Category Archives: NFL

Gary Kubiak to take over OC duties for Vikings

Gary Kubiak has reportedly agreed to become the Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator, substituting Kevin Stefanski after he departed to take over the head coaching job with the Cleveland Browns. 

Per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Kubiak will take the role after spending last season as an assistant head coach and offensive adviser on Mike Zimmer’s staff. 

Minnesota has been in the market for a new offensive coordinator since Stefanski was named as the Browns head coach Jan. 13. 

Stefanski took over as the Vikings offensive coordinator on an interim basis midway through the 2018 campaign after John DeFilippo’s firing. He was given the full-time job this season, and his unit ranked ninth in the NFL with 25.4 points per game. 

Kubiak returned to coaching in 2019 after spending the previous two years as a senior personnel adviser with the Denver Broncos. He walked away from being head coach of the Broncos following the 2016 season, citing health concerns.

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The 58-year-old was hospitalized with a complex migrane in October 2016 that caused him to miss Denver’s Week 6 game versus the San Diego Chargers. He had a previous health scare during the 2013 season as head coach of the Houston Texans when he was taken off on a stretcher after collapsing while leaving the field during halftime of a game versus the Indianapolis Colts.

Kubiak went 82-75 in 10 combined seasons as head coach of the Texans (2006-13) and Broncos (2015-16).

He won Super Bowl 50 with the Broncos and made the playoffs twice with the Texans, exiting in the divisional round on both occasions. 

Kubiak’s passing offenses have ranked in the top 10 in net yards per attempt 12 times since his first year as a coordinator in 1995. Eleven times, his scoring offenses cracked the top 10 during that span. A lot of that had to do with how much he was able to get out of the quarterback position.

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Eli Manning retires after 16 NFL seasons

New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning will inform his retirement from professional football after 16 seasons, the team announced Wednesday.

The durable 39-year-old signal-caller walks away following a decorated career that includes a pair of Super Bowl championships and nearly every team passing record for one of the NFL’s blue-ribbon franchises.

Manning, a four-time Pro Bowl selection who retires with a career record of 117-117 as a starter, saved his best for dramatic runs through the 2007 and 2011 postseasons.

Both times, the Giants barely qualified the playoffs following uneven regular campaigns – 10-6 in 2007 and 9-7 in 2011 – only to catch fire in January before upsetting the New England Patriots in a pair of razor-close Super Bowls.

“For 16 seasons, Eli Manning defined what it is to be a New York Giant both on and off the field,” co-owner, president and CEO John Mara said in a statement. “Eli is our only two-time Super Bowl MVP and one of the very best players in our franchise’s history.

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“He represented our franchise as a consummate professional with dignity and accountability. It meant something to Eli to be the Giants quarterback, and it meant even more to us. We are beyond grateful for his contributions to our organization and look forward to celebrating his induction into the Giants Ring of Honor in the near future.”

Manning, who turned 39 on January 3rd, said after the regular season ended that he intended to discuss his future with family before making a decision.

He said, “I think I can still play,” but added he didn’t see a future with the Giants, noting, “Being a backup is not real fun.”

Manning was benched after Week 2 of the regular season in favor of rookie Daniel Jones, a first-round draft pick who went on to start 12 matches. Manning filled in for two starts in Weeks 14 and 15 when Jones was injured, winning his final start at home versus the Miami Dolphins.

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49ers RB Tevin Coleman has dislocated right shoulder

Head coach Kyle Shanahan exposed Monday at his press conference that running back Tevin Coleman suffered a dislocated right shoulder in the 49ers’ NFC Championship victory over the Packers.

Coleman sustained the injury around the nine-minute mark of the second quarter after falling awkwardly on his arm. He was carted off the field and did not return to the match. Despite the injury, Shanahan said that he “expects him to have a good chance to play” in the Super Bowl.

The 49ers didn’t miss Coleman versus the Packers, with Raheem Mostert rushing for 220 yards, the second-most in NFL playoff history, and four touchdowns. Imaging from Coleman’s MRI is still to be determined, but as of right now it doesn’t appear that Coleman will miss the Super Bowl.

A shoulder dislocation is not generally known as a long-term injury, so it’s really about the pain tolerance of Coleman.

It’s doubtful the former back for the Atlanta Falcons will rule himself out now that he has returned to the Super Bowl along with Shanahan after four years. 

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Along with Coleman’s injury, safety Jaquiski Tartt “irritated the same area” where he sustained a fractured rib injury. There isn’t much concern regarding his availability in the Super Bowl, but it is something to keep a close eye on. Tartt’s injury will also be about pain management. 

