W2W4: New York Jets in the Pro Bowl

January, 25, 2015
Jan 25
If you need a football fix, a bridge from the conference championship games to Super Bowl XLIX, check out the Pro Bowl at 8 p.m. Sunday (ESPN) from Glendale, Arizona. No, it's not overflowing with players from the New York Jets -- welcome to the 4-12 reality -- but it's one last opportunity this season to watch two of their best, center Nick Mangold and defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson.

A few Jets-related thoughts on the game:
  • Mangold and Richardson are teammates on Team Irvin, coached by Jason Garrett of the Dallas Cowboys. Mangold and Richardson have been seeing stars all week -- meaning the Cowboys' helmets -- as they have seven Dallas players on their team.
  • I'm curious to see how Richardson approaches his first Pro Bowl. He was bitterly disappointed that he didn't make the initial roster -- he made it as an alternate -- so he could try to use the game as a stage to show everyone he belongs with the best of the best. One of his linemates is St. Louis Rams rookie Aaron Donald, whom former Jets coach Rex Ryan felt undeservedly was selected over Richardson. We all know Richardson plays with a chip on his shoulder; don't be surprised if he plays this one at regular-season speed.
  • This will feel like an AFC East game for Mangold. Team Carter includes three defensive linemen from the Buffalo Bills -- Mario Williams, Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus. This is supposed to be a fun event, but the presence of the Buffalo trio will remind Mangold of two brutal losses from the season. By the way, this will be Mangold's sixth Pro Bowl.
  • We all know that free-agent recruiting happens at the Pro Bowl. Mangold and Richardson are teammates with Green Bay Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb, who will be one of the marquee free agents. Think Mangold and Richardson might drop a few positive words on the Jets' behalf? Maybe. Arizona Cardinals cornerback Antonio Cromartie also is eligible for free agency, and it probably won't take much arm-twisting to make him consider a return to the Jets. He speaks highly of new coach Todd Bowles, his former Arizona defensive coordinator.
  • Could the Jets have more than two representatives next year? Absolutely. Defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson has been on the cusp of the Pro Bowl for two years. A sleeper could be linebacker Demario Davis, who enters a contract year and should thrive in Bowles' attacking defense. Nose tackle Damon Harrison, too, could be a Pro Bowl possibility. Next year could be a defensive resurgence for the Jets.
Before Twitter and Facebook and up-to-the-minute blogs, we learned about our favorite teams from the newspaper. If your team was the New York Jets, you picked up the New York Daily News to read Paul Needell. It was as simple as that.

Paul was the Curtis Martin of beat writers, bringing it day after day, week after week. He had that edgy, tabloid mentality, a must in the New York market, but he also had the ability to humanize the men behind the facemasks. His stories made you laugh, made you cry, made you think. He covered everyone from Mark Gastineau to Wayne Chrebet, taking you inside the locker room and the coaches offices every morning as you rode the train to work or ate your breakfast.

The players loved Paul because he knew how to handle difficult stories and ask tough questions. He didn't hammer them or try to embarrass them in front of a group, yet he had a way of getting them to open up. He had the uncanny ability to see beyond the next game and the next deadline. To him, it was just a game. I'll never forget the day in 1992 when Dennis Byrd broke his neck. It was a major news story, and everybody in the press box was working furiously, consumed by the moment and the assignment, perhaps forgetting that a man -- a husband and father -- was in a hospital, not knowing if he'd ever walk again.

Then I got a tap on the shoulder from Paul. He had tears in his eyes.

"Can you believe this?" he asked, his voice mixed with shock and sadness.

It was a sobering reality check for a young sports writer.

And, of course, he kicked my ass in the next day's paper, reporting exclusively that Byrd had learned only a few days earlier that his wife was pregnant.

On Saturday evening, Paul's forever words -- Can you believe this? -- came rushing back to me when I heard the news: After a long illness, Paul died peacefully at his home, gone too soon at the age of 57.

No, I can't believe it.

The phone call was inevitable, because he had been battling for so long, but it still takes your breath away. For months --- years, really -- Paul was as tough as the men he covered, never complaining about his plight. Never, not once. We talked for hours, usually on my long commute to New Jersey, and it was always about the Jets, the Giants, the beat and, of course, our families. His three favorite subjects were Eric, Evan and Alex, his three sons. Yep, he was a real-life Fred McMurray.

