#NFL Week 17 – United Stats of America – Elias Sports Bureau

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Age is no obstacle for NFL’s rushing champion

Adrian Peterson, who turned 30 years old in March, won the NFL rushing race when Doug Martin fell 16 yards short of Peterson’s total heading into the Vikings’ Sunday night game at Green Bay. Peterson is the third player in league history to lead the NFL or AFL in rushing yards in his 30s. The only other players to have done so were Marion Motley in 1950 (at age 30) and Curtis Martin in 2004 (31).

Ryan gains sweet revenge against the Jets

The Bills defeated the Jets, 22-17, and that result, combined with Pittsburgh’s victory at Cleveland, denied the Jets a spot in the postseason. Thus, Rex Ryan became the first head coach in NFL history to help keep a team that he had head-coached in the previous season out of the playoffs by beating that club, head to head, in the season’s final week.

Additionally, Ryan is the first NFL head coach in 85 years to sweep a two-game season series against a team of which he was the head coach in the previous season. The last to do so was Jack Depler, a player-coach with the Orange Tornadoes in 1929 who bolted to coach the Brooklyn Dodgers a year later. The Tornadoes moved from East Orange, New Jersey to Newark in 1930, enduring a 1-10-1 season that included a pair of shutout losses to Depler’s Dodgers: 32-0 at Ebbets Field and 14-0 on the infield of the Newark Velodrome.

nullMarshall makes a great first impression

Brandon Marshall finished the season with 1502 receiving yards, breaking Don Maynard’s team record that had stood since 1967. Notably, Marshall fell six receiving yards short of the NFL record for a player in his first season with a team-any team, that is-a mark that Marshall himself set with the Bears three seasons ago.

Marshall and Eric Decker scored touchdowns in the same game for the ninth time this season, tying an NFL record. The only other teammates to score TDs in the same game nine times in one season were Michael Irvin and Emmitt Smith with the Cowboys in 1995.

Brown caps season with another spectacular game

Antonio Brown caught 13 passes for 187 yards and a touchdown in the Steelers’ 28-12 win at Cleveland. For most players, even some great ones, that would be a “career game.” Consider that Tony Gonzalez never gained even 150 receiving yards in one game; Cris Carter never had a 170-yard game; and neither Larry Fitzgerald nor Hines Ward ever had as many receiving yards in one regular-season game as Brown did on Sunday.

But that was Brown’s fourth-highest total this season, following games of 195 against the 49ers, 284 against the Raiders, and 189 against the Broncos. Brown is the first receiver in NFL history to reach the 180-yard mark in four games in the same season.

nullSung to the tune of you-know-what: “Peyton never subbed before”

Peyton Manning made the first relief appearance of his career and he made it count, engineering the Broncos’ rally in a 27-20 come-from-behind win over the Chargers to clinch the top seed in the AFC playoffs. Manning has started 265 regular-season games; this was the first in which he came off the bench. That’s a record of sorts. The last player to start even 200 games before his first game as a substitute was the Raiders’ Hall of Fame guard, Gene Upshaw. Upshaw started 207 games before his first appearance as a sub in 1981.

Carolina ends a great season with a noteworthy victory

The Panthers walloped the Buccaneers, 38-10, to finish their season with a 15-1 mark. It was the largest season-ending victory posted by any of the seven teams that won at least 15 games. The only other club among that group that won its season finale by at least 20 points was Chicago in 1985. The Bears finished their regular season with a 37-17 win at Detroit. Carolina’s head coach, Ron Rivera, was a linebacker on the 1985 Bears.

nullWatt captures sacks title with three in season finale

J.J. Watt sacked Blake Bortles three times in Houston’s 30-6 victory over Jacksonville, to pass Khalil Mack of the Raiders as the NFL leader for the 2015 season. Watt became only the second player to lead the NFL in sacks twice within his first five years in the league. He previously led the league as a second-year pro in 2012. The other player to do so was Reggie White in 1987 and 1988, his third and fourth seasons in the NFL.

It should be noted that Watt’s three sacks on Sunday were enough to catch and pass Mack, but not enough to lead his team in sacks in its win over the Jags. That distinction goes to Whitney Mercilus, with three-and-a-half sacks of Bortles. Over the last four seasons, only one other pair of teammates had at least three sacks each in the same game: Chris Long and Robert Quinn of the Rams in a loss to Seattle in 2013.

Seahawks end season with rout of powerful Cardinals

The Seahawks made a bold season-ending statement with a 36-6 victory at Arizona, crushing a Cardinals team that had a 13-2 record coming into the game. It was the fourth-largest margin of victory in NFL history against a team with a record at least 10 games above the .500 mark. The largest was a 41-0 victory by the Boston Patriots at San Diego on the final week of the 1961 AFL season. The Chargers had a 12-1 mark prior to that game. One week later, San Diego lost the AFL Championship Game to the Houston Oilers, 10-3.­­

nullCousins’ fast start dooms Cowboys

Kirk Cousins threw three touchdown passes to give the Redskins a 21-0 lead in the first quarter and Washington rolled to a 34-23 win at Dallas. Only one other player has thrown three first-quarter touchdown passes in a game against the Cowboys: Randall Cunningham in a memorable 46-36 Vikings win at Texas Stadium on Thanksgiving Day 1998. Cunningham’s early TD passes all covered more than 50 yards. He connected with Randy Moss for first-quarter TDs of 51 and 56 yards and with Cris Carter for a 54-yard touchdown. For good measure, Cunningham found Moss on a 56-yard scoring pass in the third quarter.

nullEagles’ Thurmond asks the Giants, “Hey, remember me?”

Walter Thurmond recovered a fumble by Eli Manning in the third quarter and returned it 83 yards for a go-ahead touchdown in the Eagles’ 35-30 win over the Giants. Thurmond, who played two games for New York in 2014, became the first ex-Giants player to score a second-half game-winning TD against the team since Bobby Hammond did it for the Redskins in 1980, scoring on a 7-yard pass from Joe Theismann in the final minute of a 23-21 victory.

