Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Where are your former Browns now? K Phil Dawson


25 questions with one of Cleveland’s best clutch kickers and franchise leader  

By Barry Shuck  Nov 24, 2020, 4:06am EST 


Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images


To uneducated sports fans, that is simply a number. The quantity of judges on “America’s Got Talent” or “The Voice.” The number of fingers cartoon characters have. The smallest squared prime and the only even number in this form. The four corners of the globe. Four basic states of matter. On a keyboard, the dollar sign is also the number 4 key. In Revelations, four horsemen arrive with specific functions. Four-letter words. Four beats per measure needed to write a song. The “Final Four.” Four seasons. Four legs on a chair. Four suits of playing cards.

But for Cleveland Browns’ fans, the Number 4 represents one thing: Phil Dawson’s jersey number.

Dawson kicked for Cleveland for 14 seasons. He came to the Browns in the first year of the “New Browns” season of 1999. The following years would be brutal with nominal success as an “expansion club.” But, number 4 was a constant. Dependability and probability were his friends.

His nickname? Mr. Reliable.

Dawson was not handed the kicking job with the Browns initially. He was one of many who were signed to compete for the position. And he won the job with consistency. Then, he scored the first points ever for the New Browns in Week 2 on a 41-yard field goal in a 26-9 loss to the Tennessee Titans.

People assume kickers are a disposable occupation. If they miss only a few kicks, toss them and merely get another. Pretty simple. But how many times has the kicker won the game on the final kick? Or won the game by nailing three, four or five kicks in a single game and account for most of the points? How many times has a kicker booted the kickoff to where the other team could not return the kick?

The league seems to be against kickers - or at the very least wishing to hog-tie them. At one point, the goal posts were on the goal line before being moved back to the end line which added ten yards to every kick made good. Look at where the point-after-try is located today. Kickoffs were moved back. Kicking tees on field goals are a thing of the past. Kickers even have their own footballs, called the “K ball”, during contests. These balls are harder and slicker than the footballs used during the course of the game. They’re shiny and new. Since 1999, every kicker, long snapper and punter has complained about the K-ball to anyone who would listen.

Kickers are people too.

While with Cleveland, Dawson attempted 363 field goals and connected on 305. That equates to an incredible 84% completion ratio. He was 24 of 34 kicks of 50-yards or longer with his longest 56-yards. Dawson competed as a Brown in 215 games. In 14 seasons, he only missed eight PATs for a 97.8% completion ratio. Plus, he had 1,205 kickoffs.

Dawson holds several Cleveland Browns records including most field goals in a single game (6), most consecutive field goals made (29), and then beat one of the Browns’ Holy Grail of records with the most career field goals. At the time, Lou “The Toe” Groza held that record of 234. On October 10, 2010, Dawson broke Groza’s record; which now has been extended to 305.

He attended college at Texas. Dawson is most known for his historic kick against Virginia, a game-winning 50-yard field goal into a 30-MPH headwind as time expired after Virginia had just made a 56-yarder. Dawson was a First Team All-American in his junior and senior campaigns as well as All-Big 12 both seasons.

After his senior season at Texas, despite the accolades and success, Dawson went undrafted and signed with the Oakland Raiders where Greg Davis was the incumbent kicker. Shortly thereafter, the Raiders waived him. As fate would have it, the New England Patriots claimed him and placed him on their practice squad where he remained all year. Despite not being on any club’s active roster, the time with the Patriots proved to be some of the most valuable seasoning he could have utilized. For one, it was a cold environment which proved incredibly useful once he became the Browns’ full-time kicker. Another valuable resource was that Adam Vinatieri, one of the greatest kickers in the league, became his mentor and helped Dawson any way he could.

While with Cleveland, there was created “The Phil Dawson Rule.” On November 18, 2007 in a road game against the Baltimore Ravens, Dawson lined up to kick a game-tying 51-yard field goal to send the game into overtime. His kick hit the left upright, then fell onto the goal post stanchion, and then bounced forward back onto the field. The stanchion is the curved metal portion that holds the cross bar which holds the uprights. It is located inside the goal posts.

At first, the kick was ruled no good. The Ravens raced into their locker room victorious. Meanwhile, the officials huddled and discussed the bouncing football’s journey. They determined that since the ball fell inside the goal posts, it did not matter where it ended up. The field goal was indeed good. At the time, the play was not reviewable. However, the play was reversed “after discussion” instead of “after further review.” Basically the same as picking up a flag after a Zebra huddle. “The Phil Dawson Rule” allowed kicks that hit the uprights or crossbar or any other parts to be reviewed.