Paul was a Giants fan, and he was touting Odell Beckham Jr. long before he made The Catch. Paul hadn't been to a game or a press box in years, but he knew stuff. He knew a good story from a really good story and he could tell the difference between the truth and public relations spin. Once a newspaperman, always a newspaperman.

We started out as competitors, the Daily News versus Newsday, but it quickly turned into friendship. Don't get me wrong, the competition was fierce. After Byrd's injury, every beat guy was scrambling to get the first hospital interview. Obviously, we couldn't get anywhere near his room, so Paul came up with the idea to give a tape recorder and a list of questions to one of Byrd's teammates, who would ask the questions bedside and record the interview. Luckily for me, the player got cold feet or else it would've been another butt kicking in the next day's paper.

On the rare occasion when I beat him on a story, he'd usually walk over to me in the press room and whisper, "Nice job, young Rich." He called me that even when it wasn't true anymore, but it always sounded good. So did the compliments. They always meant more coming from him, because he was the best.

Paul had a lot of friends in football, none bigger than Roger Goodell. In 1983, Paul was a rookie beat writer when Goodell was a public relations intern for the Jets, and they became buddies. Paul treated him like a somebody, not a low-level employee. Goodell never forgot it. Who knew he'd become the commissioner of the NFL? Several years ago, Paul invited me to a small dinner party with Goodell, and it was a blast, listening to them tell stories about old road trips with the Jets.

A few years ago, Goodell honored Paul with a cocktail reception at the league offices. Paul couldn't make it, as his body had begun to betray him, but it was a wonderful evening. No one will ever know how much Goodell helped Paul and his family through difficult times.

Until I met Paul, I never knew the meaning of the word mensch. After laughing, he set me straight and now, 30 years later, I can proudly say my best friend, Paul Needell, was a mensch. And he will be missed by many.

2. Help wanted: Todd Bowles has his three coordinators in place, but he still has some hiring to do. Remaining vacancies on his staff: Quarterbacks coach, running backs, tight ends and offensive line. It's interesting that Bowles decided to hire his own special teams coordinator -- Bobby April -- instead of retaining Thomas McGaughey, who still has a year left on his contract. McGaughey is rumored to be San Francisco-bound.

3. April fools: April is a very interesting addition. About 10 years ago, he was regarded as one of the top special-teams coaches in the league, but his reputation has sagged in recent years, particularly the last two seasons with the Raiders. Combining the stats for 2013 and 2014, the Raiders ranked in the bottom eight in four major categories -- punt and kickoff return, along with opposing punt and kickoff return. They also committed 40 penalties, the seventh-highest total in the league on special teams. A silver lining? They blocked four punts, tied for the NFL lead.

4. Hip, hip, Hooey! Let the record show the first player acquisition of the Mike Maccagnan era is tackle Sean Hooey, a 6-foot-9, 304-pound lineman who spent 2013 on the St. Louis Rams' practice squad. He signed a reserve-futures contract.

5. Houston, we've got a comparison: People tell me Maccagnan is a savvy talent-evaluator, but his three drafts as the Houston Texans' director of college scouting have been just ordinary to date. From 2012 to 2014, they drafted 27 players and they've combined for 214 games started. That includes defensive tackle Chris Jones, who was cut by Houston and has started 22 games for the New England Patriots. As a comparison, the Jets, who fired two GMs in that span, drafted the same number of players for a total of 219 starts. Obviously, the Texans' drafting record will look a lot better if Jadeveon Clowney, the No. 1 overall pick last year, recovers from his knee issues.

6. What a week: You think Woody Johnson had a satisfying week or what? On Monday, his bitter rival -- the New England Patriots -- was swallowed up in the DeflateGate scandal. On Wednesday, he introduced his new GM and coach. On Thursday, his longtime political rival, New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, was arrested on corruption charges. In 2005, Silver torpedoed the Jets owner's bid for a West Side stadium. Johnson's enemies are dropping. This is his Michael Corleone moment.
Paul Needell, a former beat writer and NFL columnist for nearly 25 years in New York, died Saturday after a long illness. He was 57.

Needell made his name at the New York Daily News, covering the New York Jets from 1983 to 1996. In 1996, Needell left the Daily News to cover the NFL for Star-Ledger of Newark, where he worked until 2010.

At the Daily News, Needell chronicled one of the most colorful eras in Jets history, bringing the personalities and inner workings of the team to his readers every morning in the pre-Internet age.

