Posted on: March 7, 2012 10:30 am
Edited on: March 7, 2012 10:51 am

49ers should pass on Manning

Hall of Fame receiver Jerry Rice this week suggested that the San Francisco 49ers should join the lineup of suitors for Peyton Manning, and it's an interesting idea.

But it's not a good one.

Hiring Manning would mean tearing up your offense, and, frankly, I don't know that Jim Harbaugh is up for that. But let's go a step farther: Hiring Manning would mean junking quarterback Alex Smith, and I went down this road before with Baltimore in 2001 when the Ravens jettisoned Super Bowl quarterback Trent Dilfer for Elvis Grbac.

Now before we go farther let's get something straight: I'm not trying to equate Grbac to Manning. But at this point of his career I don't know what Manning has left. At least Grbac wasn't hurt, was a Pro Bowl quarterback and was in the prime of his career.

The Ravens' move to Grbac made sense because Baltimore upgraded the quarterback position with a more accurate quarterback. Except they sacrificed chemistry when they lost Dilfer. And they were never the same.

That could happen in San Francisco, too. I know, Smith isn't Peyton Manning --- or what Peyton Manning was in 2010 -- but he was good enough last season to lead the 49ers to a division championship and finish second to Matt Stafford in the league's Comeback Player of the Year award.

Smith was perfect for the 49ers, a guy who, like Dilfer, didn't make mistakes, was capable of making big plays and knew how to win.

But there's something else. Alex Smith took the 49ers to the conference championship game, and he did it with last-minute heroics in the divisional playoff s. New Orleans. So the 49ers didn't beat the New York Giants. That wasn't Alex Smith's fault. Last time I checked San Francisco would've made it to Super Bowl XLVI were it not for a couple of Kyle Williams' gaffes on punt returns.

Granted, Smith wasn't terrific in that game. But that could happen against the Giants. Look how Matt Ryan played against them. Or Aaron Rodgers. The two combined for 20 points, for crying out loud.

Alex Smith fits a niche that is perfect for San Francisco. So don't screw it up.

Category: NFL
Posted on: March 6, 2012 7:22 pm

Manning victim of NFL's cold, cruel world

The Colts' annoucement that they will release Peyton Manning comes as no surprise. We've expected it for weeks. Now they make it official.

I understand pro football is a business, but this is also Peyton Manning. There was no way the Colts were ... or are ... going to look good with this story. So they do what they think they must and move on.

It's a cold, cruel business, and the sad truth is that the Colts probably had no choice here. I don't know what Manning's future is or whether he's an injury waiting to happen again, and neither do the Colts.

I spoke to one coach at the NFL scouting combine who said he would have paid him just to tutor first-round draft pick Andrew Luck, but that's a huge investment in someone who would count heavily against your salary cap, cost millions this season and may not play again.

Bill Walsh always said it's better to fire a player one year too soon than one year too late, and my guess is that the Colts abide by that axiom. Let's face it, they're cleaning out the place from top to bottom, with Bill Polian and his son Chris one of the first casualties, so it makes sense to make a complete break with the past.

And this is a complete break.

I'll miss Manning, too, but life goes on. The Packers survived the loss of Brett Favre, and the 49ers survived the loss of Joe Montana. It may take years, but it had to happen sooner or later.

Too bad it was sooner.

Category: NFL
Posted on: March 6, 2012 6:16 pm

Now, when will Saints, Williams be penalized?

OK, now that New Orleans coach Sean Payton and GM Mickey Loomis have taken "full responsibility" for Bounty Gate, it's time for the NFL to swing the hammer and penalize them, former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and the Saints organization.

I know that commissioner Roger Goodell wants to get this right because, essentially, what the Saints and Williams, Payton and Loomis fostered was a program that flies in the face of the player-safety push that Goodell has made a mantra of his last three years.

But it's more than that, of course. It's outright disrespect for Goodell, his office, the league's constitution and by-laws and, frankly, common sense. So look for Goodell to drop the hammer on everyone.

The only question is: When?

Sources tell me it could be anywhere before or after the league's March 25-28 owners' meetings in Florida, but they also tell me it absoultely, positively will not happen there. Nor should it.

