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Adam Gase must groom Sam Darnold, defeat ‘same old Jets’ mentality – New York Jets Blog – WSAIGO Sports
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Adam Gase must groom Sam Darnold, defeat ‘same old Jets’ mentality – New York Jets Blog

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Adam Gase has a lot of work to do. He’s taking over one of the worst teams in the league, the New York Jets, who haven’t played in the postseason since 2010. So, no, this isn’t going to be easy, but it doesn’t mean he’s entitled to a long honeymoon.

For one thing, Gase is accustomed to the big chair, so there shouldn’t be a pronounced adjustment period. He dealt with a lot of stuff during his three-year run with the Miami Dolphins, everything from on-the-field adversity (Ryan Tannehill‘s multiple injuries) to bizarre, off-the-field happenings (a cocaine-snorting assistant coach on video). He shouldn’t be overwhelmed by the stress and responsibility of being the head coach.

He also doesn’t get the benefit of the “starting over” alibi that often greets new coaches. The Jets have been starting over for a long time, especially the past two years. The patience of the fan base is exhausted; it doesn’t want to hear “wait till next year” from the organization. Yes, the talent base is below average, but the Jets have the resources to make significant improvement, namely the third pick in the draft and $100 million in cap room.

So, welcome to New York, Adam Gase. Some advice: Win now, stay off Twitter and focus on these five priorities:

Be a quarterback whisperer. Gase got the job in large part because of his work with quarterbacks. One of them, some dude named Peyton Manning, once said Gase is “the smartest guy I know.” No doubt, Manning repeated that line, or something close to it, when he called Jets CEO Christopher Johnson on Tuesday night to recommend his former Denver Broncos offensive coordinator for the job.

Simply put, Gase’s mission is to make Sam Darnold a star. The 21-year-old quarterback is the franchise’s No. 1 asset, which explains why ownership allowed him input into the selection process. Darnold, in a phone interview with ESPN, sounded genuinely excited about Gase after talking with him Monday night via FaceTime.

No quarterback under Gase has ever had a bad season, unless you count Jay Cutler’s out-of-retirement performance in 2017. Gase was Tim Tebow’s position coach when the Broncos made the playoffs in 2011. He was Manning’s playcaller for his record-setting 2013 season (55 touchdown passes) and he got Cutler to cut down his interceptions in 2015 (with the Chicago Bears). Tannehill never really improved under Gase, but he missed 24 out of 48 games because of injuries.

Gase’s job is to create an offense that will play to Darnold’s strengths: his ability to improvise and throw on the run.

“There’s a lot to look forward to,” Darnold said. “For him, he just looks at personnel and says, ‘How can we get the most out of our roster, every single guy that’s on our roster?’ When you think like that, there’s a lot of different offenses you can run, based on who you have.”

Create a new level of accountability. One of Gase’s defining early moments with the Dolphins came in 2016, when he cut offensive linemen Dallas Thomas, Billy Turner and Jamil Douglas after two consecutive early losses. He was only five games into his head-coaching career and … bam! Gase, who controlled the 53-man roster in Miami, used his power to send a loud message, one that reverberated for weeks. The Dolphins wound up rallying to make the playoffs.

The Jets need that kind of oomph.

One of Todd Bowles’ shortcomings was that underachieving players never feared for their jobs. There were one or two disciplinary benchings per year (hello, Trumaine Johnson), but he rarely sat down a player because of performance. As a result, they got comfortable, and complacency has no place in an NFL locker room.

Bowles and general manager Mike Maccagnan did a good job of clearing out most of the bad apples, so Gase won’t inherit many problems. It’ll be fascinating to see how he handles Johnson, a big-money free agent who disappointed on the field and blew off a Week 17 practice. The Jets are stuck with him for another year because of his contract. People who worked with Gase say he won’t tolerate disruptive players, which brings us to another issue:

How will he feel if the front office decides to pursue Pittsburgh Steelers star Antonio Brown? Gase had a diva wide receiver in Miami, Jarvis Landry, and he shipped him out of town.

Eradicate the losing culture. After a crushing November loss to the Dolphins, of all teams, safety Jamal Adams stood in front of his locker and declared, “I’m sick of losing.” Yeah, it can eat away at a player’s spirit, even a strong-minded player such as Adams.

