December 2014

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- Mike Sullivan is returning to his old job as the New York Giants' quarterbacks coach.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) -- A young Tom Brady and the New England Patriots grabbed three championships in his first four seasons as a starter.
There were plenty of big stories in the NFL world in 2014 , and we can probably expect a few more in 2015. Looking ahead to the next calendar year, what are some of the things we should be keeping an eye on in the NFL? Glad you asked ... 1. Who will be the biggest free agent on the market?  Let's assume Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant gets re-signed or stuck with the franchise tag. It's very hard to believe he's hitting free agency. Even if he did, Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh might still be No. 1 on the list. His franchise number is obscene ($26.7 million) so it's unlikely the Lions tag him, and he's come this far so why not test the open market? Yes he can be a bit dirty at times, but finding a disruptive force like this on the defensive line is just about impossible. Also battling Suh for the top spot: Kansas City Chiefs outside linebacker Justin Houston, fresh off a 22-sack season. 2. For the teams that can't sign Suh, who will be next on the free-agent priority list? Bryant, in the unlikely chance he reaches free agency, is a big one. Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray is a really interesting case in this era of not investing in running backs. Will a guy who won the rushing title by almost 500 yards really not get a big deal? The Denver Broncos have two stars, receiver Demaryius Thomas and tight end Julius Thomas, who they haven't locked up to extensions. Philadelphia Eagles receiver Jeremy Maclin, Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy (isn't that interesting?) and New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul are also big names about to hit the market. Though, with all players whose contracts will expire, teams have a bit of time to work out a new deal. NFL free agency begins on March 10 at 4 p.m. ET. [ Join FanDuel's $1.75M Wild Card fantasy league: $25 to enter; top 14,530 teams paid ] 3. Who will be the biggest name currently under contract that will be added to that free-agent list?  Darrelle Revis. The New England Patriots got the star cornerback as a nice one-year rental, although technically it was a two-year deal. He has had an exceptional season, but with a massive option looming he would have a $25 million cap hit next season. So, yeah, add Revis to that list of free agents. Although, like with all pending free agents, there's time to work things out before Revis hits free agency. 4. What about trades, will any big-name quarterbacks be moved? Jay Cutler is the most fascinating possibility. If some team takes him, it's basically a "get out of jail free" card for the Bears just one year into his massive contract. Would a team like the St. Louis Rams or Tennessee Titans do it? Don't underestimate teams' desperation at quarterback. Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III finished the season well enough that you'd think trading him would be off the table unless Washington got a great deal, but with that franchise, who knows? 5. Will Jameis Winston be the most hotly debated draft prospect ever? It's hard to think of anyone else who will reach the level of craziness we can expect for Winston. Maybe Johnny Manziel had more pre-draft debate, because he was a huge star in the social-media era and there were more on-field questions than we'll see with Winston. But whatever off-field stuff we heard about with Manziel was not to the same level of what we'll hear about with Winston. if Winston never had been in trouble through college, it's hard to imagine he wouldn't be the first pick. Now? We'll see on April 30 in Chicago, the site of this year's draft. 6. Will there be any big-name coaching hires? With so few openings (only five at the moment), and many hot assistants available, it seems unlikely. Adam Gase, Todd Bowles or Dan Quinn might be great hires but they aren't big names, at least not yet. The one name that has come up a couple times early in the process is Mike Shanahan, and for better or worse, that would be a big-name hire. 7. Will Roger Goodell survive another year? Don't forget, former FBI director Robert Mueller's report on Goodell's handling of the Ray Rice ordeal has yet to be released (but let's plan on it being released at 4:58 p.m. ET on some upcoming Friday, as is the NFL's wont). The results of that report or any other major misstep could put him in danger, but keep in mind that it certainly doesn't appear that the owners who are making a ton of money under Goodell's watch want him out, and they're the only ones who matter for this question. 8. Will anyone have an Odell Beckham-like breakout in 2015? There are a few good receivers like Alabama's Amari Cooper and Louisville's DeVante Parker in the draft that could be instant stars, as could Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon or Georgia's Todd Gurley if he's healthy. Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota and Winston should start right away. But one returning player to watch is Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. His great December after the Vikings were off the radar (72.3 completion percentage, a fantastic 9.2 yards per attempt and a 99.8 quarterback rating) gives hope that he can be a legitimate star in the NFL. 9. What will happen with Peyton Manning? Manning slowed down late in 2014, to the point the Denver Broncos started building their offense around running back C.J. Anderson, a virtual unknown two months ago. Manning's December numbers of three touchdowns, six interceptions and 76.8 rating point to something being wrong, whether it was undisclosed injury, aging, a common slump or just a small sample size. It will be very interesting to see how he performs in the playoffs. He'll turn 39 in April of 2015, and it's no secret the NFL's biggest star is closing in on retirement. We just don't know when that will happen. 10. Who will win the Super Bowl? New England Patriots. Though nobody would be surprised if the Seattle Seahawks won it again. If any of the other 10 playoff teams took home the Vince Lombardi Trophy, it would be a fairly surprising result, though not impossible. But it would be an upset. - - - - - - - Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab
The NFL in 2014 — for better or worse — has been a memorable year. From the Seattle Seahawks winning their first Super Bowl title to the domestic violence scourge, there have been no shortage of storylines the past 365 days. [ Join FanDuel's $1.75M Wild Card fantasy league: $25 to enter; top 14,530 teams paid ] Here's a month-by-month look at the stories that resonated the most: JANUARY The Seahawks started their Super Bowl run with home wins over the New Orleans Saints and San Francisco 49ers — each exciting, one-score games, with the NFC championship game capped by a Richard Sherman tip that led to the game-ending interception and an interview ("Crabtree!!") with Fox Sports' Erin Andrews that few will forget. The Seahawks would go on to demolish Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in XLVIII, the first Bowl played in the New York area. (It happened on February 2, but work with us here.) Russell Wilson became a household name, and the Seahawks' defense rose to prominence as one of the finest units the NFL has seen in recent years. FEBRUARY On the eve of the NFL scouting combine, reports emerged of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice hitting his wife at an Atlantic City hotel, leading to team officials meeting with Rice and trying to unravel a story that would linger for months. The other big story was the announcement of Missouri defensive end Michael Sam, who told the NFL world he is gay. Although Sam is currently out of the league, the story resonated through the league as a historic and fascinating moment. MARCH Two strange stories commanded the league's attention. Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay was arrested on suspicion of intoxicated driving, with police finding multiple prescription drugs and a large amount of cash inside his vehicle and Irsay having failed a roadside sobriety test. At the end of the month, the NFL — and several celebrities — descended on College Station, Texas, for the pro day of Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, who put on a show while wearing his helmet with rock music blaring throughout in a workout that few league observers could remember the likes of. Former president George H.W. Bush, former first lady Barbara Bush and their dog appeared to enjoy the performance. APRIL Typically one of the quieter months, this past April was no different. But there were two very interesting speedsters who left their longtime digs for greener pastures. Or, more aptly, they weren't welcomed back to their old homes. The departure of DeSean Jackson to the Washington Redskins was for more green, aka money, than the Eagles — who released Jackson for what they said were "football reasons" — were willing to pay. The move ended up hurting the Eagles, who missed the postseason, than it did help the Redskins. But the only green Chris Johnson saw was on his uniform. The self-proclaimed NFL's fastest man added little to a New York Jets offense that eventually would phase him out fairly quickly, at least as a feature back. His former team, the Tennessee Titans, didn't appear to miss him, but they did finish even worse off than the Jets at 2-14.  MAY In an NFL draft that will go down as one of the more interesting in recent memory, an exciting first round kicked off with the pick of Jadeveon Clowney to the Houston Texans, was sandwiched by the semi-slide of Manziel (who ended up with the Cleveland Browns after their slew of trades) and was capped by the trade-up pick of Teddy Bridgewater to the Minnesota Vikings. Two days later, in one of the more meaningful third days of the draft anyone can remember, the St. Louis Rams made Sam — the first openly gay prospect in league history — the 249th pick in the draft. JUNE The death of longtime Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Chuck Noll, 82, who ran the team from 1969-91 and led the Steelers to four Super Bowl championships, resonated through the football world. Noll was the quiet, guiding voice behind one of the true NFL dynasties with the "Steel Curtain" teams of the 1970s, and he left the game with an impeccable coaching mark of 209-156-1. Asked in 2007 by Sports Illustrated how he wanted to be remembered, Noll said: “A person who could adapt to a world of constant change. But most of all as a teacher.” That was indeed his legacy.  