The 6-2, 243-pound Farrior,
who signed with the Steelers in
2002, has been one of the most
important free-agent additions in
club history. LeBeau told PFWthat
Farrior has set an invaluable exam-
ple for the teams younger defend-
ers, and he pointed to how SS Troy
Polamalu has emulated Farriors
approach to the game. Farrior,
LeBeau noted, is not a vocal leader,
but he has the unquestioned re-
spect of his teammates. He leads
by actions, and we tend to believe
thats the best way to lead,"
LeBeau said.
For the second time in Marvin
Lewis tenure, the Bengals will
coach one of the clubs at the Se-
nior Bowl. Lewis and his assis-
tants will coach the North team,
with the Jaguars coaching the
South club. Preparation for the
game begins Jan. 18 and includes
a week of practices leading up to
the game on Jan. 24. For the Ben-
gals, who rely heavily on the input
of their coaches in the draft
process, coaching the Senior
Bowl is especially valuable. The
Bengals, who coached the North
squad in 2004, didnt select any
North players in the 04 draft, but
they drafted three players from
the South squad, all defensive
backs: S Madieu Williams, CB
Keiwan Ratliff and CB Greg
Brooks. All three are no longer
with the Bengals, but P Kyle Lar-
son, an undrafted free agent
whom the Bengals coached on
that North team, remains with
Cincinnati.
This edition of the Ravens de-
fense is bound to be remembered
for all of the following: FS Ed
Reeds late-season interception-
spree, RILB Ray Lewis career
resurgence at age 33, DT Haloti
Ngata becoming one of the elite at
his position.
But it will also be remembered
for some of the surprising things it
did, whether it was defensive backs
like Jim Leonhard and Corey Ivy
charging in on the blitz or Ngata
dropping into pass coverage.
Something else that might catch
the eye when looking back at this
Ravens club: Its best pass rusher
was also one of its better defend-
ers vs. the pass.
In addition to notching eight
sacks, Ravens ROLB Terrell
Suggs defended nine passes, and
he scored touchdowns on both of
his interceptions in 2008.
In a recent interview with PFW,
Suggs cited versatile ex-Ravens
and current Patriots OLB Adalius
Thomas as a player who signifi-
cantly influenced his game.
It all started with AD, Suggs
said. Hes the complete linebacker.
He was just like, You dont want
to be a pass rusher, because that
limits what you can do.
Suggs credits several factors for
his improvement in coverage, but
one of the foremost reasons is the
presence of Reed and Suggs
having an understanding of where
the rangy, instinctive free safety is
going to be on each and every play.
All Ive got to do in man-to-
man, Suggs noted, is know where
Ed Reed is and funnel (the re-
ceiver) to him.
Suggs, 26, has been on a tear
late in the season, notching at least
a half-sack in six of his last seven
games (including playoffs). In the
divisional playoff win vs. the Titans,
Suggs recorded five tackles and a
sack before exiting with a shoulder
injury. Suggs availability for the
AFC title game was unclear at
presstime, but according to The
Baltimore Sun, Suggs indicated
that he expected to play. Suggs
has never missed a regular-season
or postseason game.
Suggs, whos had at least eight
sacks in all but one of his six NFL
seasons, feels as if he has room to
grow as a pass rusher, noting he
has more vigorously worked on
other parts of his game.
I havent peaked yet, Suggs
said. I really want to master it.
Youve got to give a little to get a lit-
tle.
Ravens OLB Terrell Suggs says that he still hasnt reached his full potential yet.
A
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CLEVELAND
BROWNS
PITTSBURGH
STEELERS
CINCINNATI
BENGALS
BALTIMORE
RAVENS
5 Pro Football Weekly January 18, 2009
THE WAY WE HEAR IT
AFC SOUTHBy Mike Wilkening and Matt Sohn
WHISPERS
Keep an eye on
what the Titans do at
tight end in the off-
season. Bo Scaife,
who caught a team-
best 58 passes in
2008, is an unre-
stricted free agent.
Veteran Alge Crum-
pler, whos signed
for one more season,
caught only 24
passes this season.
Rookie Craig
Stevens, the teams
No. 3 tight end,
played in all 16 games
in 08, getting most
of his playing time as
a blocker and catch-
ing only one pass. In
short, were Scaife to
depart, the Titans
would perhaps be in
the market to bolster
the position in the
offseason, the way
we hear it.
Although the inte-
rior trio was the bane
of the Jaguars O-line
play in 2008, help will
be sought more ac-
tively at tackle than
at guard or center in
the offseason. OLT
Khalif Barnes dis-
appointing tenure is
coming to a close as
he forays into free
agency, and the
healthy return of
Maurice Williams
and Vince Manuwai
could shore up the
OG spots without the
team needing to in-
vest too heavily at the
position in free
agency or the draft.
Colts TE Jacob
Tamme needs to log
some heavy minutes
in the weight room
this offseason if he
hopes to improve
upon his quiet rookie
season. Although a
naturally gifted re-
ceiver, his lean body
cant withstand too
much punishment.
The Texans defensive coaching
staff will have a new look next sea-
son after the firing of defensive co-
ordinator Richard Smith, DB
coach Jon Hoke and DL coach
Jethro Franklin. Ex-Lions head
coach Rod Marinelli was a candi-
date for a position on the defensive
staff; he interviewed with the Tex-
ans on Jan. 8. But days later, he ac-
cepted the DL coach/assistant
head coach position with the Bears
on Jan. 10. Senior defensive assis-
tant Frank Bush is also expected
to interview for the defensive coor-
dinator position. Bush has 18 years
of experience as an NFL experi-
ence, most of which came as an LB
coach with the Oilers, Broncos and
Cardinals, but he has never been a
coordinator. Head coach Gary Ku-
biak has said that Bush and assis-
tant DB coach Ray Rhodes, as
well as LB coach Johnny
Holland, will be retained, though
Rhodes role has yet to be deter-
mined.
The way we hear it, the Titans
are high on second-year C-OG
Leroy Harris potential. C Kevin
Mawaes right elbow injury paved
the way for Harris to make his first
career start in Week 17 at Indi-
anapolis, and Harris also started
the divisional-round game vs. Bal-
timore, which the Titans lost. A
fourth-round pick in the 2007
draft, Harris has good athleticism
for an interior lineman, and he is
listed as the top backup center,
left guard and right guard. A
source close to the club suggests
Harris could push OLG Eugene
Amano for a starting job in 2009;
Harris and Amano competed for
the job before this season. Also,
Mawae is a free agent after the 09
campaign. In short, Harris time as
a long-term starter may be com-
ing, but the circumstances that
led to his debut as a starter were
less than ideal, considering how
well Mawae has played this sea-
son.
In addition to his preparations for
coaching the South team at the Se-
nior Bowl later this month in Mo-
bile, Ala., Jaguars head coach Jack
Del Rio is spending much of his
time these days flipping through
his Rolodex. With Gregg Williams
one-year tenure as defensive coor-
dinator likely over his rolled-over
contract from Washington has ex-
pired and the Jaguars defensive
collapse would have sent him pack-
ing regardless finding a replace-
ment becomes a top priority.
Specific names have yet to surface,
but the profile of the candidates
should be relatively uniform. Most
importantly, applicants must be
proponents of the 4-3 scheme, in
part because its the preferred sys-
tem of Del Rio and in part because
the Jags have tailored their person-
nel around it. Additionally, it may
prove difficult for Del Rio to reel in
name-brand candidates because of
his notoriously short fuse for assis-
tants whose units underachieve.
Theres a palpable feeling
around Indianapolis that the Colts
are at a crossroads. Although un-
deniably successful in Tony
Dungys tenure as head coach, the
postseason hasnt been too kind to
the boys in blue, save for their
Super Bowl run of the 2006 sea-
son. Outside of that triumph, the
Colts have been booted from the
postseason tournament in their
opening game the past four sea-
sons.
As has been the case the past
five years, Dungy is taking some
time to think about whether he
wishes to return to the sideline in
2009. Although many are under
the belief that Dungy will hang up
the whistle and return to his family
in Tampa its also his home base
for the prison ministry work he
longs to devote more time to when
his coaching days are through
an identical sentiment was held at
this time last year, only to see
Dungy smack conventional wis-
dom upside the head with his re-
turn.
Assuming Dungy does leave, the
transition to head-coach-in-waiting
Jim Caldwell may not be as
seamless as hoped. The offensive-
minded Caldwell was tabbed as
Dungys eventual successor, in part
because he operates with the
same measured calculation as
Dungy, and keeping like-minded
cohesion on the sideline figured to
be the most logical approach to
achieving continued success.
Yet, personnel issues abound
throughout the roster, and deftly
navigating them will be a daunting
challenge for a man whos never
been so much as a coordinator at
the NFL level he was, however,
head coach at Wake Forest from
1993-2000. The most pulsating is-
sues to address will be handled
jointly by the head coach and the
front office. Namely, how do they
make necessary fortifications to a
team with so much money tied up
in marquee players? More than any
other team in the league, the Colts
are top-heavy on the salary spec-
trum, and freeing up some $6 mil-
lion in salary-cap maneuverability
doesnt solve everything.
The two premier free agents on
the club are C Jeff Saturday and
CB Kelvin Hayden, and it might
be impossible for the Colts to keep
both unless Saturday agrees to a
deal below market value. Hayden
figures as the more critical entity
to lock down long-term, but they
could opt to franchise him.
Jim Caldwells job description in Indianapolis will hinge upon Tony Dungys decision to return or retire.
A
P
HOUSTON
TEXANS
TENNESSEE
TITANS
JACKSONVILLE
JAGUARS
INDIANAPOLIS
COLTS
6 Pro Football Weekly January 18, 2009
THE WAY WE HEAR IT
AFC WESTBy Dan Parr and Michael Blunda
WHISPERS
The Raiders slow-
developing coaching
search could hurt the
team when it comes
to filling out a staff,
we hear. Oakland has
already lost several
assistants to other
teams, including of-
fensive coordinator
Greg Knapp, who
went to Seattle, and
defensive coordina-
tor Rob Ryan, who is
reportedly joining
Eric Manginis staff
in Cleveland. Owner
Al Davis is taking his
time in deciding who
the next head coach
of the Raiders will be,
as he often does, and
there may not be
many high-quality as-
sistants left to
choose from when he
makes up his mind.
Given that he was
playing with a
sprained ankle, those
close to the Chargers
were amazed by the
postseason perform-
ance of TE Antonio
Gates. Not only was
he catching pass
after pass in the wild-
card win over the
Colts, but he was
dragging tacklers
with him for first
downs.
Former Chiefs GM
Carl Peterson does-
nt appear to be in a
hurry to find another
job in the NFL. Al-
though there has
been much specula-
tion lately that Peter-
son would end up in
Miamis front office,
he says he has no
plans to join the Dol-
phins. Peterson is
looking to take a
break before consid-
ering any future ca-
reer plans.
Broncos QB Jay
Cutler is very much
being kept in the loop
on the Broncos
head-coaching
search by owner Pat
Bowlen. Cutler ex-
pressed his disap-
pointment over the
firing of Mike
Shanahan after
learning of the teams
decision, but we hear
Bowlen moved
quickly to smooth
things over with the
franchises top build-
ing block.
In an offseason full of intrigue in
Kansas City, we hear the Chiefs
most compelling decision will be
the one they make at quarterback.
With Damon Huard likely gone
and Brodie Croyle too brittle to
be handed the reins, Tyler Thig-
pen is the only legitimate QB cur-
rently on the roster. But even
though he showed flashes of bril-
liance last season, Thigpen still fin-
ished with a 1-10 record as a
starter. That means unless they go
after a potential free agent like
Matt Cassel, the Chiefs only op-
tion will be to address the need on
Draft Day. If past tendencies are
any indicator, K.C. might opt to
avoid taking a QB with the third
overall pick and instead try to find
a sleeper in the middle rounds.
Considering that they havent used
a first-round selection on a QB in
26 years and would prefer not to
invest a huge sum of money in one
player, their new GM very well
could take this approach.
The Raiders have a crowded
backfield, with three capable run-
ning backs Justin Fargas, Dar-
ren McFadden and Michael
Bush on the roster. Oakland
needed all three of them this sea-
son due to the injury problems
that Fargas and McFadden went
through at different points of the
season. While the team shopped
Bush at the trade deadline last
year, sources tell us it wont ac-
tively pursue a deal this offseason.
However, they will at least enter-
tain offers for him, to get a better
idea of his value. After a standout
performance in Week 17, in which
Bush ran 27 times for 177 yards
and two touchdowns, sources say
you can bet on team owner Al
Davis asking for a lot in return
from any interested team. If Oak-
land doesnt come upon a swap to
its liking, it will be happy to keep
Bush, who is going into only his
second NFL season at full health,
back again.
Just as it did two years ago after
he helped lead the Bears to Super
Bowl XLI as defensive coordinator,
Ron Riveras phone is starting to
ring quite frequently. With the
Chargers D turning it up once
Rivera took over as coordinator at
midseason, more than one club
with a head-coaching vacancy has
interest in talking to the former
linebacker. From what we hear,
however, these teams might be giv-
ing him too much credit for the
Bolts second-half improvement.
While he did bring a fresh attitude
to the unit, there were plenty of in-
dividuals beyond Rivera who were
responsible for the turnaround.
Plus, he was leading a talented de-
fense that was much healthier in
the final couple of months than it
was early on. Considering that
Rivera struck out in numerous
head-coaching interviews during
his tenure in Chicago, some con-
sider it odd that franchises are
again infatuated with him.
As the Broncos close in on se-
lecting a head coach, owner Pat
Bowlen has done his due dili-
gence, interviewing a balanced
field of candidates.
Bowlen has met with seven
coaches Patriots O-coordinator
Josh McDaniels, Giants D-coor-
dinator Steve Spagnuolo, Bucs
D-coordinator Raheem Morris,
Broncos O-coordinator Rick Den-
nison, Cowboys O-coordinator
Jason Garrett, Vikings D-coordi-
nator Leslie Frazier and Dolphins
secondary coach Todd Bowles
and the hire is expected to come
from within that group.
McDaniels, considered one of
the leagues bright up-and-comers,
was believed to be the favorite to
win the job at presstime. He is the
only candidate to have had a sec-
ond interview, reports indicate.
Regardless of who is chosen, the
new head coach will not have
nearly the authority that Mike
Shanahan did. Bowlen made that
clear at the press conference to
announce Shanahan had been ter-
minated. The front-office team of
VP of football operations/player
personnel Jim Goodman, assis-
tant GM Jeff Goodman (Jims
son) and assistant GM Brian Xan-
ders will remain intact, Bowlen
told the media. The Goodmans
were heavily involved in evalua-
tions for last years draft, when the
team selected OT Ryan Clady and
WR Eddie Royal, two of the
leagues best rookies.
There has been no general man-
ager in Denver since Ted
Sundquist was fired last March,
when Bowlen called Sundquists
relationship with Shanahan dys-
functional. Sources in Denver say
there is no indication an official
general manager will be added to
the mix anytime soon, leaving the
entrenched trio of personnel men
in charge of making calls. Jim
Goodman is believed to have the
largest presence as the most sen-
ior member.
The lack of urgency to bring in a
general manager, sources say, could
stem from financial considerations.
The Broncos still have to pay Shana-
han $20 million over the next three
years, and assigning big salaries to a
new head coach and a general man-
ager may not be feasible.
Bowlen is intent on establishing
a power structure where the head
coach does not have the ultimate
say-so in personnel matters, but
its not yet clear just how hell dis-
tribute sway in the new regime.
Michael Bush is part of a crowded backfield, but the Raiders arent expected to actively shop him.
A
P
KANSAS CITY
CHIEFS
OAKLAND
RAIDERS
SAN DIEGO
CHARGERS
DENVER
BRONCOS
7 Pro Football Weekly January 18, 2009
THE WAY WE HEAR IT
NFC EASTBy Eric Edholm
WHISPERS
The Cowboys were
impressed with TE
Martellus Ben-
netts physical matu-
ration through the
course of the season
but still worry about
his maturity. He re-
portedly hasnt
formed much of a
bond with Jason
Witten, who sources
say has reached out
and tried to help the
young, talented tight
end. The team would
love to use Bennett
as a weapon next
season but want to
make sure he has the
right attitude.
It wouldnt surprise
anyone if the Eagles
have a different
group of pass catch-
ers next season, and
the most likely to
leave are TE L.J.
Smith and possibly
WR Reggie Brown.
Through the past
three seasons, Brown
has regressed and
was a healthy scratch
late in the season be-
fore re-emerging on
the game-day roster
in the playoffs. His
salary is not outra-
geous, but Brown
might not be back if
the Eagles find an-
other option at wide-
out.
Restricted free-
agent PK Shaun Su-
ishamled the league
in missed field goals,
but he could return to
the Redskins. We
hear that the team
still feels as though
he can be an effective
kicker (he started the
season well) and that
he just got into a bit
of a slump.
We hear the Giants
feel they need a
gamebreaker at wide
receiver. Ever since
Plaxico Burress was
shut down for the
season, the Giants
have lacked a consis-
tent deep threat.
Domenik Hixon did a
respectable job at
split end, but hes
best running inter-
mediate routes. Dis-
appointing rookie
Mario Manningham
must show improve-
ment before he can
be that deep target.
The Cowboys clearly knew they
had to do something about their
special-teams production when
they fired coordinator Bruce
Read and brought in former
Jaguars special-teams coordina-
tor Joe DeCamillis. The rank-
ings were mostly ugly: They
finished 30th in punt returns, 21st
on kickoff returns and 24th on
punt-return coverage. The only
top-10 category, other than field-
goal and extra-point percentage,
was on kickoff coverage (sixth).
Certainly, the punt coverage
should improve once P Mat
McBriar returns; his hang time
and placement were at a Pro Bowl
level when he suffered a season-
ending injury. DeCamillis is con-
sidered one of the better
special-teams coaches around, al-
though this will be his third team
in four seasons and the Jaguars
werent exceptional in the return
game with rookie Brian Wither-
spoon.
The Eagles know they have a de-
cision to make. Donovan McN-
abb knows that this Sunday could
be his final game as an Eagle. But
any decision on how the team will
deal with its star quarterback, who
is due to count for just over $10
million against the cap next season
on a deal that runs through 2013,
apparently will come down the
road. McNabb shot down an ESPN
report prior to the Eagles win over
the Giants that McNabbs agent
had said the QB wants an exten-
sion in the offseason that hinges
on their meeting with head coach
Andy Reid about his benching
during the season. McNabb went
on to say that his benching against
the Ravens and his strong play
thereafter were coincidental. He
was not at his best in the Eagles
win in New York, but he made
enough plays against a stout de-
fense to receive credit and now has
reached his fifth NFC title game in
10 years. What is that worth?
The Redskins are back in a famil-
iar position. Ayear after having an
unusual offseason with almost no
free-agent activity and 10 draft
picks, the team will be forced to
trim some aged and expensive tal-
ent and currently has only four
draft picks with which to work. The
Redskins have first-, third-, fifth-
and sixth-round picks, having
traded away their second-, fourth-
and seventh-round picks in sepa-
rate deals for Jason Taylor, Pete
Kendall and Erasmus James. The
team wants to add picks and might
have the depth at cornerback to
make a trade. The most likely to go?
Believe it or not, Carlos Rogers.
Through the first part of the season,
Rogers was playing at a Pro Bowl
level, but he fell off and eventually
was demoted to playing nine defen-
sive snaps in the loss to the Ben-
gals. The club would like to work out
a long-term deal with free-agent-to-
be DeAngelo Hall, and could use
Rogers as trade bait.
The Giants face a critical situation
with both their top backs, Brandon
Jacobs and Derrick Ward, facing
free agency. In a perfect world,
theyd bring both back. But do both
men want to return?
There have been whispers that
the Giants are prepared to offer Ja-
cobs a long-term deal that pays him
like a top-tier back, and he clearly
sets the tone for the offense. He fits
the mold of the power-run back in a
bruising division, though there is the
concern that he could break down
with the constant pounding he
takes.
Ward also plays with power and
can run up inside, but he has shifti-
ness and receiving prowess that Ja-
cobs lacks. The Giants are said to
like Ward very much, and he has
shown a resiliency coming back
from two season-ending injuries the
past few seasons.
But there also have been
thoughts that Ward might like the
chance to be the featured back, and
he wont get that chance as long as
Jacobs is in New York. Ward rushed
for more than a 1,000 yards but
could be allowed to walk if his price
tag gets too high. The Giants have
been proactive about re-signing
their own players, but they also al-
lowed a few players to leave after
last season FS Gibril Wilson and
LB Kawika Mitchell when it be-
came clear they were going to ask
for a lot of money.
If theres a bright side to the situ-
ation its that the Giants are loaded
at running back. They have Ahmad
Bradshaw, the teams leading
rusher in the playoffs last season
who was the third back this year,
and Danny Ware, who has been
impressive in spot duty and was
kept on the roster despite not
much of an opportunity behind the
trio known as Earth, Wind and
Fire.
Bradshaw recently joked to
Michael Strahan, working for Fox,
that he wouldnt mind seeing either
Jacobs or Ward go elsewhere. The
coaching staff has been reluctant to
use Bradshaw in extended duty
since Super Bowl XLII except in
cases of injury or blowouts. He
mostly has done his damage on
kickoff returns, where he has been
effective.
Dont be shocked if Ware, who re-
cently retained Drew Rosenhaus as
his agent, gets a chance next sea-
son. He has impressed the coaching
staff, and the team has turned down
other teams trade requests for him
in the past.
The Redskins could trade 2005 first-round CB Carlos Rogers, who took a backseat to DeAngelo Hall in 08.
A
P
DALLAS
COWBOYS
PHILADELPHIA
EAGLES
WASHINGTON
REDSKINS
NEWYORK
GIANTS
8 Pro Football Weekly January 18, 2009
THE WAY WE HEAR IT
NFC NORTHBy Dan Arkush and Eric Edholm
WHISPERS
Vikings head coach
Brad Childress
failed to throw his
support behind QB
Tarvaris Jackson for
the second straight
season, and we hear
its almost certain the
team will add another
quarterback likely a
veteran. But the com-
petition almost cer-
tainly wont be Gus
Frerotte, who has
one year left on his
deal. Frerotte was
upset that he was not
given back his starting
job down the stretch
with his back healed.
While much of the
failure of the Packers
special teams, which
triggered the retire-
ment of ST coach
Mike Stock, was
blamed on the teams
decision before the
season to cut P Jon
Ryan in favor of Der-
rick Frost, team in-
siders believe the
decision to release
veteran special-
teams heavyweight
Tracy White on Oct.
7 might have been an
even costlier mistake.
We hear recently
fired Bears DB coach
Keith Wilks might
have greased the
wheels for his depar-
ture after getting into
a couple of good
spats with defensive
coordinator Bob
Babich. As for Bears
LB coach Lloyd Lee,
who was also given
his walking papers, LB
Lance Briggs appar-
ently thought highly
enough of Lee to offer
him an invitation to
join Briggs in Hon-
olulu for the Pro Bowl.
Lions PK Jason
Hanson told PFW
that despite the
Lions NFL-worst 0-16
season, he said he
has seen the locker
room more dejected
in years past. If
theres something I
was happy about, he
said, it was that guys
were not giving up.
Sure, we had some
awful games, but dur-
ing the week, in prac-
tice, in the weight
room, in other
games, we came out
and played hard.
Brian Urlacher at least de-
serves some credit for not blaming
his neck surgery last offseason and
his arthritic back condition for his
ordinary numbers (for him) in
2008. But the Bears high-profile
linebacker didnt score a lot of
points in the Windy City when he
recently told the Chicago Tribune:
Im tired of criticism that is unwar-
ranted. People who say stuff about
me, they dont know our defense.
They dont know about football.To
say that most daily team observers
believe Urlacher was off base with
those comments is a major under-
statement. Said one veteran team
insider: Urlacher is still a good to
very good middle linebacker, but
hes not an impact guy anymore.
His numbers are down in every cat-
egory, and you just dont see him
making any of the highlight-reel
plays that used to be his signature.
If he thinks hes getting unfair
criticism, then he has nobody to
blame but himself.
Assuming he re-signs with the
Lions, PK Jason Hanson will be
playing for his eighth head coach in
18 seasons in Detroit. The Lions
havent had a winning record since
2000. They are knee-deep into
their head-coaching search as of
this writing, but Hanson has some
ideas of what the new coach has to
have in order to be successful.
Simply put, its getting the right
players and hell have a voice in
that, I am sure and obviously the
system (that goes) with those play-
ers, Hanson told PFW. When a
coach comes in, hes going to set
the standard high. Most coaches
that have come in here have done
that. I have never been through a
coaching change where the new
coach didnt come in and try to
root out problems and let the play-
ers know that its not business as
usual. And thats part of it, but ulti-
mately if you have the talent and
you have the right scheme for that
talent, you have a chance to win.
Defensive coordinator Leslie
Frazier is a hot name in coaching
circles these days, and some NFL
sources believe hes in line for a top
job this year. Sources have identi-
fied DL coach Karl Dunbar and LB
coach Fred Pagac as two in-house
possibilities to replace Frazier
should he skip town. But we hear
the Vikings might consider Eagles
secondary coach Sean McDer-
mott, among others, for the job as
well. McDermott cut his teeth with
the Eagles while Brad Childress
was there, and Childress reportedly
was interested in adding McDer-
mott to his staff when he got the
job, until Eagles coach Andy Reid
blocked the move. Reid has said he
wouldnt stand in McDermotts way
this time if a coordinator job be-
comes open. Coincidentally, Mc-
Dermott started at safety at William
& Mary alongside Vikings SS Dar-
ren Sharper in 1996, where they
were teammates with ex-Vikings de-
fensive coordinator Mike Tomlin.