This could be Gase’s biggest challenge. Most of his predecessors have tried and failed to change the culture, because it’s not easy to overturn decades of also-ran status. Bill Parcells did it when he walked in the door in 1997, but he was a larger-than-life presence with Super Bowl rings on his fingers. Gase can be fiery, former colleagues say, but he doesn’t have the pelts. He was 23-25 in Miami, plus 0-1 in the playoffs — hardly the résumé that commands the attention of a team room.

Gase has to convince the players he can make them better. When players sense that in a coach, they will follow him. If they believe he’s feeding them B.S. … well, then he has a problem. The Jets hierarchy believes he has a strong enough personality to flip the culture, one of the reasons they hired him over former Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy.

Rebuild the offense. Gase, known as an offensive mastermind, needs to figure out a way to get the Jets back into the land of the living. In the past 20 years they’ve had only one top-10 offense (2015). At times last season, they were an embarrassment, setting marks for futility. When it was over, wide receivers Quincy Enunwa and Jermaine Kearse publicly complained about their roles in Jeremy Bates’ scheme.

Like the rest of the league, the Jets went offense with their coaching hire, hoping to catch up with the likes of the Kansas City Chiefs. Gase is sharp when it comes to X’s and O’s, but the results in Miami were spotty — 31st in total yards from 2016 to 2018, only one 1,000-yard rusher (Jay Ajayi, 2016) and only one 1,000-yard receiver (Landry, 2016).

Look for Gase to make sweeping changes. There are no untouchables on New York’s offense other than Darnold, Enunwa, wide receiver Robby Anderson and tight end Chris Herndon. It’ll be interesting to see if he uses Enunwa in the “Landry” role — possession receiver — which wouldn’t make him happy. He chafed under Bates because he felt restricted to certain pass routes.

Build a staff. Gase’s most important hire will be that of defensive coordinator. A few names have been floated — Gregg Williams, Vance Joseph and Chuck Pagano. The Jets have played a 3-4 base defense since 2006, so it would be fairly radical if they switch to a 4-3. Williams, for instance, prefers a 4-3. If he’s smart, Gase will retain special-teams coordinator Brant Boyer, who revitalized the kicking game last season.

As for Gase, he will run the offense and likely call the plays, as he did in Miami. Under the Jets’ power structure, he won’t have control of the roster, which will allow him to focus on coaching. That’s a good thing. He had too much power in Miami, and that obviously didn’t work out.

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Saints banking on Superdome advantage on road to Super Bowl LIII – New Orleans Saints Blog

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NEW ORLEANS — The Saints think there’s something special about the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in the postseason, and it’s hard to argue with the numbers.

The Saints are 5-0 in postseason games in the Superdome in the coach Sean Payton era, compared to 1-5 on the road (not counting neutral site games), in that same time period. If the road to the Super Bowl goes through New Orleans, the Saints will be a tough opponent to defeat.

“It’s wild. It’s energetic. It’s beautiful,” said left tackle Terron Armstead. “From my point of view, I love it. I love to look back at the crowd from behind the benches and see people screaming and going crazy, jumping. I love it, man.”

But why, exactly, is it like that?

The Superdome certainly isn’t the fanciest stadium, as it’s the seventh-oldest NFL stadium currently in use. It’s technically not even the loudest, although it ranks up there on its best days.

A 2013 attempt to set the record for world’s loudest indoor stadium failed when the noise level got to only 122.6 decibels, short of the record and well short of the 136.6 that was registered at Seattle’s CenturyLink Field that same year.

“I think it’s the nature of the crowd,” Armstead said. “It’s the people that are in the crowd. … Some people wake up and get their daiquiris going. … It’s the people in the crowd in New Orleans that make our Dome such an advantage.”

Saints tight end Benjamin Watson put the Dome right up there with Seattle’s stadium and the old RCA Dome in Indianapolis as one of the loudest in the league.

“It’s probably, other than some of those SEC games in college, it’s definitely the loudest NFL stadium,” he said.

