Asked if Philip Rivers still can play quarterback in the NFL, Los Angeles Chargers receiver Keenan Allen did not hesitate to back the only starting signal-caller he’s ever played with.
“He comes to work every day still the same way,” Allen said. “You never question his work ethic. You never question his passion on the field. His energy is always there, and he can still make the throws.”
Of course, Allen won’t get a chance to see if his statement become a reality, as Rivers and the Chargers mutually agreed to part ways Monday. Rivers will become a free agent in March, and he has been adamant that he wants to play football in 2020.
Certainly, Rivers earned a reputation as one of the best trash talkers in the league. But his toughness, ultra-competitive nature and accuracy also set him apart, making him the most prolific quarterback to ever wear the royal blue and gold.
Some important statistics of the Rivers era include:
- A 224-game consecutive starts streak, making him the active leader in the NFL.
- A franchise-record 59,271 passing yards and 397 passing touchdowns.
- Rivers owns more than 30 franchise records, and in 2014 he became the first player in league history to post five straight games with a passer rating of at least 120 in a single season.
- Eight Pro Bowls, tying Rivers with Antonio Gates for the second-most Pro Bowls by a Chargers player since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger, trailing only Junior Seau’s 12 selections.
- Rivers’ 70 games of 300-plus yards passing are good enough for fourth in NFL history behind only Drew Brees, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.
- His 123 career regular-season victories as a starter rank ninth in NFL history.
- Rivers was named the 2013 NFL Comeback Player of the Year.
- Rivers was a 2011 Walter Payton Man of the Year finalist for his work with the Rivers of Hope Foundation that raised more than $1 million to help abandoned and orphaned children.
Here are the top five highlights of Rivers’ illustrious 16-year career with the Chargers:
No. 5: Rivers throws for a career-high 503 yards vs. Green Bay Packers, 2015
Rivers finished with career highs in pass attempts (65), completions (43) and passing yards (503) in a Week 6 contest against the Packers, marking the first 500-yard passing performance in team history. The Chargers failed to convert on fourth down near the goal line, losing 27-20 at Lambeau Field, but this game was a great illustration of the precision passing that became Rivers’ calling card.
No. 4: First career start in 2006 against the Oakland Raiders
Rivers completed just 8 of 11 passes for 108 yards in his first career win, a 27-0 victory over the Raiders on Sept. 11, 2006. However, his lone touchdown was a 4-yard pass to Gates, the beginning of the most prolific quarterback-tight end tandem in NFL history. The two combined for a league-record 89 touchdowns. Gates announced his retirement earlier this year.
No. 3: Rivers leads Chargers to comeback victory vs. Kansas City Chiefs in 2018
Down 14 points with 7:55 left at Arrowhead Stadium, Rivers led the Chargers to two fourth-quarter touchdown drives and won the game with a completion to a wide-open Mike Williams on a two-point conversion to end the game. This game is a good example of a resilient Rivers at his best, as he struggled early on but finished with 313 passing yards, two touchdown passes and two interceptions. Rivers recorded 27 fourth-quarter comeback wins during his time with the Chargers, tied for 13th in the NFL.
No. 2: Rivers leads Chargers to win in Eli Manning’s return to San Diego in 2013
Known as the “ShEli” game, Manning’s spurning of the Chargers in the 2004 draft served as a backdrop. With Chargers fans booing Manning every chance they got, Rivers was surgical, completing 21 of 28 passes for 249 yards, with three touchdowns and no interceptions. Rivers’ efficient play allowed the Chargers to race to a 24-0 lead and never look back, cruising to a 37-14 victory on Dec. 8, 2013. The win was part of a strong finish for the Chargers, as they won five of their last six games to reach the postseason. Rivers finished with a 3-0 record against Eli Manning.
No. 1: 2007 AFC Championship Game in which Rivers played with a torn ACL
The most notable thing Rivers is known for is his toughness, and that was on display on Jan. 20, 2008, when Rivers played just six days after suffering a torn ACL and meniscus in his right knee, which I detailed here. Although the Chargers lost 21-12, Rivers limping through the game sealed his status as one of the toughest players the league has seen.
Tennessee’s 35-24 loss in the AFC Championship Game hit Derrick Henry with a thud as reality quickly sunk in that the Titans might take on a significantly different look next season.
After failing to stick to the same formula against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday that propelled the Titans to playoff wins in Baltimore and New England, Henry expressed disappointment in the outcome and said “he could have done more for the team.”
“I’ll definitely shed a couple of tears,” said Henry, who finished with 19 carries for 69 yards and a touchdown. “Just because I love my teammates. I love playing football, I love competing and I love my teammates. Those guys helped me get through a lot.”
The Titans have at least 19 players on expiring contracts this offseason. There will be some tough choices for Titans GM Jon Robinson to make. The first decisions probably will involve quarterback Ryan Tannehill and Henry himself, whose rookie contract is set to expire, possibly making him a free agent this offseason. After leading the league in rushing, it’s safe to say he is in a position to land a lucrative contract from the Titans or another team in need of a bell-cow running back.
But for now, the frustration from losing and the idea of not having the same group of players take the field together next year was more important to him than any concerns about future contract negotiations.
“Throughout the whole season, you have to stick together through all the adversity,” Henry said. “We have a lot of great guys in the locker room. It’s football, you know the locker room is going to change. Right now, we just lost a game. I am not even thinking about no contracts or things like that. When that time comes, I am sure it will get worked out.”
