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NFL Combine Preview

By: — February 21, 2011 @ 10:31 am
Filed under: NFL Draft

The National Invitation Combine (NIC), better known as the NFL Combine, starts this Wednesday (2/23) and runs through the following Tuesday (3/1). 330 NFL prospects eligible to be drafted (276 seniors and 54 underclassmen) will be interviewed, measured, poked, prodded and workout in Indianapolis. North Carolina will be the represented the most, with 12 players receiving invites. The full official list of invitees can be found here. Media are not allowed in the actual workout sessions, so you can see exactly the same coverage they will be writing about on the NFL Network. The complete schedule of the network’s coverage can be found here.

Workouts to Watch
Here are some of the players whose overall workouts, or at least a specific event, will be must-see TV for draftniks.

Dontay Moch, OLB/DE, Nevada – perhaps no event at the Combine, for purely entertainment purposes, is more highly anticipated than Moch’s 40-yard dash. The BLESTO and National report from last spring (for an explanation of those two scouting services, has an excellent summary in this article) had the undersized DE (built more like a big RB at just under 6’2” and 230 pounds) with a 4.25 time. The lore already building is that he initially ran a 4.18 and was asked to run again, because no one believed it could be accurate when he posted the “verified” time. However, Nevada is considered a “fast track”, so there is some belief he and their other players are unlikely to live up to some of the high expectations for speed.

Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon – a torn right lateral meniscus at the Senior Bowl should prevent us from seeing his full range of amazing athletic ability, but if he can still bench, that will be another sideshow people are looking forward to. With a personal best of 44 reps of 225 pounds, he is regarded as the best threat to the Combine record of 51.

Noel Devine, RB, West Virginia – after a disappointing season, the outlook isn’t good for the smallest and lightest player in the draft, but he is one of the favorites to turn in the top overall 40-yard dash time.

Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU – one of the top overall athletes in the draft has a father who is a professional speed coach; think he’ll be prepared?

Allen Bailey, DL, Miami – his chiseled body impressed at the Senior Bowl weigh-in, but he continued to fail to standout on the field. He reportedly power cleans 400 pounds, squats 570 pounds and bench presses 405 with a 39-inch vertical and a 4.65 40-yard dash. When UM strength coach Andreu Swasey calls someone the most freakish athlete he’s seen in his decade on a team that has produced more than a few of them, that is quite a statement.

Nate Solder, OT, Colorado – standing over a verified 6’8”, the converted TE is a man-mountain who is expected to be this year’s Bruce Campbell when he workouts. While still a project, he is rated significantly higher than Campbell (who ended up a fourth-round pick) heading in to the Combine.

Virgil Green, TE, Nevada – Tony Pauline of TFY Draft Insiders and Sports Illustrated reports here that Green could come close to turning in the same kind of amazing performance by a TE that Vernon Davis did in 2006.

Tyron Smith, OT, USC – the biggest mistake on most mock drafts I see is no offensive tackle being projected in the first half of the draft. The position is too important. There is a good collection of solid prospects that look like late first through second round picks, and while I agree it is hard to differentiate them now, one or two will inevitably emerge out of the Combine. As an underclassman who hasn’t gotten an opportunity yet for more exposure in the senior all-star games, Smith could be one of the risers. He reportedly is up over 300 pounds (he played at around 285, which was a concern) and supposedly hasn’t lost any athleticism. If true, he’ll gain some separation from the pack coming out of the Combine.

Torrey Smith, WR, Maryland – lost among some of the big names in the draft, the underclassmen is expected to impress with his speed, like former teammate Darrius Heyward-Bey. Unlike DHB, Smith can catch and is looking to sneak in to the late first round for a team looking for a deep threat.

The Quarterbacks – despite the race being wide open to be the first QB selected, it sounds like, as usual, most of the top prospects won’t be throwing (although Jake Locker reportedly will). That’s a bit disappointing, but the good news there is an unusually high number of great all-around athletes in this QB class. Locker, Cam Newton, Blaine Gabbert, Colin Kaepernick, Tyrod Taylor, Christian Ponder, and Josh Portis could all log some explosion, speed, and agility numbers in tests that look more like they belong to running backs than quarterbacks. Portis is a guy I’m especially interested in. A cousin of Clinton Portis, he was Urban Meyer’s first recruit at Florida, then transferred to Maryland, but was ineligible and ended up at DII California (PA). He didn’t show much in the NFLPA All-Star Game, but he has the size and is supposedly is an excellent runner with a live arm.