While changes were widely ex-
pected to be made in the Packers
20th-ranked defense particularly
at the top, where rumors that coor-
dinator Bob Sanders could be in
hot water had been circulating for
quite a while none of the daily
team observers we talked to had
expected such a dramatic purge by
head coach Mike McCarthy.
In addition to Sanders, Mc-
Carthy canned four of his six de-
fensive assistants DT coach
Robert Nunn, DE coach Carl
Hairston, secondary coach Kurt
Schottenheimer and CB coach
Lionel Washington.
Players and team insiders alike
were stunned by the unprece-
dented housecleaning by a sitting
coach.
With their sights apparently set
on a few potential candidates who
were coaching in the playoffs last
weekend, we hear the Packers
arent likely to rush into revamping
their defensive coaching staff.
One thing appears certain: Who-
ever ends up replacing Sanders is
quite likely to be a well-known
name, as McCarthy is reportedly
determined to seek out the best
available candidates.
The top rumored possibilities at
this writing are: former Niners head
coach Mike Nolan, who has a
strong relationship with McCarthy
from their days together in San
Francisco; Gregg Williams, who
most recently coordinated the
Jaguars D last season; and Rams
interim head coach Jim Haslett,
who remains in the running for the
current head-coach job in St. Louis.
Interestingly, the most recent
track records of each of these can-
didates would appear to raise
some red flags. Nolans defensive
scheme in San Francisco came
under fire this season because of
its frequent sub packages that
tended to confuse his players. The
Niners defense improved dramati-
cally, however, after Mike Single-
tary simplified the scheme, opting
for more of a pure 3-4 base.
Meanwhile, Hasletts defense in
St. Louis ranked 28th in total
yardage allowed and 29th in rushing
yards allowed, while Williams de-
fense in Jacksonville was ranked a
below-average 17th in total yardage
and 24th in passing yards allowed.
We hear assistant head
coach/linebackers Winston
Moss, one of the two defensive as-
sistants retained by McCarthy, is
not expected to be a serious candi-
date to replace Sanders.
Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier is drawing interest as a head-coaching candidate this offseason.
A
P
CHICAGO
BEARS
DETROIT
LIONS
MINNESOTA
VIKINGS
GREEN BAY
PACKERS
9 Pro Football Weekly January 18, 2009
THE WAY WE HEAR IT
NFC SOUTHBy Dan Parr
WHISPERS
While head coach
Jon Gruden said QB
Jeff Garcia will have
a chance to re-sign
with the Bucs when
he becomes a free
agent this winter,
were told Garcia is
expected to look at
options with other
teams before he sits
down to negotiate a
return to Tampa. Gar-
cia, who turns 39 in
February, wants to be
a starter next season,
but in the end, the
Bucs may be one of
only a few teams that
offer him a real op-
portunity at claiming
the top spot on their
depth chart.
While some
sounded the panic
alarm after the Saints
acknowledged that
RB Reggie Bush
had undergone mi-
crofracture surgery
on his left knee, we
hear the team ex-
pects him to recover
within two months.
His surgery does not
make finding another
running back a higher
priority for the front
office this offseason,
sources say.
Bucs director of pro
personnel Mark Do-
minik interviewed for
the Chiefs general
manager position, but
he isnt considered a
serious candidate for
the job. Sources fa-
miliar with Tampas
front office said it is
surprising Dominik
hasnt received a
closer and more ex-
tensive look as a GM
from other clubs.
Despite the teams
success, no member
of Panthers head
coach John Foxs
staff is being tar-
geted to fill vacancies
around the league at
the coordinator or
head-coaching level.
However, we hear O-
coordinator Jeff
Davidson, who
learned under Bill
Belichick as the Pa-
triots TE coach, is
the most likely mem-
ber of Carolinas staff
to get an opportunity
to interview for a
head-coaching posi-
tion in the near fu-
ture.
As the Panthers front office con-
tinues to work on new contracts for
OLT Jordan Gross and DRE
Julius Peppers, both of whom are
set to become free agents in the
offseason, all parties are keeping
the details of negotiations in-
house, avoiding a public delibera-
tion. GM Marty Hurney wants to
get the deals done, but as Peppers
and Gross, who are both Pro Bowl
starters, continue to collect post-
season accolades, the steep price
it will take to sign them only grows
higher. Hurney almost assuredly
will have to put the franchise tag
on one of them, and the non-fran-
chised player will get a deal that re-
quires a lot of cash up front in the
form of a signing bonus. History
suggests that getting a long-term
deal done for Gross will be difficult,
since the Panthers tried to extend
him last offseason but couldnt
come to an agreement. Signing
both for the long haul will be an
even greater challenge.
The Saints moved swiftly follow-
ing the firing of defensive coordina-
tor Gary Gibbs, bringing in Gregg
Williams, who served as defensive
coordinator in Jacksonville this sea-
son, to interview for the job less
than 24 hours after Gibbs dismissal
was announced. Sources in New Or-
leans called Williams the teams
dream candidate. He is known for
his aggressive, blitzing style, an ele-
ment that the Saints were criticized
for lacking during Gibbs tenure.
Williams is expected to command
top dollar and is one of the most
highly sought-after coordinators on
the market. He has been mentioned
as a candidate for the Packers, as
well. The Saints pursuit of Williams
is unusual, since the franchise typi-
cally hasnt gone hard after the
most expensive free agents or
coaches. Hiring Williams wouldnt
require a complete overhaul of de-
fensive personnel, though, since
both he and the Saints see eye-to-
eye on running a 4-3 scheme.
Sources in Tampa say the
groundwork for the Bucs to re-
sign WR Antonio Bryant is being
set and things appear to be
headed in the right direction.
Theres a mutual feeling between
the parties that the soon-to-be
free agent will be back with the
team after a highly successful
comeback year. After being out of
the league in 2007, Bryant be-
came Tampa Bays top receiver,
making 83 catches for 1,248 yards
and seven touchdowns. Bryant,
who is just entering his prime at
the age of 27, wont come cheap,
but the Bucs are expected to have
around $45 million in cap space
this offseason and will do what it
takes to get him re-signed. Tampa
is very thin at receiver already.
Fading veteran pass catchers
Joey Galloway and Ike Hilliard
and the inexperienced Dexter
Jackson are the only receivers
known to be under contract for
next season.
A30-24 loss to the Cardinals in
the postseasons opening round
brought the Falcons remarkable
year to an end.
Matt Ryan struggled in the
outing, completing 26-of-40
passes for two touchdowns and
two interceptions. He and RB
Michael Turner had a botched
handoff that was returned by Ari-
zona for a touchdown, and Ryan
was also tackled in the endzone
for a safety.
In a recent discussion with PFW,
Ryan said that while the Falcons
didnt complete their ultimate
goal, he thinks the loss could serve
the young team well moving for-
ward.
That one was tough, he said.
When theres more on the table,
the losses hurt more, but you have
to put it into perspective. You have
to take it for what it is. We had a
great year. We did some things re-
ally well. We gave ourselves an op-
portunity in the playoffs, but we
didnt do it. In that sense it cer-
tainly is frustrating and tough, but I
think it serves as great motivation
for our team heading into next sea-
son.
Despite the unsavory conclu-
sion, Ryans season will go down as
one of the greatest ever by a rookie
quarterback. He didnt waste much
time dwelling on his first go-round
in the NFL, heading into the film
room two days after the playoff
loss to watch tape and prepare for
next season, when the expecta-
tions for him will have risen even
higher.
Ryan is looking forward to shed-
ding the rookie label, having con-
quered the steep challenge he
faced in his first year. The next
step, he says, is becoming more
than just a good rookie.
Ive always thought that the
measure of good quarterback play
was consistency, he said. You
have to do it for a number of
years. You have to be successful
and you have to be a good player
for a number of years. Thats
where my goals are at now, to
focus on being consistent and
doing it year in and year out and
trying to get to the playoffs year in
and year out.
Ryan has targeted one specific
part of his game to improve upon
in the offseason.
The big thing for me is to con-
tinue to improve in the decision-
making process make better
decisions, make quicker deci-
sions, he said.
WR Antonio Bryant is in line for a big payday in the form of a new contract after a big season in 2008.
A
P
CAROLINA
PANTHERS
NEW ORLEANS
SAINTS
TAMPA BAY
BUCCANEERS
ATLANTA
FALCONS
10 Pro Football Weekly January 18, 2009
THE WAY WE HEAR IT
NFC WESTBy Dan Arkush
WHISPERS
Should Cardinals
WR Anquan Boldin
end up flying the
coop, the team could
be facing a rather
delicate domino ef-
fect. The team be-
lieves second-year
WR Steve Breaston
has proven that he
can be a very strong
No. 2 receiver behind
Larry Fitzgerald
although not a 1-A
type like Boldin
there is nowhere near
as much confidence
in 2008 third-round
draft pick Early
Doucets ability to
firmly secure the No.
3 WR role after what
was widely consid-
ered a very disap-
pointing rookie
campaign.
Although he will be
a restricted free
agent who could eas-
ily be tendered, we
hear the odds have
dropped to 50-50
that the Rams will re-
tain OG Richie
Incognito. Word is
the often-volatile
Incognito might have
hastened his depar-
ture from St. Louis
when he sat out the
regular-season finale
with what interim
head coach Jim
Haslett considered
a questionable injury.
Niners sources say,
due to the presence of
promising, young WRs
Josh Morgan, Jason
Hill and Dominique
Zeigler, free agent
Bryant Johnsons
days could be num-
bered in San Fran-
cisco. And dont
forget Arnaz Battle
(who ended 2008 on
injured reserve),
added a team insider.
Every year it seems
they try to count him
out, and every year he
keeps coming back
for more.
While other ob-
servers in Seattle
might have a hard
time agreeing with its
line of thinking after
Brian Russells
shaky 08 campaign,
we hear the Sea-
hawks brain trust still
thinks their starting
free safetys savvy
and steadiness are
assets worth keeping.
The Rams no doubt will be hop-
ing for an instant impact from the
player they will be making the sec-
ond overall selection in the draft for
the second year in a row. But just
as important, we hear, will be a
much bigger anticipated impact
from the teams last two first-round
selections DE Chris Long
(2008) and DT Adam Carriker
(07). Thats especially the case
with Carriker, who needs to reach
his full potential in his third year
with the team, a veteran team in-
sider told PFW. It wasnt talked
about a lot, but he came to camp
last year still really feeling the ef-
fects of the major shoulder injury
he suffered in the final game the
year before, and he never had full
range of motion in his left arm all
season. He should be in a lot better
shape next season.As for Long,
the consensus seems to be that he
tailed off after a solid start. Said the
insider: You need more than four
sacks out of the No. 2 overall pick.
Although the Niners offense is
expected to look dramatically dif-
ferent in 2009 with Mike Martzs
pass-happy philosophy being re-
placed by a much more run-ori-
ented, power approach, we hear
veteran WR Isaac Bruce, who
thrived under Martz both in St.
Louis and San Francisco, still fig-
ures to be a key component. He
has a year left on his deal with the
Niners, and he has said he wants to
come back, a team insider said of
the 36-year-old Bruce, who led the
team in catches and receiving
yardage in 08 and also served as a
valuable mentor to the teams
younger receivers, especially
promising rookie Josh Morgan.
Things wont change with Martz
gone. Isaac is a good enough route
runner to adjust to any system. He
played as well as he ever did this
season, and he has such a great
feel for the game. And its unbeliev-
able the amount of respect he gets
in the locker room.
The rumor that the Seahawks
could be preparing to unload vet-
eran QB Matt Hasselbeck wont
die. But the way we hear it, new
head coach Jim Mora has no in-
tention of moving in a new direction
under center at least for now.
That said, the concerns over the on-
again, off-again back/knee injury
that forced the 33-year-old Hassel-
beck to miss nine games last sea-
son and perform well below par
when he was healthy enough to
play have hardly subsided. Has-
selbeck told team insiders that rest
and natural healing should enable
him to fully participate in offseason
minicamps and OTAs. He also indi-
cated that the conditioning pro-
gram designed to improve his core
strength should actually prolong his
career and make him healthier than
ever. But back injuries, especially
like he had last year, are so unpre-
dictable, a daily team observer told
PFW. In any event, hes as impor-
tant to the team as hes ever been.
With more attention starting to
be paid to the upcoming free-agent
market, more potential scenarios
are being talked about involving
different players who are expected
to be available on the open market.
Taking note of the reported lack
of progress in contract talks be-
tween the Cardinals and free-
agent-to-be Kurt Warner, one
prominent Chicago-based pro foot-
ball writer suggested recently that
the Bears place the Arizona quar-
terback near the top of their off-
season shopping list.
Although the dots connect
nicely in a Warner-to-Chicago sce-
nario Bears head coach Lovie
Smith was the Rams defensive
coordinator when Warner led St.
Louis to the 2002 Super Bowl, and
Warners agent, Mark Bartel-
stein, is based in Chicago our
sources in the desert continue to
believe Warner will eventually re-up
with the Cardinals for two more
seasons, notwithstanding the lack
of substantial progress in contract
talks up to now.
As for the possibility that the 37-
year-old Warner might retire
which is something he hinted at
openly following the violent colli-
sion at the end of the Week Four
game against the Jets involving
teammate Anquan Boldin, who
had to undergo delicate facial sur-
gery as a result our sources
arent ruling that out.
But, according to one well-con-
nected team insider, I cant imag-
ine him walking away if the team
decided it really wanted him back
and was willing to pay him what
hes looking for. I still think a two-
year deal is going to happen.
What about a deal elsewhere for
Warner?
Said the source: Well, I do know
he has said more than once that he
wouldnt be crazy about packing
up his wife and kids and starting all
over again somewhere else. I think
hes quite comfortable living in Ari-
zona.
It remains to be seen to what ex-
tent the future of Boldin, who de-
manded to be traded earlier this
season, might affect Warners
plans, considering how different
Arizonas offense would instantly
become without arguably its most
essential and certainly its most
versatile component.
Boldin has not talked about the
possibility of being traded for some
time now. Yet, the way we hear it,
nothing has happened in the
desert to change his mind.
There is some doubt surrounding the long-term future of QB Matt Hasselbeck in Seattle.
A
P
ST. LOUIS
RAMS
SAN FRANCISCO
49ERS
SEATTLE
SEAHAWKS
ARIZONA
CARDINALS
11 Pro Football Weekly January 18, 2009
OPINION
PUBLISHERS PEN Hub Arkush, publisher/editor
WHAT WE THINK WHAT YOU THINK
LETTERS POLICY
Sendletterstoletters@pfwmedia.com, byfaxto
(847) 940-1108or byU.S. mail toLetterstotheEditor,
ProFootball Weekly, 302SaundersRoad, Suite100,
Riverwoods, IL60015. Limit of 250words. Include
name, hometownanddaytimephonenumber
(phonefor verificationpurposesonly). Wereservethe
right toedit lettersfor content andbrevity.
G
rowing up, my idol was Dick Butkus.
I dont want to date him too much or
he ll kill me, but when I was just
starting to play midget football, Dick was
wrapping up his All-America career at the
University of Illinois. By the time I was
playing in high school, Dick was well on
his way to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
To this day Butkus is the greatest defen-
sive player Ive ever seen, so obviously hes
the best linebacker, as well. On the field
Ray Lewis is the closest Ive ever seen to
Dick in terms of style and production, but
Lewis is nowhere near the athlete Dick
was. That will surprise some, whove only
heard about Butkus or seen the highlights
of him later in his career while playing on
no knees and still tilting the playing field
for the Bears. Yet, prior to all the damage
to those knees, he did things no other 6-3,
245-pound player had ever done. It wasnt
just the violence, it was the dominance
that made him the best.
I couldnt have felt more privileged
when we first started broadcasting NFL
games together in 1985 and couldnt be
more pleased that we became friends and
have stayed close for over 20 years now.
In the early 90s we were doing a Bucs-
Bears game in Tampa in December on the
Sunday after the Butkus Award was being
presented in Orlando to the outstanding
linebacker in college football, and Dick in-
vited me to tag along. Talking the next
morning, he mentioned that while he was
thrilled with the recognition the award was
gaining, his main goal was to raise money
for charity, and he dreamed of returning it
to our shared hometown of Chicago.
Over the next 10-12 years wed occasion-
ally kick around how to make it happen,
and about a year and a half ago, Dick
called and said it was time. He and his son
Matt founded the I Play Clean campaign
to educate millions of youth throughout
America on the dangers of performance-
enhancing drugs, and we began working
on how to do as much as possible to stamp
out the use of PEDs and save as many kids
as possible. One wrinkle we came up with
was to add high school and NFL winners
to the college award, to generate as much
awareness and get the word into as many
schools as we could.
Pro Football Weeklys part became to
put together a selection committee of 51
of the most knowledgeable football peo-
ple in the world, so we recruited NFL
general managers, head coaches, person-
nel directors, a number of college head
coaches from BCS schools and recruiting
coordinators. Unlike so many awards you
hear about, the Butkus Awards are no
popularity contest. Our selectors have
studied hours of tape and repeatedly
watched these guys play live, and the win-
ners are the best linebackers in the world.
The first week in December, Dick sur-
prised Manti Teo at his football banquet
at Punahou High School (coincidentally,
Barack Obamas alma mater), and a week
later he did the same for Aaron Curry at
Wake Forest, naming them the high
school and college winners, respectively.
At the first annual Butkus Awards recep-
tion to be held Jan. 13 in Chicago, they
will be joined by DeMarcus Ware, who
will be honored as the 2008 NFL Butkus
Award winner.
While Ware was a solid choice for the
NFL award with 15 first-place votes to
just four for James Harrison, a number of
voters expressed how difficult the two
were to separate, with Ware getting just
slightly higher marks in coverage and vs.
the run. Ray Lewis, Patrick Willis, Jon
Beason and Chad Greenway also received
first-place votes.
Will any of these young men be the
next Butkus or do anywhere near the
amount of good work Dick is trying to do
when their careers are over? It will be the
privilege of millions of youth, whom they
will teach to avoid the dangers of per-
formance-enhancing drugs, to watch
them try, and perhaps find their idols.
A
s weve noted in this space before, it
looks increasingly likely that the NFL
will add a game or two to the regu-
lar-season schedule in the not-too-distant
future and shorten the preseason.
More regular-season games would
mean more TV revenue, which will come
in handy when players and owners battle
over how to split the pot in the next Col-
lective Bargaining Agreement. NFL com-
missioner Roger Goodell has made it
clear he favors the idea, and so do we.
One argument against a longer regular
season is the increased risk of injury to
players. Thats a valid concern, which is
why we think the leagues injured-reserve
rules should be changed to make them
more flexible.
When a player is placed on injured re-
serve, hes done for the year. That can
pose a dilemma for teams, especially
when a player is hurt early in the season.
If hes going to be out six or eight weeks,
does the team place him on I.R. or tie up
a spot on its roster in hopes that the play-
er can contribute later in the season?
It wasnt always that way. NFL teams
used to be able to reactivate players from
the injured list after four weeks. The rule
was changed before the start of the 1993
season, when rosters were expanded to
the current 53-player limit, in part be-
cause some teams were abusing the I.R.
by using it to stockpile players, particular-
ly young guys they didnt think were ready
to play but they didnt want to release.
With the salary cap making that type of
abuse less likely now, we think its time to
review the I.R. rules again.
Some common-sense measures would
limit I.R. abuses. The league could, as it
used to, set a limit on the number of play-
ers who could be reactivated from injured
reserve each season without having to go
through waivers. It also could continue to
require that players placed on I.R. during
the preseason be out for the year.
We read one suggestion on Big Blue
View, a Giants fan site, that the NFL have
injured-list designations of four, eight
and 12 games. That idea, with limits on
how many players a team could put on
each list, also sounds logical to us.
And, of course, the league would have
the authority to punish teams that mis-
used injured reserve.
Allowing teams to reactivate players
from I.R. after four or six weeks would
provide them with some needed roster
flexibility. More importantly, it would
make the game even better for fans if it
means that star players who are injured
have a chance of returning later in the
season or in the playoffs.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Do believe the NFL should change its
rules regarding injured reserve? Send
your comments by e-mail to letters@pfw-
media.com, by fax to (847) 940-1108 or
by U.S. mail to Letters to the Editor, Pro
Football Weekly, 302 Saunders Road,
Suite 100, Riverwoods, IL 60015. We ll
publish some of the responses in future
editions.
Setting a high standard for athletes
Change due for injured reserve
True meanings of NFL
The four true meanings of NFL
1. (Nitwit Football League). Part-time
officials. You want good comedy, just
watch (NFL head of officials) Mike
Pereiras weekly defense of his officials on
NFL Network. Lets hope Ed Hoc-A-Lugi is
a better lawyer than he is a referee.
2. (Not For Long). Strength of sched-
ule/parity scheduling. Isnt the idea to get
your best teams into the playoffs? Isnt
the objective to produce the true cham-
pion? At least one team makes the play-
offs every year that does not belong! The
good news is that these teams are gone
the next season.
3. (No Fun League). Random celebra-
tion fines. Lets fine New England WR Wes
Welker $10,000 for creating a snow angel
after scoring a touchdown. I am sure the
other team was visibly disturbed by this
unforgivable act. Ebenezer Scrooge had
to be amused by this NFL decision.
4. (Need For Logic). Local blackouts.
Any moron knows that the greater the fan
base, the greater the league. Alienating
potential fans will ultimately cost the
league dollars. Why do the Yankees have
so much money? Partly because they
offer the greatest access to their games.
Russ Johnson, San Diego
Niners O going backward
As a long-suffering 49ers fan, I knew
Mike Singletary was too good to be true.
For those who havent heard, his first
act upon assuming command of that sto-
ried franchise was to announce that
henceforth the forward pass shall be ban-
ished from the playbook. The pass is
being eschewed in favor of Singletarys
team imposing its will on opponents.
An eight-man front, an 11-man front, it
doesnt matter, he stated; it will be run,
run, run. It isnt about scoring more
points than your opponent, its imposing
your will, hammering your opponent into
submission.
So the game has evolved from Clark
Shaughnessy to Paul Brown to Don
Coryell to Bill Walsh to Woody Hayes?
Weve gone from Baugh, Graham, Unitas,
Fouts, Marino and Brady to what? Bronko
Nagurski and the flying wedge?
Oh, visions of the beauty of the perfect
pass hurled by Montana or Young, taken
in full stride by Rice, will forever fade from
the 49ers memory. Its a return to the
Stone Age.
Robert Coffman, Moraga, Calif.
12 Pro Football Weekly January 18, 2009
2008 NFL
AWARDS
ISSUE
ALL-NFL TEAM ..................................................Pg. 14
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER ..............................Pg. 16
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR ................Pg. 17
COACH OF THE YEAR ......................................Pg. 18
EXECUTIVE OF THE YEAR ..............................Pg. 19
ASSISTANT COACH OF THE YEAR ................Pg. 19
GOLDEN TOE ....................................................Pg. 20
ALL-CONFERENCE TEAMS ..............................Pg. 21
ALL-ROOKIE TEAM ..........................................Pg. 22
OFFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR................Pg. 23
DEFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR................Pg. 23
COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR ..............Pg. 24
MOST IMPROVED PLAYER OF THE YEAR ....Pg. 24
For the 17th consecutive year, Pro Football Weekly and the Professional
Football Writers of America are jointly presenting their postseason awards.
Honors for the All-NFL, All-Conference and All-Rookie teams, Most Valuable
Player, Defensive Player of the Year, Rookies of the Year, Executive of the
Year and Assistant Coach of the Year were voted on by PFWeditors and
contributors and PFWAmembers.
The Golden Toe Trophy was voted on exclusively by PFWeditors.
PHOTOS BYAP
James Harrison Tony Sparano Matt Ryan
Peyton
Manning
2008 PFW/PFWA AWARDS
ALL-NFL
TEAM
By Eric Edholm
Senior Editor
T
his years Pro Football Weekly/Profession-
al Football Writers of America All-Pro
team has a little something for everyone.
There are the familiar faces (Peyton Manning,
Tony Gonzalez, Ray Lewis), some new ones
(Michael Turner, Cortland Finnegan) and a
few veterans who raised their games to new
levels (Jordan Gross, James Harrison). Lets
take a look at how this seasons team breaks
down:
OFFENSE
QB Peyton Manning / Colts Looking
back, he probably should have missed the first
three games of the season, coming off two knee
procedures performed within a month of the
opening weekend. But Manning turned in one
of his best seasons, even if it wasnt one of his
most statistically flashy, becoming one of six to
have won multiple MVP awards in leading the
Colts to a 12-4 record and nine straight wins
entering the postseason.
RB Adrian Peterson / Vikings After a
banner rookie season, the ceiling was almost
limitless for Peterson. But the critics said hed
never play a full season running the way he does,
absorbing so much contact. Guess what? Pe-
terson played in all 16 regular-season games
(plus one playoff game) and took 363 carries
(second-most in the NFL) for a league-best
1,760 rushing yards plus 10 TDs. Fumbling be-
came an issue for Peterson, but theres no doubt
hes one of the games most explosive backs.
RB Michael Turner / Falcons Matt Ryan
and others deserve all the respect heaped on
them for the Falcons turnaround, but there was
no bigger, more consistent reason for the
teams offensive production than Turner. In
games in which he ran for at least 96 yards, the
Falcons were 9-0; in games he didnt, includ-
ing the playoff loss, they were 2-6. Turner took
a league-high 376 handoffs and finished sec-
ond to Peterson with a Falcons-record 1,699
rushing yards.
WR Andre Johnson / Texans Johnson
might have had one of the best months by a
wideout ever. In four October games, he
caught 41 passes for 593 yards, and he finished
the year strong with big games against the Ti-
tans (11-207-1) and Bears (10-148-2) as the Tex-
ans finished with only their second 8-8 mark.
WR Larry Fitzgerald / Cardinals There
might be no better big-catch artist in the
game than Fitzgerald, but what observers re-
marked about his game is that he has become
more polished in his route running and is work-
ing harder than ever and this comes after he
received a big payday. With Anquan Boldin by
his side for perhaps the final season, Fitzger-
ald put together arguably his finest campaign
to date.