JULY After being embroiled in a bitter contract dispute that saw him shackled with a franchise tag he wanted no part of, Jimmy Graham and the New Orleans Saints came to an agreement on a contract extension for four years and $40 million, including $21 million guaranteed. The deal came right at the deadline of when the two sides could work out a new deal, and it ended the debate — tight end or receiver? — of what position Graham really played, per the parameters of the franchise designation and his role in the Saints' offense. AUGUST In late March, beloved Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson died, and the league honored the franchise and Wilson at the Pro Football Hall Of Fame game in Canton, Ohio, with a Bills-centric celebration that saw the induction of wide receiver Andre Reed and the appearance of a weak, but newly cancer-free Jim Kelly. The rest of the month celebrated the return of football, but it seemed there were daily reports coming out of Berea, Ohio, on the quarterback battle for the Cleveland Browns: Manziel vs. Brian Hoyer. Hoyer would win the job and keep it for most of the season, playing well at times but slowing down at the end and giving way to Manziel late in the season. Manziel struggled in the preseason for the most part, and he was not great when he got his regular-season chance, making a lot of that hype feel quite empty now. SEPTEMBER In a week unlike any other in NFL history, domestic abuse came to the forefront of the league and put commissioner Roger Goodell squarely in the public crosshairs. The video of the Rice incident emerged, and three other NFL players — Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy, Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson and Arizona Cardinals running back Jonathan Dwyer — were charged with domestic abuse crimes. In addition, San Francisco 49ers defensive lineman Ray McDonald was investigated in his own domestic violence case, as the issue in the NFL became front-page news and Goodell took heat for how the NFL was handling the cases. Rice's two-game suspension (which later was increased to an indefinite one) drew the ire of people across the nation. In the league's biggest game this month — and perhaps one of the more fascinating battles of the season — the upstart Dallas Cowboys shocked the Seahawks with an eye-opening 30-23 victory that was more dominant than the score indicated.  OCTOBER Earning chants of "Brady, Brady!" in a week unlike any he has experience in New England, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady led a 43-17 demolishing of the previously unbeaten Cincinnati Bengals in Week 5. Brady completed 23-of-35 passes for 292 yards and two touchdowns, one of them to Rob Gronkowski, who would start to regain his form as the dominant tight end in the NFL. The Patriots' victory kicked off a seven-game win streak, and 10 wins in their next 11 games, to clinch another division title and the top seed in the AFC playoffs. NOVEMBER New York Giants rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. kicked off his torching of the NFL with his — and the league's — signature on-field moment of the season. Beckham made a catch that defied belief and set the internet on fire: a Gumbi-like, one-handed (really two-fingered) grab in the Week 12 game against the Cowboys. It was the play of the year, kick-starting Beckham's unbelievable statistical achievement in Year 1 in the league. DECEMBER The Seahawks, Patriots, Packers and Broncos all earned top-two seeds and first-round byes but did so in almost anticlimactic fashion. Meanwhile, a few of the wildcard teams got into the derby in stranger fashion. The Arizona Cardinals, who started the season 9-1, slumped down the stretch following quarterback injuries and limped in. The Carolina Panthers, who went two months without winning a game, shockingly swiped the NFC South crown. And the Cowboys, often mocked as December failures, grabbed the steer by the horns and stole the NFC East from the Eagles in a tremendous season. As always, Black Monday is a dark day on the NFL calendar, and 2014 was no different. Dec. 29 marked the firing of four NFL head coaches, but none were bigger than the departure of Jim Harbaugh from the San Francisco 49ers. The tension between the successful Harbaugh and the management duo of owner Jed York and GM Trent Baalke grew seemingly each day and month from the offseason reports that the two sides were reaching the point of irreconcilable differences. Two other franchises — the Chicago Bears and New York Jets — fired both their head coach and general manager, as the Rex Ryan era in New York came to a foreseeable end.  - - - - - - - Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- Retaining coach Tom Coughlin for 2015 was only the start of what promises to be a busy offseason to-do list for ownership, the coaching staff, and general manager Jerry Reese.
BALTIMORE (AP) -- The security director of the Baltimore Ravens was charged Tuesday night with a sex offense and is due in court in February, according to court records.