Small School Guys – there are always a few small school guys who breakthrough with impressive workouts at the Combine and end up mid-round picks. Nobody follows them like Josh Buchanan, so I’ll just direct you to the article on his website about who to watch out for at the Combine.

Underclassmen Quarterbacks – The Kids are Alright

By: — February 16, 2011 @ 2:04 pm
Filed under: NFL Draft

Before deciding to return to school, Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck was considered a lock to be the first player selected in 2011 NFL Draft. A quarterback being selected first would be no surprise, as the prevailing mentality is that the worst team in the league must find a shiny new college quarterback to energize the franchise. In fact, eight of the last ten drafts have begun with one being selected. What would have been unusual, however, was that Luck was just a third-year sophomore.

Players just three years removed for their high school graduation have been eligible to petition to enter the NFL draft only since 1990 (previously the league had required four years). And the only redshirt sophomore drafted first overall was Michael Vick, ten years ago. While Luck won’t be joining the draft this year, the top quarterback prospects jockeying to be first-round picks are still primarily underclassmen. The lone senior prospect is Washington quarterback Jake Locker, who many believed would have challenged Sam Bradford last year as the first overall pick if he had declared early for the 2010 draft. However, after an injury-plagued and inconsistent senior season, Locker is no longer the favorite to be even the first quarterback selected.

Gabbert will be one of the first QBs taken in the 2011 draft.

A trio of underclassmen whose stock ascended through autumn are now in the discussion. Super-sized Arkansas junior Ryan Mallett continued his successful development on the field, and although exaggerated rumors of character concerns have him falling with pundits and draftniks, his potential should keep him from falling very far. With some help from the overhype machine in Bristol, Missouri’s Blaine Gabbert became the initial favorite to replace Luck as the first quarterback selected, but the new flavor of the week is Auburn junior Cam Newton after he impressed the media with his workout commercial recently. An undefeated regular season, a Heisman Trophy, a national championship, and a propagandistic, made-for-media workout later, it’s easy to forget that Newton was a JUCO transfer and hardly on the 2011 NFL radar just months ago.

It is unusual for so many underclassmen quarterbacks to be considered top prospects. Only four times in the last 20 years has the first round seen more than one selected at the position. Presumably, much of this can be attributed to the conventional wisdom that a quarterback is already a historically risky proposition to spend a first-round pick on, and underclassmen are even more of a gamble. They have less experience and often lack the mental and emotional maturity to succeed quickly. Legendary coach Bill Parcells had guidelines based on that perspective for evaluating the position. They were broken down into four “rules” for drafting quarterbacks. As explained by K.C. Joyner in an article on last year, Parcells’ picks had to (1) be a three-year starter, (2) lead team to at least 23 victories, (3) be a senior, and (4) be a college graduate. The first three criteria deal with those experience and maturity aspects, but the last goes deeper. Graduation may seem redundant, or possibly unnecessary, in lieu of the rest of the list, but it actually adds another dimension—the dedication and focus to achieve a long-term goal.

Two years ago, another trio of underclassmen quarterbacks were all on their way to being first round picks. Before that draft, Vic Carucci of wrote an article analyzing the recent history of underclassmen quarterbacks and demonstrated their higher risk through empirical evidence. Let’s update his chart since then (amending an error in the omission of Aaron Rodgers on his list) and revisit the discussion of drafting an underclassmen quarterback in the first round.

 Underclassmen QBs Drafted in 1st Round 1990-2010
Draft Name # Team School
2009 Matthew Stafford 1 Lions Georgia
2009 Mark Sanchez 5 Jets USC
2009 Josh Freeman 17 Buccaneers Kansas State
2007 JaMarcus Russell 1 Raiders LSU
2006 Vince Young 3 Titans Texas
2005 Alex Smith 1 49ers Utah
2005 Aaron Rodgers 24 Packers California
2004 Ben Roethlisberger 11 Steelers Miami (Ohio)
2003 Rex Grossman 22 Bears Florida
2001 Michael Vick* 1 Falcons Virginia Tech
1999 Tim Couch 1 Browns Kentucky
1998 Ryan Leaf 2 Chargers Washington State
1994 Heath Shuler 3 Redskins Tennessee
1994 Trent Dilfer 6 Buccaneers Fresno State
1993 Drew Bledsoe 1 Patriots Washington State
1992 Tommy Maddox* 25 Broncos UCLA
1991 Todd Marinovich* 24 Raiders USC
1990 Jeff George 1 Colts Illinois
1990 Andre Ware 7 Lions Houston
* Third-year sophomore