It was yet another blown opportunity for the Giants, who lost nine of the last 18 games in which they led in the second half. New York has lost six of the last nine games against the Eagles in which it led at some point after halftime, dating back to 2009.

Chiefs turn season around, finish with 11-5 mark

Kansas City extended its winning streak to 10 games, capping its season with a 23-17 win over the Raiders. The Chiefs, who lost five straight games after winning their season opener, finished with an 11-5 mark, the best in NFL history by a team that suffered five consecutive losses during the season. The previous record was the Jets’ 10-6 mark in 1986, when they lost their last five games after a 10-1 start.­

nullBengals’ Hill snaps drought with long TD run

Jeremy Hill flashed rarely-seen breakaway ability, running 38 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter of the Bengals’ 24-16 win over the Ravens. That was Hill’s longest run from scrimmage by far this season, snapping a streak of 232 carries for less than 20 yards.

Pats lose second straight intradivision game

The Dolphins finished the season with a 6-10 mark, defeating the Patriots, 20-10, to snap New England’s streak of 20 consecutive wins against teams with a record at least five games below .500. Combined with a 26-20 loss to the Jets last week, it marked the first time that New England lost consecutive games, both to divisional rivals with Tom Brady at quarterback. It’s also the first time that a team head-coached by Bill Belichick lost its last two games of a season since 1991 and 1992, Belichick’s first two seasons as an NFL head coach (both with Cleveland).

Bears end historic season with home loss to Lions

With a 24-20 loss to Detroit, the Bears finished the 2015 season with a 1-7 record at Soldier Field. That is the team’s worst home record, whether based on winning percentage or games below .500, in any of its 96 seasons in the NFL. By either of those standards, the Bears suffered their previous worst home records at Wrigley Field in 1969 and at Soldier Field in 1973 (1-6 in both seasons).

New Colts QBs lead team to win over Titans

With Andrew Luck, Matt Hasselbeck, and Charlie Whitehurst all injured, Josh Freeman and Ryan Lindley each threw a touchdown pass in the Colts’ 30-24 win over the Titans. Over the last 25 seasons, only one other pair of teammates both threw a TD pass in the same game in which each was making his team debut. Andy Dalton and Bruce Gradkowski did it in the Bengals’ 2011 season opener.

Source: Elias Says: Sports Statistics – Stats from the Elias Sports Bureau

50 things we learned in Wk17 of the 2015 #NFL season

name of site - hunter thompson styleIn honor of Super Bowl 50, here are 50 things we learned in Week 17:

1. The NFL is much better when all 32 teams play on the same day. Just sayin’.

2. Same old Jets.

3. Same old Peyton Manning. And we mean that one in a good way.

4. So Tom Brady can’t nail down AFC home-field throughout the playoffs with just one win in the final two weeks? MVP? We think not.

5. Now we’re just wondering if Cam Newton will dab when he gets the award.

7. And then Chuck Pagano. for no apparent reason, switched to Ryan Lindley in the second quarter. And then Lindley threw a TD pass on his first drive.

8. Think Pagano was having a little fun on the way out of town? Yeah, us too.

9. Johnny Manziel. In Vegas. Really, Johnny?

10. Steelers WR Antonio Brown had 150 yards receiving on 10 catches. In the first half. Just another day at the office for AB.

12. For the Week 17 pool: The Eagles were the first team to score a touchdown in the early games. Yeah, we didn’t have them, either.

13. And get this: They scored on DeMarco Murray’s first carry in the post-Chip Kelly era. A 54-yard touchdown run. Can’t make it up.

14. Great play by Packers CB Micah Hyde to snag a one-handed interception, but what was Teddy Bridgewater thinking making a left-handed throw under pressure?

15. Peyton Manning sent Blake Bortles a Papa John’s pizza. Bortles threw his 18th interception of the season, meaning Manning won’t hold the season lead in that stat.

16. Tom Coughlin’s entire family was at the game Sunday. He said to not read anything into that. (But we will).

17. If this was it for Coughlin, a tip of the helmet. See you in the Hall of Fame.

18. There were 512 possible playoff scenarios in the AFC when the day started. Wow.

19. Replay review I: Terrelle Pryor with a great 42-yard catch down the sideline. Terrelle Pryor! (And a lone bright spot for Browns fans on Sunday).

20. Dwayne Bowe was a healthy scratch again for the Browns. Finished year with five catches. And, oh yeah, $9 million guaranteed.

21. Mario Williams was booed when introduced in Buffalo. It’s the Bills’ fans way of saying goodbye. And, of course, he got a sack.

22. Rams and 49ers. Overtime. Much respect for two teams with nothing to play for battling right to the end – and then some.

23. And then the 49ers gave Jim Tomsula the boot on Sunday night after the win. The NFL can be cruel.

24. Tim Hightower scored a TD in three of the last four games. So the Saints have that to “who dat” to all offseason.

25. Odell Beckham Jr., fresh off his one-game suspension, did not do the pregame one-handed catch routine. Interesting.

26. We used to buy into the theory the Steelers were the team nobody wanted to face in the AFC playoffs. Last two weeks changed our minds.

27. Todd Bowles would have been the fourth consecutive Jets coach to make the playoffs in his first season.

28. Sunday just wasn’t the same without Chip Kelly. Not as many three-and-outs.

29. Chiefs: From 1-5 to 11-5. This is the team you don’t want to face in the AFC playoffs.

30. Cowboys LB Sean Lee was inactive. That means he missed out on $2 million incentive for playing in 80% of defensive snaps this season. His choice.

31. Nothing like being a backup QB. The same people who booed Peyton Manning mercilessly in November gave him a standing ovation on Sunday.

32. Yeah, we have long memories, Denver.

33. ESPN tweet: Kirk Cousins is the first Redskins QB to throw TD pass in all 16 games since league went to 16 game schedule in 1978.

