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Monday, January 22, 2007

At War With The Raider Nation Over Lane Kiffin and The Raiders' Affirmative Action For Young White Men

Upon the annoucement that the Oakland Raiders hired Lane Kiffin as their new head coach, it can be said that I went balistic. Why? Well, look at his background:

-- Two years as USC Offensive Coordinator, not six as reported on Raiderfans.net (Hey, did someone clear this with Norm Chow? I thought he was the USC OC and not Kiffin. Kiffin was promoted to OC in 2005, thus he's not been the USC OC for six years. Sorry, but the Raiderfans report is an error.)
--  No NFL coordinator experience
--  One year as Quality Control coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars
-- No college head coaching experience
--  No NFL head coaching experience

Why do the Raider fans report that Kiffin has six years of experience as USC's Offensive Coordinator, when USC reports this:

"...Lane Kiffin, the son of longtime pro and collegiate coach Monte Kiffin, is in his sixth year at USC. He joined the Trojan staff in February of 2001 and spent the 2001 season handling the tight ends. He became the wide receivers coach in 2002. In 2004, he took on the additional duty of passing game coordinator. In 2005, he was promoted to offensive coordinator and recruiting coordinator, in addition to continuing as the wide receivers coach..."

The Raiders just insulted Tennessee Titans Offensive Coordinator Norm Chow, one of the greatest offensive coordinators in the game of football and the man who developed USC's passing system. Indeed, they should have just hired Norm Chow, who's Asian. So the Raiders are actually hiring an Assistant to an assistant at the NCAA level, right?

Plus, many USC fans are happy -- happy -- that Kiffin's gone. Check Scott Wolf of Inside USC. Or how about this AOL Blog where fans were pissed with Lane after the loss to UCLA? Heck, even UCLA fans are laughing at the Raiders! So why is the print media treating Al Davis as if he were some genius?


Or how about Hue Jackson, now Offensive Coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons and who's Black, has over 20 years of coaching experience, including Offensive Coordinator at two NCAA schools -- Cal and USC -- and now two NFL teams, and knows more pass offense than Kiffin ever saw or coached? Yet the Raiders never called him at all.

What gets me is that if Kiffin were Black, some in the media would question him as a Rooney Rule hire. But because he's White, his lack of qualifications get a pass from the media -- not me, however. It just goes to show how nuts and racist this society still is. Let Kiffin feel some heat for essentially allowing himself to be promoted as if Norm Chow didn't exist.

Regardless, many in the Raider nation were excited and not at all critical. To wake the throngs of sleeping Raiders fans, I posted this take on Raiderfans.net:

While I understand the excitement over Lane, my personal view is there's a HUGE misunderstanding over what a Head Coach -- A Good One -- does. The Raiders must be called out for "using" the Rooney Rule against its intent. They just interviewed one person to get around it -- James Lofton. Who's a wide receiver coach with the San Diego Chargers -- an NFL team.

Lane Kiffin comes from USC, not a pro team. Does he understand football administration at the pro level? Does he know how to manage a limited number of personel? He's got 100 football players at USC, but a limited number -- 53 -- with the Raiders.

So what does he do when he's got five linebackers, two are injured, and three are starting, and two of them play special teams? Does he have experience in handling this? What about using the Challenge Flag? What about all the other admin duties? How does he deal with players who are used to making a LOT of money and respect people who have been there at the pro level, and not as a quality control coach? I can do that job with my eyes closed.

NFL Head coaching is a hard, complex business. The Raiders --- I guess -- are going to really hold this guy's hand. A lot.

I feel sorry. Real sorry for all of the great NFL assistants -- regardless of color -- that were passed over and not even considered because the Raiders refuse to look at their organizational structure and change. I feel sorry for the players, who undoubtedly were not consulted about this matter and yet have to deal with what will be a VERY green person.

I feel sorry for the 31 WELL-QUALIFIED African American NFL assistant coaches who were not even consulted or listed. I feel sorry for Dennis Green, a proven coach who could come in and make a difference with the Silver and Black and didn't want to be PLAYED by the Raiders.

It's time for tough love. This Raiders need an enema. I'll write it here: Lane Kiffin is not the answer for the organization. The problems will continue -- back-stabbing and other matters -- well into this coming season.

This whole deal is enough to make me weep, but I won't.

Sure enough, I was taken to task for taking on Al Davis. It's not that I'm "taking him on" but for those who blindly -- and not critically -- follow what Mr. Davis does, no criticism can be given. But on the matter of the advancement of Black coaches in the NFL, I do not waver one bit. The Raiders have a pattern of seeking out and hiring real young white coaches to run the team -- never once have they hired anyone young, bright, and Black. Not once. So, someone asked if I was taking on Mr. Davis record of hiring minorities. This was my answer:

Yes I am. One -- a decade ago -- does not a progressive make. For the one, there are, let's see, four young white guys --- Madden, Shanahan, Gruden, Kiffin -- that Davis has hired. That's a pattern. Why not a young, bright Black guy? Why is it OK to have a ton of black running backs, but not a pattern of hiring good young black coaches?

So yes, I'm totally calling out Mr. Davis. Sorry, but I've seen enough. I'm really sick and tired of not only the maintenance of a kind of caste system, but this totally sick rush to defend a person when they hire one Black person -- twice -- as if it's throwing a freaking bone. This is stupid.

The Raiders are falling way behind the rest of the league. You all can go right ahead and get after me for this JUST as you came after me regarding Tom Walsh.

