Sports Outside the Beltway

Browns Fire Eric Mangini

In a move that should have been made a year earlier, the Cleveland Browns have made a coaching change.   ESPN:

The Cleveland Browns fired coach Eric Mangini on Monday after his second straight 5-11 season.

“This decision was not easy for me, and it was one into which I put a great deal of thought,” Browns president Mike Holmgren said in a statement. “Although we have made improvements this season, my responsibility is to ensure that we establish a program that will allow this team to compete at a championship level. That will continue to be our goal in everything we do. I want to thank Eric for all of his contributions to the Cleveland Browns, and wish him and his family the best of luck in the future.”

Mangini said he believes the Browns are headed in the right direction.

“I have a deep respect for the players that I have coached the past two years and how they have made a profound difference in changing the culture — a tougher, smarter, more competitive, selfless team that never gave up,” Mangini said in the statement. “Our goal was to build a team for long-term success. The core characteristics we were dedicated to, I believe, will help achieve that goal, and have provided a strong identity for this football team and have helped to create a positive foundation upon which the organization can continue to build.”

While not quite on par with the Cowboys’ hire of Wade Phillips a few years back, Cleveland’s hiring Mangini to begin with made no sense.  He was an abject failure with the Jets and was immediately scooped up by the previous Browns’ regime with no interim success as a coordinator to boost his value.  And then Holmgren inexplicably decided to stay the course rather than bringing in someone with either a proven track record or other reason for hope.


Terrell Owens Reportedly Attempts Suicide

ESPN reports:

DALLAS — Flamboyant Dallas Cowboys receiver Terrell Owens attempted suicide by overdosing on pain medication, even putting two more pills into his mouth after fire rescue personnel arrived, The Associated Press reported Wednesday citing a police report.

The friend, who is not identified in the report, “noticed that [his] prescription pain medication was empty and observed [Owens] putting two pills in his mouth,” the police report said.

The friend attempted to pry them out with her fingers, then was told by Owens that before this incident he’d taken only five of the 40 pain pills in the bottle he’d emptied. Owens was asked by rescue workers “if he was attempting to harm himself, at which time [he] stated, ‘Yes.’”

KTVT-TV in Dallas reported that a woman named “Etheridge”, likely his publicist Kim Etheridge, called police at 7:51 p.m. to report a suicide attempt. KTVT-TV reported that Owens ingested 35 pills.

The Cowboys have called a 2:30 p.m. ET news conference.

Wow. The mind boggles. I knew he was a huge egotistical player, but I never thought he would do this. I wonder if his acting out were a cover for him and for those around him to hide his depression. Thankfully, his publicist caught this before he died and got him to the hospital.

Initially, the reports were that he had an allergic reaction to his pain medications. Only this morning did the news of a suicide attempt come out. Stay tuned – the Cowboys are calling a press conference at 2:30 PM Eastern.

Let’s hope he’s OK and he gets the help he needs. The effect this will have on the Cowboys remains to be seen.

UPDATE (4:08 PM): I don’t have time to comment, but Owens is denying a suicide attempt, basically saying he was out of it, and that’s why he gave certain statements to police. Let’s hope that’s the case.


Alexander Out With Foot Injury

Remember what I was saying about the Seahawks looking great and avoiding curses? Espicially Shawn Alexander, who had appeared on the jinxed cover of Madden?

Yeah, the jinx has arrived.

The Seahawks’ insulation from the recent hex of Super Bowl runners-up has a crack. League MVP Shaun Alexander has a broken left foot and will be lost to the Seahawks for at least a couple of weeks.

This comes on the eve of their game with Chicago, one of the few NFC teams I said might challenge them. The Seahawks will be hoping for the swift recovery of their star running back, and keeping their fingers crossed. After all, if this is all the Madden curse has left to throw at them, they may just have a shot. I have a feeling that the Bears and the Seahawks are going to play each other in the playoffs in an important divisional game, or maybe even the Championship, depending on the seeding.

Of course, Seattle has been able to do fine without Alexander in the past, but he is an important part of that team, and they should be grateful that he is only going to be gone for a few weeks at the beginning of the season.


Steelers Lose 28-20, Seattle Looks GOOD

One of the annoyances of living in a different area than your childhood team is that there are some weeks where they don’t put them on locally. Either CBS was programmed out of my TV (I had to use my set in the basement instead of the main set), or the local CBS affiliate wasn’t airing football, because the Skins are on Fox and the Ravens were in the 4:15 game.

After watching the highlights, I see the Bengals beat us again in Pittsburgh. That team is getting more than a bit frustrating. Our offense and special teams were the main problem (I don’t know how the defense did – highlights really don’t give you a good feel for that). Seems similar to the Penn State game yesterday, which was also frustrating to this Western PA bred sports fan.

