Rex Ryan

NFL Notes: Jets QB Christian Hackenberg ignores critics, focuses on progress

NFL Notes: Jets QB Christian Hackenberg ignores critics, focuses on progress

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Christian Hackenberg has plenty of critics, many of whom think the New York Jets' second-year quarterback will never be an NFL starter.

And that's before the former Penn State starter has even played in a regular-season game.

"That's their opinions," Hackenberg said of the naysayers. "I can't really speak for them, whoever it is."

Hackenberg was drafted in the second round last year, a pick some thought was a reach because of his struggles with the Nittany Lions in his last two seasons following a fabulous freshman campaign. He was widely considered a project who needed work on his mechanics, footwork and overall approach.

It didn't help that Hackenberg went 17 of 47 for 159 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions in his two preseason appearances last summer. And, even as the quarterbacks carousel spun with Ryan Fitzpatrick, Geno Smith and Bryce Petty taking turns under center during the regular season, Hackenberg never saw the field.

"I know what I can do," Hackenberg said. "And I know what my coaching staff feels I can do, so I'm just confident in my abilities. And when I get my opportunity to play, I'm going to do that."

Sounds like a guy who knows he has lots to prove -- to everyone other than himself.

"I'm confident that I can play at this level, and play at a high level," he said. "So, when I get my opportunity, I'm going to take advantage of that."

Ravens: Pitta released after 3rd hip injury
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The Baltimore Ravens have released tight end Dennis Pitta with an injury waiver after he hurt his right hip for a third time in practice last week.

The injury occurred during an offseason practice session Friday. Each time Pitta hurt the hip previously, the injury was serious enough to be considered career-threatening.

That appears to be the case again following his release Wednesday.

The 31-year-old Pitta began his career with Baltimore in 2010 and caught a touchdown pass in the Super Bowl when the Ravens won the 2012 NFL title.

Pitta first injured his hip in 2013 and hurt it again in 2014. He played in four games in 2013, three in 2014 and sat out the entire 2015 season.

Last year, however, he returned to catch 86 passes, most by a tight end in franchise history.

Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said last week: "Dennis is one of the great Ravens, and he has done everything he can to make our team better."

Cardinals: QB Palmer disputes notion he’s over the hill
TEMPE, Ariz. -- The national perception seems to be that Carson Palmer's skills have eroded with age, that he's lost some zip off his fastball and therefore the Arizona Cardinals are doomed to another mediocre season.

Las Vegas oddsmakers peg the Cardinals for eight wins.

The 37-year-old Palmer said he doesn't read such summertime predictions. He acknowledged that aging affects every football player, but quarterbacks less so than others.

"I think it's easier to play the quarterback position later on in your career because of the repetition," he said Wednesday after the second day of the Cardinals' three-day minicamp.

"There have been a handful of quarterbacks that have had success early in their careers," he said, "but you just look at the history of the game. Guys can have success into their 30s just because you rely so much on experience, so much on `been there, done that' type of situations."

A prime example, of course, is Tom Brady, who turns 40 this summer.

They are two distinctly different style of quarterbacks, though. Brady rarely throws deep. Palmer made his reputation on his powerful right arm.

To preserve Palmer's arm strength, coach Bruce Arians started giving him Wednesdays off midway through last season. The difference was apparent and Palmer had the Arizona offense moving late in the season.

Now, for the first time in his career, Palmer didn't throw in the winter months this year or in the early OTAs.

NFL: Police investigating assault complaint against Rex Ryan
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Nashville police are investigating a misdemeanor assault complaint made by a man who says former Buffalo Bills and New York Jets coach Rex Ryan grabbed him by the neck.

Police spokesman Don Aaron said that Matthew Havel, a 30-year-old from Pueblo, Colorado, made the complaint Sunday night.

Havel told police that he saw the Ryan brothers -- Rex and former NFL defensive coordinator Rob Ryan -- at the Margaritaville restaurant in downtown Nashville near Bridgestone Arena. Aaron said Havel indicated he went up to the Ryans' table and was there for over an hour before Rex Ryan "reached across and grabbed at his neck."

Havel told police the incident was unprovoked.

Aaron said no arrests have been made and no charges are presently outstanding.

Rex Ryan is a longtime Nashville Predators ticket holder who has been seen at many of their playoff games, including one of their second-round road matchups in St. Louis. He also was shown Saturday smashing a Pittsburgh Penguins car for charity in front of Bridgestone Arena while Rob looked on before the Predators' Game 3 victory in the Stanley Cup Final.

Rex Ryan coached the Jets from 2009-14 and the Bills from 2015-16 before being fired in December. Rob Ryan has been a defensive coordinator for several NFL teams and was on his brother's staff in Buffalo last year.

Bills hire Sean McDermott as head coach

Bills hire Sean McDermott as head coach

Update: 5:26 p.m.

