Sports Outside the Beltway

Ravens Fire Brian Billick

After falling woefully short of expectations, the Baltimore Ravens have fired head coach Brian Billick.

Less than a year after signing him to a contract extension through 2010, the Baltimore Ravens on Monday fired coach Brian Billick. Billick’s dismissal was confirmed to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen by owner Steve Bisciotti and to’s Len Pasquarelli by an assistant coach and a front office official. The Ravens will discuss their decision at an afternoon news conference at team headquarters.

Only a few weeks ago, Billick proclaimed that he would return in 2008, but Bisciotti, who does not speak to the media during the season, made no statement to that effect. “I just changed my mind,” the owner told The Baltimore Sun on Monday. “I can’t explain it to you. It’s the toughest decision I’ve had to make.”

Billick, 53, compiled an 85-67 record in nine seasons. The Ravens, who won the AFC North championship in 2006, struggled to a 5-11 mark this season, a year that included a nine-game losing streak that ended with Sunday’s 27-21 win over Pittsburgh.

In his second season with the franchise, Billick led the Ravens to the Super Bowl XXXV title in 2000, but never got the club back to the title game.

A world championship earns a certain amount of loyalty but six years of failure is simply intolerable in the win-now NFL.


Parcells Fires Mueller, Cameron Next?

As expected, Bill Parcells has fired Miami Dolphins GM Randy Mueller.

Bill Parcells’ shakeup of the Miami Dolphins began Monday with the firing of general manager Randy Mueller. Assistant director of player personnel Mike Baugh and college scouting coordinator Rick Thompson also departed.

Also at risk of being fired was coach Cam Cameron, who said he would discuss his future with Parcells this week. On Sunday, the Dolphins became only the eighth team to finish 1-15.

Parcells began work Thursday as executive vice president of football operations.

Mueller was the Dolphins’ general manager for three seasons but was in charge of personnel decisions only since coach Nick Saban left a year ago. Mueller received mixed reviews for his moves in 2007, which included the acquisition of free-agent linebacker Joey Porter and the selection of receiver Ted Ginn Jr. and quarterback John Beck in the draft.

Mueller was GM of the Saints in 2000 and 2001, then served as an NFL analyst for ESPN for three seasons prior to his hiring by the Dolphins. In New Orleans, Mueller traded Ricky Williams to Miami for two first-round draft picks before the 2002 season.

There are rumors that Parcells has his eye on Cowboys scouting guru Jeff Ireland although, frankly, Parcells will be the GM in practice regardless of whether someone else holds the title.


Levy Quits as Bills GM

Marv Levy has retired from the Buffalo Bills a second time, presumably for good this time.

Marv Levy stepped down as the Buffalo Bills general manager Monday, confident he has the team headed in the right direction despite a second consecutive 7-9 finish.

“It has been an experience that I have enjoyed immensely,” Levy said in a statement released by the Bills. “Despite an unprecedented number of season-ending injuries, Dick Jauron, his coaching staff and an admirable core of high-character players are heading in the right direction.”

“If my contributions to their efforts have been meaningful, I then take my leave from One Bills Drive, thankful and gratified,” said Levy, who had a two-year contract.

The announcement came hours after the 82-year-old Hall of Fame coach opened the Buffalo’s final team meeting by informing the players of his decision to move on.

The Bills failed to make the playoffs for an eighth straight year, the longest drought in franchise history, losing Sunday to Philadelphia, 17-9.

Levy, who had the option to renew his contract, informed the Bills of his desire to move on in a meeting with team owner Ralph Wilson last week. “I will always be grateful for his service,” Wilson said. “When we needed new focus and direction, Marv improved our organization’s morale, attitude and environment: All of that, plus the stability we needed to move forward.”

The team seems headed in the right direction although, frankly, 7-9 isn’t much to write home about.


Why was Neuheisel in Baltimore

The Ravens completed a disappointing 2007, with a 27-21 upset win over the Steelers last night. The win followed the news, by a few days, the offensive co-ordinator Rick Neuheisel was headed back to the college ranks to be head coach at UCLA.

This brings up the question, what the heck has Neusheisel been doing the past 3 years with the Ravens?

