Once, when there was the ongoing talk about the Cardinals firing coach Dennis Green, there was also speculation that the Cards would be in prime shape to hire whomever they wanted — because their job might be the only one open this offseason. As proved at the end of every season, that kind of stability doesn’t exist in the NFL.
The Steelers might lose Bill Cowher, but after winning a Super Bowl last season, Cowher’s departure would be strictly his own choice. He more or less addressed the issue of his quitting — which has been a source of speculation since the offseason — last week, at least to say he wouldn’t make a decision until after the year.
Cowher wouldn’t say if it would be because he wants to spend time watching his basketball-playing daughters, but he did remark “Do I look burned out? I’m not.”
Falcons coach Jim Mora might be OK, but Atlanta owner Arthur Blank was angry after Mora made the recent comments on a Seattle radio station that he wants the University of Washington job. Mora said he was joking, but Blank was not happy and Mora’s leash grew ever shorter.
The Raiders might make a change despite Art Shell having just one season, but Oakland is such a mess no one is sure what might happen. NFL Network said Shell would be out, but Raiders owner Al Davis was so ticked at the report by Adam Schefter — who used to cover Oakland rival Denver and wrote a book with Broncos coach Mike Shanahan — that he might just keep Shell around out of spite.
Tennessee’s Jeff Fisher is about to become a free agent, but as good of a coach as he is and as well as the Titans have surprisingly played, “Jeff is not going anywhere,” Tennessee owner Bud Adams said.
Some of those jobs will likely come open, and there are other strictly performance-related situations — Tampa Bay and Jon Gruden, Cleveland and Romeo Crennel — that are darkhorse candidates for turnover.
Whatever happens, it is probable that the Cardinals — who seem to be likely to get rid of Green — won’t be the only one looking for a coach.
OF CHIEF(S) CONCERN
Just a few weeks ago, Chiefs running back Larry Johnson was interviewed on HBO talking about how much he loved coach Herman Edwards and how much better Edwards related to Johnson than previous coach Dick Vermeil had.
But once Kansas City started struggling to score, Johnson changed his tune.
“This is getting ridiculous,” Johnson said. “Everybody is saying, ‘Oh, it’s fine, it’s OK.’ I don’t know who in their mind thinks this is OK. This is nothing that’s OK. We need to change a lot of it.”
Edwards said he didn’t need to see the tape of Johnson’s rant, dismissing the comments and saying Johnson was merely frustrated.
Denver was nearly brought to a standstill last week with that terrible blizzard, but the Broncos continued to practice as best they could and coach Mike Shanahan was unrelenting in his attitude toward players who had to get through the conditions.
“It’s part of anybody’s responsibility to get here,” Shanahan said. “Do what you need to do. That’s part of what it is growing up. You might have to leave a couple of hours earlier, but it’s just the nature of the job.”
TOP SEED NOT TOP STUFF
The Bears clinched the NFC’s No. 1 seed, but really, does it mean anything? The NFC’s top seed hasn’t won the Super Bowl since the 1999 Rams.
Since then, the Giants, Rams, Eagles and Seahawks lost in the Super Bowl. And twice — with the 2003 Eagles and the 2002 Eagles — the top seed lost in the NFC championship.
Falcons quarterback Michael Vick, who needs just 10 yards rushing to be the first quarterback to ever rush for 1,000 in a season, also has a career-high 19 touchdown passes this year. ...
The Colts play in Houston today with a chance to continue to make Texans quarterback David Carr’s life hell. In nine meetings, the Colts have sacked Carr 33 times, with defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis totaling seven each.
“He’s my boy,” Freeney quipped of Carr. ...
Packers quarterback Brett Favre needs seven touchdown passes to tie Dan Marino’s record of 420 — and he needs five interceptions to tie George Blanda’s mark of 277.
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH IN TODAY’S GAMES
In a (toe) jam
Baltimore visits Pittsburgh in a game the Ravens need in their quest for a first-round playoff bye, but Pro Bowl left tackle Jonathan Ogden will probably not play with turf toe on his left foot, an injury that could linger into the postseason.
A toe doesn’t seem that important, until it’s expected to help hold up a 6-foot-9, 345-pound man – and help protect quarterback Steve McNair.
Timeout on T.O.
Cowboys wideout Terrell Owens finally makes his return to Philadelphia Monday night and it’s not that big a deal. That’s because the Eagles have resurrected their season despite the knee injury to quarterback Donovan McNabb, thanks to the stunning play of veteran Jeff Garcia, and could win the NFC East by beating the Cowboys.
“When you have a game as big as this,” Eagles tight end L.J. Smith said, “the subplots just don’t mean as much.”
The Patriots could be in trouble if they lose in Jacksonville today and their slump continues. Yet New England may be the best in taking perceived disrespect and making it motivation.
Take quarterback Tom Brady, after he felt he was snubbed by not making the Pro Bowl: “If other people who vote don’t have the respect for this team, I think we’re kind of used to that. … This team cares about one bowl and it’s certainly isn’t the Pro Bowl.”
Saints quarterback Drew Brees said he was taking the T-shirt and hat he was given after New Orleans clinched only their third division title in 40 years and sticking them in the closet.
The Saints weren’t happy with the clinching, since they backed into it after losing to Washington. Now they must go to New York to play against a desperate Giants team that needs to win more than the Saints.
Playing like a Champ
As if Carson Palmer and the Cincinnati offense weren’t having enough problems, they must deal with Denver cornerback Champ Bailey, who is in contention for Defensive Player of the Year with his eight interceptions.
Bailey has gotten to the point where teams are hardly throwing at him at all. Both his picks against the Cardinals last week came against the only two passes thrown near him.
Atlanta visits Philadelphia in a game that will go a long way toward determining the NFC playoffs