One of the main culprits for the highly publicized New York Jets 2011 collapse will not return to the team in 2012. Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer has announced he will not return to the team next season, according to multiple reports.
After helping QB Mark Sanchez and the offense to two consecutive AFC Championship games, Sanchez and the offense took a major step back in 2011 both statistically and in the win column. The Jets finished 2011 ranked 25th in total offense and 21st in passing yards per game. He was criticized almost incessantly during the season, which ended with three consecutive losses and an 8-8 record.
Former Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano is expected to be named the next offensive coordinator, according to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen. Mortensen also reports an announcement is expected on Wednesday, with Sparano first in line for the position. His ESPN counterpart Rich Cimini says one name to look out for is Hue Jackson, who was fired by the Raiders after one season as their head coach and has experience as Baltimore’s former offensive coordinator.
The Reds have agreed to a contract with former Phillies closer Ryan Madson, according to CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman. Madson will replace Francisco Cordero as the team’s primary ninth inning reliever. It’s a one-year deal, according to ESPN’s Jim Bowden.
The 31-year-old righty saved 32 games for Philadelphia last season, going 4-2 with a 2.37 ERA in 62 appearances and 60.2 innings pitched. He had better than a four to one strikeout to walk ratio and put up a very strong 1.15 WHIP. Madson nearly signed a deal in Philadelphia until a contract SNAFU derailed talks between the two sides despite Madson having spent all nine years of his career with the Phillies. Philadelphia replaced Madson with longtime Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon earlier in the offseason.
Madson will replace Francisco Cordero as the team’s closer, according to Heyman. Cordero spent the last four years as Cincinnati’s closer and had perhaps his best season, saving 37 games with a 2.45 ERA and a 1.01 WHIP in 68 games pitched. The Reds have apparently decided to go in a different direction and Madson is now their new closer.
Atlanta’s offensive performance on Sunday in New York did not deter Jacksonville from naming Falcons Offensive Coordinator Mike Mularkey as its next head coach, according to reports.
Mularkey spent four years as the offensive coordinator in Atlanta and helped groom Matt Ryan into one of the league’s top young QB’s. The Jags will hope Mularkey can do the same for Blaine Gabbert, who struggled in his rookie season. This is the first coaching decision for new owner Shahid Kahn, who is hoping Mularkey has success the second time around as a head coach.
The 50-year-old took over Buffalo’s head coaching position in 2004, and went 14-18 in two seasons before being replaced by Dick Jauron. Mularkey led offenses in Tampa Bay, Pitsburgh and Miami before going to the Falcons.
NEW YORK– By Daniel Friedman
New York Rangers
The Blueshirts are 9-1-0 in their last 10 games and one of the hottest teams in hockey these days. The Rangers are in the midst of a four-game winning streak thanks to a pair of victories over the Southeast Division-leading Florida Panthers (now there’s something you don’t hear very often), a triumphant performance in the Winter Classic against the Philadelphia Flyers and most recently, an impressive 3-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Pens outplayed New York for much of the game but could not solve Henrik Lundqvist, who made 37 saves.
Speaking of Lundqvist, he’s the frontrunner to take home the Vezina Trophy (awarded to the goaltender “adjudged to be the best at his position”) this season. King Henrik is 18-7-4 with a 1.89 goals-against average and a .939 save percentage. He’s the biggest reason why New York sits atop the Eastern Conference nowadays. While it’s true, “back-up” Martin Biron (whose head coach does not consider an understudy) has been quite good in his own right. If you take away Lundqvist’s stats, the Rangers just aren’t the Rangers. He is the glue that holds this team together and probably will be until the day he retires.
One thing I really like about the Rangers is that in this bunch, there’s no shortage of guys who are willing to step up. Carl Hagelin, Artem Anisimov, Anton Stralman, Mike Rupp and Ryan McDonagh, among others, have all done so on various occasions. You can now add Brandon Dubinsky to that list. Dubinsky has struggled for much of the season, but it’s hard to argue with his recent output — eight points in his last eight games — and he’s being rewarded with some more ice time for that too. I expect a big(ger) second half for Dubinsky, who’s certainly capable of accomplishing the feat.
New York Islanders
Just when it appeared the Islanders might be heading in the right direction they dispelled any such notion, blowing a lead in Anaheim for a loss and hardly showing up in Phoenix for another. The Isles currently find themselves at the bottom of both the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference, not exactly what Garth Snow and Co. had envisioned before the season started, to say the least.
Luck isn’t on their side, either. Goaltender Al Montoya and forward David Ullstrom are still out of the lineup with concussions, though both are skating in practice again, which is an encouraging sign. Mike Mottau now has a concussion too, but the ineffective defenseman’s absence figures to be a case of addition by subtraction.
Defense continues to be this team’s major weakness, and it’s the biggest reason why the Isles are in last place. The solution seems fairly simple: Make a few moves and bring in a couple of rearguards who can play! Alas, it’s not as easy as one might think. Snow has a tricky situation on his hands because anyone worth trading is someone that needs to be kept and anyone worth getting rid of, well, no one wants. If you’re mad at Snow for not reeling in a top-notch defenseman over the summer, you need a reality check. Try convincing a quality free agent to sign on with a team that doesn’t know where the heck it’ll be playing its home games in 2015. It won’t go over well, I guarantee you.
There are a couple of issues surrounding the Islanders right now, issues that may take longer to resolve than most people would like. This is a rebuilding team that doesn’t have the luxury of accelerating the process in ways that Chicago, Pittsburgh and Washington were able to. Patience is the buzz word of the day in Islander Country.
