Sports Outside the Beltway

Former Pitt Panther Head Coach Foge Fazio dead at 71

He was also a long-time NFL assistant with five different teams. Most recently he was a Pitt radio analyst. RIP.

Foge Fazio, who succeeded Jackie Sherrill as the football coach at alma mater Pittsburgh and later was a defensive coordinator for the NFL’s Vikings and Browns, died Wednesday night following a lengthy battle with leukemia. He was 71.

Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson confirmed Fazio’s death while attending the Pitt-Duquesne basketball game on Wednesday night.

Fazio, who grew up in Coraopolis, Pa., in suburban Pittsburgh, was a former Pitt linebacker and center and was chosen as the team MVP in 1959. He was drafted by the AFL’s Boston Patriots in 1960 but soon after moved into coaching. He spent nine seasons as a Pitt assistant, the final three as defensive coordinator, before being promoted to head coach in 1982, following three successive 11-1 seasons under Sherrill.

Fazio’s first Pitt team, quarterbacked by Dan Marino, began the season ranked No. 1 and started 7-0, but lost three of its final five as the Panthers’ offense struggled. His 1983 team went 8-3-1, but he was fired with two years left on his contract following a 31-0 loss to Penn State in 1985.

Fazio was 25-18-3 at Pitt, including a 3-7-1 record in 1984.

“I don’t know that anyone embodied the Pitt spirit better than Foge Fazio,” Pederson said. “It was obvious from the first time that I met him how passionate he was about this university and its football program. Foge had the unique ability to make everyone he came in contact with feel special. In so many ways he represented all the great things associated with the University of Pittsburgh.”

After leaving Pitt, Fazio was hired as coach Lou Holtz’s defensive coordinator at Notre Dame. He also was an assistant coach with the Falcons, Jets and Redskins and was the defensive coordinator of the Vikings (1996-98) and Browns (2001-02). He retired with Cleveland in 2003 but returned two years later as a Vikings defensive consultant under coach Mike Tice.

Fazio spent the last two seasons as a radio analyst on Pitt football broadcasts, but hadn’t worked this season since the South Florida game on Oct. 24. He recently told broadcast partner Bill Hillgrove he hoped to return for the No. 14 Panthers game Saturday against No. 5 Cincinnati.

“Foge was a true ‘Pitt Man,’ ” Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said. “He loved this university and everyone at Pitt loved Foge.


NFL changes return to play concussion rules

Nearly 1/5th of NFL players surveyed said they hidden or downplayed the effects of a concussion. From AP-

NFL teams now have new, stricter instructions for when players should be allowed to return to games or practices after head injuries, guidelines that go into effect this week.

In the latest step by the league to address a hot-button issue, commissioner Roger Goodell sent a memo to the 32 clubs Wednesday saying a player who gets a concussion should not return to action on the same day if he shows certain signs or symptoms.

Those include an inability to remember assignments or plays, a gap in memory, persistent dizziness and persistent headaches.

The old standard, established in 2007, said a player should not be allowed to return to the same game if he lost consciousness.

Wednesday’s memo also says players “are to be encouraged to be candid with team medical staffs and fully disclose any signs or symptoms that may be associated with a concussion.”

The new guidelines sound good in practice(I think they were overdue. A player not able to think clearly has no business being on a football field.) but I doubt they will be adhered to. Coaches are under pressure to win and most NFL players aren’t inclined to challenge these people who have authority over them. A person is also more likely to press on and shrug off any ill feelings they have. I know I have for maladies large and small, including a slight concussion I suffered six years ago after an auto accident.


Second Chance- Detroit Lions beat Cleveland 38-37

Matthew Stafford was flat on his back, getting his left shoulder evaluated on the sideline by the Detroit Lions medical staff.

The Cleveland Browns called a timeout and gave the rookie a chance to get back in the game.

Stafford threw his fifth touchdown pass from 1 yard to Brandon Pettigrew and Jason Hanson’s extra point with no time on the clock gave Detroit a thrilling 38-37 win over Cleveland on Sunday.

“That was wild,” Stafford said with ice strapped around his shoulder.

The No. 1 pick in the NFL draft became the first rookie to throw five TDs in a game since Ray Buivid for the Bears in 1937, according to STATS LLC.

Detroit was given the untimed play because safety Hank Poteat was called for pass interference in the end zone when Stafford heaved a desperation attempt.