34. Ndamukong Suh hit Tom Brady low in the second quarter. Brady limped off field, was surrounded by trainers on the sidelines, checking his ankle. And everyone in New England stopped what they were doing. Until it was clear Brady was OK. It is clear, right?

35. Replay review II: Browns LB Craig Robertson’s interception of Ben Roethlisberger. And a great return to the Steelers’ 9. (Of course, the Browns being the Browns, they threw an interception and came away with zero points).

36. Some coaches with teams in the playoffs left their QBs in a lot longer than we would have. Yeah, we’re looking at you Pete Carroll and Jay Gruden.

37. Peyton Manning: Backup quarterback? Just sounded weird, anyway.

38. Matt Prater a 59-yard field goal. Outdoors. In Chicago. In January. Damn!

39. Adam Vinatieri from 52 yards. Not bad for a 43-year-old. Not bad at all.

40. Chiefs-Texans and Steelers-Bengals to start things off in the AFC? Yeah, that’ll work for us.

41. Replay review III: The TD dance from Bengals RB Jeremy Hill.

42. Didn’t you used to be Darrelle Revis? The cushion he was giving Sammy Watkins was, well, enough to cover an island.

43. AJ (McCarron) to A.J. (Green): Bengals’ playoffs hopes hinge on that for at least one week.

44. Former Giant Walter Thurmond had a pick six against his former team. We’re guessing that’s a pretty cool feeling.

45. Colts players gave Chuck Pagano the game ball. Classy.

46. Browns announce crowd of 66,693. Bwahahahaha.

47. Jets DL Muhammad Wilkerson broke his leg in the second half. Contract year. Damn.

48. Suddenly, people have stopped writing off the Washington Redskins as a one-and-done. We agree.

49.  Mike Zimmer has the Vikings in the playoffs. And all the owners who passed on him can watch it on TV.

50. Charles Woodson: Thanks for the memories.

Source: 50 things we learned in Week 17 of the 2015 NFL season

#NFL wild-card schedule set; Black Monday starts early for coaches | The MMQB with Peter King

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It’s Playoff Time. But First…

There’s some coaching news to clean up as the regular season ended Sunday. The latest on the firings, plus Peyton Manning’s triumphant return, the Manziel mess in Cleveland, a sneak peek at wild-card weekend and more
So many stories on this Charcoal Monday. (Charcoal because it doesn’t feel like Black Monday, not with Dallas having pulled its coaching job back from the brink to secure, and Detroit, San Diego and Tennessee probable to do the same.) So much happening, really, that I am going to ask you to cheat at work this morning even longer than usual. Admit it: You’re pretending to work right now, staring intently into your computer, brows furrowed. That’s because you want to find out what idiot Manziel is doing—not what the markets in Dubai are up to today.

Skimming the news at the end of the NFL’s 96th regular season:

• There could be five or six coaching changes, lighter than expected. Out: Mike Pettine (Cleveland), Jim Tomsula (San Francisco), Chip Kelly (Philadelphia). A matter of time: Dan Campbell (Miami), Chuck Pagano (Indianapolis). Leaning toward leaving: Tom Coughlin (Giants). Fifty-fifty: Sean Payton (New Orleans). Looking safer than we thought a week ago: Mike McCoy (San Diego), Jim Caldwell (Detroit), Mike Mularkey (Tennessee). Announced he’ll return but with Jerry Jones you never know: Jason Garrett (Dallas).

• The playoff field is set, and is it possible that the best two AFC teams are the 5 and 6 seeds? Kansas City (five) opens at Houston, while explosive Pittsburgh (six) could be without DeAngelo Williams (right ankle) at rival Cincinnati.

• Peyton Manning’s career is not over. San Diego 13, Denver 7, mid-third quarter, and a loss means dropping from first seed to fifth seed in the playoffs. Pretty big. Off the bench came Manning, playing for the first time in 49 days. “Sometimes you just feel the team is looking around for ‘that guy,’” said coach Gary Kubiak. Manning led Denver to scores on four of the next five drives, and suddenly he’s That Guy for Denver’s playoff stretch.

• Charles Woodson’s career is over. I told Woodson, 45 minutes off the field after his last game in Kansas City, that Manning (1998 draft: Manning first pick, Woodson fourth) had just come off the bench to lead Denver to a comeback victory. “Are you kidding me?!” Woodson said. “You kidding me?! Wow. I guess the 1998 draft class ain’t done winning.” But the 39-year-old Woodson’s done, for sure. I asked one of the great defensive backs of all time how he felt walking off the field for the last time. “Tired,” he said. “Just tired. I’m ready.”

• Winning his third rushing title leaves Adrian Peterson “haunted a little bit.” Make no mistake—at 30 he’s thrilled to win the title (327 carries, 1,485), and he loves being the outlier as the only back in football this year with more than 290 carries. But he wants to pass Emmitt Smith’s all-time rushing record and … well, I’ll have his story for you lower in the column.

• “With the second pick in the 2016 NFL draft, the Cleveland Browns select …” The Browns have been so horrible at first-round picks lately (Taylor, Richardson, Weeden, Mingo, Gilbert, Manziel) that I hate to sentence Jared Goffor Paxton Lynch to a life on the Lake, but draw straws, gentlemen. Short one goes to the Browns. Tennessee has the first pick and could get a package of picks to move down with any number of QB-needy teams (San Francisco at seven, Chicago at 11, Philadelphia at 13, St. Louis at 15).

• Speaking of Johnny Manziel, he went AWOL Sunday. I reported on NBC last night that Manziel, who was supposed to be in the NFL’s concussion protocol (I am not so sure about the legitimacy of that, by the way) but was reported by USA Today to be at a casino in Las Vegas on Saturday instead, violated team rules by not showing up for a 9 a.m. Sunday appointment with a Browns medical official—then the team couldn’t find him for hours. Seems like he’s trying to party his way out of Cleveland. The team doesn’t want him anymore but won’t say so for fear of eliminating any trade value for him. Too late for that. I bet 25 teams in this league, at least, wouldn’t take Manziel off waivers right now.