There was a time when the Dome wasn’t much of an advantage of all, as Payton quickly pointed out. In the years before he arrived, the Saints were routinely beaten at home. They weren’t exactly unbeatable at home during non-playoff years from 2014-2016, either, and Payton would be the first to admit that.

“It’s a tough place to play when you have a good team,” he emphasized. “But if you went back and looked at the records in the Dome prior to ’06, 3-5, 3-5, 4-4, 3-5, 3-5 with the playoff win. Not too long ago here, it wasn’t too tough a place to play when we were struggling. I think part of that is what kind of team you’re fielding and when you get the combinations of a good team and then the crowd noise and then you have something. I think a lot has to do with the talent level of your football team.”

When the Saints are at their best, the Dome is an incredibly difficult venue for an opposing team. New Orleans went 6-2 at home during the regular season. There’s no denying the talent level of this team, which went 13-3 overall and earned the NFC’s No. 1 seed for the playoffs.

The 2009 Saints, the only team in franchise history to win a Lombardi Trophy, played two games at the Superdome in the postseason, soundly defeating the Cardinals 45-14 and beating the Vikings 31-28 in overtime to advance to the Super Bowl.

The Superdome was special that year, and Watson, then a member of the Patriots, recalled coming in to play there on Monday Night Football earlier that year. It was so loud that he could barely hear his teammates next to him. The Saints walloped the Patriots, 38-17.

“It’s kind of a symbiotic relationship where, obviously if the fans are into it, and we come out and go three-and-out, and the defense lets them drive all the way down the field, then it’s not going to be as intimidating of an atmosphere,” Watson said. “But if we come out, score a touchdown or two, the defense makes a stop, then it kind of creates this avalanche that makes it very difficult for opposing teams to come in.”

Watson noted it’s difficult enough for the Saints themselves to communicate during some games at home, but opposing teams often have to switch to silent counts just to get plays off.

Added defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins: “We know how special it is to play there. We know the advantage it gives us with the noise level. When teams come in here, to a degree they gotta simplify things. They can’t come in here with a bunch of exotic key words and a whole bunch of things to say. Because it’s damn near impossible for us to communicate as a defense, let alone an offense trying to sit up there and check things with three, four seconds on the clock. So it helps us. We love it — sometimes we hate it, because we can’t communicate among ourselves. But we’d much rather have that than a quiet place.”

If the team is at the top of its game, then the crowd will be as well.

“You can have a crowd going crazy, but you’ve got to give them a reason to to crazy. You’ve got to give them a reason to celebrate,” Armstead said. “But the Dome is an advantage, for sure. I wouldn’t try to downplay it.”

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That time Philip Rivers played through a torn ACL in the playoffs – Los Angeles Chargers Blog

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COSTA MESA, Calif. — Jan. 20, 2008, serves as a defining moment in Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers‘ NFL career.

The now-37-year-old quarterback played against the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game six days after suffering a torn ACL and meniscus in his right knee.

Although the Chargers lost 21-12, Rivers limping through the game sealed his status as one of the toughest players the league has seen. He has continued to prove it in every game since, with his active streak of 208 consecutive regular-season games played the longest in the NFL.

Rivers didn’t have one of his best games that Sunday in 2008, completing just 19 of 37 passes for 211 yards, with no touchdowns and two interceptions, as the Chargers failed to score anything but field goals.

But 11 years later, he finally gets another postseason shot at Tom Brady when the Chargers visit the Patriots on Sunday (1:05 p.m. ET, CBS) in a divisional-round playoff game. A win would return the Chargers to the AFC title game for the first time since Rivers’ ACL game.

“The fact that he played was unbelievable,” Brady said. “They played a good game. We made a few plays, got a couple turnovers from them. It ended up being a tough game. It was a hard-fought win.

“There’s a reason why both teams are playing here this weekend — because we’ve earned it and put ourselves in position for a great opportunity. Both our teams want to win, and it’s going to be a tough game, regardless of the outcome.”

Two graybeards, Rivers and Brady will have a combined age of 78 years and 198 days on Sunday, making it the oldest combined starting quarterback matchup in postseason history.