Just an amazing finish. If not for a Brown timeout, Stafford wouldn’t have gotten the opportunity. Shades of Tony Sparano’s timeout to ice the New Orleans kicker. The Saints got the touchdown instead of the field goal and things went down hill from there for the Miami Dolphins. Here I don’t question Mangini’s call. In hindsight it looks bad, but his team needed time more than the Dolphins did.

Stafford’s five TD throws almost equaled his total for the year prior to this game(6). Cleveland Brown QB Brady Quinn also had a career day with 4 touchdown passes.

Two bad teams put on an entertaining game. Who would have thunk it? I certainly didn’t.


Cleveland Brown QB Brady Quinn fined by NFL

No, it wasn’t for lousy play. From ESPN-

Browns quarterback Brady Quinn has been fined by the NFL for his chop block on Baltimore’s Terrell Suggs.Browns lose to Baltimore Ravens, 16-0

A league source tells ESPN’s Michael Smith that an MRI exam showed Suggs suffered a severe MCL sprain from Quinn’s chop block on Monday night. There is no definitive timetable for Suggs’ return, but he is expected to miss at least the next couple weeks, the source said.

Quinn said he received a letter from the league on Wednesday but would not disclose the size of his fine, saying only that it was “a good amount.” Quinn insists he was not trying to hurt Suggs and has apologized to him and the Ravens.

The Ravens were fuming over the hit, during the Ravens’ 16-0 win on Monday night, as it could cost Suggs significant playing time while Baltimore attempts to remain in playoff contention.

IMHO, the Ravens are justified in being angry about Quinn’s block. It was a chop block and he deserves to be fined for it.

I think you will agree with me when I say- This has been a flat out awful year for the Cleveland Browns.


Shooting blanks- Baltimore Ravens beat Cleveland 16-0

Would you believe this was the defensively Baltimore’s first shutout since 2006. From AP-

For 30 minutes, the Ravens were inefficient, unproductive and disorganized.Ravens Browns Football

In 17 seconds, they changed all that.

Ray Rice scored on a 13-yard run on Baltimore’s first possession of the third quarter and safety Dawan Landry returned an interception of Quinn 48 yards for a touchdown on Cleveland’s next play as the Ravens overcame a horrendous start and routed the lowly Browns.

Baltimore’s second PAT attempt was blocked. They scored a field goal later in the game.

The Browns continue to be a horrendous offensive team. They have scored SIX offensive touchdowns over their last 15 games. Whether it’s Derek Anderson of the sub-40 passer rating or the hugely disappointing Brady Quinn(Don’t Cam Cameron look like a genius now for passing on Quinn in 2007), Cleveland can’t do anything offensively. The team is 1-8 so far for 2009 and any prediction for two wins at year end is looking overly optimistic.


Cleveland Brown CB Eric Wright all right after rollover crash

He may play in this weekend’s game. From AP-

Browns cornerback Eric Wright was back at practice hours after flipping his car on a wet highway entrance ramp. He may play Sunday against Green Bay.

Wright rolled his car early Friday when his vehicle slid on wet pavement. He was examined and released at MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland. The Browns sent him for more tests and Wright was back at the team’s training facility in Berea, Ohio, in time for practice.

Coach Eric Mangini was hopeful Wright would be able to play in Sunday’s home game against the Packers.

Wright rode a stationary bike during the 30-minute period he was observed by reporters. The Browns listed him as questionable for Sunday with a shoulder injury.

Wright felt fortunate to suffer no significant injury. I concur, he was more than lucky.


Cleveland Brown LB D’Qwell Jackson out for the rest of the year

He was the team’s leading tackler. From AP-

Cleveland Browns linebacker D’Qwell Jackson will miss the rest of the season because of a shoulder injury.

Cleveland placed its leading tackler on injured reserve Tuesday, two days after he damaged his shoulder during the first half of a 27-14 loss at Pittsburgh.

“It’s disappointing any time you lose a player for the season, and this is especially true with someone like D’Qwell, who has proven to be an outstanding leader for us both on and off the field,” Browns coach Eric Mangini said in a statement.

Jackson got hurt in the second quarter on Sunday. He faces possible surgery.

Though undersized at 6-foot, 240 pounds, Jackson has been one of Cleveland’s best defenders over the past three-plus seasons.

Jackson led the NFL with 188 tackles last season and was chosen as a Pro Bowl alternate.

He is eligible for free agency after this season. The loss of Jackson is another blow for the Browns. Will Eric Mangini still be head coach when the 2010 season rolls around?


Cleveland Browns trade WR Braylon Edwards to the NY Jets

Are the Jets now the AFC favorite to make the next Super Bowl? From USA Today-

The Browns have traded receiver Braylon Edwards to the Jets for a package of players.

