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The NFL Jets are not making Owner Woody Johnson or coach Rex Ryan available to the media until next Tuesday, meaning the team "appears to be in violation of the NFL’s season-ending media policy," according to J.P. Pelzman of the Bergen RECORD. The Jets yesterday announced that Ryan and Johnson will be made available to the media at a news conference Tuesday at 11:00am ET at the team’s Atlantic Health Training facility, and “neither man has spoken to reporters since the news came down Monday morning" that Johnson had fired GM Mike Tannenbaum. The NFL media policy states that "Every team is required to 1) open its locker room for player interviews the day after the season ends and 2) hold a news conference during the week following the end of its season with its head coach, and/or owner, and/or club president, and/or general manager." The purpose of this policy is to "respond to fan interest in the conclusion of the team’s season.” The NFL is “looking into the matter, following a formal complaint filed by the Professional Football Writers of America.” It is “very interesting behavior from an organization that has prided itself on ‘transparency,’ as Johnson has called it” (Bergen RECORD, 1/3). ESPN N.Y.’s Rich Cimini wrote the Jets "can't even get a firing right." Johnson “hid behind a press release, avoiding the spotlight” and “was nowhere to be seen” after firing Tannenbaum. After such a “lousy season, and after dumping a loyal employee who gave 16 years to the organization, Johnson owed it to the fans to be out front, explaining the decision, answering questions and taking charge" (ESPNNY.com, 12/31). The N.Y. Daily News’ Manish Mehta Tuesday wrote on his Twitter feed, “The Jets, who pride themselves on 'transparency,' were the only NFL team not to make their head coach available to the media yesterday." SI.com’s Jimmy Traina wrote on Twitter, "Rex is gutless for hiding from media. He's turned into Rich Kotitie. Hung Tannebaum out to dry.” The Newark Star-Ledger’s Steve Politi wrote, “The Jets actually wonder why people think they're a circus.” The N.Y. Post’s Mark Cannizzaro: “#Jets fans, make sure u get those PSL payments into Woody. bet if enough boycotted payment he'd come out of hiding.”
SHOW ME ANGER: In Newark, Steve Politi wrote, “Jets fans can’t count on competence from owner Woody Johnson. Would it be so hard for him to show a little anger?” Not the “manufactured kind,” but some “real, mad-as-hell, open-the-windows-and-yell-it-to-the-world stuff.” What the Jets fans got from Johnson was "exactly what they expected, a tepid five-paragraph statement.” The '12 season was "the kind of collapse that warranted something strong," something "immediate.” Johnson “doesn’t understand that his customers are not just tired of his team’s performance on the field, but with everything else circling around it” (NJ.com, 12/31). ESPN.com’s James Walker wrote Johnson’s “two initial moves were both correct.” Tannenbaum “rightfully deserved a lion's share of the blame.” He was “most responsible for putting together a roster in New York that is old and overpaid.” Perhaps Tannenbaum's “most unforgivable offense was putting the Jets well over the salary cap next year with questionable decisions.” Tannenbaum was “not the right person for New York's upcoming rebuilding project.” The Jets “need a fresh pair of eyes to take a hard and honest look at New York's roster and make significant changes” (ESPN.com, 12/31).
WEIGHTY DECISION: ESPN N.Y.’s Cimini in a separate piece wondered if Johnson would “pass on qualified GM candidates" if they tell him they are not interested in retaining Ryan. This is Johnson's “first true GM search, which is why he hired head hunter Jed Hughes of the Korn/Ferry consulting firm to conduct the process.” Johnson “doesn't have the greatest reputation around the league for making big decisions.” An anonymous GM said, “When is the last good decision he made? He wouldn't know what a good decision is. ... I don't think anybody who has other options will want to go there. The only person they might get is a guy with nothing else or a guy who just wants a job” (ESPNNY.com, 1/1). In Newark, Conor Orr wrote the Jets “will begin interviewing general manager candidates on Friday and, by all indications, the candidate profile has already been well established.” Judging by "the potential pool … a few similarities have presented themselves, giving a general idea" of what the Jets and Korn/Ferry are looking for. Each of the candidates “began their careers as area scouts or pro scouts,” and were “deeply rooted in their respective teams’ personnel departments after climbing the ladder.” In essence, all of the candidates have “come from a different mold” than Tannenbaum, who was considered a "salary cap expert who built the Jets roster around draft-day dealings, trades and free-agent signings.” Moving forward, it “seems the Jets are looking for a football man to pilot things” (NJ.com, 1/2).