He was well-respected for his reporting skills in a competitive market, but what separated Needell was his ability to humanize the people he covered, according to former Jets and team officials.

“The sports writing business lost a great one,” former Jets defensive end Jeff Lageman said Saturday night.

“I always had tremendous respect for Paul,” Lageman added. “I mean, he was just a great guy. I can’t remember ever having a conversation with him where he didn’t say, ‘How are you doing?’ He always asked non-football questions. He cared about you as a person, not just a player. Pretty special guy.”

Needell started on the Jets’ beat the same year they drafted quarterback Ken O’Brien. They hit it off instantly.

“He always took the personal side into consideration,” O’Brien recalled. “He was never consumed with X's and O's. To me, he always saw the big picture. We had a great relationship, and I knew I could trust him. He was a friend. We had that bond.”

In '83, Needell befriended a Jets public-relations intern named Roger Goodell, and they became lifelong friends. A few years back, Goodell organized a tribute for Needell at the NFL offices, where about 100 family members, journalists and league officials turned out. The event included a touching speech by the commissioner. Because of his illness, Needell was unable to attend, but he listened via speaker phone and responded with a hilarious acceptance speech -- an example of his unbreakable spirit.

"In a 'Tale of the Tape,' I was taller than NFL writer Paul Needell, but he was helluva lot tougher...especially in recent years. R.I.P," tweeted Joe Browne, the senior adviser to the commissioner.

Former longtime Jets public relations director Frank Ramos said Needell was “very fair” in his reporting, always giving the organization a chance to give its side on a particular story.

“He earned people’s trust and respect,” Ramos said. “That’s why people gave him information. … He was so well-liked by people in the building and respected by the coaches.”

Needell, born in Brooklyn, attended Midwood High School and graduated from Stony Brook University in 1978. He landed his dream job out of college, working as a copy boy for the Daily News.

He quickly worked his way up to a professional beat, covering the New York Cosmos and New Jersey Nets. In 1983, he was bumped up to the Jets’ beat.

One of Needell’s most memorable stories was printed by the Daily News in 1995, entitled, “Confessions of a Jets Beat Writer.”

He wrote: “The wins and losses never much matter to me. The personalities and stories keep you going, even when friends wonder how many more seasons you can stomach covering an awful football team. But for me, it's not about championships. It's about observing human reactions in good times and bad.”

Needell, who lived in Rockville Centre, New York, is survived by his wife, Cathy, their three children, Eric, Evan and Alex; and his parents, Martin and Marcia Needell of Brooklyn. Funeral arrangements are pending.

Jets hire Pepper Johnson to coach defensive line

January, 24, 2015
Jan 24
Spurned recently by the New York Giants, Pepper Johnson is back with the New York Jets.

Johnson, who expressed his frustration last week after missing out on the Giants' defensive coordinator job, was hired Saturday to coach the Jets' defensive line. Johnson played for the Jets in 1997 and 1998 before embarking on his coaching career. He spent 14 years as a New England Patriots assistant before leaving the Bill Belichick nest last year to become the Buffalo Bills' defensive line coach.

Johnson has no previous working experience with new coach Todd Bowles, but they share a mentor -- Bill Parcells. Johnson played for Parcells with the New York Giants and Jets; Bowles coached for Parcells with the Jets, Dallas Cowboys and Miami Dolphins.

The popular former linebacker coveted the Giants' defensive coordinator position. He interviewed for the job, but it went to Steve Spagnuolo, who previously had won a Super Bowl ring as a member of Tom Coughlin's staff.

"Moving away from the Patriots, spending a year in Buffalo, I was hoping it would open doors and open some eyes, that more people would be watching,” Johnson told the New York Daily News, "and [that some team] will give me a call before all this is said and done.

"I feel bottled up," he said. "I have a lot of knowledge and a lot of information that I feel like I just have to keep to myself."

Johnson steps into a great situation, as he will be in charge of the strongest positions on the team. The Jets' defensive line is led by Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson, who will play Sunday night in the Pro Bowl.

The Jets ended up swapping defensive line coaches with the Bills. Their former coach, Karl Dunbar, followed Rex Ryan to Buffalo.
The general manager and coach are in place, but questions remain on the New York Jets. Here we go:

@RichCimini: It's an intriguing thought, isn't it? You might or might not know that Demaryius Thomas played one year (2007) at Georgia Tech under Chan Gailey, the Jets' new offensive coordinator. A possible reunion in New York? Fuhgeddaboudit. Yes, Thomas will be an unrestricted free agent, but the Denver Broncos won't allow him to hit the open market. If they don't sign him before the start of free agency, they will exercise the franchise tag. Eric Decker can do all the recruiting he wants, but his old buddy isn't coming to New York.

