Tag Archive | nfl

Get to Know Your NFL Coaches! (While You Still Can)

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Not football. But still totally binge-worthy.

Do you ever get completely obsessed with something that’s a major timesuck but it’s so fascinating you can’t help yourself? Like bingewatching Netflix. Or working out. (Not.)

This is what happened when I started to do a quick update on the latest NFL coaching hirings/firings. Because a head coach’s demeanor and philosophy are critical components of an entire team’s success, and they often have some or all power over policies and decision-making, it’s helpful to know who leads and where.

But as I researched, I realized these guys are really fascinating. For example, one grew up in a rival team’s city. Some played pro in Canada but most didn’t play pro at all. One preferred lacrosse, and another was drafted for pro baseball. One sold roofing supplies. Another was an Eagle Scout. Two have suffered the loss of a child.

Soooo, here is the latest list of head coaches, along with some interesting factoids. Read on to learn a little more about these (usually) heroes at the helm…

(* indicates new for 2015 season, # indicates still vying for this year’s title).

Arizona Cardinals: Bruce Arians. Named 2012 AP Coach of the Year as an interim coach for Indianapolis when he took over for head coach Chuck Pagano, who had been diagnosed with leukemia. Arians himself is a prostate cancer survivor.

Atlanta Falcons: Vacant

Baltimore Ravens: John Harbaugh. Brother of Jim Harbaugh, who was just released from the San Francisco 49ers and hired by his alma mater, the University of Michigan as the highest-paid college coach ever. John and Jim played one another in Super Bowl XLVII (the one where Beyonce allegedly caused a power outage).

*Buffalo Bills: Rex Ryan. Fired by the New York Jets, Ryan merely moved upstate one week later. Known for being gregarious and having teams with defensive prowess. Son of former Philadelphia and Arizona head coach Buddy Ryan, and fraternal twin of New Orleans defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. Uses color-coded playbooks to help with his dyslexia and underwent lap-band surgery in 2010 to combat obesity.

Carolina Panthers: Ron Rivera. Of Puerto Rican/Mexican heritage, he is the fourth Latino to be an NFL head coach (following New Orleans’ Tom Fears, Oakland/Seattle’s Tom Flores and New Orleans/Indianapolis’ Jim E. Mora).

Chicago Bears: Vacant, possibly former Denver coach John Fox

Cincinnati Bengals: Marvin Lewis. He is the second-longest tenured coach (2003) behind New England’s Bill Belichick. Holds a bachelor’s degree in physical education and a master’s degree in athletic administration from Idaho State. Member of Pittsburgh’s Super Bowl XXX team that lost to Dallas.

Cleveland Browns: Mike Pettine. Finished his first season as the Browns’ coach 7-9 despite (or because of?) having Heisman winner “Johnny Football” Manziel for his rookie season. Brian Hoyer, however, was named the starting quarterback.

Dallas Cowboys: Jason Garrett. Despite losing on a controversial call in the playoffs to Green Bay, Garrett was just signed to a five-year contract extension for $30 million. Attended Princeton and Columbia for undergrad.

Denver Broncos: Vacant

Detroit Lions: Jim Caldwell. Hired in 2014, he is the first African-American coach for Detroit, finishing 11-5 regular season. In 2009, became head coach of Indianapolis and led team to a 14-2 record and a Super Bowl appearance (loss to New Orleans). His 14 wins are a NFL record for the best start by a rookie head coach.

#Green Bay Packers: Mike McCarthy. Began his career in hometown of Pittsburgh at University of Pittsburgh, working part-time on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Father was a Pittsburgh policeman, firefighter and bar owner. One of five children. Has led Packers to top-10 finishes in scoring for seven straight seasons (2007-13), joining New England as the only other team to do so. Became the first Packers coach since Vince Lombardi to lead the team to a championship game in his second season (2007).

Houston Texans: Bill O’Brien. A risk-taker, took reins in 2014 of the NFL’s worst team, finishing with winning 9-7 record after coaching two winning seasons at Penn State, on NCAA probation after the Sandusky/Paterno child sexual assault scandal. Named 2013 college coach of the year.