Henry, the NFL’s leading rusher this season, was the catalyst for Tennessee’s success on offense down the final stretch of the regular season, as the team won seven of its last 10 games. He proceeded to prove unstoppable in the first two games of the playoffs, picking up 182 yards rushing against the defending champion Patriots and 195 yards rushing in the divisional win over the Ravens.
But their bruising back had no carries in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game, and the Titans couldn’t finish off clinching their first trip to the Super Bowl in two decades.
“[I] feel like as a team we stayed relentless, kept believing in each other, and that speaks volumes to the character of everyone in that room as a football player, and we just came up short,” Henry said. “That’s a great team. Wish the outcome could have been different.”
Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly stunned the NFL on Tuesday night when he announced his retirement at the age of 28. Kuechly was the 2013 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, and he was named first-team All-Pro five times. His 1,092 tackles over his eight-year career were the most since he came into the league in 2012, the year he was drafted in the first round.
Kuechly missed seven games due to concussions from 2015 to 2017, but he played all 32 regular-season games the past two seasons. He joins Andrew Luck and Rob Gronkowski as under-30 players who have retired over the past year.
Kuechly and Chicago Bears guard Kyle Long, who announced his retirement earlier this month after playing seven seasons, won’t be the last NFL players to walk away from the game this offseason. We asked NFL Nation reporters to weigh in on more players who have spoken publicly about the possibility of retiring after the season, what they said and their timetable for making a decision.
Here are the 16 players, listed in alphabetical order by team:
Guard James Carpenter
He didn’t say publicly that he’s considering retirement, but Carpenter’s body might end up making the decision for him. He signed with the Falcons coming off a season-ending shoulder injury with the Jets, then was placed on injured reserve this past season with a concussion. Carpenter, who turns 31 in March, is likely mulling his future even with two years and $10.5 million remaining on his contract — not to mention he didn’t play up to expectations for a Falcons team that figured he would enhance the offensive line. — Vaughn McClure
Guard Marshal Yanda
The eight-time Pro Bowl guard is 35 and acknowledged that he might have retired after the 2018 season if he had not finished the year healthy. Yanda, who is signed through the 2020 season, was asked if he had made a decision about retirement after Baltimore’s 28-12 playoff loss to Tennessee. “I am not going to talk about my future right now,” he said. “Tennessee questions. Anything other than that, I will divert to later on.” The Ravens will give Yanda all the time he needs to decide whether he wants to continue playing. — Jamison Hensley
Running back Frank Gore
Third on the all-time rushing list, Gore tailed off toward the end of the 2019 season — his 15th in the NFL — as the Bills tailored their offense toward rookie Devin Singletary. With little left to prove and his son entering his freshman season at Southern Mississippi, one of the NFL’s staples over the past decade and a half could be calling it quits. Gore, 36, proved he can still play at a high level, but the ability to watch his son play will weigh heavily into his decision. — Marcel Louis-Jacques
Tight end Greg Olsen
Olsen, 34, doesn’t want to be a part of a rebuild, and that’s what the Panthers are likely to go through with new coach Matt Rhule. The retirement of Kuechly likely increases Olsen’s desire to walk away. He could get an offer from a television network to be an analyst, which is what he wants to do after playing, so that’ll make the decision even easier. — David Newton
Tight end Jason Witten
The 37-year-old returned from a one-year absence after working as ESPN’s Monday Night Football analyst and started every game while finishing with 63 catches for 529 yards and four touchdowns. Late in the season, he said coaching was in his future, but he wasn’t sure he was ready to walk away from playing, although he expected to make a quick decision. With a new coach in Mike McCarthy and a new staff, Witten could conceivably look elsewhere to play in 2020. Sean Lee, a free-agent-to-be, is also a possibility, but the feeling is the veteran linebacker will continue to play. — Todd Archer
Defensive tackle Damon “Snacks” Harrison
Harrison said he’s considering retiring after an injury-filled 2019 season in which he didn’t play up to his own standards. He said his mind is still there, but if he can’t get his body to a place where he believes he can return to form, he’ll contemplate walking away. Harrison was one of the best run-stoppers in the NFL entering the 2019 season, and he signed a one-year extension in training camp that takes his contract through the 2021 season. The 31-year-old had 49 tackles and two sacks last season and has a cap hit of $11.75 million for the 2020 season. — Michael Rothstein
Offensive tackle Anthony Castonzo
The 31-year-old is spending the first couple of weeks of the offseason to decide if he wants to retire or likely re-sign with the Colts. “I just got some thinking to do,” Castonzo said the day after the regular season ended last month. “That’s what it’s going to come down to. I’ve got a decision to make, then I gotta live with it.” Castonzo, a first-round pick in 2011, has started all 132 games he has played during his nine-year career. “We think he had an unbelievable year,” coach Frank Reich said. “I think he is the best left tackle in the league. I really do. I mean, I think this guy is a stud player. I think he had his best year of his career and I am looking forward to hopefully getting him back.” — Mike Wells
Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick
The veteran quarterback has yet to decide if he will return to Miami for his 16th NFL season. He has sidestepped questions about his future, deferring them to the offseason, but admits the fire to play is still there and that it would be more difficult to retire than play football. The early expectation is that Fitzpatrick, who is under contract with the Dolphins for $8 million with half of that guaranteed in 2020, will return for Year 16 under new Dolphins offensive coordinator Chan Gailey, who has coached him in two different stints. The 37-year-old Fitzpatrick is coming off a solid season, leading the rebuilding Dolphins to a 5-4 record after taking over while finishing eighth in Total QBR. He is likely to make a decision by this spring. — Cameron Wolfe
