Shutdown Corner - NFL

  • Not that the Robert Griffin III story needs more subplots, but imagine if his next team is the Dallas Cowboys.

    We're a long way from that. The Washington Redskins have benched Griffin, but say he's still a part of their long-term plan. You can choose to believe that. If the Redskins trade him this offseason, the chances of them sending the former NFL offensive rookie of the year to their rival is about zero. They'd never live it down if Griffin turned his career around in Dallas.

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    But Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said he's a big fan of Griffin, and it's sure fun to dream, isn't it?

    "Well, I'm a fan of RG3," Jones said on NFL Network, via NFL.com. "Right on this field two years ago, or maybe it was three seasons ago, he put on a show and had a game that just floored me. And they won, and they won in large part because of his play at quarterback. I thought 'my goodness, and we're going to have to be playing this guy for years and years.' And so he's got it.

    "Once you see a player do it, especially if you see him do it two or three times, you know he can do it. And of course he's a driven young man. I'm a big admirer of RG3."

    What does that mean? Probably nothing. Players, coaches and owners (well, one owner who regularly talks to the media) praise opponents all the time. Even if this was a message from Jones to Griffin that his reclamation project would be welcomed in Dallas, it might be a long time before that is even possible.

    But it's an intriguing possibility, no matter how remote it realistically is.

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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!

  • Fans of a certain age know Jason Garrett only as the coach of the Dallas Cowboys, who has stayed on the job through some mediocre seasons and is rewarding owner Jerry Jones' faith this year.

    But once upon a time, Garrett was a Cowboys quarterback. He wasn't great, but he had his moments. And his best moment came on Thanksgiving 20 years ago against Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers.

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    Leading up to the Cowboys' 1994 Thanksgiving game, Troy Aikman was out with a sprained knee and Garrett wasn't even the second choice. Rodney Peete was the backup. But he was hurt too, with an injured thumb. On Monday before the game, it appeared that the former Princeton quarterback was going to get the start. He had completed all of 10 NFL passes, and was no hotshot rookie. He was 28 heading into that start. But Cowboys coach Barry Switzer put a happy face on it.

    "I kind of believe in fairy tales and Walt Disney, Tinker Bell, and Captain Hook and all that," Switzer said the Monday before the game, according to NewsOK.com's archived story. "I like situations like this. I think we can have a hero come out of this. I know the Ivy League will be excited."

    The Cowboys were a fantastic football team, but the Packers weren't bad either. A lot of the pieces that won Super Bowl XXXI two years later were in place, including Reggie White and Favre.

    And, in front of a huge television audience, Garrett had the greatest day of his career. He had 311 yards and touchdowns to Alvin Harper and Michael Irvin. Even though Sterling Sharpe caught four touchdown passes from Favre, Garrett and the Cowboys scored 36 second-half points and won 42-31.

    Peete returned the next week. It would be four more years before Garrett had more than 56 yards in a game (Garrett actually had a solid five-game run filling in as the Cowboys' starter in 1998). But the Cowboys did have an unlikely hero come out of that 1994 Thanksgiving game, just like Switzer predicted.

    “I’ll never forget just how much they rallied around this guy who probably wasn’t good enough, to be honest with you,” Garrett said in 2010, according to the AP. “It was a fun day.”

    These days Garrett is well known as the coach of one of the most famous teams in sports. But if you remember his star turn as a quarterback 20 years ago, you won't forget that part of his football career, either.

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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!

  • Cam Newton can be an easy mark sometimes, but he has done a lot of work in the community since joining the Carolina Panthers.

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    Wtiness Cam's Jam — a pre-Thanksgiving Day feast that Newton threw Tuesday night for underprivileged children, with an impressive grocery list, per Black and Blue Review's Bill Voth:

    • 2,500 pounds of food

    • 75 turkeys

    • 500 pounds of potatoes

    • More than 50 volunteers

    • Over 800 underprivileged kids served

    That's good stuff, Cam. Feel free to rock the capris anytime without criticism in this space.

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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!

  • Halfway through a story by the New York Daily News’ Manish Mehta calling for the ouster of paranoid, in-over-his-head general manager John Idzik, there is a bombshell: The New York Jets failed to let head coach Rex Ryan speak on details about visiting his ailing 83-year-old father during the Jets’ bye week.

    Wait, what?

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    Yes, Mehta asked Ryan about the trip to visit cancer-stricken Buddy Ryan, one of the most respected defensive coaches in NFL history, and a Jets PR official intervened. The Daily News, and Mehta specifically, has been rough on the Jets this season and in the past — namely about Idzik, whose bumbling of the team’s roster has left the talent pool bare.