David Steele writes:

Neuheisel’s tenure, though, will be a footnote in Ravens history, and as much as he praised the team for giving him a second chance as he left for his new gig at UCLA, he’ll likely view Baltimore as a steppingstone, too. As for the offensive coordinator position he vacated, his replacement will surely have far, far more on his plate than Neuheisel did. He’d better.

Yes it was nice for the Ravens to give Neuheisel the position, but did it benefit the team at all. Neuheisel was originally brought on as quarterbacks coach and yet Kyle Boller seems no closer to being anointed the team’s starting quarterback than he was 3 years ago. Maybe he just doesn’t have the ability.

The offense of the Ravens was not very good in two of the three years. Especially this year. So why didn’t Billick give the play calling duties to Neuheisel when Billick’s play calling didn’t pan out this year?

Look at the expectations Neuheisel brings to his new job:

While programs all across the country are hell-bent on making sure a coaching hire has some ties to the school instead of getting the best possible candidate available, UCLA was able to do both.

“Being in the NFL for the last three years is like going to grad school and I think that will be a great asset to him as he returns to college,” said legendary for NFL and UCLA head coach Dick Vermiel. “I am very excited about this decision.”

He’ll get the quarterbacks and will coach them up so there won’t be another disaster like this year when injuries struck Ben Olson and Pat Cowan. He’ll get the offense moving and will make the Bruins one of the more exciting teams in the Pac 10. He’ll get the wins to make UCLA a powerhouse again. With a .688 winning percentage, he has a decent on-field resume to earn instant credibility, and he isn’t going to ask for, or receive, any sort of a grace period.

I get the impression that the Ravens job benefited Rick Neuheisel. Given the circumstances of his firing from the University of Washington, I can understand giving him a chance. But did Neuheisel get the positions with the Ravens for the Ravens? Or for Neuheisel?

Surely this is one more event that requires some investigation when considering Brian Billick’s future.

Crossposted on Soccer Dad.


Weekly Miami Dolphins prediction

Miami(1-14) closes the 2007 NFL season today by hosting the Cincinnati Bengals. Can Miami’s player win their 2nd game of the season in order to please new VP Bill Parcells? I’ve already predicted coach Cam Cameron is history. The rest of the team won’t fare much better before the 2008 season starts. I’m expecting a big overhaul of the roster. Cleo Lemon is again the starting QB but I’d be surprised if he’s back in a Dolphin uniform for 08.(He’s a unrestricted free agent at year’s end)

So far I’m 14-1 predicting Miami this year, therefore I’m going to take a chance on today’s game. My prediction- Miami 30, Cincinnati 24.


Cowboys Underdogs Against Hungry Redskins

The wife and I are headed up to FedEx this afternoon to see my 13-2 Dallas Cowboys play the 8-7 Washington Redskins. Despite the fact that the Cowboys have the far better record and would set a franchise record if they notched their 14th regular season win, they’re 9-and-a-half point underdogs.

Bodog’s handicapper puts it about right:

There couldn’t be two teams with more and less motivation than when the Washington Redskins face the Dallas Cowboys this weekend.

Dallas has sealed home-field advantage through the playoffs and will definitely rest banged-up starters such as quarterback Tony Romo and wide receiver Terrell Owens.

Washington has to win and they’re in. Despite the long-heated rivalry between the Cowboys and Redskins, it’s tough to see how the Redskins lose this one in front of their home crowd.

ESPN’s John Clayton adds, “The Cowboys aren’t expected to play starters most of the game and they will rest players who have injuries. They are set up to be beaten, and anytime a Redskins team has a chance to beat the Cowboys is monumental.”

Most of the sports staff at the Dallas Morning News predict a Redskins win.

    Todd Archer: Cowboys, 22-17. “Cowboys set franchise record for wins in a season using backups in the second half.”

    Albert Breer: Redskins, 24-20. “Cowboys pull starters in second half, Redskins rally late.”

    Tim Cowlishaw: Cowboys, 17-14. “Even with stars playing limited roles, Cowboys get by Redskins feeling the pressure.”

    Rick Gosselin: Redskins, 24-17. “The game doesn’t matter to the Cowboys.”

    Tim MacMahon: Redskins, 21-17. “Redskins earn playoff berth while Cowboys’ stars get some rest.”