New England Patriots
Tight end Benjamin Watson and quarterback Tom Brady
Watson, 39, hinted that this was it for him after 16 seasons. He retired after the 2018 season, only to return for another year, but this time it seems like it will be final. Meanwhile, the 42-year-old Brady has declared his intentions to play in 2020, but there is a caveat: If the right opportunity doesn’t present itself for him — albeit unlikely — he could potentially revisit the decision. — Mike Reiss
New Orleans Saints
Quarterback Drew Brees
Brees, who turned 41 on Jan. 15, has said for the past three years that he is taking his career “one year at a time.” And he has not yet committed to returning for a 20th season. But it’s hard to imagine him walking away after he just had the best passer rating of his career in 2019 (116.3) and finished the regular season so strong, with 15 touchdown passes and zero interceptions in December. And it’s even harder to imagine him walking away on such a sour note, with his only two-turnover game of the season in New Orleans’ wild-card loss to Minnesota. Brees won’t be hurting for options whenever he does decide to retire. At least one TV network has already reached out to him to express interest, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. — Mike Triplett
New York Giants
Quarterback Eli Manning
Manning said after the season that he is going to take some time to contemplate his future but wanted to make a decision rather quickly. He’s 39 years old, a free agent and didn’t enjoy being a backup, and retirement is admittedly among the options. Manning has spent all 16 years of his career with the Giants. He thinks physically he can still play. Whether the right opportunity presents itself will likely determine his future. — Jordan Raanan
New York Jets
Wide receiver Quincy Enunwa
Enunwa said he “would love to play” in 2020, but it hinges on how well he recovers from a neck injury that caused him to miss the final 15 games. A similar injury cost him the 2017 season. Enunwa, who turns 28 on May 31, recently revealed that he has spinal stenosis. He’s rehabbing with the intent to play, but Enunwa is a smart, levelheaded person and won’t risk his future if he’s in danger. — Rich Cimini
Center Jason Kelce
Word got out that Kelce, 32, was pondering retirement last offseason following a grueling, injury-filled year. He returned to have an All-Pro campaign in 2019, but questions about his future understandably came up as the season was winding down. “I mentioned it last year. This is something that goes through your head and has been for three or four years, so I don’t want to say this offseason was any different at all [than the previous ones],” Kelce said. “The bottom line is I’m a Philadelphia Eagle. I’m playing until I’m not, and the only reason this ever got mentioned is because the media found out and leaked it.” — Tim McManus
Tight ends Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis
Neither player addressed his status in full because both finished the season on injured reserve with concussions. Davis did tell ESPN he wasn’t sure yet what he wanted to do, but he’s a free agent and turns 36 on Jan. 31. In Reed’s case, a concussion caused him to miss the entire season. There have been mixed signals about his return; some close to him have said he’ll play again, but others aren’t sure. Reed has had seven documented concussions since his freshman year of college and has had multiple other injuries during his NFL career. At 29, there is a chance he’ll retire — but with a base salary of $8.25 million in 2020, he might get released first (with only $1.8 million of dead money) and decide on his future later. — John Keim
The Eagles parted ways with offensive coordinator Mike Groh and wide receivers coach Carson Walch, head coach Doug Pederson announced Thursday.
Two early candidates have emerged for the open offensive coordinator post, former Indianapolis Colts head coach Jim Caldwell and former Washington Redskins offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell, a league source tells ESPN.
Caldwell and O’Connell — a former NFL quarterback — both have extensive experience coaching QBs, which has been a priority for owner Jeffrey Lurie and the Eagles’ brain trust when choosing offensive coordinators of late. The last two men to hold the position — Frank Reich and Groh — both played and coached the position.
The list of candidates for the offensive coordinator spot is expected to be small, a source said.
The news comes a day after Pederson indicated they were likely to return in 2020, in what proved simply to be a public showing of support for assistants before the decision was finalized. To counterbalance his assertion that Groh and Walch would be back, Pederson was lukewarm when later asked about defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz’s return.
“After much consideration and discussion, I have decided to make a change at the offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach positions. It was not an easy decision for me to make and I appreciate everything that Mike Groh and Carson Walch contributed to the organization and to my staff. As I said yesterday, they were a big part of our success down the stretch this past season. This is one of the most difficult parts of the job and something that weighs on me, but ultimately I have to make decisions that I believe are in the best interest of the football team moving forward,” Pederson said in a statement.
“I apologize for any confusion that I created during yesterday’s press conference, including my comments on Coach Schwartz, who has done a great job as our defensive coordinator. It was my intent not to comment on any of my staff during the ongoing evaluations, because I wanted to be able to go through the process and communicate any decision directly with the individuals. I did a poor job of explaining that the first time I was asked. I will continue to evaluate everything, and consider all possibilities to improve our football team.”
Groh had served as offensive coordinator for the past two seasons after joining the Eagles as wide receivers coach in 2017. Walch was the assistant wide receivers coach in 2018 and was promoted to wide receivers coach for 2019.
The Eagles ranked 14th in total offense and 11th in passing offense this season, but were decimated by injuries, particularly at wide receiver, and had to use several practice-squad players at the position as they won their final four games to win the NFC East.