    Mehta writes:

    Asked who made the decision to prevent a willing Ryan from sharing stories about his father, the media relations official said, “I don’t have to tell you.”

    Ryan has always given his players the freedom to speak their minds, but the organization has muzzled the coach with a change on the horizon. He will be the fall guy on Black Monday.

    This is incredible. It’s also speculation, but the fact that the PR official refused to let Ryan speak about his dad shows just to what level the paranoia has risen. Idzik has been vilified around New York, with billboards calling for his removal, including one that demands owner Woody Johnson fire Idzik or sell the team.

    The remarkable thing is that Ryan, who was asked about Idzik indirectly on Tuesday, actually shielded the GM from further criticism when asked about the state of the roster, even though Ryan could end up being the first fall guy.

    “I think we have a lot of talent on this football team,” Ryan said.

    When Ryan has been muzzled this thoroughly, it’s clear that this is not the same bombastic, antagonizing, free-speaking and free-wheeling coach the Jets hired to be the antidote to the New England Patriots and a player’s coach the locker room can rally around.

    Instead, he sounds like a beaten man. One who has been neutered and who knows it might not even be worth trying to fight that fact, knowing what will happen in five weeks when the NFL season ends.

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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 rudderless New York Jets are changing course again.

    Quarterback Michael Vick has been benched, and Geno Smith — the man he replaced — will be back under center. Head coach Rex Ryan met with both quarterbacks on Wednesday morning to inform them of the switch.

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    Vick was miserable in Monday’s loss to the Buffalo Bills in Detroit, completing 7-of-19 passes for 76 yards, with an interception. Smith replaced him in the fourth quarter in mop-up duty.

    So why now? Smith was miserable in Week 8, was benched and now suddenly has regained his … whatever it is he has?

    This is less about Smith regaining the job as it is about Vick losing it. He simply wasn’t dynamic enough to retain the position and has left a floundering coaching staff — one that, led by Ryan, appears to know its fate amid a 2-9 season — no choice in the matter.

    Ryan appeared to tip his hand on Tuesday, hinting that Vick was still his guy. Wednesday morning, that has changed. This smacks of GM John Idzik overruling Ryan, and you can bet that Ryan will chalk it up to being “what’s best for the organization,” or some other coked-up coachspeak.

    It’s very likely that Smith is auditioning for his next job with another team in these final five games. That said, it’s unclear just how widespread the changes owner Woody Johnson will make — is Idzik as good as gone also, as it appears Ryan and much of his staff could be?

    The Jets return home to face the Miami Dolphins on Monday night — another primetime game for Gang Green! — and finish out the string thereafter with games against the Minnesota Vikings (road), Tennessee Titans (road), New England Patriots (home) and Miami Dolphins (road).

    Smith played well against the Patriots in Foxboro, so perhaps he could build off that memory and a semi-respectable relief appearance in Monday’s 38-3 loss to the Bills as a way of finishing the season on something approximating a high note.

    But it’s possible that he, Vick, Ryan and Idzik all could be former Jets after this season. It just has that housecleaning feel to it after another year of missing the playoffs.

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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!

  • It's amazing how fast the Robert Griffin III era soured in Washington. The 2012 NFL offensive rookie of the year reportedly has been benched before 2014 is even done.

    Griffin has been benched for Colt McCoy, according to an initial report by ESPN.com's Adam Schefter and then backed by other outlets. Griffin's poor 106-yard passing effort in a close loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday was all Redskins coach Jay Gruden needed to see.

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    The Redskins are 3-8 and going nowhere. Colt McCoy, 28, is a journeyman and very unlikely to be the quarterback of the future, unless he shows something the rest of the season that we've never seen from him in the NFL. That combination leads any reasonable person to wonder if the Griffin era, unbelievably, is done in Washington.

    There's another possibility, and it's that the team knows Griffin is so far behind fundamentally that it doesn't do him any good to continue flailing away like he has all season (in this extensive breakdown of Griffin last week, NFL Films' Greg Cosell suggested he needed what amounts to a Quarterbacking 101 course in the offseason to fix his flaws). Schefter reported he is still a "significant part of the Redskins' long-term plan." Perhaps the Redskins want to shut him down, get him healthy and then spend the offseason working on his game.

    That's fine, but that was the same plan late last season. It didn't work.

    Griffin threw only two touchdowns in five starts this season. He looked remarkably indecisive. He would miss open receivers, often because his footwork was so poor. He just didn't look like an NFL quarterback. Even worse, the running ability that was part of his meteoric rise in 2012 was hampered tremendously by knee and ankle injuries.