A record three underclassmen quarterbacks drafted in the first round of 2009 ratcheted up the sample set. As this is a copycat league, their progress in the last two years will likely have a proportionally greater influence on the decisions of front offices this year than further back. Injuries have impeded the beginning of Stafford’s career, but the results and leadership when he has played have been promising for an organization beginning to turn things around after years of futility. While Sanchez still shows inconsistency week-to-week, he led a stacked club deep into a conference championship for the second straight season. Finally, Freeman’s progress in his second season has been tremendous, and the future looks brighter as he grows with a young core of promising skill players around him. Going back a few more years, you find Roethlisberger and Rodgers, who have won three of the last six Super Bowls. While cautionary tales like JaMarcus Russell remain out there, limiting the scope of that list to more recent history shows that taking an underclassman at quarterback has produced more beneficial results than in the past. The poster boys for the maturity concern are Michael Vick and Vince Young. Vick initially helped Atlanta and has triumphantly returned playing elsewhere, but was that middling success worth the price of Vick’s transgressions and the lack of long-term return for the Falcons? Similarly for Young, he may ultimately find sustained success, but it won’t be for Tennessee, and his problems contributed to costing a head coach his job.

One thing is obvious, Parcells’ criteria is oversimplified for today’s league. As college football has evolved into a big business, with teams employing complex NFL offenses and the pressure to win being immense, the learning curve and timeline to mature has sped up for these young men. And enough have quickly achieved success in the NFL to dispel at least one notion: An underclassman quarterback is no more of a risk as a first-round pick than a senior graduate.

2011 NFL Mock Draft – Version 1.0

By: — February 8, 2011 @ 9:27 am
Filed under: NFL Draft

Round 1

Note: Listed by pick, team, player, position and college. Underclassmen indicated by a single asterisk (*) for juniors and a double asterisk (**) for third-year sophomores.

1. Carolina Panthers – Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn*

With Andrew Luck returning to Stanford, the Panthers select a DT with the top overall pick for the first time since 1994. The Lombardi Award winner culminated his incredible rise this season with an MVP performance in Auburn’s national championship victory.

2. Denver Broncos – Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU*

Defensive line may be a bigger need, but Peterson is unique talent as a big corner with speed who is a playmaker on defense and as a returner in the mold of Charles Woodson. The potential departure of Champ Bailey in free agency could make this a need pick, as well.

3. Buffalo Bills – Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson*

Head coach Chan Gailey seems impressed enough with QB Ryan Fitzpatrick to instead use this pick to address the struggling defense. An impressive physical specimen, Bowers finally put it all together on the field, leading all FBS schools with 15.5 sacks and second with 26 tackles for loss.

4. Cincinnati Bengals – A.J. Green, WR, Georgia*

With Terrell Owens gone and Chad Ochocinco possibly following him, the Bengals add perhaps the most talented overall prospect in the draft to play opposite emerging WR Jerome Simpson. If Carson Palmer actually does get traded, we could see the first QB off the board here instead.

5. Arizona Cardinals – Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M

After being limited by an ankle injury early in the season, the 2009 FBS sack leader was back to terrorizing quarterbacks as the year closed. Ryan Mallett may remind head coach Ken Whisenhunt of another super-sized QB who he helped develop as the offensive coordinator in Pittsburgh, but this division is winnable if the Cardinals bring in a veteran starter.

6. Cleveland Browns – Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina*

A brain tumor in high school and missing this past season as part of the agent scandal that rocked the UNC program make him a risky pick. However, the freakish athleticism and ability, reminiscent of another former Tar Heel, Julius Peppers, also make the reward high.

7. San Francisco 49ers – Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri*

New head coach Jim Harbaugh will see if he can put together the rest of the package in a player with physical characteristics similar to Andrew Luck.

