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NFL NOTES


NFL NOTES
Todd Haley is going to be an NFL head coach one day. And when he gets there, he'll have a little piece of Bill Belichick with him.


The Cardinals offensive coordinator admits it's the part his players probably won't love, and Haley speaks from experience. He wasn't overly fond of Belichick's methods a decade ago when Haley was beginning his career with the Jets and Belichick was a defensive coach, but now he understands.

``Belichick is a dry personality and he can rub anybody the wrong way,'' Haley said last week from Arizona, where the Cardinals were preparing to face the Patriots. ``He and I would get into arguments. I'd be running the show team in practice and if the receivers weren't doing things exactly right, he'd let me have it.

``I'm sitting there thinking, 'Why is this guy always on my (butt)?' Now that I've moved up the ladder, so to speak, I realize why it was so important to him. It's very clear to me. He was paying attention to every little detail, and that's so critical.''

Haley took mental notes. A proud member of the Bill Parcells coaching tree and son of legendary personnel man Dick Haley -- an architect of the great Pittsburgh teams of the 1970s -- the former Steelers ballboy who rode to the stadium with current Colts offensive coordinator Tom Moore has carved a niche as a bright offensive mind in his own right.

His name is certain to come up this offseason when head coaching openings arise -- last year he declined a chance to interview with the Dolphins -- but first the 41-year-old is focused on the Patriots and the coach who gave him an immediate assignment after joining the Jets in 1997.

Belichick told Haley to pack his truck with footballs, blocking shields, cones and a camera, because he was hitting the road. Haley scouted every small school east of the Mississippi for two months and stayed in periodic contact with Belichick. He found three players the Jets ended up signing.

``It was my first experience with Coach Belichick and I was grateful he gave me the opportunity to do that,'' Haley said. ``It was a great learning experience.''

When Haley switched to coaching and began working with the Jets receivers under Charlie Weis, he and Belichick didn't have much interaction -- unless Haley's unit screwed up scout team work.

``He might have wanted them to split two yards outside the numbers and the receivers would cut it at one yard,'' Haley said. ``He didn't like that, and at the time I wanted to know what the big deal was. I didn't know anything. I was just hanging on, trying to survive. The details are what it's all about.''

Belichick and Parcells rode their assistants as hard as their players. Any coach able to survive the gauntlet emerged as a potential leader.

``Working for Parcells is like dog years,'' Haley said. ``One (year) is like seven. He wears you out. You can't relax. That's carried over for me and what I've learned is I'm probably becoming a pain in the butt to people. With Parcells, it's about never getting comfortable and never letting anyone else feel comfortable. That drive is a key to the success of coaches like Parcells and Belichick.

``It's not about being the players' friend. It's not about them liking you. It's about coaching and pushing those guys as hard as you can push. They may hate you at the time, but they'll respect you at the end. That's what you see with Belichick and Bill (Parcells). All their players come back and want to work for them.''

Haley absorbed those lessons. As a wide receivers coach in Chicago in 2002, he turned Marty Booker into the Bears' first Pro Bowl wideout in over 30 years. He joined Dallas as a wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator, resurrecting embattled ex-Patriots receiver Terry Glenn before helping usher in the Tony Romo Era.

Now he's getting his shot as a coordinator and making the most of it in his second season with the Cardinals, who rank second in the NFL in passing and scoring. Haley's offense produced a Pro Bowl first, with quarterback Kurt Warner and wideouts Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald all named starters.

``When they talk about coaching trees, I take great pride in being from Bill Parcells' tree,'' Haley said. ``Guys like Belichick and Charlie Weis came from that same tree, and when I'm running this offense, I want to show those guys I know what I'm doing. I want them to take pride in me.''

Haley took a huge risk leaving Dallas for Arizona, a nothing franchise for its entire run in the desert. He trusted head coach Ken Whisenhunt, but he also knew the history of Arizona's previous eight coaches, only two had found work again after leaving.

