Sports Outside the Beltway

Denver Broncos fire coach Mike Shanahan

He is the fourth coaching casualty since the regular NFL season ended. From ESPN-

Mike Shanahan became the latest and most stunning victim of the NFL coaching purge, fired Tuesday by the Denver Broncos after a late-season collapse knocked the team out of the playoffs for the third straight year.

Shanahan joined Eric Mangini, Rod Marinelli and Romeo Crennel on the unemployment line after going 24-24 over the last three seasons, including three straight losses in 2008 that turned a three-game division lead to an 8-8 record.

Despite that, and the 52-21 loss to the Chargers that ended Denver’s season Sunday, this was a shocker: The ouster of a 14-year coaching veteran who brought two Super Bowl titles to a city yearning for a championship and was considered my many in this town to be “coach for life.”

In a statement, Broncos owner Pat Bowlen said: “After giving this careful consideration, I have concluded that a change in our football operations is in the best interests of the Denver Broncos. This is certainly a difficult decision, but one that I feel must be made and which will ultimately be in the best interests of all concerned.”

Shanahan, 56, was 146-89, but the Broncos remained stuck at only one postseason victory since John Elway retired in 1999 after Denver’s second championship.

Almost all coaches, even the very best, get to a point where they have outlived their usefulness to a team. Shanahan I suspect will be back coaching within two years. Thats if he doesn’t decide to be a television commentator like Jimmy Johnson who sticks around for years in the job rather than coach again.


JJT Nails it Again (Dallas Cowboys)

I noted the other day over at my place that the DMN‘s Jean-Jaques Taylor hit the nail on the head in regards to the Cowboys’ disastrous season. He does so again in a column today regarding Wade Phillips’ claims that he is going to “change.” The whole piece is worth a read (if this is an issue that is of interest to you), but the last two paragraphs sum it up:

These days, though, Phillips wants you to believe he’s ready to embrace change. Frankly, the fact he’s willing to make substantial changes is the biggest indication that Jerry should’ve fired him.

It’s obvious the owner believes this team needs a different approach. It’s foolish to think Phillips can provide it.

Indeed. If Wade acknowledges that “change” is needed, what does that say about the way he has coached this team for the last two years?


Cleveland Browns fire coach Romeo Crennel

The reborn NFL team went 4-12 this year. From ESPN-

Barely into another massive rebuilding project, the Cleveland Browns have already moved to Plan B.

Plan A — or Plan Cowher — has been scrapped.

Browns owner Randy Lerner made his second major move of the offseason Monday by firing coach Romeo Crennel, who lost 40 games in four seasons, never made the playoffs and went 0-8 against Pittsburgh, the only full-time Cleveland coach to go winless against the archrival Steelers.

Crennel’s dismissal came less than 24 hours after Lerner fired general manager Phil Savage following a 31-0 loss in Pittsburgh.

The Browns, who began the season pegged as one of the NFL’s rising teams and ended it at 4-12 and in last place, began their offseason with a disheartening loss.

Cowher is already saying he isn’t interested in the Cleveland job. As for Crennel, he had a chance to turn around the pathetic Browns. He didn’t do it, and I see Cleveland as more than justified in deciding it was time to move on.

Note- Oddly Crennel’s name came up a year ago after the Miami Dolphins fired Cam Cameron.


Claude Lemieux signs two-way deal with Sharks

He hasn’t played a NHL game since the 2002-03 season. From AP-

Claude Lemieux signed a contract with the San Jose Sharks on Monday after spending the past month with their top minor-league affiliate, giving another boost to his NHL comeback hopes.

The 43-year-old Lemieux signed with the Worcester Sharks on Nov. 25 after a five-year absence from pro hockey. The four-time Stanley Cup winner’s new contract is a two-way deal, allowing him to play in San Jose or Worcester.

San Jose general manager Doug Wilson said Lemieux will stay with the Worcester Sharks if he clears waivers Tuesday after signing his new deal. He has two goals, four assists and 12 penalty minutes in 14 games in the minors.

“This is simply the next step in the evaluation process with Claude,” Wilson said.

Lemieux played parts of 20 seasons in the NHL, winning titles with Montreal (1986), New Jersey (1995 and 2000) and Colorado (1996). He won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP in 1995, and his 80 postseason goals rank ninth in league history.