Now the Steelers are in 3rd place in a tough division, behind Cincy and Baltimore, two games back. Baltimore is doing what I feared they might: win some games. Also, Roethlisberger is not playing very well, which makes the situation even worse. At least they got the run game going this week.

The other game that stood out was the Seattle and New York game. Seattle totally obliterated the Giants. It wasn’t nearly as close as the 42-30 score indicated, because Seattle was up 42-3, and let off. So far, they seem to be defying all curses and hangovers from losing the Super Bowl and getting on Madden. I’m starting to think they are again the team to beat in the NFC. Might Seattle get their first Super Bowl title in Super Bowl XLI? Time will tell, but they look like a class above the rest of the NFC, besides maybe the Bears and possibly the Vikings.


Roethlisberger Medically Cleared to Play: Polamalu Questionable

Ben Roethlisberger is medically cleared to play. It appears the decision to play is up to him.

The ball is in Ben Roethlisberger’s lap.

Cleared medically 10 days after his appendectomy, Roethlisberger will start at quarterback for the Steelers Monday night in Jacksonville provided he feels up to it and he can perform properly in practice this week, starting today.

Well, that’s good. It all depends on how well he plays. I want the starter in against Jacksonville, who has been a thorn in the Steeler’s side the past few years. I think Roethlisberger will play unless he feels really sick, and he didn’t look that bad last Thursday.

However, I think that this could be a bigger loss than Roethlisberger: Troy Polamalu is questionable with a shoulder injury.

Cowher said yesterday he did not know how Polamalu’s shoulder was injured and provided no more details. He said Thursday night that the injury occurred in the first half.

I hope that heals up. Polamalu is the heart and soul of that defense. He makes plays that no one else even appears to be thinking about. He has a sense of where the ball is going to be, and ends up beating it there, either to make the hit, or to pick it off. Polamalu personifies the position “free safety”. That defense will not be the same without him.

Of course, he did go back into the game with that injury, but I understand that they want to look at it further to make sure that it doesn’t turn into something ugly later in the season. I will feel a lot better with Polamalu in there, though.


Pats Trade Branch to Seahawks for 1st Round Pick

After barely holding off hapless Detroit yesterday, the Seattle Seahawks upped their offer to the Pats for holdout Deion Branch to the 1st rounder at which they had previously balked.

Deion Branch might return as soon as Week 2, but it won’t be with the Patriots. New England traded the disgruntled wide receiver to Seattle on Monday.’s Michael A. Smith has confirmed a report that the Patriots will receive a 2007 first-round pick from the Seahawks.


The Seahawks, along with the New York Jets, had fashioned a contract agreement with Branch before the season, agreeing to a six-year, $39 million deal that would have paid him $13 million in combined bonuses and about $23 million in the first three years of the contract. Neither team, however, could satisfy the demands of the Patriots, who were seeking first- and middle-round choices as compensation at the time, and the deadline set by New England passed without a trade.


The Seahawks could use Branch’s help in the passing game, especially after an anemic offensive performance in Week 1. Wide receiver Darrell Jackson, arguably the Seahawks’ best receiver, has twice in the past year undergone surgery to his left knee. After missing 10 games in 2005, his durability has come into question. Jackson caught five passes for 47 yards for Seattle against Detroit, but the Seahawks struggled on offense in a 9-6 Week 1 victory, failing to score a touchdown.

In addition, tight end Jerramy Stevens will probably miss the first month of the season because of a torn meniscus in his left knee. Stevens is an often-inconsistent pass-catcher, as evidenced in the Super Bowl, but he does provide Seattle with a big presence in the middle of the field. Wide receiver Nate Burleson, signed as a free agent in the spring, is still assimilating the offense, and is more of a deep threat who may not be the best fit in a West Coast-style passing game. Always-reliable wide receiver Bobby Engram, forced to play outside in 2005 because of injuries, is far more effective working out of the slot.


The Patriots are without their top two receivers from last season. David Givens signed with Tennessee as a free agent for five years and $24 million, including an $8 million signing bonus.

Despite most pundits’ confidence in Belichick’s “system,” you still need talent to win ballgames. But Branch was likely to sit out most of the year absent a trade and a 1st rounder next year will much more valuable to the Pats long term than a disgruntled Branch.


Manning Bowl I Goes to Peyton

Peyton Manning’s Indianapolis Colts beat Eli Manning’s New York Giants in the first professional matchup of the sibling quarterback prodigies.

After beating little brother Eli, all Peyton Manning felt was relief and pride. Relief that the much-hyped battle of the brothers was over, and pride in the way they handled it. No gloating, no giddy postgame interviews, no big scene as the two met when it was over.

Manning Bowl I New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning, left, walks off the field with brother, Peyton Manning, quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts after the Colts beat the Giants 26-21 in NFL football action at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., Sunday, Sept. 10, 2006. (AP Photo/Mel Evans) “I told him I loved him,” Peyton said after the Indianapolis Colts outlasted Eli and the New York Giants 26-21 on Sunday night. “I enjoyed watching him play in person,” the elder Manning added. “He’s every bit as good as he looked on TV. He’s going to be a great player in this league for a long time. I’m proud to be related to the guy. I’m proud to be his brother.”