I'll sit right back and be the only person who's not afraid to point to the emperor and pull back the curtain. Social change is hard, man. But I for one will NOT stop pushing.

Why the heck can't it be the RAIDERS who go after the REALLY HOT Mike Tomlin -- WHO'S BLACK! The guy Chris Landry on Fox Sports says was the guy on a fast track. Why did it have to be the Steelers?

Why? (I know the answer here -- The ROONEY Rule.)

Folks, I don't care if I'm out there on an island here. Tough. But I'm going to be totally hard on the Raiders. I really am. I expect greatness from the organization, and it's not evident that they're really shooting for it. It's more like Afirmative Action for Young White Guys.

You think I'm bad; just tune into the NFL Network.

Of course, that did not endear me to the Raider nation and I'd rather not post their responses. But the bottom line is that there are massive problems. Here, we have Black coaches saying that the reason some of them don't get an interview is because of lack of experience. How the hell does one explain Lane Kiffin to anyone? How?

What do you say? As far as I'm concerned, the gloves have to come off at some point. I'm a Raiders fan, but as one who's staunchly for the promotion of young, bright , black coaches, it's hard to be a fan of the Silver and Black of late.

I've always been told that the one thing American society hates is a smart Black man. So when a young, smart, Black man comes along in the NFL, he's generally stopped after a point. Only Tony Dungy and just a few have broken through and Tony has used his good political currency to open doors for people like Mike Tomlin. Thus we see the development of a tree of coaches -- most Black -- that stem from Dungy. He's the one catalyst for change.

But not the Raiders.

The Raiders didn't go out and form a list of young Black coaches at all. They seem to save hiring Blacks for older Oakland Raider players and not for people who went through the NFL's Minority Recruitment Program.

As I wrote, the Silver and Black have no problem stocking up on African American running backs, but every problem in hiring smart, young , Black men.

So much for the progressive organization.

ESPN's Michael Smith Praises Pittsburgh Steelers Process Toward Hiring Mike Tomlin

This is far better than what the Oakland Raiders have done in hiring Lane Kiffin.

Search shows Steelers know what they're doing

By Michael Smith

In the immortal words of Rakim, this is how it should be done.

The diligence with which Steelers' ownership approached their nearly two-week search for Bill Cowher's replacement serves as a textbook example of what the NFL had in mind when it established the Rooney Rule (named after Pittsburgh owner Dan Rooney, it requires teams to interview at least one minority head coach candidate.)

The policy seeks to promote a fair, inclusive and thorough process.

Which "Race/Ethnicity" box the coach checked on his application is irrelevant.

The Steelers believe former Vikings defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin to be the best man to lead one of the league's flagship franchises.

Tomlin just so happens to be African-American.

Kirby Lee/WireImage.com
Mike Tomlin, left, leaves Brad Childress and the Vikings to take over the Steelers.
From the looks of it, Rooney and team president Art Rooney II started the selection process with a clean slate. Meaning it wasn't Coach X's job to lose, though many believed the Steelers ultimately would promote former offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt or assistant head coach/offensive line coach Russ Grimm. The Rooneys didn't go for broke in a hurried pursuit of a big-name college coach. They didn't conduct courtesy interviews with members of the majority or token interviews with minorities.

No side or backdoor deals, no circumventing. It was all legit. In fact, in the end the leading candidates were minorities -- Tomlin and Bears defensive coordinator Ron Rivera, who is Hispanic.

And while it is indeed fitting that Dan Rooney, who has been at the forefront of the league's movement to increase minority hiring, did his part to raise the number of active black coaches (to six), Rooney's obligation was not to make a social statement but to make the best decision for the franchise.

Coincidentally, the best choice is the first black coach in team history.

Super Bowl XLI will feature the first two black head coaches in the game's history. It's not as though black men only now figured out what it takes to be championship coaches. The more opportunities, the more likely a minority head coach leading a team to the title game becomes commonplace. Tomlin didn't sit before the Rooneys as a means of compliance, having no shot to begin with, as so often seems to be the case. It was an open competition and he had a real opportunity -- the only thing minority coaches want given to them.

For a change, a minority didn't have to be twice as qualified from a résumé standpoint to land the gig. The 34-year-old Tomlin spent five seasons as Tampa Bay's secondary coach and this past season overseeing Minnesota's defense. But what he lacks in experience Tomlin more than makes up for, according to those who know him, in charisma, football knowledge and the ability to get players young and old to buy into what he's selling.

Also, give the Steelers credit for focusing on the big picture rather than the short term. No one would have blamed the Rooneys for promoting from within in an attempt to maintain continuity on a team one season removed from its fifth championship. Or even for hiring an offensive coach or one whose preferred defensive scheme is better-suited to their current personnel. (Tomlin comes from the Tampa 2 coaching tree. The Steelers have run the 3-4 since the early 1980s.) Whereas other teams often select a head coach with one unit or even a few players a mind, Pittsburgh chose whom it believes to be the best leader.

Interestingly, an organization that has changed so little in the past -- Tomlin is the team's third coach in the past 38 seasons -- ignored the potential sweeping changes and instead focused on Tomlin's potential.

Clearly the Rooneys were thinking more about the next two decades rather than the next two years. And Tomlin, who becomes the league's youngest head coach, certainly will grow into the job.

He looks nothing like either Cowher or Chuck Noll, but the Rooneys see the same profile in Tomlin. Pittsburgh changes coaches about as often as the Catholic Church elects a pope, so it has some idea what it's doing in this department. The Steelers tend to do things the right way, and the exhaustive process that led them to Tomlin is no exception.

