Posted on: March 6, 2012 7:01 pm

Loyalty? No such thing in the NFL.

The NFL is a nasty business. There is no such thing as loyalty -- on either side.

I hate the word.

It doesn't apply.

See: Peyton Manning.

It doesn't matter what you have done, what stadiums you helped built, what Super Bowls you brought to a sleepy little city, if you're breaking down and the price is too high, you are expendable.

The Indianapolis Colts are parting ways Wednesday with Manning, a decision helped along by a $28-million roster bonus he is due and the uncertainty about his health after suffering a neck injury. 

Even so, it should be a message to the rest of the NFL players that there is no loyalty. If Peyton Manning can go, so can you.

Get what you can when you can. There is a "me" in team.

Posted on: March 3, 2012 3:56 pm

Brees taking care of Brees

They will call Drew Brees selfish.

He's thinking about himself -- and just himself.

How dare he not take a deal that would make him the highest-paid player in the NFL and instead force the Saints to use the franchise tag on him to keep him off the market?

Here's what I say to that: Brees has to do what he feels is best for himself. There are a lot of people out there who will say Brees should have signed a deal with the Saints to help the team get some cap relief to sign Carl Nicks and Marques Colston before free agency.

That's not his duty. He serves himself. He's an independent contractor. If he and his agent don't like the deal the Saints have offered, they don't take it.

The other part is on the team. They need to make it work.

Having said all that, let's get off this Brees-is-the-savior of New Orleans talk while we're at it. If this negotiation has taught us anything, it's that all players -- no matter what image they portray -- are in it for themselves.

Never forget that.

But don't get mad at Brees. He's looking out for No. 9 -- or in this case, as it always is, No. 1.

Category: NFL
Posted on: March 1, 2012 5:31 pm
Edited on: March 1, 2012 5:36 pm

Franchise tags start flying

Get ready for a lot of franchise tags to get used.

"Why wouldn't you?" one NFC general manager said. "It's getting a good player for one year without much risk. It makes sense for teams that don't have cap issues. You keep your own."

We saw the beginning of it Thursday when the Eagles put the franchise tag on receiver DeSean Jackson as expected, and word got out that the Raiders have told safety Tyvon Branch that he will be tagged.

It makes sense. You can get a player for a one-year deal -- if he doesn't agree to a long-term deal -- without much risk.

In Jackson's case, it really makes sense. The Eagles had issues with him last year. He has to show those are behind before they give him a long-term deal.

I know tagging him is what I would have done.

Show me you can produce for a year without incident. There's no question he has star potential, but it's more than just ability.

As for Branch, he should have been on the Pro Bowl team last year. He had an impressive season at a weak position in the NFL. It makes sense for the Raiders to keep him.

These are just the first two to get tagged. Get ready for a lot more -- even some you wouldn't expect.

Posted on: February 20, 2012 4:24 pm
Edited on: February 20, 2012 6:03 pm

Rice might not want to mention Peterson

Memo to Ray Rice: Don't use the name of Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson's name in your contract talks.

All the Baltimore Ravens need to do is point to Peterson as a reason why Rice, the team's star runner, shouldn't get a huge contract, much like the one Peterson signed last year and much like the one he reportedly wants.

Peterson, you see, is coming off a major knee injury. While medicine and Peterson's drive will help him overcome what was once a career-shortening injury, there's no saying for certain he will be the same player.

Vikings fans hope he will be.

Football fans, in general, should too.

But there are no guarantees with backs with major knee injuries. That's why it's so risky to pay free-agent backs long-term deals.

Rice is still young at 25 and the Ravens would be wise to lock him up to a long-term deal, but only if it's the right price. They can't go nuts. Backs just aren't worth it -- even great ones.

The Giants just won a Super Bowl with the 32nd-ranked running game in the NFL. Need more proof?

Peterson signed a seven-year, $100-million contract last September with $40 million in the first three years.

Whether he lives up that deal is uncertain now. He's young enough that he can bounce back, but the question we don't have the answer to is whether he will be the same.

Running backs are being phased out of the offenses. Teams are using two more than ever. They're also throwing it more.

So again I say this to Ray Rice: Don't mention Peterson, or Chris Johnson for that matter, in your contract talks.

