The NFL coaching carousel has already started spinning, but Chargers defensive coordinator Ron Rivera has yet to climb aboard.
In a somewhat unusual move, his team released a statement this afternoon saying that he will not talk to teams about any head-coaching vacancies until San Diego's season is over and that he doesn't intend to answer any questions about openings or identify potential suitors.
Here's his statement: “My sole focus and concentration right now is helping the Chargers win a championship. Nothing else matters right now. I don’t want to let anything distract from our objective.”
-- Sam Farmer
Photo: San Diego Chargers defensive coordinator Ron Rivera during practice last week. Credit: Denis Poroy / Associated Press
First things first:Matt Millen, the recently fired director of football operations and the architect of the history-making 0-16 Detroit Lions, showed up without fanfare Saturday as an analyst on NBC's studio show "Football Night in America." To be fair, Millen is a good analyst because he speaks frankly and obviously is fearless, and he did win four Super Bowls (Raiders, 49ers, Redskins) because he was a great linebacker. I was still in shock, though. At first I thought, what gall to hire Millen! This is a guy who made so many bad calls over the years (especially in rating football talent). But then Millen made some good comments in his analyst role. Here is the interview Dan Patrick did as co-host on that NBC show Saturday. I guess it just goes to show you that being fearless and tough like Millen has its advantages, especially when it comes to football and television.
Wake up time: USC quarterback Mark Sanchez was on the Dan Patrick radioshow this morning and the two joked around a bit at first because Sanchez was a little late getting on their air but was in good spirits despite what is, for him, an early hour (8:40). Sanchez teased back: "I heard that Millen interview ... I don't know if the Millen interview was your very best one. ..." Said Patrick: "I was going to bring up the Oregon State game with you ... ." Asked if he is anxious for the Lions to draft him, Sanchez laughed, then said: "I still haven't figured out what I plan to do for now. But I'm still going to investigate a little further and see if there is a compelling reason to enter the draft." And yes, he said he has sent in the required initial paperwork. Patrick added: "On a neutral field I would take USC over anybody in the country." Replied Sanchez: "Oh, I agree." But when asked if Oklahoma quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford or Tim Teboware better than he is, Sanchez demurred. "That's for people like you to debate." There is still time to vote in our 3 polls on whether USC would beatFlorida, Oklahoma or Texas.
Bad USC: A video of Rey Maualugais getting the "All Things Trojan" blog some attention. Blogger Adam Rose, who posted this over the weekend, calls it a "dance" with sideline reporter Erin Andrews. Uh, no. A dance with someone means both people are involved. This looks like the sexist Maualuga (surprise, surprise) showing disrespect for a woman reporter, who didn't even know that he was behind her. Besides, it looks like something far different than a dance. You have to wonder who taught Maualuga that it's OK to be vulgar in public. I would hope the school extracts an apology from him on Andrews' behalf, because this video made it to YouTube.
Good USC: Santa Ana Mater Dei quarterback Matt Barkley showed why USC is excited to be getting him. He was the star in Sunday's All-America High School Football Game. Barkley, orally committed to USC, threw for two early touchdown passes to lead his White Team to a 27-16 victory over the Black Team. "It really felt good out there," he said. "It was a fun game with a lot of great players."
Will he or won't he? Be fired, that is. Boston College coach Jeff Jagodzinskireportedly has been told he will be fired if he interviews for the New York Jets head coaching job. That's according to ESPN's Chris Mortensen, citing (as usual) unnamed sources. Here's a question: Has Mortensen ever broken news where his "sources" are willing to go on the record, for attribution? The interview apparently is today and apparently Jagodzinski is going ahead with it. If fired, Mortensen says, Boston College would promote offensive coordinator Steve Logan to head coach. Stay tuned. Meanwhile here is an ESPN interview with Jagodzinski from earlier in the season.
Do and don't:Brian Cazeneuve of SI.com has 2009 resolutions for the NHL. It's a fun read. Meanwhile, the Ducks played a strong game Sunday against the Phoenix Coyotes. As Helene Elliott points out in her column, it took great goaltending and a strong penalty-kill.
-- Debbie Goffa
Photo: Detroit Lions owner and chairman William Clay Ford, left, talking to Matt Millen before a game last season. Credit: Paul Sancya / AP
First things first:Pete Carroll was on the Colin Cowherd show this morning and was asked about the allegations made by his assistant coach Ken Norton Jr.about Rick Neuheisel's recruitment tactics. Neuheisel denied the allegations. Carroll told Cowherd that he actually doesn't know Neuheisel very well. Hmmmm. Asked if the recruitment tactics get fierce, Carroll said one time a few years ago he was recruiting a player, arrived at the house and was sitting in the living room. In the kitchen, refusing to leave, was the UCLA coach (whom he did not name and Colin failed to ask) who had gotten there first. But it rarely happens that way, Carroll added. TJ Simershas a good take on the whole controversy.