Michael Smith is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

Lane Kiffin Named Head Coach Of The Oakland Raiders - www.raiders.com

Kiffin Named Head Coach
January 22, 2007

Lane Kiffin will be formally introduced as Head Coach of The Oakland Raiders during a press conference on Tuesday, January 23, 2007 at 1:00 p.m. at the Raiders' facility in Alameda.

With his appointment today by Raiders owner Al Davis, Kiffin becomes the 16th head coach in franchise history and the youngest head coach in the NFL. The 31-year old Kiffin is also the youngest Head Coach in Raider history. Pro Football Hall of Fame Coach John Madden was 32 when he was elevated to the head post by Davis in 1969.

Most recently, Kiffin presided over the vaunted offensive attack at the University of Southern California that a featured long, medium and short-range passing game coupled with a power running attack. His tutoring helped the Trojans capture back-to-back National College Football Championships in 2003 and 2004.

Kiffin's play-calling, structure and offensive design helped the Trojan produce two Heisman Trophy winners-Reggie Bush in 2005 and Matt Leinart in 2004.

Kiffin, the son of longtime pro and college coach Monte Kiffin, just completed his sixth year at the University of Southern California. He joined the Trojan staff in 2001 handling the tight ends and he coached wide receivers from 2002-03. In 2004, he took on the responsibility of passing game coordinator as well as coaching wide receivers. In 2005, he was promoted to offensive coordinator and recruiting coordinator in addition to continuing as the wide receivers coach.

Under Kiffin's offensive leadership in 2006, the Trojans finished first in the Pac-10 in passing efficiency, averaging 264 yards per game, produced two 1,000-yard receivers (Dwayne Jarrett-1,105, Steve Smith-1,083) and a 3,000-yard passer (John David Booty-3,347).

In 2005, Kiffin was named one of the nation's Top 25 recruiters and served as offensive coordinator of an offensive that ranked in the top six nationally in every offensive category, including tops in total offense (579.8 yards per game) and second in scoring offense (49.1), and set Pac-10 records for total offense yardage, first downs, points scored, touchdowns and PATs. The Trojans, who scored 50 points a school-record seven times, won games by an average of 26.2 points.

Kiffin's play-calling and offensive design enabled Bush to capture the 2005 Heisman and the Trojans to become the first school to have a 3,000-yard passer (Matt Leinart-3,815), a pair of 1,000-yard runners (Bush-1,777, LenDale White-1,319) and a 1,000-yard receiver (DwayneJarrett-1,274) in a season.

In 2004, Kiffin coached on a staff that led Southern California to its second straight National Championship. He was in charge of a passing attack that helped Leinart win the Heisman Trophy with 3,322 yards passing and 33 touchdowns.

He also mentored the Trojan wide receivers including Mike Williams, a consensus All-American first teamer and a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award in 2003, who set Southern California career (30) and season (16) touchdown reception records. Kiffin also coached Keary Colbert, who set the Southern California career reception record (207) and was a NFL second round pick and Jarrett, who was named Freshman All-American first team.

In 2002, Kiffin coached the Southern California wide receivers that included Williams, who was Freshman All-American first team and the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year and Colbert both of whom became Southern California's first pair of 1,000-yard receivers. He also coached Kareem Kelly, who became the Trojan career reception leader and was a sixth round NFL draft pick.

With Kiffin on the coaching staff, Southern California played in the 2001 Las Vegas Bowl, 2003 Orange Bowl, 2004 Rose Bowl, 2005 Orange Bowl (BCS Championship Game) and 2006 Rose Bowl (BCS Championship Game) and the 2007 Rose Bowl.

Kiffin was the defensive quality control coach for the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars in 2000 (he worked with the secondary). He began his coaching career at Fresno State, his alma mater, where for two seasons (1997-98) he worked with the quarterbacks, wide receivers and defensive backs. He then was an assistant at Colorado State in 1999, working with the offensive line. The Rams played in the Liberty Bowl that season.

Kiffin was a quarterback at Fresno State for three seasons (1994-96), where he was coached by current University of California Head Coach Jeff Tedford. He earned his bachelor's degree in leisure service management from Fresno State in 1998. He prepped at Bloomington (Minn.) Jefferson High, where he played football, basketball and baseball.

He was born May 9, 1975. His wife's name is Layla. They have two daughters, Landry, 2 and Pressley, 3 months. His father, Monte, is the defensive coordinator of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The elder Kiffin, a longtime NFL and collegiate assistant coach served as North Carolina State's head coach in the early 1980s. His brother, Chris, was a defensive lineman at Colorado State (2001-04).

Hue Jackson Now Offensive Coordinator For Atlanta Falcons - Michael Vick In Good Hands

My favorite for head coach somewhere, Hue Jackson, was named Offensive Coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons and will be reunited with Head Coach Bobby Petrino, whom he worked with at Arizona State.

Here's Jackson's background as written on the Falcons website:

Jackson, 41, will serve as the Falcons offensive coordinator after serving as the wide receivers coach for the Cincinnati Bengals the past three seasons. During his time with the Bengals, Jackson molded wide receivers Chad Johnson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chris Henry into one of the most productive receiving units in Bengals history. In 2006, Johnson (1,369) led the NFL in receiving yards with Houshmandzadeh (1,081) following closely behind, making them the first Bengals teammates to each surpass the 1,000-yard receiving mark. From 2000-01, Jackson served as the running backs coach for the Washington Redskins, where he helped RB Stephen Davis record a career-high 1,432 in 2001. A year later, he served as the offensive coordinator for the Redskins. Prior to coaching in the NFL, Jackson spent 14 years coaching in the collegiate ranks, including two seasons alongside Petrino at Arizona State.