It took a while for the coaching staff to fully tap into quarterback Carson Wentz’s strengths. Over the last five weeks of the season, Wentz averaged 6.6 attempts per game and 8 yards per pass attempt outside the pocket, per ESPN Stats & Information, up from 3.6 attempts per game and 7 yards per attempt in his first 11 games.
Wentz averaged the second-most play-action passes per game (16.2) during that stretch, nearly doubling his output in the weeks prior (8.7). Wentz took off when these adjustments were made, even with a depleted supporting cast.
The Eagles were eliminated from the playoffs on Sunday with a 17-9 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick acknowledged Sunday morning that Tom Brady is “an iconic figure in this organization,” but said now isn’t the time to address Brady’s future with the franchise.
In a season-ending news conference about 12 hours after the Patriots were eliminated from the playoffs in a 20-13 loss to the Tennessee Titans, Belichick added that “nobody respects Tom more than I do,” but mostly deflected questions on the topic.
“I’m sure there are a lot of questions about the future. Nobody has thought about the future,” he said.
Brady, who is scheduled to become a free agent on March 18, said late Sunday night that retirement was “pretty unlikely” and “hopefully unlikely.”
Belichick was peppered with questions Sunday morning in an exchange with one reporter that edged toward getting testy.
Saying he didn’t have a timeline on when he’d begin discussions about Brady’s future, Belichick said, “Honestly, look, I know it’s out there just like there are a lot of other things out there. We could bring up 50 questions just like that one. I told you what my state is on that. So you can ask all 50 of them and it’s going to be the same answer 50 times. We’ve been working on Tennessee, it’s 12 hours after the game, I’m not going to talk a lot of things about the future because I’m not prepared to talk about it.”
But later, Belichick came close to acknowledging Brady’s situation was different based on his iconic stature in the organization.
With all decisions, Belichick said he needs time and noted they are collaborative.
“I want to give the proper attention and communication and detail and thought into my input into those decisions,” he said. “But any decision made is not an individual decision. There are other people involved. There has be some type of communication, understanding, agreement, whatever you want to call it. That’s not a one-way street. I hope you can understand that. One person can’t just decide what everybody else is going to do. …
“There’s a lot of time, thought and effort and communication that goes into that. Now is not the time.”
On the morning of Jan. 4, 2000, Bill Belichick began one of the biggest days in his professional life on a treadmill in the New York Jets’ weight room. There was nothing unusual about that; he was among a handful of coaches who liked to work up a sweat before attacking the daily grind of the NFL.
What happened next, though, was hardly routine.
After his workout, Belichick — still in his Jets warm-up suit — was spotted leaving the building in an overcoat, carrying a briefcase.
“I said to myself, ‘That is one of the strangest things I’ve ever seen. There’s something up,'” former Jets public relations director Frank Ramos recalled of Belichick’s unusual garb and oddly timed exit.
Something was up.
A few hours later, Belichick delivered one of the most stunning announcements in sports history. Moments before he was to be formally introduced as the Jets’ coach, he famously scribbled on a sheet of loose-leaf paper that he was resigning as the “HC of the NYJ.” He handed it to team officials and conducted a 50-minute news conference that went over like fingernails on a chalkboard.
What happened that day forever changed the Jets, the New England Patriots and the NFL. Twenty years later, it still evokes a variety of reactions from those involved — anger, laughter, bewilderment, vindication and paranoia.
Some harbor conspiracy theories, believing Belichick was in cahoots with the Patriots before quitting on the Jets and his mentor, Bill Parcells. That he briefly left the building with a briefcase triggers images of clandestine and improper activity.
On some level, Belichick’s departure is still shrouded in mystery. Some people, mainly in the Belichick camp, refuse to this day to talk about what they know. Responding to ESPN’s interview requests, they acted as if they were being asked to snitch on a mob boss.
“Doubt I’ll touch that one!” one longtime Belichick confidant said in a Facebook message to ESPN.
Former Jets president Steve Gutman, who followed Belichick at the podium during the infamous news conference, sounded like a witness under cross-examination when questioned about Belichick’s resignation. Parcells, whose complex relationship with Belichick began in 1979 with the New York Giants and became the subject of an ESPN 30 for 30 documentary, recounted the day ever so carefully, as if walking barefoot near shattered glass.
In a way, that’s just what it is.
Everybody knows the epilogue — Belichick has become a six-time Super Bowl champion in New England, the Jets continue to wallow as an also-ran — but there’s more to the story. Here’s a closer look at the 48-hour period that changed everything, through the eyes of those who were there:
On Sunday, Jan. 2, the Jets finished the 1999 season with an 8-8 record, defeating the Seattle Seahawks for their fourth straight win. With speculation swirling about his future, Parcells called an impromptu staff meeting at 9 a.m. Monday.
Bill Muir, Jets offensive line coach: “I can remember after our last game, we were all sitting in the office and the secretary came down and said Bill [Parcells] wanted to see everybody in the staff room. We all went in, we were sitting around the table. Bill comes in and he sits down and he says, ‘Last night, after the game, I submitted my resignation to Steve Gutman. Due to a previous contractual commitment, Bill Belichick is now the head football coach.’ He basically got up and left the room. It was pretty abrupt.”
Parcells: “He was under contract to be the coach of the Jets if I wasn’t there. That’s just the way it was.”
Gutman: “He had a contract and it was all set.”
Muir: “[Parcells] left and, obviously, there’s stoned, stunned silence in the room. I remember distinctly, Bill Belichick said, ‘You guys probably figure I knew that, and that this was the logical conclusion, but I’m hearing it for the first time just like you.'”