• Kickers missed 71 PATs this year. Kickers converted the 33-yard extra point at a fairly predictable rate (94.2 percent). “I think it’s here to stay,” said Competition Committee member Marvin Lewis, who’s not crazy about the longer distance but understands that it turns a ceremonial play into a competitive one, one that on Sunday made Buffalo kicker Dan Carpenter (who has missed six extra points this year) slam his helmet to the ground in anger and have it bounce back up and ricochet off his face. Nice replays, CBS.

• Didn’t you used to be Green Bay? It’s going to be a short postseason for the Packers unless they find some miracle cure for what ails the offense.

• New England played a four-corner offense in losing to Miami. But the stall didn’t work. Tom Brady still got his ankle rolled by Ndamukong Suh and took three or four other killer shots. The Patriots had better use the 13 days between games to get some offensive linemen and weapons healthy.

• Rex came, Rex saw, Rex conquered. Nov. 12: Buffalo 22, Jets 17 … Jan 3: Buffalo 22, Jets 17. Let there be no doubt about the continued impact of Rex Ryan on all things Gang Green: The former coach of the New York Jets, relocated to Buffalo, is the person most responsible for the New York Jets not making the playoffs this year. Which is a good reason why the back page of the New York Daily News this morning blares: WRECKS RYAN……(continue reading)

Source: NFL wild-card schedule set; Black Monday starts early for coaches | The MMQB with Peter King

#NFL head coach candidates ready for hire after Black Monday

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The Hiring List

 Several NFL coaches will be fired after Week 17, and the search for their replacements will begin immediately. From Hue Jackson and Teryl Austin to Matt Patricia and Sean McDermott, here are 10 candidates ready to go
Last summer, The MMQB polled 24 sources including current and former NFL front-office leaders, agents, coaches and three plugged-in reporters in the aim of identifying the Top 32 head-coaching candidates in the NFL. You can read that exhaustive list here. This time around, we used information gleaned from 20 sources to nail down a Top 10 in advance of Black Monday, when as many as eight NFL teams are expected to move on from current coaches.

The below list is an informative, but flawed exercise; it’s quite possible that our No. 10 coach—Seattle’s Tom Cable—might be a better fit for Team A than the No. 1 coach on our list, Cincinnati’s Hue Jackson. And we’re certain there will be strong consideration for coaches not on our list—including Chip Kelly (fired during our information-collecting process), and other current head coaches who get the ax.

We’ll get to the Top 10, but first a note about our No. 2 candidate, Carolina’s Sean McDermott.

He’s a near lock to be offered multiple jobs this winter—several sources believed he should’ve occupied the No. 1 spot on our list, ahead of Jackson. He’s a fast-riser at 41 years old, 18 years removed from a stellar college career as a safety alongside future All-Pro safety Darren Sharper at William and Mary. Jimmye Laycock, who also coached Mike Tomlin at William and Mary, says of McDermott: “He was one of those guys you could just tell was going to be a great coach.”

But here’s what makes McDermott truly unique: Among current head coaches, if hired, McDermott would be the only one who entered the league through the scouting department. After working as a graduate assistant at William and Mary for a season, McDermott landed a job in Philadelphia (where he would eventually supplant Jim Johnson as defensive coordinator) as a scouting administrative coordinator.

Teams with head-coaching vacancies can interview Sean McDermott during the Panthers' playoff bye week.

Photo: Chuck Burton/AP

“It was so valuable, just learning what Jim and Andy (Reid) looked for in players,” McDermott said this week by phone. “I didn’t know it at the time but I know it now—not everybody is fortunate to have those type of mentors at an early age.”

Twelve years later, McDermott’s eye on the scouting process may have landed Carolina a perennial Top 5 cornerback in the NFL. Josh Norman, NFL combine snub out of Coastal Carolina, made a name for himself with a spirited, borderline desperate East-West Shrine Game week in 2012.

“He was obnoxious, and flamboyant, and doing too much on the practice field,” one personnel man told The MMQB. “Honestly, it turned a lot of people off to him.”

But McDermott was poring through defensive back practice tape and noticed Norman do something odd in a one-on-one. After an incomplete pass fell short, Norman reached out and effortlessly snagged the wobbling grounder with one hand. Four months later, the Panthers took him in the fifth round, ahead of All-American Alabama cornerback DeQuan Menzie (who is now out of the league). Four seasons later, and Norman is one of the top-rated corners in the NFL.

“At that point in the draft you’re looking for redeemable qualities,” McDermott says, “and we felt he just hadn’t been exposed to some of the things players at higher levels had, but he was capable. Just from the way he played that ball, you could tell he had ball skills. We liked the length and the way he carried himself. Credit to the coaches and to Josh for where he is now as a player.”

Some of that credit should go to the system McDermott has installed, a zone-based scheme with selective blitzing which has produced, since his hiring in 2011, the 28th, 10th, 2nd, 10th and 4th-ranked defenses in terms of yards allowed.

But if McDermott’s going to thrive in the NFL, he’ll need a quarterback, and there’s a likelihood he’ll have the opportunity to draft one at a new landing spot. So what does the top defensive coordinator on our list look for in a QB after spending five seasons watching Cam Newton?

“The thing with Cam is, he’s kind of the modern athlete in a lot of ways,” McDermott says. “Being able to adapt coaching styles and relationships to the modern athlete is important.

“The thing that stands up the most about Cam, and what I see on tape with Jameis Winston, the guy we’re playing this weekend, is winning. Everywhere they’ve been they’ve won, and they’re highly competitive. Guys who love to compete—it stands out. Yes, they may not be a finished product, but when the lights come on they’re at their best. They’re prime time players.”