Category: NFL
Posted on: January 23, 2012 12:28 pm
Edited on: January 23, 2012 12:57 pm

Monday Musings: Coughlin in no rush to retire

SAN FRANCISCO -- If you think New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin is going to walk away from the game if he wins Super Bowl XLVI, think again.

Even though Coughlin is 65, and would become the oldest coach to win a Super Bowl, he told me Sunday night there is no way he is retiring.

"I feel good," Coughlin said "Retire to do what?"

Coughlin has one more year left on his Giants deal, so expect the Giants to give him a new contract after the season.

One thing about Coughlin, he still has the vigor for the job. There is no letup. You talk to his players, and he's the same guy he was 17 years ago when he became an NFL head coach.

Coughlin has eased up enough that he no longer seems as stressed about the job. He gets relief from the game through his family, including 10 grandchildren. In fact, he almost seems grandfatherly now compared to the coach who came into the league.

"I still love what I do," Coughlin said.

It shows. And why should he retire? Isn't he now considered one of the best in the league?

• The Tampa Bay Buccaneers should be thrilled that Oregon coach Chip Kelly pulled out of any chance of his becoming their coach. Kelly's gimmicky style can work in the college game, but it wouldn't have stood a chance in the NFL. His calling card is that wild offense he runs, but in the NFL there was no way it could work. I love Kelly as a college coach. Not in the NFL. The word is it was the Glazer family, the owners of the team, who pursued Kelly, not general manager Mark Dominik. The Bucs should take a look at Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride. He has a great track record with quarterbacks and would be a nice fit for Josh Freeman. Why he doesn't get an interview is a mystery to me. 

• It sickened me to hear that fans were putting out threats to 49ers receiver Kyle Williams after he fumbled two punts away in the team's loss to the Giants.  It's really a bad representation of 49ers fans. But it's usually a vocal minority. 

• Candlestick Park is a dump. The 49ers should be ashamed of that stadium, which is why they want a new one. The league should make it happen. I wouldn't pay to see a game in that facility. It's terrible. Many of the bulbs on the stadium lights never went on, making for a dark field. That should never happen during an event as big as the NFC Championship Game.

• The 49ers lack deep speed. That was evident in their loss to the Giants. Michael Crabtree doesn't run very well and they lack a big-play guy on the other side, although Williams has potential. They need to give Alex Smith more help.

• 49ers defensive tackle Ray McDonald doesn't get the due he deserves playing next to Justin Smith, but he showed his true ability against the Giants with two sacks and stellar play against the run. The 49ers made a wise move re-signing McDonald before the season.

• I know a lot of people will blame Billy Cundiff for the Ravens losing to the Patriots because of his missed field goal from 32 yards. But some of the blame has to go to coach John Harbaugh. On third-and-1 from the 14, the Ravens should have run the ball to get a first down, then spiked it and run two more plays. They needed a yard. But Joe Flacco threw an incomplete pass and they had to kick. They also had a timeout if they needed it. They took that home with them, even though they had to rush to get the kick off. Cundiff choked on his kick, but he wasn't alone.

• Credit to Joe Flacco. He outplayed Tom Brady. Maybe Ed Reed needs to light him up every week.

• If defense and running game wins championships, how come the Giants-Patriots Super Bowl features teams ranked 20th (Pats) and 32nd (Giants) in rushing and 24th (Giants) and 31st (Patriots) in total defense?

• New Rams coach Jeff Fisher isn't backing off his vision of being a run-heavy team. Hey, Jeff. It's 2012. You can't win that way. Look at the two teams left playing. The Giants were last in the NFL in yards per attempt and the Patriots were 24th.

• For all the crap the Falcons take for losing their first playoff game in three of the last four seasons, the teams they lost to all went to the Super Bowl. They lost to the Cardinals in 2008, the Packers in 2010 and the Giants this season. 

• Love the hire of Joe Philbin by the Dolphins. It's nice to see teams take chances on young coaches. After what he's been through, losing a child, it has to be bittersweet.

• I also think the Saints got a great hire in Steve Spagnuolo to run the defense. He will improve that side of the ball. You watch.

Posted on: January 22, 2012 10:34 pm

Giants-Patriots again

SAN FRANCISCO -- The New York Giants must like overtime in NFC Championship Games -- at least recently.

It was good to them again Sunday.