Dawson will be forever remembered for his crucial kicks in the “Snow Bowl.”

He was franchised in 2011 and then after making the Pro Bowl in 2012, the Browns did not make an offer to keep him under head coach Pat Shurmur and Chief executive officer Joe Banner. Neither of these decision makers remained with Cleveland for very long.

Dawson then signed with the San Francisco 49ers on a one-year deal where he was reunited with former Browns’ Special Teams coach Brad Seely. Dawson finished the 2013 season with the second most points (140) and field goals (32) in 49ers’ team history.

And during that season, on September 26 against the St. Louis Rams, Dawson attempted a 71-yard “Fair Catch Kick” that went wide left but was only one of a select few of these types of kicks ever attempted in NFL history. So, Dawson has that on his resume.

Dawson played four seasons with San Francisco, two with the Arizona Cardinals and then signed a one-day contract with Cleveland so that he could retire as a Cleveland Brown.

Today, Dawson is the Special Teams Coordinator for Lipscomb Academy in Nashville, Tennessee. He and his wife Shannon have been married since 1999 and have three children: Dru (age 19), Beau (17) and Sophiann (14). Dawson is a devoted Christian.

Dawgs By Nature caught up with Number 4 to find out why he has an involvement with the Secret Service, what it was like being on the first roster of the “New Browns”, and if Lou “The Toe” Groza is mad at him for breaking his longtime record.

DBN: You were a kicker on your high school squad. Did you also play soccer in high school, and how did you realize you could kick?

Dawson: Kicking chose me. I never wanted to kick. I played linebacker primarily, but obviously, somebody had to kick. I knew I could kick a ball from playing soccer as a kid. All my buddies encouraged me to go try. I made a 47-yard field goal in ninth grade and the rest was history.

DBN: In addition to being named Two Time All-American and All-Big 12 your final two seasons at the University of Texas, what you were most famous for in college was the game-winning 50-yard field goal into a gusty 30-MPH headwind. How did you decide to approach the kick when you went onto the field pre-kick?

Dawson: The Virginia kick is the one I am most remembered for during my time at the University of Texas. That win was the school’s 700th all-time win. I tried to approach that kick like any other: stick to my routine and most importantly - kick that ball the same as all others.

DBN: You were in the 1998 draft class that featured Peyton Manning, Randy Moss, Hines Ward, Charles Woodson and Matt Hasselbeck. Yet, despite all the success you had in college, you went undrafted along with another successful kicker Mike Vanderjagt. Why don’t NFL clubs put more emphasis on drafting kickers?

Dawson: Kickers don’t get drafted much, and if they do, it is generally late. Yet when a football season breaks out, everyone is trying to find a capable kicker. If kickers were so easy to find, why is there such turnover every year? There are only 32 of these spots in the world. It is my opinion, that unlike every other position, where there are coaches and scouts who understand the mechanics and techniques of that position and as a result can evaluate young players coming out of college; very few clubs have anyone inside their organization who knows anything about the mechanics and techniques of a kicker. Organizations are NOT going to use a high draft pick on a player that they can NOT forecast success for.

DBN: In your rookie season you ended up on the practice squad of the New England Patriots under head coach Pete Carroll where veteran Adam Vinatieri was the starter. What was your first training camp like and did Vinatieri help you or treat you like the kid who was there to take his job?

Dawson: My practice squad season in New England was not a lot of fun, but was tremendously important to my growth as a kicker. Being a kid from Texas, I had never kicked in super cold weather before. I obviously got a dose of that. Adam was incredible that season. He was super-professional, and looked for ways to teach me. I have always been appreciative since and have certainly used his advice in my career. Kicking in the cold weather paid dividends given I spent the next 14 years in Cleveland.

Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

DBN: The New Cleveland Browns began in 1999 and signed you as a free agent. How did this happen, how did you find out you were moving to Cleveland, and who was your competition in training camp?

Dawson: We were all new in Cleveland in 1999. There were new people everywhere. I had to beat out several guys to win the job: Danny Knight, Chris Boniol and Jose Cortez. It was not an easy training camp, but I had to compete literally everyday to survive.

