Stars on the move, read option hot topics among coaches

Frank Cooney, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

Ever wonder what you would talk about if you sat down for breakfast with some National Football League coaches? The national media did exactly that Tuesday in the first part of an annual ritual at the League Owners Meeting in Phoenix.
With the usual high-end hotel buffet as a side dish, coaches and media sat within the distinct Frank Lloyd Wright architecture of the swank Biltmore Hotel grounds and discussed people and issues regarding the National Football League.
Here is a sampling of what an eavesdropper would have heard at some of the coach's tables, beginning, appropriately, with Super Bowl champion head coach John Harbaugh of the Baltimore Ravens. His breakfast conversation included safety Ed Reed in free agency and wide receiver Jacoby Jones on "Dancing With the Stars:"

John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens
Q: Are you hopeful on Ed Reed (who is a free agent)?
Harbaugh: Very hopeful. On the hopeful scale I'd say it's of high hope. It's high on the measuring stick. We'll just have to see how it works out."
"I asked (GM) Ozzie (Newsome) about it last night and hadn't heard anything. I think it's kind of a situation where we know Ed really well. Ed and I are very close and I know he would tell you the same ... The leadership he brought to the team, through Ray (Lewis') thing, was really fantastic."
Q: What are your thoughts on trading wide receiver Anquan Boldin to the 49ers?
Harbaugh: "It was quick, I can tell you that. It was kind of a situation where we were really working hard to do something to make it work where Anquan could stay. ... We had a position where the math was what it was. So it wasn't going to work. It was me to my brother. I called him up and just said, 'Would you be interested?' He said, 'Heck yeah, let me go talk to (49ers GM) Trent (Baalke).' This was about 3:30 before the 4 o'clock deadline. He ran down to Trent and they talked, and then Trent got on the phone with Ozzie and they had it worked out."
Q: What do you think about wide receiver Jacoby Jones being on Dancing With the Stars?
Harbaugh: "My wife and daughter stayed up to watch him last night. They said he did well. They said his toes are a little too pigeon-toed and he's got to get his shoulders back. So I'm going to give him a call on that. We talked about it. I can't say that I was thrilled about it, in all honesty, as a coach. You want to have your guys healthy. I don't want him twisting his knee or anything like that. Jacoby made a brilliant move. He brought Karina by the facility and introduced her to me and my wife and my daughter. That won the day. I was cool with it after that."

Andy Reid, Kansas City Chiefs
Q: Please discuss quarterback Alex Smith (obtained in trade from 49ers).
Reid: "I think stability is an important thing for quarterbacks. And if you look at all the things that took place in that kid's life, NFL life early, that's a wild ride. For him to come out, look at how many quarterbacks have been ruined going through that situation, and he came out on top. That's a tribute to him. ... You continue to try and improve the things that he needs improvement on, but if they're good at something, cut them loose and let him do it. We'll do that."
Q: First thing you got was a quarterback, like you did in 1999 (Donovan McNabb, with the Eagles). Can you speak the importance of that?
Reid: "It's like a writer without a pen. There's a problem. You've got to make sure that you've got that position taken care of. And not that we didn't. I always knew that we had Matt (Cassel) there. But I thought change for Matt would be a good thing for where he's at in his career. I still think he can be a starter in the NFL. But I thought a change needed to take place. So we tried to look at all the guys we had, and then just go from there. I'd always kind of had my eye on Alex, as Dorsey did, and we were able to get that thing done."

Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals
Q: The read option offense, are defenses spending more time on it?
Lewis: "It's disciplined football. If you look at when option football was prevalent in college football, Air Force, Wyoming at one point back in the WAC. BYU was lighting it up throwing the ball, but they would dedicate two weeks in spring practice every year playing option football. ... Now we have to take a segment on the read option philosophy and get our guys to click in. OK, here we go read option now. So you can't run up the field to get the quarterback. Everyone has job responsibilities. You have to do your job based on front, coverage and pressure. For some of these guys getting paid $10 million to rush the quarterback, that's a change. They're not used to doing that. But it is about winning and you have to go win that down and win that day."
Q: Can you discuss rule proposal banning hitting with crown of helmet?
Lewis: "We were never taught as a coach or player to lower your head. You were taught to keep your head and eyes up. When we start hitting at the top of the head guys were worried about breaking their necks. I think this is something that no one has ever coached. You want to protect the player as much as you can."
Q: What took so long?
Lewis: "It was because of the change in replay basically. For the officials and the guys on the field they felt like was something that would help clean up for them."

Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers
Q: How much time do you think defensive coordinators are spending on defending the read option?
Tomlin: "I think the read option is the flavor of the month. We will see whether it's the flavor of the year. A few years ago, people were talking wildly about the Wildcat. There's less of a discussion now. I think that there are coaches in rooms preparing themselves to defend it, coaches in rooms that are also preparing themselves to run it, and I think it is going to sort out on the grass. I look forward to it."
Q: Do you think it has more longevity than the Wildcat?
"I always take a skeptical approach. We will see. We will see if guys are committed to getting their guys hit, because when you run the read option, obviously they are runners, and there is something associated with that."

Rex Ryan, New York Jets
Q: Does Mark Sanchez have a leg up in the quarterback competition with Greg McElroy and David Garrard?
Ryan: "I look at it this way: The competition's the big thing. There is going to be competition at that position. There is no doubt. A leg up? Somebody has to take the first snap (in the offseason/training camp). So that's kind of how I look at it. But there is definitely competition at that spot."
Q: What is the status of Tim Tebow?
Ryan: "He's on the roster. He'll get a chance to compete.... Again, we'll see how the offseason plays out. But right now Tim is on our roster.... There are a lot of things that could happen, but currently Tim and a whole bunch of other guys are on the roster. Whoever gets there to that day (at the start of training camp), will have an opportunity to compete."

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