Add NFL: What is Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones thinking? Keeping Wade Phillips -- who is by all accounts a great guy -- as head coach is driving Cowboys fans crazy. Phillips says he will change, but some say it is too late. Meanwhile, what happened with Tony Romocollapsing after the game?
Rose Bowl: Chris Dufresne today profiles Penn State's Lydell Sargeant, whose life has been all about change. He campaigned for Barack Obama, and helped get Penn State into the Rose Bowl. The senior cornerback is key to the Nittany Lions' defense. But his lasting memories from this year may well be politics, not football.
Tough loss: Watching the Kings lose 2-0 last night was tough. As Helene Elliott points out in her columntoday, goaltending sure wasn't the problem. No, they seemed to have figured that out at last. It was a weak offense and, as she puts it, a "curiously inconsistent work ethic." I'll bet Coach Terry Murray will get that fixed in a hurry.
-- Debbie Goffa
Photo: Pete Carroll during football practice Monday. Credit: Nick Ut / Associated Press
Let the rest of the family watch "White Christmas" or "A Christmas Story" or whatever it is that goes on television after the presents have been unwrapped, the food consumed, and the egg nog is still forming a crusty milkish mustache around your lips.
Because if you've chosen to spend the Christmas holiday at a home that has the NFL Network channel, and you're bored with all that "Lakers-Celtics" nonsense, you're in luck.
The NFL Network is beginning its holiday season with 20 hours of "recent and classic game programming." The look-back begins at 6 p.m. (PT) on Christmas Day with a rebroadcast of the 2008 Week 2 game between Philadelphia and Dallas.
This classic programming is classic in the sense that the Miami-New York Jets, Dallas-Philadelphia and Denver-San Diego games this weekend all have playoff implications -- and that all of these teams have already played each other this season.
The "classic" games being shown are games that go way back in time as far as Week 2 of 2008. That's right, you first saw some of these games earlier THIS YEAR.
But once is never enough when you're talking Eagles-Cowboys, right? Or even twice. Because this NFL Classic Game will replay at 11 a.m. (PT) on Saturday on the NFL Network.
Friday night, the network will feature the Jets over the Dolphins in Week 8 of 2000. That's a lifetime ago! And who doesn't want to see Vinny Testaverde in his heyday?
And, as the NFL Network release says, the game is complete with the original ABC graphics and the original announcers -- Al Michaels, Dan Fouts and Dennis Miller. We're thinking those graphics must be written on holy tablets or something.
Saturday at 5 p.m. (PT) there's a look way, way back, to Week 2 of 2008, when Denver beat the Chargers 39-38. The broadcast will feature quarterbacks Jay Cutler and Philip Rivers, and CBS graphics this time.
OK, and Dick Enberg, who is worth listening too any time, any place.
-- Diane Pucin
Photo: New York Jets quarterback Vinny Testaverde on the sidelines during a 1998 game. Credit: James A. Finley / Associated Press
Spurned last week by "NBC Sunday Night Football," which opted for the New York Giants-Carolina Panthers game (which didn't turn out badly what with it going to overtime and all), the San Diego Chargers suddenly have a date for the prime-time dance this coming weekend.
The Denver Broncos-Chargers game, which will decide the AFC West champion and an NFL playoff berth, has been moved from a 1:15 p.m. (Pacific time) start on CBS to 5:15 p.m. (Pacific time) on "NBC Sunday Night Football."
Other time changes: Miami Dolphins-New York Jets and Jacksonville Jaguars-Baltimore Ravens games on Sunday, Dec. 28, will move to 1:15 p.m. Pacific time on CBS; the Dallas Cowboys-Philadelphia Eagles game will move to 10:15 a.m. Pacific time on Fox.
-- Diane Pucin
Photo: Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (right) celebrates a touchdown with running back Darren Sproles against the Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday. Credit: Al Messerschmidt / Getty Images
While I wish more of you were watching "The Office", the best-written comedy on television as long as "Curb Your Enthusiasm" isn't giving us new episodes (and does anybody have a clue if there are going to be new episodes and, if so, when? Larry David, if you read this, please e-mail!), or "Desperate Housewives," which has picked up steam this season having moved five years in the future.
But so far this television season you all are watching NFL football. Early and often.
The NFL sent out a release (below) that uses this season's Nielsen Media Research. Notable? Of the top 15 most-watched television shows this viewing season, 13 are NFL games. Only the "60 Minutes" edition featuring Barack Obama (sorry Pete Carroll) and the season premiere of "CSI" cracked the NFL domination. And I missed both those shows!