DBN: You scored the very first points for the New Browns in Week 2 against the Tennessee Titans with a 41-yard field goal halfway through the second quarter. What was the atmosphere like, and how did you feel about being the beginning part of the new team?

Dawson: I will always remember that first field goal - Week 2 in Tennessee in 1999. To see that first field goal go thru was a beautiful sight. My family was all there to witness it and I knew then, that I could perform at the NFL level.

DBN: That first season back as a franchise was in 1999. What was the buzz like in Cleveland getting their Browns back?

Dawson: Cleveland was wounded from losing their team. You could feel the pain all around. Once the season began, it was almost like going thru the stages of grief. Beating Pittsburgh was a high point that season and really helped the City start to feel good again.

2011 Panini Adrenalyn XL football card #79

DBN: Where did you live, and what places did you frequent to eat or go out after games?

Dawson: I was a Westlake guy. I loved going to Crocker Park. My places to eat were Cabin Club, Hyde Park and Blue Pointe.

DBN: Did you develop any pre-game or in-game rituals or superstitions?

Dawson: I was a huge routine guy. I followed the same routine for 21 years in the NFL. From what I ate, to when I went to bed, to what time I got to the stadium, to what I did on the sideline during the game.

Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

DBN: Does it really “ice” the kicker when the opposing coach takes a time-out right before a game-winning kick, or is this just a television myth?

Dawson: I have always laughed at “icing the kicker”. Kickers are on the sideline the entire game. What is 30 more seconds going to do?

DBN: In your 14 seasons with the Browns you had an incredible 84% field goal percentage. What do you attribute that success to?

Dawson: I worked relentlessly 365 days a year for my 14 years in Cleveland to be the best I could be. There were no small things and no days off.

DBN: In fantasy football, every “owner” waits until the last two rounds to select their kicker, yet many games are decided by numerous field goals. Why don’t kickers get any love?

Dawson: Sounds like a mistake by people to me.

Photo by: Diamond Images/Getty Images

DBN: Lou Groza was the kicking standard for the Browns and forever had the most field goals with 234. In Week 5 of the 2010 season you tied his record in a loss against the Atlanta Falcons. The following week, the Browns drove the field and you booted a 39-yarder against the Pittsburgh Steelers to break his record. Every Halloween, does Groza’s spirit seek you out and haunt you?

Dawson: Mr. Groza is the Cleveland Browns. It was a thrill to meet him. It was a privilege to chase his records. It was incredible to break them.

DBN: What was the most memorable kick you made while with the Browns?

Dawson: I loved them all. So much work went into so few opportunities, I enjoyed every one that was good.

DBN: You made the Pro Bowl in 2012 after you went 29 of 31 kicks for a 93.5 kicking percentage. How did you find out you had made the All-Star squad, and who was the first person you told?

Dawson: I knew the Pro Bowl team would be announced that day. Coach Pat Shurmur called me to let me know. I literally had to pull off the side of the road to gather myself. I immediately called the one person on the planet that knew how hard the road had been for me - my wife Shannon. We celebrated as a family that night.

DBN: You played with a ton of talent in your career. With the Browns, who were the locker room entertainers?

Dawson: (Offensive guard) Barry Stokes was hands down the funniest guy to make his way through Cleveland during my time there.

DBN: Is there a different approach/steps/angles you have to make in attempting a kick of over 50-yards versus kicks under 30-yards?

Dawson: I treated every kick the same. Kicked every ball the same. Given the weather and field conditions, there are all kind of calculations that go into where to aim on that particular kick.

DBN: What is the “Phil Dawson Rule” and where can we buy a T-shirt with this printed on it?

Dawson: The “Phil Dawson Rule” was born after the game in Baltimore where the ball bounced all over the place. The rule now allows the refs the opportunity to review a FG that bounces around like that. I have no idea on where to get a t shirt!

DBN: You made the Pro Bowl in 2012 yet signed with the San Francisco 49ers for the 2013 season. What were the circumstances of why you didn’t resign with Cleveland?

Dawson: I begged to stay in Cleveland. (Chief executive officer) Joe Banner was not interested and I did not receive an offer to sign and remain with the only team I had ever known.

DBN: After the Browns, you had several more excellent seasons with San Fran and later Arizona. How satisfying was it to kick for another six seasons, and did your family move with you each time?