Back in January 2008, Brady was 30 and in his eighth NFL year and Rivers was 26 and in his fourth. The Patriots were at the end of a perfect season and trying to cement their status as one of the greatest NFL teams ever by reaching and winning the Super Bowl.

However, an injured Rivers, playing with a balky knee, stood in their way.

“Honestly, it wasn’t crazy pain,” Rivers said about playing with the injury. “It kind of buckled a few times in the game, but I really was thankful. Throughout the course of the game, I didn’t feel like it hindered me as much as I anticipated.

“We didn’t have our best day. It didn’t help, but we didn’t have our best day, and I really don’t attribute it to that.”

In addition to Rivers’ injury, running back LaDainian Tomlinson had a sprained medial collateral ligament (MCL) and tried to play, but he was unable to make the cuts he normally made and gave way to Michael Turner.

According to Dr. David Chao, the Chargers’ head team doctor at the time, Rivers and Tomlinson were not the only players dealing with injuries.

Tight end Antonio Gates was hobbled and needed reconstructive surgery on his big toe. Fullback Lorenzo Neal (fibula fracture) and center Nick Hardwick (Lisfranc injury) had recently come back from surgeries.

And outside linebacker Shawne Merriman had put off reconstructive knee surgery that ultimately led to his career being cut short.

“We really were in bad shape going in there as a collective unit,” Rivers said. “So, yeah, we had some guys with some things [back then].”


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After suffering the knee injury in a 28-24 playoff win at the Indianapolis Colts in the divisional round, Rivers was insistent that he would play against the Patriots the following week.

Even as fans taunted him when he walked off the field to the locker room at the RCA Dome, Rivers told them, “I’ll be back.”

Rivers was right.

“That entire week was really interesting because a lot of people on our team didn’t know that Philip even had an ACL tear,” Hardwick said. “We knew that he had surgery and that he had to unlock his knee.

“And we knew he wasn’t going to be out to practice until at least Friday, maybe not going to be available until the walk-through on Saturday, but we all understood that he was going to play. And I don’t think there was ever any doubt he was going to play.”

Thousands of fans waited to greet the players upon their return to Chargers Park from Indianapolis on that Sunday, but Rivers managed to slip through the back of the facility unnoticed, get into his truck and get an MRI that night, confirming the ACL and meniscus tears.

The Chargers had a competent backup the team trusted in Billy Volek, who finished out the game against the Colts. However, Rivers didn’t want to miss a chance to reach his first Super Bowl, so he pushed to play.

After receiving the MRI Sunday evening, Rivers had to make a decision on whether to have arthroscopic surgery the next day to repair the torn meniscus to unlock his knee.

Rivers met with the team’s medical staff and coach Norv Turner, remaining insistent that he would play.

“People ask about teams and coaches forcing players to play hurt,” Chao said. “But in my experience, it’s the players themselves that force themselves to play. Norv wasn’t telling Philip to get the surgery and come back quickly. He was like, ‘Take your time, Philip, we got you. You’ve got a long career, Billy’s got this.’

“But Philip remained steadfast to do what it took to play, and we moved forward with surgery.”

So how hard is it to play with a torn ACL?

“You could call the ACL an internal seat belt,” Chao said. “No question, you can drive your car without a seat belt on and get away with it. But in the NFL you’re racing NASCAR, and you better have your seat belt on.

“So it’s not normal to play without an ACL. In Rivers’ case, we had him in some special bracing that we felt could temporarily keep him safe. But even then, we made him aware of the risks, and he wanted to play.”

Hardwick said Rivers appeared to manage the injury well for the most part.

“I don’t remember anything about him not being able to execute his job,” Hardwick said. “It was pretty remarkable what he was able to do in such a quick turnaround. Not only having an ACL tear, but having a meniscus cleaned out the week before. It’s pretty gritty.

“That’s Philip. We knew it meant so much to him that he was going to find a way to get it done. He was not going to let this moment pass him by.”


Throughout his 15-year career, Rivers has dealt with his fair share of injuries but has always answered the bell.

Rivers played through a chest injury and bulging disk in his back during the backstretch of the 2014 season, missing his first practice since 2007.