@RichCimini: Absolutely. An above-average wide receiver will fetch at least $6 million a year, so there's no way they'd pay big money to a free agent, Percy Harvin and Decker. Chances are, the Harvin decision will be made before the start of free agency. The logical move is to release him. He's a good player, but he's not worth $10.5 million and -- this is important -- a fourth-round draft pick. Right now, they owe the Seahawks a sixth-rounder, but it improves to a four if he's on the roster at a certain date. There's a considerable difference between a fourth-round pick and a sixth-rounder, and I can't see Mike Maccagnan, a former scout who treasures draft picks, signing off on the upgrade for an overpriced receiver. The Jets went 1-6 without Harvin; they went 2-6 with him. They can do better in free agency and the draft.

@RichCimini: Darrelle Revis, no. Antonio Cromartie, yes. First of all, the only reason Revis considered the Jets last offseason is because of Rex Ryan. With Ryan gone, there's no way he'd come back. As for Cromartie, yes, I could see a return. You're right, he played well for Todd Bowles (made the Pro Bowl as an alternate). He knows the scheme and wouldn't be a bad short-term solution for the Jets. But let's not forget, he'll be 31 in April. There will be younger options on the open market, including Kareem Jackson (Houston Texans) and Byron Maxwell (Seattle Seahawks), both 26. Personally, I'd go for the more expensive, long-term player because the current depth chart is devoid of sure things. Even Dee Milliner is a question mark because he's coming off Achilles' surgery.

@RichCimini: Both. Unfortunately for them, the pickings are slim in both areas. I think Jets' fans need to start coming to grips with the likelihood that Geno Smith will be in the quarterback mix. I'm not saying he will be the opening-day starter, but I think there's a chance. Even if they drafted Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota (unlikely with the sixth pick), the Jets shouldn't have to rush a rookie into the lineup. With a new coach and new GM, they can afford to take a long-term view of the situation. What about a veteran? There's not much out there. We're talking about Brian Hoyer, Mark Sanchez (forget it) and Jake Locker. Maybe they take a flyer on T.J. Yates, a former Maccagnan draft pick in Houston. The name to watch is the Texans' Ryan Fitzpatrick, who has played under Gailey with the Buffalo Bills. He's under contract, but he could be a cap casualty. He's also recovering from a broken leg, so there's that.

@RichCimini: Actually, I haven't been around them. The beat writers got a chance to meet each guy after the news conference, but it wasn't anything in-depth. Bowles was the Jets' secondary coach in 2000, but I didn't have any contact with him because Al Groh didn't let his assistants talk to the media. We laughed about that the other day, recalling 2000. As far as I can tell, Bowles and Maccagnan seem down-to-earth and approachable. I don't think Maccagnan will embarrass himself at any news conferences, a la John Idzik. Ultimately, the only thing that matters is winning, but I do think people skills go into that. Idzik alienated people in the organization because he was rigid and acted like he knew everything, a major turn off. I don't think that will happen with Maccagnan.

Seattle GM talks QB, Lynch, Harvin

January, 23, 2015
Jan 23

RENTON, Wash. -- Seattle Seahawks general manager John Schneider, speaking to team reporters Friday for the first time since the season began, had no update on negotiations involving quarterback Russell Wilson's contract.

"We don't have a timetable," Schneider said. "At the appropriate time when we are able to speak to his representatives, we'll do that. We're not in a situation where we can yet."

Wilson, who has a $662,000 base salary this year, is ending his third NFL season and is signed through 2015. But NFL rules permit teams to negotiate a new deal with players after their third years. That is a virtual certainty for Wilson, who likely will receive a multiyear deal in excess of $20 million per year.

Schneider also talked about the team's plans for Marshawn Lynch, who is finishing the third year of a four-year deal that will pay him $6.5 million in 2015. Lynch will be an $8.5 million salary cap hit in 2015, but the Seahawks would save $7 million if they release him.

"He's under contract next year and he's a warrior,'' Schneider said of Lynch. "He goes out there every weekend and lays it on the line. I think you'd be hard-pressed to find a better running back in the National Football League."