Jackson's Coaching Background: Offensive Coordinator, Atlanta Falcons (2007) | Wide Receivers, Cincinnati Bengals (2004-06) | Offensive Coordinator, Washington Redskins (2003) | Running Backs, Washington Redskins (2001-02) | Offensive Coordinator, Southern California (1997-2000) | Offensive Coordinator, California (1996) | Assistant Coach, Arizona State (1992-95) | Assistant Coach, London Monarchs (1991) | Assistant Coach, Cal State-Fullerton, (1990-91) | Assistant Coach, University of Pacific (1987-89).

Tony Dungy Protege Mike Tomlin New Head Coach Of Pittsburgh Steelers - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The Steelers Coaching Search: It's Tomlin

Vikings defensive coordinator to be announced today to take over the team from Cowher

Monday, January 22, 2007

By Ed Bouchette and Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Jerry Holt, Star Tribune

The Steelers chose Mike Tomlin, defensive coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings, as their new coach.

The Steelers have selected Mike Tomlin as their head coach and will announce his hiring at a news conference today.

Mr. Tomlin, 34, is the defensive coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings. His agent and the Steelers were working out contract details last night that would cover a term of four years and an option year. Mr. Tomlin succeeds Bill Cowher, who also was 34 when the Steelers hired him 15 years ago.

The Steelers chose Mr. Tomlin as head coach yesterday after vacillating between him and Russ Grimm, the team's assistant head coach and offensive line coach. The Steelers decided not to wait for Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Ron Rivera, the third finalist for the job, because he would not be available to be hired for another two weeks.

Mr. Tomlin and Mr. Grimm, 47, had second interviews for the job last week. Mr. Rivera was interviewed once.

The hiring of Mr. Tomlin will represent a radical change in at least the way the Steelers play defense. Mr. Tomlin has coached a 4-3 defense in Minnesota and is a proponent of the Cover-2 or Tampa-2 style. The Steelers played a 3-4 during Mr. Cowher's 15-year tenure using the zone blitz.

While all Steelers assistant coaches are under contract, many of them likely will not be retained by Mr. Tomlin. Wide receivers coach Bruce Arians could be the one exception. He could become offensive coordinator under Mr. Tomlin.

For sure, Mr. Grimm will leave. The Steelers likely will allow him out of his contract under the circumstances.

Dick LeBeau, in his second tenure as the Steelers' defensive coordinator, is unlikely to remain in that capacity under a head coach who believes in the 4-3 defense.

Mr. Tomlin is expected to visit the current Steelers coaching staff this week in Mobile, Ala., where the coaches are scouting the Senior Bowl practices.


Age: 34

Pro coaching experience: Vikings defensive coordinator, 2006; Buccaneers defensive backs coach, 2001-05.

College coaching experience: Cincinnati defensive backs coach, 1999-2000; Arkansas State defensive backs coach, 1998; Arkansas State wide receivers coach, 1997; Memphis graduate assistant coach, 1996; Virginia Military Institute wide receivers coach, 1995.

Playing experience:
Three-year starter at wide receiver for William and Mary, 1990-94. Finished career with 101 receptions for 2,046 yards and 20 touchdown catches.

The numbers: His defense in Minnesota ranked 8th in the NFL in total defense for 2006 and led the league in run defense. ... In a Dec. 10 game against the Lions, the Vikings held Detroit to minus-3 yards rushing, the lowest total by an NFL team in the past 45 years. ... He helped Tampa Bay's pass defense rank No. 1 in the NFL in two of his five seasons as secondary coach.

Personal info: Born in Hampton, Va. He and wife, Kiya, have two sons, Dino and Mason.

One defensive coach who could join Mr. Tomlin's staff is Brett Maxie, who coached the Atlanta Falcons' defensive backs under head coach Jim Mora, who was fired after the season. Also, Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler coached with Mr. Tomlin in college at Memphis and Arkansas State.

Mr. Tomlin, who was born in Hampton, Va., and played wide receiver at William and Mary, began his coaching career at Virginia Military Institute in 1995. He coached at Memphis, Arkansas State and Cincinnati before joining the pro ranks in 2001 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers under Tony Dungy and then Jon Gruden. He left the Buccaneers as their secondary coach last year to become the defensive coordinator of the Vikings under new coach Brad Childress.

His first defense in Minnesota ranked eighth overall -- No. 1 in the league against the run but tied for last against the pass as the Vikings went 6-10.

"I think regardless of who they hire to be head coach they expect him to lead, and part of leading is being prepared to do things that you feel strongly about," Mr. Tomlin said after his second interview with the Steelers Tuesday at the team's training facility on the South Side. "I'm no different than anyone else in that regard."

Mr. Tomlin was considered a long shot for the job when he was first named as a candidate shortly after Mr. Cowher resigned Jan. 5. In part because the Steelers won the Super Bowl in February, the two candidates on their staff were considered the front-runners -- Mr. Grimm and offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt.

Mr. Whisenhunt, though, accepted the head coaching job with the Arizona Cardinals last week after the Steelers gave him no guarantee he would get the job here. Mr. Grimm, who also was interviewed by the Cardinals, then was considered the front-runner for the Steelers' job.

But Mr. Tomlin thoroughly impressed the Steelers' three-man search committee -- president Art Rooney, chairman Dan Rooney and football operations director Kevin Colbert -- in his first interview, and he immediately became a serious candidate.