For the second time in the past five years, the Giants advanced to the Super Bowl with a dramatic overtime victory over the San Francisco 49ers, winning 20-17. They won when Lawrence Tynes nailed a 31-yard field goal to win it when Kyle Williams lost a fumble on a punt in the overtime to set it up.The Giants advanced to the Super Bowl XLVI to play the New England Patriots -- a rematch of the Super Bowl XLII, which was won by the Giants.

Sunday's game was tied at 17 at the end of regulation before the Giants won it in the extra period.

Eli Manning is now going to his second Super Bowl, tying brother Peyton Manning with two each. Both have won one, so Eli Manning now has a chance to surpass his big brother in number of rings.

Posted on: January 19, 2012 6:00 pm
Edited on: January 19, 2012 6:02 pm

Championship Game Matchups: Mankins vs. Ngata

Patriots guard Logan Mankins vs. Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata -- This is a battle of two perennial Pro Bowl players who haven't quite had the seasons that many expected. Even so, they're still good football players. Ngata has been blocked more this season than any other of his recent years. Mankins is a physical player who is among the NFL's best when he's at the top of his game. He has to move Ngata if the Patriots are to have any chance to run.

Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul vs. 49ers tackle Joe Staley -- It all starts for the Giants up front with Pierre-Paul. He is a physical freak who can influence the game with his pass rush. Staley is a solid player in pass protection, but the 49ers helped him a lot in the first game. I look for them to do the same here.

Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs vs. Patriots tackles Nate Solder and Matt Light -- Suggs is the best pass rusher for the Ravens, but he didn't get a sack last week against the Texans. Solder and Light shut out Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil last week. Suggs plays both sides on defense, so both players will have their chances against him. They can't allow him to get going. He tends to get sacks in bunches. 

Ravens center Matt Birk vs. Patriots defensive tackles Kyle Love and Vince Wilfork -- Birk isn't as powerful as he once was, so I would expect the Patriots to keep a player on his nose for most of the game. If they can control the middle, it will make it tough for Ray Rice to get going. In the 2009 game, Birk got a great block on Wilfork to spring Rice for an 83-yard touchdown run on the first play of the game.

Giants receivers Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz vs. 49ers corners Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown -- Nicks and Cruz are a handful for whoever they face. Nicks is big and fast, while Cruz is small and quick. Rogers has had an outstanding season, one that will get him a fat contract as a free agent. Brown has been solid. The 49ers used a lot of zone in the first meeting, so it will be interesting to see if they change it up.

49ers tight end Vernon Davis vs. Giants safeties Kenny Phillips and Antrel Rolle -- Davis had 180 receiving yards last week against the Saints, including the game-winning score in the final seconds. The 49ers love to move him around a lot in their formations, lining him up both wide and in-line. That makes him a tough player to defend. He did catch a touchdown pass in the first game between the teams in Week 10, but the Giants did a pretty good job on him most of that game. I would expect the two safeties to spend a lot of time on him. There's also a chance dime safety Deon Grant could play him some.

49ers outside linebacker/defensive end Aldon Smith vs. Giants left tackle David Diehl -- There are some out there who think Diehl is horrible. He isn't. But he will have his hands full with Smith in passing situations. The rookie outside rusher from Missouri has become a real force off the edge. Diehl has to be able to hold up against him if Eli Manning is to have time to make big throws down the field.

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski vs. Ravens safety Ed Reed -- How do you stop Gronkowski? You don't. You just have to hope to contain him. I would imagine that Reed, one of the best safeties ever, would spend time on him. He can run with Gronkowski, but the tight end has a huge edge in terms of size. 

Patriots receiver Wes Welker vs. Ravens corners Lardarius Webb and Cary Williams -- Other than Gronkowski and fellow tight end Aaron Hernandez, Welker is the only other real receiving threat.  He does most of his damage in the middle of the field. It will be interesting to see if the Ravens play one of their starting corners on him. Webb has had a Pro Bowl-type of season and had two picks last week. Williams has been a pleasant surprise. Nickel corner Jimmy Smith will also be in the mix. He is a rookie.

49ers quarterback Alex Smith vs. himself -- This is the biggest game of his life. Smith played well last week against the Saints when given the chance to throw. Was it his coming-out game or an aberration? We'll know by Sunday night. He sure looks more comfortable in the pocket now than the Smith we saw the past couple of seasons.