Rivers also was diagnosed with his first concussion during the 2017 season and did not clear concussion protocol until Friday, two days before taking the field against the Buffalo Bills in a 54-24 victory in Week 10.

A devout Catholic who has always been outspoken about his faith, Rivers wears a medal around his neck of St. Sebastian, the patron saint of athletes. Leading up to the playoff game against the Patriots more than a decade ago, a concerned Rivers was buoyed by a comment over the phone from his mother, Joan, who reminded her son that St. Sebastian’s feast day was Jan. 20, the day of the Patriots game.

“The week following [the Colts] game was a very spiritual one for me,” Rivers told the National Catholic Register. “… Amazingly, maybe even miraculously, I was able to play [against the Patriots].”


Rivers knows the numbers.

He’s 0-7 overall against Brady, a future Hall of Famer and the GOAT. That includes an 0-2 record in the postseason, with Rivers completing only 48 percent of his passes, with no touchdowns and three interceptions.

The Patriots have won eight straight playoff games at Gillette Stadium, the fifth-longest home playoff win streak in league history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

New England is 8-0 at home this season.

However, Rivers says this season is a new year, and the Chargers are 9-0 when boarding a plane this season.

“This team is 0-0,” Rivers said. “We’ve never played them. Certainly, I was a part of all those teams that didn’t win in those games, but this team right here has never played them, and that’s the way I look at it.”

Hardwick remembers the confetti falling from the sky at the end of the 2008 game and his former college teammate and Patriots offensive lineman Matt Light celebrating a return trip to the Super Bowl as he watched from the sideline.

He’s looking forward to a better result for his former team this time around.

“We had our chance at them and we were unsuccessful,” Hardwick said. “For me as a former teammate of a couple of these guys and a fan of the rest of them, I really just wish them the best of luck. And I hope they go there and can execute their assignments and keep their emotions in check enough to be able to fulfill their potential.

“I really do feel that this is the best-coached Chargers football team that I can remember in quite a long time.”

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Baltimore Ravens promote Greg Roman to offensive coordinator to replace Marty Mornhinweg

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OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Baltimore Ravens promoted Greg Roman to replace Marty Mornhinweg as offensive coordinator Friday, a significant move in the development of quarterback Lamar Jackson.

Roman, 46, the assistant head coach and tight ends coach last season, coordinated the Ravens’ dominant running game while Mornhinweg called the plays. Much of the system that Baltimore ran with Jackson mirrored what Roman had done with Colin Kaepernick when he was the offensive coordinator in San Francisco from the pistol formation to the read-option plays.

Mornhinweg, who was the Ravens offensive coordinator since October 2016, will have the option to stay in a significant role in a reorganization of the offensive staff.

This reshuffling allows the Ravens to keep Roman from becoming a coordinator elsewhere, ends speculation that Harbaugh will coach elsewhere in 2019 and puts Jackson on his best path for success. In his rookie season, Jackson went 6-1 as a starter and led all quarterbacks 695 yards rushing.

Mornhinweg’s demotion comes five days after the Ravens produced a season-worst 229 total yards in a 23-17 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers in a wild-card playoff game. Many Chargers players talked after the game that they could anticipate what the Ravens were running because they hadn’t changed their game plan from the previous meeting a couple weeks earlier.

In his second season with the Ravens, Roman turned a struggling running game into one of the league’s best. Baltimore, which ranked 28th in rushing in 2016, has finished No. 11 in 2017 and No. 2 last season. With Jackson, the Ravens rushed for at least 190 yards per game in the final seven games of the regular season, becoming the first team to do so since the 1976 Pittsburgh Steelers.

Left tackle Ronnie Stanley referred to Roman as “a genius” earlier this week.

“He calls a lot of great schemes against a lot of these tough defenses in the NFL,” Stanley said.

This is Roman’s third NFL offensive coordinator job. He had that role under Jim Harbaugh in San Francisco (2011-14) before calling the plays in Buffalo (2015-16). Roman’s offenses have centered around mobile quarterbacks, from Kaepernick to Tyrod Taylor.

Roman becomes the sixth offensive coordinator under Harbaugh, following Cam Cameron, Jim Caldwell, Gary Kubiak, Marc Trestman and Mornhinweg.

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