A little more than 24 hours after Black Monday, we have our first idea of how teams will go about replacing their fired head coaches. Five in all — the Atlanta Falcons, Chicago Bears, New York Jets, Oakland Raiders and San Francisco 49ers — are conducting coaching searches. [ Join FanDuel's $1.75M Wild Card fantasy league: $25 to enter; top 14,530 teams paid ] Here's the latest, team by team, on how those searches are going: Atlanta Falcons: After firing head coach Mike Smith, the team wasted no time requesting permission to interview five current NFL coordinators, all of whom work for teams in the playoffs: Teryl Austin (Detroit Lions defensive coordinator), Todd Bowles (Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator), Adam Gase (Denver Broncos offensive coordinator), Josh McDaniels (New England Patriots offensive coordinator), Dan Quinn (Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator). The three youngest candidates — Gase (36), McDaniels (38) and Quinn (44) — can interview immediately because their teams have byes. The two oldest candidates, Austin (49) and Bowles (51), can't be interviewed until their respective teams are knocked from the postseason. The Falcons also will interview Rex Ryan, per the New York Post, and he'd have to be viewed as a strong candidate for the job. Chicago Bears: In addition to seeking a new head coach after firing Marc Trestman, the Bears also will need a new general manager after also firing Phil Emery. The team has enlisted former Baltimore Colts and New York Giants GM Ernie Accorsi to help guide the search. It appears that the order of business will be to hire the general manager first, before signing a head coach, although it's not clear if the new GM would have input in hiring the head coach if it occured in that order. Chicago Tribune's Rich Campbell is reporting that three early candidates have emerged — Baltimore Ravens director of pro personnel Vince Newsome, New York Giants vice president of player evaluation Marc Ross and Tennessee Titans vice president of player personnel Lake Dawson — who have been recommended to Accorsi by Fritz Pollard Alliance chairman John Wooten. Ross, Newsome and Dawson each would satisfy the league's Rooney Rule, which requires teams to interview at least one minority candidate for head coaching jobs, as well as top front-office vacancies. New York Jets: Like the Bears, the Jets are seeking both a head coach and a GM — after firing Ryan and John Idzik — and some of the names for those searches, which appear to be going on concurrently, are starting to leak out. According to ESPN New York , there are six known GM candidates with whom the team has sought interviews: Seahawks director of pro personnel Trent Kirchner; Baltimore Ravens assistant GM Eric DeCosta; Houston Texans director of college scouting  Mike Maccagnon; Philadelphia Eagles director of pro personnel Rick Mueller; Cleveland Browns executive chief of staff Bill Kuharich; and Jets senior director of football administration Rod Graves. Vikings assistant GM George Paton declined an intervew request, according to a report from the New York Daily News' Manish Mehta . According to the New York Post , there are at least six known head coaching candidates the team will speak with: Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles; Seahawks offensive line/assistant head coach Tom Cable; Ravens offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak; Jets assistant head coach/running backs Anthony Lynn; San Diego Chargers offensive coordinator Frank Reich; and Quinn. Oakland Raiders: Interim head coach Tony Sparano did well enough taking over for the fired Dennis Allen to earn himself an interview for the permanent job, and he's confident enough in his abilities to have said after the season, "This is my team." That remains to be seen, and it won't become his team (if it does at all) before the team goes through a series of interviews with other candidates. Among the known ones, culled from various media reports: 49ers tight ends coach Eric Mangini, Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, Eagles offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur and Bowles. What do they have in common? Head coaching experience — all of them have been NFL head coaches, with Bowles having served three games as interim head coach with the Miami Dolphins after he — circle-of-life irony — replaced Sparano in 2011. San Francisco 49ers: In addition to his Falcons interview, Ryan will meet with the 49ers, which would be a fascinating match following the Jim Harbaugh era. Fox Sports' Mike Garafolo first reported that the Niners also will meet with Quinn. He'll be the first outside candidate the team speaks with after interviewing former Harbaugh lieutenant, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. It's believed, too, that 49ers D-line coach Jim Tomsula, who is well-respected in the team's locker room, will vie for Harbaugh's departed post. Other names connected to the search: Quinn, Bowles and McDaniels, who was believed to be a strong candidate in 2011 in case their No. 1 preference didn't accept the job. That No. 1 choice, of course, was Harbaugh. - - - - - - - Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm
CHICAGO (AP) -- At least three potential candidates for the Chicago Bears' GM job have emerged.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- Coach Tom Coughlin and general manager Jerry Reese are getting one more chance to turn around the New York Giants - or else.
(Reuters) - Tom Coughlin has retained his post as head coach of the New York Giants, despite the team's failure to reach the playoffs since 2011, co-owner John Mara announced on Tuesday. The Giants went 6-10 in the National Football League regular season that ended on Sunday, but Mara said he still had faith in Coughlin and general manager Jerry Reese, who will also keep his job. "It's been a very difficult year for our fans. It's been even a more difficult year for me because I don't stomach this very well but I do think there is reason for optimism," Mara told reporters. ...

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