Can Broncos avenge heartbreaking loss to Ravens tonight?

As a Cleveland fan, I have very little sympathy for Broncos fans after watching John Elway in the 1980s. But any fan can appreciate the agony of losing the way the Broncos did last year in the playoffs to the Baltimore Ravens. With less than a minute left in regulation time Joe Flacco threw a bomb to Jacoby Jones to score the tying touchdown. Inexplicably the Denver defenders let him get behind them. Then John Fox went into Marty Schottenheimer mode and got ultra-conservative, not letting Peyton Manning take a shot to drive for a winning field goal. It’s one of those games that will haunt Broncos fans forever.

Now we have a new season, and fans will be anxious to get back in the action tonight when the Ravens return to Denver for the rematch. You can enjoy NFL betting at Sportsbook and other sites around the web. The Broncos opened as big favorites with spreads up to 9.5 points, but money has clearly come in on the Ravens as the spread has come back to 7.5. It’s understandable that the Broncos are favored, as Peyton Manning has a new weapon in Wes Welker and the Ravens had to completely rebuild their defense. There might be more talent on this year’s Ravens defense, but they have not played together in a real game and the leadership of Ray Lewis is gone.

But there are question marks with both teams. For the Broncos, Champ Bailey is out with a foot injury and Von Miller is suspended for six games. The Miller loss is huge while Bailey is getting old so I’m not sure he’s much of a loss. Then we have Elvis Dumervil, who now plays for the Ravens and helped mitigate the loss of some of their defensive players from last year like Paul Krueger. So for the Broncos young players like Derek Wolfe, Robert Ayers and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie will need to play well.

For the Ravens, their losses aren’t just on defense. While Jacoby Jones was the hero last year, Anquan Boldin as the true stud of that offense. Can the Ravens keep things going on offense without him? They have talent, but now there will be more pressure on Joe Flacco, especially after the loss of tight end Dennis Pitta.

It should be a great game, and now the spread seems more in line with reality. It looks like a tough pick.

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Matty Ice and a crazy weekend of football

The games aren’t even over yet, so we might get some more heroics and bizarre plays in the Pats/Texans game, but the Falcons and Seahawks seemed determined to come up with a game that was even more epic than Denver’s stunning collapse yesterday. Here’s some observations:

– Congrats to Matt Ryan. He sealed his “Matty Ice” nickname with two excellent passes starting at his own 31 yard line with 25 seconds left. All of this happened after what looked like a stunning Atlanta collapse that would have haunted Ryan for years. Instead, Seattle came up short after a great comeback. As a Cleveland fan, I know how Seattle fans feel.

– John Fox did his best Marty Schottenheimer impersonation, and the results were brutal for Denver fans, who had to watch their own version of “The Drive” against them engineered by Joe Flacco and the former Browns. Here’s Will Brinson regarding John Fox:

Remember when Fox decided on Saturday night that he shouldn’t give Peyton Manning a chance to win the game with two timeouts left, the Broncos on their own 20-yard line and 31 seconds left in the game? Yeah, he probably didn’t enjoy watching the Falcons take the ball at their own 31-yard line with 25 seconds and two timeouts and roll down for a score in about 15 seconds. It only emphasizes how bizarre his conservative coaching was against the Ravens.

Peyton Manning blew it in overtime with a rookie-type mistake, but he should have been given the chance to make 2 or 3 throws to get that last-second field goal in regulation. Also, before Flacco’s epic drive, Fox decided to run the ball on third down instead of letting Manning try to complete one pass that would have sealed the game. Brutal.

– Flacco was the hero and he made some awesome throws, but he also missed some open bombs and threw several passes that easily could have been intercepted. He made a ton of money for himself last night, but as a Cleveland fan I don’t mind seeing Baltimore eat up a ton of cap space for him.

– I was wrong about Russell Wilson. The kid can play and he was poised to be the hero, but Seattle left too many seconds on the clock for Atlanta after an epic comeback. That said, we saw today some of what we saw from Wilson in college. He’s at his best when his team is down and he can just try to create. In running a traditional pro offense he’s a little more limited. But, he had a hell of a rookie season and Pete Carroll made the right call starting him.