Bills Owner Ralph Wilson on Tuesday announced the promotion of CEO Russ Brandon to President & CEO, which provides Brandon with "full authority over the entire organization's operations," according to Chris Brown of BUFFALOBILLS.com. Wilson has been "traveling a lot less in recent years back and forth" between his Detroit offices and Bills HQs in Orchard Park, and he "deemed it best to cede the responsibility of day-to-day operations to Brandon." Brandon said that Bills GM Buddy Nix will "remain in his current role and continue to run the football side of the operation." Assistant GM Doug Whaley "remains in his role as well largely overseeing the college scouting operation while also assisting on the Pro Personnel side." Brandon is only the "third team President in the organization's history joining Wilson and Tom Donahoe" (BUFFALOBILLS.com, 1/1). In Buffalo, Mark Gaughan noted Brandon joined the Bills in '98 and has "overseen remarkable off-the-field success." The Bills had "more sellouts in the first decade of the 2000s, when they never made the playoffs, than in the 1990s." Nix previously "reported directly" to Wilson, but he now "reports to Brandon." Brandon, Nix, Whaley and Bills Senior VP/Football Administration Jim Overdorf will "conduct the interviews with candidates to replace fired head coach Chan Gailey." Gaughan: "How much different will decisions be as a result of the fact that Wilson isn't approving them? Not much." Nix had "pretty free rein," and it is "not like Wilson was overruling the GM on his evaluations of free agents." Nix said that he views Whaley as "the man who will succeed him." Nix is 73, while Whaley, "groomed" in the Steelers organization, is 40 and "has a good reputation around the NFL." There is some "suspicion around the league the transition from Nix to Whaley could come as soon as later this year" (BUFFALO NEWS, 1/2).
CAUTIOUS OPTIMISM: In Rochester, Sal Maiorana wrote of Brandon, "I hope he succeeds, but I have my doubts, and that won't change until I see tangible proof otherwise." The Bills have been "in the business of losing games, and they have excelled at it for this entire millennium." The fact that Wilson has given Brandon "full authority and an open checkbook is also intriguing because if Wilson really will be able to sit back and sign those checks without screaming, the Bills will have no excuses for not landing the coach, or free agent, that they covet the most." Maiorana: "There are things about the kickoff to this so-called new era that make me think Brandon spent nearly 45 minutes Tuesday trying to put a smiley face on the same old promise of hope that he's been peddling for years." If nothing else, what happened Tuesday is "good for the Bills because Brandon has been given the latitude to try some new things." New is "better than old for a team that has redefined what NFL irrelevancy truly is" (ROCHESTER DEMOCRAT & CHRONICLE, 1/2). In Buffalo, Tim Graham wrote one of the "more intriguing revelations" from Brandon was the "implementation of a Moneyball-style analytics department to help guide football operations." Brandon said, "We are going to create and establish a very robust football analytics operation that we layer into our entire operation moving forward." Brandon added that when he was the Marlins Exec Dir of Business Development he "learned a lot about the value of analytics from GM Dave Dombrowski, now President, CEO and GM of" the Tigers (BUFFALONEWS.com, 1/1).