8. Tennessee Titans – Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas*

Despite the departure of head coach Jeff Fisher, GM Mike Reinfeldt has said the team still plans to follow through on their previously announced intention to trade or cut Vince Young. Mallett has received a lot of negative reviews for his perceived issues, tangible and intangible, but the rocket-armed QB did nothing but improve on the field.

9. Dallas Cowboys – Marcell Dareus, DE, Alabama*

Three of the Cowboys top four ends are free agents. Expect them to fix secondary issues by going after free agent Nnamdi Asomugha, who played under new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan in Oakland.

10. Washington Redskins – Jake Locker, QB, Washington

Rumor was head coach Mike Shanahan was a big fan of Locker last year. Most were disappointed Locker failed to achieve the inflated expectations that were put out there for him, but he played through an injury-filled season to finally lead the Huskies to a winning record and remains an amazing prospect physically.

11. Houston Texans – Aldon Smith, OLB, Missouri**

New defensive coordinator Wade Phillips gets a player with potential to be another DeMarcus Ware for him.

12. Minnesota Vikings – Cam Newton, QB, Auburn*

After bringing Craig Johnson from Tennessee to be their new QB coach, there was speculation Vince Young could follow him. I think the Vikings look to start fresh at the position and expect either Newton or Jake Locker to be available here. Both are mobile options that Johnson is a good match to work with. New offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave is also coming off helping develop a rookie QB to quick success in Atlanta.

13. Detroit Lions – Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska

Cornerback is a strength of this draft class, so the Lions could look in other directions at this pick, but I don’t think they pass up Amukamara if he is available here.

14. St. Louis Rams – Julio Jones, WR, Alabama*

The Rams got some unexpected highlights out of their patchwork receiving corps, but they need a premier weapon to pair with their new franchise QB if they want to get the most out of him.

15. Miami Dolphins – Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama*

Expected to be the strength of their offense, the running game was extremely disappointing behind Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams. Both are free agents and past their prime, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see both gone and Ingram or Mikel LeShoure the new face of the backfield.

16. Jacksonville Jaguars – Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado

While always difficult to predict what GM Gene Smith will do in the draft, he’s been very forthcoming about his intent to focus on improving talent on the defensive side of the ball. A shutdown corner with great measurabes, Smith has flown under the radar at a struggling Colorado program and without gaudy numbers because opposing quarterbacks avoided him.

17. New England Patriots (via Oakland Raiders) – Cameron Jordan, DE, California

The versatile and fundamentally sound Jordan is the ideal Belichick player, but he may not fall this far after an impressive week at the Senior Bowl. If he does, the Patriots flip the pick they acquired for Richard Seymour to get him.

18. San Diego Chargers – Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State

After an up-and-down season, a dominating performance in the Sugar Bowl reminded teams of why he was one of the top prospects as a five-technique DE at the beginning of 2010. Tommy John surgery in January will limit him at the NFL Combine, but isn’t of long-term concern.

19. New York Giants – Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College

The value in this draft looks like it will be the offensive tackles. Despite a number of potential left tackle prospects, none have separated themselves from the pack yet. After the NFL Combine, one or more are likely to be locked in to the top half of the draft because of the importance of the position. With ideal measurables, four years of quality starting experience and enough athleticism, Castonzo is a good bet to be the first off the board.

20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Adrian Clayton, DE, Iowa

After being regarded as one of the top overall prospects entering the year, a disappointing season dropped his stock. He didn’t do himself any favors by not participating in the Senior Bowl. He could be a value pick for the Bucs here, who look to bolster their edge pass rushing after focusing on the interior line in last year’s draft. However, an underwhelming performance at the NFL Combine could have him fall out of the first round.

21. Kansas City Chiefs – Phil Taylor, NT, Baylor

The increase in 3-4 defenses in the league has put a premium on true nose tackles. Ron Edwards and Shaun Smith formed a serviceable tandem during the team’s year of transition, but both are free agents and Taylor has rising up draft boards after an impressive Senior Bowl week.

22. Indianapolis Colts – Tyron Smith, OT, USC*

Smith has exciting potential, but after spending last season on the right side and weighing under 300 pounds, there is risk in betting on him meeting that potential. Lacking the classic bulk, he is a better fit for their zone-blocking scheme, although the Colts have begun moving away from it. The termination of running back coach Gene Huey may mean more changes in blocking approach are in store.

