Ravens

Winning Broncos assistants become popular

Winning Broncos assistants become popular

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) Welcome to the Denver Broncos 2013 job fair.

Offensive coordinator Mike McCoy has interviews for vacant head-coaching jobs set up all weekend.

If a few things fall certain ways, defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio could be next on a few teams' lists.

Such is life as an assistant coach of a winning team when there are plenty of losing teams out there looking for a turnaround.

Executives from up to four teams - Cardinals, Bills, Eagles and Bears - could wind up in Denver this weekend to visit with McCoy for what will essentially be a get-to-know-you interview for both the coach and the interested suitors.

McCoy has become as coveted an interview as there is since ``Black Monday,'' the day seven NFL teams fired their coaches. He can afford to be picky. Knowing as much, he says he'll be asking as many questions as he answers when the process starts.

``If you're going into a new situation, you've got to make sure it's the right one,'' said McCoy, who interviewed with Miami last year and was, for a time, thought to be the leading candidate there. ``It's not just about taking any job.''

This year, McCoy coached the fourth-ranked offense in the league, a unit that scored 30 or more points in all but five games this season. True, he had Peyton Manning on his side, which can make almost any coach look like a genius. Just as impressive were his accomplishments in 2011, when he turned Tim Tebow into a playoff quarterback, reconstructing the playbook in midseason into a 1950s-style, run-based offense that won nine games despite the league's 31st-ranked passing offense.

``That's our job as a football coach, is to take advantage of your talent and that's the No. 1 job I have here,'' McCoy said. ``We've got to make adjustments as a coaching staff, as players, and figure out, `What do we do best as an organization?'''

Other highlights on McCoy's resume are his nine years as an assistant for John Fox and a glowing endorsement from Manning.

``I think he's ready. I think he's paid his dues,'' Manning said. ``Mike's a good leader. He's had some good coaches that have been mentors to him, different coaches that he's worked with in his years in the NFL that I think he's incorporated some of their leadership philosophies and his own philosophy.''

Del Rio's path back to a head-coaching job could be a little trickier. So far, Del Rio said, there have been no requests for interviews this weekend, though things often develop quickly and unexpectedly on a coaching search.

He wasn't on anyone's radar when Jacksonville hired him in 2003, after three years as linebackers coach at Baltimore followed by a year in Carolina as Fox's defensive coordinator.

Over the nine years with the Jaguars, Del Rio went 69-73 and made two playoff appearances - a tenure with plenty of ups and downs, but during which he built a solid reputation as a coach who knows defense and connects with players. This year, he reunited with Fox, took several pieces already in place and molded them into the third-ranked defense in the league, led by Von Miller, who finished with a franchise record 18 1/2 sacks.

If he leaves, Denver will be looking for its eighth defensive coordinator in eight years.

``If it happens, it happens,'' cornerback Champ Bailey said. ``It's really not my place to put my opinion on it.''

But if Del Rio is to become a head coach again, he wants it to be with the right team, not just the next team that's looking.

``I'm certainly aware of the different strengths and weaknesses of different places,'' he said. ``I know my own abilities, certainly much greater than I did when I was made a head coach 10 years ago. You gain experience in this league and you grow. I don't spend a lot of time looking through other people's football teams and what their issues are and how you'd solve them.''

If asked to do that, however, he would.

Fact is, he simply loves coaching, which is why he returned to the field this year, the season after he got fired while still under contract in Jacksonville.

``I'm actually paying to be here,'' Del Rio said. ``I could be laying on a beach somewhere making more money. But I took this job because I wanted to work. I do have a passion to teach, to help young men be better, and to be part of a team.''

NFL rules call for all interviews of assistants on teams with a playoff bye to be complete by the end of the weekend. The Broncos added a caveat for their assistants, telling teams they'd have to come to Denver for the talks instead of having their assistants travel.

In one case, the Broncos shut down an interview opportunity - when AFC West rival San Diego asked about talking to director of player personnel Matt Russell for its open GM position.

Regardless of whether the Broncos coaches and executives are doing interviews, they insist there is only one focus: helping this team get to the Super Bowl.

``Everyone has individual goals, as a coach and a player, but it's team first here and we still have a lot left here,'' McCoy said. ``Hopefully, one day I will become a head coach but we still have a lot of football ahead of us here and we'll see what happens down the road.''

Notes: LB Wesley Woodyard, who led the team this season in tackles and a willingness to talk, was named the 2012 winner of the sixth annual Darrent Williams Good Guy Award, given by the Denver chapter of the Pro Football Writers Association to the player who best exemplifies the late cornerback's cooperation with the media. ... RB Willis McGahee walked through the locker room Thursday with a big wrap on his surgically repaired right knee but without any noticeable limp. He's eligible to return to action if the Broncos reach the AFC championship.