TE Tony Gonzalez / Chiefs He only gets
better with age. Gonzalez had one of the best
statistical seasons of his career, and he did it
on a Chiefs team that started three different
quarterbacks, including the previously un-
known Tyler Thigpen. Once the trade deadline
passed and Gonzalez remained in Kansas
City, his play actually picked up, with eight
touchdowns in his final 10 games and three
100-yard outings. He also caught at least five
passes in every game after Week Five.
C Kevin Mawae / Titans At age 37,
Mawae was the NFLs best center on a team that
attempted to control the line of scrimmage and
dominate with the run game. Starting next to
two inexperienced guards on either side of him
and with a young backfield headed by rookie
RB Chris Johnson, Mawae and QB Kerry
Collins brought a combined 29 seasons of NFL
experience to the huddle for a Titans club that
finished 13-3 and as the top seed in the AFC.
OG Chris Snee / Giants Finally recog-
nized as one of the leagues best young guards,
Snee will tell you that hes only one piece of the
puzzle on perhaps the most cohesive offensive
line in the game today. The Giants led the NFL
in rushing yards, many of them between the
tackles, and formed a nice pocket for QB Eli
Manning, who had his most consistent season.
OG Steve Hutchinson / Vikings Many
called the Vikings crazy for signing Hutchin-
son to a seven-year, $49 million deal three years
ago, but theres little talk of that now. He helped
pave the way for Adrian Petersons rushing ti-
tle and was a key anchor for the first four games
when OLT Bryant McKinnie was suspended. Adrian Peterson played in all 16 games and rushed for 110 yards per outing.
A
P
Veterans, newcomers
share stage when it
comes to the NFLs
best players in 2008
14 Pro Football Weekly January 18, 2009
OT Michael Roos / Titans Titans OL
coach Mike Munchak, a Hall of Fame player,
said Roos is probably smart enough to call the
plays in the huddle in case Kerry Collins were
to come down with a sore throat. Hes very
proud, very workmanlike, Munchak told
PFW in December. Hes the guy who I think
will take over as the leader on that line when
Kevin (Mawae) retires. The 6-foot-7 Roos also
can block a little: He allowed only one sack and
had zero holding penalties in 16 starts.
OT Jordan Gross / Panthers The Pan-
thers franchise player was at the center of a line
that got bigger, tougher and more physical.
Gross moved from right tackle to left tackle and
helped lead both a dynamic rushing offense
(2,437 yards, 30 TDs) and an effective passing
game (20 sacks allowed, 7.3 yards per play) for
the NFC South champs. And he allowed only
three sacks despite facing off against top pass
rushers.
DEFENSE
DE Justin Tuck / Giants One of the he-
roes of Super Bowl XLII, Tuck had to go into
this season without Michael Strahan or Osi
Umenyiora rushing beside him. But instead of
falling off, Tucks game got markedly better. He
became a full-time player, able to sack the quar-
terback, stop the run or even drop into cover-
age. Tuck has been one of the key weapons for
Steve Spagnuolos top-five defense.
DE John Abraham / Falcons It ap-
peared at one point that Abrahams career
might go into a steady slide, but he was revived
by Mike Smiths new coaching staff. And by
playing fewer snaps per game, Abraham was
able to make the most of them with 16
1
2
sacks and four forced fumbles. The team was
9-1 when Abraham had at least one-half sack.
DT Albert Haynesworth / Titans In a
strong era for hulking, destructive defensive
tackles, Haynesworth might be the best at his
position. He made a case for being the leagues
defensive MVP over the first three months of
the season, set a career high with 8
1
2 sacks and
had three forced fumbles on the NFLs No. 6
run defense.
DTKevin Williams / Vikings Perhaps the
finest inside rusher in the game today, Williams
tied Haynesworth with 8
1
2 sacks and had
four in a 12-10 nailbiter over the Lions. While
he benefitted from the arrival of DE Jared Allen
and from playing next to NT Pat Williams,
scouts say Kevin Williams game has never been
better.
OLB DeMarcus Ware / Cowboys On a
team of underachievers and type-A personal-
ities, Ware is a breath of fresh air. Except for,
of course, opposing QBs, running backs and of-
fensive coordinators. He had the NFLs first 20-
sack season since Michael Strahans record of
22
1
2 in 2001 and became a more well-round-
ed defender, able to track down runners from
behind and even drop into short zones.
OLB James Harrison / Steelers He was
once considered too short and undisciplined
and was cut by the Steelers more than once. But
Harrison, the leagues defensive MVP, has
developed into an all-around force, posting
ridiculous totals of 101 tackles, 16sacks and sev-
en forced fumbles. He and Ware were perhaps
the two toughest players to block in 2008.
MLB Ray Lewis / Ravens No stranger to
All-Pro teams, Lewis appeared reinvigorated
in his 13th year, playing behind a stout defen-
sive line and in a contract season. He was his
typically stout self against the run (the Ravens
ranked third in rush defense) but also re-
mained active (3
1
2 sacks, nine passes defend-
ed, three interceptions) when teams tried to
throw.
CB Cortland Finnegan / Titans Finnegan
probably played his best ball the first three
months of the season before tailing off a bit,
but he keyed a Titans defense that tallied 20
interceptions, three of them run back for
scores. A seventh-rounder in 2006, Finnegan
is considered one of the smartest players at his
position.
CB Nnamdi Asomugha / Raiders Scouts
have been enamored with Asomughas play,
who got more attention for his name than for
his game until this season. Teams generally do
not even test Asomugha, and the list of talent-
ed receivers he has helped shut down is long
and distinguished. His size, coverage ability and
work ethic make him a star at a thankless spot.
S Ed Reed / Ravens Its hard to believe
that Reed had only one interception entering
Week 12, but he finished with an incredible
nine, tying his career best. Reed had two that
week in 36-7 win over the Eagles, returning one
107 yards for a TD, and had two each against
the Redskins, Cowboys and Jaguars in the fi-
nal four games.
S Troy Polamalu / Steelers In perhaps
his finest season to date, Polamalu became the
centerpiece of Dick LeBeaus defense, able to
play back in coverage, up in a LB spot or rush-
ing into the backfield to bring down a running
back or QB by an ankle. His stats werent bad,
either: 73 tackles, 17 passes defended and
seven interceptions.
SPECIALISTS
PK Stephen Gostkowski / Patriots
The Patriots offense changed when Tom
Brady went down, and Gostkowskis fine sea-
son must not go overlooked. He finished 36-
of-40 on field-goal attempts, including 26-for-
28 on kicks from 30 yards or longer, for a
league-high 148 points.
P Shane Lechler / Raiders How good is
Lechler? The Raiders, following his league-best
41.2-yard net average on 90 kicks, are strong-
ly considering placing the franchise tag on
Lechler and not Nnamdi Asomugha. Oh, and
Lechler is not just a strong leg 33 of his punts
landed inside opponents 20-yard line.
PR Johnnie Lee Higgins / Raiders Hig-
gins gave a struggling offense a boost in the sec-
ond half of the season, returning three punts
for scores and catching three more TD pass-
es. And for the record, his TD-celebrating dance
is called the Hooka-Hooka.
KR Danieal Manning / Bears Manning
supplanted Devin Hester as the Bears primary
kick returner and led the NFL with a 29.7-yard
average. The Bears love Manning for his pow-
erful, up-the-gut style, running where the re-
turn is designed to be blocked something
Hester often failed to do.
STBrendon Ayanbadejo / Ravens Out-
side of having a dominant kick returner, the
Ravens special teams were consistently strong
for head coach John Harbaugh, a former spe-
cial-teams coordinator. And Pro Bowler Ayan-
badejo, with 30 special-teams tackles, was the
units heart and soul.
2008 PFW/PFWA AWARDS
2008
ALL-NFL
TEAM
OFFENSE
QUARTERBACK
Peyton Manning / Colts
RUNNING BACKS
Adrian Peterson / Vikings
Michael Turner / Falcons
WIDE RECEIVERS
Andre Johnson / Texans
Larry Fitzgerald / Cardinals
TIGHT END
Tony Gonzalez / Chiefs
CENTER
Kevin Mawae / Titans
OFFENSIVE GUARDS
Chris Snee / Giants
Steve Hutchinson / Vikings
OFFENSIVE TACKLES
Michael Roos / Titans
Jordan Gross / Panthers
DEFENSE
DEFENSIVE ENDS
Justin Tuck / Giants
John Abraham / Falcons
DEFENSIVE TACKLES
Albert Haynesworth / Titans
Kevin Williams / Vikings
OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS
DeMarcus Ware / Cowboys
James Harrison / Steelers
INSIDE LINEBACKER
Ray Lewis / Ravens
CORNERBACKS
Cortland Finnegan / Titans
Nnamdi Asomugha / Raiders
SAFETIES
Ed Reed / Ravens
Troy Polamalu / Steelers
SPECIALISTS
PLACEKICKER
Stephen Gostkowski / Patriots
PUNTER
Shane Lechler / Raiders
PUNT RETURNER
Johnnie Lee Higgins / Raiders
KICKOFF RETURNER
Danieal Manning / Bears
SPECIALTEAMER
Brendon Ayanbadejo / Ravens
S
P
O
R
T
P
I
C
S
J
A
M
E
S
D
.
S
M
I
T
H
A
P
A
P
Chris Snee DeMarcus Ware Ed Reed Shane Lechler
15 Pro Football Weekly January 18, 2009
2008 PFW/PFWA AWARDS
16 Pro Football Weekly January 18, 2009
T
he fact that Peyton Manning has been
named as the Pro Football Week-
ly/PFWA Most Valuable Player for
2008 really shouldnt come as too
much of a surprise.
After all, Manning completed 371-of-
555 passes for 4,002 yards, 27 touch-
downs and 12 interceptions during the
regular season.
More impressively, over the final four
games of the regular season, Manning con-
nected on 90-of-110 passes (81.8 percent) for
1,054 yards, eight touchdowns and no inter-
ceptions. He has also authored four double-
digit comebacks during the campaign.
But what may be even more impressive is
the fact that Manning got off to a slow start.
He underwent multiple medical proce-
dures in mid-July for an infected bursa sac
in his left knee, keeping him out of training
camp and the preseason.
Consequently, the Colts began 3-4, part-
ly due to Mannings sluggish timing with his
receivers. He also was forced to deal with
some upheaval along the Colts offensive line,
as veteran C Jeff Saturday has been in and
out of the lineup with knee and calf injuries.
Also, three rookie offensive linemen C
Jamey Richard along with OGs Mike Pol-
lak and Steve Justice saw extensive play-
ing time through the first couple months of
the season.
But week after week, Manning kept at it.
In doing so, he led a team some had given
up on to its seventh consecutive playoff ap-
pearance.
Adversity going on in the world right now
with the war and the economy, thats real ad-
versity, Manning recently said. But in
football terms we have been through some
things this year. For us on offense, like I said,
me not being as comfortable as I wanted to
be early in the season, and then all of a sud-
den I lose my biggest security blanket in my
center, Jeff Saturday. That was a pretty good
1-2 punch to start the season.
The fact that weve persevered through
some of these things and put ourselves in a
place here in the postseason, its been the
most rewarding regular season that Ive been
a part of in my 11 years, and I have to believe
a lot of the other players and even coaches
might feel the same way. So, (winning
MVP honors) would be a nice thing on be-
half of the team. I really feel that way.
Team president Bill Polian wasnt sur-
prised by Mannings performance this sea-
son.
Ill tell you why. No. 1, he is the consum-
mate professional. No. 2, knowing what I did
about the (knee surgery) I realized that oth-
er than conditioning and timing, there
would be no residual from the injury, he said.
There is nothing you have to worry
about long term. Knowing that, I had a feel-
ing he would be back on schedule pretty
quickly. That was the case. Fourth game in,
he was gunning the way he normally did.
The Week 16 game at AFC South-rival
Jacksonville may have sealed the deal in
terms of designating Mannings full return
to health. He led the Colts from a 24-14
third-quarter deficit to a 31-24 come-from-
behind victory, completing 29-of-34 pass-
es in the game for 364 yards and three touch-
downs.
Its pretty fun to watch, head coach
Tony Dungy said. It does surprise you at
times. I was kind of amazed because of the
situation. You get down 14 and youre run-
ning game is not going well, usually the oth-
er team is teeing off.
Theyre able to just mix their pass cov-
erages. It generally becomes tough to throw
in those situations. But to be as accurate as
he was and find guys and keep the ball mov-
ing, not take any sacks and not have any
turnovers in that environment, that was re-
ally a great performance.
Team owner Jim Irsay had a front-row seat
to what Manning accomplished this season.
Despite the slow start, Irsay wasnt surprised
by the way his quarterback responded to the
challenge.
Hes gone into that rare class of guys, Ir-
say told the Indianapolis Star. He has
measured up to every single criteria you
could use.
The fact that Manning has yet to miss a
start during his 11-year NFL career speaks
volumes about his competitive nature. He
has extended his streak of regular-season
starts to 176, ranking him second in league
history behind Brett Favres 269 consecutive
games.
Ive always said one of the most impor-
tant things about greatness in this league is
being able to stay on the field, Irsay said. If
you cant stay on the field, its hard to
achieve that super level of greatness.
The things hes done this year, the way hes
fought back from adversity, the way we strug-
gled in several areas stopping the run, not
being able to run the ball; those usually are
the two foundations of your team has been
impressive.
Tom James covers the Colts for the Terre
Haute (Ind.) Tribune-Star.
Colts QB Peyton Manning also won PFW/PFWA Most Valuable Player honors in 2004.
A
P
Manning overcomes adversity to win another MVP award By TOM JAMES
PEYTONS PLACE
2008QB PEYTON MANNING / Ind.
2007 QB TOMBRADY / N.E.
2006RB LADAINIANTOMLINSON / S.D.
2005RB SHAUNALEXANDER / Sea.
2004QB PEYTON MANNING / Ind.
2003RB JAMAL LEWIS / Balt.
2002 QB RICH GANNON/ Oak.
2001 RB MARSHALL FAULK / St.L.
2000RB MARSHALL FAULK / St.L.
1999 QB KURT WARNER / St.L.
1998 RB TERRELL DAVIS / Den.
1997 RB BARRY SANDERS / Det.
1996 QB BRETT FAVRE / G.B.
1995 QB BRETT FAVRE / G.B.
1994 QB STEVE YOUNG / S.F.
1993 RB EMMITT SMITH/ Dall.
1992 QB STEVE YOUNG / S.F.
1991 RB THURMANTHOMAS / Buff.
1990 QB RANDALL CUNNINGHAM/ Phil.
1989 QB JOE MONTANA / S.F.
1988 QB BOOMER ESIASON/ Cin.
1987 WR JERRY RICE / S.F.
1986 WR JERRY RICE / S.F.
1985 NOAWARD
1984 QB DAN MARINO/ Mia.
1983 QB JOE THEISMANN/ Wash.
1982 QB DAN FOUTS / S.D.
1981 QB KENANDERSON/ Cin.
1980 QB BRIAN SIPE / Clev.
1979 RB EARL CAMPBELL / Hou.
1978 RB EARL CAMPBELL / Hou.
1977 RB WALTER PAYTON/ Chi.
1976 QB KEN STABLER / Oak.
1975 QB FRANTARKENTON/ Minn.
1974 QB JIMHART / St.L. Cardinals
1973 RB O.J. SIMPSON/ Buff.
1972 RB LARRY BROWN/ Wash.
1971 WR OTIS TAYLOR / K.C.
1970 QB JOHN BRODIE / S.F.
1969 QBROMANGABRIEL /L.A. Rams(NFL)
QBDARYLE LAMONICA/Oak. (AFL)
1968 QB EARL MORRALL / Balt. (NFL)
QB JOE NAMATH / N.Y.J. (AFL)
ALL-TIME WINNERS
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OFTHE YEAR
2008 PFW/PFWA AWARDS
17 Pro Football Weekly January 18, 2009
I
n 2007, his first season as the Steelers
starting right outside linebacker, James
Harrison stepped into the lineup and had
a season that would be the envy of
many at his position. Harrison notched 98
tackles and 8
1
2 sacks, and he made the Pro
Bowl. Perhaps just as importantly, he was
named team MVP.
To hear it from Harrison, though, he was
still feeling his way on defense. But as the
Steelers went through organized workouts
this past offseason, he gained a new under-
standing of the defense and what he could,
and couldnt, do in the scheme.
To describe the change he underwent, he
made an analogy any parent will under-
stand.
Ive got a son, Harrison said, referring
to young James Harrison III. Hes 1 year old.
Hes taking little stumble steps. Hes taking
four, five steps at a time.
James Harrison Jr. paused. Last year, I
was taking my steps, he said. This year, Im
walking.
In a season marked by spectacular play
from several defenders, Harrisons exception-
al 2008 campaign earned him Defensive
Player of the Year honors from Pro Football
Weekly and the Professional Football Writ-
ers of America. Harrison, 30, set a Steelers
record with 16 sacks, and he also made a ca-
reer-high 101 tackles for a Pittsburgh defense
that allowed fewer yards per game than any
other. He outpaced Cowboys ROLB DeMar-
cus Ware and Ravens FS Ed Reed in the vot-
ing.
Harrison is the fifth Steeler to win the
award, the first since Jack Lambert in 1976.
Harrisons career path featured some
early twists and turns before he finally put
it all together.
An undrafted free agent from Kent State,
Harrison was released three times from
2002-04: twice by the Steelers, once by the
Ravens.
Every now and then, in any business,
theres a story that captures your heart, Steel-
ers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau
said. Heres a person who was told his serv-
ices were persona non grata three times.
But when then-starting LOLBClark Hag-
gans suffered a broken hand in July 2004,
the Steelers re-signed Harrison. This time,
he would stick with the Steelers for the long
term.
The 6-foot, 242-pound Harrison first
garnered widespread attention for his play
in the Steelers Nov. 14, 2004, win at Cleve-
land, a game best remembered for Steelers
ROLB Joey Porter getting into a pregame
fight with Browns RB William Green.
Porter was ejected, which meant Harrison,
his backup, had to step in for his first career
start.
They had a lot more confidence in me
than I had in myself at the time, Harrison
recalled of his teammates, who repeatedly
encouraged him.
Harrison responded with six tackles and
a sack in a confidence-building performance.
Harrison would start three more games in
04, three more in 05 and one in 06 while
emerging as one of the Steelers best special-
teams players.
When Porter was released after the 06
season, Harrison finally had his chance to
start, and he fit in quickly. The highlight of
his 07 campaign was a 10-tackle, 3
1
2-sack,
one-interception performance vs. Balti-
more on Monday Night Football.
He has been even better this season,
notching multiple sacks in five of his 15 starts
and double-digit tackles in four games.
Rarely did he not make an impact in some
form or fashion. In Pittsburghs Nov. 16 11-
10 win vs. San Diego, Harrison helped set
up all five of the Steelers first-half points
with an impressive display that highlight-
ed his all-around game. First, he stripped
Chargers QB Philip Rivers of the ball in the
endzone, which resulted in a safety and Pitts-
burghs first points of the game. Later, his
interception set up a field goal.
You cant be a one-dimensional player,
Harrison said. Otherwise, you cant perform
well in that defense.
The dimension of his game that draws the
most attention is his pass rushing, a skill he
made certain to hone entering this season.
Hes become adept at studying the strengths
and tendencies of opposing tackles.
If theres a guy who has good feet, maybe
Ill bull-rush him, said Harrison. Maybe lat-
er, Ill look like Im bull-rushing and then go
around him.
The scary thing for opponents is that nei-
ther Harrison nor LeBeau believes the line-
backer has reached his potential.
To this day, Im not completely (sure) of
all of the ins and outs of the defense, Har-
rison said. Now, Im trying to learn what the
guy next to me is doing.
I still think hes going to improve dramat-
ically, LeBeau said.
Think of it this way: NFL backups dont
get many practice repetitions, and Harrison
has spent the balance of his career waiting
to play.
Not that he sat idly on the second string.
He watched Porter and Haggans closely. And
his defensive coordinator recalled how hard
Harrison studied as a backup.
He just made himself into a top-of-his-
profession player, LeBeau said.
Steelers OLB James Harrison has an NFL-best 14 forced fumbles the past two seasons.
A
P
Success didnt come early, or easily, for Steelers OLB James Harrison,
but he made up for lost time in a memorable 2008 season By MIKE WILKENING
SELF-MADE MAN
2008 LB JAMES HARRISON/ Pitt.
2007 S BOB SANDERS / Ind.
2006 DE JASONTAYLOR / Mia.
2005 LB BRIAN URLACHER / Chi.
2004 S ED REED / Balt.
2003 LB RAY LEWIS / Balt.
2002 LB DERRICK BROOKS / T.B.
2001 DE MICHAEL STRAHAN/ N.Y.G.
2000 LB RAY LEWIS / Balt.
1999 DT WARREN SAPP / T.B.
1998 DE REGGIE WHITE / G.B.
1997 DT DANA STUBBLEFIELD / S.F.
1996 DE BRUCE SMITH/ Buff.
1995 LB BRYCE PAUP / Buff.
1994 CB DEION SANDERS / S.F.
1993 DE BRUCE SMITH/ Buff.
1992 DT CORTEZ KENNEDY / Sea.
1991 DE REGGIE WHITE / Phil.
1990 DE BRUCE SMITH/ Buff.
1989 DT KEITH MILLARD / Minn.
1988 LB MIKE SINGLETARY / Chi.
1987 DE REGGIE WHITE / Phil.
1986 LB LAWRENCE TAYLOR / N.Y.G.
1985 NOAWARD
1984 S KENNY EASLEY / Sea.
1983 NT BOB BAUMHOWER / Mia.
1982 DT DAN HAMPTON/ Chi.
1981 DE JOE KLECKO/ N.Y.J.
1980 CB LESTER HAYES / Oak.
1979 DE LEE ROY SELMON/ T.B.
1978 LB RANDY GRADISHAR / Den.
1977 DE HARVEY MARTIN/ Dall.
1976 LB JACK LAMBERT / Pitt.
1975 LB JACK HAM/ Pitt.
1974 DT JOE GREENE / Pitt.
1973 DT PAUL SMITH/ Den.
DT ALAN PAGE / Minn.
1972 DT JOE GREENE / Pitt.
1971 DT ALAN PAGE / Minn.
1970 LB DICK BUTKUS / Chi.
ALL-TIME WINNERS
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OFTHE YEAR
2008 PFW/PFWA AWARDS
18 Pro Football Weekly January 18, 2009
T
hings like that just dont happen. Not
against the mighty Patriots, and not
against a Bill Belichick-coached de-
fense. And most certainly not by an
NFL head coach in his third career game at
the helm.
But this was no mirage. It wasnt just that
Tony Sparanos team delivered the colossal
butt-whipping upon this decades NFL
standard-bearers that Sunday afternoon
in Foxborough. It was the manner in which
the Dolphins did it. RB Ronnie Brown
taking direct snaps out of the shotgun. QB
Chad Pennington splitting out wide. Vernon
Carey shifting from right tackle to left
guard. And doing it over and over again. In
the cookie-cutter NFL, who dares to have the
audacity to try something like that?
It was one of those things that we felt we
needed, to give our offense a little more of
an identity, Sparano told PFW after being
named the Pro Football Weekly/Profession-
al Football Writers of America Coach of the
Year for 2008. More importantly, it was
something to get all of our best players onto
the field at the same time. It gave us a chance
to get Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams and
Pennington, Patrick Cobbs and all those play-
ers at the same time. Then it came down
to having the guts to call it in the game.
Its in no small part because of Sparanos
guts to run the Wildcat that the Dolphins
season went from bust to boom. Entering
Week Three, Miami was 0-2, its latest loss
being a 31-10 pummeling at Arizona. Sens-
ing the need for a spark, Sparano un-
leashed the formation he had tinkered with
during the spring and saw Brown account
for five touchdowns four rushing, one
passing vs. the Pats. A rage that would
consume the entire league was born.
Yet dont be fooled into thinking that the
indoctrination of the term Wildcat into the
NFL lexicon is testament to Sparano being
some sort of football revolutionary. Hes not,
and he doesnt pretend to be. Hell be the first
one to admit that hes a product of learning
from those around him, then applying it in
the manner he sees fit. Time-honored grid-
iron mantras work your tail off, dont
turn the ball over, games are won in the
trenches are the backbone of his coach-
ing philosophy.
When executive VP of football operations
Bill Parcells and general manager Jeff Ire-
land hired to reverse the fortunes of a flag-
ging franchise that hadnt reached the post-
season since 2001 decided that their griz-
zled OL guru in Dallas was the man to ex-
ecute the Miami reclamation project, Spara-
no returned the favor by leading the Dol-
phins to the greatest single-season turn-
around in league history. A 1-15 mark in 07
became a division-winning 11-5 record in 08,
a 10-game swing equaled only by Peyton
Mannings Colts in 1999.
The seeds for the resurrection were sewn
long before the Week Three pasting of the
Patriots.
One of the things we wanted to do here
when we first came in was to make the off-
season program as demanding and compet-
itive as possible, Sparano said. Each day
they came in here, they were competing
against each other, lifting against one anoth-
er, running against each other. We just felt
that was part of changing the culture
around here.
The veterans admitted to never enduring
a more strenuous offseason. Sweat festered
with digested breakfasts. It wasnt pretty. But
it worked.
I think as the offseason program start-
ed to move along, this group started to be-
come closer and closer, Sparano said. I like
to say that they were dying the same death,
trying to make it through the offseason and
the training camps and doing all the gruel-
ing things.
You started to see signs that these guys
were starting to buy in and believing what
we were doing was going to pay off. Until you
started to win, you really didnt have a
whole lot of validity to that whole thing. I
think that once we were able to go up to New
England and win a game like that at their
place, it validated a lot of the things that we
were doing.