In his book about the 1999 season, titled, “The Final Season,” Parcells says he informed Belichick the day before the last game that he was “pretty sure” about retiring. He quotes Belichick’s response as, “I’ve been waiting a year [to take over].”
Parcells told ESPN recently: “No, I don’t remember that. I’m sure we talked about something at that point, but I don’t remember the conversation.”
Ramos, Jets public relations director: “On Monday, I had gone to Parcells early in the morning and gave him my idea how [his farewell news conference] would go. He would announce he would no longer be coaching, but would still be the executive in charge of the football operation, and that he would introduce Belichick to be the next football coach.
“It would be like a perfect pass, one coach to another. And [Parcells] said, ‘Why don’t you go talk to Bill about it?’ So I did, and he wanted no part of it. Belichick said to me, ‘No, let Bill have his day. He deserves the day, let him have that. I’ll do it tomorrow.’ I said, ‘That’s not how it should be. Bill has had a lot of big days and doesn’t really need another big day. This would be a very smooth transition.'”
Carl Banks, Jets director of player development: “Given the history of that relationship — I mean, the Giants’ situation before — it doesn’t surprise that Belichick didn’t want to be in the room for some kind of formal baton passing.”
Ramos: “In my head, I thought there’s something amiss here. When Bill Parcells runs something, he runs it. For him to not to want to say this is how it’s going to be done, and to leave it to me to talk to Belichick … I thought it was really strange.”
Muir: “I remember later [on Monday], we were all sitting around waiting for Bill [Belichick] to call a meeting. Word came down the hall there won’t be any meeting today. See you tomorrow. We all went home and we came back the next day.”
Belichick did find time Monday to meet with Jets contract negotiator Mike Tannenbaum to discuss the team’s salary-cap situation. Monday ended with Parcells’ emotional farewell in the team auditorium. (His retirement from the NFL would be short-lived, as he returned to coach the Dallas Cowboys in 2003.) Earlier in the day, the Jets had received a fax from the Patriots, requesting to speak with Belichick about their head-coaching vacancy.
The Jets, who denied permission that day, scheduled a news conference for 2:30 p.m. Tuesday to introduce Belichick, who was first seen at 6 a.m. in the weight room on his fateful day. Belichick jogged on the treadmill alongside safety Kevin Williams, whom he later referenced in his rambling resignation speech. At the time, Williams was on injured reserve, recovering from a life-threatening bacterial infection that had left him in a coma for two weeks.
Williams: “I was just walking on the treadmill — they wouldn’t let me jog or anything yet — and [Belichick] came in and did his run. He was kind of sad. You could tell something was on his mind. We could see outside over the fields, and he said something like, ‘All you can keep doing is working hard.’ It was kind of philosophical, like, ‘You can work as hard as you can work and sometimes it seems like it ain’t good enough.'”
Banks: “I was one of the last people who spoke with [Belichick] prior to that announcement. He was down in the gym, working out on the treadmill. I literally walked up to him and I said, ‘Congratulations, do you need me to do anything today?’ He just kind of looked at me and said, ‘No, I won’t need anything. Thanks, Carl.’ He gave no indication. I mean, it was as straight face as you could get.”
Then, according to Ramos, Belichick slipped out of the building briefly and suspiciously in his overcoat.
Ramos: “I told Steve Gutman about it. I said, ‘This is really unusual. You can’t believe what I just saw.’ He said, ‘Gee, I have no idea what that means.’
“Obviously, he had gone to make a phone call off the property, or something like that. Maybe he had a contract in hand. My feeling was, he had a contract in hand on Saturday. I don’t know that to be true, but that was my feeling, that he already knew that Parcells was going to retire as football coach and that he and [Patriots owner Robert] Kraft had already put together a package.”
Victor Green, Jets safety: “When I got done lifting, I went up to Belichick’s office and gave him a Tiffany paperweight for his desk, a congratulatory gift. It was so nice. It was like a snow globe, shaped like that. It was crystal. He took it, he thanked me. It was like nothing went down or was going down.”
Dan Henning, Jets quarterbacks coach: “[Belichick] called a meeting and we sat around, and he talked about what we were going to do for the next six weeks, like going to the Senior Bowl. Which was fine. He was the head coach. Business as usual. That’s the way I saw it.”
Parcells (from his book) : “From what I learned later, Belichick was not the same guy on Tuesday that he was on Monday. He was visibly nervous. He couldn’t stop his hands from shaking in the coaches’ meeting, which he called to an early halt.”
Muir: “I remember leaving the room and calling my wife and saying, ‘I think I need to go look for a job.'”
Mary Grace Tranchina, executive assistant to the coaching staff: “The coaches’ locker room was right across from my office and [Belichick] came out of the locker room freshly showered, but disheveled as could be. Like, I don’t know, it was strange. Looking back now, it makes sense now, but I never knew.”
Muir: “I left the building to go get a haircut. I came back in the building and everybody was glued to their TV. I said, ‘What the hell is going on?'”
Henning, hired by Parcells, not Belichick, walked to Parcells’ office to discuss his job status. He wondered if Belichick would retain him.
Henning: “[Parcells] said, ‘Sit down, you may not have to do anything.’ I said, ‘What are you talking about?’ He said, ‘Watch the TV.’ So I was sitting in there with Bill, watching the TV, when Belichick had the press conference and resigned. I said, ‘How did that all happen?’ He said, ‘Well, you know, he apparently has something going with another team.’ Obviously, New England.”