#Indianapolis Colts: Chuck Pagano. Known for ability in the secondary and to stop opposing pass attack. Named Colts head coach in January 2012, then was diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia in September. Relinquished coaching duties to Bruce Arians but is now in remission. Players and even two cheerleaders shaved their heads as part of the CHUCKSTRONG campaign. Brother of San Diego Chargers defensive coordinator John Pagano.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Gus Bradley. Real name is Paul. Youngest of six kids. Played college ball at North Dakota State and was member of 1988 Division II Football Championship team. Earned his bachelor’s and master’s there. Spokesperson for the Ashley Furniture HomeStores Hope to Dream program which provides beds to underprivileged children.

Kansas City Chiefs: Andy Reid. Attended BYU and is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Coached Philadelphia for 14 years and was fired at end of 2012 season. Next hired by the Chiefs, received a standing ovation when Kansas City played at Philadelphia the following season. (Chiefs won 26-16). Like Bill O’Brien, Reid inherited a godawful team and led it to a 9-0 start, a tie for best start in franchise history. Lost his oldest son Garrett to a heroin overdose in 2012.

Miami Dolphins: Joe Philbin. Only played one year of college football (Washington & Jefferson College). Previously spent nine years on Green Bay staff. During his four years as offensive coordinator, Packers offense ranked in NFL top 10 for points scored and total yards. Father of six children, lost son Michael, 21, to drowning in 2012.

Minnesota Vikings: Mike Zimmer. In high school in Peoria, Illinois, earned all-conference honors in football, baseball, and wrestling. Ended 2014, his first season with the Vikings, 7-9, the best record for a first year head coach in the franchise since 1992. Son Adam is the current Vikings linebackers coach.

#New England Patriots: Bill Belichick. Longest-tenured active NFL coach. His three Super Bowls are more than any other active coach. Father Steve was an assistant football coach at the Naval Academy. Lacrosse was his favorite sport as a teen athlete. Fined $500,000 for his alleged role in filming an opposing team’s defensive signals (“Spygate”), the largest ever levied on a coach in NFL history.

New Orleans Saints: Sean Payton. Suspended entire 2012 season for alleged knowledge of “bounty” scandal in which players were paid by coaching staff to injure opponents. Played semi-pro football for the Chicago Bruisers and Pittsburgh Gladiators arena teams and the Leicester Panthers of the UK Budweiser National League. As member of New York Giants staff, landed on September 11, 2001 at the gate next to United Airlines Flight 93, which was later hijacked and crashed in rural Pennsylvania.

New York Giants: Tom Coughlin. Set Waterloo, NY High School’s single season touchdown record at 19, which still stands. Inaugural head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars from 1995-2002. Led team to two AFC championship games. Known as a stern disciplinarian and for meticulous attention to detail.

*New York Jets: Todd Bowles. Former player for eight seasons, primarily the Washington Redskins, and started in Super Bowl XXII. In his most recent job as Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator, he led the top-ranked run defense in the league in his first year. Played college ball at Temple under head coach Bruce Arians, also the Cardinals head coach.

*Oakland Raiders: Jack Del Rio. Hired January 14 to replace the fired Dennis Allen and interim coach Tony Sparano. Coached Jacksonville from 2003-11 without winning a division championship, the longest tenure of any coach. Standout in football and baseball for University of Southern California. Voted MVP of 1985 Rose Bowl. Batted .340 as college catcher with future MLB stars Randy Johnson and Mark McGwire. Drafted by Toronto Blue Jays but did not sign.

Philadelphia Eagles: Chip Kelly. Known for uptempo spread offense. Rumored to stay on top of his players’ nutrition, even changing menus for meals to healthy options. Previously led University of Oregon into becoming perennial powerhouse. One of only three current NFL coaches who hold either the title or powers of a general manager, along with New England’s Bill Belichick and Seattle’s Pete Carroll.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Mike Tomlin. First African-American coach in Steelers history. At age 42, he is the second-youngest head coach in the NFL (San Diego’s Mike McCoy is the youngest). In 2009 he became the youngest NFL coach ever to win a Super Bowl. Specializes in defense. Majored in biology at William & Mary, where he was a standout wide receiver/tight end.