Lemieux was a great player in his day, but five years away from the NHL is likely to leave him deficient as a player. MLB players(Jackie Jensen, Bruce Bochte, and many other) who came back after losing a whole season have had struggles. Two goals in 14 minor league games doesn’t exactly scream he is ready for a comeback either.


San Diego earns last playoff spot with 52-21 win over Denver

The AFC West champs after last night’s victory will host Indianapolis next weekend.

San Diego recovered from a bad start to make the playoffs. This team has the potential to make the AFC Championship game. Their biggest stumbling point I think is Indianapolis, not Tennessee. The Titans had a great year, but I’m just not sold on them as a Super bowl team. I think either the Chargers or the Colts are more than capable of beating them. We’ll know in a little under two weeks, won’t we?


NY Rangers prospect took PEDs before his death

Chemical analysis of his blood shows Cherepanaov used performance enhancing drugs for at least several months before his death. From Reuters-

Alexei Cherepanov, who died after losing consciousness during a Russian Superleague game two months ago, had been taking banned substances, government investigators said on Monday.

The 19-year-old forward, one of Russia’s most talented young hockey players, was rushed to hospital after collapsing late in the third period of the game between Vanguard Omsk and Chekhov, a small town south of Moscow.

He never regained consciousness and later died.

The investigative unit of the Prosecutor-General’s office said on its Web site that Cherepanov was suffering from heart problems that should have ruled him out of competing in professional sports.

But it said a chemical analysis of his blood by forensic experts also showed he had taken banned performance-enhancing drugs for several months before his death.

If true, Alexei Cherepanov is just the latest young athlete(Remember Len Bias?) who destroyed his life in pursuit of sports fame. It is sad every time it happens.


Detroit Lions fire coach Rod Marinelli

Did anyone honestly expect a NFL coach whose team went 0-16 to retain his job? From ESPN-

The Detroit Lions’ pursuit of at least one victory in 2009 will have to come without Rod Marinelli, who was fired as coach Monday after a historic 0-16 season.

The Lions lost to the Green Bay Packers 31-21 on Sunday, making them the first team to go winless through a 16-game season. The 1976 expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-14) were the last NFL team to complete a season without a victory.

“No competitor wants to go through something like this,” Marinelli said after Sunday’s game. “This is not fun to go through, obviously. But there’s people going through a lot worse than this.”

In a statement released Monday, owner William Clay Ford Sr. announced the promotions of Tom Lewand to team president and Martin Mayhew to general manager.

Ford also announced that defensive coordinator Joe Barry, assistant offensive line coach Mike Barry and secondary coach Jimmy Lake would not be retained; the contract of defensive line coach Joe Cullen will not be renewed; Jim Colletto has been reassigned to offensive line coach; and Dave Boller, the assistant director of pro personnel, will not be retained.

Marinelli was 10-38 in three seasons in Detroit.

Most of Detroit’s problem stem from the disastrous reign of Matt Millen. Millen is gone now, and as the Dolphins proved in 2008, a team with a easier schedule when combined with some smart personnel moves can make a big turnaround. Don’t give up hope Lions fans.


Annika Sorenstam delays ‘retirement’

It’s just a pro-am scheduled by her management company. From Golf 365-

Annika Sorenstam has confirmed that she will take a temporary step back from retirement and play in a Annika bonanza in February.

“It’s called the Annika Celebration,” said the Swede, who is generally regarded as the greatest womens golfer for much of the two decades spanning the late 20th and early 21st Centuries.

“It’s really an event that IMG (her management company) is putting together to help me raise some money for my foundation to help me get it off to a little more than a kick-start. “But it’s also their (IMG’s) way of celebrating my career and what I’ve achieved.

It’s a three-day event we’ll be starting with a Pro-Am and then we have a – what would you call, like an exhibition match with Lorena Ochoa, Paula Creamer and I think Natalie Gulbis and myself. “It will take place at Reunion in Orlando, just where my academy is. Again, it’s something that IMG is putting together; all of my sponsors are involved. We are tying it in with a Super Bowl party, so it should be little bit more on the lighter side than it has been in the past.

Did playing in events mean Sorenstam was keeping the door open for a full time return to tournament golf?

“Well, that’s the beauty of it, I suppose. I have the option to do that, and maybe that’s why I feel even more that I won’t. Never say never, but on the other hand, I feel great right now. This is what I’ve been waiting for (stepping away from the never-ending grind of professional circuits).

I honestly don’t think Annika’s retirement ‘stepping away’ from professional golf will last very long. Three years at the most.