Dawson: I was thrilled to have the opportunity to play six more seasons after my time in Cleveland. To play 21 years in the NFL is more than anybody could have expected. My family moved back to Texas for those six seasons which made it difficult to enjoy for me.

DBN: You currently are the Special Teams coach of a high school team. How did you get this gig, and is this something you hope will escalate you into the college ranks one day?

Dawson: I love football. I knew in my post-playing days that i would be involved somehow in the game. I am coaching with my old teammate, Trent Dilfer at Lipscomb Academy in Nashville. I have the privilege of coaching my son Beau, a junior tight end. We will see where this goes from here, but I really enjoy working with high school aged boys and the opportunities that being a high school coach present.

DBN: Your talented wife Shannon produced an album in 2013 called “Redemption.” Is the single “He Chose Me” about her way of saying she snagged a Pro Bowl kicker as her husband?

Dawson: My wife would not write a song about her kicker husband, trust me!!

DBN: In the new stadium, you installed a small flag in a gap in the Southwest corner of the end zone to give an indication of what the wind was doing. How was this idea conceived, when did you install it, did it help, and is it still there?

Dawson: Early in my time in Cleveland, I noticed that days when the wind was out of the Southwest, it was a brutal day to kick. I needed some sort of gauge of how hard the wind was entering the Southwest tunnel of the stadium. I asked Chris Powell, our grounds crew leader, if he could get some sort of flag up. The next home game, there it was. I believe it is still there to this day, but with the stadium renovations, I don’t think that Southwest tunnel is as big as it used to be.

DBN: How did a former Secret Service sniper help you with determining wind conditions?

Dawson: Ken Rundle, former Secret Service sniper taught me that the angle a flag is blowing, if you divide by four, that is the approximate wind speed. I took his word for it.

DBN: What were your fondest moments of being a Cleveland Brown?

Dawson: I have nothing but fond memories of my time in Cleveland. I hope the people there found me to be one of them. I look forward to giving back to the city/organization in some way in the future. I am a proud Cleveland Brown.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Iowa Football: Several former Hawkeyes showed out in NFL Week 11


by Joe Kipp1 day ago

It was a great day to be a former member of the Iowa football team. Several former Hawkeyes produced game changing plays for their NFL team in Week 11.

Members of the Iowa Hawkeyes – both past and present – showed their best this past weekend. After the Iowa football team defeated Penn State on Saturday 41-21, many former Hawkeye players in the NFL produced noteworthy performances for their respective teams.

Let’s start from the top.

Washington Football team guard Brandon Scherff received the game ball from head coach Ron Rivera for his effort against the Cincinnati Bengals. He finished with a grade of 90.8 from Pro Football Focus, the second-highest grade for any offensive lineman in Week 11. Washington won 20-9. Scherff played at Iowa from 2010-14 and won the Outland Trophy, given to the nation’s best lineman, in 2014.

Tennessee Titans safety Amani Hooker intercepted Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson in the red zone late in the third quarter of Sunday’s game. He also recorded two pass-breakups and six tackles (three solo). The Titans won in overtime 30-24. Hooker played for Iowa from 2016-2018.

Green Bay Packers linebacker Christian Kirksey produced a team-high 11 total tackles and grabbed an interception off Indianapolis Colts quarterback Philip Rivers. He was on the field for every defensive play, which resulted in a season-high 84 snaps. The Packers lost 34-31 in overtime. Kirksey played for the Hawkeyes from 2010-2013.

Cleveland Browns defensive end Adrian Clayborn had his best game of the 2020 season against the Philadelphia Eagles. Clayborn recorded a season-high 1.5 sacks and forced a fumble. He also played a season-high 39 snaps. The Browns won 22-17. Clayborn was a Hawkeye from 2006-10 and was consensus All-American at his position.

Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson produced eight tackles (three solo) and recorded the Vikings’ only sack against the Dallas Cowboys. He played on 76 percent of Minnesota’s defensive snaps. The Cowboys won 31-28. Johnson played at Iowa from 2012-16.

Detroit Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson caught four passes for 68 yards (17.0 average) in a losing effort. Three of his four catches went for 1st-downs. He also had a nice catch-and-run for a 35-yard gainer. Hockenson played at Iowa from 2016-18 and won the John Mackey Award as the top tight end in college football in 2018.