``Coming here, you really had to weigh the risk/reward,'' Haley said. ``It's been a black hole, the place you go in a forced career move. It's your last stop or your only stop. I had to put a lot of thought into it, knowing most people hadn't been able to get it done out here.

``But Ken gave me an opportunity to call plays and we've had some success. To see a guy like Kurt experience a total career resurgence is something I'm obviously very proud of, as well as the three Pro Bowl starters.''

Today his offense gets to tackle Belichick's defense. Some day, Haley may call all of the shots.

``It never started out as a goal, but the further you go, you see some of your peers get (head coaching) jobs,'' Haley said. ``You see Tony Sparano having some success in Miami, and Ken, we shared an office in New York. Learning from the special coaches I've learned from, you start to think, hey, maybe I could have a chance to do this.''

***

Revisiting Tyree

Injured Patriots safety Rodney Harrison was a guest on HBO's ``Costas Now'' program last week in a pre-recorded appearance with retired Giants defensive lineman Michael Strahan.

The two sat together and watched tape of Giants receiver David Tyree making his miraculous off-the-helmet catch against the Pats on the winning drive of Super Bowl XLII with Harrison in coverage.

Here's a transcript of the exchange, as provided by HBO. It's fair to say the Patriots didn't expect Tyree to end up beating them.

Harrison: ``I see Richard Seymour (nearly sacking of Giants quarterback Eli Manning). I'm deep about 40 yards and I am like, 'Yes, the game is over and we are going to be world champions.' ''

Strahan: ``Damn, Eli you lost the game for us!''

Harrison: ``And then he drops back and slings the ball and I see David Tyree.''

Strahan: ``Don't throw it into the middle of the field!''

Harrison: ``I tried to knock the ball down. I thought it was incomplete. I heard the officials say that it was a completion. I just couldn't believe it. I tried everything within my power to rip his head off and rip that ball off his head.

``I have no regrets. When it's meant to be, it's going to happen.

``Take it from my perspective. We didn't even prepare for this guy. He was a special teams guy. I didn't even see him on film catching a ball. Now I have to live with this memory the rest of my life.''

Book 'em, Dano

The oddsmakers at Bodog have released a new round of Super Bowl bets. This time you can take a stab at guessing the exact Super Bowl matchup.

Giants-Steelers is their most likely pairing, with 5-1 odds. Their most likely game involving the Pats is a rematch with the Giants at 20-1. Otherwise, the Pats are mostly longshots. They're 100-1 or worse to face the Cardinals, Falcons, Bears, Vikings and Buccaneers.

The Patriots' odds of winning are 25-1. The Giants and Steelers are each 7-2 favorites.

Bodog has one other Patriots-related prop, with quarterback Matt Cassel a 20-1 longshot to be named MVP. The Vikings' Adrian Peterson, believe it or not, is their top choice at 3-2. ...

The Pro Bowl berth earned by Titans defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth meant more to him than mere recognition from his peers.

It also will make him very, very rich.

Haynesworth's second straight selection triggered a contractual clause that guarantees the Titans won't franchise him, making him an unrestricted free agent this offseason.

The Titans have until Feb. 27 to sign him, but after that he's free to hit the market, where he almost certainly will become the highest-paid defensive lineman ever.

The 6-foot-6, 320-pounder has 75 tackles and 8.5 sacks. At age 27, he's the most dominant interior lineman in the game and he immediately becomes the top free agent on the market. . .

OK, so the odds are extremely remote, but there's actually a way for the Patriots to claim the AFC East beyond winning out while the Dolphins and Jets each lose once more.

Two wins also will get the Pats in if the Dolphins and Jets tie in the season finale. The odds are overwhelmingly against it, but considering what happened between the Bengals and Eagles last month, anything's possible.

JOHN TOMASE'S POWER RANKING

1. Titans (12-2)

If Titans aren't careful, they'll end up tied with the Colts.

2. Steelers (11-3)

Santonio Holmes' fingertips may get the Pats in the playoffs.

3. Giants (11-3)

Methinks they miss Plaxico Burress.