ERA OF CHANGE: In Buffalo, Bucky Gleason wrote, "Frankly, it was about time for Wilson to get out of the way." Wilson no longer was "capable of steering the Bills in the right direction." The change was "needed whether the role was filled by Brandon or anybody else who had two eyes and a shred of common sense." It must have been "emotional for him to hear Wilson had entrusted him with his baby, an organization for which he paid $25,000 and turned into an $800 million empire." Brandon said, "To have the mantle of running his franchise, in totality, is almost hard to fathom right now." Gleason wrote Brandon had an "inauspicious start to his presidency Tuesday." His message during his introductory press conference sounded "much like the usual sales pitch, customary for an organization that often missed the point." The Bills getting "smarter and younger helps, but the biggest upgrade is having someone involved in daily operations who can evaluate daily operations." Brandon said, "Now, I'm in a position where I get to evaluate the evaluators. I'm in a position where I get to evaluate every single thing that we do in this organization. And if I don't like it, we're going to change it." Gleason: "I'm suspicious of every Wilson decision, and his choice to hand full control to Brandon was met with a certain amount of skepticism." However, almost "anybody but Wilson and top aide Jeffrey Littman would be deemed an improvement, a sign of progress for a franchise that has gone in the wrong direction for far too long" (BUFFALO NEWS, 1/2). ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser said, “Change was in order there. They have missed the playoffs for 13 straight seasons, the most in the NFL” (“PTI,” ESPN, 1/2).
OUT OF THE SPOTLIGHT? The BUFFALO NEWS' Graham wrote under the header, "Have We Seen And Heard The Last Of Ralph Wilson?" Wilson's presence has "regressed considerably the past couple years -- almost to the point of invisibility as far as fans are concerned." Health questions "hover," and a "lack of mobility prevents Wilson from traveling much." Wilson "didn't attend a Bills game this season," and went to "one last year." He was at the team's holiday party last week, but "his arrival was brief and unannounced." Graham: "We don't know how Wilson handled [Monday's] meeting, but it's difficult to imagine he sat there stone-faced." If he "truly is stepping aside, then Monday was a seminal occasion for him and his franchise, tantamount to walking a daughter down the aisle and turning her over to the groom" (BUFFALONEWS.com, 1/2).
Chargers President & Chair Dean Spanos on Monday "informed head coach Norv Turner and general manager A.J. Smith they've been relieved of their duties," according to Michael Gehlken of the SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE. Turner had "one year left on his contract," while Smith "had two." Spanos said, "You could see with the team the arrow was pointed in the wrong direction. ... It was probably a lot of things -- player personnel decisions as well as some coaching failures." Gehlken reported the search for a new GM and head coach has "been underway for weeks." Spanos said that former Packers GM Ron Wolf has "been hired as a consultant to help in the search." Wolf will join Spanos, Dir of College Scouting John Spanos and Exec VP/Football Operations & Assistant GM Ed McGuire in the process to "first find the Chargers' next general manager." Meanwhile, John Spanos is "transitioning into a role as head of team football operations." There is no "firm timetable to when he will assume that post, which would give him absolute power over all roster decisions." Dean Spanos said, "It's not in the next couple of years. I'm not ready to retire yet" (UTSANDIEGO.com, 12/31). In San Diego, Kevin Acee wrote it is up to Dean Spanos to "ensure this wasn't change for change's sake," as Spanos will be "hiring his fourth general manager and fifth head coach." Acee: "No matter who he relies on for counsel, this is on him. Always has been. And now he’s running out of time." All the "excitement that had this town in a blue and gold lather for the better part of a decade was fruitless." The pursuit of excellence has "fizzled into a puddle of mediocrity." Spanos on Monday said, "I take 100 percent responsibility for the last 18 years." Acee wrote Spanos' "greatest strength is his biggest weakness." Some "call his problem fear." Acee: "I see it as Spanos being loyal to a fault" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 1/1).
HUMBLE UPON EXIT: The UNION-TRIBUNE's Acee in a separate piece wrote Smith was "humble and forthright about his feelings of failure after 10 seasons and no Super Bowls, despite presiding over the most successful decade in Chargers history." But he also was "evasive as ever, especially in matters pertaining to" John Spanos and Turner. In fact, he was at times, "uncharacteristically, downright politically correct," which in itself "speaks to the humility he showed." Smith said, "It's tough. I've seen a lot of people go through this over my many years in the league. Now it's my turn. This is the life I’ve chosen, and there is a price to pay when you don’t win. ... The part that hurts the most is I was given an opportunity and responsibility to chart a course that would deliver a Super Bowl trophy for Dean, his family and the fans. I failed to get the job done. I don’t like losing, and I don’t like failing. This will sting for a while." Smith, when asked who he thought would be the next Chargers GM, added, "I don’t know, but I have recommended [Chargers' Dir of Player Personnel] Jimmy Raye. I have recommended Jimmy twice before on other jobs, but it did not work out for him. Maybe my third recommendation is the charm." When asked if he would entertain the idea of working in the media, Smith said, "You have to know everything about everything to have a job like that. I'm not qualified to enter that line of work" (UTSANDIEGO.com, 12/31).
