The Buffalo Bills and the rest of the NFL should take a hard look at how the New York Jets attacked the New England defense in last week's wild-card game.
It was a great plan by Jets coach Eric Mangini and his offensive coordinator, Brian Schottenheimer. The Jets spread the Pats' defense and ran a no-huddle attack.
It worked well. A Jets team that isn't as good as New England was within 23-16 with 11 minutes left. They wound up getting blown out but it wasn't because of the game plan.
Not many teams run the no-huddle against the Pats. It's a good way to try to neutralize the front seven, which is the strength of the Pats' defense. The Colts have done it with success, but the Jets ran their no-huddle faster than the Colts run it. That was good. Try to tire dominant linemen like Vince Wilfork and Richard Seymour. Try to prevent the Pats from getting into their confounding, "muddle-huddle" alignment changes that give the quarterback and offensive linemen fits. Put pressure on the Pats to get their defensive calls executed.
It takes a veteran quarterback to run the no-huddle. Chad Pennington did a nice job in the wild-card loss. J.P. Losman should study that tape.
Even though Schottenheimer is the son of San Diego coach Marty Schottenheimer, the no-huddle probably won't be a big part of the Chargers' game plan today against the Pats. That's not San Diego's style, and quarterback Philip Rivers probably has enough on his plate without running the hurry-up.
There was a big difference in penalties called between the most "over-officious" and "under-officious" crews in the league, as Marv Levy might say.
The three officiating crews that called the most penalties were led by Ron Winter (13.9 a game), Gene Steratore (13.6) and Larry Nemmers (13.3). The crews that called the fewest penalties were those led by Walt Coleman (9.3 a game), Peter Morelli (9.3) and Bill Cleary (9.9).
Winter's crew called 208 penalties in 15 games. Coleman's and Morelli's called 140 in 15 games. The Bills had Winter once and Morelli once and never had Cleary. So their low total wasn't due to "under-officious" referees. The one Bills game Winter worked (versus Minnesota) happened to be the highest penalty game for the Bills, who were flagged 15 times.
Coleman had a league-high 21 calls challenged by coaches, and seven were reversed. The highest reversal rate on challenges was seen by Gerry Austin's crew, which saw reversals on 10 of 16 challenged calls.
The coach who challenged the most calls was Minnesota's Brad Childress (12), and he got four reversals. The Bills' Dick Jauron challenged four calls. None was reversed.
Gilbride to rescue?
Now that Giants coach Tom Coughlin has a one-year extension, he's expected to promote Kevin Gilbride from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator. Gilbride's job will be to get Eli Manning to improve.
Manning needs to fix his accuracy. He went from 51.5 percent in 2005 to 57.7 percent in 2006. But he was under 51.5 percent for five of the final eight games of the regular season. The knock on Gilbride is he's too pass happy. He has failed in his last three stops -- in San Diego with Ryan Leaf, in Pittsburgh with Kordell Stewart and in Buffalo with Drew Bledsoe. With the Giants he has better talent. But it's worth noting, Mike Mularkey did a better job than Gilbride with both Stewart and Bledsoe.
Pasqualoni to rescue?
In Dallas, word is Bill Parcells is leaning toward naming Todd Bowles and former Syracuse coach Paul Pasqualoni co-coordinators for the defense -- that is, presuming Parcells stays for another year. In that scenario, Bowles would handle the pass defense and Pasqualoni the run defense. Parcells recently spoke with Dom Capers to gauge his interest in running the defense, but Capers apparently was not interested. Parcells, of course, is on a year-to-year basis as coach, and he's not easy to work for. That may make it challenging for him to find the ideal hire.
Nobody to rescue?
Romeo Crennel is in a tough spot in Cleveland. He's looking for a new offensive coordinator after firing Maurice Carthon six games into the season. But everyone knows he's on thin ice with a 10-22 record in two years. He has to have an improved season in 2007, and the Browns' current QB roster is Charlie Frye, Derek Anderson and Ken Dorsey.