Iowa football currently holds a 3-2 record and hosts Nebraska on Friday, Nov. 27, in a battle for the Heroes Trophy. Meanwhile, former Hawkeyes continue to show out in the NFL week after week. There are 37 former Iowa players currently on an NFL roster, according to OurLads.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Patriots RB Rex Burkhead provides invaluable component to offense


By Karen Guregan

November 19, 2020

It’s fourth down. The season’s on the line. The Patriots need four yards to keep a last-minute drive alive. They need someone to make a play.

Whose number does Josh McDaniels call in that gotta-have-it moment?

Of course, the Patriots offensive coordinator might go with a Cam Newton keeper. That’s in the realm of possibility. So is a pass to James White. Both are good options in that scenario.

A sleeper choice?

Rex Burkhead, either on the ground or in the air.

The running back has been reliable all year, especially in crucial spots. If the need is three yards, he’ll deliver three yards. If a special play is needed to get in the end zone, Burkhead will make the play.

Over the years, the veteran back has emerged as a go-to guy in key spots for the Patriots.

“Whenever you put him in the game, he’s ready to go. Whether it’s first down, third down, red zone, two-minute, it doesn’t make any difference. Rex is ready to go,” said McDaniels. “He works really hard to be prepared. I have a lot of confidence and faith in all our backs. And Rex certainly has a skill set that allows you to use him in different ways.

“He’s run the ball very effectively this year, he’s caught the ball out of the backfield,” McDaniels went on. “He’s picked up the blitz. Again, there’s not a lot of things Rex doesn’t do well. Rex has made himself that kind of player with the way he works, and the way he approaches each week. He’s a very valuable piece to our team.”

On Sunday, he caught two touchdown passes, one from Newton, and one from Jakobi Meyers. He was a complement to Damien Harris in the rushing attack with six carries for 31 yards.

But let’s go inside the numbers to get a better view of Burkhead’s impact.

Second quarter, down 7-0, the Patriots faced a third-and-3 from the Baltimore 34-yard line. Burkhead’s number was called and he picked up four. First down, the chains kept moving. Three plays later, the Patriots were in the end zone, as Newton hooked up with Burkhead for a 7-yard touchdown pass on a first-and-goal from the 7, with the running back diving in for the score.

Later in the quarter, second-and-6 from the Ravens’ 24, McDaniels pulled out the trick play, with wideout Meyers hitting Burkhead in the end zone. It was a great pass by Meyers factoring in the elements, but an even better move by Burkhead to find the ball and create the necessary space to catch it.

This season, he’s just managed to step up his game in those key spots, with three rushing touchdowns and three receiving scores overall. Pro Football Focus has Burkhead rated as the ninth-best running back in the league. Harris is No. 2 and making the most of his opportunity in the lead role, but Burkhead has also established himself as an integral member of Ivan Fears’ running backs room.

Former Patriots fullback Heath Evans, who keeps tabs on his former team, is aware of what Burkhead brings to the table. So are the Patriots.

“They know good and well, if called upon in the fourth quarter, down three, Rex will find a way to get the job done,” said Evans. “Rex is a very, very gifted football player. Very gifted physically, but I think he’s more gifted mentally than he is physically, and that’s not a knock, that’s a compliment.”

Burkhead is, and has always been, Bill Belichick’s favorite kind of football player. He’s smart, tough, and does whatever it takes to make the necessary play.

In other words, he’s a gamer.

Perhaps former Patriots great Troy Brown, who now works with running backs on Belichick’s coaching staff, offered the best definition of “gamer” a few years ago, describing what the term meant in his mind.

“It’s someone who, when the important moments come up, is not fazed or overwhelmed by the big game,” said Brown, a big-time gamer himself during his playing days. “The pressure never really gets to him no matter what the situation is in the game. When the opportunity comes for him to make the play, he seems to make it, and it makes a big difference in the outcome.”

Burkhead hasn’t been overwhelmed by the big moments. See the 2018 AFC Championship Game against the Chiefs for details. Burkhead was outstanding in finishing off the final drives in the fourth quarter and overtime. Then fast-forward to the Super Bowl, where his 26-yard run late in the fourth quarter helped set up the game-clinching field goal.

While Burkhead’s not a starter, the times he’s in the game are usually the most important. He’s just able to do so many things; be it running, catching the football, blitz pickup, playing special teams, etc.

And, he performs all of his assignments well. The coaching staff trusts him to make plays whenever the game is on the line.