San Diego Chargers: Mike McCoy. Born just two weeks after the Steelers’ Tomlin, McCoy (April 1, 1972) is the youngest NFL head coach and second-youngest head coach in all major American pro sports. Played QB at Long Beach State until school discontinued its program. He transferred to Utah as a backup, but threw a game-winning pass in the final minute of the 1994 Freedom Bowl for a win over Arizona. Played two years in the Canadian Football League with the Calgary Stampeders.

*San Francisco 49ers: Jim Tomsula. Promoted from defensive line coach after Jim Harbaugh’s departure. Previously coached NFL Europe’s Rhein Fire to a 6-4 record in 2006. Was named 49ers’ interim head coach in 2010 after Mike Singletary was fired. Won first and only game 38-7 over Arizona. Began his career as a strength and conditioning coach at Catawba College (NC) in 1989.

#Seattle Seahawks: Pete Carroll. Current Super Bowl title holder. Of Irish and Croatian descent. When he couldn’t play pro level, he sold roofing materials in the Bay Area. Holds a master’s in physical education. Successful coach at University of Southern California (USC) until Heisman winner Reggie Bush and others were found to have accepted gifts from agents and the school was sanctioned heavily by the NCAA. Carroll then departed for Seattle under suspicion. Known for being positive “players’ coach.”

St. Louis Rams: Jeff Fisher. The longtime Tennessee Titans coach was famous for his “mullet.” Played for the USC Trojans 1978 national championship team. Son Brandon is assistant for the Detroit Lions. With Titans, reached Super Bowl XXXIV in 2000 but with no time left fell one yard short of at least tying in a 23-16 loss to the Rams, where he would next coach. In 2014 earned acclaim, and some criticism, for drafting Michael Sam, the NFL’s first openly gay player. Sam was eventually cut.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Lovie Smith. Highly respected African-American coach spent most of his career as head coach at Chicago, but began at Tampa Bay under Tony Dungy. Eventually in Super Bowl XLI, Smith became the first African-American head coach in the event followed just hours later by…Tony Dungy, now with Indianapolis. It was also the first Super Bowl with two black head coaches. Smith is named for his great aunt, Lavana.

Tennessee Titans: Ken Whisenhunt. Former Arizona head coach from 2077-12. An offensive specialist. Earned degree in civil engineering from Georgia Tech. Eagle Scout. So good at golf (65) contemplated playing professionally. In 2012 guided Cardinals to the first 4-0 start since 1974; then endured a nine-game losing streak. Titans finished 2-14 this year.

Washington Redskins: Jay Gruden. Younger brother of former Tampa Bay coach and Super Bowl winner Jon Gruden. Other brother James is a radiologist at the Mayo Clinic. First stint as a head coach. Known as a quarterbacks expert, though this was the position where the Redskins struggled most in 2014, Gruden’s first season. Four-year starter at QB for Louisville. Played in European and Arena Leagues, named MVP as QB for AFL’s Tampa Bay Storm in 1992.

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High Five! Jellyfish, Johnny Football, and Jerseys That Fit

Welcome back, fans, to my slightly belated Labor Day week edition of High Five—five sports stories you should know for the office, the offspring, and the other half…

1) Don’t Mess with Swimmin’ Women
Through countless currents, storms, sharks, and jellyfish stings to her tongue, 64-year-old endurance swimmer Diana Nyad finally succeeded in becoming the first person (not “woman” — person) to swim from Cuba to Florida without a protective shark cage. The 103-mile journey took 53 hours and a 35-person team to keep critters clear before she set foot in Key West on her fifth try in 35 years. Kinda makes my laps at the community pool seem pretty pitiful…

Tiny dog sold separately.

Tiny dog sold separately.