I would expect Goodell to weigh in on this sooner rather than later to put the ugly episode behind everyone. People tell me he's deliberating to give all parties a chance to say something, to evaluate all information and to make sure he's covered all bases before he makes a decision.

But we have Williams admitting his guilt, and now we have Payton and Loomis admitting their guilt. I don't know what more we need. I don't care how widespread this was. I just want it stopped from this point forward.

And so does Goodell.

That's why most persons expect a harsh penalty that sends a message to others that this cannot and will not be tolerated. Goodell will weigh his options, but none of them are good for the Saints or Williams. Nor should they be.

Category: NFL
Posted on: March 3, 2012 4:17 pm

Brees' move could have repercussions for Nicks

The Saints' designation of Drew Brees as a franchise player isn't a big deal in and of itself. If there are two things that are certain it's that Drew Brees will remain with the New Orleans Saints and that he's going to be making a lot of money for them.

Nope, the problem here isn't with Brees and what the franchise designation means for him. It's what it means for another unrestricted free agent, All-Pro guard Carl Nicks, and what it means is that the Saints risk losing him.

There had been speculation that the Saints could re-sign Brees to a long-term deal, freeing the franchise tag for Nicks, but that can't happen now. Unresolved negotiations with Brees necessitated this move, with the Saints basically forced to choose between Brees and Nicks as the player they protect.

That decision was easy.

But the fallout could be rough for New Orleans if it loses Nicks. If he's exposed to the open market, he should command a top-dollar contract and could move on.

New Orleans wanted to prevent that. Had the Saints been able to extend Brees' contract they would have been successful. Now, their efforts are directed toward keeping Nicks and preventing him from hitting the marketplace March 13.

Look, as the franchise player, Brees isn't going anywhere. Plus, the Saints can always sign him to a mult-year deal. So he's staying put, which is no surprise. But Nicks may not. That's something New Orleans must try to avoid, and the Saints have 10 days to work on it.

Category: NFL
Posted on: March 1, 2012 5:02 pm
Edited on: March 2, 2012 10:22 am

Jackson move makes sense for Eagles

Keeping DeSean Jackson was smart for the Philadelphia Eagles. Now, the club should figure out a way to sign him to a long-term deal.

Granted, Jackson was inconsistent last year and had too many drops. But he came around and, after the season, apologized for allowing his contract to be a distraction. That's a start.

All I know is that he's the team's most explosive player, a playmaker who can stretch the field, make big plays and is a perfect fit in any offense run by Michael Vick. When Vick scrambles, he's looking downfield for open receivers, and the speedy Jackson is often a deep target.

Of course, it's inside the locker room where some critics worry about the guy. But people close to the Eagles believe that Jackson is not a character risk; that he can be the complete player -- the team player -- he was before 2011.

That's because they believe that what happened last year was the inevitable consequence of the Eagles passing out millions to unrestricted free agents from other clubs -- with players who had experience with the Eagles, like Jackson, wondering why they weren't getting a piece of the pie.

Well, now he is.

Even though the Eagles have made a one-year commitment to him, the Eagles can still trade the guy. But I wouldn't expect that to take place ... not unless Jackson expresses dissatisfaction with the franchise tag.

That happened in 2002 with then franchise-player Jeremiah Trotter, and the Eagles wound up releasing him.

It won't happen here. If anything, the Eagles would trade Jackson. But I don't see that happening, either. I mean when general manager Howie Roseman says, "We want DeSean to be an Eagle for the long haul" he sounds like someone who envisions Jackson sticking around for more than this season.

Then there's Jackson's statement Thursday night: "I am honored that the Philadelphia Eagles' organization perceives me as a franchise player. I look forward to getting a long-term deal done soon and being an Eagle for many years to come."

That sure sounds like someone who envisions sticking around more than one season, too.

Coach Andy Reid knows the value of Jackson to his offense, and a happy Jackson makes the Eagles a dangerous offense ... again. This was a good move -- for Jackson and the Eagles.