– Carroll did not make the right call trying to ice the kicker. Ouch!

– Atlanta did a good job playing the read-option today, and I think they’ll be ready for Colin Kaepernick. As for Kaepernick, people are focusing on the runs, and they certainly were huge in the win over Green Bay, but the guy has a rocket arm and he made the big throws that made the difference in that win. He’s still very raw on shorter throws and needs to shed the Derek Anderson approach of throwing short passes at 100 mph, but he’s a real weapon on offense. I’m not a fan of the read-option, and any team that uses it risks getting their quarterback beaten silly, but a team like San Francisco might sneak in a Super Bowl before that happens. The Shanahans weren’t so lucky with their irresponsible, high risk running strategy with RG3.

Several coaching changes taking place in the NFL this week

Miami Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano adjusts his headset as he coaches against the San Diego Chargers during their NFL football game in San Diego, California October 2, 2011. REUTERS/Mike Blake (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

There have been several coaching changes that have taken place in the NFL this week. Here’s the latest news from around the league.

Sparano now the offensive coordinator for the Jets
Following the resignation of Brian Schottenheimer on Tuesday night, the Jets moved quickly by hiring former Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano offensive coordinator on Wednesday. Sparano called plays with the Cowboys in 2006 and his style matches that of Rex Ryan’s “ground ‘n’ pound” philosophy. There was also a report from the New York Daily News on Wednesday that several players and members of the organization have doubts about whether Mark Sanchez has enough ability to succeed at quarterback. Apparently some want the team to pursue Peyton Manning if he were to become available this offseason.

Raiders dump Jackson after one season.
The Raiders have fired head coach Hue Jackson, believes owner Mark Davis and not new GM Reggie McKenzie was at the root of his termination. “I would be hard-pressed to find a guy who didn’t like Hue,” receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh said. “I’ll bet you San Diego, Kansas City and Denver like this move, because we would have been good next year with Hue.” The Raiders will be searching for their 34th head coach in the past five seasons.

“Marty Ball” coming to Tampa?
The Bucs interviewed 68-year-old Marty Schottenheimer for their vacant head-coaching position on Tuesday. He’s 200-126-1 during the regular season but just 5-13 in the postseason, which has bread the moniker “Marty Ball.” While he often does a fantastic job rebuilding teams, he’s been heavily criticized for his conservatism and brutal coaching during the postseason. According to’s Jim Trotter, Marty’s son Brian will not be joining the Bucs’ staff if Marty lands the head-coaching job.

Haley heading back to the desert?
The Cardinals have apparently spoken to ex-Chiefs head coach Todd Haley about possibly returning to Arizona, although it’s not known at this point if a) Haley is interested and b) what position he would hold. It’s worth noting that the Cardinals fired quarterbacks coach Chris Miller on Tuesday, so maybe the team is already in the process of making room for their former offensive coordinator.

Jaguars hire Mularkey, Falcons need to replace both coordinators.
Following the Falcons’ embarrassing 24-2 loss to the Giants on Sunday, defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder left the organization Monday to accept the same role at the University of Auburn. On Tuesday night, offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey was hired as head coach of the Jaguars, leaving the Falcons with two positions to fill. Jack Del Rio’s name has been mentioned as a potential replacement for VanGorder but as of this time, nobody has been mentioned as a potential suitor for Mularkey. (The options are limitless, although if I were the Falcons I’d scoop up Hue Jackson in heartbeat.)

Gruden staying in Cincinnati.
Bengals’ offensive coordinator Jay Gruden confirmed on Wednesday that he won’t be interview for any open head-coaching jobs this offseason. “I’m new to this. If I’d been in the league 25 years, I would have interviewed,” Gruden told the media. “I just wanted to put it to bed and move on with what we’ve got going here.” Noble might not be the best word to describe Gruden’s decision to stay put but it’s nice to see that a coach wants to grow as a coordinator before rushing off to be a head coach.

Colts find their new GM.
The Colts hired Eagles director of player personnel Ryan Grigson as their next general manager according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Grigson is highly regarded in the scouting community and was the runner-up to Howie Roseman for the Eagles’ GM job in 2010. He’ll replace Bill Polian in Indianapolis.