    Kevin Sherrington: Redskins, 20-17. “Hope the Cowboys don’t get used to taking the week off.”

    Jean-Jacques Taylor: Redskins, 31-13. “You should be impressed if this game is decided in the fourth quarter, because Dallas has nothing to play for, and Washington needs a win to make the playoffs.”

    Calvin Watkins: Redskins, 21-14. “Cowboys care about the game, but the Redskins really care and clinch a playoff berth.”

Anything could happen in this game, of course, but I suspect Goose, JJT, and company are right.

As Jim Reeves of the FWST puts it, “There’s way too much to lose for Cowboys to play to win.”

I’m hoping Brad Johnson and company can pull it out for sheer pride. The head coach, Wade Phillips, has said all week that they’d do their best.

But, as Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News, the Cowboys want to win — but at a reduced risk.

With that said, though, Phillips wants to lead the Cowboys (13-2) over the Redskins (8-7). Not for momentum’s sake, but for an accomplishment.

“We want to win 14 games,” Phillips said. “You know, 13 is the most ever for this franchise, which is a historic franchise. So that would be quite an accomplishment. Somebody may play for that. I’ll be coaching for that, I’ll tell you that.”

I’ll be cheering for it. It would be great to be there for such a historic day. Conversely, a meaningless loss will sting more being surrounded by Redskins.


Giants nearly take down giants

I was against playing the starters 60 minutes in tonight’s Giants-Pats matchup and what happens? We lose three starters: Kawika Mitchell, Sam Madison and Shaun O’Hara. That really improves our chances next week in Tampa.

As for the match, oh boy, there’s a lot to say. I’m proud of the Giants – despite a number of injuries, poor calls and stupid playcalling, they came within three points (38-35) of beating the Pats.
two huge borderline penalties went against the Giants: Corey Webster’s ‘illegal contact’ on 3rd and long in the first (in which a sack of Tom Brady was negated), and the pass interference call on Gerris Wilkinson in the end zone. Webster did nothing you don’t see on every play in the NFL; the same with Wilkinson who was penalized only because his head was turned the wrong way. As is with the Pats MO, both drives were kept alive by penalties which eventually ended in touchdowns. I don’t like to make excuses but I have no doubt that if not for those calls, the Giants win the match. The refs also missed a Patriot trying to poke Brandon Jacobs in the eye! – on what is normally a 15-yard ‘unsportsmanlike conduct’ penalty (and possible ejection), no call was made.
I was against playing the starters more than one half but Tom Coughlin played them all 60 minutes (although he would’ve been killed if he had played the backups in the second half, especially entering with a lead). Three starters went down and it’s TBA if they’ll be available in the playoffs. Are the Giants not the most injured team every single year?
Eli, Eli, Eli – a killer interception in the fourth when the Giants were still down just three. The Jints can win a Superbowl with Eli, he just won’t carry them there.
Ahmad Bradshaw was sorely missed. His explosiveness could have been the difference – not just by his addition would the team be better, but the subtraction of Reuben Droughns would help too: that guy has no business in the NFL anymore.
The Pats have a tremendous offense but a rather lacking defense. They’re vulnerable in the playoffs and compared to how the Colts have played the last five or so weeks, I wouldn’t want to play them if I was Bill Belichick.
Overall, I was proud of the G-Men and actually feel confident going into the playoffs. It was evident watching tonight’s match that the Giants have the ability to beat any team in football – it’s really just a question of injuries and Eli.


Yankee News – December 29 edition

Been busy with holiday stuff for a while and since nothing really’s been happening anywhere in baseball, there hasn’t been much to write about – but here’s what I’ve missed:

- Baseball America, the prospect bible, published its Top 10 Yankee prospect list. Joba, Ajax and Tabata topped the list while Kennedy somehow fell to fourth. Six through 10 is a strange melange of players that seem to fit two completely different methods of evaluating prospects.

- Jimmy Leyritz, one of my favorite Yankees growing up, was arrested for DUI after he hit a car running a red light – a woman driving the other car was killed. A tragic story for sure, and while lessening Jim’s stature in my mind, ultimately not that surprising – the dude always seemed like a hard-drinking, reckless kind of guy (just as if the same happened to David Wells – would anyone be that surprised? Unfortunately, no.).