New Jersey Devils
The Devs are back in the top-eight, at least for the time being. New Jersey’s been in and out over the last couple of weeks, stuck in the midst of an extremely tight Eastern Conference playoff race that, honestly, I never believed they’d be part of to begin with. I still think there’s a reasonable chance they fall out of the hunt sooner or later, just because they’re not getting enough scoring and defense has been an issue.
Martin Brodeur has shown he’s still got something left in the tank, and that’s been key to the Devils’ mini-renaissance. However, they’ll only go as far as he can take them. I’m skeptical that, at age 39, Brodeur can steal enough games to make the playoffs. Johan Hedberg has done a great job when called upon, but he’s not going to be the one who takes this team to the promised land, should they be so fortunate to get there.
Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise have finally woken up, which has happened in spurts this year, and assuming this is just another one, it’s not going to be enough. If they can sustain this type of production the Devils are in business, but that’s a relatively big “if.” Adam Henrique and Patrik Elias are still the dynamic duo for New Jersey this year, as far as I’m concerned. That wasn’t by design, that’s for certain.
Adam Larsson’s done a nice job in his rookie season, but I’d like to see him mike some bigger strides in the second half. If he can do that, the Devils, particularly Brodeur, will be incredibly grateful. Andy Greene and Bryce Salvador need to keep up their solid play on the blueline as well, or this team’s going to be in trouble. Marty can’t stand on his head anymore, he has to get by with a little help from his friends.
Sixers Stay Strong Sans Stars
They have no superstar players, no marketable huge names and no gargantuan egos in a city dominated by Vick and Howard, Halladay and Jackson. What the 76ers do have is a young team that rebounds really well and plays disciplined defense for head coach Doug Collins.
Philadelphia won its fifth straight game by limiting a very talented Indiana team to 36.6 percent shooting in a 96-86 win on Monday night. Boston and New York can keep their stars, because this Sixers team will be quite content with its 6-2 record. “First place, 6-2,” team owner Josh Harris said to Collins, while happily shaking his hand after the game.
That’s first place in an Atlantic Division that’s supposed to be dominated by the Celtics and Knicks. Andre Iguodala, the versatile forward who’s as close to a star as this team has, led six players in double figures with 20 points, nine rebounds and five assists. He praised his team’s effort, saying “as long as we continue to keep our mistakes low and be defensively sound, we’ll be fine.”
Besides for veteran Elton Brand, the rotation is full of young players still growing into their roles, including Spencer Hawes, who leads the league in field goal percentage. Six of the nine players that entered the game on Monday night was under 25, with Lou Williams, at 25 years of age, being one of the team’s elder statesmen. This mix of youth, combined with really strong coaching from Collins, has Philadelphia off to its best start since the Allen Iverson-led 2000-2001 team that started 10-0.
“They share the ball,” said Indiana coach Frank Vogel. “Doug Collins has them playing really good basketball.”
Philadelphia’s young and cohesive second unit outscored the opposition 31-19 and the team will only improve as they gain more experience and grow together under a seasoned and experienced coach. While Carmelo Anthony, Rajon Rondo, Amar’e Stoudemire and Paul Pierce will garner all the attention, the young and relatively anonymous Sixers will continue to rack up the victories.
Thoughts & Theories
-With the Nets off to a 2-8 start, there are already rumors of Deron Williams’ dissatisfaction with the direction the franchise is headed in. With Brook Lopez out indefinitely with a broken foot, the team can only put spare parts around Williams. Kris Humphries, MarShon Brooks and Anthony Morrow are nothing but decent complimentary pieces on a mediocre team and Williams is looking for the huge move to make the Nets a superteam as they make the move to Brooklyn. Seeing as that won’t happen any time soon, it could only be a matter of time before the pendulum swings the other way and Williams asks for a trade of his own.
-The Knicks are 5-4 after defeating Charlotte for its third straight win, but a team with such lofty aspirations should have a much better record given their competition to date. Only one of the nine teams New York has played, the Lakers, are over .500 and the schedule gets tougher from here. Starting Wednesday with Philadelphia, four of the Knicks’ next five games are against teams .500 or better.
-Digging deep into the statistical bag of tricks here, one trend that popped out was the improved play of Oklahoma City’s James Harden. He became the third offensive option for the Thunder after they traded Jeff Green to Boston last season, and he’s rewarded management with really strong play.
Coming off the bench and averaging just over 30 minutes per game, Harden is averaging 17.8 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game. Harden is second in the league in offensive win shares, third in offensive efficiency, tied for third in the league, with superstars LeBron James and Kobe Bryant, in total free throws made, is sixth in the league in player efficiency rating and seventh in free throws attempted. He won’t be making the All-Star team this year, but he’s become the unsung hero on an Oklahoma City team destined for great things.
Games To Watch
Tuesday- A battle between Derrick Rose’s Bulls and Ricky Rubio’s entertaining TimberWolves highlights an NBATV doubleheader which also has the Lakers and Suns from the west coast. Oklahoma City visiting slow starting Memphis in a Southwest Division clash should also be a good one.
Wednesday- Dallas has picked things up after a very slow start, but the sub-.500 Mavericks still have a tough road ahead starting with a game at Boston to kick off an ESPN doubleheader. The second game features a likely healthy Heat squad heading to the Staples Center to give Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and the Clippers their first large test of the season. Several other noteworthy games include Atlanta-Indiana and New York-Philadelphia in the East, Houston-San Antonio and Jazz-Lakers in the West and an intriguing battle between the Magic and Blazers from the Rose Garden.