Rookie linebacker Dre Greenlaw came up gimpy late in the game and revealed in the locker room that he suffered an ankle sprain. Shanahan confirmed the injury and that it is being ruled as a “mild ankle sprain.” Just like with Tartt, there should be no issues with his availability. 

The three injured players have two weeks to get their bodies right and figure out how to manage the pain. Things could change with Coleman once the MRI results come in, but it is going to take something serious to prevent these guys from playing in the Super Bowl versus the Chiefs.

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Patrick Mahomes lifts Chiefs to first Super Bowl in 50 years

With his best imitation of a tightrope walker, Patrick Mahomes high-wired the Kansas City Chiefs into their first Super Bowl since 1970.

They outran the run-oriented Tennessee Titans and star back Derrick Henry for a 35-24 triumph Sunday in the AFC championship.

At last, for the third time overall, the Chiefs (14-4) are Super Bowl bound.

“I mean, it’s amazing. It really is,” said Mahomes, had 294 yards passing and three touchdown passes. “To be here, to be a part of Chiefs Kingdom and to be able to do it here at Arrowhead, these people deserve it. And we’re not done yet.”

Adding to the joy of the achievement, coach Andy Reid and owner Clark Hunt accepted the Lamar Hunt Trophy — named after his father — emblematic of the AFC title. It was handed over to them by Chiefs Hall of Famer Bobby Bell, with Mahomes and safety Tyrann Mathieu jumping for joy on the makeshift stage.

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The Chiefs lost in 1967 in the first AFL-NFL Championship match — nope, it wasn’t called the Super Bowl yet — to the Lombardi Packers 35-10. Three years later, one year after the New York Jets shocked Baltimore to lay claim to the AFL being equal to the long-established NFL, Kansas City was back.

This time, it was known as the Super Bowl — indeed, Lamar Hunt is credited with coming up with the name — and his Chiefs hammered Minnesota 23-7 with the typical Wild West offensive flair and a staunch defense.

Those are characteristics that helped carry KC this campaign.

Reid isn’t as animated as Hall of Famer Hank Stram, who famously urged the Chiefs team to “keep matriculating the ball down the field, boys.” Caught up in the moment Sunday, Reid said, “It’s awesome,” before asking the crowd to chant “How about those Chiefs?”

Reid goes back to the Super Bowl for the first time since the 2004 season, when his Eagles lost to New England. That gap is second longest to Dick Vermeil’s hiatus.

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Joe Barry to stay with Rams after declining USC offer

Joe Barry, the Rams’ linebackers coach for the last three campaigns, turned down the opportunity to become USC’s defensive coordinator and signed a new contract to remain with the Rams, a person with knowledge of the situation stated Thursday.

Barry took himself out of consideration for the USC job after discussing the parameters of a contract with a school official, the person said.

USC coach Clay Helton sill in the search of a replacement for Clancy Pendergast, who was fired after a 49-24 Holiday Bowl defeat to Iowa. The Rams’ staff has been shuffled since the conclusion of a disappointing 9-7 season that ended with the team missing the playoffs for the first time in coach Sean McVay’s three seasons.

McVay did not retain defensive coordinator Wade Phillips and running backs coach Skip Peete. Special teams coordinator John Fassel left to join the Dallas Cowboys’ staff, and Peete this week also joined the Cowboys staff.

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McVay hired Brandon Staley as defensive coordinator, setting up the possibility of Barry’s departure to USC, where he played linebacker in 1992 and 1993, served as a graduate assistant and later coached with Helton as part of Lane Kiffin’s Trojans staff in 2010.

As USC focused primarily on the NFL ranks to replace Pendergast, Barry emerged as one of its top options.

He met with Helton on campus last week, but a person familiar with the search said that USC had continued considering other candidates.

The process had stalled in the days since Helton met with Barry, leaving many to wonder where USC’s coordinator search stood. Now, as Barry officially returns to the Rams, that search will move into its fourth week.

A few noteworthy options still remain. Kris Richard, who graduated from Gardena Serra High and played defensive back at USC, was not retained by the Cowboys’ new staff this week. He served as a graduate assistant under Pete Carroll, before following the former Trojans coach to the Seattle Seahawks.

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Bears hiring Joe DeFillippo as QB coach

Bears head coach Matt Nagy continued to remake his offensive coaching staff by hiring John DeFilippo as quarterbacks coach and promoting Dave Ragone to passing game coordinator, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

DeFilippo, whom Chicago interviewed for its head coaching spot two years ago before offering the job to Nagy, spent just one year as offensive coordinator of the Jacksonville Jaguars before he and the club mutually agreed to part ways on Monday.