23. Philadelphia Eagles – Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin

He might lack the footwork to be a left tackle, but the right side is just as important with a left-handed Michael Vick in Philadelphia. With a nasty attitude and some physical similarities, Carimi will remind some of Jon Runyan, the man Winston Justice has been unable to successfully replace at RT.

24. New Orleans Saints – Akeem Ayers, LB, UCLA*

The top pure linebacker in the draft, the Saints would be thrilled to have him strengthen their weakest unit overall.

25. Seattle Seahawks – Aaron Williams, CB, Texas*

Head coach Peter Carroll has a lot of holes to fill in his second season despite backing in to the playoffs, but cornerback might be of the most immediate concern. This pick will be interesting if one or more of the top four quarterbacks fall here, especially local hero Jake Locker.

26. Baltimore Ravens – Brandon Harris, CB, Miami*

The team has just Lardarius Webb and Domonique Foxworth under contract, with the lateral coming off a blown knee. Efforts to plug the position with free agents haven’t been successful and they need an influx of talented youth.

27. Atlanta Falcons – Kyle Rudolph, TE, Notre Dame*

The severe hamstring injury that ended his season early will help Rudolph fall here for the team to get the eventual replacement to Tony Gonzalez. With the future Hall of Famer around for another year, Rudolph has time to fully recover and be eased in to a feature role as he learns watching one of the best.

28. New England Patriots – Ryan Kerrigan, OLB, Purdue

A classic high-motor guy, Kerrigan produced with tenacity over athletic ability. His fringe first-round stock will take a hit with many teams at the NFL Combine, but he fits the Belichick profile and should remind him of Mike Vrabel.

29. Chicago Bears – Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State

The only surprise at this pick will be which offensive tackle GM Jerry Angelo selects. He tried the last time the Bears had a first-round pick (2008) and failed, with Chris Williams moving to guard this year. This draft projects to set up nicely for the Bears to try to fill their biggest need again, after leading the league in sacks allowed.

30. New York Jets – Muhammad Wilkerson, DE, Temple*

The biggest strength of this draft may be 3-4 DE prospects, so the Jets should find a great value here at a position where age and depth are a concern. Under the radar in the MAC, Wilkerson has been a beast at DT this season, but has the agility and ability to penetrate that should make him a great fit at end for the Jets.

31. Pittsburgh Steelers – J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin*

While usually strictly adhering to a policy of drafting the best player available over need, the two may converge this year. After season-ending injuries in three of the last four years and turning 35 this year, the end is near for stalwart DE Aaron Smith. Like Smith, Watt has the prototypical build for a five-technique DE and rose up draft boards after showing some surprising ability to penetrate as a pass rusher.

32. Green Bay Packers – Jonathan Baldwin, WR, Pittsburgh*

If he runs well at the NFL Combine, he won’t last this long. The depth of the Packers was highlighted on their way to winning the Super Bowl despite a number of key injuries, so they definitely have the luxury of drafting the best player available. WR could be more of a need than expected as Donald Driver’s career is coming to an end and James Jones could look to cash in on free agency.

Dave’s Take: Super Bowl – Fantasy Football Tips, News & Notes

By: — February 4, 2011 @ 2:16 pm

Is Orton really competing for the starting QB job?

1. Recently installed as the Broncos’ executive vice president of football operations, John Elway stated this week that the team would enter training camp with an open competition at the quarterback position. However, the odds are long that 2010 first round pick Tim Tebow will not be starting on opening day. By going public that there would be a competition at the position, Elway accomplished two goals. First, he keeps the heat on Tebow and reinforces that he will need to work hard during the offseason to win the starting position. Secondly, he signals to other teams potentially interested in Kyle Orton that Orton is in the team’s plans and won’t be released by the club. Therefore, any team looking at Orton as a potential starter in 2011 will need to acquire him via trade from the Broncos. Denver has taken some heat for giving Elway such a prominent role despite his inexperience but the early indications are that he is a quick study and that bodes well for Broncos fans.