As is always the case, there were storms
that threatened to blow their season off
course. But unlike in 07, when the players
nearly staged a mutiny against then-coach
Cam Cameron, Sparano weathered all.
Take Week 12. In the rematch with the Pa-
triots, Belichicks boys unleashed all their
pent-up frustration in spectacular fashion,
hammering the Dolphins 48-28. In the
games waning stages, Sparano yanked Joey
Porter, the teams notoriously volatile out-
side linebacker, from the game after a pair
of penalties, only to be undermined by
Porters staunch refusal to leave the field.
Sparanos response was stern but con-
trolled. In turn, Porter apologized to his
coach and the team. The collective re-
sponse: a run of five straight victories to close
the season and earn the AFC East title.
Sometimes you get faced with those
things, and they actually help you, Spara-
no said.
Like sweltering in the South Florida
summer heat under the direction of a man
just beginning to write his legacy.
Under Tony Sparanos watch, the Dolphins engineered the NFLs greatest turnaround.
A
P
Tony Sparano melded old-school toughness with ingenuity to ignite
Dolphins team that had been floundering in football purgatory By MATT SOHN
CULTURE CHANGER
2008 TONY SPARANO/Mia.
2007 BILL BELICHICK / N.E.
2006 SEAN PAYTON/ N.O.
2005 LOVIE SMITH/ Chi.
2004 MARTY SCHOTTENHEIMER / S.D.
2003 BILL BELICHICK / N.E.
2002 ANDY REID / Phil.
2001 DICK JAURON/ Chi.
2000 JIMHASLETT / N.O.
1999 DICK VERMEIL / St.L.
1998 DAN REEVES / Atl.
1997 JIMFASSEL / N.Y.G.
1996 DOMCAPERS / Car.
1995 DOMCAPERS / Car.
1994 BILL PARCELLS / N.E.
1993 DAN REEVES / N.Y.G.
1992 BOBBY ROSS / S.D.
1991 WAYNE FONTES / Det.
1990 ART SHELL / L.A. Raiders
1989 GEORGE SEIFERT / S.F.
1988 MIKE DITKA / Chi.
1987 JIMMORA / N.O.
1986 BILL PARCELLS / N.Y.G.
1984 DAN REEVES / Den.
1985 NOAWARD
1983 JOE GIBBS / Wash.
1982 JOE GIBBS / Wash.
1981 BILL WALSH/ S.F.
1980 CHUCK KNOX / Buff.
1979 DICK VERMEIL / Phil.
1978 WALT MICHAELS / N.Y.J.
1977 RED MILLER / Den.
1976 CHUCK FAIRBANKS / N.E.
1975 TED MARCHIBRODA / Balt.
1974 DON CORYELL / St.L.
1973 CHUCK KNOX / L.A.Rams
1972 DON SHULA / Mia.
1971 GEORGE ALLEN/ Wash.
1970 DON SHULA / Mia.
1969 BUD GRANT / Minn. (NFL)
JOHN MADDEN/ Oak. (AFL)
1968 DON SHULA / Balt. (NFL)
HANK STRAM/ K.C. (AFL)
ALL-TIME WINNERS
COACH OFTHE YEAR
2008 PFW/PFWA AWARDS
I
t isnt every day that a coach refers to an
18th-century Prussian king when talking
about his defensive philosophy. But the
point Steelers defensive coordinator Dick
LeBeau was trying to make comes across
clear whether history class was something
you relished or just an occasion to mark time.
Im a bit of a history buff, said
LeBeau, whose zone-blitz
schemes have become part of
NFL legend. It was Frederick the
Great who said, He who de-
fends everything defends noth-
ing. Were willing to concede
that the opponent is going to
make some plays.
But opponents just didnt make
a lot of plays vs. the Steelers in
2008, which goes a long way in
explaining why LeBeau garnered
Assistant Coach of the Year hon-
ors from Pro Football Weekly
and the Professional Football
Writers of America. Its the second time in
five seasons in his second stint as the Steel-
ers defensive coordinator that he has re-
ceived the award. LeBeau, 71, also was
honored in 04, when the 15-1 Steelers ad-
vanced to the AFC championship game.
The 08 Steelers were stout and sound in
all facets of defense. They allowed fewer
yards per game than any other (237.2). Their
pass defense, led by Pro Bowl S Troy Pola-
malu, allowed only 156.9 yards per game,
tops in the NFL. The Steelers surrendered
only 23 passes for gains of 20 yards or more
10 fewer than the teams tied for second
in this category.
Their run defense also was outstanding.
Only the Vikings allowed fewer
rushing yards per game. No team
allowed fewer yards per carry
than Pittsburgh.
Asked what he would remem-
ber most about this defense,
LeBeau marveled at how it can
swarm and how it regroups.
Were a fast defense at all lev-
els, LeBeau said. They can play
together, and they can take a
punch.
Teams are going to have a se-
ries of good plays against you.
And these guys, they dont blink.
They continue to play.
They were also capable of creating hav-
oc for opposing quarterbacks.
The Steelers notched 51 sacks, four off the
club record. ROLB James Harrisons 16 sacks
set a franchise mark. LOLB LaMarr Wood-
ley, a star in the making, notched 11
1
2
sacks.
If Harrison and Woodley werent difficult
enough for opponents to handle, there was
the prospect of speedy ILBs Lawrence
Timmons (five sacks) and James Farrior (3
1
2
sacks) breaking through on the blitz.
Rugged DLE Aaron Smith added 5
1
2 sacks.
We think that surprise is important, and
to have surprise, you have to have variety,
LeBeau said.
He added, With players like this, it
works pretty good.
Continuity has been a major key for the
Steelers defense. Nine of the 11 starters have
been first-stringers for multiple seasons in
LeBeaus defense, and key backups like S Ty-
rone Carter, CB Deshea Townsend and
NT Chris Hoke also have multiple years of
experience in the system.
These are all proven, veteran guys,
LeBeau said of his defense. They under-
stand the game, and they understand where
each other is going to be.
The respect between LeBeau and his
players is mutual.
Hes almost like a father figure to us, Har-
rison said of LeBeau, who has 50 years of
NFL experience as a player and coach.
He can teach you anything you want to
know.
And LeBeau relishes teaching students
who care deeply about their craft.
I have a great, great bunch of players who
play hard every week and study the game and
make my job easy, he said.
LeBeaus zone blitzes and talented, veteran D key combo for Steelers By MIKE WILKENING
TRIED-AND-TRUE FORMULA
Steelers defensive coordinator Dick
LeBeau directed the NFLs No. 1 stop unit.
A
P
T
he Dolphins got a jumpstart on spring
cleaning. Coming off a 1-15 train wreck
of a season, sweeping changes needed
to be made. At nearly every position, play-
ers who had no business starting in the NFL
were planted atop the depth chart.
With one broad stroke, Bill Parcells be-
gan executing the blueprint to restore the
luster of a proud franchise writhing and
reeling in futility. Nine players were released
that fateful February morning almost a full
year ago Trent Green, Keith Traylor, L.J.
Shelton and Marty Booker among them.
The message was clear: If you expect to
continue as a Dolphin, your best years bet-
ter still be ahead of you.
Tired of coaching, Parcells appoint-
ment as the Dolphins executive vice pres-
ident of football operations provided him
with an ideal job description. The only per-
son he had to report to would be owner
Wayne Huizenga, and Huizenga made it
clear that Parcells would be the final voice
on all football matters. No longer would a
domineering presence like Jerry Jones
wield ultimate power in the war room, and
no longer would he have to worry about
preparing a meal without being able to shop
for the groceries, as he famously lamented
at the end of his tenure in New England.
Parcells was now strictly a front-office ex-
ecutive, and his stunning success
in turning a 1-15 club into 11-5
AFC East champions in Year
One made him a natural pick as
the Pro Football Weekly/PFWA
2008 Executive of the Year. Par-
cells has a long and distinguished
history of turning around mori-
bund franchises, starting with the
Giants, then with the Patriots,
next with the Jets, and finally with
the Cowboys. But in all those
stops, he was calling the shots
from the sideline. As it turns
out, hes just as effective from be-
hind a desk.
His first order of business in Miami? Raid-
ing the personnel department, coaching staff
and roster of the last club he coached, the
Cowboys.
Although Parcells no longer diagrams the
Xs and Os, everything about this Dol-
phins team is an extension of him. When
choosing Jeff Ireland, a close aide in Dallas,
to become general manager, he did so
knowing that Ireland subscribed to Parcells
proven track record in roster shaping.
When the two of them zeroed in
on Cowboys OL coach Tony
Sparano to become head coach,
they did so knowing that Spara-
no heeded Parcells fervent belief
that football is won with the
big guys up front.
Its because of his subordi-
nates firm belief in Parcells
philosophies that the Tuna him-
self doesnt need to take an active
role in the day-to-day minutiae
of the team.
Coach Parcells, as he likes to
say, is a guidance counselor to all
of us, Sparano told PFW. More
than anything, hes a sounding board.
Its because of Parcells gridiron beliefs that
Miami spent three of its first four draft picks
on the lines, including using the No. 1
overall choice on Jake Long, who started all
16 games at left tackle in a standout rook-
ie year.
Bill Parcells transformed the Dolphins
from a 1-15 loser into a 11-5 winner.
A
P
2008 DICK LeBEAU / Pitt.
2007 JASON GARRETT / Dall.
2006 REX RYAN/ Balt.
2005 RON RIVERA / Chi.
2004 DICK LeBEAU / Pitt.
2003 ROMEO CRENNEL / N.E.
2002 MONTE KIFFIN/ T.B.
2001 MIKE MULARKEY / Pitt.
2000 MARVIN LEWIS / Balt.
1999 DOMCAPERS / Jax.
1998 BRIAN BILLICK / Minn.
1997 JOHN FOX / N.Y.G.
1996 DAVE CAMPO/ Dall.
1995 PETE CARROLL / S.F.
1994 DOMCAPERS / Pitt.
1993 RAY RHODES / G.B.
ALL-TIME WINNERS
ASSISTANT COACH
OF THE YEAR
2008 BILL PARCELLS / Mia.
2007 SCOTT PIOLI / N.E.
2006 MICKEY LOOMIS / N.O.
2005 BILL POLIAN/ Ind.
2004 A.J. SMITH/ S.D.
2003 SCOTT PIOLI / N.E.
2002 AL DAVIS / Oak.
2001 CHARLEYARMEY / St. L.
2000 RANDY MUELLER / N.O.
1999 BILL POLIAN/ Ind.
1998 VIKINGS FRONT OFFICE
1997 GEORGE YOUNG / N.Y.G.
1996 BILL POLIAN/ Car.
1995 BILL POLIAN/ Car.
1994 CARMEN POLICY / S.F.
1993 GEORGE YOUNG / N.Y.G.
ALL-TIME WINNERS
NFL EXECUTIVE
OF THE YEAR
Parcells works his franchise-building magic once again, this time in Miami By MATT SOHN
FITTING THE BILL
19 Pro Football Weekly January 18, 2009
2008 PFW/PFWA AWARDS
20 Pro Football Weekly January 18, 2009
T
here were two reasons to watch the 0-
16 Lions this season Calvin Johnson
catching passes and Jason Hanson hit-
ting long field goals.
In a season of constant losing, Hanson was
a model of consistency and precision. But who
took notice outside Detroit?
Well, the Hall of Fame for one. Yes, the Li-
ons have sent Hansons Honolulu Blue uni-
form and kicking cleats to Canton, not to de-
mark the leagues worst record in a season ever
but to honor Hanson for an NFL first: mak-
ing 8-of-8 field-goal attempts from beyond 50
yards.
The 38-year-old Hanson and the 22-year-
old Johnson were the Lions offense this
season. They combined to score 161 of the
teams 268 points (60.1 percent).
But Hanson, the 2008 Golden Toe Award
winner (the seventh straight placekicker to
win the award and the third Lion to win it),
was not just a dome kicker who made field
goals in low-pressure blowouts this season.
Five of his eight 50-yarders were outdoors,
away from Ford Field. And of the eight
bombs, six came in games in which the Lions
were ahead or within two scores.
People automatically assume, well then,
you definitely have it a ton easier (kicking in-
doors at least eight games a season) and thats
why you make them, Hanson told PFW. So
I feel good to be able to say that the majori-
ty of (the 50-yarders) were away from home
and outside, too.
He made a 51-yarder in the winds of San
Francisco. He hit two 54-yarders at Houston.
And his long ball of the season: a 56-yard field
goal tying his career and franchise long
from 1995 at Carolina that was drilled dead
down the pipes and would have been good
from at least 60. It gave the Lions a 13-7 lead
and put the fear of God into 70,000 Panthers
fans before the Lions let another one slip away.
Hanson wasnt perfect this season, mind
you. The Lions cut into a 10-0 Bears lead in
the second quarter at Chicago in Week Nine
on a Kevin Smith touchdown, but when
Hanson attempted the extra point, he slipped
on the soft Soldier Field turf and had it
blocked by Alex Brown.
One of the things I feel like I do is I attack
the ball kind of hard and really push off, Han-
son said, and Chicagos field was really soft
that game. There was grass, but it was real-
ly soft and really hard to keep your footing.
A lot of guys were slipping. I was having some
issues not being able to do what I like to do.
The Lions actually stormed back after
that, scoring two touchdowns in the next six
minutes and near the end of the half, the Li-
ons were on the move again, up 20-13. Han-
son figured hed have a crack at a field goal,
probably a long one. The drive stalled at the
Chicago 34-yard line with 1:13 remaining, and
considering the soft grass and the swirling No-
vember winds that day, Hanson knew hed
have to crank it.
Said Hanson: I made some adjustments
before the kick, and I hit it really well and felt
really good about that because I was fairly un-
certain what was going to happen there.
The kick rose up high and stayed true, rip-
ping through the uprights for a stunning 52-
yard field goal and an even more stunning 23-
13 Lions lead at halftime. Of course, we
know how that ended up.
Carolina (the 56-yarder two weeks later)
was longer, but I had made a couple in the
game before that and, if I remember, the wind
was with me. In comparison, I thought
Chicago was my best 50-yarder of the year.
Hanson finished the season 21-of-22 on
field-goal attempts. His one miss was blocked
in a blowout loss to the Jaguars. And dont for-
get about Hansons kickoff distance he av-
eraged 65.9 yards, good for sixth in the NFL
among regular kickers, and the Lions were sol-
id on kick coverage. Hanson also pulled off
a nifty onside kick down 38-14 to the Jaguars,
giving the few remaining fans something to
cheer about.
Theyve always had the reliable Hanson to
fall back on, especially in these very lean past
eight years in which the team has posted a 31-
97 record and missed the playoffs every sea-
son. Theyve had six head coaches in that time
and soon will choose their seventh. Hanson,
who joined the Lions before Johnsons seventh
birthday and never has left, has been through
it all in his time in Detroit.
The last eight years have been really low,
Hanson said. It was just surreal to be prac-
ticing and feel guys were trying and yet we
were not able to stop the train wreck. Every-
one was embarrassed and upset and angry,
but we just didnt get it done. By the end,
everyone was pretty ashamed of it.
I hope the guys who are going to be back
will use it as motivation to know how bad los-
ing is and how much more fun it is to win.
Among those who might not be back? Well,
Hanson. Hes a free-agent-to-be, but believe
it or not, he says hed like to remain in Detroit.
I have always said that Plan A is to remain
in Detroit and Plan B is a distant Plan B, he
said. I have made that clear to everybody.
Sometimes you dont get to control that and
you dont know how things work out. But I
have been here for this long.
If it doesnt work, I think I would be dis-
appointed but ready to help another team.
And if he does re-sign, Lions fans will know
they have at least one very good reason to
watch the team in 2009.
The Lions struggled, but not when Jason Hanson 8-for-8 on 50-yarders was kicking.
A
P
Even if his Lions became a bad joke as the NFLs first 0-16 franchise,
Jason Hanson was downright surgical in his 17th season By ERIC EDHOLM
FOOT DOCTOR
2008 PK JASON HANSON/ Det.
2007 PK ROB BIRONAS / Tenn.
2006 PK JOSH BROWN/ Sea.
2005 PK NEIL RACKERS / Ariz.
2004 PK ADAMVINATIERI / N.E.
2003 PK MIKE VANDERJAGT / Ind.
2002 PK ADAMVINATIERI / N.E.
2001 P TODD SAUERBRUN/ Car.
2000 PK MATT STOVER / Balt.
1999 P CRAIG HENTRICH/ Tenn.
1998 PK GARYANDERSON/ Minn.
1997 PK PETE STOYANOVICH / K.C.
1996 PK CARY BLANCHARD / Ind.
1995 PK MORTENANDERSEN/ Atl.
1994 PK FUAD REVEIZ / Minn.
1993 PK NORMJOHNSON/ Atl.
1992 P RICH CAMARILLO/ Phx.
1991 P JEFF GOSSETT / L.A. Rd.
1990 PK NICK LOWERY / K.C.
1989 PK EDDIE MURRAY / Det.
1988 PK SCOTT NORWOOD / Buff.
1987 P JIMARNOLD / Det.
1986 PK MORTENANDERSEN/ N.O.
1985 NOAWARD
1984 PK NORMJOHNSON/ Sea.
1983 PK ALI HAJI-SHEIKH/ N.Y.G.
1982 PK MARK MOSELEY / Wash.
1981 PK RAFAEL SEPTIEN/ Dall.
1980 PK FRED STEINFORT / Den.
1979 P BOB GRUPP / K.C.
1978 PK FRANK CORRAL / L.A. Rm.
1977 PK MARK MOSELEY / Wash.
1976 PK TONI LINHART / Balt.
1975 P RAY GUY / Oak.
1974 PK ROY GERELA / Pitt.
1973 PK DAVID RAY / L.A. Rams
1972 PK DON COCKROFT / Clev.
1971 PK GAROYEPREMIAN/ Mia.
ALL-TIME WINNERS
GOLDEN TOE
2008
ALL-NFC
TEAM
OFFENSE
QUARTERBACK
Drew Brees / Saints
RUNNING BACKS
Adrian Peterson / Vikings
Michael Turner / Falcons
WIDE RECEIVERS
Larry Fitzgerald / Cardinals
Roddy White / Falcons
TIGHT END
Jason Witten / Cowboys
CENTER
Shaun OHara / Giants
OFFENSIVE GUARDS
Steve Hutchinson / Vikings
Chris Snee / Giants
OFFENSIVE TACKLES
Jordan Gross / Panthers
David Diehl / Giants
DEFENSE
DEFENSIVE ENDS
John Abraham / Falcons
Justin Tuck / Giants
DEFENSIVE TACKLES
Kevin Williams / Vikings
Jay Ratliff / Cowboys
OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS
DeMarcus Ware / Cowboys
Lance Briggs / Bears
INSIDE LINEBACKER
Patrick Willis / 49ers
CORNERBACKS
Charles Woodson / Packers
Antoine Winfield / Vikings
SAFETIES
Nick Collins / Packers
Adrian Wilson / Cardinals
SPECIALISTS
PLACEKICKER
John Carney / Giants
PUNTER
Donnie Jones / Rams
PUNT RETURNER
Clifton Smith / Buccaneers
KICKOFF RETURNER
Danieal Manning / Bears
SPECIAL-TEAMER
Sean Morey / Cardinals
2008 PFW/PFWA AWARDS
21 Pro Football Weekly January 18, 2009
2008
ALL-AFC
TEAM
OFFENSE
QUARTERBACK
Peyton Manning / Colts
RUNNING BACKS
Thomas Jones / Jets
Chris Johnson / Titans
WIDE RECEIVERS
Andre Johnson / Texans
Wes Welker / Patriots
TIGHT END
Tony Gonzalez / Chiefs
CENTER
Kevin Mawae / Titans
OFFENSIVE GUARDS
Alan Faneca / Jets
Kris Dielman / Chargers
OFFENSIVE TACKLES
Michael Roos / Titans
Ryan Clady / Broncos
DEFENSE
DEFENSIVE ENDS
Mario Williams / Texans
Robert Mathis / Colts
DEFENSIVE TACKLES
Albert Haynesworth / Titans
Kris Jenkins / Jets
OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS
James Harrison / Steelers
Joey Porter / Dolphins
INSIDE LINEBACKER
Ray Lewis / Ravens
CORNERBACKS
Nnamdi Asomugha / Raiders
Cortland Finnegan / Titans
SAFETIES
Ed Reed / Ravens
Troy Polamalu / Steelers
SPECIALISTS
PLACEKICKER
Stephen Gostkowski / Patriots
PUNTER
Shane Lechler / Raiders
PUNT RETURNER
Johnnie Lee Higgins / Raiders
KICKOFF RETURNER
Leodis McKelvin / Bills
SPECIAL-TEAMER
Brendon Ayanbadejo / Ravens
Thomas Jones
A
P
TITANS, GIANTS LOOM LARGE
Drew Brees
A
P
Joey Porter
A
P
Antoine Winfield
A
P
Mario Williams
S
A
D
L
O
N
Jordan Gross
S
P
O
R
T
P
I
C
S
By Michael Blunda
Associate editor
W
hile defensive players tend to have a leg
up on their offensive counterparts in
Year One, it was 2008s crop of offensive
players that excelled. Two quarterbacks started
all 16 games and led their teams to the playoffs,
three running backs finished in the top eight in
rushing and a slew of tackles stepped right in
and dominated. Without further ado, here is
the Pro Football Weekly/Professional Football
Writers of America All-Rookie team.
OFFENSE
Not only did Falcons QB Matt Ryan buck the
trend by leading his team to the postseason, but
he did it with a club that had won four games
the previous year. With a calm demeanor
rarely seen in rookie signalcallers, Ryan is clear-
ly the leader of the All-Rookie offense.
It was a truly remarkable season for first-year
rushers, but Matt Fort and Chris Johnson rose
above the rest. The dual-threat Fort was the
Bears missing piece in the backfield, racking
up 1,715 yards from scrimmage and scoring 12
touchdowns. Johnson, meanwhile, proved to
be much more than a change-of-pace back, us-
ing his top-end speed to greatly enhance Ten-
nessees offense. He rushed for 1,228 yards and
scored 10 TDs.
At receiver a spot where rookies dont of-
ten make big impacts Eddie Royal and De-
Sean Jackson each helped diversify his teams
offense. Royal proved to be a terrific comple-
ment to Brandon Marshall in Denver, making
loads of big plays and catching 91 passes for 980
yards and five TDs. At the same time, Jackson
provided Eagles QB Donovan McNabb with the
deep threat hed long been missing, piling up
912 yards with a 14.7-yard average. Both
wideouts also had success returning punts.
Joining them is TE John Carlson, who
seized the opportunity to be Seattles primary
pass catcher when injuries struck their receiv-
ing corps. With sure hands and a sharp foot-
ball mind, he led Seattle with 55 receptions for
627 yards and five scores.
Not one but two Colts O-linemen picked up
All-Rookie honors this season. ORG Mike Pol-
lak proved to be a solid addition, starting all
13 games he played in. An even bigger surprise,
though, was C Jamey Richard. Not drafted un-
til the seventh round, Richard filled in ad-
mirably for the injured Jeff Saturday and
brought an element of toughness to the line.
Theyre joined inside by Saints OLG Carl
Nicks, who entered the starting lineup early on
and never gave up the job. A 13-game starter,
Nicks helped keep QB Drew Brees upright.
It was a particularly strong class for offen-
sive tackles, but none was better than the Bron-
cos Ryan Clady. The Boise State product
proved to be a natural for the Denver offense,
allowing a measly half a sack all season. He
looks like a future star at the position.
The other bookend on the O-line is Dolphins
OT Jake Long, the first overall pick in 08. Long
did not disappoint in his initial campaign, dis-
playing his skills as a tremendous run block-
er and thriving in Miamis Wildcat packages.
DEFENSE
When the Dolphins took DE Phillip Merling
early in Round Two, they expected him to make
immediate noise. Instead, it was third-round
pick Kendall Langford who stepped into a
tough spot as a 3-4 end and played very well.
On the opposite end of the line is Rams DE
Chris Long, who didnt quite light it up as a
rookie. While he finished with just four sacks,
Long showed signs of becoming an impact pass
rusher. Drafted No. 2 overall, he is a hard work-
er who is sure to improve next season.
On the inside is Saints DT Sedrick Ellis, who
still had an impressive rookie season despite
missing three games due to knee surgery. In ad-
dition to notching four sacks, his presence made
New Orleans entire pass rush better.
Hes lining up next to Tennessees Jason
Jones, who made nice contributions even
while stuck behind Pro Bowler Albert
Haynesworth. Jones exploded for 3
1
2 sacks in
a big clash with Pittsburgh and tied for the
rookie sack lead with five.
Defensively, no rookie made more of a
splash than Patriots LB Jerod Mayo. He was
one of the few constants in a defense hit hard
by injuries, and his 128 tackles was good for
10th in the league.
Joining him in the linebacking corps is At-
lantas Curtis Lofton. A relentless force against
the run, he racked up 94 tackles and gave life
to a defense much in need of a boost.
Although he didnt do much until the sec-
ond half of the year, Texans LB Xavier Adibi
is the third linebacker. Adibi used his speed to
make the most of his opportunity and was a
nice complememt to MLB DeMeco Ryans.
The secondary is led by speedy CB Do-
minique Rodgers-Cromartie, who provided the
Cardinals with a dynamic playmaker, intercept-
ing four passes and defending 19. Opposite
D.R.C. is the Chiefs Brandon Flowers, who
played well as a full-time starter, piling up 69
tackles and picking off two passes.
Our All-Rookie safeties provide an interest-
ing contrast. Even though he was nearly Mr.
Irrelevant last year, Redskins SS Chris Horton
used his big-hitting ability to make an instant
difference. Besides his 76 tackles, he also had
three interceptions. FS Kenny Phillips, on the
other hand, was a first-round pick for the Gi-
ants, but he, too, proved to be a vicious hitter
and added athleticism to the teams secondary.