Parcells: “[I found out] that day, I guess. He came in and had a piece of paper in his hand and said he was resigning the job.”
Gutman: “Two words: Surprise and disappointment.”
Parcells: “I don’t know [if I was surprised]. I was just disappointed, I guess.”
Gutman: “I found out that minute — as he walked into the press conference.”
Ramos opened the news conference this way: “At this time, I’d like to introduce Bill Belichick, who has an announcement to make.” Belichick walked to the podium, giving a friendly hello as he sauntered past a reporter in the front row. With his shirt collar and tie knot askew, Belichick looked as if he had speed-dressed for the occasion.
Marvin Jones, Jets linebacker: “I remember watching the press conference with his wrinkled suit.”
Williams: “I remember getting off the treadmill and going in the training room, and we were sitting in there talking, and it came across the screen, across ESPN, that he resigned. I just saw him! I could tell he had something on his mind, but he didn’t say anything about that. He acted on instinct. He made up his mind, I guess, down there, and he went upstairs and did what he had to do.”
Banks: “I was on the Belt Parkway [in New York], driving home. I was listening to it on the radio and it was like, ‘Wow, I had no idea. I just talked to him.'”
Sal Paolantonio, ESPN reporter: “I was close to the center of the room [during the news conference], right in front. I could see everybody’s faces. I could see Steve Gutman and he was ashen-faced, like somebody just told him that he lost his dog. Belichick walked up to the podium and he looked unhinged. He looked like he was extremely upset and I didn’t know what the heck was going on.”
Keyshawn Johnson, Jets wide receiver: “I was standing along the wall in the back of the room. I was blindsided. I was like, damn, how did that happen? He writes it on a [loose-leaf] napkin and basically says he’s resigning. At that point, I’m walking down the hallway. I’m asking questions to assistant coaches, like, ‘What are we going to do?’ They didn’t have any answers. It kind of got out of control.”
Tranchina: “I was in the back of the auditorium … and my jaw was to the ground.”
Henning (who was watching in Parcells’ office): “[Parcells’] reaction was like he was watching game film, trying to understand everything that was going on. Bill had responsibilities on both ends of it. Here’s a guy that worked for him, he worked with for years and years. He knew there was going to be a tremendous outcry from both ends.”
Parcells: “I don’t recall too much. Your mind is on other things at the time when that was going on. I don’t have a real clear recollection of that.”
Gutman: “Surprise and disappointment. I keep saying the same thing because that’s what it was.”
After a 25-minute opening statement, followed by a Q&A with reporters, Belichick yielded the podium to Gutman and left the auditorium. Gutman told the reporters in attendance for the news conference: “We should have some feelings of sorrow and regret for him and his family. He obviously has some inner turmoil.”
Ramos: “You could tell by his speech, Steve was really, really angry.”
Belichick (in the ESPN documentary): “Essentially, the problem I had with the whole arrangement eventually was, when all this transpired, there was no owner. Mr. [Leon] Hess passed away before the ’99 season. There were two potential owners, and that was [Woody] Johnson and [Charles] Dolan. I hadn’t spoken with either one, but I had issues with both. It wasn’t Mr. Hess anymore, which was the original agreement. … That whole ownership configuration at that time was a major factor in my decision.”
(Belichick declined ESPN’s interview request for this story.)
Parcells (in his book): “His excuse about things changing with the death of Mr. Hess was weak.”
Keyshawn Johnson: [The Parcells-Belichick relationship] soured. Yeah, you could tell there was some sort of — I don’t know — tension. I think he did it because he didn’t want Parcells hovering over the top of him, trying to control what he wanted to do with the team. They’re boys now.”
Parcells: “[Belichick has] kind of told me what his feelings were on it. Not quite then, but after that. It took a little while. That gave me a little different point of view. I was disappointed. I’m sure I told him that, and that was that. That’s the way life is. It doesn’t always go the way it’s supposed to.”
Paolantonio: “It’s almost like a guy who, at the last minute, says, ‘I can’t marry this girl. It’s not going to work for me and I know I’m going to upset a lot of people. I’m going to upset this woman, I’m going to upset her family, and everybody close to her. I paid for the tuxes and the flowers and the dance hall, everything, but this isn’t the right thing for me to do.'”
Green: “He probably doesn’t have the Tiffany paperweight anymore because it had ‘Jets’ on it. [Laughs.] He probably gave it away to someone at this point.”
Paolantonio: “I hope somebody has that piece of paper [the “HC of the NYJ” resignation]. I hope when he goes into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, it’s part of the Bill Belichick exhibit. It should be an important part of his historical documents. It’s akin to having Richard Nixon’s letter of resignation.”
Alas, the paper apparently is lost. No one knows what happened to it. What they do remember is a certain newspaper headline.
The next morning, a Jets staffer clipped the New York Post back page and posted it on the bulletin board in the coaches’ wing. It screamed, “Belichicken!” It stayed up for 24 hours, drawing laughs from Belichick’s former colleagues.
A legal battle ensued between the Jets and Belichick, who tried — unsuccessfully — to void his contract with the team. It revived the so-called Border War between the Jets and Patriots, who clashed in 1997 when Parcells escaped his New England contract to join the Jets.
This time, Parcells and Kraft — bitter rivals — negotiated a compensation package. The Jets traded the rights to Belichick for a 2000 first-round pick, along with late-round swaps. Then linebackers coach for the Jets, Al Groh was named New York’s head coach for the 2000 season.