“I see Rex as being so well-versed and so well-studied in the running schemes. He has that attention to detail, he knows why he’s running where he’s running for the exact amount of steps he’s supposed to be running to set up the scheme. I think it’s something that can be taught, but I think it’s much more of a skill set that people are born with and have the instincts,” said Evans.

“You see it on screens, even in his route-running, he has great timing in his head. He has a great understanding of what the defense is offering, where he’s supposed to be, and what the scheme is supposed to be. He’s the type of guy you want five of.”

Belichick would love five Burkhead clones, but has to settle for one. And he’s become the player the Patriots want with the ball in his hands in those clutch situations.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Thurst into starter's job, NFL rookie Herbert got help from QB coach Pep Hamilton


by DAVE CAMPBELL and JOSH DUBOW AP Pro Football Writers

Friday, November 13th 2020


Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (10) gets instruction from quarterbacks coach Pep Hamilton during an NFL football game against the Las Vegas Raiders, Sunday, Nov. 8, 2020, in Inglewood, Calif. The most recognizable trend in hiring NFL head coaches has been to target young, innovative offensive teachers with a track record of developing quarterbacks. (AP Photo/Peter Joneleit)


The scouting report on Justin Herbert when he entered the draft out of Oregon was he had the tools to succeed as an NFL quarterback but would need some time to become more refined with the intricacies of the position.

Thrust into the starting role far earlier than expected because of an injury to Los Angeles Chargers starter Tyrod Taylor, Herbert is on pace for the most prolific season ever for a rookie.

One of the coaches most responsible for that transformation also could help the NFL in its quest to develop more minority coaches. Pep Hamilton joined the Chargers as one of the league's two Black quarterback coaches this past offseason and could one day become a candidate for a much more consequential job.

"I have no doubt that Pep Hamilton can be a head coach in this league. He's had a tremendous impact on Justin. That's why I brought him here," said the Chargers' Anthony Lynn, one of four minority head coaches in the NFL. "He's a guy that can relate to people. He's a good communicator, very intelligent. I'm very happy that he's on staff, and I was fortunate to get him."

The most recognizable and recent trend in hiring NFL head coaches has been to target young, innovative offensive teachers with a track record of development for the most vital position on the team. This has made the quarterbacks coach one of the most natural and reliable stepping stones for aspiring head coaches in the league.

With minorities making up fewer than 10% of quarterbacks coaches in the past decade in the NFL, that pipeline has played a role in a lack of minority head coaches despite a desire from the league for more diversity.

In the past five offseasons, nearly three-quarters (73%) of new head coaches have come from an offensive background, with two-thirds of them (16 out of 24) having served as quarterbacks coaches in the NFL earlier in their careers.

Only two of those 24 offensive-minded head coaches — Hue Jackson and Lynn — were minorities.

With no signs of a reduced interest in offensive-minded head coaches, the key for more diversity might be getting more minorities into that stepping-stone job of QB coach.

"You deal with the quarterback every day and you get them ready to play, and you know how to call games according to their strengths and what they see," said Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak, whose first coaching job in the NFL was as quarterbacks coach for the Super Bowl champion San Francisco 49ers in the 1994-95 season. He wound up working 10 years as a head coach for two teams, a tenure shortened by health concerns.

"I think dealing with those quarterbacks every day is a big, big plus," Kubiak said. "I look at some of these guys who have worked for me in the past, and they have all come along that path. I think it's extremely important coming up as an offensive guy."

Kubiak served as an offensive adviser for the Vikings last season, with Kevin Stefanski directing his scheme as the offensive coordinator. Now the 38-year-old Stefanski is in charge of the Cleveland Browns, one of 13 current head coaches in the league who were once a quarterbacks coach. That doesn't include Kliff Kingsbury (Arizona Cardinals) and Matt Rhule (Carolina Panthers), who previously held that particular position for college teams.

Eight of them were hired within the last five years: Stefanski, Zac Taylor (Cincinnati Bengals), Matt LaFleur (Green Bay Packers), Frank Reich (Indianapolis Colts), Matt Nagy (Chicago Bears), Kyle Shanahan (San Francisco 49ers) and Doug Pederson (Philadelphia Eagles). So many of these coaches picked to supervise quarterbacks once played the position at a major college or for an NFL team themselves, with Pederson and Reich to name two.