SPECIAL TEAMS
Leading the kicking unit is PK Dan Carpen-
ter, who connected on 21-of-25 field-goal at-
tempts for Miami. He is joined by Broncos P
Brett Kern, whose punts averaged 46.7 yards.
The returners are the Bucs Clifton Smith and
Buffalos Leodis McKelvin. Smith made the Pro
Bowl after having gone undrafted, leading the
NFC in punt-return average. And although
McKelvin didnt start returning kicks until mid-
season, he may have been the leagues best re-
turn man in the second half.
2008
ALL-ROOKIE
TEAM
OFFENSE
QUARTERBACK
Matt Ryan / Falcons
RUNNING BACKS
Matt Fort / Bears
Chris Johnson / Titans
WIDE RECEIVERS
Eddie Royal / Broncos
DeSean Jackson / Eagles
TIGHT END
John Carlson / Seahawks
CENTER
Jamey Richard / Colts
OFFENSIVE GUARDS
Mike Pollak / Colts
Carl Nicks / Saints
OFFENSIVE TACKLES
Ryan Clady / Broncos
Jake Long / Dolphins
DEFENSE
DEFENSIVE LINEMEN
Chris Long / Rams
Kendall Langford / Dolphins
Sedrick Ellis / Saints
Jason Jones / Titans
LINEBACKERS
Jerod Mayo / Patriots
Curtis Lofton / Falcons
Xavier Adibi / Texans
CORNERBACKS
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie / Cardinals
Brandon Flowers / Chiefs
SAFETIES
Chris Horton / Redskins
Kenny Phillips / Giants
SPECIALISTS
PLACEKICKER
Dan Carpenter / Dolphins
PUNTER
Brett Kern / Broncos
PUNT RETURNER
Clifton Smith / Buccaneers
KICKOFF RETURNER
Leodis McKelvin / Bills
A
P
S
P
O
R
T
P
I
C
S
A
P
A
P
Chris Johnson Ryan Clady Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie Leodis McKelvin
2008 PFW/PFWA AWARDS
22 Pro Football Weekly January 18, 2009
OFFENSIVE STARS APLENTY
2008 PFW/PFWA AWARDS
23 Pro Football Weekly January 18, 2009
D
ont do it, Mike Smith! That was the cry
of many observers of the Falcons first-
year head coach before the season start-
ed as they questioned whether exposing
prized rookie QB Matt Ryan to an unforgiv-
ing NFL right away in Week One was a plan
fit for disaster. Its safe to say that question
has long since been answered as Ryan vindi-
cated Smiths decision to hand him the keys
to the offense from the get-go, leading his
team to an 11-5 record and a surprise play-
off berth. As a result, he was named Pro Foot-
ball Weekly/Professional Football Writers of
America Rookie of the Year.
Ryan was a different kind of rookie quar-
terback. The type the league has rarely
seen. He was popular for his level of poise
in college, but it was truly remarkable to
watch as professional defenses did all they
could, yet failed to rattle him for the most
part. He fended off the distractions and pit-
falls that have sunk so many much-hyped
rookie signalcallers of years past.
I think, at the end of the day, there are a
lot of outside things that go along with play-
ing the position that (I) play and playing in
the NFL, especially when youre young,
Ryan told PFW. You have to do your job and
you have to do it well. I think staying focused
on that, and that alone, helps me keep per-
spective as to whats important and whats not.
Prior to the season, when most prognos-
ticators envisioned Atlanta sputtering to a
woeful record and a sure last-place finish in
the NFC South, Ryan told PFW that this sea-
son would be a successful one if he was a bet-
ter QB at the finish than he was at the start.
There were certainly ups and downs the
first pass of his career was a 62-yard TD strike
to WR Michael Jenkins, but he struggled in
the Falcons wild-card playoff loss to the Car-
dinals, with two interceptions, a fumble re-
turned for a touchdown and a safety.
It was what Ryan did between those two
games that defined his first season. He was
steady, reliable and rarely made a mistake.
Any time you lose your last game, thats
not the way you want to go out, Ryan said.
You have to take that and learn from it and
use it as motivation for the next season.
Getting back to the goal of ultimately be-
ing a better quarterback at the end of the sea-
son than I was at the beginning, I think theres
no question about it. Ive learned so much over
the course of this year. I just have so much ex-
perience. Its bittersweet to lose that last
game, but I certainly think Ive made strides.
Ryan is quick to credit his supporting cast
for his success, and deservedly so. RB
Michael Turner and WR Roddy White are
both headed to the Pro Bowl, and a much-
improved offensive line allowed just 17
sacks, the fifth-fewest in the league.
Ryan and the Ravens Joe Flacco are the
first rookie quarterbacks in league history
to start all 16 games and lead their teams to
playoff berths. After completing 265-of-434
passes (61.1 percent) for 16 touchdowns and
11 interceptions, Ryan became the second
rookie QB ever to throw for more than 3,000
yards in his first year.
A lot has changed in the past year and a
half. But its been a fun ride, Ryan said.
Those 18 months throughout college and
then getting ready for the draft and this past
season it was a fun, fun time. Im glad I
had the experience.
Matt Ryan is the second rookie QB in NFL
history to throw for more than 3,000 yards.
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erod Mayo was restless. Here he was,
sequestered in his home state of Vir-
ginia, knowing that the game at which
he performs at a precociously brilliant lev-
el had been taken away temporarily.
Its nice to get all this recognition, but
footballs a team sport, Mayo told PFW upon
winning PFW/PFWA Defensive Rookie of
the Year honors. I kind of wish I were still
playing, to be honest with you.
Given the tremendous season Mayo strung
together for a Patriots club that won 11 games
yet didnt make the playoffs, its not tough to
see why. By any standard, his campaign was
a success. By rookie standards, it was out-
standing. By Patriots rookie linebacker
standards, it was unheard of.
The 10th overall pick out of Tennessee,
Mayo finished 10th in the league in tackles.
What makes the accomplishment all the
more inspiring is how it came with a fran-
chise historically loath to draft linebackers
in the early rounds. Since Bill Belichick took
over as head coach in 2000, the Pats never
had drafted a linebacker within the first four
rounds. The theory is that Belichicks com-
plicated 3-4 system mandates linebackers
have years of seasoning at the NFL level to
operate effectively within it, and theres lit-
tle sense in investing much in a player
who ll ride the pine for a couple of years.
Considering Mayo had never played in a
3-4 scheme and only had a single year of ex-
perience manning the middle like hed do
for the Pats, the odds of him being the break-
through rookie seemed especially unlikely.
In a 3-4, youre essentially a defensive
tackle, Mayo said. In a 4-3 defense, youre
covered up, get to run from sideline to side-
line. I had to learn how to use angles and use
leverage and things like that in the 3-4.
Never did he apply his tactics better
than in the Pats Week 11 overtime loss to the
Jets, when he recorded 20 tackles, 16 solo.
We played them earlier in the year, and
I played OK, but I felt I could have done bet-
ter, Mayo said. It seemed like the second
time I played teams, the better I got.
Hes not alone in that assessment.
We played them in the third week of the
season and then again in (Week 12), and to
see his growth from Week Three was just
tremendous, Dolphins coach Tony Spara-
no said. By the time we played him the sec-
ond time, he was all over the field and was
a guy you had to account for on every
play.
Improvements expected in 09. Remain-
ing on the second level most of 08, Mayo
was sent into the backfield a bit more in the
final three weeks in a sign of things to come.
The education of a linebacker is just be-
ginning.
Mayo becomes the rare rookie to excel at linebacker in Belichicks 3-4 By MATT SOHN
FIRST OF HIS BREED FOR PATS
Jerod Mayo, the 10th pick in the draft, had
five games with at least 10 tackles.
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2008 QB MATT RYAN/ Atl.
2007 RB ADRIAN PETERSON/ Minn.
2006 QB VINCE YOUNG / Ten.
2005 RB CADILLAC WILLIAMS / T.B.
2004 QB BEN ROETHLISBERGER / Pitt.
2003 WR ANQUAN BOLDIN/ Ariz.
2002 RB CLINTON PORTIS / Den.
2001 RB ANTHONYTHOMAS / Chi.
2000 RB MIKE ANDERSON/ Den.
1999 RB EDGERRINJAMES / Ind.
1998 WR RANDY MOSS / Minn.
1997 RB WARRICK DUNN/ T.B.
1996 RB EDDIE GEORGE / Hou.
1995 RB CURTIS MARTIN/ N.E.
1994 RB MARSHALL FAULK / Ind.
1993 RB JEROME BETTIS / L.A. Rams
1992 PK JASON HANSON/ Det.
1991 RB LEONARD RUSSELL / N.E.
1990 RB EMMITT SMITH/ Dall.
1989 RB BARRY SANDERS / Det.
1988 RB JOHN STEPHENS / N.E.
RB ICKEYWOODS / Cin.
1987 RB TROY STRADFORD / Mia.
1986 RB RUEBEN MAYES / N.O.
1985 NOAWARD
1984 WR LOUIS LIPPS / Pitt.
1983 RB ERIC DICKERSON/ L.A. Rams
1982 RB MARCUS ALLEN/ L.A. Raiders
1981 RB GEORGE ROGERS / N.O.
1980 RB BILLY SIMS / Det.
1979 RB OTTIS ANDERSON/ St.L.
1978 RB EARL CAMPBELL / Hou.
1977 RB TONY DORSETT / Dall.
1976 WR SAMMYWHITE / Minn.
1975 QB STEVE BARTKOWSKI / Atl.
RB MIKE THOMAS / Wash.
1974 RB DON WOODS / S.D.
1973 RB CHUCK FOREMAN/ Minn.
1972 RB FRANCO HARRIS / Pitt.
1971 QB JIMPLUNKETT / N.E.
1970 QB DENNIS SHAW/ Buff.
1969 RB CALVIN HILL / Dall. (NFL)
QB GREG COOK / Cin. (AFL)
ALL-TIME WINNERS
OFFENSIVE ROOKIE OFTHE YEAR
2008 LB JEROD MAYO/ N.E.
2007 LB PATRICK WILLIS / S.F.
2006 LB DeMECO RYANS / Hou.
2005 LB SHAWNE MERRIMAN/ S.D.
2004 CB DUNTA ROBINSON/ Hou.
2003 LB TERRELL SUGGS / Balt.
2002 DE JULIUS PEPPERS / Car.
2001 LB KENDRELL BELL / Pitt.
2000 LB BRIAN URLACHER / Chi.
1999 DE JEVON KEARSE / Tenn.
1998 CB CHARLES WOODSON/ Oak.
1997 LB PETER BOULWARE / Balt.
1996 DE SIMEON RICE / Ariz.
1995 DE HUGH DOUGLAS / N.Y.J.
1994 DT TIMBOWENS / Mia.
1993 DT DANA STUBBLEFIELD / S.F.
1992 CB-PR DALE CARTER / K.C.
1991 LB MIKE CROEL / Den.
1990 FS MARK CARRIER / Chi.
1989 LB DERRICK THOMAS / K.C.
1988 FS ERIK MCMILLAN/ N.Y.J.
1987 LB SHANE CONLAN/ Buff.
1986 LB JOHN OFFERDAHL / Mia.
DE LESLIE ONEAL / S.D.
1985 NOAWARD
1984 S TOMFLYNN/ G.B.
1983 LB VERNON MAXWELL / Balt.
1982 LB CHIP BANKS / Clev.
1981 LB LAWRENCE TAYLOR / N.Y.G.
1980 LB BUDDY CURRY / Atl.
1979 DE JESSE BAKER / Hou.
1978 DE AL BAKER / Det.
1977 DE A.J. DUHE / Mia.
1976 CB MIKE HAYNES / N.E.
1975 LB ROBERT BRAZILE / Hou.
1974 LB JACK LAMBERT / Pitt.
1973 DT WALLY CHAMBERS / Chi.
1972 DE SHERMAN WHITE / Cin.
1971 LB ISIAH ROBERTSON/ L.A. Rm.
1970 CB BRUCE TAYLOR / S.F.
1969 DT JOE GREENE / Pitt. (NFL)
CB JAMES MARSALIS / K.C. (AFL)
ALL-TIME WINNERS
DEFENSIVE ROOKIE OFTHE YEAR
Matt Ryans historic first season helped resurrect the moribund Falcons By DAN PARR
DIFFERENT KIND OF ROOKIE
2008 PFW/PFWA AWARDS
C
had Pennington knew it would have
been a futile effort. The Jets had made
their decision, and nothing he said or
did was going to change the reality. Brett
Favre, the NFLs all-time passing leader, had
decided to come out of retirement, and New
York was his destination.
Pennington, the clubs quarterback since
2002, saw the writing on the wall. He was get-
ting released, and for the first time since the
Jets drafted him in the first round in 2000,
he would be without a job.
I just looked at it as a business situation,
Pennington said. I asked coach (Eric Mangi-
ni) why they wanted to let me go, and he said,
Well, we feel like Brett gives us the opportu-
nity to push the ball down the field more.
Down the field. It couldnt have been
more direct. More than anything, the lack of
zip Pennington tossed the ball with, the
strained motions to complete the deep outs,
had been the bane of his quarterbacking ex-
istence. Much of it had to do with his ongo-
ing battle with injuries, especially his surgi-
cally repaired throwing shoulder. But he
also was hampered in 07 when ligament dam-
age in his plant ankle prevented him from put-
ting the requisite force behind his throws.
No matter. Whatever justification he had,
he was moving on. And, it just so happened,
so were the Dolphins.
I couldnt ask for a better situation when
I came down to Miami, Pennington said.
Much like the Jets, who shepherded in
hoards of splashy free agents and trade acqui-
sitions, the Dolphins were also in the midst
of a franchise overhaul. But unlike the Jets,
the Dolphins new coaching and managerial
regime didnt care if the names it brought in
reverberated with Q-rating. Pennington bat-
tered, bruised and steamrolled by the red car-
pet laid out for Favre certainly wasnt one.
But what he did have was tremendous in-
telligence and the most accurate arm in NFL
history based on completion percentage. Not
wanting to hand over the ball to rookie Chad
Henne, the presumed future of the fran-
chise, the Dolphins saw in Pennington the ide-
al candidate to transition them into the new
era.
He didnt disappoint and proved to be a wor-
thy winner of the Pro Football Weekly/PFWA
Comeback Player of the Year. Pennington also
won this award in 2006.
In starting all 16 games for only the second
time in his career, Pennington threw for a ca-
reer-high 3,653 yards for a club that surged
into the playoffs as AFC East champions a year
after stumbling to a 1-15 debacle. No, the 50-
yard fly patterns werent a staple of Dan
Hennings ball-control offense, but Penning-
ton proved that precision passing within a
scheme stressing short-zone creativity is just
as effective.
Pennington personified efficiency through-
out the regular season, completing 67.4 per-
cent of his passes and throwing 19 TDs with
only seven interceptions.
Pennington, who turns 33 in June, has one
year remaining on his two-year deal, and bar-
ring unforeseen changes, will be handed the
ball in Week One next season. Whats beyond
that, he doesnt know. Nor does he care.
Once you get to the nine-, 10-year mark,
the future is now, Pennington said. You look
at the now, keep it simple, and dont take any-
thing for granted.
Pennington once again proves naysayers wrong By MATT SOHN
FAMILIAR TERRITORY
DeAngelo Williams evolved into one of the leagues elite rushers By DAN PARR
MAKING THE UPGRADE
Chad Pennington was named Comeback
Player of the Year for a second time.
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lthough RB DeAngelo Williams was a
first-round pick in 2006, the Panthers
limited him to reserve duty in his first two
years, starting DeShaun Foster instead.
Williams had a tremendous skill set, but he
had yet to figure out how to put it all togeth-
er, and he now admits that staying in top phys-
ical condition wasnt his highest
priority. He points to a Week Six
game in the 2007 season, when he
broke a 75-yard run but was un-
able to get to the endzone because
of a lack of conditioning, as a
wake-up call. Cardinals S Adrian
Wilson caught him from behind
and pulled him down.
I knew what I was doing, he
told PFW while preparing for
the Panthers playoff game vs.
the Cardinals. I knew how to do it. I just did-
nt know why I was doing it.
In Williams first two seasons, he scored sev-
en touchdowns in 29 games. This season, af-
ter going scoreless in the first four contests,
Williams rattled off a league-high 20 TDs. He
rushed for 1,515 yards his previous career
high was less than half of that which was
good for third-most in the league, and gained
5.5 yards per carry.
His jolting level of advancement as a play-
er coincided with the Panthers winning the
NFC South title with a record of 12-4, which
earned them a first-round bye. Despite his
marked improvement, leading him to earn
Pro Football Weekly/Professional Football
Writers of America Most Im-
proved Player of the Year honors,
Williams said it didnt shock him.
I just try to be productive, he
said. Im not surprised by it.
When you give a guy a lot of op-
portunities, you give him a chance
to be special.
A combination of factors helped
Williams finally click in 08. Car-
olina gave him the leading role in
the backfield behind a rebuilt,
powerful offensive line and revitalized pass-
ing game, thanks to the return of QB Jake Del-
homme. Williams said offensive coordinator
Jeff Davidsons scheme gave him a boost, as
well. In the Panthers offense, no holes are pre-
determined, as Williams describes it, giving
him the freedom to identify an opening as the
play develops before shooting through it. A
passionate pep talk from ex-Panthers QB Vin-
ny Testaverde after that 75-yard run vs. Ari-
zona last season marked a pivotal turning
point, too.
All the credit has to go to (Davidson), (as-
sistant head coach/running backs) Jim Skip-
per, (FB) Brad Hoover, the offensive line and
the wide receivers for springing me on those
long runs, he said.
The biggest difference for Williams, how-
ever, may be having a more capable sidekick.
The Panthers drafted RB Jonathan Stewart
with the 13th overall pick in last years draft,
and the two ballcarriers formed a strong bond
off the field and an even stronger 1-2 punch
on it. Dubbing themselves Double Trouble,
Williams and Stewart quickly became ar-
guably the leagues most effective RB tandem.
(Stewart made) a huge, huge difference,
Williams said. He keeps me on my toes.
With Jonathan out there, whenever I come
to the sideline, we talk about certain plays. We
talk about what he sees the linebackers do-
ing, if I dont see them. He tells me what the
cornerbacks are doing, what the safeties are
doing on the backside, where he would have
taken (the ball). I do the same for him.
Having two sets of eyes out there, it helps
tremendously.
Panthers RB DeAngelo Williams scored a
league-high 20 touchdowns in 2008.
A
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2008 QB CHAD PENNINGTON/ Mia.
2007 WR RANDY MOSS / N.E.
2006 QB CHAD PENNINGTON/ N.Y.J.
2005 WR STEVE SMITH/ Car.
2004 RB WILLIS MCGAHEE / Buff.
2003 QB JON KITNA / Cin.
2002 QB TOMMY MADDOX / Pitt.
2001 RB GARRISON HEARST / S.F.
2000 DE JOE JOHNSON/ N.O.
1999 DT BRYANTYOUNG / S.F.
1998 QB DOUG FLUTIE / Buff.
1997 WR ROBERT BROOKS / G.B.
1996 RB JEROME BETTIS / Pitt.
1995 QB JIMHARBAUGH/ Ind.
1994 QB DAN MARINO/ Mia.
1993 RB MARCUS ALLEN/ K.C.
1992 QB RANDALL CUNNINGHAM/ Phil.
1991 QB JIMMCMAHON/ Phil.
1990 RB BARRYWORD / K.C.
1989 RB OTTIS ANDERSON/ N.Y.G.
1988 RB GREG BELL / L.A. Rm.
1987 RB CHARLES WHITE / L.A. Rm.
1986 QB TOMMY KRAMER / Minn.
QB JOE MONTANA / S.F.
1985 NOAWARD
1984 WR JOHN STALLWORTH/ Pitt.
1983 WR-PR BILLYJOHNSON/ Atl.
1982 DE LYLE ALZADO/ L.A. Rd.
1981 QB KENANDERSON/ Cin.
1980 QB JIMPLUNKETT / Oak.
1979 RB LARRY CSONKA / Mia.
1978 RB JOHN RIGGINS / Wash.
1977 QB CRAIG MORTON/ Den.
1976 QB GREG LANDRY / Det.
1975 RB DAVE HAMPTON/ Atl.
1974 QB JOE NAMATH/ N.Y.J.
1973 QB ROMAN GABRIEL / Phil.
1972 QB EARL MORRALL / Mia.
ALL-TIME WINNERS
COMEBACK PLAYER OFTHE YEAR
2008 RB DeANGELO WILLIAMS / CAR.
2007 QB DEREK ANDERSON/ CLE.
2006 RB FRANK GORE / S.F.
2005 DE OSI UMENYIORA / N.Y.G.
2004 QB DREWBREES / S.D.
2003 QB JON KITNA / Cin.
2002 QB CHAD PENNINGTON/ N.Y.J.
2001 QB KORDELL STEWART / Pitt.
2000 QB JEFF GARCIA / S.F.
ALL-TIME WINNERS
MOST IMPROVED
PLAYER OFTHE YEAR
24 Pro Football Weekly January 18, 2009
OPINION
TALKING PLAYOFFS Barry Jackson
P
layoff musings from the couch: CBS
Greg Gumbel, on Ravens-Titans, de-
livered one of the most deficient play-
by-play performances weve ever heard
during the playoffs. On the 3rd-and-9
completion that preceded the Ravens
game-winning field goal, Gumbel identi-
fied neither the receiver nor the defender.
Gumbel never identified who made any
of the three big defensive stops by Ten-
nessee with Baltimore inside the Titans
10-yard line. Nor did he say which Titans
player made a big pass breakup late in
the game. Regrettably, Gumbel identifies
who made the tackle or what defensive
player was in coverage only when the
mood strikes, and thats not good enough.
Its too bad CBS subjected us to Gum-
bels minimalist, delinquent play-by-play
instead of using Kevin Harlan or Ian Ea-
gle, who are diligent about conveying all
the particulars of a play.
Networks give far too much attention
to passer ratings. After CBS posted a
graphic saying Joe Flacco had a 108 pass-
er rating in the first half of the Tennessee
game, Dan Dierdorf had the sense to say
Flacco has only completed three passes,
so dont get caught up in the rating. So
why even show it?
Worst prediction: Foxs Daryl John-
ston blasting Arizona for going for a field
goal on a 4th-and-1 when leading 17-7
against Carolina. It will be 21-20 (Caroli-
na) pretty quick, Johnston declared.
Johnston suggested Arizona should have
gone for the first down because nobody
expects you to be here. But what does
that have to do with it?
Laziest analysis: Jerome Bettis, in
NBCs studio, asserted that the Chargers
beat the Colts not because of anything
tangible but simply because they felt it,
they wanted it as if to suggest the
Colts werent as motivated to win a play-
off game. What hogwash!
Best analysis: (1) Foxs Jimmy John-
son, before Vikings-Eagles, told us, Min-
nesota is the worst team in the league
picking up the blitz. It will be a tough
game for them. Sure enough, the Eagles
rushed QB Tarvaris Jackson into mis-
takes and errant throws. (2) Foxs Terry
Bradshaw told us, correctly, that Dono-
van McNabb would deal better with the
wind than the Giants Eli Manning be-
cause he has better velocity.
Question of the week: James Brown,
to Adam Pacman Jones: What is it about
strip clubs that you cant stay away?
Best line: CBS Boomer Esiason, on
Bill Cowher announcing hes staying at
least another year with the network: I
was hoping for more airtime, personally.
NBCs Dan Patrick was tough but fair
in his interview with Matt Millen, going
as far as to ask Millen if he would have
fired himself as Lions general manager
and president. (Millen said yes.) With
NBC adding Millen as an analyst on the
Super Bowl pregame show, some will say
his awful tenure in Detroit tarnished his
credibility as an announcer. But thats un-
fair to Millen, who was an exceptional an-
alyst and still can opine insightfully.
ESPN, on a graphic, superimposed
late-breaking news about the Chargers-
Steelers game, including injuries. Among
the nuggets displayed: Mike Tomlin says
Darren Sproles benefits from being
short. Is this news?
Barry Jackson covers sports media for
the Miami Herald.
Gumbel goofs badly in Nashville booth
PHOENIX RISING Jerry Magee
I
f you hang out in saloons, you have to
have empathy for the Cardinals. Chica-
go was a saloon-oriented society when
the Cardinals were doing business on the
South Side. Saloons were more than
places where a man could have a pint or
two or a shot and a beer, they were family
centers. Life in the neighborhoods was
centered in them.
What I know of this, I learned from
William V. Bidwill, the Cardinals owner.
After the team relocated from St. Louis in
1988, I would drop in on the Cardinals
occasionally. From San Diego, it is only
an hours flight. I could go over there,
catch a game and return that evening.
In his beginning in Arizona, I felt that
Bidwill was doing everything wrong. He
seemed to have overlooked the point that
the sun shines in Arizona. On an after-
noon, one side of Sun Devil Stadium,
where the Cardinals were offering their
home games, would be caught in the
most searing sort of light. To spend an af-
ternoon in those seats would be to risk
being parboiled.
Phoenix, remember, is occupied largely
by retired persons on fixed incomes, but
the admission prices Bidwill instituted
were, I thought, far too high. I termed
what Bidwill was doing the Big Gouge.
For all my harping, however, Bidwill
continued to receive me kindly when I
would show up in his community. He
may not have been the most astute of
football men, but I hung on his tales of
how the Arizona franchise was founded
and how it achieved permanence.
The Chicago Cardinals were among the
founding franchises in what would be-
come the NFL. Only one other of those
franchises is still operative the Chicago
Bears. The Cardinals grew out of a team
representing the Morgan Athletic Club
on Chicagos South Side. The team at first
was made up of amateurs, which also
could be said of it through many of its lat-
er incarnations.