    This is a nightmare for the Redskins. They gave up two extra first-round picks and a second-round pick to St. Louis to move up four spots and take Griffin second overall. It was one of the most expensive trades in NFL history, for the right to draft the Heisman Trophy winner from Baylor with the cannon arm and world-class speed. And after Griffin's first regular season, it looked like a smart deal. Then Mike Shanahan left Griffin in while he was obviously injured in a playoff game against the Seahawks, he tore his ACL, and nothing has been the same since.

    Can the Redskins just start over, and draft another quarterback three years after investing so much into Griffin (and also Kirk Cousins, another 2012 draftee who has failed)? Is it possible they could give Griffin another try after another offseason working on his game?

    It's too early to rule out anything, but here's the unfortunate situation: One of the league's brightest stars from just a couple years ago has bottomed out and a franchise that is starved for some success isn't any closer to an answer at quarterback than it was 32 months ago when it made the huge trade to get Griffin.

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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!

  • Richard Sherman and Doug Baldwin just flipped the script on the NFL, and it's brilliant.

    Not wanting to suffer the same fate as their teammate Marshawn Lynch, who was fined $100,000 last week for not talking to the media, Sherman and Baldwin took to the podium Tuesday to fulfill their media obligation and … none of what they had to say was very flattering … to the NFL.

    It's a must watch here. Give it the full two minutes:

    Two games in five days? Yeah, that's a hard one to defend.

    There's not much you can really argue with here, even if you're one of those who normally thinks Sherman's mouth needs a muzzle.

    The question now is, just days after fining a player for not talking, will the NFL fine Sherman and Baldwin for talking?

    The ball is now uncomfortably in Roger Goodell's court.

  • Although he hasn't made a formal decision, it appears that UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley is poised to enter the 2015 NFL draft, based on what he told The Jim Rome Show (via Beast 980, h/t PFT).

    "There’s a really good chance that was my last game against USC. The conversation keeps coming up," Hundley said. "I’ve got my degree; I’ve done everything I wanted to do here. I’ve left something really, truly great, and I feel good. That’s probably my last one against USC."

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    UCLA still has the Stanford game, a likely trip to the Pac-12 championship game and a bowl game, of course, and it should be a pretty darned good one, pending the last few weeks of the college football season. But for all intents and purposes, it appears Hundley is done as a Bruin.

    First, his college career: It was a great one. Statistically, the junior quarterback has cut down on his interceptions in each of his three years starting for the Bruins and improved his completion percentage to a lofty 72.0 this season while throwing for 2,873 yards. Hundley has a respectable 20-5 TD-INT ratio this season, and he has averaged 8.6 yards per pass attempt. In addition, he has rushed 142 times for 566 yards and eight touchdowns.

    But as a pro? NFL teams have their doubts, despite Hundley's impressive athleticism and through-the-roof intangibles. Still, even with his limitations as a pro prospect — mainly his ability to dissect defenses, manipulate them with his eyes, go through complex progressions and fit passes into tight windows — there should be a team interested in him fairly high next spring.

    In what appears to be a top-heavy quarterback class buoyed by Oregon's Marcus Mariota and Florida State's Jameis Winston leading the way (assuming they declare early), Hundley could find himself being the third quarterback drafted. In the early stages of the process, it appears he'll be challenged by Notre Dame's Everett Golson (again, if he declares) and Baylor's Bryce Petty for that spot.

    A few weeks ago, Shutdown Corner spoke to a West Coast scout — in very general terms — about Hundley's pro potential, and he intimated that Hundley could end up being picked far higher than his college tape suggests he should.

    "All the talk about him being a first-rounder felt like media [hype] at the beginning of the season," the scout said. "But when you factor in the [draft value of the quarterback position] and Hundley's character — he'll interview off the charts — I think he'll win someone over pretty early."

    One thing that could boost Hundley's stock: a good week at the Senior Bowl, if he accepts the invitation that is certain to come. Although Hundley is a fourth-year junior, he has completed his undergraduate studies and is eligible to be added to the roster. If he stands out in Mobile, Ala., that really could elp him rise in teams' minds.

    But just how high?

    "I don't know where — maybe first, maybe high second round, I am not sure yet," the scout said. "We'll see; it all depends. But his tape is that of a lower pick than that, much lower. There are holes in his game as a passer." 

    If that's the case, that Hundley has heard that same talk, he should come out. Even if he won't be instant coffee at all in the NFL.

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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!

  • It was a pretty big deal when the 7-9 Seattle Seahawks made the playoffs at the end of the 2010 season. People still bring them up, as the only losing team to make the playoffs. Those Seahawks are memorable because they won a playoff game, too.