Lynch, who is controversial at times, has been fined twice this season for obscene gestures on touchdown runs and had to pay a $100,000 fine for not talking to the media. He also attempted to take the field for the NFC Championship Game in unapproved gold cleats. When asked if Schneider was tiring of Lynch's act, he said, "I kind of like his act."

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New York Jets coach Todd Bowles filled two important positions Friday on his coaching staff, hiring defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers and special-teams coordinator Bobby April.

The addition of Rodgers, 45, most recently the defensive line coach for the Miami Dolphins, makes sense because he has a history with Bowles. They worked together on Bill Parcells' Dallas Cowboys staff (2005-07) and again with the Dolphins (2008-11).

Rodgers drew praise for his work with the Dolphins, but he has no coordinator experience on any level. That's particularly noteworthy because he will be calling the defensive plays.

Bowles said in his introductory news conference that he'd have a significant role in the operation, but that he'd leave the play calling to his coordinator. This sounds similar to the Rex Ryan-Mike Pettine arrangement, circa 2011. Pettine called the plays that year, but it was largely a team effort.

Rodgers has spent his entire career coaching the defensive line, so there figures to be an adjustment as he learns the entire defensive landscape. While coaching in Miami, from 2008 to 2014, the Dolphins recorded 287 sacks, the third-highest total in the league.

April, 61, is a well-traveled veteran, as this will be his eighth NFL team. He comes from a two-year stint with the Oakland Raiders, where last season he had one of the best punters (Marquette King) and one of the best kickers (Sebastian Janikowski) -- and yet the Raiders finished only 22nd in overall special-teams performance, according to an annual study by the Dallas Morning News.

April won Special Teams Coach of the Year awards in 2004 and 2008, when he was with the Buffalo Bills. The Jets are getting used to having an April in the building. His son, Bobby April III, was on Rex Ryan's staff and followed him to Buffalo to be his linebackers coach.

The Jets also announced the hiring of eight position coaches:
  • Karl Dorrell, wide receivers -- Most recently, he was the offensive coordinator at Vanderbilt. He has worked for the Houston Texans and Dolphins.
  • Robby Brown, quality control-offense -- He was the running backs coach at South Alabama.
  • Mike Caldwell, assistant head coach/inside linebackers -- He followed Bowles from the Arizona Cardinals.
  • Mark Collins, outside linebackers -- He comes from the Atlanta Falcons' staff.
  • Joe Danna, defensive backs/safeties -- He spent the last three seasons as the Falcons' secondary coach.

The strength and conditioning staff also was completed. The Jets retained Justus Galac, who returns for his third year as the head strength coach. His assistants will be Kavan Latham and Aaron McLaurin.

Mel Kiper Jr. re-grades Jets' 2014 draft

January, 23, 2015
Jan 23
You will be reading a lot about the 2015 NFL draft in this space over the next few months, but let's take a moment to look back at 2014, with help from ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr.

Kiper re-grades every team's draft class in an Insider piece Insider. His first impression of the New York Jets' draft -- aka the Idzik 12 -- was positive. In fact, his grade was a B. That was back in May, when John Idzik was preaching his "build-through-the-draft" mantra.

Obviously, the draft didn't perform to a B level, as only two players emerged as significant contributors -- first-round safety Calvin Pryor and second-round tight end Jace Amaro. Pryor started 11 games, but he was a mild disappointment because he made no big plays and missed too many tackles. In fairness, he played most of the season out of position, deployed as a free safety because of deficiencies in the secondary. Amaro wasn't a game-changer, but he showed promise with 38 receptions, tied for second on the team.

After them, there wasn't much to get excited about. Idzik's biggest failure was striking out at wide receiver. In arguably the greatest receiver draft in history, the Jets picked three receivers that combined for zero catches. Desperate, Idzik traded for Percy Harvin, which cost them a draft pick, $7 million in salary and ate up $7 million in future cap space because of the rollover rule -- and Harvin didn't change anything. They were 1-6 before he arrived; they went 2-6 in games he played (he sat out the season-ending win with a rib injury).

Kiper's re-grade is lower than a B (check out the Insider), but it's not as low as you might think. Maybe he was grading on a curve.

You should also check his re-grade of the Houston Texans, considering the Jets' new general manager -- Mike Maccagnan -- was the Texans' director of college scouting. Kiper loved the draft in May (A-). Now, not so much.