DeFilippo also lasted only 13 games as the Minnesota Vikings coordinator in 2018 before being released.

The 41-year-old coached quarterbacks for the Philadelphia Eagles under Nagy’s close friend Doug Pederson in 2016-17. DeFilippo was part of the Eagles’ staff that helped win Super Bowl LII.

Prior to Philadelphia, DeFilippo was the offensive coordinator of the Cleveland Browns in 2015. He additionally worked as quarterbacks coach for the Oakland Raiders and New York Jets.

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Ragone — a rare holdover from the John Fox era — served as Chicago’s quarterbacks coach the past four seasons where he worked closely with former second overall pick Mitchell Trubisky.

Although Trubisky finished the 2019 season ranked 28th in total QBR, tied for 27th in touchdown passes, 21st in passing yards, 32nd in yards gained per pass attempt and 28th in traditional quarterback rating, Nagy frequently lauded Ragone’s work with the 25-year-old quarterback.

Lazor, 47, previously held the title of offensive coordinator for the Miami Dolphins (2014-15) and Cincinnati Bengals (2017-18).

Nagy and Lazor never coached together in Philadelphia, but Nagy considered Lazor for Chicago’s offensive coordinator job in 2018 until the Bengals informed they were retaining former coach Marvin Lewis for another campaign.

After Cincinnati changed coaching staffs following 2018, Lazor spent the past year out of the league but visited Bears’ OTAs for couple days as a guest.

Chicago’s offense ranked 29th in points, 29th in average yards per game, 25th in passing yards and 27th in rushing yards in Nagy’s second season.

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Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald back for 17th season

The Arizona Cardinals informed the receiver will return in 2020 for his 17th pro season, signing Fitzgerald to a one-year contract. He had been set to become a free agent.

NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reports Fitzgerald’s deal is worth $11 million with incentives, per sources informed of the contract.

Fitzgerald’s future has been the subject of speculation each season of the past couple of years. Yet the 36-year-old continues to produce.

Fitzgerald snagged 75 receptions for 804 yards and four touchdowns in 2019, all team highs.

Even as things seem to change often in Arizona, Fitzgerald’s production still as steady as a rock.

The veteran’s ability to get open on quick routes meshes well with Kliff Kingsbury’s offense and Kyler Murray’s lightning-fast release. Perhaps Fitzgerald will no longer burn past receivers, but he still owns the route-running ability to box out defenders and vice-grip hands to snag pigskins in close quarters.

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While the Cardinals hope someday soon one of their young guns overtakes Fitzgerald as a true No. 1 target, Kingsbury understands the vital role the veteran plays for his offense to move the chains consistently.

“I think he’s playing as good as anybody, honestly,” Kingsbury said at the close of the season. “You watch what he does week-in and week-out, the little things, the blocking and the toughness that he brings to the offensive side of the football. We missed him twice for huge plays yesterday. He’s just still creating separation. He does it all.”

The 11-time Pro Bowler and former Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year sits No. 1 in Cardinals history in catches (1,378), receiving yards (17,083) and receiving TDs (120). Fitzgerald trails only Jerry Rice in NFL history in catches and receiving yards.

The Cardinals wideout needs 171 receptions and 5,812 yards to tie Rice. It would take a few more campaigns to come close to those numbers, but Fitzy is at least inching closer to records that once seemed outlandish for any wideout to get near.

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Chiefs rally to beat Texans 51-31 in playoffs

Patrick Mahomes stalked up and down the sideline like a field marshal rallying his troops, the brilliant young quarterback imploring the Kansas City Chiefs to stay together even as the Houston Texans were on the verge of taking them apart.

The Chiefs already faced a 24-0 hole, bigger than any deficit they had overcome in franchise history.

”The biggest thing I was preaching,” Mahomes said later, ”was, ‘Let’s go do something special. Everybody is counting us out. Let’s go out there and play by play put it out there.’ And play by play, we did what we were supposed to do.”

Beginning with the first of his five touchdown passes, Mahomes and the Chiefs slowly chipped away at Houston’s seemingly insuperable lead. They continued to pick up momentum, outscoring the Texans 28-0 during the second quarter alone, and eventually reeled off 41 consecutive points before cruising the rest of the way to a 51-31 triumph Sunday that propelled Kansas City back to the AFC championship match for the second consecutive season.