    So how many times would we cite this year's NFC South champion if it won the division at 5-11? It is still mathematically possible. And the scenario is not as crazy as you might think with five weeks left.

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    Every team in the NFC South is 4-7 or worse. The Atlanta Falcons technically lead, and they are 0-7 in non-divisional games. Here are the remaining schedules, followed by the unbelievable "5-11 division champion" scenario:

    ATLANTA FALCONS (4-7)
    vs. Arizona, at Green Bay, vs. Pittsburgh, at New Orleans, vs. Carolina

    NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (4-7)
    at Pittsburgh, vs. Carolina, at Chicago, vs. Atlanta, at Tampa Bay

    CAROLINA PANTHERS (3-7-1)
    at Minnesota, at New Orleans, vs. Tampa Bay, vs. Cleveland, at Atlanta

    TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (2-9)
    vs. Cincinnati, at Detroit, at Carolina, vs. Green Bay, vs. New Orleans

    To make a 5-11 champ happen, we need to give the Falcons and Saints losses in every non-divisional game. Not hard, since they might not be favored in any of them. That scenario would bring Atlanta to 10 losses and the Saints to nine losses.

    We need to make sure the Panthers have at least 11 losses too (that darn tie) to not push them above the 5-11 threshold. So give them losses at Minnesota and against the Browns. That's nine losses for them.

    The 5-11 plan rests on Tampa Bay winning some games (ha!). So of Tampa Bay's remaining games, they need to lose at least two against Cincinnati, Detroit and Green Bay. Really, really, really shouldn't be a problem. That accounts for the Buccaneers' 11 losses.

    If Tampa Bay then beats Carolina and New Orleans, we're up to 10 losses for the Panthers and Saints. Then if Carolina beats either Atlanta or New Orleans, and loses to the other (it can't sweep both or get swept by both), there's the Panthers' 11th loss. 

    Let's say Carolina beats New Orleans, and the rest that we outlined happens. That's 11 losses for the Saints. Then if the Saints beat Atlanta, that gives the Falcons 11 losses. Or if the Panthers lose to the Saints (Carolina's 11th loss), beat the Falcons (Atlanta's 11th loss), and the Falcons then beat the Saints (New Orleans' 11th loss), it accomplishes the same thing. For easier reference, let's look at one scenario in the schedule form:

    ATLANTA FALCONS (4-7)
    vs. Arizona (loss), at Green Bay (loss), vs. Pittsburgh (loss), at New Orleans (11th loss), vs. Carolina (win)

    NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (4-7)
    at Pittsburgh (loss), vs. Carolina (loss), at Chicago (loss), vs. Atlanta (win), at Tampa Bay (11th loss)

    CAROLINA PANTHERS (3-7-1)
    at Minnesota (loss), at New Orleans (win), vs. Tampa Bay (loss), vs. Cleveland (loss), at Atlanta (11th loss)

    TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (2-9)
    vs. Cincinnati (loss), at Detroit (11th loss), at Carolina (win), vs. Green Bay (win or loss), vs. New Orleans (win)

    Or you just flip-flop the Panthers' results with the Saints and the Falcons, then change the Saints-Falcons result too. And voila, you have the biggest playoff-related embarrassment in NFL history, a 5-11 team hosting a playoff game.

    Would a 5-11 debacle be enough for the NFL to change its playoff structure? When you have four-team divisions, weird results like this become possible. The entire AFC North has at least seven wins. The NFC South might not get a team to seven wins at all. The 2-9 Tampa Bay Buccaneers are still alive for the first pick of the draft and still alive for the NFC South title. That's terrible, and a horrible look for the league. A team six games under .500 should not be in the playoffs, and it definitely should not host a playoff game. Doesn't it seem like we're getting a lot closer to having a "2014 Saints rule" or a "2014 Falcons rule" passed by the NFL?

    It's almost Thanksgiving and we can present a fairly reasonable scenario in which the NFC South can have a 5-11 division champion. The 2014 NFC South is not just on its way to being crowned the worst division ever, it's pretty close to making sure nobody will ever take that distinction away.

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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!

  • We've seen GoPros strapped onto babies, dogs and skydivers.

    But this might be the coolest application yet:  "Challenger," the bald eagle who is often spotted soaring into sporting events across the country, wore one of the cameras (you can see it in the picture above) while flying over the Houston Texans-Cincinnati Bengals game on Sunday.

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    The result was nothing short of majestic:

    After watching that, I feel fairly confident in saying that I'd be a regular watcher of a cable channel that was nothing but bald eagle flights. How can we make this happen? 

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    Kevin Kaduk is a writer for Yahoo Sports.. Have a tip? Email him at kevinkaduk@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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