Through all the clubs trials, Bidwill, a
stout man who has not sought to project
himself as a public figure, has remained
stoic. I want to point out that his stew-
ardship of the club has had positive ele-
ments. When the team was quartered in
St. Louis, Bidwill appointed Don Coryell
as a head coach on the basis of a letter
Coryell had written him. Well done, I
would say; Coryells teams became known
as the Cardiac Cardinals. Any Coryell
team, I should note, would be exciting.
I dont know about you, but when the
current Cardinals face off surprise!
in Arizona against the Philadelphia Ea-
gles in the NFC championship game, my
sympathies are going to be with the hosts
because of my feeling for Bidwill, who as
a boy growing up in Chicago served the
Cardinals as a ball boy. William Bidwills
father, Charles, a prominent Chicago
sports figure, owned the team.
In his lifetime, William Bidwill has
seen the Cardinals claim one champi-
onship, in 1947. In my thinking, the Car-
dinals have a big chance to make them-
selves parties to a Super Bowl. Theyre
home, Kurt Warner is a quarterback
steeled against the pressures that attend
games of moment, and the Cardinals
have been strong against the rush. Stay
tuned.
Jerry Magee covered pro football for the
San Diego Union-Tribune from 1961-2008
and for PFW since its inception in 1967.
Cardinals escaping history of futility
A-BOMBS
Ryan worth waiting for
Early in the week leading up to this
years divisional playoff round, I couldnt
help but notice the heavyweight battles
between opposing defensive coordinators
in three of the four games in order, Bal-
timores Rex Ryan vs. Tennessees Jim
Schwartz, Philadelphias Jim Johnson
vs. the New York Giants Steve Spagn-
uolo and San Diegos Ron Rivera vs.
Pittsburghs Dick LeBeau. After intently
watching Ryan square off against the
cerebral Schwartz in the weekends first
playoff game, I couldnt help but think that
Ryan deserved a serious leg up on the
competition for the Rams head-coaching
job, which he was scheduled to interview
for at 7 a.m. the day after Baltimores taut
13-10 victory over the Titans. While
Schwartzs defense limited the Ravens to
a mere 211 total yards, compared to the
391 yards allowed by Baltimore, it was the
three well-timed takeaways by Ryans ag-
gressive, bend-but-dont-break crew that
ended up making the biggest difference.
Equally impressive was the Ravens men-
acing mindset, which was most notably
on display in the second quarter when All-
Pro MLB Ray Lewis sent Titans FB Ah-
mard Halls helmet flying with a vintage
hit near the sideline. After leading the
league with 34 takeaways during the regu-
lar season despite the season-long ab-
sence of NT Kelly Gregg, the Ravens
best run stuffer, and a secondary that lost
CB Chris McAlister and SS Dawan
Landry to season-ending injuries
Ryans stop unit has continued its oppor-
tunistic play in the playoffs, running up an
impressive plus-seven turnover differen-
tial in wins over the Dolphins and Titans.
Ryan was scheduled to meet with the Jets
last Sunday after the Rams. It says here
he would be a rock-solid fit as the head
coach for either team, following in the
footsteps of Ravens first-year head coach
John Harbaugh, whose savvy, success-
ful challenge of a Bo Scaife reception
added six precious yards to Titans PK
Rob Bironas missed 51-yard field-goal
attempt in the third quarter and was an
unsung key in a terrific playoff game in
which every single yard was hard-earned.
Cardinals are the real deal
No, the Cardinals eye-popping playoff
run is not a mirage. Even though Carolina
QB Jake Delhomme, who previously
had excelled in the postseason, was terri-
ble at the worst possible time in the Car-
dinals shocking 33-13 victory over the
Panthers, Arizona has become a very in-
triguing long shot moving forward with
or without Pro Bowl WR Anquan Boldin.
With much better balance on offense and
greatly improved pressure on defense, it
appears the Cardinals have caught light-
ning in a bottle at just the right time, es-
pecially with a home game this weekend
against the Eagles.
Dan Arkush un-
leashes his latest
NFL reflections.
25 Pro Football Weekly January 18, 2009
HANDICAPPERS CORNER
PFW
consensus
CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPS
Early pointspreads as of Sunday, Jan. 11
Hub
Arkush
Publisher/
editor
Keith
Schleiden
Editor-
in-chief
Mike
Holbrook
Managing
editor
Dan
Arkush
Executive
editor
Eric
Edholm
Senior
editor
Mike
Wilkening
Senior
editor
Matt
Sohn
Associate
editor
Dan
Parr
Associate
editor
Michael
Blunda
Associate
editor
PFW STAFF
SELECTIONS
EARLY LAS VEGAS LINE Home team in caps. Asterisk (*) denotes team will cover pointspread but lose game. Boldface selection indicates best bet. Some over-unders not available at presstime.
Philadelphia-3
1
2 vs. ARIZONA(48
1
2) Philadelphia Philadelphia Philadelphia Arizona* Philadelphia Philadelphia Philadelphia Arizona* Philadelphia Philadelphia
PITTSBURGH -4
1
2 vs. Baltimore (33
1
2) Baltimore* Pittsburgh Baltimore Pittsburgh Baltimore* Pittsburgh Pittsburgh Baltimore* Baltimore* Baltimore*
Last week vs. spread 2-2 2-2 1-3 2-2 2-2 2-2 3-1 3-1 3-1 3-1
Season to date vs. spread 130-128-6 121-137-6 129-129-6 127-131-6 120-138-6 131-127-6 134-124-6 135-123-6 121-137-6 130-128-6
Season to date best bets 26-24-1 23-28 23-26-2 25-24-1 25-26 27-22-2 27-22-2 26-25 26-23-2 35-31-2
Last week straight-up 2-2 1-3 1-3 2-2 3-1 2-2 3-1 2-2 2-2 2-2
Season to date straight-up 172-91-1 160-103-1 167-96-1 167-96-1 162-101-1 170-93-1 170-93-1 166-97-1 163-100-1 171-92-1
CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP OPPONENTS VS. SPREAD H home, A away, N neutral, followed by teams score; number in parentheses is number
of points by which that team was favored to win; E game was rated as even; W beat the pointspread; * team beat the pointspread in both regular-season meetings
that year; T neither beat the pointspread; P playoff game; OT overtime.
10-YEAR SERIES RECORDS
Philadelphia at ARIZONA 6-4 (3-2) (2-3)
Baltimore at PITTSBURGH 12-9 (7-4) (5-6)
Series leader is listed in CAPS with its record below. Series
leaders record at this weeks game site is listed in paren-
theses, followed by series leaders record vs. pointspread at
this weeks site. This years games not included.
MATCHUP 2008 2007
Baltimore H-9(-3) A-20W H-27W A-7
at Pittsburgh A-13W H-23(-6)OT A-21(-3) H-38(-9
1
2)W
MATCHUP 2008 2007
Philadelphia H-48(-3)W Did not play
at Arizona A-20
26 Pro Football Weekly January 18, 2009
IF YOU WANT
ANALYSIS ...
ProFootballWeekly.com provides analysis for every aspect
of the NFL, whether its breaking news or rumors,
fantasy football, player ratings, handicapping or the NFL draft.
w w w . P r o F o o t b a l l W e e k l y . c o m
LAS VEGAS CALLING Stephen Nover
Staying one step
ahead keyed Fezziks success
L
as Vegas-based gambler Steve Fezzik is
both a strong poker player and an excep-
tional sports bettor. He doesnt lack
for opinions in either one.
Beating poker is easy at the lower limits,
he said. Winning at sports is difficult.
There is no low limit in sports because once
the betting line is set, youre really playing
against the best bettors in the world.
Since this publication is Pro Football
Weekly, the subject here is NFL. This is
something Fezzik mastered in 2008, finish-
ing first both in the Las Vegas Hiltons Su-
perContest and Friendly Franks Pro Cham-
pionship Challenge at the South Point Ho-
tel & Casino in Las Vegas.
Fezzik pocketed around $335,000 for win-
ning the two high-end contests. He hit
better than 67 percent of his selections in
winning the Hilton contest, which consist-
ed of picking five games (no totals) against
the spread each week. It was one of the few
times in the 20-year history of the contest
that a contestant finished above 67 percent.
He was awarded a bonus of $10,000 on top
of the first-place prize of $210,000 for ac-
complishing the feat.
A key to Fezziks success was opening 14-
1 through the first three weeks. He figured
out early that Atlanta and Baltimore were
for real despite having to play rookie quar-
terbacks. He also realized in early Septem-
ber this wasnt going to be a good year for
Cleveland and Cincinnati. So he wasnt
afraid to make drastic changes to his pow-
er rankings.
At the beginning of the year you must
adjust dramatically, he said. When you see
Baltimore and Atlanta with rookie quar-
terbacks, you had to pick up that despite
that they werent going to be bottom-
feeders.
The two Ohio teams Cleveland and
Cincinnati were bottom-feeders. They
were lined at close to eight wins for the sea-
son, but they were total crap. They had a
couple of bad games and people thought
they would bounce back. No, they werent
bouncing back. Those teams were dead.
Having a strong math background helped,
Fezzik said. A graduate of Northwestern with
a degree in engineering, Fezzik worked in
the insurance field before moving to Las Ve-
gas in 2001 to bet sports and play poker full
time.
Its Fezziks opinion that being able to com-
pute numbers and having the ability to prop-
erly diagnose statistics are more crucial in
picking football winners than knowing a lot
about the players and game. What about
those who really know the insights of foot-
ball?
They end up being commentators on
ESPN and losing thousands of dollars
betting, Fezzik said. There are a ton of guys
in Bristol, Conn., who can tell you which
teams play the cover-2 defense and know
all the backups. That information should
help you win, but it comes from guys who
cant pick a winner to save their soul.
They spend all their time following play-
ers and dont spend nearly as much time
looking at trends, angles and statistics. They
wind up popping up on the flavor of the
month.
In other words, it helps to be ahead of the
curve. Getting good line value also cant be
underestimated, although Fezzik didnt al-
ways play the soft line.
There were minefields all along the way
that I avoided, he said. An example was the
last week (of the regular season) with
Chicago-Houston. The line was Texans mi-
nus-2
1
2, but on the contest line it was Tex-
ans minus-three. But I knew I wanted no
part of the Bears. The good number was
there, but I knew the good number was go-
ing to lose.
I selectively picked games I liked and that
I got the best number on. The combination
was powerful. Just taking good numbers
doesnt win you contests. Another example
was Jacksonville playing Baltimore that
last week. You could have gotten plus-12 on
Jacksonville. The line closed at (plus-)10. Bal-
timore killed Jacksonville.
It helps to be confident. Confidence is
something Fezzik never has lacked, al-
though he does attribute good luck as the No.
1 factor in his first-place showings.
Unlike many successful professional
sports bettors, Fezzik enjoys having a high
profile. Hes a frequent guest on various ra-
dio gaming talk shows, and before this
season had his own sports posting forum in
connection with Anthony Curtis Las Vegas
Advisor. Fezzik has limited his posting on
forums, though.
When you start making radio appear-
ances and doing interviews and defending
yourself on Internet chat boards it be-
comes a blank hole on time spent, Fezzik
said. These Internet message boards can be
very effective. But you need to extract infor-
mation and not waste time with meaning-
less dialogue. When you start talking about
things like should Israel be in the Gaza Strip,
how does that help you win a bet?
Writer, analyst and handicapper Stephen
Nover has been covering the Las Vegas
sports betting scene since 1984. He is the au-
thor of three books, Las Vegas Sportsbeat,
Sports Gamingbeat and Winning Fantasy
Football.
27 Pro Football Weekly January 18, 2009
TRANSACTIONS
(As reported, Jan. 5-10)
AMERICAN FOOTBALL CONFERENCE
BUFFALOJan. 5: Roster additions for 2009: LB Vince
Hall; WR Felton Huggins (both ended 08 season on Bills prac-
tice squad). Practice-squad contracts expired: WR Mike
Jefferson; OG Brandon Rodd; DE Marcus Smith. Jan. 9: Ros-
ter additions for 2009: WR Mike Jefferson; OG Brandon
Rodd.
CINCINNATI Jan. 5: Practice-squad contract expired:
LB Carl-Johan Bjork.
CLEVELAND Jan. 5: Roster addition for 2009: WR
Lance Leggett (ended 08 season on Browns practice squad).
Practice-squad contracts expired: FB Jed Collins; C Dustin
Fry; DE Christian Mohr; OG Kurt Quarterman; WR Steve
Sanders. Jan. 6: Roster addition for 2009: OG Kurt Quar-
terman. Jan. 7: Roster additions for 2009: C Dustin Fry; RB
Marcus Thomas.
DENVER Jan. 5: Practice-squad contracts expired:
RB Steve Baylark; C Greg Eslinger; LB Manuel Padilla. Jan. 8:
Roster addition for 2009: TE Adam Bergen.
HOUSTON Jan. 5: Practice-squad contracts expired:
DE Dan Bazuin; DT Gabe Long; C Anthony Oakley; RB Darius
Walker.
INDIANAPOLIS Jan. 5: Roster additions for 2009:
LB Rufus Alexander; S Brannon Condren; CB Brandon Fos-
ter; WR Samuel Giguere; OT Corey Hilliard; TE Jamie
Petrowski; WR Taj Smith; CB Brandon Sumrall.
JACKSONVILLE Jan. 5: Practice-squad contracts
expired: RB Keon Lattimore; C Tim Mattran; NTHenry Smith;
CB Jonathan Zenon.
KANSAS CITY Jan. 5: Practice-squad contracts ex-
pired: LB Aden Durde; QB Ingle Martin; LB Kyle Shotwell. Jan.
7: Roster addition for 2009: FB Jed Collins.
MIAMI Jan. 5: Roster additions for 2009: WR An-
thony Armstrong; CB Scorpio Babers; CB Wilfred Billingsley;
TE Chris Brown; DTJoe Cohen; RB Lex Hilliard; WR Todd Low-
ber. Jan. 6: Assigned on waivers: LB Tearrius George from
Saints.
NEWENGLAND Jan. 5: Practice-squad contracts ex-
pired: S Mark Dillard; WR Maurice Price.
N.Y. JETS Jan. 5: Practice-squad contract expired:
OG Ryan Keenan. Jan. 7: Roster addition for 2009: RB Noah
Herron.
OAKLAND Jan. 5: Practice-squad contracts expired:
OG Robert Felton; WR D.J. Hall; DT Mauricio Lopez; QB Jeff
Otis; OT Brandon Torrey.
SAN DIEGO Jan. 7: Roster addition for 2009: LB Eric
Bakhtiari.
TENNESSEE Jan. 5: Placed on waivers: DT Amon
Gordon. Jan. 6: Roster addition for 2009: WR Craphonso
Thorpe. Jan. 7: Roster addition for 2009: OT Pete Clifford.
Jan. 8: Roster addition for 2009: CB Christian Morton.
NATIONAL FOOTBALL CONFERENCE
ARIZONA Jan. 7: Roster addition for 2009: OG Ben
Claxton.
ATLANTA Jan. 5: Roster additions for 2009: OG
Nathan Bennett; OTMike Butterworth; DE Willie Evans; DTTy-
wain Myles; CB Darius Vinnett; WR Chandler Williams; TE Keith
Zinger. Jan. 7: Roster additions for 2009: DTThomas John-
son; S Marcus Paschal; CB Ronnie Prude.
CHICAGO Jan. 5: Practice-squad contract expired:
WR Mike Hass.
DALLAS Jan. 5: Practice-squad contracts expired:
WR Danny Amendola; RB Julius Crosslin; RB Marcus Thomas;
WR Paris Warren. Jan. 6: Roster addition for 2009: RB Julius
Crosslin.
DETROIT Jan. 5: Practice-squad contracts expired:
OGBen Claxton; LBChris Graham; CBJeff Shoate. Jan. 7: Ros-
ter addition for 2009: WR Steve Sanders. Jan. 9: Roster ad-
dition for 2009: LB Chris Graham.
GREEN BAY Jan. 5: Practice-squad contract expired:
FB Russ Weil.
MINNESOTA Jan. 5: Roster additions for 2009: OG
Brian Daniels; WR Jaymar Johnson; RB Albert Young. Jan. 6:
Roster additions for 2009: S Roderick Rogers; CB Marcus
Walker. Jan. 7: Roster addition for 2009: OTChris Clark. Jan.
8: Roster addition for 2009: DE Martail Burnett.
NEWORLEANS Jan. 5: Practice-squad contracts ex-
pired: RB Jermaine Allen; CB Marquice Cole; OG Tim Duck-
worth; WR Chris Francies; C Marvin Phillip.
PHILADELPHIA Jan. 6: Practice-squad deletions: S
Jonathan Hefney; WR Drisan James. Jan. 7: Roster addition:
CB Dimitri Patterson (released by Chiefs 10/30, 11/18). Roster
addition for 2009: OG Mike McGlynn. Practice-squad addi-
tions: WR Danny Amendola (released by Cowboys 8/30,
ended 08 season on Cowboys practice squad); OG Tim Duck-
worth (released by Saints 8/30, ended 08 season on Saints
practice squad).
ST. LOUIS Jan. 5: Roster addition for 2009: RB Sam
Gado. Practice-squad contracts expired: DE C.J. Ah You; WR
Matt Caddell; S Sebastien Sejean.
SAN FRANCISCO Jan. 5: Practice-squad contracts ex-
pired: LB Eric Bakhtiari; OT Ramiro Pruneda; FB Carl Stewart.
SEATTLE Jan. 5: Practice-squad contracts expired: C
Donovan Raiola; OG Erik Robertson; WR Trent Shelton. Jan. 8:
Roster addition for 2009: WR Mike Hass; WR Billy McMullen.
TAMPA BAY Jan. 5: Roster addition for 2009: DE
Louis Holmes. Practice-squad contracts expired: RB Omar
Cuff; S Sergey Ivanov; OG Matt Lentz; KR Micheal Spurlock.
Jan. 6: Roster addition for 2009: DTChris Bradwell. Jan. 9:
Roster addition for 2009: WR Paris Warren.
WASHINGTON Jan. 5: Roster additions for 2009: P
ZacAtterberry; FBJonathan Evans. Practice-squad contracts
expired: LBBrandonArcher; LBJohnny Baldwin; FBNehemiah
Broughton; WR Horace Gant; OG Isaiah Ross; CB Byron West-
brook. Jan. 6: Roster addition for 2009: OG Isaiah Ross.
AFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME PREVIEW
LB Ray Lewis has 20 tackles in
the postseason.
QB Ben Roethlisberger was
sharp vs. the Chargers.
RAVENS
AT
STEELERS
When the Ravens
have the ball
No offense is gaining fewer yards per
game in these playoffs than Baltimores.
Rookie QB Joe Flacco has completed less
than half of his passes. The Ravens
rushed for a paltry 50 yards on 30 car-
ries vs. Tennessee.
So how did the Ravens get here? Well,
they havent made many mistakes. Afum-
ble by FB LeRon McClain in the wild-
card win at Miami is the Ravens lone
turnover. And Flacco has made enough
plays for the Ravens to sustain enough
drives to beat the Dolphins and Titans.
Twelve of Flaccos 20 completions in this
postseason have gone for first downs.
Flaccos second start vs. Pittsburgh was
one of his worst. He completed just 11-
of-28 passes for 115 yards and was inter-
cepted twice. The Ravens did not score
a touchdown in any of their three trips
into the red zone.
If Flaccos accuracy is sometimes a lit-
tle shaky, his arm strength remains a
tremendous asset nonetheless, and it gives
offensive coordinator Cam Cameron the
option of testing the Steelers secondary
vertically. And Flacco likely is going to
have to complete some downfield throws
for the Ravens to have a chance. The
Steelers run defense was dominant in the
divisional-round win vs. San Diego,
holding Chargers RB Darren Sproles to
15 yards on 11 carries. McClain, who has
rushed for 39-150-1 vs. Pittsburgh this
season, gained only 12 yards on 12 car-
ries at Tennessee as he played through an
ankle injury.
If the Ravens have to lean on the
passing game, Flacco frequently will be
looking for veteran WR Derrick Mason.
And he ll also face no shortage of zone
blitzes from the Steelers.
When the Steelers
have the ball
The Steelers offense looks like a group
that relished the extra week afforded to
it with the clubs first-round bye. RB
Willie Parker looked as fast as he has all
season in the divisional-round win vs. San
Diego, rolling up 146 yards and a pair of
touchdowns on 27 carries. QB Ben
Roethlisberger was efficient in victory,
completing 17-of-26 passes for 181 yards
and a touchdown. He was sacked only
once.
While the Steelers looked refreshed in
victory, the Ravens defense very much
looks like a group getting by on smarts
and guts, not to mention a knack for forc-
ing turnovers.
In one of the surprises of the division-
al round, the Ravens surrendered 391
yards to Tennessee, with 256 coming in
the first half. Before leaving the game with
an ankle injury in the first half, Titans RB
Chris Johnson gashed the Ravens defense
for 72 yards on 11 carries. Parker, who
never has gained more than 63 yards in
an entire game vs. the Ravens, sudden-
ly looms as a tough matchup if Baltimore
cant fix what ailed it last week.
Ravens defensive coordinator Rex
Ryan was put to the test at Tennessee,
with ROLB Terrell Suggs (shoulder),
SS Jim Leonhard (concussion) and CB
Samari Rolle (groin) all leaving the Ten-
nessee game with their ailments. While
his D has struggled at points in the first
two rounds, it has forced eight turnovers
and allowed opponents to convert only
6-of-24 third downs. However, the
Ravens allowed Pittsburgh to convert 8-
of-17 third downs in the loss in Decem-
ber. Roethlisberger can be very tough to
stop in those situations, so getting pass-
rush pressure is a must for Baltimore.
RAVENS SCHEDULE
Pointspread Refers to Baltimore
DATE OPPONENT SPREAD SCORE
Sept. 7 Cincinnati (+2) 17-10
Sept. 14 BYE
Sept. 21 Cleveland (-2.5) 28-10
Sept. 29 At Pittsburgh (+6) 20-23*
Oct. 5 Tennessee (+1) 10-13
Oct. 12 At Indianapolis (+4) 3-31
Oct. 19 At Miami (+3) 27-13
Oct. 26 Oakland (-8) 29-10
Nov. 2 At Cleveland (+3) 37-27
Nov. 9 At Houston (+2) 41-13
Nov. 16 At N.Y. Giants (+7) 10-30
Nov. 23 Philadelphia (-1.5) 36-7
Nov. 30 At Cincinnati (-7) 34-3
Dec. 7 Washington (-6) 24-10
Dec. 14 Pittsburgh (-3) 9-13
Dec. 20 At Dallas (+5.5) 33-24
Dec. 28 Jacksonville (-11) 27-7
Jan. 4 At Miami (-3.5) 27-9
Jan. 10 At Tennessee (+3) 13-10
Jan. 18 At Pittsburgh
* Overtime
STEELERS SCHEDULE
Pointspread Refers to Pittsburgh
DATE OPPONENT SPREAD SCORE
Sept. 7 Houston (-6.5) 38-17
Sept. 14 At Cleveland (-7) 10-6
Sept. 21 At Philadelphia (+3.5) 6-15
Sept. 29 Baltimore (-6) 23-20*
Oct. 5 At Jacksonville (+5.5) 26-21
Oct. 12 BYE
Oct. 19 At Cincinnati (-8.5) 38-10
Oct. 26 New York Giants (-2.5) 14-21
Nov. 3 At Washington (+2.5) 23-6
Nov. 9 Indianapolis (-3.5) 20-24
Nov. 16 San Diego (-4.5) 11-10
Nov. 20 Cincinnati (-12) 27-10
Nov. 30 At New England (+2) 33-10
Dec. 7 Dallas (-3.5) 20-13
Dec. 14 At Baltimore (+3) 13-9
Dec. 21 At Tennessee (-3) 14-31
Dec. 28 Cleveland (-11.5) 31-0
Jan. 11 San Diego (-6.5) 35-24
Jan. 18 Baltimore
* Overtime
A
P
A
P
THE MATCHUPS
Sunday, Jan. 18, 6:30 p.m. ET
LOCATIONHeinz Field TURF DD Grassmaster MEETING OF THE YEAR Third






QB
RB
WR
OL
DL
LB
DB
ST
Coach
OVERVIEW
The Steelers are going for the ultimate sea-
son sweep of the Ravens. Athird win vs. Bal-
timore would put the Steelers in the Super
Bowl for the seventh time in franchise his-
tory. Meanwhile, the Ravens are looking to
exact the ultimate revenge they can exact vs.
their AFC North rivals: a win with a trip to
footballs biggest game on the line.
The regular-season matchups were
slugfests. The first game, a 23-20 OT win by
Pittsburgh on Sept. 29, saw the Ravens blow
a 10-point lead but come back to force an
extra period before falling. In the rematch
in Baltimore, the Steelers came back late to
win 13-9. The deciding play a four-yard
Ben Roethlisberger TD pass to Santonio
Holmes was one of the seasons most con-
troversial. Holmes was originally ruled
down at the Ravens one-yard line, but ref-
eree Walt Coleman overturned the play. The
win gave the Steelers the division title.
It also set the stage for Round Three.