Category: NFL
Posted on: March 1, 2012 3:59 pm

Rams should be content to sit still

Just as you might expect, the value of the Rams' first-round pick -- the second overall -- keeps climbing.

I spoke to one general manager Thursday with knowledge of the situation, and he cautioned me against believing St. Louis is anywhere close to lining up a deal. In his estimation, the Rams simply play all potential suitors against each other -- with the price for their choice climbing as time expires.

The question, of course, is when do you pull the trigger? And he believes the Rams could take their pick into the week preceding the draft before making a move. The reason: There is so much demand for Robert Griffin III that they can afford to proceed cautiously.

Like others, he believes the ground floor to a deal begins with two first-rounders, but he said he could see someone offering three ones and a third-day pick -- a fourth, perhaps -- to make sure it acquired RG3.

"You get him," he said, "and you're probably set for years."

Category: NFL
Posted on: February 26, 2012 9:22 am
Edited on: February 26, 2012 2:18 pm

Manningham likely done with Giants; Bucs next?

INDIANAPOLIS -- While New York Giants' general manager Jerry Reese refused to speculate on the future of Super Bowl hero and soon-to-be-free-agent Mario Manningham, sources at this weekend's NFL scouting combine said there is virtually no chance he is back with the Giants.

Instead, they said, Manningham is expected to follow former Giants assistant Mike Sullivan to Tampa Bay. Sullivan, who was the Giants quarterbacks coach, took a job as Tampa Bay's offensive coordinator.

Manningham was the Giants' third leading receiver last season with 39 catches, but he recently told The Vindicator of Youngstown, Ohio, there was a "75 percent chance" he wouldn't return to the Giants and that he "wants the ball more." With Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz each producing over 1,000 yards in receptions last season, that is unlikely to happen in New York.

But there are other reasons Manningham won't be back, sources said. First, they said, he would know Sullivan's offense, so there is no learning curve. Second, people close to Manningham indicate that he wants to go to a warm-weather club, and last time I checked Tampa Bay qualified on that score. Third, sources said the Giants probably wouldn't make him a contract offer, not only because they believe his price may be too high but because they're more interested in a wide receiver who can line up at more than one or two spots at the position, which, they said, Manningham cannot.

Manningham's 38-yard over-the-shoulder catch led the Giants to a come-from-behind victory over New England in Super Bowl XLVI -- a catch reminiscent of David Tyree's spectactular reception in Super Bowl XLII and a catch that, like Manningham, led the Giants to a comeback defeat of the Patriots.

Tyree never caught another pass for New York, and, it appears, Manningham won't, either.

"He won't be back," one source predicted.

Category: NFL
Posted on: February 24, 2012 10:28 am

Polian: Say it's so, Joe

Baltimore's hiring of Jim Caldwell is nothing but good news for quarterback Joe Flacco. That's not me talking. That's former Indianapolis president Bill Polian, who worked with Caldwell when the two were with the Colts.

Caldwell is the Ravens' quarterbacks coach, which means he's in charge of the development of Flacco -- and, according to Polian, that will be nothing but a plus for the young quarterback.

"I know this," said Polian. "Jim Caldwell is as good a quarterbacks coach as I've ever been around. He's going to provide three things: He's going to provide incredible preparation. Nobody will be more prepared than Jim Caldwell in terms of helping a player get ready to go and play.

"Secondly, he's going to provide great fundamental foundation, and he'll drill fundamentals every single day. There's a reason why Peyton Manning -- aside from his own incredible work ethic -- was as fundamentally sound as he was. It was because Jim Caldwell drilled it into him every single day.

"Third, he's going to provide a sounding board and resource about playing the position, manging the game and dealing with the vagaries of the position, which are unique. And he will provide it in a way that will be a help, not a challenge. In his own way, he gets the message across and he's demanding, but he's a great help to quarterbacks."

So, then, we should expect an immediate improvement in the play of Flacco, who was within one play of reaching the Super Bowl.

"I don't know what Joe is like," said Polian. "I'm anxious to hear Jim's assessment of him. But every player I've been around that Jim Caldwell has coached has gotten better."

Sounds good to me. It should sound better to the Baltimore Ravens.

Category: NFL
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