Ex-GM on Pats: Culture of cheating

January, 23, 2015
Jan 23

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The "Deflategate'' controversy in New England resurrected questions former Carolina Panthers general manager Marty Hurney had about the Patriots after losing Super Bowl XXXVIII.

Hurney, now the host of a weekday radio talk show on Charlotte's ESPN 730 AM and an ESPN NFL Insider, shared those questions on Thursday regarding Carolina's 32-29 loss to the Patriots on Feb. 1, 2004.

"There isn't a day that goes by since [then] that I haven't questioned ... that there were some things done that might have been beyond the rules that may have given them a three-point advantage,'' Hurney said during his radio show.

"And I can't prove anything, and that's why I'm very angry. And the anger has come back over the last couple of days that commissioner Roger Goodell decided to shred all of the evidence after 'Spygate,' because I think there were a lot of things in there that would bring closure to a lot of people.''

The NFL is investigating why 11 of 12 football used by the Patriots in Sunday's 45-7 win over Indianapolis in the AFC Championship Game were underinflated significantly below the league requirements.

"To me this isn't about 'Deflategate', this isn't about anything having to do about any particular game last week,'' Hurney said. "And it certainly isn't fodder to get by the first week before the Super Bowl.

"This is about a culture. Is there a culture of cheating at probably what most people look at as the best franchise in the National Football League?''

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Woody Johnson calls it a "people business." His business is the New York Jets, and he selected two people from different backgrounds and joined them together to run his franchise, for better or worse, until death do them part. Or until they get fired.

Did Woody the matchmaker get it right with Mike Maccagnan and Todd Bowles?

Johnson's track record for hiring suggests there's probably a 75 percent chance they achieve playoff-type success. What about a championship? It's impossible to put odds on that, considering, like, it's never happened on Johnson's watch.

"In 15 years, hopefully I've gotten better," Johnson said at Wednesday's news conference.

Let's grade the hirings of the Johnson era, basing the evaluations on longevity, winning seasons and postseason success. We'll skip the Al Groh-Bill Parcells administration since Johnson basically inherited them as he purchased the team in 2000.

You will notice a distinct trend: Each coach/general manager tandem experienced early success but wasn't able to sustain it for a various reasons -- namely, diminished talent, office politics and conflicting agendas.

Herm Edwards/Terry Bradway (2001-2005)

Winning seasons: 3

Postseason wins: 2

Comment: Edwards and Bradway knew each other from the Kansas City Chiefs, so it was a natural fit. They did enough in five years to warrant a longer run (three playoff berths and the franchise's last division title), but Edwards experienced a case of wanderlust (the Chiefs wanted him back) and Bradway lost a power struggle to assistant general manager Mike Tannenbaum. It got ugly in the end.

Grade: B-

Eric Mangini/Tannenbaum (2006-2008)

Winning seasons: 2

Postseason wins: 0

Comment: Tannenbaum convinced Johnson that Mangini, his close friend, was a young Bill Belichick. Uh, not exactly. Mangini's draconian style grated on the players. He inherited a four-win team and made the playoffs as a wild card -- remember the "Mangenius" moniker? -- but it fell apart. The '08 team, led by Brett Favre, was too talented not to make the playoffs.

Grade: D

Rex Ryan/Tannenbaum (2009-2012)

Winning seasons: 2

Postseason wins: 4

Comment: Ryan was the right coach at the right time, energizing the franchise with his bravado. It looked like Johnson had something special, especially after two trips to the AFC Championship Game, but the talent got thin and Ryan's boasts became hollow. The lowpoint was the Tim Tebow debacle. Johnson made Tannenbaum the scapegoat.

Grade: B

Ryan/John Idzik (2013-2014)

Winning seasons: 0

Postseason wins: 0

Comment: What was Johnson thinking? He took a cap guy with a limited football background and paired him with a win-now coach. Publicly, Ryan was a good company man, but he was frustrated by Idzik's glacial approach to free agency. There was some hope after an 8-8 finish in 2013, but the marriage was doomed to fail and they both got sacked.

Grade: F

Packers losing as least one assistant coach

January, 22, 2015
Jan 22
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Green Bay Packers will have at least one change on their coaching staff.

Assistant offensive line coach Steve Marshall is expected to join the New York Jets, according to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Caplan.

Marshall spent only one season with the Packers, working as offensive line coach James Campen's assistant. He replaced Joel Hilgenberg, who re-signed last April after three seasons on the Packers' coaching staff.