Titans Senior Exec VP & COO Mike Reinfeldt on Monday was "fired from his position as the team's top Nashville-based executive" after one year in the position, according to Jim Wyatt of the Nashville TENNESSEAN. Reinfeldt "oversaw both the business and football aspects” of the organization, keeping Titans Owner Bud Adams "apprised of all development on both sides.” Adams said, "I think we'd be better off without him. I don't think he was getting the job done." Wyatt reported Titans Exec VP & GM Ruston Webster is "expected to continue to have the biggest say in personnel matters." This was Webster's "first season as Titans GM after two seasons as vice president of player personnel." Reinfeldt "played for the Houston Oilers from 1976-83 and had front office experience with the Raiders, Packers and Seahawks." He was Titans GM from '07-11 and was promoted to his most recent position "when Webster was named GM." Reinfeldt said, "I certainly understand and share in the frustration of Mr. Adams and all Titans fans, there are a great deal of good people here and patience is probably prudent at this point" (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 1/1).
PEYTON'S PLACE? Wyatt in a separate piece wrote one of the biggest reasons Reinfeldt "is out the door" is because "Adams felt like Reinfeldt didn’t act fast enough -- or at all -- when the owner told him he wanted the Titans in the Peyton Manning chase last spring." Adams has "held it against Reinfeldt ever since." In the days leading up to Adams "going public with his interest in Manning, he repeatedly told Reinfeldt he wanted the Titans to get in the mix." Adams "felt like Reinfeldt didn't take him seriously enough." One thing "everyone always says about Adams is you don't want to get on his bad side" (TENNESSEAN.com, 1/1). ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky wrote, "I certainly believe the Titans front office and coaching staff were reluctant to follow their boss' directive." On Sunday and Monday, coach Mike Munchak "even took a shot at the Adams' infatuation with Manning." Munchak said that the Titans "didn't do well in free agency last year because much of the class disappeared while the plan was set aside for focus on Manning." Kuharsky: "Once again Adams has failed to put the appropriate share of the blame on the right person: himself" (ESPN.com, 1/1).
News reports this morning have the Chiefs in deep talks with Andy Reid about their head coaching position (Mult., 1/3). The news comes on the heels of Chiefs Chair & CEO Clark Hunt saying that he "plans to hire the next coach and that the individual will report to him, rather than through the general manager -- a change in the way the team has operated since its inception." Hunt said he anticipates having more discussions with the coach "in terms of him telling me, 'Hey, here's what we need to be successful.'" Hunt has "refused to say whether GM Scott Pioli will be retained." The AP's Dave Skretta noted Pioli was "tasked with previous coaching hires" after he replaced former GM Carl Peterson in '09. So rather than "allow Pioli to make his third coaching hire in five seasons, Hunt has decided to step in and assume greater responsibility for a franchise once considered among the NFL's most stable." Hunt said, "It's hard for me to say I'm going to spend more time, because I already spend a whole lot of time. It's just not visible time spent standing on the football field, you know, watching practice or whatever. I spend a lot of time on it. It will be a different responsibility having the head coach report directly to me, though" (AP, 1/1). In K.C., Adam Teicher wrote it is "difficult to blame Hunt for excluding Pioli from the coaching search." Both of Pioli’s "handpicked coaching hires went sour: Todd Haley, after his endless squabbles with Pioli, and Romeo Crennel, after the Chiefs’ recently concluded 2-14 season." Pioli will remain GM if Hunt "determines Pioli can have a satisfactory working relationship with the new coach." But Pioli's role would "greatly be reduced if he stays" (K.C. STAR, 1/2).