13-5-0 Season record 13-4-0
14-4-0 Season record vs. spread 10-7-0
7-3-0 Home/road record 7-2-0
8-2-0 Home/road record vs. spread 5-4-0
5-1-0 Record on natural turf 10-4-0
6-0-0 Record on natural turf vs. spread 7-7-0
BALTIMORE RAVENS Advantage PITTSBURGH STEELERS
STEELERS DEPTH CHART
OFFENSE
SE 86 Ward / 85 Washington
OLT 78 Starks / 79 Essex / 66 Hills* / 65 Parquet
OLG 68 Kemoeatu / 79 Essex
C 62 Hartwig / 72 Stapleton
ORG 72 Stapleton / 79 Essex
ORT 74 Colon / 78 Starks / 79 Essex / 65 Parquet
TE 83 Miller / 89 Spaeth / 49 McHugh
FL 10 Holmes / 14 Sweed*
QB 7 Roethlisberger / 4 Leftwich / 2 Dixon*
RB 39 Parker / 21 Moore / 33 Russell
FB 38 Davis
DEFENSE
DLE 91 Aa. Smith / 90 Kirschke / 96 Roye
NT 98 Hampton / 76 Hoke / 71 Paxson
DRE 99 Keisel / 90 Kirschke / 93 Eason
LOLB 56 Woodley / 53 Davis* / 55 Bailey*
LILB 51 Farrior / 57 Fox
RILB 50 Foote / 94 Timmons
ROLB 92 Harrison / 54 Frazier
LCB 24 Taylor / 22 Gay / 37 Madison
RCB 20 McFadden / 26 Townsend / 31 Bryant
SS 43 Polamalu / 23 Carter
FS 25 Clark / 27 An. Smith
SPECIALISTS
P 17 Berger
PK 3 Reed
H 17 Berger
PR 10 Holmes
KR 33 Russell / 21 Moore / 38 C. Davis
LS 61 Retkofsky
* Rookie
RAVENS DEPTH CHART
OFFENSE
WR 89 Clayton / 15 Copper
OLT 71 Gaither / 78 Terry / 64 Cousins*
OLG 66 Grubbs / 65 Chester / 76 Hale*
C 60 Brown / 65 Chester
ORG 65 Chester / 78 Terry / 64 Cousins*
ORT 79 Anderson / 78 Terry / 69 Slaughter
TE 86 Heap / 83 Wilcox / 84 Jones
WR 85 Mason / 16 Figurs / 81 Ma. Smith*
QB 5 Flacco* / 10 T. Smith / 2 Bouman
RB 33 L. McClain /23 McGahee / 27 Rice* / 38 Parmele*
FB 42 Neal /33 L. McClain
DEFENSE
DRT 90 Pryce / 91 Douglas
NT 92 Ngata / 68 McKinney
DLT 94 Bannan / 91 Douglas
LOLB 95 Johnson / 53 J. McClain*
LILB 52 Lewis / 59 Greisen / 58 McCune
RILB 57 Scott / 51 Ayanbadejo
ROLB 55 Suggs / 50 Barnes
LCB 31 Washington / 41 Walker
RCB 22 Rolle / 35 Ivy / 25 Oglesby
SS 36 Leonhard / 28 Zbikowski*
FS 20 Reed / 43 Nakamura* / 39 Stone
SPECIALISTS
P 4 Koch
PK 3 Stover / 6 Hauschka*
H 4 Koch / 2 Bouman
PR 36 Leonhard /16 Figurs / 20 Reed
KR 28 Zbikowski* / 16 Figurs / 27 Rice* / 36 Leonhard
LS 70 Katula
* Rookie
28 Pro Football Weekly January 18, 2009
NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME PREVIEW
Brian Westbrook had one of his
best games against the Cards.
Karlos Dansby heads up a
resurgent Cardinals defense.
EAGLES
AT
CARDINALS
When the Eagles
have the ball
QB Donovan McNabb was benched in
the game prior to Week 13, a loss to the
Ravens, but head coach Andy Reid went
back to his starter against the Cardinals
on Thanksgiving night. McNabb re-
sponded with as strong a game as he has
had this season, completing 27-of-39
passes for 260 yards and four TDs.
But McNabb will be seeing a defense
that looks far different from the one he
carved up that night. In two playoff
games, Arizona has forced nine turnovers,
including seven interceptions (five against
the Panthers by five different players).
Previously unheralded players such as DE
Antonio Smith and CB Ralph Brown have
stepped up, CB Dominique Rodgers-Cro-
martie has developed into a playmaker
and standouts WLB Karlos Dansby, FS
Adrian Wilson and DT Darnell Dockett
have raised their games.
RB Brian Westbrook was a thorn in the
Cardinals side in the first meeting, col-
lecting 130 yards and four TDs on 25
touches, but he has had a tough time con-
sistently breaking runs of late. The Ea-
gles even have used Correll Buckhalter
more to keep Westbrook from wearing
down.
The Eagles passing targets are limit-
ed more so if Jason Avants knee injury
keeps him out but they have spread the
ball around to WRs DeSean Jackson and
Kevin Curtis, TEs Brent Celek and L.J.
Smith and the backs.
The Cardinals secondary has come up
big lately. Rodgers-Cromartie has ma-
tured quickly and can handle speed and
size; Brown has three interceptions in the
last three games; LCB Rod Hood had an
INT against the Panthers, but if theres
a weak link in coverage, its Hood.
When the Cardinals
have the ball
The Cardinals entered the playoffs
with an unbalanced offense but have
discovered a run game and are showing
toughness on the O-line, two things that
were lacking. Although the line is not con-
sidered a premier unit, the interior
namely undersized C Lyle Sendlein has
showed great improvement in the two
playoff wins, especially in run blocking.
QB Kurt Warner has limited his mis-
takes and looked crisper in the two play-
off wins, and that was without WR An-
quan Boldin for part of the Atlanta game
and all of the win over the Panthers.
Boldins hamstring should be healed
enough to play, but he could be limited.
Even without Boldin, the Cardinals took
advantage of WRLarry Fitzgeralds amaz-
ing jump-ball skills and separation abil-
ity at Carolina. He should see some ter-
rific one-on-one matchups with Eagles CB
Asante Samuel, who had another inter-
ception last week. Both Eagles safeties,
Brian Dawkins and Quintin Mikell, have
been playing oustanding ball the past two
months, and each had a pick of Warner
in the first meeting.
The Eagles love to bring pressure and
have a deep DL rotation. Their line-
backers and DBs are fast and instinctive
and also will be a part of coordinator Jim
Johnsons blitz package. The Cardinals
must be able to stay out of 3rd-and-long
situations in order to make life easier for
Warner.
They can do that by continuing to run
the ball as they have. RB Edgerrin James,
who was benched midseason and did not
play in the Week 13 game, has had two ef-
fective games as a runner and pass block-
er and can keep the Eagles honest if he
can run effectively between the tackles.
EAGLES SCHEDULE
Pointspread Refers to Philadelphia
DATE OPPONENT SPREAD SCORE
Sept. 7 St. Louis (-8.5) 38-3
Sept. 15 At Dallas (+6.5) 37-41
Sept. 21 Pittsburgh (-3.5) 15-6
Sept. 28 At Chicago (-3) 20-24
Oct. 5 Washington (-6.5) 17-23
Oct. 12 At San Francisco (-5) 40-26
Oct. 19 BYE
Oct. 26 Atlanta (-9.5) 27-14
Nov. 2 At Seattle (-7) 26-7
Nov. 9 New York Giants (-3) 31-36
Nov. 16 At Cincinnati (-9) 13-13*
Nov. 23 At Baltimore (+1.5) 7-36
Nov. 27 Arizona (-3) 48-20
Dec. 7 At N.Y. Giants (+7) 20-14
Dec. 15 Cleveland (-15.5) 30-10
Dec. 21 At Washington (-5.5) 3-10
Dec. 28 Dallas (-2) 44-6
Jan. 4 At Minnesota (-3) 26-14
Jan. 11 At N.Y. Giants (+4) 23-11
Jan. 18 At Arizona
* Overtime
CARDINALS SCHEDULE
Pointspread Refers to Arizona
DATE OPPONENT SPREAD SCORE
Sept. 7 At San Francisco (-2.5) 23-13
Sept. 14 Miami (-6.5) 31-10
Sept. 21 At Washington (+3) 17-24
Sept. 28 At New York Jets (+1) 35-56
Oct. 5 Buffalo (-2.5) 41-17
Oct. 12 Dallas (+5) 30-24*
Oct. 19 BYE
Oct. 26 At Carolina (+5) 23-27
Nov. 2 At St. Louis (-3) 34-13
Nov. 10 San Francisco (-10) 29-24
Nov. 16 At Seattle (-3) 26-20
Nov. 23 New York Giants (+3) 29-37
Nov. 27 At Philadelphia (+3) 20-48
Dec. 7 St. Louis (-15) 34-10
Dec. 14 Minnesota (-4) 14-35
Dec. 21 At New England (+8) 7-47
Dec. 28 Seattle (-7) 34-21
Jan. 3 Atlanta (-1.5) 30-24
Jan. 10 At Carolina (+10) 33-13
Jan. 18 Philadelphia
* Overtime
A
P
A
P
THE MATCHUPS
Sunday, Jan. 18, 3 p.m. ET
LOCATIONUniversity of Phoenix Stadium TURF Grass MEETING OF THE YEAR Second

QB
RB
WR
OL
DL
LB
DB
ST
Coach
OVERVIEW
Not since the organization resided in
Chicago and played its games in Comiskey
Park have the Cardinals reached a confer-
ence title game, the final NFC team to do so
since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger.
Both the Eagles and Cardinals won road
games against the top two seeds in the NFC,
the Giants and Panthers, to reach the con-
ference championship game. As late as
New Years Day, there was serious doubt that
either of these teams could win a playoff
game. Now the winner heads to Tampa for
the Super Bowl.
The Cardinals and Eagles met in Week 13
under far different circumstances. The Car-
dinals, with three days rest, traveled to
Philadelphia on Thanksgiving and were
throttled 48-20, as Eagles RB Brian West-
brook scored four TDs (two rushing, two re-
ceiving) and Cardinals QB Kurt Warner
threw three interceptions. The Eagles took
a 21-0 lead on three Westbrook TDs.
11-6-1 Season record 11-7-0
12-6-0 Season record vs. spread 11-7-0
5-4-1 Home/road record 7-2-0
6-4-0 Home/road record vs. spread 6-3-0
7-4-0 Record on natural turf 9-5-0
7-4-0 Record on natural turf vs. spread 9-5-0
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES Advantage ARIZONA CARDINALS
CARDINALS DEPTH CHART
OFFENSE
WR 11 Fitzgerald / 85 Urban / 87 Morey
OLT 69 Gandy / 72 Keith*
OLG 74 Wells / 61 E. Brown
C 63 Sendlein / 70 Ross
ORG 76 Lutui / 61 E. Brown
ORT 75 L. Brown / 68 Vallejo
TE 83 Spach / 82 Pope / 89 Patrick
WR 81 Boldin / 15 Breaston / 80 Doucet*
QB 13 Warner / 7 Leinart / 2 St. Pierre
RB 32 James / 28 Arrington / 34 Hightower*
FB 45 T. Smith / 46 Castille
DEFENSE
DLE 94 A. Smith / 91 Iwebema*
NT 97 B. Robinson / 98 Watson / 78 Branch
DT 90 Dockett / 93 Campbell*
DRE 55 LaBoy / 92 Berry
SLB 56 Okeafor / 52 Beisel / 57 Hobson
MLB 54 Hayes / 52 Beisel
WLB 58 Dansby / 51 Togafau
LCB 26 Hood / 20 R. Brown / 27 Adams
RCB 29 Rodgers-Cromartie* / 25 Green
SS 24 Wilson / 47 Francisco
FS 21 Rolle / 22 Ware
SPECIALISTS
P 5 Graham
PK 1 Rackers
H 5 Graham / 87 Morey
PR 15 Breaston / 21 Rolle / 26 Hood
KR 28 Arrington / 15 Breaston / 87 Morey
LS 48 Hodel / 84 Tuman
* Rookie
EAGLES DEPTH CHART
OFFENSE
WR 80 Curtis / 81 Avant / 84 Baskett
OLT 72 T. Thomas / 64 Patrick
OLG 79 Herremans / 68 McGlynn*
C 67 J. Jackson
ORG 59 N. Cole / 73 Andrews
ORT 69 Runyan / 74 Justice
TE 82 L.J. Smith / 87 Celek / 89 Schobel
WR 10 D. Jackson* / 83 G. Lewis / 86 R. Brown
QB 5 McNabb / 4 Kolb / 14 Feeley
RB 36 Westbrook / 28 Buckhalter / 25 Booker
FB 49 Klecko / 32 Eckel
DEFENSE
DLE 75 Parker / 78 Abiamiri / 91 Clemons
DLT 98 Patterson / 93 Laws
DRT 97 Bunkley
DRE 58 T. Cole / 90 Howard / 63 B. Smith*
SLB 57 Gocong / 50 Daniels
MLB 55 Bradley / 51 Mays*
WLB 56 Jordan / 96 Gaither / 54 White
LCB 22 Samuel / 21 Hanson
RCB 24 S. Brown / 26 Sheppard
SS 27 Mikell / 37 Considine
FS 20 Dawkins / 39 Demps*
SPECIALISTS
P 6 Rocca
PK 2 Akers
H 6 Rocca / 4 Kolb / 14 Feeley
PR 10 D. Jackson* / 39 Demps*
KR 39 Demps* / 28 Buckhalter
LS 46 Dorenbos
* Rookie
29 Pro Football Weekly January 18, 2009
DIVISIONAL PLAYOFF COVERAGE
30 Pro Football Weekly January 18, 2009
A
P
Derrick Masons 48-yard TD shifted momen-
tum as Baltimore took down the Titans.
RAVENS 13,
TITANS 10
SUMMARY In a slugfest, the Ravens and Ti-
tans traded barbs and blows, but rookie QB
Joe Flacco, PK Matt Stover and an oppor-
tunistic defense led Baltimore to an AFC
championship game berth. Flacco, who
completed 11-of-22 passes for 161 yards,
one touchdown and no interceptions, be-
came the first rookie quarterback in league
history to win two playoff games. On the
Ravens final drive, Flacco completed 2-of-4
throws, including an eight-yarder to WR
Mark Clayton, which set up Stovers game-
winning 43-yard field goal. Tennessee took
over from its own 35-yard line with 47 sec-
onds to play, but after completing his first
pass for five yards, QB Kerry Collins tossed
three incompletions, resulting in a turnover
on downs. Mistakes plagued head coach Jeff
Fishers club throughout the contest. The Ti-
tans gained more yards (391-211) and had
more first downs (21-9) but also had three
turnovers, none of which was more damag-
ing than TE Alge Crumplers fumble around
the Ravens 5-yard line in the fourth quarter,
ending a key drive when Ravens CB Fabian
Washington recovered it. Baltimore had no
turnovers. Tennessee, which marched out to
an early 7-0 lead on RB Chris Johnsons 8-
yard run, also hurt itself with penalties, com-
mitting 12 for 89 yards.
PLAYER OF THE GAME With no flashy stat
line to choose from, Flacco is the most obvi-
ous choice. On the road against a tough de-
fense on a big stage, the rookie from
Delaware made the plays Baltimore needed
to win. He deftly navigated the rough waters,
not allowing the daunting challenge to affect
him.
QUOTABLE Weve been confident in our-
selves all year, Flacco said. It seems like
weve been on the road for the longest time.
It doesnt matter to us. Were going to go out
there and battle the crowd, battle the other
team and give it our best. Its a little
shocking,Titans LB Keith Bulluck told re-
porters. You go out and play defense the
way you did. At the end of the day, realisti-
cally you have two, three turnovers inside
the 20, youre not supposed to win.
A
P
Larry Fitzgeralds scoring lunge was just part
of his monster night in an Arizona victory.
CARDINALS 33,
PANTHERS 13
SUMMARY The Cardinals werent supposed
to make this kind of playoff run. Not after
limping into the postseason with a 9-7
record, a lackluster running game, a wobbly
defense and no wins in the Eastern time
zone. In two consecutive weeks, Arizona has
defied odds, thanks to their wise, veteran
quarterback, dynamic wide receiver, im-
proved running back and solid defensive play.
In a 33-13 clubbing of the Panthers, QB Kurt
Warner completed 21-of-32 passes for 220
yards, two touchdowns and one interception,
WR Larry Fitzgerald had eight catches for
166 yards and a TD, and the defense forced
six turnovers, all by Panthers QB Jake Del-
homme (five interceptions, one fumble). Ari-
zona scored 23 points off the turnovers and
became the first team to beat Carolina at
Bank of America Stadium this season. With
the victory, they became the final NFC team
to advance to the conference championship
game since the 1970 merger. The Panthers
struck first when RB Jonathan Stewart ran
nine yards for a TD early in the first quarter,
but it was all downhill from there, and the
Cardinals took a commanding 27-7 lead into
halftime. Arizona PK Neil Rackers made 4-of-
5 field-goal kicks, connecting on attempts of
49, 30, 33 and 20 yards and also made a key
tackle on special teams, stopping Mark Jones
after a 38-yard kickoff return.
PLAYER OF THE GAME For the second
straight week, Fitzgerald takes home player
of the game honors for the Cardinals after
yet another stunning performance. Arizona
was shorthanded with Anquan Boldin inac-
tive while nursing a sore hamstring, but the
passing game didnt miss a beat thanks in
large part to Fitzgerald.
QUOTABLE Not many people had very
nice things to say about us and didnt give
us a chance, Cardinals head coach Ken
Whisenhunt said. I think weve showed we
can come to the East Coast and win a game.
We believe in ourselves. I like being the un-
derdog, and were going to continue to be
the underdog. It didnt happen for us
today and weve got a long time to think
about it, Panthers DE Julius Peppers said.
A
P
Donovan McNabb accounted for two TDs as
Philly knocked off the defending champs.
EAGLES 23,
GIANTS 11
SUMMARY The Eagles are headed to the
NFC championship game for the fifth time in
eight seasons. Two weeks ago they were
desperately clinging to their dwindling play-
off hopes, but after knocking off the defend-
ing Super Bowl champion Giants,
Philadelphia will travel to Arizona to face the
Cardinals with a Super Bowl berth on the
line. The Giants defense held up its end of
the bargain for the most part, limiting RB
Brian Westbrook to 36 yards on 18 carries
and 10 yards on two receptions. QB Dono-
van McNabb didnt overwhelm, either, com-
pleting 22-of-40 passes for a touchdown
and two interceptions; he ran in another TD.
However, he outplayed Eli Manning, who re-
gressed to his pre-2008 playoff form while
completing 15-of-29 throws for no TDs and
two picks. The Eagles trailed 8-7 after an in-
tentional grounding penalty on McNabb in
the endzone resulted in a safety and a field
goal on the ensuing possession, but David
Akers 25-yard field goal as time expired in
the first half put his team ahead. Akers
made all three of his field goals, extending
his NFL record to 18 straight postseason at-
tempts made.
PLAYERS OF THE GAME DT Brodrick Bunk-
ley and CB Asante Samuel share the honors.
Samuel picked off Manning in the first quar-
ter and returned it 25 yards to the Giants 2-
yard line, which set up Phillys first TD on
McNabbs one-yard sneak. Bunkley came up
huge in the fourth quarter, making two cru-
cial stops on fourth downs. He stuffed Man-
ning on 4th-and-1 and knocked RB Brandon
Jacobs back on a 4th-and-2 play.
QUOTABLE In the locker room, there was
so much energy in there, McNabb said. We
were ready to play early in the week. The city
of Philadelphia is buzzing; this team is
buzzing. It all comes down to what you
do in the playoffs, Manning said. That
makes your season a good one or a disap-
pointment. This is a disappointment. We felt
this was a special team that could go far.
The defense played outstanding today and
gave us opportunities. Offensively, we didnt
do our job.
A
P
Santonio Holmes 67-yard punt return for a
TD helped Pittsburgh get by the Chargers.
STEELERS 35,
CHARGERS 24
SUMMARY The Chargers were off to a good
start, thanks to a 41-yard touchdown pass
from Philip Rivers to Vincent Jackson, which
gave them the lead two minutes into the first
quarter. They fell behind, though, 14-10 at
halftime, and Pittsburgh took over after the
break. The Steelers ran 25 plays in the third
quarter and held the ball for all but 17 sec-
onds while the Chargers ran just one play.
RB Willie Parkers 16-yard touchdown run
with 4:11 left in the game sealed the victory,
and Pittsburgh, which advanced to the AFC
championship game for the third time in five
years, became the only home team to win in
the divisional round of the playoffs. Steelers
head coach Mike Tomlins stifling defense
held last weeks hero, Chargers RB Darren
Sproles, to just 15 yards on 11 carries in his
first career start. He did, however, have a 62-
yard TD catch and 63-yard kickoff return,
but it was far from enough. Steelers OLB
LaMarr Woodley had two sacks for minus-18
yards, and QB Ben Roethlisberger came
back from a Week 17 concussion to com-
plete 17-of-26 passes for 181 yards and a
touchdown. He was sacked only once.
PLAYER OF THE GAME Parker fueled the
Steelers attack, gaining 146 rushing yards
on 27 carries with two touchdowns. On
Pittsburghs final scoring drive, Parker
rushed five times for 53 yards, and his pow-
erful performance helped soften up San
Diegos defense, allowing Ben Roethlis-
berger to pick it apart with play-action
passes. This marked the first time Parker
broke out for more than 100 yards in a post-
season game.
QUOTABLE We knew we could do that,
Steelers WR Santonio Holmes said. Thats
Steelers football, run the ball. Pound them
down. Once we get them down, we can do
whatever we want to do with them. We
were standing on the sideline and it was like,
We were in for one play in the quarter and it
was an interception, said Rivers of the third
quarter, when the Chargers had the ball for
just one play. There was a little bit of disbe-
lief. You cant call it a fluke. Those guys
made plays, but that was crazy.
2009 NFL DRAFT ON THE CLOCK
31 Pro Football Weekly January 18, 2009
I
t is the storybook scenario: With the No.
1 pick in the 2009 NFL draft, the Lions
select Georgia QB Matthew Stafford,
and the Curse of Bobby Layne is broken.
Layne was the Lions quarterback when
they won three NFL titles and played for an-
other title in the 1950s. But the Lions trad-
ed him to Pittsburgh,
and legend has it, he
said they wouldnt win
for 50 years. The Li-
ons have had only one
Pro Bowl quarterback
and have won only one
playoff game since.
But now 50 years
have passed. The Lions
have bottomed out with
the NFLs first 0-16 sea-
son and hold the No. 1
pick in the draft. And
along comes Stafford
who went to the
same Texas high school
as Layne and another
Lions Hall of Famer
from the 50s, Doak
Walker.
Stafford is destined to
lead the Lions back to
glory, right?
Well, for now, Lions
fans only can dream.
It is difficult to pre-
dict what the Lions will
do with the first pick.
Stafford? Oklahoma QB
Sam Bradford? Alaba-
ma OLT Andre Smith?
Someone else? A trade?
General manager
Martin Mayhew hasnt
even hired a coach yet,
so no one knows what
kind of offense or defense the Lions will run
next season, and Mayhew has promised the
Lions will play better poker.
I think where weve hurt ourselves in the
past is by talking too much, Mayhew said.
Ive been there prior to the draft, and Ive seen
us get out there and talk about our needs and
what kind of players that were looking for, and
Ive seen you guys and others hone in on what
our needs are.
Mayhew already has given a glimpse of how
few glimpses he is going to give. Asked if he
believes he needs to
start building with a
quarterback or in the
trenches, he said: I
think you leave all your
options open. Asked
what he believes is the
most important build-
ing block, he said: I
think theyre all im-
portant. Youre talking
about 11 guys out there
trying to win a football
game, and every one
of them is important, in
my mind.
What we do know,
though, is that in May-
hew, the Lions will have
someone else calling
the shots on Draft Day,
and thanks to May-
hews trade of WR Roy
Williams to Dallas, he
has five picks in the
first three rounds to
begin his turnaround
plan.
Matt Millen wasted
picks from the top to
the bottom of the draft
the past eight years
a main reason the Li-
ons have an NFL-worst
31-97 record since 2001
and he was fired as
president in September.
Mayhew was right alongside Millen for
those drafts, a primary reason Lions fans are
skeptical that anything will change. It is
unknown how much Mayhew agreed or dis-
agreed with Millen over the years. Mayhew
wont go into specifics, but he cited examples
where the Lions made poor choices.
In 2003, the Lions took WR Charles
Rogers second overall instead of WR Andre
Johnson. In 05, the Lions took WR Mike
Williams 10th overall instead of OLB DeMar-
cus Ware or DE-OLB Shawne Merriman.
Rogers and Williams are out of football.
Johnson, Ware and Merriman are stars.
I think we have quality scouts, Mayhew
said. They have done a good job. When were
on the board talking about Mike Williams,
were talking about DeMarcus Ware and
Shawne Merriman in the same conversation.
The board is stacked the way it should be
stacked. I mean, the choice was Charles
Rogers or Andre Johnson. We didnt choose
the right guy, and it goes back to what I said
before about making better decisions.
The Lions need to make many better de-
cisions. Their bad decisions have left many
holes to fill.
It starts at quarterback. The Lions dont ap-
pear to have a franchise QB for the future.
Drew Stanton was a second-round pick in
2007, but he has struggled to stay healthy and
earn playing time his first two seasons. His
biggest strength is making plays with his feet,
and that doesnt match up with the strength
of the Lions best player, WR Calvin Johnson,
who makes plays downfield.
The defense desperately needs talent, es-
pecially in the back seven. The Lions finished
last in yards and points allowed the past two
seasons, and they allowed 517 points this sea-
son, second-most in NFL history. They had
only one interception by a defensive back, and
their opponents passer rating was 110.9.
Former head coach Rod Marinelli put an
emphasis on what he called football charac-
ter. He didnt care about your size; he cared
about how much you cared. He brought in
several players from his old team, the Bucca-
neers. But the Lions were small, slow and old.
Mayhew wants a bigger, faster team. A
smarter team, too. He said he plans to bring
back psychological testing.
You look at the guys who didnt make it,
a lot of it had to do with their mental make-
up, Mayhew said. It wasnt their talent on
the field. It wasnt what you saw on tape. We
have to do a better job of knowing these guys,
of really knowing them.
President Tom Lewand said the Lions no
longer can afford to fall in love with players
for whatever reason. They must stick to
their plan.
We need bigger players, Lewand said. We
need tough. We need smart. Then that means
you cant draft little, slow, less-intelligent guys.