2) Fan Fashion That Fits
With fan clubs like WOW Women of Washington Redskins and the Baltimore Ravens PURPLE women’s club, there’s never been a better time to be a female football fan—including what we wear. It was fun in high school to sport your boyfriend’s football jersey, but being Mature Grown-Up Gals now, we like our fan fashion to fit. Luckily, the NFL has heard us. Gone are the days of boxy, unflattering jerseys—now Target sells gridiron gear for girls: shirts that are sporty and even sexy. But before you accessorize, remember that model won’t pass muster with the NFL’s “All-Clear” bag policy.    

3) Texas Two-Step Continues
After weeks of uncertainty around his partying and alleged autograph sales, can we finally focus on Texas A&M quarterback “Johnny Football” Manziel’s arm? Maybe. The sophomore served his one-half-game suspension in a 52-31 defeat of Rice Saturday. It was an agreement between the Aggies and the NCAA (which becomes more dubious by the day for seemingly unfair policies, as in my previous posts about player images in video games and the Marine who can’t gain football eligibility). But despite throwing for three touchdowns, Manziel was benched after an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Man up, Manziel—the “eyes of Texas are upon you.”

4) Tennis’ Teen Queen
There were no major upsets in the first week of college football, but the U.S. Open saw several, including 17-year-old Haitian-American Victoria Duval—269th in the world—over 2011 champion Samantha Stosur. Unfortunately, Duval, who is coached by longtime prodigy-producer Nick Bollettieri, lost to Daniela Hantuchova in straight sets. Still, the teen relies on God and the inspiration from her father’s near-death experience during the Haitian earthquake as she strives to be the next U.S. tennis sensation. Meanwhile, Roger Federer—owner of 17 Grand Slam titles—fell Monday in the round of 16 to Spain’s Tommy Robredo.

5) Finally, here are two guys so nervous about upsets, they’ve choreographed a pre-game dance to avoid them. Check out the San Francisco Giants’ Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence performing their popular superstitious salsa below.

January Juggling

Welcome to The Ladies Room! I’m your humble janitor, Laura Boswell — sportswriter, broadcaster, college hall-of-famer, and passionate fan of all things athletic. (@lauraeboswell)

Each Monday, I’ll give a quick rundown of the last week’s best sports stories and why they are useful for anyone, but especially women — to use at the water cooler, to bond with your kids, and to have more fun with your spouse/partner. And all in the time it takes to toast a Pop-Tart.

Well, except this first installment, because I need to explain a few things:

Despite the title, the intent is good fun, not to condescend to women. Really. I am one. Many women love sports (44% of NFL fans are female*). Many men do not. But…

This is not a “women’s sports” column. It’s an agnostic look at some of the week’s best and worst stories, period. It may be a running back. It may be a badass basketball babe. Or a badminton player. Or a running back texting a picture of his junk to that badminton player. From the Seahawks to Seabiscuit, everyone will get a turn.

It’s also about sports’ practical applications: Using a recent baseball stat to ease an awkward elevator ride with the boss. Explaining why your son wants those $200 Nikes. Demonstrating algebra to your sixth-grader using hockey. Kicking butt in your fantasy football league (maybe even winning cash, if I gambled, which I do not. Especially on NCAA men’s basketball tourney brackets. Nope, not me.)

I also hope to add tips from athletes, explanations of basic rules and signals, inspirational stories, and the fun stuff — dating gossip, tailgating recipes, science project ideas—whatever you want, just ask.

Basically, this blog is for anyone who wants a quick round-up of key stories, a good laugh, and to use sports to boost confidence in job interviews or at cookouts, and — most important — just to better enjoy games. Sports have led me to success at work, to meeting great people, to staying healthy. You deserve the same.

And on a larger scale, sports cross every American industry — entertainment, politics, fashion, education, religion…They are a social currency you should know. I live in Washington, DC. I hate politics. But I’m an American and I need to know the issues. And sports are waaay more fun than the fiscal cliff.

So. Want respect from the boys’ club? Learn sports. Need conversation? More friends? A date? Learn sports. Want your kids to be healthy, active leaders? Teach them sports.

