5 Big Stories in the NFL This Week
As we enter the Divisional Round of postseason, it’s more than playoff teams making headlines around the NFL. Coaching vacancies are beginning to fill-up, one of them directly effecting the Cowboys’ coaching staff. And a couple of former Cowboys’ coordinators face-off Sunday afternoon in arguably the best matchup of the weekend when the Vikings host the Saints.
Here’s our list of 5 Big Stories in the NFL This Week:
Ben Margot via AP
Jon Gruden Joining Raiders and Taking a Cowboys’ Coordinator to Oakland with Him
The worst kept secret in the NFL over the past two weeks was Jon Gruden leaving the comfort of the Monday Night Football booth to return to coaching. The Oakland Raiders are making the official announcement at a Tuesday afternoon press conference: Chucky is back as Raiders head coach.
This is Gruden’s second go-round with the Raiders, albeit 20 years later. He was their head coach from 1998-2001 before he was traded to Tampa Bay in 2002. What did he do in Tampa that year? He beat the Raiders in the Super Bowl. He was fired 7 years later by the Bucs. He joined ESPN’s Monday Night Football the next season where he has served as analyst for the past 9 years.
Gruden’s contract with the Raiders is a blockbuster. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported last week that team owner Mark Davis would sign Gruden to a 10-year deal worth up to $100 million. Gruden takes over the head coaching duties after Davis fired Jack Del Rio immediately after the Raiders’ regular season finale. Del Rio, the former Cowboys linebacker, made the announcement of his own firing during his postgame press conference.
Gruden’s Return to Oakland has Domino Effect on Cowboys’ Coaching Staff
As Gruden hires assistant coaches to join him in Oakland, he is reuniting with a coach who served on his Tampa Bay staff: Rich Bisaccia, the Cowboys’ special teams coordinator for the past five seasons. Bisaccia has done an excellent job in Dallas. Cowboys’ special teams have been the most consistent units on the entire team and he will be missed. Bisaccia has also served as assistant head coach; he helps head coach Jason Garrett with game management on the sideline. Bisaccia’s departure is a blow to the staff; he’s a respected, fiery, competitor and coordinator who has made the team better. He will be missed.
Michael Ainsworth via AP
Margaret Bowles via AP
Chicago Bears Hire New Head Coach
On Monday the Bears announced they have their man: Matt Nagy, former offensive coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs. It’s interesting timing because Nagy and Chiefs head coach Andy Reid were knocked for their play-calling in the Chiefs’ playoff loss to the Titans on Saturday.
Here’s the timeline: Nagy and Chiefs get bounced on Saturday from postseason. Nagy interviews with Bears on Sunday. Nagy is announced as Bears head coach on Monday. Now he’ll have a chance to work with quarterback Mitch Trubisky, last year’s #2 overall draft pick by the Bears. Nagy was the Chiefs’ quarterbacks coach before taking over as offensive coordinator last season.
Bill Haber via AP
Top Matchup of Divisional Round Features Two Former Cowboys’ Coordinators
The Vikings host the Saints in Minnesota on Sunday afternoon at 3:40pm central. It’s the juiciest matchup of the Divisional Round and it features two teams led by head coaches who served together on the Cowboys’ coaching staff from 2003-2005.
Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer is the former long-time Cowboys’ assistant coach who arrived in Dallas in 1994 as Defensive Assistant and rose through the ranks to become Defensive Coordinator his final seven seasons with the team (2000-2006). Zimmer is one of the few coaches that Bill Parcells retained when The Big Tuna took over the Cowboys in 2003.
Parcells brought Sean Payton to the Cowboys in 2003. Payton stayed for three seasons as Assistant Head Coach/QBs Coach/Passing Game coordinator (2003-05). Payton left Dallas to become the New Orleans Saints head coach in 2006. He’s already led the Saints to one Super Bowl victory, and to get his second, he’ll have to defeat Zimmer’s excellent Vikings defense on Sunday.
Who’s Playing When This Weekend?
The Saints-Vikings matchup on Sunday in Minnesota pits the #4 seed at the #2 seed.
The top seed in the NFC is the Philadelphia Eagles who host the Atlanta Falcons, the team that barely squeaked into the playoffs. But the Falcons pulled a major upset over the Rams last Saturday night and enter Philly full of confidence for Saturday’s kickoff at 3:35pm central.
That’s the NFC Divisional Round: Saints-Vikings, Falcons-Eagles.
In the AFC, the top-seeded New England Patriots host the #5 seed Tennessee Titans on Saturday night at 7:15pm central.
Paul Spinelli via AP
The Titans had the big rally last Saturday to beat the Chiefs, but they’re running into a buzz saw on Saturday night. Patriots QB Tom Brady, head coach Bill Belichick and owner Robert Kraft have answered questions this past week about an ESPN The Magazine article that says the relationship among the three is fractured. All three claim the report and rumors are not true; now they’re pi$&ed-off and the Titans may bear the brunt of those frustrations.
The other AFC Divisional Round matchup is really intriguing. The #3 seed Jacksonville Jaguars, fresh off a great defensive display in their win Sunday over the Bills, go to Pittsburgh to take on the #2 seed Steelers. Kickoff is 12:05pm central.
Be on the lookout for #42 for the Jaguars – that’s former Cowboys safety and team captain Barry Church. He is one of the respected guys in recent Cowboys history. I really respect the Steelers’ franchise and their fans, but I also have love & respect for Barry Church…unsure who I’m rooting for in this one.