Shutdown Corner - NFL

  • The Chicago Bears made a heck of a statement this offseason. They gave quarterback Jay Cutler a $126 million contract.

    The team was telling everyone that even though Cutler was a mediocre quarterback for eight years, the ninth would be different. He would be paid like he was on the same level as the game's best quarterbacks. And now, 14 games later, they’re benching Cutler for Jimmy Clausen.

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    ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter reported the news. It’s a stunning move by a team that is falling apart at the seams through constant backbiting, both public and private. The Bears have lost three in a row, there are reports that coach Marc Trestman will be fired, and now the team is starting Clausen (three touchdowns, nine interceptions in his NFL career) over the man they paid like one of the best quarterbacks in football less than a year ago.

    Mistakes? Oh, there have been a few.

    In fact, this benching might be a mistake. Cutler isn't a great quarterback, with just one Pro Bowl and one playoff appearance in nine seasons and never a quarterback rating higher than 90 in a season (for comparison, much maligned Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo has never posted a rating below 90 in a full season). But Cutler's better than Clausen. The move seems to serve no real purpose. Is this a last, final statement by a lame duck head coach, scapegoating the quarterback for the offense's struggles? Is it a desperate move by a coach trying to save his job? Or did the staff become so fed up with Cutler's reckless play that they figured anyone would be better?

    Remember that while offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer was probably wrong to be the anonymous source on an NFL Network story ripping Cutler, nothing that he said was really wrong. Cutler has 28 touchdowns, but he also has 18 interceptions, and constantly throwing deep into double coverage doesn't help the offense. Maybe the Bears will try to trade him this offseason, and nobody should trade for a quarterback whose contract far exceeds his accomplishments, but NFL general managers and coaches who are desperate to save their jobs don't always think logically.

    Who knows for sure why Trestman is making this move from Cutler to Clausen, but the truth is this: The Bears have an incredibly expensive backup quarterback.

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    Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

  • An NFL fan embracing the passion for his team on a holiday card is nothing new. But for New York Jets fan Rich Nagle, his holiday card is hoping for coal in the stocking of the team's general manager.

    In recent weeks, second-year general manager John Idzik has come under intense scrutiny from Jets fans, tired of the step backwards from their 3-11 team. There is a website, FireJohnIdzik.com, whose domain name leaves nothing to the imagination. There are billboards asking for his firing by owner Woody Johnson, and a planned protest for this weekend's home finale against the New England Patriots.

    And now, the "Season of Giving" has Jets fans wanting to give him a new job. Nagle, a Jets fan in north Jersey, has included the "Fire Idzik" movement into his seasonal spirit, turning the family's Christmas card into another call to fire the team's GM.

    It was actually my wife's idea,” Nagle told Yahoo! Sports. “I think she must have been sick of hearing me complain about the bad season and poor management and thought it would be a fitting way to express it while letting friends and family know the state of affairs in the Nagle household.”

    The card went out to a distribution list of 80 people, mailed showing the holiday cheer of wife Marni and children Thomas, Maya, and Ian. Sprinkled on top is a little “Bah, humbug!” for Idzik.

    This wasn't just some sort of online joke or an e-card. This was the official holiday message from the Nagle family. Clearly from top to bottom, they just don't like Idzik.

    To the point that they are willing to put that as part of their holiday cheer.

    For us it is simple. The last draft was one of the richest in recent history and we don't have one good pick to show for it,” Rich Nagle said. “In addition there was significant money left on the table that could have been used to get some free agent help.”

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    Kristian R. Dyer writes for Metro New York and is a contributor to Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KristianRDyer

  • Prison will always define Michael Vick. But in a very tangible way, he's almost shed one of the heaviest burdens of his days behind bars: an $18 million debt.

    Vick's career out of prison, six seasons, is now as long as his career before it. But as ESPN's Darren Rovell notes, much of the second half of Vick's career, which is now in low gear in New York, has been spent paying off a $17.8 million debt to creditors. Vick declared bankruptcy while in prison on federal dogfighting charges in July 2008.