The Patriots said they did everything by the book, but some wonder if they had reached Belichick through back channels.
Parcells: “I’m not answering that.”
Gutman: “I just don’t know, I just don’t know.”
Banks: “Well, [Belichick has] always been a step ahead, put it that way. There may have been some communications going on.”
Henning: “Did he have a verbal deal? I don’t know whether he had a verbal deal, but I know they had conversations. Things like that don’t happen without having conversations. Let’s not kid ourselves. This type of thing happens every day in our business.”
Muir: “In retrospect, when I thought about it and put pieces to the puzzle together, I think there was a pre-arrangement between Kraft and Belichick. [Parcells] got wind of it and he knew if he retired or resigned, Belichick would be required by contract to be the head coach of the Jets.
“That explains [the] promptness of the resignation; it was to snare Belichick into the contract and screw Kraft. I do think Parcells was going to retire anyhow, but the promptness in which it was done was to try to get the rabbit in the snare trap.”
Williams: “Belichick is one of the greatest ever. I knew it then. Everybody who was there knew it then. He’s a genius at this game of football.”
Jones: “It was like letting air out of a tire.”
Green: “I don’t want to say I felt betrayed because that’s still his life, but I felt sadness because I felt like I was losing a mentor in Belichick. I always asked him questions about football. One time I asked him, ‘How can I be better?’ He said, ‘First of all, I want you to move to the front of the meeting room.’ From that moment, I sat in the front every single day. Even when he left, I always sat in the front of the class.”
Banks: “I think Bill would’ve done a great job with the Jets and, yes, I think it would’ve changed the course of history.”
Ramos: “Hindsight tells you it might have been the most important press conference in Jets history and New England history, based on the information that came from the press conference. Who knows what would’ve happened had Belichick taken over as head coach of the Jets? No one will ever know.”
Tranchina: “I remember [Belichick’s] very first Super Bowl with the Patriots. I said, ‘I’m not watching it.’ I went home to my one-bedroom apartment, drank a glass of wine — a couple of glasses of wine — and watched ‘Sex and the City.’ That was the first Super Bowl I didn’t watch … and then the second Super Bowl I didn’t watch … and the third … Every one he was in, I couldn’t watch it. I was so mad.”
Gutman: “He’s a successful coach, probably the most successful coach in the history of the league. I don’t know what else to think of it. … No [regrets]. You can’t live that way, no.”
Muir: “You have to give him credit. It took a lot of balls.”
Parcells: “Obviously, I had a high regard for him. I’m happy he’s done well. I’m the one who introduced him to the New England people (in 1996, when he hired Belichick as a Patriots assistant). I’m glad it worked out for him.”
Jones: “He and [then Jets personnel executive] Scott Pioli and all those guys went up there to New England. I would see him at pregame and say, ‘Why the f— didn’t you bring me with you?'” [Laughs]
Vinny Testaverde, Jets quarterback (1998-2003): “Years later, when I went to New England, toward the end of my career, a person whose name I won’t reveal said someday we’ll sit down, have a beer and talk about how the whole thing went down. To be honest, I never had an interest in knowing the story. Maybe some things are meant to be kept a secret.”
Eagles tight end Zach Ertz has been ruled out of Sunday’s regular-season finale at the New York Giants with back and rib injuries.
Ertz suffered a fractured rib, a source said, when he took a hit from safety Xavier Woods in the first quarter against the Dallas Cowboys last week. Ertz left for the locker room a short time later, but he returned to finish the game and ended with four catches for 28 yards.
Ertz did not practice all week.
Carson Wentz will be without his top passing option in a game the Eagles must win to clinch the NFC East and ensure a playoff berth. Otherwise, they’ll have to depend on a Cowboys loss to Washington.
“Medically, I want to make sure he’s 100 percent,” coach Doug Pederson said. “Zach is a tough guy. I know he wants to be out there, but at the same time, I’m not going to risk anything further for him personally.”
Receiver Nelson Agholor (knee) has also been ruled out for Sunday, while tackle Lane Johnson (ankle) and cornerback Jalen Mills (ankle) are questionable.
Running back Jordan Howard, meanwhile, has been medically cleared to return from a shoulder stinger and is “good to go” for Sunday, Pederson said.
Howard, who served as the Eagles’ primary back before the injury, has not played since Week 9.
The dynamics have shifted in Howard’s absence, with rookie Miles Sanders emerging as a critical piece of the Eagles’ offense. A candidate for Offensive Rookie of the Year, Sanders has accounted for 40% of the team’s production over the past two weeks and ranks seventh in the NFL in all-purpose yards (1,590).
Pederson suggested that Sanders will keep his spot atop the depth chart and that Howard will be worked back in gradually.
“The challenge is we’ve been planning [for the Giants] with Miles and Boston [Scott], and Jordan gives us a third back, situational guy,” Pederson said. “We understand who he is. But as far as the conditioning and the game shape and being ready, you just can’t give him a full complement of plays. And we don’t necessarily want to disrupt what we’ve got going, but he is a big piece, obviously, to our offense.”
Howard rushed for 525 yards on 119 carries (4.4 yards per carry) with 6 touchdowns over the first nine games before being hurt in a win over the Chicago Bears, his former team.
Devlin Hodges will be playing quarterback for the Steelers in their final game of 2019 and the team is hopeful that they’ll get a chance to play a postseason game in 2020.
Whether they advance to the playoffs or not, another quarterback has designs on making starts for them next year. That would be Ben Roethlisberger, who has been out since Week Two with an elbow injury that required him to have surgery.