Mr. Tomlin becomes the first black coach of the Steelers, and only the franchise's third head coach in the past 38 years. Head coaches Lovie Smith of Chicago, which gained entry into the Super Bowl yesterday, and Kansas City's Herm Edwards also coached under Mr. Dungy. Mr. Tomlin replaced Mr. Edwards as the secondary coach in Tampa in 2001 when Mr. Edwards left to become head coach of the Jets.

Chuck Noll, hired in 1969 when he was 37, won four Super Bowls before he retired after the 1991 season. Mr. Cowher's teams made the playoffs in 10 of his 15 seasons and competed in six AFC championship games, two Super Bowls and won it all in February.

The Steelers would expect no less success from Mr. Tomlin, a vibrant and outgoing young coach whose reputation as a future head coach in the league skyrocketed the past couple of years. His defensive scheme may be different than what the Steelers have used recently, but his philosophy is pure Pittsburgh.

"I think football is a tough-man's game, it's an attrition game," Mr. Tomlin said on Tuesday. "You win by stopping the run and being able to run the ball effectively -- and doing the things winners do -- being a detailed-oriented football team, playing with great passion and executing."

Colts Motivated By OL Jeff Saturday's Speech On The Night Before The AFC Championship

Saturday's Words Motivated Colts Throughout Championship-Game Victory
INDIANAPOLIS - Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy’s not one for fiery speeches, pre-game, halftime or otherwise.
But he knows a good speech when he hears it.

And on Saturday night, he heard one from Colts center Jeff Saturday.

Saturday, a two-time Pro Bowl selection and a leader of the Colts’ offense, spoke to the team late Saturday night. This was after the Colts’ final meeting of that, and it came after Dungy’s final words to the team.

“He said, 'This is our time,’’’ Dungy recalled. ‘‘ ‘We’ve got to make it happen.’’’

Saturday recalled it in detail after the Colts’ 38-34 victory in the AFC Championship Game Sunday night.

“I started by telling all the guys how much respect I had for each one and I believe in them,” Saturday said. “We all knew this was our opportunity. I kind of made a parallel to the move, ‘Miracle,’ with Herb Brooks and what he said. The thing I tried to emphasize the most is, ‘This is our time, this is our team. We just need to step up and make it happen.’

“Guys did it.”

Throughout the second half, as the Colts scratched and clawed their way back from a 21-3 first-half deficit and into their first Super Bowl in their 23-year history in Indianapolis, Dungy made sure Colts players didn’t forget those words.

That was particularly true early in the second quarter, Dungy said.

In a 53-second span, the Patriots scored two touchdowns to turn a 7-3 lead into a 21-3 deficit that appeared insurmountable to some.

It didn’t seem that way to Dungy.

To make sure the players believed that, too, he referred to Saturday’s speech.

“All I did at that time

was go up and down the sidelines and tell the guys, ‘It’s still our time – we got plenty of time left,’’’ Dungy said.

Dungy also relied on past history with the Patriots. In 2003, in the first game of the current Colts-Patriots rivalry, New England led 31-10 in the second half before a dramatic fourth-quarter rally by the Colts.

Indianapolis eventually tied the game, 31-31, and trailing 38-34 late, had a chance to win late in the game before running back Edgerrin James was stopped on 4th-and-goal from New England’s 1-yard line.

“We were in this situation the last time we played these guys here,” Dungy said. “They got way up on us and we had the ball at the end to win the game. I think we were down 21 in that game. I told the guys at halftime, ‘We’re going to have the ball with a chance to win in the fourth quarter. This time, we’re going to make it happen.’’’

Only 18 players remain from that team, but those that did remembered.

“Jeff Saturday talked and Tony talked and we just felt like this was our time. We’ve been through a lot. Guys have been through a lot from a personal standpoint off the field this year. When things started coming together at the end, we just said, ‘You know what? Things are going well. We’ve got the home game. This is our time to take advantage of this.’ We’ve got one more game.

“A lot of the veteran guys remembered we were in the exact same position in ‘03. The momentum shifted. We got some turnovers, got some stops and the offense got going.”

Said Dungy, “Our guys just fought. Nobody ever got to the point. We just wanted to fight. Even if we didn’t win it, they just wanted to fight all the way and that’s what this team is all about.”

Bill Pacells - Dallas Cowboys Coach Retires In Surprise Move

After four years, Bill Parcells, the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, retired in a surprise move. I learned this watching ESPN and indeed, this is reported on their website. Moreover, he's done this before in 1991 from the Giants; in 1996 from the New England Patriots, and in 2001 from the New York Jets. This makes his fourth go-round.

But as much as ESPN focuses on the stress of the last season as the reason, people forget that Parcells did have heart problems. Plus, he's getting older and indeed can take only so much. It wasn't Terrell Owens in my view. T.O. actually played better and was more of a positive impact as the season wore on.

Indeed, he did have to deal with QB Quincy Carter's drug problems a few years ago and I can't see how that could be less stressful. I think it may have been Jerry Jones' focus on winning and such that Jones may have made an inappropriate statement to Parcells in a recent meeting. They did get along well, however, so that's a remote possibilty. Brad Sham, the noted Cowboys Broadcaster, said that he was surprised at the news as "everyone was excited about the season and the future." It may have been just the stress of the business side of the deal involving his contract or words from his wife and family. He may have a clause in it that invites him to retire with some comfort. He may have taken that deal.