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John Harbaugh defends Lamar Jackson's playoff performance

John Harbaugh defends Lamar Jackson's playoff performance

Coach John Harbaugh, just six days after his team’s disappointing 28-12 loss to the Titans in the AFC playoffs, has already had to defend his quarterback.

Faced with some criticism after Jackson finished 31-of-59 passing, and three total turnovers, Harbaugh mentioned how far Jackson has come in the last year — which also ended in an early playoff loss at home.

“It’s really interesting to look at Lamar Jackson, because look at the progress he made in the last year,” Harbaugh said Friday. “Because the same question, I think you might have asked it last year, how is he going to get better going forward? And he did a good job, right? He’s 23 years old. He’s younger than Joe Burrow. So, he has a pretty good head start right now.”

Jackson is now 0-2 in the playoffs with a 19-3 regular season record. 



He’s likely the MVP this season after he passed for more than 3,000 yards and rushed for 1,000 yards, setting the single-season rushing record for a quarterback along the way. He led the NFL in passing touchdowns and carried the most prolific offense in the league to a league-best 14-2. 

Harbaugh isn’t worried that his quarterback, who is just 23-years-old, hasn’t found his playoff success yet.

“The Manning brothers combined to, they had five losses in their first five playoff games before they won one,” Harbaugh explained. (Joe) Montana, (Steve) Young and (Brett) Favre didn’t start a playoff game until their third season, (Drew) Brees and (Troy) Aikman, until their fourth season, and (Aaron) Rodgers until his fifth season.”

After the season ended, Harbaugh added that Jackson went to his office to discuss the offseason and what he needed to do to improve. 

While Harbaugh and the offensive coaching staff had a plan for Jackson to improve, Jackson “nailed” each and every single critique that the coaches had laid out for him.

“I’m really confident in Lamar and his understanding the things he needs to do to get better, and that he’s going to work really hard to keep building himself up as a player,” Harbaugh said.

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DeAngelo Hall defends cornerback Josh Norman, but believes Redskins should move on

DeAngelo Hall defends cornerback Josh Norman, but believes Redskins should move on

Redskins cornerback Josh Norman has drawn criticism because of his performance in D.C. during his 5-year, $75 million contract he signed in April 2016. Former Redskins defensive back DeAngelo Hall came to Norman’s defense during a radio appearance with Craig Hoffman on 106.7 The Fan on Friday.

“He does compete, he’s a competitor. And if I have a football player on my roster who’s a competitor, who wants to be out there, who fights hard and plays hard, I’m [going to] find a way to put him in position to make plays,” Hall said. “I think we could’ve done a much, much better job of putting Josh in position to make plays.”

In November, then-interim head coach Bill Callahan benched Norman, and the 32-year-old cornerback played just 10 defensive snaps over the last six games of the season. Should Washington choose to cut ties with Norman this offseason before June 1, the team would save $12.5 million of cap space.

Hall, who interviewed for the Redskins’ defensive backs’ coaching position last January, said Norman wasn’t given the chance to be the leader of the defense. Hall said some of that was self-inflicted because of Norman’s habits and preparation, but a portion of that was because of schematics. 

“I always told those coaches ‘If you want Josh to be a leader — because Josh wants to be a leader — you’ve got to put him in a position to make plays, the same way Carolina put him in a position to make plays,” Hall said. 

The peak of Norman’s career came in 2015 under the direction of Washington’s newly hired head coach Ron Rivera. In that all-pro season, Norman recorded 56 tackles, 18 passes defended, four interceptions, three forced fumbles and two touchdowns. 

Hall believes Norman still possesses that all-pro ability; it just needs to be tapped with the right defensive scheme. Hall compared the situation to Richard Sherman, who has revitalized his career in San Francisco after battling injuries. 

“It’s not because [Sherman] is the best lockdown man-to-man corner. It’s because they play Sherm in a system that he’s able to succeed and shine, and they put players around him so that he can make plays,” he said. “If we [would’ve] done the same thing to Josh Norman, he could’ve been an all-pro player here, too, just like he was in Carolina.”

Despite Hall’s belief in Norman’s ability, and the presumption that Rivera and new defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio will run a similar system to what Norman played in with the Panthers, the former Redskins defensive back doesn’t think the $15 million price tag is worth it for a franchise that has other holes to fill.

“I, as a fan, would love to have Josh back on this team, in this defense that I feel will be similar to Carolina,” Hall said. “But to me, it doesn’t make sense to bring Josh back for $15 million. It’s just a big pill to swallow when you can do a lot with that money on a team that needs a lot of help.”

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