4. Panthers (11-3)

Amazing that they could end up the NFC's top seed.

5. Colts (11-4)

Peyton Manning for MVP.

6. Ravens (9-5) *

They're not dropping. They played the Steelers to a standstill.

7. Cowboys (9-5) *

Enough drama for a soap opera. We could call it ``Dallas.''

8. Falcons (9-5)

Holy cow. Thomas Dimitroff, take a bow.

9. Buccaneers (9-5)

Bucs were No. 2 seed two weeks ago. Things change fast.

10. Patriots (9-5)

The Pats are clearly the best team in the AFC East, FWIW.

11. Dolphins (9-5)

They're a close second and may win this thing.

12. Jets (9-5)

The Jets are third, but they win the tiebreakers. Funny how that is.

13. Vikings (9-5)

Tavaris Jackson, take a bow. The devil will collect now.

14. Eagles (8-5-1)

They tied the freaking Bengals.

15. Broncos (8-6)

They can't blow the division to the Chargers, can they?

16. Cardinals (8-6)

Brrr ... hope you packed ear muffs.

17. Bears (8-6)

It seems like a long time ago that they were crushing the Colts.

18. Texans (7-7)

Watch out in 2009. The Texans are coming!

19. Redskins (7-7)

London Fletcher wants to go the Pro Bowl and he wants it now!

20. Saints (7-7)

Reggie Bush might end up a part-timer behind Pierre Thomas.

21. Chargers (6-8)

Chiefs comeback would be better if the Bolts weren't below .500.

22. 49ers (5-9)

Mike Singletary is happy he no longer has to drop his pants.

23. Bills (6-8)

What happened? The Bills were hot for a month. Now, nothing.

24. Packers (5-9)

Aaron Rodgers isn't the problem. The defense is.

25. Jaguars (5-10)

They're looking up at the Texans now.

26. Browns (4-10)

Romeo Crennel deserves better.

27. Raiders (3-11)

Everything about Oakland last week was fourth class. Disgraceful.

28. Seahawks (3-11)

Deion Branch will be back with the Patriots in 2009.

29. Chiefs (2-12)

They're sort of like the 1991 Patriots -- entertaining in defeat.

30. Rams (2-12)

Ownership needs to select the ``self clean'' function and walk away.

31. Bengals (2-11-1)

At least they half spoiled the Eagles' playoff hopes.

32. Lions (0-14)

Next Detroit institution in need of government intervention.

*--Not including last night's game

Hard luck winners

HARD LUCK LOSERS WINNERS

An e-mailer last week raised an interesting question pertaining to the Patriots and the playoffs. Should the Pats finish 11-5, their .688 winning percentage should be enough to get them into the postseason, but barring a Dallas win over Baltimore last night, there is a chance the Patriots could finish the season with 11 wins and still miss the playoffs. That begs the question: In the history of the four major team sports, has a .688 winning percentage ever not qualified for the playoffs?

We left out hockey because NHL standings are points based, but after perusing baseball records back to 1903 (the start of the modern era), basketball records back to 1948 (the first year of the NBA) and Football records back to 1970 (the year of the AFL-NFL merger), the answer is yes. It has happened exactly once: the John Elway-led 1985 Broncos finished 11-5, but missed the playoffs after losing a tiebreaker to the Patriots and Jets.

Here are the top winners in each sport to miss the postseason.

MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL

Year Team Record Win pct.

1909 Cubs 104-49 .680

1942 Dodgers 104-50 .675

1954 Yankees 103-51 .669

1915 Tigers 100-54 .649

1993 Giants 103-59 .636

NATIONAL BASKETBALL ASSOCIATION

Year Team Record Win pct.

1971-72 Suns 49-33 .598

1970-71 Suns 48-34 .585

2007-08 Warriors 48-34 .585

NATIONAL Football LEAGUE

Year Team Record Win pct.