He did have a hard and taxing year, one for any coach. Take a look at this video of the press conference after the loss to the New York Giants:

Call The Colts / Pats Game "The Encounter In Indy"

Sports Illustrated's Andrew Perloff calls the 2007 AFC Championship Game between the Indianapolis Colts and the New England Patriots, was one of the greatest in history. I have to agree. In this article below, he asks for a nickname for the game. That's hard because unlike "The Drive" -- Denver v. Cleveland -- or "The Catch" -- SF v. Dallas in 1981 -- there were so many moments and plays it's hard to pick just one defining moment. In the sprit of "The Thrilla In Manilla" I'll call it the "Encounter In Indy." Short and sweet.

There are so many reasons for this nickname. First, we all expected -- and got -- a massive battle. For the Colts was the fourth best comback in NFL Playoff History, and the best comeback in Championship Game History. Second, it was billed as the most inportant game in Colts QB Peyton Mannings's life, and his performance was the defining one in the game. Manning has six key drives -- not one but six -- where he placed his team in position to keep pace with New England and then beat them. He led the Colts to scores on six of their final eight drives (not counting the final kneel-down). The shortest of the six drives was 59 yards, and four of them ended in touchdowns. Third, it was the third playoff meeting between these two teams in four years, and the Colts had lost the previous two "encounters" in Foxborough, thus the name "Encounter In Indy."

Here's Andrew's article:

The Colts' 38-34 win over the Patriots tonight ranks as one of the top three conference championship games in NFL history. The only two contests I'd put ahead of Indy's stunning victory were the 49ers' 28-27 win over the Cowboys in 1981 (“The Catch”) and the Broncos' 23-20 overtime win over the Browns in 1986 (“The Drive”).

The showdown at the RCA Dome might not have a nifty nickname yet, but there are so many remarkable stories coming out of Indianapolis. It was the biggest comeback (18 points) in championship game history. Peyton Manning is no longer the best quarterback never to reach a Super Bowl. Tony Dungy will join Lovie Smith as the first two black coaches in Super Bowl history. The great Tom Brady finally falters in the final minute of a playoff game.

From a historical perspective, this game could end up having a parallel to the '81 49ers' win. San Francisco was able to slay the mighty Cowboys, who had thoroughly dominated the NFC, and begin a new era in the NFL. Perhaps this game will mark the end of New England's domination of the AFC and usher in Indy's time to shine.

The game started out looking like a typical Patriots' domination of the Colts. And until the end of the first half, Indy gave no one any reason to think differently. But this Colts team is different from ones that have wilted in Foxboro in years past. It shook off New England's best shot early on and finally played like the team that is so hard to beat during the regular season. Now Indianapolis has to beat Chicago so this masterpiece doesn't go to waste.

Let me know where you think this game ranks among the best conference championship games of all time.

ESPN's John Clayton: Lovie Smith, Tony Dungy Will make Classy Super Bowl

Smith, Dungy will make this a classy Super Bowl

By John Clayton

CHICAGO -- On the Friday evening before the start of the AFC playoffs, Bears coach Lovie Smith had dinner in Indianapolis with his close friends, Tony Dungy and Herman Edwards, before the two squared off for their first-round playoff game between the Colts and Chiefs.

His Bears in a bye week, Smith sensed history. The three African-American coaches, devoted Christians and family men, were striving for the Super Bowl. Smith and Edwards learned NFL coaching from Dungy, their mentor when they worked for him with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It was a special moment.

NFL arrives

Lovie Smith taking on Tony Dungy marks only the second time in the four major sports that the championship has both teams led by a black head coach/manager. In 1975, Al Attles' Warriors defeated KC Jones' Bullets in the NBA Finals. Here's the list of black coaches in championships:
Year Coach Result
2006 Avery Johnson, Mavs Lost 4-2
2003 Byron Scott, Nets Lost 4-2
2002 Byron Scott, Nets Lost 4-0
1986 KC Jones, Celtics Won 4-2
1985 KC Jones, Celtics Lost 4-2
1984 KC Jones, Celtics Won 4-3
1979 Lenny Wilkens, Sonics Won 4-1
1978 Lenny Wilkens, Sonics Lost 4-3
1975 Al Attles, Warriors Won 4-0
1975 KC Jones, Bullets Lost 4-0
1969 Bill Russell, Celtics Won 4-3
1968 Bill Russell, Celtics Won 4-2
2002 Dusty Baker, Giants Lost 4-3
1993 Cito Gaston, Jays Won 4-2
1992 Cito Gaston, Jays Won 4-2

Super Bowl XLI will be even more special. Dungy's Colts, who beat the Patriots 38-34 in the AFC Championship Game on Sunday, will meet Lovie's Bears. The NFL has been waiting 41 years for the first African-American head coach to patrol the sidelines at a Super Bowl. Now there will be two, and one will be the winner. Actually, the nation will be the winner in this one.

"You always talk about it,'' Dungy said of the chance to be the first African-American head coach in the Super Bowl. "When [Smith] took the job in Chicago, I said, 'I'm happy you are going to the NFC and maybe we can play against each other.' When we had dinner three weeks ago, he and I and Herm were still in it. We talked about maybe two of us will play against each other. You hope it happens. It's going to be great going against them. They are a great team.''

Hopefully, Edwards, the Chiefs' head coach, will make it to Miami. How can he miss it? This is history.