The trajectory of a franchise is staked so close to the success of the starting quarterback that this movement is hardly a surprise. Here's where the trend gets tricky for a league that's still lagging behind — as its leaders have acknowledged frequently — in consistently creating advancement opportunity for minority-race coaches. The quest to hire more head coaches of color becomes hindered when so few of them are offensive coordinators and quarterbacks coaches.

Since the start of the 2010 season, there have been 109 different quarterbacks coaches across the 32-team league, several of them holding the same job for multiple teams over that span. Only 10 of those individuals are minorities. That includes Hamilton, who was the quarterbacks coach at Stanford, tutoring Andrew Luck, and later the offensive coordinator for the Indianapolis Colts when Luck was starring there.

Eighty-four of those 109 quarterbacks coaches had not been an offensive coordinator or a head coach prior to being hired for the post. Ten of those 84 coaches went on to become head coaches, and 33 of them made the next step up to offensive coordinator or head coach.

Getting more minority coaches into the quarterbacks coach pipeline could play a key role in the future. With more and more Black quarterbacks playing in the NFL, the options down the road should be more plentiful.

The NFL is also trying to incentivize teams to hire more minority assistants in stepping-stone jobs by offering rewards to franchises that develop minority head coaches and execs.

The league approved a proposal this week that will award teams compensatory third-round draft picks for two years if a minority assistant or executive is hired to a head coach position or primary football executive role with another club.

"We all recognize that we must do more to support development opportunities for minority coaches and all personnel," commissioner Roger Goodell said. "This is an important initiative for the NFL."

Burkhead's two touchdowns help Patriots take down Ravens


Published: 6 hours ago (November 16, 2020)


Rex Burkhead caught two touchdown passes, one on a throw from receiver Jakobi Meyers, as the New England Patriots recorded a 23-17 victory over the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday night at Foxborough, Mass.

Cam Newton passed for one score and rushed for another as New England (4-5) won its second straight game. Newton completed 13 of 17 passes for 118 yards, and Damien Harris rushed for a career-best 121 yards on 22 carries as the Patriots prevailed in a heavy rainstorm.

New England cornerback J.C. Jackson notched his NFL-leading sixth interception and set a franchise record with picks in five consecutive games.

Lamar Jackson completed 24 of 34 passes for 249 yards with two touchdowns and one interception as the Ravens (6-3) lost for the second time in the past three games. Jackson added a team-high 55 yards on the ground on 11 rushes, while Willie Snead caught two scoring passes.

Baltimore lost despite outgaining the Patriots 357-308.

New England held a 13-10 halftime lead and came out strong in the third quarter with a four-play, 75-yard drive. Newton capped the excursion with a 4-yard scoring run.

The Patriots expanded the lead to 23-10 when Nick Folk kicked a 20-yard field goal with 6:24 left in the third quarter.

The Ravens responded with an 11-play, 75-yard drive. Jackson teamed up with Snead on an 18-yard touchdown pass to bring Baltimore within 23-17 with eight seconds left in the quarter.

But the Ravens picked up just one first down on their first two fourth-quarter possessions before getting one final chance with 1:05 left. Baltimore, which started on its 17-yard line as the rain pounded down harder than it had all night, turned the ball over on downs with two seconds remaining.

Burkhead caught both touchdown passes in the first half.

The Ravens struck first on the initial play of the second quarter when Snead came in motion from the left and collected a forward flip from Jackson as he crossed in front of the quarterback. Snead raced for a 6-yard score in which he narrowly made it into the end zone.

About three minutes later, Newton tossed a 7-yard touchdown pass to Burkhead to tie the score. Justin Tucker booted a 24-yard field goal to give the Ravens a 10-7 advantage with 5:32 left.

New England moved back ahead with 1:02 left when Newton sent a backward pass to Meyers and the former high school quarterback tossed a 24-yard scoring pass to Burkhead, who made a diving catch. Folk missed the extra point.

--Field Level Media



Tuesday, November 10, 2020

MMQB: Monday Night Spotlight


By Albert Breer

November 9, 2020




Each week, we’ll connect with a player set to climb atop the Monday Night Football stage to get answers to a few questions. This week, Patriots RB Rex Burkhead

MMQB: What was this week like in the building, and how much did you guys discuss what was happening in the country in the locker room?