    Vick has spent the last five years on a budget in an effort to pay back creditors. Vick had to pay back the Atlanta Falcons $6.5 million in salary, among many others.

    Now, granted, Vick is still making a substantial amount of money, an estimated $49 million in salary since his release from prison. Rovell adds sentences like the following, apparently without irony: "As part of the plan to pay off his creditors, Vick stuck to living on an annual $300,000 budget, because more than 50 percent of what he was making went toward taxes and legal fees." That budget, presumably after taxes, seems like enough to scrape by.

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    As ESPN notes, Vick opted to go with Chapter 11 rather than Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which meant he paid back all that he owed, not a small percentage. To him, it was an important and necessary step to demonstrate his willingness to atone. The deal with creditors is set to expire at the end of the year, and Vick will likely sell some property to close off the last of his debt.

    "I feel blessed because I came out and found myself in a position where I had a lot of people that really believed in me, people who gave me an opportunity," Vick said. "At the time, it wasn't about trying to fulfill all the bankruptcy needs, I was trying to fulfill all the needs that I had in my life because I had nothing."

    Vick will never escape the shadow of the events that landed him in prison. But he's shown through his actions that he won't remain defined by them. That's admirable, in its own way.

    More on the Jets:

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    Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter.

    And keep up with Jay over on Facebook, too.

  • A few things happened in Week 15 that caused us to reshuffle our playoff projections.

    Here's how the playoff field looks right now entering Week 16 of the NFL season, with the Arizona Cardinals still sitting atop the NFC field with home-field advantage and the Super Bowl being played on their home turf.

    However, with the Cardinals' shaky quarterback situation (and injuries elsewhere), we're projecting a new team landing the coveted top seed — the Seattle Seahawks — in advance of their meeting with the Cards this weekend.

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    Losses by the Green Bay Packers and Philadelphia Eagles and victories by the Detroit Lions, Dallas Cowboys and New Orleans Saints also tilted those respective divisional races and the wildcard picture. One double-digit team will miss the field entirely, and right now it's the Eagles on the outside looking in.

    With that in mind, here's how the first-round matchups could end up looking if our projections are accurate.

    Detroit Lions at Dallas Cowboys: Yes, the Cowboys still need to firm up a postseason bid, but we think they have a great chance to take the NFC East and host this intriguing matchup of the Cowboys' offensive prowess against the fine defense of the Lions — specifically, the Lions' stout run defense (tops in the league) against the league's leading rusher in DeMarco Murray, assuming he has no complications from his left hand injury. Cowboys offensive coordinator Scott Linehan spent the past several years calling plays for the Lions, so he certainly would have some intel on how to slow down Calvin Johnson, Matthew Stafford and the Lions' offense, too. Johnson and Dez Bryant would be a fun postseason showcase of two of the NFL's premiere wideouts.

    Arizona Cardinals at New Orleans Saints: The fact that Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians appeared very optimistic about Drew Stanton's health this week, we'd have to think that Stanton would have an excellent chance to quarterback them — and boy, they'd need it, even against a lesser defense — in this game. The Cardinals are 4-3 on the road, and the Saints are a fairly stunning 3-4 at home right now, but the Saints whipped the Green Bay Packers at the Superdome, and the Cardinals earned an impressive victory over the Cowboys away from home, so don't assume the worst. These teams met in this building in the 2009 postseason — Kurt Warner's final NFL game — en route to the Saints' first and only Super Bowl victory.

    Baltimore Ravens at Indianapolis Colts: This would be a rematch of the teams that met at Lucas Oil Stadium back in Week 5, an ugly 20-13 win by the Colts that featured four field goals, one passing touchdown in 87 combined pass attempts between Andrew Luck and Joe Flacco and an interception by none other than Ravens defensive lineman Haloti Ngata, who would be scheduled to return from his four-game suspension for this playoff game. Colts head coach Chuck Pagano was the Ravens' defensive coordinator from 2008 to 2011, so it would be another chance for him to beat his former team.

    Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers: The Bengals actually lead the AFC North right now, but we think the multiple-personality Steelers have the firepower to overtake them and earn home field in this battle. Heinz Field is where these teams will meet in Week 17, so we could have rare back-to-back games between teams — and on the same field. (The Bengals also lost to the Steelers in Week 14 in Cincinnati, 42-21, so that would mean they'd have met three times in a 28- or 29-day span, depending on the playoff schedule.) Including the Week 14 result, the Steelers have beaten the Bengals 22 of the past 30 times they've met, which included one playoff game — during the 2005 postseason, the game where Carson Palmer tore his ACL and the Bengals blew a halftime lead to lose, 31-17.

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    Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

  • The Chicago Bears have become a joke. Football teams that have become jokes illicit jokes from the people who watch them.

    But there's a line of taste and standards, too, and one Chicago broadcaster certainly crossed it.

    After the Bears lost to the New Orleans Saints, deeping their nightmare of a season, WLS-TV sports anchor Mark Giangreco spoke over while a sixth-grade pun of a chyron headline — "Cut him or cut your wrists" — ran next to a picture of Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, who has drawn the continued ire of Bears fans after another slew of turnovers in the loss.

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    Suicide-prevention advocates likely didn't see the gallows humor in the caption.

    After a strong negative response to it, Giangreco issued an apology, via mediabistro.com.

    “My remarks were inappropriate, and I deeply regret and apologize for this incident. I will be issuing an on-air apology in [Wednesday] evening’s newscast,” Giancreco said.

    It was not a good night for the Bears or Giangreco. He could have stopped with "Cut him," and it likely would have resonated with Bears fans just fine. The words tacked onto the end were tasteless and, frankly, unneeded.

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    Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

  • Well, well, look who made an appearance at football practice on Wednesday.

    A mere eight days after he was in a frightening car accident, Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton participated in practice in advance of Sunday's game against the Cleveland Browns, according to Black and Blue Review's Bill Voth.

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    Is it possible that Newton could play Sunday against the Cleveland Browns?

    Pump the breaks there — part of this is the Panthers seeing where Newton is with his transverse process injury he suffered in the crash. But it has to be tremendously encouraging that Newton is even in a place where he can go through basic practice movements, which would give the Panthers a lift as they remain in the thick of the NFC South race.

    Derek Anderson is 2-0 in his two replacements starts for Newton, although we feel compelled to add a tony asterisk to his mark considering both games were against the lowly Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Still, Anderson has completed an impressive 65 of 97 passes this season for 701 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions.

    The Panthers play the Atlanta Falcons in Week 17, a game that could decide the South division. Atlanta, by the way, is Newton's hometown, so it will be fascinating to see if he can return for that game if he doesn't play this weekend against the Browns.

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    Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

  • San Francisco 49ers defensive lineman Ray McDonald, who was in the news earlier this season for an alleged domestic violence incident for which he ultimately wasn't charged, is being investigated for alleged sexual assault.

    And the 49ers have had enough of those headlines. The team released McDonald,  general manager Trent Baalke announced.

    According to Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area, Baalke said the team released him because of a pattern of poor decision-making. McDonald, in his eighth NFL season, had started all 14 games for the 49ers this season.

    "This is a team decision, not a league decision," Baalke said, according to the 49ers' Twitter feed.

    The San Jose Police Department said it received a call at about 10:43 p.m. on Tuesday from an area hospital regarding a possible sexual assault victim, CSN Bay Area reported. The SJPD said no arrests have been made and the investigation is ongoing. The alleged victim is not McDonald's fiancee, CSN Bay Area said. 

    “Officers responded and made contact with the adult female victim,” SJPD reported in a statement, via CSN Bay Area. “The victim alleged she was possibly sexually assaulted a day prior. The preliminary investigation revealed the alleged suspect was Ray McDonald.”

    CSN Bay Area said detectives secured a search warrant and served it at McDonald’s house.

    The 49ers stuck by McDonald in the domestic violence incident after he was arrested Aug. 31, citing due process. No charges were filed because there wasn't sufficient evidence.

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    Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

  • Nobody should question Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray's toughness again.