"We had a chance to visit for about two hours,'' Dungy said of the family dinner with Smith and Edwards before the playoffs. "We talked about how we really got started in 1996 in Tampa. Some things don't change, the things that Lovie, Herm and I believe in. That's the exciting thing for me. I'm so happy Lovie got there because he does things the right way. He's going to get there with a lot of class, no profanity, no intimidation, just helping his guys play the best that they can. That's the way I try to do it."

Super Bowl XLI will be all about class. Peyton Manning finally made it to his first Super Bowl after nine years. Manning's Colts are a seven-point favorite in a game that might be considered the biggest quarterback mismatch in a long time. Manning is the game's top quarterback. The Bears' Rex Grossman always seems to be a pass away from being benched in favor of Brian Griese.

This is the Super Bowl matchup that has defied the odds. The favorite could be the first Super Bowl winner since 1983 that didn't finish in the top 10 in scoring defense. Toward the end of the season, the Colts and Bears, both of whom have undersized Cover 2 defenses, were consistently gashed on the ground. The Colts are among the worst run defenses in NFL history.

"Everybody was thinking the 3-4 defenses were the best thing since sliced bread,'' Colts defensive tackle Anthony McFarland said. "In the end, you have two Tampa 2 or Minnesota Cover 2 or whatever you call it going against each other. Both teams are small. Both teams have fast linebackers and fast defensive linemen."

Dungy and Smith are all about simplicity. In an age of complexity, the Cover 2 relies on simplicity. Instead of getting lost in a playbook of zone blitzes and multiple reads and confusing coverages, Dungy and Smith devise schemes in which fast, quick linebackers simply make plays.

Dungy and Bucs defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin developed the Cover 2 when they were together in Minnesota working for Dennis Green. Dungy made the Cover 2 a staple when he brought Kiffin to Tampa Bay and turned the Bucs into a dominating defense. Players loved it. A middle linebacker might drop back into coverage to give a Cover 3 look, but Dungy set up the defense so players made plays.

In Super Bowl XLI, you will see fast, undersized players flying around the field as if they are in fast forward. Many doubted the Colts' ability to go to the Super Bowl because of their poor regular-season run defense. They figured Larry Johnson, Jamal Lewis and others would treat the Colts' defense like speed bumps.

Dungy didn't panic. He made minor adjustments. McFarland started to come on as the biggest defensive tackle. Linebacker Rob Morris helped out on the strong side. Safety Bob Sanders returned from a knee injury to charge up from the secondary to knock down backs.

"It's about attitude and intensity," defensive end Dwight Freeney said. "It's not always about X's and O's and perfect defense. Guys weren't making plays [during the Colts' slump]. That's why you see an 80- or a 60-yard run. Even if a guy doesn't happen to make a play now, another guy is there to help. We are doing the same thing we've always done. Now, guys finally got it in their heads that we've got to be accountable. ''

Super Bowl XLI is about simplicity. Playmakers make plays. That's the defensive philosophies of Dungy and Smith. They try to find the best athletes. Then they coach them up and let them loose on the field. On the sidelines, neither coach panics, something Manning appreciates.

"That's something I've said since Coach Dungy has been here," Manning said. "He's calm on opening kickoff, and he's calm when you're down 21-3. … He's just a cool customer. I think that really spreads through the rest of the team, that it cannot be a panic situation and you can't try to get it all back at once.''

Patience is a virtue, which translates into a matchup of two class people who meet as friends in Super Bowl XLI.

John Clayton is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

Chicago Bears Blow Out New Orleans Saints; 'D' Bears Head to Super Bowl XLI, 39-14

'D' Bears head to Super Bowl XLI, win 39-14

NFL.com wire reports

CHICAGO (Jan. 21, 2007) -- Relax, Chicago. Rex Grossman and Da Bears are indeed good enough for this Super Bowl, and they've already made it a historic one.

Few teams with such an impressive record have been as questioned, even maligned as the Bears. Yet after romping past the New Orleans Saints 39-14, they are headed to their first NFL title game since the 1985 team overwhelmed the league and shuffled in under Mike Ditka and Jim McMahon.

This time, Lovie Smith will lead them there, the first black head coach to make it to the title game in its 41 years.

"I'll feel even better to be the first black coach to hold up the world championship trophy," he said.

Smith's team did it in true Bears fashion -- big plays on defense and a steady running game in the sleet and snow, ending the Saints' uplifting saga.

The Bears (15-3) will play Indianapolis Colts (15-4), in Miami in two weeks. The game pits two black head coaches in the big game for the first time; Indy coach Tony Dungy was Smith's mentor.

All the worries about how genuine the Bears' outstanding season was disappeared thanks to running back Thomas Jones, All-Pro kicker Robbie Gould and a defense that, while not dominant, made enough decisive plays.

"I am really into the great tradition we have with the Chicago Bears," Smith said. "I am just trying to get our football team up to that same standard Mike had his team at, especially that '85 team."

Added All-Pro linebacker Brian Urlacher: "We knew what the experts said. It didn't matter. This is a great team win for our franchise."

For a moment, though, in the third quarter they seemed to be in trouble.

Reggie Bush's electrifying 88-yard touchdown catch and dash to the end zone pulled the Saints within two points, 16-14. But from then on, Urlacher and the Bears' defense took over.

Chicago, which has won nine NFL titles but has been an also-ran for much of the last two decades, later went 85 yards in five plays in the worst of the weather. Oft-criticized Grossman had four completions, including a 33-yarder to a diving Bernard Berrian that clinched it, sending the bundled-up fans in Soldier Field into foot-stomping hysteria and chants of "Super Bowl, Super Bowl."