Top Row, left to right: Teryl Austin, Doug Marrone, Mike Shula; Middle Row: Hue Jackson, Adam Gase, Jim Schwartz; Bottom Row: Josh McDaniels, Tom Cable, Matt Patricia.

Photo: AP File

Top Row, left to right: Teryl Austin, Doug Marrone, Mike Shula; Middle Row: Hue Jackson, Adam Gase, Jim Schwartz; Bottom Row: Josh McDaniels, Tom Cable, Matt Patricia.

One last reminder: This is an unscientific study of something that cannot be studied in a scientific way. As one evaluator said, “Lots of different lists around the league. We have owners and GMs who wouldn’t realize Vince Lombardi would be good if he was sitting in front of them!”

1. Hue Jackson, Bengals Offensive Coordinator

Age: 50
College: Pacific
Pro experience: 15 seasons, one as head coach (Oakland 2011)
Head coaching record: 8-8

This summer we called him a “wild card,” and a guy who has “built a marketing machine around his candidacy.” Jackson called me on that last part (he reads everything). Five months later, and the Bengals have the fourth-best scoring offense in the NFL, led by vastly improved quarterback Andy Dalton. To boot, the Bengals split two games after Dalton got hurt. “You know why [Jackson will] be the top candidate?” one source told us. “Look at what he just did with AJ —-ing McCarron.”

2. Sean McDermott, Panthers Defensive Coordinator

Age: 41
College: William and Mary
Pro experience: 17 seasons, seven as coordinator (Philadelphia 2009-10, Carolina 2011-present)

The emergence of Josh Norman and Kawann Short just adds to the list of defensive stars developed under McDermott, who took Carolina from last in the league in DVOA (Football Outsiders’ measure of efficiency over the course of a season) to a consistent Top 5 defense. The big mystery with McDermott is how he would manage an offense, making his choice of offensive coordinator a critical piece of the hiring process.

3. Josh McDaniels, Patriots Offensive Coordinator

Age: 39
College: John Carroll
Pro experience: 15 seasons, two as head coach (Denver 2009-10)
Head coaching record: 11-17 (0-0 playoffs)

The offensive guru with a disastrous stint as head coach in Denver received a number of No. 1 votes from our source pool. Problem is, there’s doubt about Belichick underlings in much the same way organizations now doubt Alabama draft prospects who achieved success under Nick Saban. But McDaniels’ supporters are staunch. “He’s been thoughtful and truly reflective of the mistakes he made,” said one evaluator. “I think that will come through in his interview.”

4. Doug Marrone, Jaguars Assistant Head Coach

Age: 51
College: Syracuse
Pro experience: 10 seasons, two as head coach (Buffalo 2013-2014)
Head coaching record: 15-17

This may seem like a head-scratcher but there exists a considerable consensus Marrone will be among those candidates interviewed by nearly every club. The former Syracuse lineman and head coach turned the Bills around from 6-10 to 9-7, then departed on his own terms. Now Jacksonville’s offensive line coach, Marrone has his detractors and his supporters. Said one source: “He’s disciplined, and a tremendous leader.” Said another: “They don’t even like him in Jacksonville all that much.”

5. Adam Gase, Bears Offensive Coordinator

Age: 37
College: Michigan State
Pro experience: 13 years, three as a coordinator (Denver 2013-14, Chicago 2015)

Gase is probably thanking his lucky stars he turned down the 49ers job this offseason. He spent a year with Jay Cutler and helped drop his interception count from 18 in 2014 to eight in 2015 (so far). Gase can interview “inexperienced” in the eyes of some, and it was Chicago’s defense which anchored midseason success. Only two coaches in recent history have been hired off a losing season—Marty Mornhinweg and Mike McCarthy.

6. Teryl Austin, Lions Defensive Coordinator

Age: 50
College: Pittsburgh
Pro experience: 12 seasons, two as coordinator (Detroit 2014-present)

Really impressed in interviews last offseason but was determined by many to be a year away. Was this a good enough year? Detroit is 6-9 with the 17th-ranked defense in terms of yards allowed, but the Lions have won five of their past seven, and Austin has been working with a defense that lost three of its best players in Ndamukong Suh (free agency), Nick Fairley (free agency) and DeAndre Levy (injury). Multiple sources described Austin as a “natural leader.”

7. Matt Patricia, Patriots Defensive Coordinator

Age: 41
College: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Pro experience: 12 seasons, four as coordinator (New England 2012-present)

Coordinates the seventh-ranked defense in the NFL with the second-highest turnover rate. There was some concern that inexperienced young corners Logan Ryan and Malcolm Butler could struggle in 2015. Instead, they’re two of the top-rated cover corners in football. Patricia is described as “freaky smart” by one evaluator, though many are wary of the Belichick tag.

8. Jim Schwartz, Unemployed

Age: 49
College: Georgetown
Pro experience: 22 years, five as head coach (Detroit 2009-13)
Head coaching record: 29-52 (0-1 playoffs)

The rise of Schwartz in the eyes of evaluators has a lot to do with his success last season in Buffalo (fourth in points allowed and yards) in contrast with Buffalo’s regression on defense under supposed defensive guru Rex Ryan in 2015. “A lot of guys don’t feel they need to reinvent himself and he did,” said one evaluator. Schwartz will be two years removed from his ouster as Detroit’s head coach, where his offenses were inconsistently prolific and prolifically inconsistent.

9. Mike Shula, Panthers Offensive Coordinator

Age: 50
College: Alabama
Pro experience: 23 years, three as coordinator (Carolina 2013-present)

Alabama’s former head coach has looked like a genius this season at the helm of an offense with a dearth of talent at wide receiver and a middling offensive line. As Carolina’s coach in 2011, the year Cam Newton went No. 1 overall, Shula helped incorporate Auburn’s offense into Carolina’s scheme, easing Newton’s transition and setting the stage for what looks like an MVP season in 2015.