So who is dying to go to Cleveland for what might turn out to be a one-year deal? Crennel may have to go with in-house candidates Jeff Davidson, who took over as play-caller the last 10 games, or QB coach Rip Scherer, who worked for 11 colleges prior to joining the Browns last year and was a coordinator for five of them. Look for Scherer to get the gig. This underscores the importance of a head coach getting the coordinator hires right the first time. Browns GM Phil Savage suggested last week the team might stick with the same QB lineup. The best thing that Crennel could do is draft a QB and let the rookie have the job. That might give him a reprieve after next season.
Jets receiver Laveranues Coles is two years removed from his miserable experience in Washington, where he was poorly utilized and unhappy. He improved his catch total from 73 to 91 passes this year, sixth best in the league. He went to the playoffs. So you'd think Coles would be happy with his 2006? No. He doesn't seem thrilled with coach Eric Mangini.
"This was the hardest season I've ever endured in my whole career, period," Coles said. "Maybe I'll feel a lot better in a couple of weeks. I don't know what [Mangini] has in store for us. I'm sure he'll get the chance to put his stamp on the team and bring his guys in, so we'll see what all happens this offseason."
Does Coles want to come back next season?
"You really don't have a choice in that matter," he said. "I didn't know what I was getting into at the time [after the trade to the Jets], but I know what I'm into now. It's something I just have to deal with and just try and fight my way through."
The Chicago Tribune ran a feature on what Windy City celebrities have around their homes. Bears guard Ruben Brown was asked "One thing on your nightstand?"
"What do I have next to my bed?" Brown replied. "I have a knife. Actually, a machete. No, I'm serious. I've got a machete next to my bed. I don't really need it for protection, because we're got a lot of dogs at the house. I just do it to look tough."
Great Titans gig
Any aspiring NFL general manager should crawl to Nashville to try to get the vacant job in Tennessee. The Titans have one of the top three coaches in the NFL in Jeff Fisher, a budding superstar in Vince Young and a slew of young talent. It's a winning situation.
The Titans let General Manager Floyd Reese resign. Fisher and Reese had a good thing going from '99 to 2004 while they had Jeff Diamond as team president to serve as referee. But owner Bud Adams balked at paying Diamond $1 million a year in '04 and he left. Fisher won the power struggle over the past two years.
Potential replacements include Mike Reinfeldt, vice president of the Seahawks and a former Oilers player; Ruston Webster, another Seahawks vice president; and Randy Mueller, general manager of the Dolphins.
*No celebration: When the Patriots came into the locker room Sunday after beating the Jets, on each of their chairs was a DVD of the Chargers' offense, defense or special teams, depending on a player's position.
*Tom Terrific: New England's Tom Brady owns the lowest career playoff interception rate in history. He has just five playoff interceptions in 401 attempts, a rate of just 1.25 percent. Green Bay's Bart Starr is second at 1.41 (3 in 213), followed by the Giants' Phil Simms at 2.15 (6 in 279). Seattle's Matt Hasselbeck is fourth and the Jets' Chad Pennington fifth.
*The coaching career of Steve Kragthorpe is on the rise in a big way. Kragthorpe impressed everyone around the Bills organization during a stint as Gregg Williams' quarterbacks coach in 2001 and 2002. After a great run at Tulsa, he just was picked to replace Bobby Petrino as head coach at Louisville.
*Players this weekend get paid $19,000, win or lose. Players get $37,000 for next weekend's games. The players on the winning Super Bowl team get $78,000 and the Bowl losers get $38,000 each.
*Not surprisingly, Mike Shanahan made a great hire for his new defensive coordinator in Denver. He got Jim Bates, who finished the 2004 season as the interim head coach in Miami and did a great job with the Green Bay defense in 2005. Bates was an expensive hire, but that's not an issue with the high-revenue Broncos.