"We had a great game today," said Grossman, who was 11 for 26 for 144 yards, but made no mistakes. "This is great and all, but we have one game to go."

Thomas Jones scored twice, and the Bears totaled 196 yards on the ground.
Jones had all 69 yards on an eight-play ground drive in the second quarter, scored twice and rushed for 123 yards. Gould nailed three field goals.

The Bears, who led the league with 44 takeaways, forced four turnovers, and when NFC passing leader Drew Brees fumbled less than a minute after Berrian's TD, whatever karma the Saints (11-7) carried this season disappeared.

Cedric Benson scored on a 12-yard run, and from there it was a matter of searching for the sunscreen.

Smith and Bears owner Virginia McCaskey, daughter of Bears founder George Halas, accepted the Halas Trophy moments after Grossman tossed the ball deep into the stands after the final kneel-down.

"This is why we play the game, to get to the Super Bowl and win," Urlacher said. "This overshadows everything."

It was a bitter, sloppy conclusion to the Saints' remarkable turnaround from a nomadic 3-13 season in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina's destruction to this winning season. As their city rebuilds, the team has provided an uplifting respite in the saga. This was the first trip this far into the playoffs for the 40-year-old franchise, previously best known as the Aints, whose fans wore paper bags on their heads because the team was so bad.

Down 16-0 and throttled for 28 minutes, the Saints awakened late in the first half on a 29-yard third-down completion to Marques Colston, who previously had several drops and several more slips. Brees threw a pair of sideline darts and Colston beat Charles Tillman for a 13-yard TD that temporarily changed the flow with 46 seconds remaining in the half.

It took New Orleans only 2:40 into the third quarter to make it 16-14 on Bush's spectacular 88-yard touchdown that ended with a couple of moves. The rookie beat Chris Harris off the line, ignored the sleet and extended for Brees' looping pass. Then he sped down the left sideline and, at midfield, used one of those Heisman jukes past Danieal Manning.

As Bush neared the end zone, he turned and pointed tauntingly at the hopelessly trailing Urlacher before somersaulting into the end zone.

That hot-dogging wasn't close to Brees' heave in the end zone. Under pressure but still in the pocket, he threw the ball away, causing a safety.

That erased any momentum for the Saints, and Chicago scored on Berrian's brilliant catch at the 2; he was not tackled down and stood up to cross the goal line.

A Chicago blitz stymied New Orleans' opening drive. After Devery Henderson outfought Tillman for a 40-yard pass to the Bears' 32, an all-out rush on third down led to a sack by Israel Idonije and a Saints punt into the end zone.

It set a first-half trend.

Another sack, by rookie Mark Anderson, Chicago's top pass rusher this season, was even more embarrassing to the Saints. Brees lost the ball and a Keystone Kops chase for it wound up in a 25-yard loss when rookie guard Jahri Evans recovered.

But Chicago's offense went nowhere.

So the defense got things started. Harris stripped the ball from Colston and Tillman returned it to the Saints' 36. After getting their initial first down on a 16-yard reverse by Rashied Davis, the Bears gambled on fourth-and-1 at the 4 and Benson converted.

But all they got was Gould's 19-yard field goal.

New Orleans remained charitable, and Adrian Peterson stripped kickoff returner Michael Lewis at the Saints' 30. New Orleans coach Sean Payton lost a video challenge, and Gould hit from 43.

The sloppy footing was an issue all through the game, particularly once the cold rain, followed by sleet and snow, began falling. Runners, receivers and returners kept slipping and areas of the turf were gashed by halftime.

Gould's 24-yarder made it 9-0 and Jones had his personal touchdown drive, with his 33-yard run the Bears' longest all season.

Jones capped the ground march with a 2-yard run for a 16-0 lead. He also scored from 15 yards in the fourth quarter.

Down 21-3 To New England Patriots, Indy Colts Come Back, Peyton Manning Finds Rhythm On Eight Drives - Indy Colts


After struggling in the beginning of the game as his team fell behind 21-3, Peyton Manning found his rhythm at the end of the first half and led the Colts to scores on six of their final eight drives (not counting the final kneel-down). The shortest of the six drives was 59 yards, and four of them ended in touchdowns.

Here's a look:
Colts' final eight drives
Start at Indy 12: 15 plays, 80 yards, 2:59 elapsed, field goal. Manning is 7-of-12 for 82 yards, most on underneath passes.
Start at Indy 24: 14 plays, 76 yards, 6:47 elapsed, touchdown (1-yard Manning run). Manning is 5-of-6 for 44 yards.
Start at Indy 24: 6 plays, 76 yards, 2:50 elapsed, touchdown (1-yard pass to Dan Klecko). Manning is 2-of-4 for 26 yards; key play is pass interference in end zone that puts ball at the 1. (He also completes two-point conversion to tie the score at 21.)
Start at Indy 33: 7 plays, 67 yards, 3:01 elapsed, touchdown (fumble recovery). Manning is 3-of-3 for 46 yards, including a 23-yarder to Clark.
Start at Indy 22: 3 plays, minus-7 yards, :40 elapsed, punt. Manning is 0-of-2.
Start at Indy 23: 5 plays, 59 yards, 2:11 elapsed, field goal. Manning is 1-of-2, firing a 52-yarder to Clark.
Start at Indy 20: 3 plays, 0 yards, :27 elapsed, punt. Manning is 0-3.
Start at Indy 20: 7 plays, 80 yards, 1:17 elapsed, touchdown (3-yard Addai run). Manning is 3-of-4 for 57 yards, including a 32-yarder to Bryan Fletcher.

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