Marshall, 58, had been in the college ranks from 2009-14. Previously, he had six seasons of NFL experience with the Houston Texans and Cleveland Browns.

Earlier this week, the Packers denied the St. Louis Rams permission to interview quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt for their vacant offensive coordinator job. Van Pelt was promoted from running backs coach last offseason and is under contract for the 2015 season. Had Van Pelt's deal been set to expire, the Packers would not have been able to prevent him from interviewing elsewhere.
Todd Bowles is quickly finding out what it's like to be the coach of the New York Jets: You get a lot of quarterback-related questions from the media.

 One day after his introductory news conference, Bowles made an appearance Thursday morning on ESPN Radio's Mike & Mike Show. Once again, Bowles was non-committal on Geno Smith, although he was more expansive (and complimentary) of Smith's upside.

"I've only seen very little of him," Bowles said. "He's got a lot of talent and a lot of promise. Remember, he's only played two years. We're going to get in and look at all the games [on film] and see what he does well. You've got to sit down and talk to him, and get a chance to see him live and in person before I make those kind of conclusions."

Bowles agreed that the quarterback position is an open slate. There are only two quarterbacks under contract -- Smith and Matt Simms -- so it's not like he can declare Smith his opening-day starter. We all know there will be one or two significant quarterback additions in the coming months, via free agency and/or the draft.

"It won't be fair to say he is or isn't the quarterback," Bowles said of Smith. "Geno, obviously, is a heck of a football player, but there are things we've got to evaluate and judge as a whole team. It's not just Geno. It's everybody. He's the focus because he's the quarterback, but everybody is going to be judged the same way. It's an open slate on everybody coming in."
Remember that report in early December, the one about Rex Ryan being so upset with offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg that he considered firing him during the season?

Naturally Ryan denied it, calling it "100 percent false." He also insisted there wasn't a rift between himself and Mornhinweg, saying, "I’m tight with every single coach here. I believe in every single coach that I have, and that’s the truth."

Actions speak louder than words, as they say, and Ryan's actions in the last couple of weeks suggest that he and Mornhinweg weren't simpatico.

Consider: Since being named the head coach of the Buffalo Bills, Ryan has hired nine members of his New York Jets staff. The latest to ride the Florham Park-to-Orchard Park shuttle is Anthony Lynn, who will coach the Bills' running backs and have the additional title of assistant head coach, as he did with the Jets.

If you're keeping score, only four coaches (we're talking coordinators and position coaches) haven't gone to the Bills -- Mornhinweg, special-teams coach Thomas McGaughey, offensive line coach Mike Devlin and tight ends coach Steve Hagen.

Devlin jumped at an early offer to coach the Houston Texans' offensive line. McGaughey never was a consideration because Ryan ended up retaining Danny Crossman. So, basically, Mornhinweg and Hagen are the only ones who didn't follow Ryan to the Bills.

Before he was hired by the Bills, Ryan already had aligned himself with Greg Roman as his coordinator. Unlike Mornhinweg, Roman, a former offensive line coach, will happily run the ball as much as Ryan wants.

Ryan and Mornhinweg weren't a philosophical fit for the Jets. They made it through 2013 thanks to a strong running game and a feel-good finish, but they clashed last season on how to handle Geno Smith. Mornhinweg put more on Smith's plate at the start of the season, but he was reeled in by Ryan. In the end, it all backfired. Hence, 4-12.

Mornhinweg ended up taking a job as the Baltimore Ravens' quarterbacks coach, a move down the coaching ladder. We'll see how things shake out with Hagen and McGaughey, who has been linked to the San Francisco 49ers' special-teams job, but Mornhinweg is the only member of Ryan's 2014 staff to take a demotion.

NY has delivered swift kick in the Pats

January, 22, 2015
Jan 22
[+] EnlargeDavid Tyree
AP Photo/Gene J. PuskarThis Giants catch helped keep Bill Belichick's Pats from a perfect season ...

NEW YORK -- If you believe the assertion that you can tell how much something really bothers someone by how much they squawk, then the way a couple of former Patriots responded on television this week to a few taunts that former Giants place-kicker Lawrence Tynes tweeted after New England routed the Colts 45-7 in last Sunday's AFC title game was telling.

Retired cornerback Ty Law scowled and said, "Who is this dude?"