2. The Falcons signed head coach Mike Smith to a three-year contract extension this week, locking up him through the 2014 season. Smith led the Falcons to the top seed in the NFC this season and the Falcons have had a winning record in each of his three years in Atlanta, going 33-15 over those seasons. The team compiled back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in the franchise’s history under Smith’s tenure and with this extension, the AFC South will boast arguably the top group of division coaches in the league over the next few years. Sean Payton led the Saints to the Super Bowl championship last season while the Buccaneers Raheem Morris finished second in the AP Coach of the Year voting this season. In Carolina, the Panthers have brought in Ron Rivera and he has been a successful defensive coordinator for several seasons. The AFC South had two playoff participants this year and it won’t be a surprise if that remains the case for the next couple of seasons.

3. Sticking with the Falcons, general manager Thomas Dimitroff faces some interesting offseason decisions regarding the team’s stable of running backs. While Michael Turner is clearly the team’s most talented back and is signed long term, both of the team’s top backups are likely to be unrestricted free agents once a new collective bargaining agreement is signed. Jason Snelling took over as Turner’s top backup during 2009 and held that role this past season. Jerious Norwood has struggled with injuries over the past two seasons, playing in just 12 games, but remains an explosive player when healthy and can also contribute as a returner. With Snelling having proven to be a productive receiver out of the backfield (a role that Turner has never embraced) with 74 receptions over the last two years, there is less of a need for the Falcons to bring Norwood back. However, the Falcons rely heavily on the ground game and Norwood’s leverage is significantly hampered due to his inability to stay healthy so there is a strong chance he will be back in Atlanta in 2011.

4. Over in Carolina, the Panthers surely felt the sting when Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck chose to forego turning pro, leaving 2010 draft picks Jimmy Clausen and Tony Pike as the only players at the position likely to return to the team for the 2011 season. While Panthers general manager Marty Hurney went public with the team’s plans to upgrade the quarterback position, don’t be surprised if Clausen ends up starting on opening day next season. With a defensive minded head coach in Ron Rivera, a stable of talented running backs and an offensive line built for run blocking, the Panthers will likely employ a short passing attack which suits a young quarterback like Clausen. With none of this year’s crop of rookie quarterbacks being worthy of being the top overall selection in the draft and this year’s crop of veteran free agents on the downside of their careers, the odds are strong that Clausen will emerge as the Panthers starter in 2011.

5. In Cincinnati, the Bengals took their time in deciding the fate of offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski, finally choosing to fire him this week. Bratkowski successfully used a heavily run-based offense in 2009 with the team winning the AFC North title that season. However, with the addition of Terrell Owens, Bratkowski abandoned the running game with decidedly mixed results. Jay Gruden, Jon’s brother, will take over for Bratkowski next season and he inherits an offense with a number of pressing issues. Quarterback Carson Palmer has asked to be traded, running back Cedric Benson is a free agent and wants a commitment to the running game before re-signing, Owens won’t be back and Chad OchoCinco may be on his way out as well, leaving a largely unproven trio of wide receivers in Andre Caldwell, Jerome Simpson and Jordan Shipley. This will be Gruden’s first season as an offensive coordinator in the league and that factor combined with the uncertainties at several skill positions could turn the Bengals offense into a fantasy mess in 2011.

6. The Chiefs were in the market for an offensive coordinator after Charlie Weis chose to leave Kansas City for the comfy confines of the coordinators role with the Florida Gators. Rather than bring in a big name for the position, they chose to promote offensive line coach Bill Muir. Muir’s promotion removes any doubt that head coach Todd Haley will be the main driving force and play caller for the Chiefs offense in 2011. The decision to hire Muir doesn’t come as a surprise as there were several rumours during the season that Haley clashed with Weis over the team’s offensive direction. Haley’s strong personality may have scared away potential candidates but the more likely scenario is that he wanted the added responsibilities and an offensive coordinator who isn’t likely to clash with him on game day.

7. Super Bowl Fact: For the first time in its 45-year history, the Super Bowl will be without cheerleaders. The Steelers and Packers franchises do not employ cheerleaders so this Sunday’s game will be the first Super Bowl without them. And frankly speaking, if you miss them, you’re missing the point.

8. Super Bowl Prediction: Packers 24, Steelers 20.

9. Hall of Fame Prediction: Marshall Faulk, Deion Sanders, Curtis Martin, Dermontti Dawson, Andre Reed.

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