10. Tom Cable, Seahawks Offensive Line Coach

Age: 51
College: Idaho
Pro experience: 10 seasons, three as head coach (Oakland, 2008-10)
Head coaching record: 17-27

 Vaults up our list after coaching the lowest-paid offensive line in football through a turbulent season which saw Seattle lose running back Marshawn Lynch and remain in the top five in rushing offense. The Raiders went 8-8 in Cable’s second full season as head coach, but Hue Jackson replaced him in 2011. Downgraded by most evaluators in light of a 2009 incident in which he reportedly broke an assistant’s jaw with a punch. Said one evaluator: “That’s not something you can easily shake.”

Missed the Cut

Todd Haley, Steelers Offensive Coordinator; Vic Fangio, Bears Defensive Coordinator; Mike Shanahan, Unemployed; Paul Guenther, Bengals Defensive Coordinator; Dirk Koetter, Buccaneers Offensive Coordinator

Chip Kelly was fired during his first losing season in three years as Eagles coach.

Photo: Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Chip Kelly was fired during his first losing season in three years as Eagles coach.

A few notes about the list:

• It does not include some of the college coaches who have been in the discussion in years past (David Shaw, Jim Mora, Nick Saban, Kevin Sumlin, etc.) but we’re not ruling out the possibility that one of them could be lured into the NFL. If we were to include college coaches, Shaw would be the only man in our Top 10, and he would rank high. Said one decision maker: “He checks all the boxes. Pro-style offense. Pedigree. Minority.” But Shaw told The MMQB’s Peter King at the Heisman ceremony in early December, “I know a lot of guys in the NFL. I know guys at almost every franchise in the NFL, and I can tell you, even the ones who are winning, nobody is having as much fun at his job as I am having at my job.” Said another personnel man with ties to Shaw: “You’re not getting that guy to leave Palo Alto.”

• We also did not include two coaches, who, if fired, are likely to get job consideration around the league—Sean Payton and Chuck Pagano. Ditto for Chip Kelly. But it should be noted that guys like Kelly are no lock to get a job; only two out of the past 14 coaching hires (2014 and 2015) were head coaches elsewhere the prior year. But the main reason we didn’t include them is this: We don’t know who’ll be fired, and Kelly lost his job midway through our polling.

• Six of our Top 10 coaches come from an offensive background and four from a defensive background. Two of our Top 10 are African American (Jackson and Austin), an important qualifier in a league under pressure to add to the ranks of minority coaches.

• In the summer, our Top 10 (excluding college coaches) looked like this.

1. Adam Gase, Bears Offensive Coordinator
2. Josh McDaniels, Patriots Offensive Coordinator
3. Teryl Austin, Lions Defensive Coordinator
4. Pep Hamilton, Colts Offensive Coordinator
5. Frank Reich, Chargers Offensive Coordinator
6. Doug Marrone, Jaguars Offensive Line Coach
7. Sean McDermott, Panthers Defensive Coordinator
8. Pat Shurmur, Eagles Offensive Coordinator
9. Hue Jackson, Bengals Offensive Coordinator
10. Greg Roman, Bills Offensive Coordinator

Hamilton was fired midseason, and Reich, Shurmur and Roman led offenses that oscillated from mediocre to bad. All four of them will probably get a shot at head-coaching jobs at some point; poor performances are rarely if ever the lone fault of the coordinator.

• For a look at where some of these candidates might be best fits, be sure to check out Don Banks’ elaborate and instructive Black Monday preview.

Source: NFL head coach candidates ready for hire after Black Monday | The MMQB with Peter King

Ranking All 40 College Football Bowl Games – #CFBPlayoff

 

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The College Football Playoff national championship isn’t really a bowl game – it’s a whole other entity.

So what were the best bowl games of the season and which were the worst? Which ones will everyone remember, and which ones were the total duds?

The New Year’s Six disasters and the horrible two-day stretch on December 31st and January 1st marred an otherwise wonderful group of bowls, but the biggest problem? Two of the best finished up around 2:30 am ET. For those who sat through all 40, there were some great rewards to go along with a slew of disappointments.

1. Valero Alamo Bowl: TCU 47, Oregon 41 3OT

TCU came back with the comeback of all comebacks – started off by Gary Patterson changing his shirt to purple – but it also helped that the team started to execute. TCU got down 31, Oregon overcame the disappointment of blowing the lead by forcing three overtimes, and this turned into the signature bowl – for those who stayed around on a Saturday night to sit through the whole thing. Oregon’s collapse was more than just losing Vernon Adams, and TCU’s comeback was more than just getting hot. This is why you watch bowl games.
Pre-Bowl Season Matchup/Game Rank: 4

2. National Funding Holiday Bowl: Wisconsin 23, USC 21

It’s a shame this was played so late – most of America was fast asleep when this was rolling into the wee hours of the morning East Coast time. It was the best finish of the bowl season with Wisconsin hanging on for dear life while Cody Kessler had one final shot, but overall, the game itself was wildly entertaining.
Pre-Bowl Season Matchup/Game Rank: 15

3. Motel 6 Cactus Bowl: West Virginia 43, Arizona State 42

How do you finish up the bowl season? In an insane shootout with a little bit of everything for everyone – unless you like defense – both teams marched up and down the field at will in the exact type of firefight deserving to be the last game before the national title. 676 yards of total offense for West Virginia, and it still almost wasn’t enough.
Pre-Bowl Season Matchup/Game Rank: 24

4. New Era Pinstripe Bowl: Duke 44, Indiana 41 OT

Really, was it good? With controversy, lots of offense, and huge performances on both sides of the ball, it was wildly entertaining with normally-solid IU PK Griffin Oakes missing a game-winning 56-yard attempt in regulation, and putting a possible game-tying overtime attempt over the top of the right upright – it looked good on replays.
Pre-Bowl Season Matchup/Game Rank: 18