He's a kicker, Law and former Pats wide receiver Troy Brown were reminded.

"A kicker? Next subject," Law scoffed.

"Don't count. Next subject," Brown agreed.

"Go soak your foot," Law added.

For Tynes, who's built a burgeoning reputation as a Twitter smart aleck since leaving the Giants for Tampa and getting knocked out of the league in 2013 by a serious staph infection, the social media blowback he caught in the first 36 hours after his tweets proved he'd hit a sore spot. Tynes insists, "I actually have great respect for how much winning the Patriots have done, all the division titles they've won" -- even if he did also tweet that "maybe the Pats will have a chance now that they're not playing the G-Men."

Pats supporters and former players don't want any reminders of New York's role in interrupting Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the franchise's coronation as the best NFL coach, quarterback and NFL dynasty of all time.

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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- A few takeaways from the first official day of the "MacBowles" era:

1. A new vibe at One Jets Drive: Unlike their rivals to the northeast, the New York Jets have been dealing with deflation issues for some time, so to speak -- four straight years out of the playoffs. Rex Ryan's act got stale, and it was time for a change. GM Mike Maccagnan and coach Todd Bowles, introduced Wednesday to the media, came across as sincere, blue-collar types, sans the Ryan bravado. They will bring a fresh approach. Will it be the right approach? No one knows for sure. They're rookies, after all. New doesn't guarantee better. None of the day one pleasantries will matter if they don't find a quarterback.

[+] EnlargeMike Maccagnan, Todd Bowles
Julio Cortez/AP PhotoJersey boys Mike Maccagnan, left, and Todd Bowles, right, are tasked with solving the Jets' quarterback problem.
2. BFFs? Not yet: I have milk in my refrigerator that is older than the Maccagnan-Bowles relationship. They've known each other for only a week, so it's impossible to say if they will be compatible over the long term. The early signs are positive, but how will they handle adversity? What happens when there's a disagreement in the draft room? Clearly, they're learning each other on the fly. This type of arranged marriage is unusual in the NFL. Owner Woody Johnson tried it in 2013, pairing Ryan with John Idzik. It backfired because they had different agendas. At least Maccagnan and Bowles are starting out together.

3. Rex's presence: The news conference took place beneath a giant slogan painted across the top of a high wall in the team auditorium: "Play Like a Jet!" It's a Ryan-ism, one he quoted many times during his six-year tenure. I wouldn't be surprised if Johnson hires painters to handle some touch-up work before the next team meeting.

4. Different kind of coach: One comment from Johnson that jumped out was his take on Bowles' coaching style, his "ability to be above just a defensive coordinator … and be able to take a 30,000-foot look at offense, defense, special teams." This is a departure from Ryan, who immersed himself in the defense. Bowles said he won't call the defensive plays and will take more than a cursory interest in the offense. This is good. This will create a "one-team" perception, not an offense/defense split.

5. About the offense: Bowles didn't provide any specifics on his plans for the offense, except to say he believes he hired the right coordinator in Chan Gailey. Bowles spewed coaching platitudes, saying he wants "good balance. … We want to be tough. We don't want to be pushed around. We want to be explosive. We want to be all of those things." That's what they all say. It would've been nice to hear thoughts on the current personnel and how they might be used based on their knowledge of the players.

6. Taking a pass on Geno: Both men were noncommittal on Geno Smith. Bowles said Smith was "a great college quarterback," which is akin to telling Bowles, "You were a great secondary coach." That's ancient history; it doesn't matter anymore. It seems fairly obvious that Bowles and Maccagnan aren't in love with Smith, and why would they be? He's only 11-18 as a starter. Later, in an interview with ESPN New York 98.7, Maccagnan said he's intrigued by Smith's potential. He also said, "I don't know exactly what Geno will become for us, per se." Translation: Don't get too comfortable in the No. 1 chair, Geno.

7. Jersey Boys: If you like wrapping your arms around a homecoming story, this is a good one. Maccagnan grew up in Hightstown (Exit 8 on the New Jersey Turnpike), about 36 miles from Bowles' hometown, Elizabeth (Exit 13). Bowles' high school used to conduct a preseason camp at Maccagnan's alma mater, the Peddie School. Maccagnan, 47, four years younger than Bowles, suspects he probably watched his future head coach on a practice field in the late 1970s. New Jersey has produced some great coaches. Do the names Lombardi and Parcells ring a bell? The Jets will sign up for anything close to that.