Posted on: January 16, 2012 11:36 am
Edited on: January 16, 2012 11:49 am

Monday Musings: How do you slow Brady?

BALTIMORE -- How do you slow down Tom Brady?

I asked that question to Baltimore Ravens corner Lardarius Webb.

"You have to try and confuse him," Webb said.

Good luck with that. Brady, like the other top quarterbacks, has a way of knowing where he's going with the football before the snap. He's great at those pre-snap reads.

The Patriots don't really stretch the field all that much, but Brady excels at getting the ball to the receiver or tight end with the best match-up. Tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez and receiver Wes Welker are all good at winning against man coverage.

"Tom is playing excellent up there, and what they did to the Broncos last night, I think they sent a message to whoever was coming up there," Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis said. " So, we’ve got our hands full and we’ve got to go up and get ready to play in the AFC championship.”

You can't expect the Ravens to stop Brady. They can only hope to slow him down.

 Look, I've stated my opinion about Tim Tebow's ability to play NFL quarterback the right way. I didn't need his performance against the Patriots Saturday night to convince me that he's far from being able to lead a team from the pocket. The Broncos gimmicked up the offense for him to help offset his inability to throw from the pocket. Until he learns how to do that, and throw into tight windows, there will always be doubts. He didn't lose that game to the Patriots. Hell, John Elway in his prime wouldn't have won that for the Broncos. But expect Tebow to be pushed in training camp by somebody. Or the Broncos will be in a lot of trouble moving forward. 

 The NFL considering full-time officials makes no sense to me. What they need to do is add an extra official on the field. The game is too fast now to just have seven officials on the field. One more would help compensate for the speed of the game advancing to where it is now. Plus, more passing means that the officials have to expand their focus to a wider perspective. So say no to full time officials, but yes to adding one more on the field.

 Lewis wasn't too happy that a Baltimore writer questioned the way he and Reed played the final few games of the season. He took exception to the criticism of their tackling. Truth be known, neither one tackled that well down the stretch. It's hard to believe after 16 years, Lewis still gets worked up over the critics.

 I love the hire of Dirk Koetter by the Atlanta Falcons as offensive coordinator. Koetter and Matt Ryan will work well together. And for those worried about Koetter being too conservative, he was forced to be that way under Jack Del Rio. He often had game plans adjusted by the head coach. That won't happen in Atlanta. This is Koetter's chance to show how good a coach he can be. I bet he excels.

 I like the idea of the Miami Dolphins hiring Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer. He is a damn good coach whose time has come to be the top man. Zimmer is fiery coach, but his players love him.

 Fear the Texans next year. That is a talented football team. Who knows how good they could have been if Matt Schaub didn't go down? That defense can be special. They do have to decide what to do with Mario Williams? Do they tag him? That would cost $22 million. That's way too high, considering they played without him for most of the season and finished second in total defense. Rookie Brooks Reed and Connor Barwin are both good players at outside linebacker. If Williams hits the market, he will be by far the highest-paid free agent out there.

 Just a thought, but if Jeff Fisher is worth $8 million a year what is Tom Coughlin worth?

 The Saints might lose defensive coordinator Gregg Williams to the Rams. He would join good buddy Jeff Fisher, the team's new coach. Here's what I wonder: Do the Saints really care? Williams loves to blitz, and he was undone by it against the 49ers Saturday. His defenses have struggled to defend the pass in New Orleans. 

 Did Alex Smith show what he could do when given the chance to throw against the Saints? Has he been held down his entire career? It's a legitimate question. Smith looked great in the fourth quarter and his last-minute drive was something you'd expect from Joe Montana. He was accurate, throwing into tight windows. Smith has always been a stand-up guy. It's nice to see him having some success. He's a class kid.

 Admit it. When you watched 49ers tight end Vernon Davis lighting up the Saints for 180 yards and the game-winning touchdown, you asked why he doesn't do that more? I think the 49ers need to get him involved in the offense more.

 Memo to those out there touting the Giants as a defensive team: They were eighth in scoring offense and 25th in scoring defense. They are an offensive team that has a pass rush. Period.

 Of the four teams left in the playoffs, the team that finished highest in rushing yardage was the 49ers. They were eighth. You don't run it to win anymore. You just don’t. 

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or