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The Chiefs (13-4) became the first team in NFL history to win a playoff match by at least 20 points after trailing by at least 20.

They matched the fourth-biggest comeback in playoff history while winning a postseason game in back-to-back seasons for the first time. 

Travis Kelce and Damien Williams scored three touchdowns apiece, joining the 49ers’ Jerry Rice and Ricky Waters in Super Bowl 29 as the only teammates to score that many times in a postseason game.

Meanwhile, Mahomes led by example as much as by voice. He ended with 321 yards passing, becoming the first player in postseason history with at least 300 yards passing and five touchdowns while running for at least 50 more yards.

”You saw him going up and down the bench, he was talking to everybody, – ‘Just settle down,”’ Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. ”As a head coach, you can’t ask for more than that. When he’s the leader of your team and he’s going, ‘Hey, we’re going to be fine. Let’s not wait for the fourth quarter. Let’s go!’ And he did that.”

Now, after losing to the Patriots in overtime in last year’s conference title game, the Chiefs are back on the brink of their first Super Bowl appearance in 50 years.

They will host Tennessee next Sunday in a rematch from earlier this season after the Titans upset Lamar Jackson and the top-seeded Baltimore Ravens on Saturday night.

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Niners get kwon Alexander, others back for Saturday

Linebacker Kwon Alexander will be back on the field Saturday when the 49ers open the playoffs, but he likely won’t step into his old every-down role quite yet.

Alexander is just nine weeks removed from surgery to repair a torn pectoral. He returned to practice last week and still on IR.

The 49ers plan to activate him to the 53-man roster to play Saturday versus the Minnesota Vikings at Levi’s Stadium in the NFC divisional round.

The 49ers know what to expect from Alexander. But they also do not know exactly what to expect.

“I know Kwon will fly around,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan told NBC Sports Bay Area. “He’ll hit. He’ll be energetic. He’ll get everyone going. I think everyone will feel his energy on the field. And we’ll see how it goes.

“We’re not going to throw him out there, just down-in and down-out. But we don’t have a plan, where it’s only going to be ‘this’ amount. He’s looked good in practice, but we’re also not laying people out in practice.”

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Rookie Dre Greenlaw played the weakside linebacker position during the second half of the season in Alexander’s absence.

Greenlaw made the big defensive play of the season in Week 17 when he stopped Seattle Seahawks tight end Jacob Hollister just inches short of the goal line on a late-game fourth-down play.

The tackle preserved the 49ers’ 26-21 victory and wrapped up the NFC West and home-field advantage in the playoffs.

The 49ers’ three linebacker positions are similar, so the team will have some decisions to make on how they want to use Greenlaw and Alexander alongside middle linebacker Fred Warner.

Shanahan said a lot of the team’s in-game decision-making will be in reaction to Alexander’s effectiveness.

“You got to wait to see how the tackling goes and how he feels,” Shanahan said. “(He is) someone we’ll be communicating with throughout the game.”

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Vikings´ Adam Thielen suffers ankle injury

The Minnesota Vikings wide receiver corps is dealing with some problems heading into their Divisional Round matchup with the San Francisco 49ers. Stefon Diggs has been a DNP the past two days with an illness, and now Adam Thielen is dealing with an ankle injury.

The Vikings released their second practice participation report of the week, and Thielen was listed as limited. He was not on the team’s first report Tuesday afternoon.

There is no word on the severity of the injury, but head coach Mike Zimmer is certain to get questions about it on Thursday. Downgrades are never good, but limited participation is still better than a DNP.

The Thursday report will be something to keep an eye on.

That being said, the Vikings receiver corps is not going to be 100 percent coming into this game. Diggs seems likely to play barring a turn for the worse with his illness, but he and Thielen will be coming in off a limited week of work.

One or both should be high volume targets if active, but if they’re limited, it hurts Kirk Cousins’ potential output to at least a modest degree.

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“I got a little tangled up at practice, but I’m going to do whatever it takes (to play), it’s playoffs,” Thielen told NFL Network on Thursday.

This is Thielen’s second injury this campaign. He hurt his hamstring in the first quarter of a Week 7 victory at Detroit and made a brief return in Week 9, only to reinjure himself early in a beat at Kansas City.

The Vikings shut Thielen down for the next six weeks until he returned versus the Los Angeles Chargers on Dec. 15.

Thielen’s breakout performance versus the Saints — seven catches for 129 yards — came after totaling 109 total receiving yards in the last five games he played in 2019, including a Week 16 loss to Green Bay in which he was held without a catch.

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