RB: Yeah, I mean, we’re not just football players, we know what’s going on in the country. So you keep track of the election and everything going on. As far as conversations go, anything that happens on that side stays behind closed doors. But there are times where we do have those open conversations and try to get a better understanding overall, because we are people, we’re not just football players, we’re citizens of this country. We are interested in what’s going on.

MMQB: Is it fair to say this is one of the more educated groups on these sorts of things that you’ve been around?

RB: I don’t know. I feel like every team definitely has guys who are educated or interested in what’s going on, and want to voice their opinions. I do feel like we have a strong leadership in guys who are definitely vocal about it and want to express their opinions or talk about it with other guys. And it’s not only to express their opinions, but maybe to get a better understanding of one side or the other.

MMQB: What’s it been like playing with Cam Newton, and how has the perception met the reality?

RB: Cam, he’s been great—he’s been coming to work every single day and working his tail off. He’s been a leader for us, understanding if we make mistakes in a game, we’ve gotta do our best to move forward. He does that, and just his mentality every single day, and of course his versatility—he’s been a great player in this league for a long time, he’s been the MVP, it’s definitely fun to learn from him, and the plays and systems he’s been in, as we’ve tried to implement that with our team.

MMQB: How does it change the dynamic in the run game for a running back, going from Tom Brady to Cam?

RB: It gives you another threat. It gives you another focus for the defense, that they have to look at. At times, it opens up the run game for us as running backs quite a bit. It’s nice to have that versatility and another dimension to have to scheme up against a defense. And of course our offensive line has done a tremendous job opening up holes for us, and helping us play physical and get going from the jump.

MMQB: It’s been a long time since the Patriots have lost four in a row, so what was it like in the building this week from that standpoint?

RB: Just a lot of urgency to come to work every single day and get better, learn from our mistakes in the Bills game, and move forward and understand we have a great challenge with another division game against an opponent that’s gonna be hungry, Monday night at their place. We’re trying to take that big leap forward, get better and get back on the right track.

MMQB: Is there anything specific you feel like you guys need to do better to turn it around?

RB: Yeah, I mean, I can’t pick just one thing. I mean, there are many things we can improve upon, just little details, little things for sure. We’re just trying to do that to the best of our ability, whether that’s within a position, or a certain group, or offense, defense, special teams, whatever it is. If we can collectively each get better in those specific areas, then we’ll improve.

MMQB: What’s the biggest challenge facing a Gregg Williams defense?

RB: They do a tremendous job scheming things up, for sure, and being multiple on that side, giving you different looks. Of course, they’ve always had a really good defensive front—big guys, physical guys, and linebackers that can get on the line of scrimmage or play off, and play in the passing game. They do a great job being multiple so we’re gonna have to be ready from the get-go, and make sure we have our eyes in the right spots.

MMQB: You’re on pace to have more carries than you ever have—and it’s your eighth year in the league. It feels like that’s the opposite of the way things go for backs. What do you think the key’s been for you, getting to a point where you’re more involved than ever before?

RB: I mean, just trying to do my job, my role, whatever Coach [Josh] McDaniels asks me every single day. Of course, early on in my career, I played a lot on special teams and I wasn’t necessarily playing a lot of offense. So to come on later in my career, I feel great. I feel like I have plenty of years left to play. And of course McDaniels does a great job just putting us in position to win and be successful on a weekly basis. And that’s what I try to do every time my number gets called.

MMQB: So it sounds like you think New England’s a pretty good fit, four years in?

RB: Oh yeah, definitely. I enjoy it here. We have a great offensive scheme. Our coaches are great at using our versatility, putting us in great positions to be successful.

MMQB: Fair to say every game’s a must-win now, based on your record?

RB: We’re just trying to be a better football team. Of course, we understand, we put ourselves in this tough position, and the only way to fix it is to pull ourselves out of it and go forward, and start winning more games. If we don’t do that, we’re not gonna be in the position we want to be in. So understanding that starts with the challenge this Monday night, and taking that leap forward.

MMQB: Anything different or special for you about playing on the Monday Night Football stage?

RB: Yeah, growing up, my brother and I, we’d go one-on-one in the living room whenever the song would come on pregame. That’s just a memory that always sticks in my head. We would always be in front of the TV on Monday, making sure we were watching it. It was a routine, a ritual for our family. So it’s definitely special for me playing on Monday night. I just love the atmosphere of it, going out there in front of everyone and trying to perform to the best of your abilities.

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