Nicholas J. Cotsonika covers the Lions for the
Detroit Free Press.
Could Georgias Matthew Stafford break the curse put on the Lions by Bobby Layne?
Lions plan to keep their draft plans quiet By NICHOLAS J. COTSONIKA
BAILOUT BEGINS
NEXT ON THE CLOCK: ST. LOUIS
Its never too early to think about next season. After all, 28 of the 32 teams already
are. Ergo, its never too early to think about how Aprils NFL draft will shake out.
True, there are hundreds of workouts, the Senior Bowl, the NFL Scouting Com-
bine and countless hours of tape to pore over before teams can make up their final
draft boards. But that doesnt mean they dont have some idea what they badly
need and what they would like for 2009.
And so does PFW. We start at the top of the draft, picks one through four, taking
an in-depth look at the bottom four teams in terms of record the Lions, Rams,
Chiefs and Seahawks and what positions of need might take precedence when
they are on the clock. Its not as far away as you may think.
PICK NO. 1 / DETROIT
LIONS TOP 3 NEEDS
1. QB The Lions had five quarterbacks at-
tempt a pass in 2008, and when you have
five quarterbacks, you have none. Veterans
Daunte Culpepper and Jon Kitna might be
washed up. Dan Orlovsky is a free agent.
Drew Stanton has hardly played in two years.
Drew Henson is a reclamation project.
2. LB Even Ernie Sims, the ninth pick in
2006, didnt play well this season. The Lions
badly need size and speed guys who can
make plays and make an impact. Lions line-
backers combined for only one interception
and four sacks. Jordon Dizon, a second-
round pick in 08, could be a bust.
3. CB If the Lions decline their $8.6 million
option on Leigh Bodden at the beginning of
March, theyre really thin, even though Bod-
den was a disappointment in his first year
with the team. Bodden was the only Lions
defensive back to intercept a pass, and he
had only one. At least they have Daniel Bul-
locks and Gerald Alexander at safety.
WEB EXCLUSIVE
For a list of the top-three draft needs
for all 32 NFL teams, visit ProFootball-
Weekly.com.
READ IT ONLY ON:
P r o F o o t b a l l We e k l y . c o m
A
P
2009 NFL DRAFT ON THE CLOCK
I
n a philosophy that predates their arrival
in St. Louis 14 seasons ago, the Rams tra-
ditionally have deferred to the head
coach when it comes to the draft.
Team executives John Shaw and Jay Zyg-
munt always had veto power, but they nev-
er exercised it in St. Louis. Perhaps they
should have, given some of the teams du-
bious picks in recent years.
A simple: Were not going to let you draft
Jacoby Shepherd in the second round.
Or: Eric Crouch in Round Three? Over
my dead body!
Such an approach would have avoided
some wasted draft picks, not to mention
wasted money.
But the roster-shaping dynamics at Rams
Park changed on Christmas Eve. Thats
when Billy Devaney was promoted to gen-
eral manager. Zygmunt has stepped down,
ending his long association with the Rams
by mutual agreement between him and the
club. And Shaw has relinquished his title of
team president. In his new role as senior ad-
visor, Shaw will only marginally be in-
volved in so-called football matters.
That makes Devaney, a New Jersey native
and personnel disciple of Bobby Beathard,
the big man on campus at Rams Park.
And in an outwardly subtle, yet significant
change, Devaney will have final say on
Draft Day.
Its our job to bring in players that the
coaches want and like, and can help us, De-
vaney said. If theres a disagreement, its go-
ing to be our call to make. Once we get to
training camp, then it kind of flips over. Its
up to the coach. If they want to cut some-
body, thats his call.
Devaney broke into the NFL as a Redskins
scout under Beathard way back in 1979. De-
vaney worked side by side with Beathard over
the next 20 years in Washington and San
Diego and, suffice it to say, learned a lot.
But probably more
than anything, dont
get fixated so much
on just looking at a
guy, Devaney said.
He may be a dumpy
body guy who can still
play football.
Don't box people
in, put labels on them
necessarily. Be open-
minded and look for
football players. And
trust your instincts.
Trusting your in-
stincts means not wor-
rying about other peo-
ples evaluations of a
player. If you think
hes a second-rounder,
don t be concerned
that others have him
rated lower.
In general, Devaney
values production in
college much more
over 40-times or workout numbers. And hed
rather take a slightly lower-rated player with
exemplary character than someone whos a
better athlete but has some character issues.
Those are some of the guidelines that De-
vaney will follow as he tries to raise the Rams
out of a 5-27 mess over the past two seasons.
We want smart, productive and passion-
ate players. Were not going to compromise
on that. And were not going to deviate
from that character part.
Other than punter and placekicker, where
the Rams have one of the leagues best
tandems in Donnie Jones and Josh Brown,
there isnt an area on the roster that could-
nt use some form of an upgrade. Devaney
and the Rams are still paying for past sins.
From 2000-06, the Rams drafted 26
players in Rounds One, Two and Three
valuable real estate that once constituted the
first day of the draft. Only eight of those
26 players were still with the Rams enter-
ing the 08 season.
And of the 63 players drafted overall in the
seven drafts from 2000-06, RB Steven
Jackson is the only Pro Bowler.
We need to put a couple of drafts togeth-
er where we build up the young base of our
team, Devaney said. Thats our intention.
Were not looking for this little spike one year
and then go backwards. We want to be con-
sistent winners in this thing.
Even so, Devaney thinks the teams per-
sonnel isnt as bad as some might think.
I know it doesnt look that way right now,
but there is some talent here, he said.
People keep talking about this roster being
so bad. I dont think
thats the case.
Depending upon
what happens in free
agency, it seems almost
a certainty that the
Rams will take the best
offensive tackle avail-
able with the No. 2
overall pick in the draft.
Devaney undoubt-
edly will listen to trade
offers, of course, be-
cause the Rams are
more than a player or
two away from con-
tender status.
In general, Devaney
wants the Rams to get
bigger and stronger up
front on both sides
of the ball.
On offense, bigger
and better blockers will
help better utilize Jack-
son, who is easily the
teams biggest asset at this point. But its not
just linemen that are needed a true
lead-blocking fullback also is a must.
Even though there are lots of promising
pieces on the defensive fronts including
back-to-back first-round picks in end Chris
Long and tackle Adam Carriker the
Rams also need to get bigger in their front
seven.
The team yielded a franchise-record
2,475 yards rushing in 2008. The Rams are
simply too small, particularly at linebacker.
Jim Thomas covers the Rams for the St.
Louis Post-Dispatch.
The Rams will be looking closely at tackles like Virginias Eugene Monroe at No. 2.
PICK NO. 2 / ST. LOUIS
RAMS TOP 3 NEEDS
1. OT While still effective and very competi-
tive, OLT Orlando Pace isnt getting any
younger and has been plagued by injuries in
recent years. At right tackle, it looks like the
Rams have exhausted their patience with un-
derachieving Alex Barron, and theres no
guarantee hell be back with the team.
2. MLB For three seasons, the Rams tried to
talk themselves into thinking Will Wither-
spoon was a middle linebacker. It looks like
that experiment is over, and Witherspoon will
be switched back to his natural position on
the weak side. Abig, nasty run stuffer in the
middle is a must, and if hes also good enough
to play in coverage, thats a big bonus.
3. RB As good as Steven Jackson is, he has
missed all or parts of 10 games the past two
seasons due to injuries. The drop-off with
Jackson out of the lineup has been dramatic.
Thats why the Rams need a strong backup,
more than even a No. 2. Abig 1-Aback who
can also catch passes would be ideal.
B
R
U
C
E
L
.
S
C
H
W
A
R
T
Z
M
A
N
32 Pro Football Weekly January 18, 2009
New GM Devaney will have final say on Draft Day for Rams By JIM THOMAS
TIMES CHANGE
NEXT ON THE CLOCK: KANSAS CITY
33 Pro Football Weekly January 18, 2009
2009 NFL DRAFT ON THE CLOCK
W
hen he selected Derrick Thomas
with the fourth overall pick of the
1989 draft the first and most sig-
nificant player-personnel move of
his 20-year tenure as his teams top execu-
tive first-year Chiefs president/general
manager Carl Peterson said he never again
wanted to draft that high. To do so, he knew,
would mean the franchise was in deep
trouble, and he likely would be out of a job.
How prophetic.
Barring a change in the draft order before
April, K.C. will pick third, and Peterson wont
be around to make the selection.
After a rebuilding process he was slow to
embrace produced a club-worst 2-14 season
in 2008 a year after the 4-12 campaign of
07 Peterson departed Kansas City with
a year left on his contract after a 10-year slide
followed a meteoric
rise to prominence in
the first decade of his
reign.
The flashbacks to
1989 suddenly become
vivid again.
Kansas Citys new
GM, when eventually
selected by chairman
Clark Hunt, faces
many of the same chal-
lenges Peterson did af-
ter inheriting a club
with only two winning
seasons and one play-
off appearance from
1974-88.
Just as Peterson did
in making coach Mar-
ty Schottenheimer the
engineer of K.C.s turnaround in the 1990s,
Hunts new man will have selected his own
coach by the time he drafts his first player.
He can only hope hes as fortunate as Pe-
terson was in getting a player like Thomas,
the 11-year cornerstone of a team that made
seven playoff appearances in his first nine sea-
sons.
Kansas Citys new man will be in position
to make the teams most significant draft pick
in 20 years. Especially given the quarterback
field likely to be available at the top.
Unless he decides to play on the cheap with
Tyler Thigpen, a seventh-round 2007 draft
choice who was 1-10 as a starter last season,
or thinks he can keep the injury-prone
Brodie Croyle standing, the new GM likely
will have the opportunity to draft the kind
of franchise quarterback around whom re-
building projects are anchored.
The prospect of getting a Sam Bradford or
a Matthew Stafford looms, presuming Brad-
ford, a third-year sophomore, makes him-
self available, as expected.
The major question, however, is whether
Hunt gives his new man the financial re-
sources to make the $70 million commit-
ment necessary to sign an elite-level QB.
This will be a true test of direction. The
Chiefs, remember, havent used a first-
round pick on a quarterback since they blew
their chance in the historical QB class of
1983. In taking Todd Blackledge with the No.
7 pick while future Hall of Famers Jim Kel-
ly and Dan Marino were on the board, the
Chiefs got a quarterback who was beginning
his career as a broadcaster when Kelly was
taking teams to the Super Bowl.
In fairness, Kansas City did take some long
shots at developing a young QB during the
Peterson era, drafting Mike Elkins and
Matt Blundin with sec-
ond-round picks in the
early years. Nice try.
But Peterson gener-
ally preferred to pursue
someone elses already-
developed QB. He be-
came adept at acquir-
ing graybeards like Joe
Montana, Steve De-
Berg and Dave Krieg in
the last years of their
careers or castoffs like
Rich Gannon and
Trent Green in their
well-seasoned stages.
The best young
prospect, Elvis Grbac,
lasted only four sea-
sons.
The quarterback
prospect becomes especially intriguing for
a team with so many other needs, especial-
ly on defense.
Kansas City took some nice steps in 2008
by acquiring 12 draft picks three in the
controversial trade of disgruntled sack
leader Jared Allen to Minnesota.
And though they immediately turned
five rookies into starters DT Glenn
Dorsey, OLT Branden Albert and CBs Bran-
don Flowers, Brandon Carr and Maurice
Leggett the jury is still out on whether
these rookies will become difference makers.
Thats especially true of Dorsey, the supposed
cant-miss LSU phenom who didnt play any-
where close to his No. 5 selection in an un-
eventful first season.
Chiefs head coach Herm Edwards, who
played 11 players with three years experience
or less among the 22 starters in what like-
ly was his last game as Kansas Citys head
coach, insists the club did well filling posi-
tions of need through a two-year rebuilding
process one he sold to Hunt over initial
reservations from Peterson that favored
the draft almost exclusively over free agency.
On defense, I think three, maybe four, Ed-
wards said of unfilled positions. On offense,
probably two. Then were pretty good, in my
opinion, because 80 to 85 percent of these
kids are coming back. Theyre going to have
game experience and they ll be much more
mature as players.
We went from one of the oldest teams to
one of the youngest teams, added Ed-
wards, noting the average age of his roster
is just over 25. But theyve got to learn how
to be professional football players, and that
takes time. I know the maturity curve and
how long it takes to be a pro. A lot of these
kids were pressed to play a lot. Some of them
probably played too much. But at the end of
the day, the experience they gained is going
to help this football team.
Even if Edwards, Peterson and other ar-
chitects of the project arent around to see
its completion.
Rick Dean covers the Chiefs for the Tope-
ka Capital-Journal.
New Chiefs GM will need to decide between QB or D on Draft Day By RICK DEAN
QB CONTROVERSY
The Chiefs new brain trust must decide if Tyler Thigpen is their QB of the future.
PICK NO. 3 /
KANSAS CITY
CHIEFS TOP 3 NEEDS
1. DE After losing Jared Allen and his 15
1
2
sacks from 2007, the Chiefs set an NFL
record for futility with only 10 sacks as a
team in 08. The previous NFL low was 11
sacks by the Baltimore Colts in the strike-
shortened, nine-game 1982 season.
2. QB Although Tyler Thigpen showed signs
of moving the offense, especially after the
Pistol spread offense was installed to uti-
lize his scrambling abilities and comfort in
the shotgun, he didnt show the consistency
in 11 starts needed to win over a new GM.
3. LB Kansas City needs two, maybe three if
a new GM decides 2005 top pick Derrick
Johnson isnt a keeper.
A
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NEXT ON THE CLOCK: SEATTLE
34 Pro Football Weekly January 18, 2009
2009 NFL DRAFT ON THE CLOCK
W
here to begin with attempting to
right everything that went so wrong
in the Seahawks injury-influenced
slide in 2008 from four-time defending NFC
West champions to a 4-12 also-ran?
Holding the No. 4 pick in Aprils NFL draft
and two of the top 37 selections is a
good place to start.
For the first time since 1999, however,
Mike Holmgrens fingerprints will not be all
over the player the Seahawks decide to se-
lect. Holmgren has stepped away after 10
seasons as head coach, leaving club presi-
dent Tim Ruskell with even more autono-
my when it comes to shaping or reshap-
ing the roster for Jim Mora, the second-
ary coach the past two seasons and Ruskells
hand-picked successor to Holmgren.
Since coming to Seattle in 2005, Seattles
Ruskell-directed drafts
have been notable for
the businesslike ap-
proach he takes to
preparing for and then
executing the process:
Organization. A
scene you will never
see in the Seahawks
draft room: One man
standing up, pound-
ing his fist on the table
and proclaiming,
Were taking this guy
and I don t care
what anyone else has
to say!
Ruskell involves his
scouts and coaches in
the process. As former coach Chuck Knox
always said, The scouts can tell you if a guy
can play. Its the assistant coaches who can
tell you if the guy can play for you.
Ruskell also leans heavily on VP of play-
er personnel Ruston Webster, who organ-
izes the draft efforts and stacks the teams
board. When the Seahawks select a player
even when its as high as No. 4 it will
be after a consensus has been reached.
High-character players. Most teams use
red dots or some kind of hands-off indi-
cator for players who come with baggage or
blemishes. Ruskells standards are very
strict, and delving into a players back-
ground is a major factor in the evaluation
process, often halting it before it reaches the
serious stage.
Two obvious cases involved Ruskell final-
ly releasing former first-round draft choic-
es WR Koren Robinson (2001) and TE
Jerramy Stevens (02) because of off-field
problems. Robinson was re-signed in Sep-
tember only because the Seahawks were
down so many receivers.
Proven performers. No one-year won-
ders need apply, as Ruskell and Webster re-
fer to players who had one good, or even ex-
ceptional, season. They prefer four-year
starters from winning large-school pro-
grams, especially when selecting in the
first round.
That is part of our philosophy that the
guy has produced for a period of time, and
that you can figure out why that has hap-
pened, Ruskell said. That helps us: level
of competition, many years of production.
That just makes you feel a little bit better.
Size doesnt matter. Ruskells roots
remain firmly planted in those smaller,
but aggressive, attacking defenses he helped
build while with the Buccaneers.
Look no further than Lofa Tatupu for ev-
idence of that. Ruskell
not only drafted the
too-small, too-slow
middle linebacker
from USC in the sec-
ond round, he traded
up to ensure getting
Tatupu. All Tatupu has
done since arriving is
become the first play-
er in franchise history
to lead the team in
tackles for four consec-
utive seasons and be
voted to three Pro
Bowls.
Ruskell cut his draft-
ing teeth while working
for the Buccaneers,
where he learned from Jerry Angelo and Rich
McKay. Not surprisingly, Ruskells best se-
lections in four drafts with the Seahawks have
been defensive players: Tatupu and Leroy Hill
(third round) in 2005; DE Darryl Tapp
(second) in 2006; CB Josh Wilson (second)
and DT Brandon Mebane (third) in 2007.
He hasnt had as much success with his
first-round selections: C Chris Spencer
(05); CB Kelly Jennings (06); and the 06
trade with the Patriots to acquire WR
Deion Branch (which cost the Seahawks their
first-round pick in 07).
The problem this year: Where to begin?
Holding the No. 4 pick is like a smorgas-
bord for a team with hunger pangs at sev-
eral positions, and it will allow Ruskell to ad-
dress any of several needs:
A left tackle to eventually replace nine-
time Pro Bowl selection Walter Jones, whose
08 season ended prematurely when he
needed microfracture surgery on his left knee.
A quarterback to eventually replace
three-time Pro Bowler Matt Hasselbeck, who
was limited to seven starts in 08 because of
a bulging disc in his back.
A linebacker to step in should the club
decide against using its transition or fran-
chise tag on Leroy Hill, the clubs leading
tackler until the lingering effects of a stinger
sidelined him for the final four games.
A big-play safety to add some needed
punch to a pass defense that ranked last in
the NFL in 08.
A big-play wide receiver to bring the big
play back to a passing game that ranked 29th
in the league.
A big defensive tackle to add some mus-
cle to the middle of an undersized defense.
What the Seahawks accomplish in free
agency will alter their approach to the draft.
Clare Farnsworth covers the Seahawks for
the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
A big receiver like Texas Techs Michael Crabtree would fill a big need for the Seahawks.
PICK NO. 4 / SEATTLE
SEAHAWKS TOP 3 NEEDS
1. DT The Seahawks are wasting Lofa
Tatupus talents because they do not have a
tackle big enough or good enough to
keep blockers off their middle linebacker.
2. WR Its hard to watch Michael Crabtree
without fantasizing about what he could do to
help the Seahawks as the No. 4 overall pick.
But selecting WRs that high has been a high-
risk adventure in the past.
3. OT When you have a chance to acquire a
franchise-caliber left tackle, you dont hesi-
tate. Thats the situation the Seahawks find
themselves in, because of the quality of this
years OT class and the fact Walter Jones will
be 35 and coming off microfracture surgery.
A
P
Ruskells draft formula not likely to change in Seattle By CLARE FARNSWORTH
TRIED AND TRUE
AUDIBLES NFList
Ozzie Newsome had a chance to elevate Rex Ryan to head coach last year, and he didnt
do it. What does that tell you? Ozzie is one of the sharpest football guys I know. I dont
care what anyone in that organization says about Rex I didnt even have to ask the
question. They answered it for me. (Like) Wade Phillips (and) Romeo Crennel, some
guys are just meant to be lifelong coordinators.
Sooner or later, people will figure out
that (Eagles GM) Tom Heckert is the
downfall of that organization. I wish I had a
father who worked in the NFL. Thats what
it is. Thats all it is. The cronyism and nepo-
tism in this league is a joke.
Defensive line coaches do not make
good head coaches. Thats the last place I
would look if I were hiring a head coach.
(New Bears DL/assistant head coach) Rod
Marinelli could not run a defense on his
own. It was ranked last in the league two
years in a row. Thats embarrassing. Im
surprised there was not more of an outcry.
The only thing he is qualified to do is coach
the defensive line.
Brett Favre is done. Hes just not that
good anymore. It was a big mistake to
bring him to New York. Favre cost them the
playoffs. Thats why (GM Mike) Tannen-
baumthrew (Eric) Mangini under the bus.
(Tannenbaum) has no justification for
being where he is. If Im taking that team
over, the first thing I do is put Favre on the
blocks and evaluate the young quarter-
backs on the roster.
Why isnt Brad Childress on the hot
seat? What has he done to deserve his job?
The Vikings won the division by default.
Everyone knew they had a quarterback
problem last year, and they did nothing to
fix it. Brett Favre was not the answer.
Youve got to be able to develop one, and
Brad has not shown he can do that.
Everyone keeps talking about Josh Mc-
Daniels and what a sensation he is, but no
coach that has left (Bill) Belichick has had
success as a head coach. They have all
fallen on their faces. Do you think Belichick
shares everything with them? The only
guy to ever have success elsewhere came
underneath the personnel umbrella (Fal-
cons GM Thomas Dimitroff). Do you think
that might give (Scott) Pioli an itch?
I was told (Browns owner Randy
Lerners) ears really perked up when the
media told him that (Eric) Mangini was
available. Thats how he found out. I think
he sees Mangini as the next (Bill) Be-
lichick a guy who did a good job in his
first stop but just could not get along with
the media or meet high expectations.
When Belichick was in Cleveland, Mike
Lombardi was picking players. You can go
back and look at some of those drafts
they were awful. The problem in New York
was not Mangini. The problem was Mike
Tannenbaum. Hiring the right GM could
not be more critical. And Im not sure (the
Browns) dont have the right guy for the job
already in the building. (Director of player
personnel) T.J. McCreight has handled
the day-to-day responsibilities that most
GMs do while Phil (Savage) was on the
road scouting. He knows the scouts. He
knows the system. Picking players has not
been the problem in Cleveland. They have a
lot of talent on that roster. That was a
highly desirable job the owner has un-
limited pockets, the talent is there, a fran-
chise quarterback is already on the roster.
The problem there has been the coach-
ing. The fans might not like it if McCreight
became the guy. It would be too much of
the same. I could see the outcry, but the
best decision is not always the most popu-
lar one.
Leftwich gives Pittsburgh a
proven, reliable backup
By Mike Wilkening
Senior editor
We asked a panel of evaluators
for their thoughts on the No. 2
quarterbacks for the teams left in
the playoffs and to rank them in
order of preference. Heres the
list. All respondents participated
on the condition of anonymity:
1. Byron Leftwich / Steelers
(2008 stats: 21-of-36 passing,
303 yards, two TDs, no INTs; ca-
reer starts: 46; NFL experience:
six seasons). Judging from our
conversations with evaluators
around the league, Leftwich is the
top backup quarterback left in
these playoffs. Signed after Char-
lie Batch suffered a broken collar-
bone in August, Leftwich has fit
right in with the Steelers. Like
starter Ben Roethlisberger, Left-
wich comfortably operates out of
the shotgun and boasts a strong
arm. The feeling is that the Steel-
ers do not lose much with Left-
wich in the lineup. Based on the
knowledge of the game, the team
in the best shape would be Pitts-
burgh, one personnel man said.
Not only has (Leftwich) been a
starter, but he can throw the foot-
ball. He is not Roethlisberger, but
their style of play lines up well with
his style. Its not like (Titans QB
Kerry) Collins and Vince Young.
2. Matt Leinart / Cardinals
(2008 stats: 15-of-29 passing,
264 yards, one TD, one INT; career
starts: 16; NFL experience: three
seasons). Two years ago, Leinart
was one of the rising stars at his
position after throwing for 2,547
yards in his rookie season. Today,
Leinart is viewed quite differently. He largely
struggled in five starts in 07 before suffering
a broken collarbone, and he has spent this
season as Kurt Warners backup. Although the
past two seasons havent gone the way Leinart
planned, there are some who hold out hope
that hell bounce back. His best football is still
ahead of him, a panelist said.
3. Troy Smith / Ravens (2008 stats: 3-
of-4 passing, 82 yards, one TD, no INTs; career
starts: two; NFL experience: two seasons).
Smith was expected to be the Ravens starter
in 2008, but a tonsil infection sidelined him in
August and allowed Joe Flacco to take the
starting job. Factors working in Smiths favor:
The playoff stage is unlikely to intimidate him;
he made big plays in front of big crowds at
Ohio State. Hes mobile, and he has a fairly
strong arm. Also, his grasp of Cam Camerons
offense was strong enough to have had the
starting job all but locked up before his illness.
However, he has not played much this season,
so rust could be a factor. Hes a good football
player,one respondent said. Hes a good ath-
lete. He can do some things with his feet. I
think they would be in good hands with him.
However, another panelist was skeptical of the
Ravens ability to use a full playbook with
Smith in the lineup. Hes going to come in and
do Wildcat packages, the evaluator said.
4. Kevin Kolb / Eagles (2008 stats: 17-
of-34 passing, 144 yards, no TDs, four INTs; ca-
reer starts: zero; NFL experience: two
seasons). Kolb, drafted in the second round of
the 2007 draft, is widely assumed to be Dono-
van McNabbs eventual successor. And the
timetable for Kolbs ascension seemed to ac-
celerate when head coach Andy Reid pulled
McNabb at halftime of the Eagles Week 12
loss to Baltimore. But Kolb struggled mightily
in his only extended playing time, and McN-
abb was back in the starting lineup four days
later when Philadelphia hosted Arizona on
Thanksgiving Day. McNabb and the Eagles
rolled to victory, earned the final NFC playoff
spot and are now one game away from the
Super Bowl and you would be hard-pressed
to find anyone advocating a QB change at this
point. When he did get an opportunity to play,
he struggled, a panelist said.
A
P
Cardinals QB Matt Leinart has not started a game since
2007, but he played in each of Arizonas final three reg-
ular-season games.
The following quotes are from NFL scouts, coaches and front-office personnel, speaking
on the condition of anonymity.
35 Pro Football Weekly January 18, 2009
A
P
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