As for the game itself, the “Manning Bowl” actually lived up to the hype. The brothers played well and so did their teams, though the Giants made far too many mistakes to win the first NFL game to feature two brothers starting at quarterback. Peyton finished 25-of-41 for 276 yards, a touchdown and an interception. The two-time MVP also led the Colts to scores on five of their first seven possessions.

Eli was 20-of-34 for 247 yards and touchdowns passes to Plaxico Burress and Jeremy Shockey. He also had two costly second-half mistakes — a fumble and an interception, both of which came with New York down two points. Both led to Indianapolis scores.

After it was over, the siblings came to midfield, surrounded by photographers, big brother patting little brother on the back of his head.

It’s fitting that the elder Manning brother won their first meeting. He’s the better quarterback, having reached his prime. Young Eli looks to be on the same path, although as the captain of an NFC East rival to my Dallas Cowboys, I can’t wish him too much success.

Papa Archie has to be proud of his sons, not only for being #1 overall selections in their respective drafts and then living up to the expectations that come with that but for the way they carry themselves.


Bettis: Steelers Unlikely To Repeat

Jerome Bettis is doing well at his new job: he’s not spared the Steelers so far.

First, it was the “Cowher is going to retire” kurfluffle, where Bettis told his crew that Cowher is thinking of going to leave after this season. While Cowher denied it, the rumors still swirl, and will continue to do so until Cowher signs an extension.

Now, Bettis is saying that the Steelers likely won’t repeat:

Jerome Bettis, television analyst, doubts that the Steelers can repeat as Super Bowl champions because of an unsteady offense that already misses Jerome Bettis, brutish halfback.

“This is a totally different football team now than we had when we went on that run,” Bettis said yesterday in an NBC conference call to promote the Miami-Steelers opener that kicks off the network’s “Football Night in America” coverage Thursday.

“The question is: Are they capable of repeating? … That remains to be seen yet. But it’s not the same team. It’s going to be a work in progress. It’s going to be very, very difficult for them to repeat. They’ve got their hands full.

“They may have to rely on Ben Roethlisberger’s arm a lot more than they have the prior two years. … I’m not certain about the running game, how consistent it will be churning out the tough yards.

“Obviously, with myself not being there, that poses a question.”

“Looking at the roster, you’d say Duce Staley … would have to fill that [power back] role.”

“If he makes the team,” interjected fellow NBC analyst Cris Collinsworth.

“Exactly,” concluded Bettis.

We hate to admit it as Steeler fans, but he’s got a point: I said as much last night. They are a very different, unproven team on offense. The defense should be OK, but the offense has a lot to prove, espicially the running game. Don’t be surprised to see them struggle out of the gate. I doubt they will go 6-10, but they aren’t going to be on the same roll they were last year either, and will have to feel out a new role in order to repeat.


Shout out from Goose

In response to a comment on his blog yesterday, Rick Gosselin mentioned me and linked this site:

I agree with several emailers — Ray Guy’s absence from Canton is puzzling indeed. Except that some voters remain reluctant to acknowledge kickers as football players. We’re honored to have national blogger James Joyner weigh in on Guy…

It’s an honor to be recognized by someone of Gosselin’s stature. As noted repeatedly on this site during coverage of the NFL draft and the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Goose is a recent inductee into the sportswriter’s wing of the Hall and widely acknowledged as one of the very best journalists covering the League. He’s also a really nice guy, having taken the time to respond to my email inquiries several times over the years–including well before I had a blog.


Bettis Thinks Cowher Is Done After This Year

Various Pittsburgh media outlets are reporting that the Bus has found somewhere he ISN’T greeted with roses in the streets – Cincinnati, where fans still feel bitter over losing Palmer to a Steeler hit in the playoffs last year, and then going on to win a Super Bowl. He just made his first appearance as an analyst on NBC’s football coverage.

Oh, yeah, I almost forgot. Bettis doesn’t think Cowher is returning next year. Via WPXI:

He wasted no time making a prediction about coach Bill Cowher and Cowher’s future with the Steelers.

“I really think this is the last year for Coach Cowher in Pittsburgh. I talked with him after the season was over and he was really a different coach, a different guy,” Bettis said.

I suspected as such. Cowher has done just about everything an NFL coach can do – he’s won at every level. The only thing left is winning back to back Super Bowls: other accomplishments after that point are either icing on the cake, or so unattainable that it isn’t worth staying around just to see if you are the guy to do them unless the circumstances are JUST right.

NC State may soon have a be-jawed atheletic director, if the rumors are correct.

Gene Wojciechowski has more, if you are interested in reading more speculation.


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