NFL Notebook: Competition for Spags

The Vikings aren't the only team reportedly interested in former Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo. There is other competition besides the Eagles. Plus, a look at some of the other names are the NFL making news.

As reported in other venues, former St. Louis head coach Steve Spagnuolo is the top target of the Falcons to replace the departed Brian Van Gorder as defensive coordinator. But Mike Smith, who has lost both coordinators, faces plenty of competition for Spagnuolo's services.

If he doesn't land him, Smith may look to former Miami coordinator Mike Nolan. The two were good friends when both served on the Baltimore staff previously. Two things about a potential Nolan hire: It might signal that Smith plans to take a more hands-on approach to the Atlanta defense, which is his area of expertise. Also, while Nolan has been a strong proponent of the 3-4 since about 2000, he does have experience in the 4-3 from his stints as coordinator with the Giants and Redskins. Smith is a solid 4-3 guy, and the Falcons lack the personnel for a 3-4 front.

  • The league established a new record in 2011 for most passes in a season, at 17,410, breaking the old mark of 17,292 passes in 2002. But there were only 506 interceptions, down from 511 in 2010, and the fewest since 2008 (465). Three players tied for the NFL lead in interceptions -- cornerbacks Kyle Arrington (New England) and Charles Woodson (Green Bay) and safety Eric Weddle (San Diego) -- with seven pickoffs. It's the lowest number of interceptions for a league leader(s) since 1999, when five players tied with seven.

  • Kudos to the Fritz Pollard Alliance, which advocates the inclusion of minority candidates in the head coach interview process, for establishing an award that will honor former commissioner Paul Tagliabue for his work in promoting diversity. One suggestion for the inaugural award, which will be announced during Super Bowl week: Steelers' owner Dan Rooney, for whom the so-called "Rooney Rule" obviously was named.

  • A lot can happen in the next month or two, but people close to Green Bay quarterback Matt Flynn don't think the Packers will slap the franchise tag on the Aaron Rodgers backup, just to be able to then trade him. New England used the maneuver, of course, with Matt Cassel in 2009 before dealing him to the Chiefs.

  • Gregg Williams has changed some of his coverage packages for the matchup with the 49ers because of an ankle injury that will keep strong safety Roman Harper from playing at less than 100 percent. Harper is often a liability against the pass anyway, had one of his worst games trying to cover the Seattle tight ends in last year's wild card upset loss, and faced a tough draw in San Francisco's Vernon Davis.

  • Kansas City coach Romeo Crennel, who this week had the "interim" prefix removed from his title, may be the lone minority to land a head coaching job for 2012. But keep an eye in the future on guys like Ray Horton, Todd Bowles, Winston Moss, and Mel Tucker. The Jaguars, by the way, were very fortunate to retain Tucker, who served as interim coach after Del Rio's dismissal, as defensive coordinator. At least two other teams were interested in Tucker as a coordinator. The Jacksonville defense played well in 2011, and Tucker's retention means Mularkey won't have to start over on that side of the ball.

  • While there could still be some changes to the Dallas staff in the wake of the team's failure to reach the playoffs, team insiders don't believe they would be on the scale of the dismissal of secondary coach Dave Campo (replaced by Jerome Henderson) or the retirement of offensive line coach Hudson Houck (Bill Callahan replacing).

  • Even though Eric Decker may not be available Saturday because of a knee injury, New England defensive backs are wary of the downfield blocking of Broncos' wide receivers, a key to the running game, and the group spent much of this week reviewing it. "They come at you good and lock on, and they're very aggressive," New England cornerback Devin McCourty said.

  • McCourty, by the way, continues to log meaningful minutes at safety. The Broncos have already discussed moving cornerback Champ Bailey, a potential Hall of Fame enshrinee after he retires, inside to safety.

  • Baltimore tailback Ray Rice was one of only two players (Matt Forte of Chicago was the other) to lead his team in both rushing yards and receptions in 2011. Rice had 367 "touches" for the Ravens during the season. He had 20 or more carries in only two of his first eight games, then was under 20 rushes in just two of the final eight. Look for Rice to be a target of Joe Flacco up the field, on "wheel" routes on Sunday. The Ravens' coaches feel that the Houston linebackers have problems in coverage.

  • Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler is thought to have some input into who the Bears hire to run the passing game after offensive line coach Mike Tice was promoted to coordinator.

  • Scouts are anxious to see what Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill does about the foot injury he recently suffered. With the decisions by Matt Barkley of USC and Landry Jones of Oklahoma to remain in school for another season, few players have seen their draft stock rise like Tannehill, who could now sneak into the first round. People close to Tannehill contend no decision has been made yet about his foot, but acknowledge surgery is a strong possibility.