Bears promote Mike Tice to offensive coordinator.
This transaction actually happened last week but it was worth noting in this piece. Tice did a nice job maximizing the talent that former GM Jerry Angelo got him along the offensive line (that’s a nice way of saying that Tice didn’t have much to work with), but he’s not much of a game-planner. Chances are he’ll manage the running game and the Bears will seek another coach to coordinate their passing attack. If you’re confused, so are most Chicago fans.

Shaw criticizes the idea of Browns hiring Schottenheimer

Bud Shaw of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes that the Browns would only essentially be applying a band-aid fix to their soon-to-be head coaching vacancy by hiring Marty Schottenheimer.

Romeo CrennelIn fact, it sounds exactly like something Lerner would do if he can’t land Cowher and that’s what should concern you. It would be taking the easy way out. Hire a coach with experience primarily because the last one you hired had never been a head coach and it showed.

But with Schottenheimer, all you’d be doing is rinsing and repeating two or three years from now.

Maybe Lerner wants a quick turnaround so he can sell. But that kind of short-term thinking doesn’t do Browns fans any good.

If you make the right choice based on a wide knowledge of the coaching talent around the league, it makes it easier to ride out the bumps. In picking Crennel from New England and Savage from Baltimore, Lerner was intent on borrowing from successful organizations. But within a year he was ready to fire Savage and had serious concerns about Crennel.

Getting the right people is what’s most important, not taking one from Column A and one from Column B as if you’re ordering in Chinese.

This next hire demands foresight. Sorry, that’s not Marty Schottenheimer, whose time here came and went 20 years ago.

What’s ironic about Shaw’s criticisms of Lerner “borrowing from successful organizations” is that Shaw goes on to note that the Ravens were wise in taking a chance on John Harbaugh, who came from Philadelphia…a successful organization.

As I wrote when the news first broke, the Browns could do a lot worse than Marty Schottenheimer – a lot worse. Would he be a band-aid fix? Yeah, probably. It’s Lerner and Savage’s responsibility then to make sure that Schottenheimer’s eventual replacement is already on staff so when it’s time to move on, you already have someone familiar with the organization and the direction it wants to go in. Don’t just write off Schottenheimer because he’s not a long-term answer. Bring him in to establish structure and to get his players to believe in a system and then make a transition to one of his coordinators that could be a long-term solution.

I say this assuming the Browns can’t land Cowher. Because if they can, than clearly he’s the ideal choice.

Titans win AFC South – Browns interested in Marty Schottenheimer

The Tennessee Titans became the first team to win their division after beating the Cleveland Browns 28-9 on Sunday. Unless you want to break down Ken Dorsey’s passing chart, there’s really not much to discuss regarding this game, although Titans’ RB Chris Johnson made another case to win Rookie of the Year after rushing for 136 yards and a touchdown.

The most significant news regarding this matchup is that the Browns are apparently interested in former San Diego Charger head coach Marty Schottenheimer.

Chris JohnsonThe Cleveland Browns are formulating a plan that ultimately could lead to the return of Marty Schottenheimer as their coach for the 2009 season, according to sources.
The Browns would also be open to considering Bill Cowher if he sends stronger signals that he’s ready to return, the sources said.

The Browns plan to fire coach Romeo Crennel after a disappointing year, regardless of injuries the team has suffered, the sources said. Pubicly, owner Randy Lerner has only said he will evaluate Crennel after the season.

Schottenheimer was the Browns’ defensive coordinator under Sam Rutigliano in 1980 but took over as head coach when Rutigliano was fired midway through the 1984 season. Schottenheimer had a 44-27 record with the Browns, won three divisional titles, had four playoff appearances and two AFC Championship Game appearances before he was fired by owner Art Modell.

Schottenheimer might not be as sexy a name as Cowher, but he’s a proven winner and the guy has a history of turning around morbid franchises like the Browns. Cleveland needs structure and they need a coach to get the players to buy into a system. Schottenheimer can do both of those things and over time, he could probably build a winner, too. Granted, he doesn’t come without his flaws, but the Browns could do a hell of a lot worse than Schottenheimer if they can’t convince Cowher to come out of retirement.

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