- The Yanks and Sawx only seem to remain ‘in talks’ for Santana merely to drive up the price for the other. If the Yanks ever said they were completely pulling out, the Sawx would gain a ton of leverage and could conceivably lower their offer and still acquire Santana.

- Robbie Cano was pulled from Dominican Winter Baseball at the request of the Yanks front office, apparently due to a calf strain. But some conspiracy theorists believe it could be in preparation for a trade… very doubtful.

- I’ll be posting a piece on Lohud sometime in January so look for it.


Cotton Bowl Lobbies for BCS Inclusion

Cotton Bowl Lobbies for BCS The Cotton Bowl is hoping to join the BCS and hopes the Dallas Cowboys‘ new stadium will get them there.

The Dallas Cowboys’ new 80,000-seat stadium in Arlington, Texas might be just the key to unlock the Cotton Bowl’s inclusion in one of college football’s most exclusive clubs: The BCS.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who has a special place in his heart for the Cotton Bowl after helping Arkansas win the national championship there in 1965 with a win over Nebraska, hopes the bowl game that has been played since 1937 can join the BCS, according to a published report.

Cotton Bowl Classic chairman Bruce Gadd notes that if it weren’t for Jones’ new stadium, the talk of BCS inclusion would be a short discussion. “The missing piece has been that stadium,” Gadd told the Kansas City Star.

Weather is traditionally not an issue for the hosts of the other BCS bowl games. Those sites — Orange Bowl (South Florida), Sugar Bowl (Superdome), Fiesta Bowl (Arizona), Rose Bowl (California) — are all either indoors or in warm weather climates. Mother Nature has been known to wreak havoc on Texas in January.

“What we didn’t have was a world-class stadium with weather protection,” Gadd told the paper. “We were perceived as a cold-weather bowl a lot.” The Cowboys’ new stadium is expected to have a retractable roof.

Missouri athletic director Mike Alden believes that once the Cotton Bowl moves to the Cowboys new stadium, it “would be an ideal addition” to the BCS bowl lineup. “People in this area and this state believe in that,” Alden told The Star.

While the BCS bowls are lined up through the January 2010 games, Gadd expects to know as early as next year if the Cotton Bowl will get invited to the BCS party. “Decisions will be made probably in 2008,” Gadd told the paper, “about the next generation of the BCS.”

The Cotton Bowl was always one of the most exalted of the postseason games; it certainly has more tradition than the freakin’ Fiesta Bowl. My hope, though, is that the BCS system will have collapsed of its own weight by 2011, replaced by a legitimate playoff. There’s no reason, though, that the Cotton Bowl can’t be part of that.


Rick Neuheisel UCLA’s New Coach

Rick Neuheisel UCLA’s New Coach Rick Neuheisel has been hired as UCLA’s head football coach.

Rick Neuheisel is coming back to UCLA — this time as head coach. Neuheisel, who quarterbacked the Bruins to victory in the 1984 Rose Bowl and later served as an assistant under Terry Donahue, was hired Saturday as his alma mater’s 16th coach.

The 46-year-old Neuheisel succeeds Karl Dorrell, who was fired Dec. 3 after five seasons on the job.

“Rick has enjoyed great success throughout his career and we believe he is the coach who can take our program to the next level,” athletic director Dan Guerrero said. “His teams at Colorado and Washington continually challenged for conference championships and national rankings, and that is what we are looking to do at UCLA.”

Neuheisel spent the last three seasons as an assistant coach for the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens, who finish the season Sunday against Pittsburgh. He served as quarterbacks coach in 2005-06, and was promoted to offensive coordinator last January.

He had a 66-30 record as a head coach at Colorado from 1995-98 and Washington from 1999-2002. He hasn’t been in the college game since Washington fired him in 2003 for participating in a betting pool on the NCAA basketball tournament. He sued for wrongful termination from Washington and settled in March 2005 with UW and the NCAA for $4.5 million.

A great hire. He’s had some problems, to be sure, but he’s a superb college coach. And I suspect he’ll be less anxious to leave UCLA, not only his alma mater but a storied program in a great city, than his previous stops.


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