CHANGE IN PLANS: In K.C., Sam Mellinger wrote, "Faced with two logical options, Hunt instead created a third that will either mean finishing Pioli off later or setting up an untenable power structure with a new alpha male coach and a former alpha male GM." Hunt’s new plan is to "assume more control over football operations," to find the "best coaching candidate in the NFL and have him report to the owner instead of the GM." It also is to have more "cohesion within an organization where turmoil is the new normal." This is a "public admonishment of Pioli and a flashing neon sign to the football world that the Chiefs are changing how they operate." Hunt’s plan "might work, but the last four years have given Chiefs fans every honest reason to be skeptical." This is Hunt's "most important moment." This might be "the best chance Hunt will ever have to turn around both his franchise and reputation among fans" (K.C. STAR, 1/1).
KNOCKED DOWN A PEG: FOXSPORTS.com's Jason Whitlock wrote Pioli has been "reduced to his former size," and he is "back in the role he played for Bill Belichick in New England: behind-the-scenes puppet." Pioli "will not leave." No other organization will "elevate him to the perch he enjoyed for four years" in K.C., and "certainly no other organization will make him one of the highest-paid executives in the NFL." But the best chance of "hiring the most outstanding coach comes with Pioli in a different zip code." Whitlock: "Why would any highly qualified coach want to participate in the Chiefs' dysfunction? Why would any highly qualified coach want Pioli leading and/or participating in draft and free-agent preparations?" (FOXSPORTS.com, 1/2).
Bears GM Phil Emery divulged that the Bears' decision to part ways with coach Lovie Smith "ultimately came down to inconsistency on offense and the team's inability to perennially advance to the postseason," according to Michael Wright of ESPN CHICAGO. Emery "insisted he made the decision to fire" Smith, who led the team "to the postseason three times in nine years, and came to that end with the blessings" of Bears Chair George McCaskey and President Ted Phillips. McCaskey said the decision was "very difficult" because his family "has high regard for Lovie." Phillips, when asked if budget will be an issue with a new hire, said, "We've talked about what do we want to do in terms of bringing in a head coach and the bottom line is we want the right fit. We want the synergy with Phil." Emery said there is "a sense of urgency" to hire a new coach as quickly as possible. He added that ideally he would like to "stand shoulder to shoulder" with the new head coach at the Jan. 19 East-West Shrine Game or the Jan. 26 Senior Bowl. Emery also "covets a 'high-energy' candidate that can represent the Bears positively in dealings with the media" (ESPNCHICAGO.com, 1/1). Emery said that he "has not been given a budget to use for the coaching search, a process that also involves the Bears paying any coaches who depart." In Chicago, Brad Biggs noted that figure alone could "exceed $10 million, including the remaining year on Smith's deal." Emery said that he will "retain the full control he was given when he was hired of the 53-man roster." He called it "a necessary part of 'checks and balances.'" Emery is "seeking someone with a positive personality who will inspire those around him" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 1/1).
GETTING REAL: In Chicago, David Haugh wrote Emery on Tuesday "gave the Bears every reason to believe that [a] positive result was likely after a virtuoso performance on the podium." In a "thoughtful 54-minute session with reporters, Emery used refreshing honesty and rare transparency to instill the kind of confidence in a job search we are not used to seeing." At "long last, the Bears projected the image of an NFL franchise that knows what it wants and, of more importance, how to get it." The only "odd moment ... came when a slightly defensive Emery explained in laborious detail his thought process about fixing the offensive line last offseason." But other than the "tangent taking fans on a fascinating tour inside the mind of a football geek, Emery stayed on point well enough to wonder why the Bears rarely make him accessible" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 1/2). ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert wrote Emery gave "one of the most expansive and content-rich pressers in recent memory" (ESPN.com, 1/1).