That said, I’m already behind — partially from fighting a two-week mutant death flu, but also because in the last two weeks alone, storylines that would be considered fantastic any time have coincided with others almost too stunning to believe. So let’s catch up:

Band of Brothers: The media has been salivating for it, and so have I. For the first time, two brothers will coach against one another in the Super Bowl. Jim Harbaugh (San Francisco) and John Harbaugh (Baltimore) will lead 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and Ravens’ veteran linebacker Ray Lewis in New Orleans Feb. 3. Lewis, a beloved but controversial 13-time Pro Bowl selection, will retire after this season at age 37.

A Bicycle Built for BOOO!: After years of brazen denial (he called one accuser a “whore”), cyclist Lance Armstrong finally admitted to Oprah (and NOBODY lies to Oprah) that he did indeed use “PEDs”—performance-enhancing drugs—winning a record seven Tours de France. The admission raises many moral questions: Does having cancer allow one special privileges to remain competitive? Are PEDs OK if others are allegedly using them too? One certainty: Lance is banned from Olympic sports, and his credibility “lives strong” no longer.

Class Dismissed: PEDs also made history in baseball this month–no player was elected to the 2013 Baseball Hall of Fame. Behemoths Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa (hitters) and Roger Clemens (pitcher) were all blackballed, likely due to their suspected use of steroids. Steroids have become so pervasive, players have testified about it (and confessed) before Congress. Boys younger and younger are using steroids to get a jump on the competitive, and potentially lucrative, college/pro sports industry. Could yours be one of them?

Move Over Honey Boo Boo: In other baseball cheating news, Cincinnati Reds star Pete Rose has long been banned from baseball, despite a still-unmatched 23-year career, for admitted gambling on his own team. Now he and fiancée Kiana Kim have their own The Learning Channel (of course) reality show, “Hits and Mrs.” (My bet? Terrible. So it will be a huge hit.)

Venus Outshone: Superstar Venus Williams lost to Maria Sharapova Friday at the Australian Open, the first of the four tennis Grand Slam events (also French Open/ Wimbledon/U.S. Open). But as of this writing, sister Serena is the predicted tourney winner. Also in women’s tennis, Gertrude “Gussie” Moran, who dared to bare at Wimbledon 1949 with a short skirt and ruffled briefs, has died at age 89. (She lost the match but became a media darling, “Gorgeous Gussie.”)

Ice, Ice Baby: After a months-long “lockout”—a money dispute between players and owners—professional hockey is officially back on. Stanley Cup winners the L.A. Kings, however, lost their first game 5-2 to the Blackhawks. Now, a quick quiz for the kids. Q: Hockey normally has 82 games; this season, 48. What percentage of the season did the lockout cost fans? A: 41% (divide 48 by 82, then subtract from 100%)

Hoax and Heartbreak: In an ongoing mystery, adored Notre Dame linebacker and Heisman Trophy finalist Manti Te’o has been called both victim and conspirator in a bizarre online prank. He met girlfriend Lennay Kekua on Facebook, but she allegedly died of leukemia this fall. Now it’s been revealed she never existed, and 22-year-old Ronaiah Tuiasosopo was behind the scam. Tuiasosopo has confessed, but larger issues include Te’o’s draft status, his possible use of the situation to garner sympathy, and other “catfishing” scams aimed to fool celebrities into befriending false personas.

In Other News: Skier Lindsey Vonn has recovered from a severe bacterial illness to win her first World Cup event in five weeks…Revered Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver died at 82 on a baseball-themed cruise… The top-ranked Louisville men’s basketball team fell to #6 Syracuse 70-68… #13 Butler upset #8 Gonzaga on a buzzer beater. (added 1/21): Hall-of-Fame Cardinals hitter Stan “The Man” Musial passed away Saturday at age 92 (thanks for the heads-up, Bob Somerville!)

OK there we go. I know we’ve missed some stories, and I’ve botched some grammar, I know, I know, I know. It’s a work in progress, I hope you’ll hang with me. Til next week…

*ESPN Sports Poll/U.S. Census