Roethlisberger sent out a tweet wishing all a Merry Christmas and then followed it up with another one that addressed his plans for the coming year.
Roethlisberger is likely referring to a report from Chris Mortensen of ESPN on television earlier this week that claimed Roethlisberger had “some doubt” about playing again. Roethlisberger’s public statements have always shown an interest in returning to action next year.
Mortensen later reported that the Steelers are optimistic that Roethlisberger will make a full recovery and return to the field.
Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Josh Gordon has been suspended indefinitely for violating the NFL’s policies on performance-enhancing substances and substances of abuse.
The league announced the suspension Monday, one day after Gordon appeared in his fifth game this season with the Seahawks.
This marks Gordon’s sixth suspension since the 2013 season and the fifth for some form of substance abuse, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
“My heart goes out to Josh to have to face this again,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said Monday. “The fact that he’s up against it and all, it poses a great challenge to him. Fortunately, he’ll have the benefit of all of the league’s resources to support him and to help him and we’ll wish him the very best in taking care of business. It was very unfortunate.”
Gordon was aware that a suspension could be coming, a source told ESPN.
The Seahawks claimed Gordon last month after the former Pro Bowler was waived by New England. He has seven catches for 139 yards with Seattle, including a 58-yard reception during a 30-24 victory over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.
Gordon has been the Seahawks’ third receiver in terms of playing time behind Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf. His suspension leaves the Seahawks with six wide receivers on their active roster. David Moore, Jaron Brown and rookie John Ursua are the others.
Carroll said he saw no signs that Gordon had experienced a relapse. He was complimentary of the receiver’s work and the way he comported himself.
“He was great,” the coach said. “We were not aware that there was anything to be concerned about, other than the history, which we knew about.”
Gordon, 28, missed the entire 2015 and 2016 seasons as a member of the Cleveland Browns, and also was suspended last December for violating terms of his reinstatement, missing the final three games of the season with the New England Patriots.
There’s all sorts of reasons for Washington Redskins running back Adrian Peterson to want to surpass 1,000 yards rushing once again. It would further etch his name in history. It would prove what he can still do on the field as he approaches 35 years old.
And it would also allow him to make another half-million dollars.
With Derrius Guice sidelined because of another knee injury, the Redskins will lean even more on Peterson, which could be good for his pocketbook. If he rushes for 1,000 yards this season, Peterson will collect a $500,000 bonus. He needs 282 yards with three games remaining.
“It’ll happen,” he said.
Peterson rushed for 1,072 yards last season at age 33 — making him the oldest player since John Riggins cracked that mark in 1984 at age 35. But there was no bonus for Peterson last season. Instead, it earned him another two-year deal with Washington. And this season has fueled his desire to stick around a while.
His future will be determined, in part, by Washington’s next coach. Regardless, Peterson remains motivated.
“I’m going to keep going,” said Peterson, whose base salary is $1.03 million. “My body is feeling good. I’m still loving the game. Obviously I can still play and perform at a high level. Why walk away from it now? So, I’m going to keep going.”
Interim coach Bill Callahan said: “If you talk with him, he’ll play until he’s 40 years old. As long as he keeps producing, I don’t see why he can’t continue to play.”
Peterson, whose base salary is $2.25 million next season, signed a deal worth up to $8 million last offseason, loaded with incentives. But the most lucrative was rushing for 1,000 yards, which would be hard to do with a healthy Guice. But Guice tore his meniscus in the season opener, paving the way for Peterson to resume his role as a No. 1 back.
When Guice returned in Week 11, he and Peterson split the work. That could have ended his pursuit for 1,000 yards, but Peterson has another shot. His line let him know they wanted him to hit 1,000.
“Those guys up front were talking about it, ‘282.’ I heard another guy say, ‘282.’ I said, OK and I put it together,” Peterson said. “They definitely want me to get there, so it’ll happen.”
They also have taken notice of the potential payoff.
“That’s another reason,” center Chase Roullier said. “You’re always trying to help your teammates out with that, too.”
Peterson likely will need one big game. In the eight games under Callahan, Washington ranks 10th in rushing yards per game and fourth in yards per carry. And in the six games under Callahan in which Peterson has received at least 13 carries, he’s averaged 93 yards per game. That would leave him just short.
The hard part will be getting a lot of yards against the Eagles, though the Redskins do have confidence it can happen. Recent history doesn’t favor them: In the past five games against Philadelphia, all losses, the Redskins have averaged just 58.4 rushing yards per game. Peterson had a 90-yard touchdown run against the Eagles last season, but gained just eight yards on his other 12 carries against them.
He was inactive against them in Week 1, despite being healthy.
Regardless, barring injury he’ll soon move up the NFL’s all-time rushing list. He trails Curtis Martin by 65 yards for fifth place. It would take another season of 1,000 yards for him to move into fourth or possibly third.
“The ageless one,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said. “Just the way he prepares. I think that’s one of the things that has kept Adrian on the field and kept him plugged in. As much as they’ve tried to maybe go with other players, he keeps coming right back.”
It’s why he topped 1,000 yards last season despite a banged-up line that featured at least 35 different combinations during the season. And it’s why he’s done it in 2019 while playing with a passing game that ranks last in passing yards with rookies at quarterback (Dwayne Haskins) and at the starting receivers (Terry McLaurin, Steven Sims and Kelvin Harmon).
“It’s the mentality I have,” Peterson said. “I’ve had it my entire career.”