NFL Cardinals GM Rod Graves and coach Ken Whisenhunt on Monday were relieved of their duties after the team finished with a 5-11 record for the second time in three years, and team President Michael Bidwill said that he “decided on Sunday night to fire Whisenhunt, Graves and the entire offensive coaching staff with the exception of tight ends coach Freddie Kitchens,” according to Kent Somers of the ARIZONA REPUBLIC. Bidwill will travel to Denver this weekend to interview Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy.” Bidwill said that Cardinals VP/Player Personnel Steve Keim is “among the candidates” for GM. Other teams reportedly “would like to speak to Keim” about their GM openings. Bidwill “emphasized that filling the jobs will take time,” and said that hiring a GM first is "not a necessity” (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 1/2). In Phoenix, Paola Boivin wrote, “Ownership had lost confidence in its management team. Fans had lost confidence in the organization. ... It’s the right call” (AZCENTRAL.com, 12/31).
EAGLE EYE: Eagles Owner Jeffrey Lurie on Monday when asked why he was retaining GM Howie Roseman said that he was holding Roseman “accountable for only the 2012 season.” Lurie: “The mistakes that were made in the 2011 draft have little or nothing to do with Howie’s evaluations.” In Philadelphia, Jeff McLane wrote Roseman “will play an important part" with the team as it moves on to its next head coach. Lurie said that Roseman, along with President Don Smolenski, “would help him select the next head coach.” Smolenski is “not typically involved in football matters” (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 1/1).
WHAT CAN BROWN DO FOR YOU? In Cleveland, Bud Shaw wrote “one reason to embrace” what Browns Owner Jimmy Haslam III and CEO Joe Banner “have in mind is they've had it in mind for some time.” Haslam is a “dynamic owner looking for a dynamic head coach.” Former Owner Randy Lerner was “always looking for a fix, something to get people off his back, anything to loosen the knot in his stomach.” Haslam and Banner are “two professional businessmen trying to find the same complement between coach and GM/personnel department that they already found in each other” (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 1/1). ESPN.com’s Jamison Hensley wrote the Browns are “going to regret” letting former GM Tom Heckert “walk out the door” (ESPN.com, 12/31).
THE JAGGED EDGE: In Jacksonville, Gene Frenette wrote of the Jaguars parting ways with GM Gene Smith, “Now comes the really hard part: finding a GM to adequately restock a lineup that ... remains in dire need of upgrading across the board.” The Colts under first-year GM Ryan Grigson are “the model” that Jags Owner Shahid Khan “seeks to duplicate.” Khan has “begun his search for maybe the next Grigson, but let’s not be naïve about the challenges.” Frenette: “Whoever the Jaguars hire as general manager has a massive rebuilding job. This franchise is a lot closer to having a bare cupboard than Khan’s top priority of being a Super Bowl champion” (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 1/1).
WIN OR GO HOME: In Las Vegas, Ed Graney noted seven coaches and five GMs were fired Monday, and "in just over two years, half of the league's 32 teams have changed coaches.” Graney: “This is what happens when billionaires become restless and start looking at league standings.” SI’s Jim Trotter said, "It's all part of the changing culture of the NFL. You see teams go from worst to first ... and you have owners saying, 'If they can do it, why can't we?' There is very little patience left for head coaches” (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 1/1).
Mets Chair & CEO Fred Wilpon and President Saul Katz after a months-long process have "refinanced $450 million in loans borrowed against" Mets broadcaster SportsNet New York, according to Josh Kosman of the N.Y. POST. While the financial terms "could not be learned, some of the proceeds are expected to go toward funding the cash-strapped team’s day-to-day operations." Wilpon and Katz have been "working with Bank of America since October to line up the refinancing." By completing it "before year-end, they have also avoided higher capital gains taxes on their SNY investment." The refinancing comes "just days after Standard & Poor’s downgraded the credit rating for Citi Field to BB -- two notches below investment grade -- from BB+ with a negative outlook." The firm is concerned there will be “slight cash flow declines in the near future” before the Mets’ finances stabilize (N.Y. POST, 1/3). In N.Y., Howard Megdal cited the Standard & Poor's report as saying that the Mets' "ability to finance its stadium debt is worse than it was a year ago." A "deeper look at the supporting reasoning" for the team's rating downgrade "yields a familiar set of conclusions: the ratings agency believes attendance will drop further, on-field play will get worse, and the ownership group's ability to cover losses is worse than it was a year ago." Standard & Poor's projects the Mets to "lose even more of their fans in 2013, down another five percent" (CAPITALNEWYORK.com, 1/2).