  • The last word: "I do think he needs to pick it up. I think he needs to pick up his play. I wouldn't call him lazy, but I do think (there are) certain things about Mark and the organization (that) I think needs to change. I think the organization does baby him, and I think they definitely need to bring in a viable backup. A viable backup to really provide that competition, because with the competition, you're either going to rise or you're just going to crumble. So I think you bring in a viable backup and let it play out. And we'll see which Mark Sanchez shows up after that." -- former NFL offensive lineman Damien Woody, who played three seasons with the Jets (2008-2010), on New York quarterback Mark Sanchez


  • Viking Update Top Stories

    \r\n\r\n","mobileBody":"As reported in other venues, former St. Louis head coach Steve Spagnuolo is the top target of the Falcons to replace the departed Brian Van Gorder as defensive coordinator. But Mike Smith, who has lost both coordinators, faces plenty of competition for Spagnuolo's services. If he doesn't land him, Smith may look to former Miami coordinator Mike Nolan. The two were good friends when both served on the Baltimore staff previously. Two things about a potential Nolan hire: It might signal that Smith plans to take a more hands-on approach to the Atlanta defense, which is his area of expertise. Also, while Nolan has been a strong proponent of the 3-4 since about 2000, he does have experience in the 4-3 from his stints as coordinator with the Giants and Redskins. Smith is a solid 4-3 guy, and the Falcons lack the personnel for a 3-4 front.
  • The league established a new record in 2011 for most passes in a season, at 17,410, breaking the old mark of 17,292 passes in 2002. But there were only 506 interceptions, down from 511 in 2010, and the fewest since 2008 (465). Three players tied for the NFL lead in interceptions -- cornerbacks Kyle Arrington (New England) and Charles Woodson (Green Bay) and safety Eric Weddle (San Diego) -- with seven pickoffs. It's the lowest number of interceptions for a league leader(s) since 1999, when five players tied with seven.
  • Kudos to the Fritz Pollard Alliance, which advocates the inclusion of minority candidates in the head coach interview process, for establishing an award that will honor former commissioner Paul Tagliabue for his work in promoting diversity. One suggestion for the inaugural award, which will be announced during Super Bowl week: Steelers' owner Dan Rooney, for whom the so-called \"Rooney Rule\" obviously was named.
  • A lot can happen in the next month or two, but people close to Green Bay quarterback Matt Flynn don't think the Packers will slap the franchise tag on the Aaron Rodgers backup, just to be able to then trade him. New England used the maneuver, of course, with Matt Cassel in 2009 before dealing him to the Chiefs.
  • Gregg Williams has changed some of his coverage packages for the matchup with the 49ers because of an ankle injury that will keep strong safety Roman Harper from playing at less than 100 percent. Harper is often a liability against the pass anyway, had one of his worst games trying to cover the Seattle tight ends in last year's wild card upset loss, and faced a tough draw in San Francisco's Vernon Davis.
  • Kansas City coach Romeo Crennel, who this week had the \"interim\" prefix removed from his title, may be the lone minority to land a head coaching job for 2012. But keep an eye in the future on guys like Ray Horton, Todd Bowles, Winston Moss, and Mel Tucker. The Jaguars, by the way, were very fortunate to retain Tucker, who served as interim coach after Del Rio's dismissal, as defensive coordinator. At least two other teams were interested in Tucker as a coordinator. The Jacksonville defense played well in 2011, and Tucker's retention means Mularkey won't have to start over on that side of the ball.
  • While there could still be some changes to the Dallas staff in the wake of the team's failure to reach the playoffs, team insiders don't believe they would be on the scale of the dismissal of secondary coach Dave Campo (replaced by Jerome Henderson) or the retirement of offensive line coach Hudson Houck (Bill Callahan replacing).
  • Even though Eric Decker may not be available Saturday because of a knee injury, New England defensive backs are wary of the downfield blocking of Broncos' wide receivers, a key to the running game, and the group spent much of this week reviewing it. \"They come at you good and lock on, and they're very aggressive,\" New England cornerback Devin McCourty said.
  • McCourty, by the way, continues to log meaningful minutes at safety. The Broncos have already discussed moving cornerback Champ Bailey, a potential Hall of Fame enshrinee after he retires, inside to safety.
  • Baltimore tailback Ray Rice was one of only two players (Matt Forte of Chicago was the other) to lead his team in both rushing yards and receptions in 2011. Rice had 367 \"touches\" for the Ravens during the season. He had 20 or more carries in only two of his first eight games, then was under 20 rushes in just two of the final eight. Look for Rice to be a target of Joe Flacco up the field, on \"wheel\" routes on Sunday. The Ravens' coaches feel that the Houston linebackers have problems in coverage.
  • Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler is thought to have some input into who the Bears hire to run the passing game after offensive line coach Mike Tice was promoted to coordinator.
  • Scouts are anxious to see what Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill does about the foot injury he recently suffered. With the decisions by Matt Barkley of USC and Landry Jones of Oklahoma to remain in school for another season, few players have seen their draft stock rise like Tannehill, who could now sneak into the first round. People close to Tannehill contend no decision has been made yet about his foot, but acknowledge surgery is a strong possibility.
  • The last word: \"I do think he needs to pick it up. I think he needs to pick up his play. I wouldn't call him lazy, but I do think (there are) certain things about Mark and the organization (that) I think needs to change. I think the organization does baby him, and I think they definitely need to bring in a viable backup. A viable backup to really provide that competition, because with the competition, you're either going to rise or you're just going to crumble. So I think you bring in a viable backup and let it play out. And we'll see which Mark Sanchez shows up after that.\" -- former NFL offensive lineman Damien Woody, who played three seasons with the Jets (2008-2010), on New York quarterback Mark Sanchez
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