5. Camping World Independence Bowl: Virginia Tech 55, Tulsa 52

Frank Beamer’s retirement game took a backseat to what turned into a thriller. It would’ve been the ultimate embarrassment had Beamer’s team gagged away the game after going up 52-31, but his team hung on. Tulsa kept pushing, and almost pulled it out. Lots of offense, lots of drama – it’s what an early bowl game should be like.
Pre-Bowl Season Matchup/Game Rank: 32

6. Raycom Media Camellia Bowl: Appalachian State 31, Ohio 29

Appalachian State played like a team in its first bowl game. After whiffing on two easy kicks, senior Zach Matics ran off the field after hitting the game-winning 23-yarder to end a game of crazy mood swings and lots of effort from both sides.
Pre-Bowl Season Matchup/Game Rank: 36

7. NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl: Nevada 28, Colorado State 23

It didn’t matter that it was Mountain West vs. Mountain West – the two teams were fighting from the start. There was plenty of intruige throughout with Nevada overcoming the Rams’ control with lots of home runs. Colorado State had a shot at the win late, but time ran out in a heart-stopping finish.
Pre-Bowl Season Matchup/Game Rank: 27

8. Gildan New Mexico Bowl: Arizona 45, New Mexico 37

The two teams kept throwing haymakers and kept on pushing each other. New Mexico made Arizona sweat – the Wildcats were really trying – in an entertaining battle early on in the bowl season. There was a sense of desperation after Arizona lost to Boise State in last year’s Fiesta – it couldn’t lose two bowls in a row to Group of Five teams.
Pre-Bowl Season Matchup/Game Rank: 13

9. Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl: Utah 35, BYU 28

It was all about the comeback. BYU couldn’t have tried to have a worst first quarter with five giveaways, but it made up for it by balling and battling to get a shot at pulling off the miracle late. Utah hung on by grinding out the clock late just when it became obvious the D didn’t have any answers.
Pre-Bowl Season Matchup/Game Rank: 9

10. Hyundai Sun Bowl: Washington State 20, Miami 14

The snow-globe aspect in the second half made the game special in a lot of ways, and Miami did its part to keep the battle going. Nothing seemed to go right for the Hurricanes, but Washington State struggled to put the game away. Miami looked like it had it late, but a lost fumble after a called back play made it a heartbreaker for the Canes.
Pre-Bowl Season Matchup/Game Rank: 21

11. Miami Beach Bowl: WKU 45, South Florida 35

The two teams kept cranking up the offense. WKU looked great early, but USF kicked it into gear in time to make this a fight to the finish. For those who care about conference pride, it was a big moment for Conference USA holding off the American Athletic team.
Pre-Bowl Season Matchup/Game Rank: 22

12. Russell Athletic Bowl, Baylor 49, North Carolina 38

645 rushing yards. The game itself might not have been all that interesting after Baylor took control, but if part of the bowl game fun is to see something different, that Bear ground game was it. The North Carolina defense didn’t have a prayer.
Pre-Bowl Season Matchup/Game Rank: 5

13. Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Akron 23, Utah State 21

It was a low-scoring game as expected, but Akron played well enough offensively to get on the road and come up with a stunner. Utah State just didn’t have it, but the Akron D had a lot to do with that. It was the first even bowl win for Akron.
Pre-Bowl Season Matchup/Game Rank: 35

14. Popeyes Bahamas Bowl: Western Michigan 45, Middle Tennessee 31

Lots and lots and lots of offense – way over 1,000 – made it lots of fun. Jamauri Bogan and his four touchdown runs made it memorable, but Middle Tennessee didn’t go away until late. The Corey Davis 80-yard touchdown catch for WMU was terrific.
Pre-Bowl Season Matchup/Game Rank: 12

15. BattleFrog Fiesta Bowl: Ohio State 44, Notre Dame 28

This probably won’t get the credit it deserved. Notre Dame turned in an impressive comeback to fight back into the game and make Ohio State work. It was a bittersweet game for Ohio State – it showed what it could’ve been, but still, it was a win over Notre Dame. The program will take it.
Pre-Bowl Season Matchup/Game Rank: 2

16. Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl: Washington 44, Southern Miss 31

It was the Myles Gaskin show with the Washington running back going off. Southern Miss did its part to hang around with a huge day from its offense with plenty of big plays, but it was Gaskin who made it a game breaking open a 24-24 tie.
Pre-Bowl Season Matchup/Game Rank: 31

17. TaxSlayer Bowl: Georgia 24, Penn State 17

Penn State had a Hail Mary attempt that meant something – that didn’t seem possible after getting down 24-3 and with Christian Hackenberg knocked out of the game. Trace McSorley almost pulled the Nittany Lions out of the fire, but give credit to Georgia for getting it down with Mark Richt off to Miami.
Pre-Bowl Season Matchup/Game Rank: 29

18. Foster Farms Bowl: Nebraska 37, UCLA 29

Nebraska obviously didn’t care about being 5-7. UCLA wasn’t unfocused, but it couldn’t gear it back up after the Huskers started pounding. In a lot of ways, this was the type of teams Husker fans were waiting for with the power running attack getting it done.
Pre-Bowl Season Matchup/Game Rank: 26

19. Quick Lane Bowl: Minnesota 21, Central Michigan 14

It might have been a forgettable bowl, but it was close until the end. Minnesota needs to score in the final few minutes to get over the embarrassment over a MAC team, but the defense held down Cooper Rush and the high-powered CMU attack.
Pre-Bowl Season Matchup/Game Rank: 33

20. AutoNation Cure Bowl: San Jose State 27, Georgia State 16

Georgia State played fired up in its first bowl game, while San Jose State had something to prove at 5-7. The Georgia State passing game pressed, but couldn’t connect late, while the defense and special couldn’t handle Tyler Ervin and his 132 rushing yards and punt return for a score.
Pre-Bowl Season Matchup/Game Rank: 37

21. St. Petersburg Bowl: Marshall 16, Connecticut 10

It was supposed to a defensive struggle, and from that aspect it didn’t disappoint. It wasn’t fun with the two offenses sputtering, but it was still a tight battle in the final minutes. There weren’t enough big moments to make the game matter.
Pre-Bowl Season Matchup/Game Rank: 40

22. Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman: Navy 44, Pitt 28

Kennan Reynolds was almost worth watching this game. He ran for tree short touchdowns, but it was the Navy grinding offense that won the day with a huge late drive and a 31-point run to never have to worry too much.
Pre-Bowl Season Matchup/Game Rank: 19

23. R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl: Louisiana Tech 47, Arkansas State 28

Kenneth Dixon, Jeff Driskel, and the Louisiana Tech was fun, but Arkansas State was a massive disappointment. The Red Wolves didn’t play well at all with too many little mistakes that added up. ASU is better than it showed.
Pre-Bowl Season Matchup/Game Rank: 11

24. Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl: California 55, Air Force 36

This was a disappointment after it became obvious Air Force didn’t have a prayer of stopping the Cal passing game. However, the Jared Goff show was terrific, throwing for 467 yards and six scores.
Pre-Bowl Season Matchup/Game Rank: 20

25. GoDaddy Bowl: Georgia Southern 58, Bowling Green 27

Favian Upshaw and the Georgia Southern running game were worth the price of admission, but it would’ve been nice if the Bowling Green offense of the regular season did more. The Falcons just never had the ball.
Pre-Bowl Season Matchup/Game Rank: 6

26. Franking American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Louisville 27, Texas A&M 21

Texas A&M mounted a comeback late, but without the starting quarterbacks the game didn’t have the sizzle. However, Louisville’s Lamar Jackson did his part to make it wild with 227 passing yards and 226 more on the ground.
Pre-Bowl Season Matchup/Game Rank: 28

27. CapitalOne Orange Bowl: Clemson 37, Oklahoma 17

It will be remembered as a dud, but it was a really, really intense, energetic game for a half. Oklahoma’s running back injuries turned into a problem, but Clemson also turned its game up a few notches.
Pre-Bowl Season Matchup/Game Rank: 3

28. Marmot Boca Raton Bowl: Toledo 32, Temple 17

This was a strangely rough game with Temple’s defense not playing like it did throughout the season. Toledo was good, but that wasn’t the Owl team that beat Penn State and almost got Notre Dame.
Pre-Bowl Season Matchup/Game Rank: 17

29. Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl: Houston 38, Florida State 24

Florida State had a moment when it looked like it might turn it on and be Florida State again, but Houston never let it happen. The goal was to get this game over with to get to the Orange Bowl and the College Football Playoff.
Pre-Bowl Season Matchup/Game Rank: 10

30. AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl: LSU 56, Texas Tech 27

Leonard Fournette and the running game ran like they were supposed to against the porous Texas Tech defense. This was going to be an LSU walk – or pounding run – in the park if it showed up and tried, and it did.
Pre-Bowl Season Matchup/Game Rank: 16

31. AutoZone Liberty Bowl: Arkansas 45, Kansas State 23

Kansas State kept it close for a while, and Arkansas needed to battle a bit in the second half, but there was no pop from the Wildcats. Arkansas was too good being able to out-Kansas State, Kansas State with the time of possession and running game.
Pre-Bowl Season Matchup/Game Rank: 34

32. Allstate Sugar Bowl: Ole Miss 48, Oklahoma State 29

This was over instantly. Ole Miss did its part with the stars showing up on both sides of the ball, but the high-powered Oklahoma State offense was a stunning disappointment. This was supposed to be a fun shootout, and it never materialized.
Pre-Bowl Season Matchup/Game Rank: 6

33. Belk Bowl: Mississippi State 51, NC State 28

Dak Prescott and the Mississippi State offense were just too good. NC State kept on fighting and didn’t give up after getting down 21-0, but the outcome was never in doubt.
Pre-Bowl Season Matchup/Game Rank: 14

34. Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual: Stanford 45, Iowa 16

Christian McCaffrey by himself made this worth the watch at an all-timer level, but Iowa wasn’t built to come back after getting down fast. Stanford is good, but it’s not that good. Iowa was far, far, far better than this.
Pre-Bowl Season Matchup/Game Rank: 5

35. Goodyear Cotton Bowl: Alabama 38, Michigan State 0

For a jaw-dropping display of talent and muscle-flexing, Alabama provided a showstopper. That wasn’t some lightweight Michigan State team that got rolled over – that was a strong, veteran team that’s been through the wars. Alabama ran a scrimmage.
Pre-Bowl Season Matchup/Game Rank: 1

36. Tennessee 45, Northwestern 6

This was expected to be a total disaster of Tennessee’s SEC talent got up early on the punchless Wildcats, and that’s exactly what happened. It took a while for the game to get going, and then once it did, it was time to do something else.
Pre-Bowl Season Matchup/Game Rank: 38

37. Birmingham Bowl: Auburn 31, Memphis 10

Memphis lost its head coach weeks ago, and its quarterback was ready to go to the NFL. Auburn’s offense wasn’t interesting, but it didn’t have to be.
Pre-Bowl Season Matchup/Game Rank: 23

38. Hawaii Bowl: San Diego State 42, Cincinnati 7

Cincinnati at least got a trip to Hawaii. San Diego State meant business from the very start with a killer performance from the defense against the Gunner Kiel-less Bearcat offense.
Pre-Bowl Season Matchup/Game Rank: 25

39. Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl: Michigan 41, Florida 7

Florida’s New Year’s Resolution to keep sucking on offense started off on the right foot. At least this was supposed to be a defensive slugfest, but the Gators didn’t oblige.
Pre-Bowl Season Matchup/Game Rank: 30

40. San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl: Boise State 55, Northern Illinois 7

Northern Illinois came up with 33 yards of total offense whether they were needed or not. Boise State is a great bowl team, Northern Illinois is an awful one. The Broncos wanted to make a statement, and NIU didn’t have a prayer.
Pre-Bowl Season Matchup/Game Rank: 39

Source: Ranking All 40 College Football Bowl Games –