PFW news on the Chiefs, Rams, Panthers, Cardinals and Eagles, plus the latest Fantasy Buzz.
The Way We Hear It
The action is picking up in the Show-Me State, where the Chiefs and Rams are showing that they mean business, with their longtime front-office point men now pointed in different directions.
In Kansas City, the front-office makeover that league insiders had been anticipating for a while now has been officially initiated with the resignation this past week of president/chief executive officer/general manager Carl Peterson with one year remaining on his contract.
In St. Louis, similar sweeping changes are under way with president of football operations/GM Jay Zygmunt having resigned Monday and team president John Shaw expected to remain with the organization solely as a consultant to owner Chip Rosenbloom on league business and financial matters.
As for Chiefs head coach Herm Edwards and Rams interim head coach Jim Haslett, we hear the verdict remains out, in both cases.
Before Chiefs owner Clark Hunt decides whether or not he will retain Edwards — under whom the Chiefs have lost 22 of their last 24 games — his first order of business will be to replace Peterson with a two-man force — a president to handle the business end and a pure football man to handle the product on the field.
“I want somebody who’s a shrewd evaluator of football talent,” Hunt said recently regarding the GM opening. “His job will be 24/7 to think about the football team. … (He should be) a good communicator, preferably somebody who has experience in building a winning NFL team.”
The way we hear it, that “somebody” won’t be current VP of player personnel Bill Kuharich, which we’re told has upset Edwards, who needs all the supporters he can find within the organization. Kuharich’s cause wasn’t helped any by his now-infamous purge of the Saints’ entire draft class in the late ’90s, when he was New Orleans’ GM, in exchange for the rights to draft RB Ricky Williams.
The one thing for sure that Hunt has at the moment is a very long list of GM candidates, which he expects to whittle down to a select few in the next couple of weeks. The name of former Chiefs head coach Dick Vermeil has been bandied about recently, but Vermeil said last week that he had yet to be contacted.
Hunt’s master plan, we’re told, will then be for the new GM to make the ultimate decision on the team’s head coach.
That said, word is Hunt could be leaning toward retaining Edwards, who has a year left on his contract, and convincing whoever is hired as the GM to stick with Edwards and give him one more year to possibly earn himself a long-term reprieve. We also hear Edwards has substantial support from his current players.
Those rumblings, however, haven’t stopped some league sources from predicting that Edwards is as good as gone.
“Herm (Edwards) is out,” one executive insider told PFW. “He brought in all those college coaches (from Georgia Tech) and ran out some good ones. (Former Chiefs RB coach) James Saxon played in the league. He had Larry (Johnson) running angry and out of control. He’s doing the same thing down in Miami with the cast they have there. College coaches can’t handle these guys. But Herm ran Saxon out.”
Added a longtime pro talent evaluator: “Herm is always in the news, talking about nothing. Just say your team is not playing good. He’s always blaming and pointing the finger. Good (leaders) take the blame.”
Not surprisingly, the potentially potent parlay of Patriots VP of player personnel Scott Pioli, who is rumored to be in line for any of a number of GM openings, and former Steelers head coach and Chiefs assistant Bill Cowher has been generating a healthy buzz in K.C.
But, as one team insider explained it: “The only problem is (the defense’s) 4-3 scheme. If you bring in a guy who is a 3-4 guy (like) Cowher or Pioli, it could run off talent.
“The team drafted (DT Glenn) Dorsey and (DE Tamba) Hali — two of the last four top picks would become obsolete. It would just set back the franchise even further. Those things should be considered, but who says they will be?
“Look at when (Eric) Mangini came to the Jets. They were a 4-3 scheme. They ran off (John) Abraham and (Jonathan) Vilma and (Dewayne) Robertson. That’s three first-round picks off your ‘D.’ It’s hard to replace that production. … You run off talent, and you’re not going to find anything like it on the street.”
Heading into the Rams’ divisional home game against the Niners on Sunday — the team’s second straight blackout and sixth in the last 17 games — the word on the streets of St. Louis, according to team sources, was that Haslett’s chances of being retained were “40-60.”
While a strong effort in the season finale at Atlanta might improve Haslett’s chances of surviving, Rosenbloom has said Haslett — who we’re told has lots of genuine support “inside the building” from Rams staffers — will remain a candidate regardless of his final record as the head coach this season.
The key for Haslett may be his standing in the eyes of executive VP of player personnel Billy Devaney. Unlike the nebulous front-office situation in Kansas City, Devaney appears to be the top front-office figure moving forward, having been put in charge of running the full-fledged coaching search that Rosenbloom has in mind.
“The biggest strike against Haslett is the desire for a dramatic change from the team’s increasingly frustrated fan base,” a longtime team insider told PFW. “The status quo won’t sit well with a lot of fans.”
Whoever ends up coaching the Rams after this season, our sources believe more than half of the Rams’ current roster is likely to be sent packing.
PANTHERS: Word out of Carolina is the Panthers are very concerned about DT Maake Kemoeatu’s ankle injury, which he suffered in Week 15. He missed the all-important matchup with the Giants and could be out as long as 4-6 weeks if the injury is a high ankle sprain, although the team has not been specific about the ailment. Kemoeatu is a crucial part of Carolina’s run defense, clogging up the middle with his wide frame, and to lose him for a significant period of time would be a serious blow to the Panthers.
CARDINALS: Our Cardinals insiders agree that the loss of veteran OLB Clark Haggans with a sprained Lisfranc joint could be costly. “His value is underrated,” one source said. “Before he got hurt, he was playing better than (starting SLB) Chike Okeafor, and he’s been in some tough games down the stretch and was on a winning Super Bowl team. The outside spots are hurting with Travis LaBoy also banged up and no young guys on the roster able to step in.”
EAGLES: The Eagles have made a series of defensive changes over the past month that have helped the team play some of its best ball on that side, but one that largely has gone overlooked has been the change at weak-side linebacker from Omar Gaither to Akeem Jordan. In that time, Jordan has shown good instincts, played downhill and has taken good angles to the ball.
The Fantasy Buzz
Already dealing with a bum shoulder, RB Marshawn Lynch left Sunday’s game at Denver and did not return, opening the door for RB Fred Jackson to see extended playing time; he finished with 10-43-1 rushing and 3-70-0 receiving. With nothing to play for in Week 17, the Bills may opt to let Lynch rest, which would mean a sizable workload for Jackson. He has proven to be a solid runner in limited duty, so he’d probably be worth starting if he’s the featured back against New England.
In what’s likely to be Saints RB Deuce McAllister’s final game as a Saint, look for coach Sean Payton to use the veteran back more than usual, especially at the goal line. McAllister had nine carries for 61 yards and a score Sunday at Detroit, and he could see a similar number of touches this week against the Panthers. New Orleans is very fond of McAllister, and the town would love nothing more than to see him go out with a productive performance.
Pittsburgh can’t gain or lose any ground in the AFC playoff race this week, so look for it to rest some major players. That would include RB Willie Parker, who has been bothered by a knee injury for a number of weeks. If that’s the case, Gary Russell might not be a bad grab for those in TD-only leagues, as he’d likely be the team’s primary short-yardage back in a favorable matchup with the Browns. It’s obviously a roll of the dice, but it’s one that might pay off.
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