    Two days after undergoing surgery for a broken bone in his left hand, Murray was back on the field, wearing a pad on his injured hand. He caught passes, too, in the warm-up period open to the media before practice. While there are still a few days to go before the Cowboys play the Indianapolis Colts, it would seem he's got a great chance of playing given that he appeared at Wednesday's practice.

    UPDATE: Although Murray was suited out for practice and participated in the warm-up period open to the media, the Cowboys' official listing for him was "did not participate" in Wednesday's practice, according ESPN.com's Tim MacMahon. That technically means he was not a part of any team drills in practice.

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    Many fantasy football owners carried to the championship this week by Murray, who leads the NFL with 1,687 yards (nobody else has more than 1,278), are impatiently waiting to hear if he'll play.

    It looks like if Murray plays, it'll be with a large pad over his surgically repaired left hand, like he wore in practice.

    It wouldn't have been surprising if Murray sat out at least this week, and it would have been understandable in what is a contract year for the Cowboys' running back. But the Cowboys can win the NFC East with two more wins, so it looks like Murray is pushing to play less than a week after surgery. For a player who was known for injuries early in his career, to play this week would be quite impressive.

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    Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

  • Social media was supposed to be great for athletes, a way for them to get their message directly to fans.

    Here’s the rub: People then have unlimited access to complain to those athletes. And with the anonymity of the Internet, they could blast away. If you want to criticize the media for being overly cynical and critical, that's fine, but go and check a prominent athlete's mentions on Twitter sometime. It can be brutal. If an athlete screwed up and it cost a fantasy victory, plenty of fans will let him know in 140 characters.

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    Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III had enough of it. Once very visible on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, Griffin has shut it down for the season, ESPN.com's John Keim said. Griffin, who added that he plans to continue with social media after the season, said his unfiltered message was getting twisted around, the very thing social media was supposed to eliminate for athletes.

    "It just felt like, for me, anything I was saying, whether it was positive or negative, whether it was a positive retweet or anything, was getting twisted and turned against me and against this team," Griffin said, according to ESPN.com. "I feel I can be free up here and talk to you guys, but sometimes things get twisted and turned and it creates a distraction for the team. I didn't want that to happen."

    The criticism has been an annoyance, too, especially during a season in which Griffin has struggled and was benched. Griffin recently tweeted a get-well message to Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry in his battle with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and some fans took that as an invitation to rip Griffin. Not all fans were so harshly negative – plenty of right-minded fans attacked the trolls for being insensitive – but why would Griffin need to bother with such nonsense?

    "Sometimes you don't understand certain things and they don't go the way you want them to go, but if I get criticized for retweeting about going to a charity event for a foundation, I mean what else can you do?" Griffin said. "So I decided to shut it down and not focus on it."

    It won’t be a surprise if more athletes give up social media. It turns out, the great communication solution has its pitfalls as well.

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    Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

  • The key questions remaining in the Ray Rice spousal abuse investigation remain: What did the NFL know and when did it know it?

    An investigation into those questions is digging deep into NFL personnel's correspondence.

    In July, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell served Rice with a two-game suspension for striking his then-fianceé in an Atlantic City elevator in February. However, when a videotape of the incident became public in September, Goodell increased that suspension to indefinite. Rice appealed that decision, saying the league office had knowledge of and access to the incriminating videotape at the time of the initial punishment. Rice won that appeal and is currently available to be signed by any team.

    Meanwhile, former FBI director Robert S. Mueller III is leading an investigation into whether the NFL actually had the videotape earlier than its public release. According to two AP sources, Mueller has ordered nearly 500 employees in the NFL's New York offices to turn over phone and email records to Mueller.

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    At issue are calls made from the NFL offices to a New Jersey area code. The Mueller investigation seeks to establish who, if anyone, in the NFL offices obtained and possibly viewed the incriminating videotape before it was made public. The AP report does not indicate whether the Mueller investigation's scope will go beyond the question of whether certain parties actually received the videotape and into, for instance, whether Goodell actually had the opportunity to view the tape.

    Mueller's investigation is being overseen by John Mara, owner of the New York Giants, and Art Rooney, owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers. The investigation's report is expected to be completed later this month.

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    Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter.

    And keep up with Jay over on Facebook, too.

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