1975 Dolphins 10-4 .714

1975 Oilers 10-4 .714

1976 Bengals 10-4 .714

1976 Cardinals 10-4 .714

1977 Dolphins 10-4 .714

1970 Rams 9-4-1 .692

1985 Broncos 11-5 .688

Quick hits

* This one's on you, NFL players and coaches.

Given the most input in selecting the Pro Bowl rosters, the people who should know more about the league than anyone dropped the ball when they put Jets quarterback Brett Favre on the AFC squad.

Favre leads the league in just one category: interceptions (17). There are a number of more deserving quarterbacks to join starter Peyton Manning and reserve Jay Cutler. San Diego's Philip Rivers leads the NFL in passer rating (101.8) and touchdowns (28). Chad Pennington is an MVP candidate in Miami.

Here's another name to consider: Matt Cassel.

Cassel threw three touchdowns and four interceptions in his first five games. In the nine games since, he has thrown 15 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He ranks among the top five in the AFC in yards (3,270, fourth) and touchdowns (18, fifth).

He has done as much as anyone to put the Patriots in a position to reach the playoffs, while the Jets have often won in spite of Favre.

``I wish we could have more guys like on him on the (Pro Bowl) list, but that's something to look forward to in the future,'' said receiver Wes Welker, who was named to his first Pro Bowl.

* Speaking of Cassel, he has the slimmest of chances to crack the top five of the team's single-season passing yardage list. He needs 715 yards over the final two weeks to match Drew Bledsoe's 3,985-yard season in 1999. Tom Brady is tops on the list with last year's 4,806.

Crazy, isn't it?

* Patriots fans don't want to hear this, but with all due respect to rookie head coaches Mike Smith in Atlanta and Tony Sparano in Miami, Tony Dungy of the Colts deserves serious consideration for Coach of the Year honors.

Dungy has taken a team ravaged by injuries on both sides of the ball from a 3-4 start to the playoffs with a huge winning streak that cut through some of the best teams in the NFL.

The Colts have beaten the Steelers, Ravens, Vikings and Patriots and are the only team in NFL history to post seven-game winning streaks in five straight seasons.

Overseeing it all is Dungy, who long ago announced that this would be his final season. Unlike Seattle's Mike Holmgren, who's going out with the proverbial whimper, Dungy looks like he'll leave the game on top, with a 10th straight playoff season.

* Worst Pro Bowl selection: Bills left tackle Jason Peters, a training camp holdout who never really found his stride after returning. A much better choice would have been Broncos rookie Ryan Clady, who has only surrendered a half-sack while quickly mastering Denver's complicated zone blocking scheme.

* Random story: The selection of Buccaneers linebacker Derrick Brooks to his 11th Pro Bowl reminded me of a very strange occurrence at a gas station next to Tropicana Field on the off day before Game 6 of the American League Championship Series.

When I paid, the attendant noticed a press pass and asked if I recognized him.

``Sorry,'' I said.

``Are you an NFL fan?'' he asked.

``I cover the Patriots.''

``Do you know any of the Buccaneers?''

``The first one that comes to mind is Derrick Brooks,'' I said.

``That's me!'' he replied. ``I work here every once in a while doing community outreach.''

Here's the weird thing. This dude was a dead ringer for Brooks. Same bald head. Same pronounced brow. Same thin moustache. Same eyes and mouth.

The rest of him wasn't right, though. He was muscular, but with a mild late-30s paunch and a neck that was more soft than thick.

Anyway, he sensed my skepticism and followed me into the parking lot, yelling the whole way. He stopped at a parked pickup truck just as I worried about getting tackled from behind by some bizarro middle-aged linebacker in a Dickies shirt.

``Tell this boy I'm Derrick Brooks,'' he yelled at the driver as I walked away. ``Tell him I'm Derrick Brooks!''

Needless to say, he wasn't Derrick Brooks.

I think.

--JOHN TOMASE



Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: December 23, 2008

Joselio Hanson Name: Joselio Hanson
#22
Position: CB
Age: 26
Experience: 4 years
College: Texas Tech
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