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills reached an agreement on Wednesday to hire Sean McDermott to be their next head coach.

The deal was reached shortly after the Bills interviewed McDermott for a second time in eight days. The 42-year-old has no previous head-coaching experience and spent the past six seasons working as the Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator.

McDermott replaces Rex Ryan, who was fired two weeks ago. He becomes the team's ninth head coach since 1999, when Buffalo last made the playoffs under Wade Phillips. The Bills went 7-9 this past season, extending the NFL's longest active playoff drought to 17 years.

McDermott has 18 seasons of NFL experience, spending his first 12 years with the Philadelphia Eagles. He started as a scouting coordinator for two years, then mentored under late defensive coordinator Jim Johnson. He eventually succeeded Johnson in 2009.

He takes over a team in Buffalo that featured the NFL's top running attack but an underperforming defense in two seasons under Ryan.

The Bills defense finished 19th in yards allowed two years straight, and was particularly porous against the run. Buffalo allowed 200-plus yards rushing to opposing running backs three times this season, including twice against Miami's Jay Ajayi.

The offense was inconsistent at times under second-year starter Tyrod Taylor.

Owner Terry Pegula grew so dissatisfied with the defensive meltdowns, he fired Ryan in the week leading up to Buffalo's final game. Ryan was replaced by offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn, who served as interim coach in a season-ending loss to the New York Jets.

Lynn was one of three other candidates to interview for the job besides McDermott.

Lynn was considered an initial front-runner to take over on a permanent basis, before the Bills began leaning toward McDermott, who was the first candidate the team interviewed. The Bills also interviewed Arizona Cardinals offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin and Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Kris Richard.

The Panthers enjoyed four straight seasons of being ranked in the NFL's top 10 in fewest yards allowed before taking a step back this season.

Carolina finished 21st in yards allowed, giving up 500-plus yards three times. The pass defense particularly suffered a drop-off following the loss of star defensive back Josh Norman, who signed with Washington in free agency. Carolina's defense was also weakened once star linebacker Luke Kuechly missed the final six games with a concussion.

The Panthers still finished sixth against the run and ranked second with 47 sacks.

In 2015, McDermott oversaw a unit that forced an NFL-leading 39 takeaways and ranked second in yards allowed. The Panthers team went 15-1 and lost to Denver in the Super Bowl.

It's uncertain whom McDermott will hire to oversee Buffalo's offense.

Another major question is McDermott's plans for Taylor.

The Bills restructured the quarterback's contract in August, giving him a five-year extension while retaining the right to opt out of the deal by March.

Potentially complicating matters, Taylor had surgery last week to repair a sports hernia. Next season's portion of the contract, worth about $30 million including bonuses, is guaranteed if Taylor is unable to pass his physical in mid-March, when the deal kicks in.

The Bills also face a potentially significant roster overhaul with 24 players eligible to become free agents this offseason. The group includes cornerback Stephon Gilmore, linebackers Lorenzo Alexander and Zach Brown, and receiver Robert Woods.

Chip Kelly's downfall and an appreciation for Andy Reid

Chip Kelly's downfall and an appreciation for Andy Reid

A year after Chip Kelly was fired by the Eagles, he was fired by the 49ers just one season in to his new gig. Other than mastering the art of getting paid by two teams, he also found new and creative ways to be hated by his players.

Really hated. It seems barely any of Kelly's former pupils from Philadelphia can stand him, like Trent Cole, who tweeted that Kelly should be sent back to daycare.

It's pretty clear Kelly hasn't worked out in the NFL, in large part due to how he treated his locker room. Kelly found that if he can't get his players to respect him, it's tough to get them to play for him. He didn't help matters when he shipped highly useful players like LeSean McCoy out of town for little return or unceremoniously cut DeSean Jackson and allowed him to go to the rival Redskins.

In that way, Kelly was the opposite of his predecessor in Philadelphia, Andy Reid. Reid was the ultimate players' coach. You can say what you will about his playoff struggles or his clock management, but he got his players to compete for him while still being able to impose discipline.

McCoy has now seen that contrast even more clearly with his experience under the enigmatic Rex Ryan. Here's what McCoy had to say when asked if his Buffalo Bills need to hire a disciplinarian to replace Ryan. 

"We need somebody that you're going to respect the coach, whatever he wants, we're going to get done," McCoy said, citing Reid as an "excellent" example. "Once you have a leader you respect, it's easy to follow. That's never been a problem with me for sure, no matter who the coach is, but everybody's different."

He added that Reid "lets his players show their true emotions and lets players show their true personalities," something that's key in an NFL locker room. So after two failed Chip experiments and another Ryan firing, there's another reason to appreciate what Reid brought to the table in Philly and now brings in Kansas City.