Some NFL happenings to ponder while awaiting the final combatants for the Big Enchilada
The 2010 season wasn't a total loss for the Bills. Kyle Williams, the working man's defensive lineman, was named by Peter King of Sports Illustrated as his all-pro nose tackle. There is no pro football chronicler more astute than King, who wrote of Williams, "no other nose man is the combo pile-pusher and backfield-invader that he is."
When Williams was drafted in the fifth round in 2006, Greg Gabriel, then the top college scout for the Chicago Bears, said "Buffalo just stole him. He should have gone in the second or third round."
Williams was the 134th overall pick in the draft. The Bills also used a first-round pick to select another nose tackle, John McCargo, in the first round that year. McCargo, on the verge of being cut by the Bills, was the 26th player drafted overall.
A record 56 underclassmen declared for the 2011 draft but there is slim indication that the Bills will overcome their distaste for drafting top-of-the-line tight ends. There was just one of them among those making early declarations, Notre Dame's Kyle Rudolph.
There were seven NFL head coaches fired so far, none of them a surprise. The surprise was that there were six more strongly rumored to be fired but it didn't happen, either because they rallied their teams or the owners of their teams had more patience than the media expected. Those with legendary patience were; the Mara family of the New York Giants, who like and respect Tom Coughlin; the Halas Family of Chicago, whose Bears went to one Super Bowl with Lovie Smith and could do it again; and the Browns of Cincinnati, who learned about patience from their father, Paul, one of the great coaches of all time.
The last Raiders coach who left with a winning record was Jon Gruden 10 years ago. He went on to win Super Bowl XXXVII with Tampa Bay and then retreated to the safety of the broadcast booth. This week owner Al Davis fired his 10th coach since 1989, when he severed a bitter relationship with Mike Shanahan. The current one was far more bitter as he blistered super-controversial coach Tom Cable, revealing that he had been fining Cable $20,000 per week as a guard against the Raiders being dragged into court cases in which Cable appeared to be the principal.
The most surprising non-firing may have been the decision of another AFL original, Bud Adams, who decided to keep Jeff Fisher, one of the best coaches in football, rather than make a goal-line stand with his favorite quarterback, Vince Young.
*Speaking of coaches, I don't have a vote for NFL Coach of the Year but if I did it would go to Raheem Morris of the Tampa Bay Bucs. His team didn't make the playoffs but it improved from a three-victory season to 10 victories.
His specialty is defense but in 2006, his sole season coaching at Kansas State, he formed a conviction about the team's quarterback, 6-foot-6, 248 pound Josh Freeman. The Bucs used their first-round draft choice to make him the future of their team and he blossomed this season.
Larry Felser, former News columnist, appears in Sunday's editions.