Cleveland will receive WR Chansi Stuckey, LB Jason Trusnik and undisclosed draft picks from New York.

Former Jets and Chiefs coach Herm Edwards, now an ESPN analyst, said the acquisition could benefit Jets rookie QB Mark Sanchez.

“Now all of a sudden Sanchez has a guy who can play outside the numbers, a guy that is big and physical that can catch the ball when he’s contested,” Edwards said on the network this morning.

The trade comes just two days after a Cleveland man accused Edwards of assault outside a nightclub in the city. The man is a friend of Cavs star LeBron James, who said Edwards’ alleged assault was motivated by “jealousy.”

The NFL is investigating the incident.

No question this is a big move for the Jets. Don Banks at Sports Illustrated writes-

In taking the Braylon Edwards problem off the Browns’ hands Wednesday, the New York Jets have made another bold move to win now and win big in the AFC East in the first year of the Rex Ryan era.

Edwards is an undeniable talent at receiver, but Cleveland’s 2005 first-round pick has had just one season so far (2007) that was worthy of his No. 3 overall draft slot. Whether or not New York can find a way to mine Edwards’ potential is a calculated risk that at first glance doesn’t appear to have a huge downside for the Jets.


Edwards has been plagued by both dropped passes and off-field maturity issues since his Pro Bowl season of 2007, but the Jets believe they know his warts and can foster an atmosphere that brings out the best in the enigmatic former University of Michigan star. New York is counting on Edwards being happier away from the losing climate that prevailed in Cleveland, and the hope is that offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer can quickly mold a significant role for him, with rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez feeding him the ball and keeping him interested.

The knock on Edwards in Cleveland has been that he’s not a player who lives and breaths the game as much as he enjoys the fame and lifestyle of an NFL star. Playing in the New York might only end up accentuating that pattern, but the Jets are counting on Edwards to work harder at his craft than he did in Cleveland, and to get on board with a winning program that could potentially showcase his receiving talents.

Playing pro sports in New York City isn’t anything like doing the same in Cleveland. The pressure of fans and the media is incredible, there are also increased temptations for an athlete. All of this could exacerbate Edwards maturity issues rather see them decrease because he is now playing for Super Bowl contender. I wouldn’t call the Jets a successful NFL team. How many times have they been to the conference championship game after winning Super Bowl III? Twice.


Cleveland Browns go back to Derek Anderson as starting QB

The Browns have only scored 29 points in 3 games so far this season. From ESPN-

Derek Anderson will replace Brady Quinn and start at quarterback for the Cleveland Browns on Sunday against Cincinnati.

Coach Eric Mangini has decided to go with Anderson, a Pro Bowler in 2007, over Quinn, a former first-round draft pick who opened the season as Cleveland’s starter, but was benched at halftime last Sunday in Baltimore.

Mangini believes the Browns have a better chance to move the ball with Anderson.

“I’m excited about the opportunity,” Anderson said. “We’re all competitors, we all want to play. I’m ready to go.”

Mangini spent the entire training camp deciding on a quarterback before picking Quinn over Anderson. But after Quinn threw an interception on the Browns’ first possession Sunday, Mangini benched him after just 10 quarters this season and inserted Anderson.

Anderson had more success moving Cleveland’s offense, but threw three picks in the 34-3 loss to the Ravens.

The Browns are hapless with both Quinn and Anderson behind center. I don’t see this franchise turning around in 2009.

Quinn has been terrible so far in his short NFL career. Is it too early to label him a draft bust?


Former Detroit Lions Coach Monte Clark dead at 72

He was also one of Don Shula’s assistants during their undefeated season.The AP article fails to note that Clark was the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers for one season. This isn’t the first such omission involving AP’s sports obituaries in recent history. Does the wire service ever think about checking a football reference book or wikipedia? RIP Coach Clark.

Former Detroit Lions coach Monte Clark has died at 72.

The Lions said Clark died Wednesday night at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. He had a bone marrow malignancy associated with lung and liver disease.

Clark coached the Lions for seven seasons and was an assistant on the Miami Dolphins team that went 17-0 in 1972. He was the coach of Detroit from 1978 to 1984 and had a 63-61-1 record in the regular season.

He led the Lions to the playoffs in 1982 and 1983, the first time the club made consecutive postseason appearances since its three straight playoff runs from 1952 to 1954.

He was a tackle who spent 11 years in the league with San Francisco, Dallas and Cleveland. His last season as a player was 1969.


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