NY Jets fire coach Eric Mangini

The NFL regular season isn’t 24 hours old when the first coaching casualties are already taking place. From ESPN-

Eric Mangini is out as head coach of the New York Jets after the team lost four of its last five games to finish out of the playoffs.

The clincher was the Jets’ 24-17 loss to Miami on Sunday that gave the Dolphins the AFC East title.

“We don’t take this decision lightly,” Jets owner woody johnson said at a Monday morning news conference. “We respect Eric for what he’s done but we want to build on the successful foundation he has laid.”

Mangini, 37, was 23-26 in three seasons with the Jets, including 0-1 in the playoffs.

“We’ve made the decision to move on,” Johnson said.

The Jets acquired Brett Favre before the season started and ran off to an 8-3 start. But losses to Denver, at San Francisco, at Seattle and Sunday to the Dolphins left New York on the outside of the playoffs for the second straight season.

The Favre maneuver didn’t work out short term for the Jets, and could be a long-term disaster is Pennington has a few more good years in a Miami uniform. Mangini paid the price for the dumb decision made by Jets management.


Basement to the Penthouse- Miami wins the AFC East with 24-17 win over NY Jets

What a ride the 2008 season was for Dolphin fans after the despair of last season. First I must mention my pre-season prediction for the Fins.

I safely think they can win 4 or 5 games. More is possible because the schedule is weak, but Miami on the other hand has too many gaping holes still.

Miami’s win today makes the team 11-5 for the year and headed to the playoffs for the first time since 2002.

Some notes about today’s, the playoff picture, and next week’s game.

*- Bret Favre threw two costly interceptions and three INTs overall. One was run back for a touchdown by Philip Merling, the other ended a Jet drive with less than five minutes to go in the game.

Both were terrible throws. The first Favre was trying to complete a screen pass to a running back that was covered. Merling was all over Leon Washington and the pass should have never been thrown. The late interception came when the Jets were running the hurryup offense and trying to catch the Dolphins unprepared. Instead the Jets wide out wasn’t ready and Favre threw it straight at a Miami defensive back. Dumb, dumb, dumb! The Jets had plenty of time and there was no need to run the hurryup.

*- Chad Pennington made it through an entire 16-game season for only the second time. Favre is on the AFC Pro Bowl team with the same amount of INTs as touchdown throws and Pennington isn’t going. What is wrong with this picture?

*- Miami ties the biggest single season by a NFL team. Ten wins, which was also done by the Indianapolis Colts.

*- Dolphin special teams were a mixed bag, which I guess is a improvement over the disasters early in the year. Two bad snaps on punts, one that Fields couldn’t come down leading to excellent field position by the Jets were in a negative column, on the plus side was a blocked punt by Miami. When was the last time the Dolphins did that?

*- Ted ‘Draft bust‘ Ginn had two catches for 71 yards. They were big plays. A bomb from Pennington, and a touchdown catch. 56 catches for the year, 790 yards and two touchdowns. Brady Quinn on the other hand threw 2 touchdowns, two interceptions and had a passer rating of 66.6 this year. If I got to eat crow for my wrong pre-season prediction, Dan Arkush should too.

*- Will Bill Parcells be back next year to help run Miami’s front office. ESPN reports the ‘Big Tuna’ has a out clause in his contract.

*- The AFC playoff picture for next week.

Baltimore at Miami
Indianapolis at San Diego/Denver winner

The first game’s winner will then play at Pittsburgh. Whoever wins the second game will play at Tennessee.

*- Head to head versus other playoff teams in the AFC, Miami is 1-1. They beat San Diego and Denver each, only one of who will be playing next week, and lost to Baltimore. Miami also lost to the only NFC bound playoff team it faced.(Arizona)

*- Miami achieved 11 wins, but the schedule at the end of the year was weak. Games against KC, Seattle, Oakland, San Francisco, all teams that struggled mightily this year. Denver, NY Jets, and Buffalo all came in at .500 or better this year, but weren’t exactly impressive when their spot on the Miami schedule came up.

*- Can Miami sell out the playoff game to prevent a local blackout? The last two times the Dolphins played a home playoff game a sellout didn’t take place.

*- Why was the broadcast breaking up early in the first quarter? I’ve seen this happen in other Dolphin games this year. The problem wasn’t with Directv(which I have) because the local television put up a station page during a outage that took place. Whatever the problem is, CBS is at fault.


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