1. FOX Sunday National (mostly Cowboys-Steelers), 12/7
2. CBS Sunday National (Broncos-Jets & Pats-Steelers), 11/30
3. CBS Sunday National (mostly Patriots-Jets), 9/14
4. 60 Minutes (Obama interview preceded by late SD-Pitt finish), 11/16
5. CBS Sunday National (mostly Steelers-Ravens), 12/14
6. FOX Sunday National (mostly Cowboys-Cardinals), 10/12
7. CSI (season premiere), 10/9
8. FOX Sunday National (mostly Cowboys-Giants), 11/2
9. FOX Sunday National (mostly Giants-Cardinals), 11/23
10. CBS Sunday National (mostly Colts-Packers), 10/19
11. NBC Sunday Night Football (Giants-Cowboys), 12/14
12. FOX Thanksgiving Day (Seahawks-Cowboys), 11/27
13. CBS Sunday National (mostly Colts-Steelers), 11/9
14. FOX Sunday National (mostly Giants-Steelers), 10/26
15. NBC Sunday Night Football (Cowboys-Packers), 9/21
Source: NFL, Nielsen Media Research
-- Diane Pucin
Photo: The Steelers' Andre Frazier, left, tangles with the Cowboys' Terence Newman during Sunday's game at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. Credit: Gregory Shamus / Getty Images
Unbelievably, the San Diego Chargers are on the brink of playoff elimination -- and they just had a Sunday night game taken away. More on that in a second.
As it stands, the Chargers are three games behind Denver in the AFC West with three to play, meaning the Broncos' magic number is one.
So -- because a wild-card berth is off the table -- the only chance the 5-8 Chargers have is if they win their next two games (at Kansas City, then at Tampa Bay) -- and if the 8-5 Broncos lose their next two (at Carolina, then at home against Buffalo).
That would set up a Dec. 28 showdown between the Broncos and Chargers for all the marbles. If both teams finished 8-8, the Chargers would win the postseason berth by virtue of what would be their superior division record, 4-1 versus 3-3.
OK, now about that Sunday night game. The Chargers-Buccaneers game was to be NBC's Sunday night showcase on Dec. 21. Today, the NFL announced that game was rescheduled for 10 a.m. PST that day, and the Carolina-New York Giants game has moved into the prime-time slot.
A subtle change, but noteworthy.
-- Sam Farmer
Photo: San Diego Chargers running back Darren Sproles celebrates a fourth quarter touchdown against the Oakland Raiders at Qualcomm Stadium on Sunday. Credit: Jody Gomez / US Presswire
The "proof of concept" trial balloon 3-D broadcast at a movie theater Thursday night -- a game between the Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers -- had some glitches. The satellite feed went out a couple of times in the first half. There were some unsynchronized camera movements that made my head dizzy, some unfocused camera switches for which I had to take off the way-cool, retro-black 3-D glasses until the picture got unfuzzy. But mostly watching the game in a three-dimensional format felt like a step into the future and not as if this were only a gimmick.
But before I go on, here is a poll I put together to hear what you think of 3-D. The voting is open until Tuesday at midnight.
Anyway, there were two plays in particular that made my head snap.
The first was the 46-yard catch by Chargers' receiver Vincent Jackson (see the photo of that catch here) in the first quarter. The cameras caught the ball from the moment it left the hand of San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers, followed it up and up into the night, made you feel as if there were a hint of a night breeze as the pass followed a rainbow-arced path until it dropped into Jackson's hands.
The second was the 87-yard punt return by San Diego's Darren Sproles; Sproles dove into the end zone, and people in the theater crowd were yelling "touchdown" seconds before any official raised his arms to signal a score.
Sproles' TD was called back because of a hold, but it felt as if Sproles had run straight through the screen and into the room. One man turned to his seatmate and said, "I didn't know Sproles was so short." Yes, Sproles is short for an NFL player. He's only 5-foot-6, and in 3-D there was the real sense that Sproles was pocket-sized compared with the other guys on the field.
While one of the aims of the 3-D experiment, said John Modell, an owner of 3ality Digital, the Burbank-based company that produced Thursday's game, is to give a viewer a true "stadium" experience, it seemed better than that.
You felt as if you were sitting in the stands, only with the ability to see the field as if it were in high- definition television quality. Simply by slipping on a pair of glasses and tilting your head back a little, you could see the crown of the field, feel as if you could catch a pass, exclaim as one man did, "I'd think I could touch that cheerleader's assets!"
Yet the cheerleader was safe, and so were her assets.
Certainly the NFL didn't commit the effort to conducting this experiment for altruistic reasons. It is not just trying to offer a better viewing experience just because it can.
Three NBA games have also been produced in 3-D, including the 2007 All-Star Game. Fox Sports is planning on offering the BCS championship game on about 150 movie screens next month for some sort of unannounced fee.
And, honestly, I'd pay. It's a lot easier to park at a movie theater, and this theater validated. Try parking at the Rose Bowl this weekend for the USC-UCLA game, or getting that parking validated.
The popcorn is better, the bathrooms cleaner than at most stadiums. Plus the view from the (relatively) cheap seats is sure better than from row 80 at the Coliseum. If you're in most of the rows at an NFL stadium, you often need binoculars to get an up-close view of the game. With 3-D, you need the glasses and a movie screen. It's a fair tradeoff.
Even better will be the day there's a 3-D-enabled television and your 3-D glasses at home. There were two such TVs in a VIP lounge at the Los Angeles theater. It was a similarly ooh-and-aah experience on the smaller TV screen. It will be several years before there's a 3-D-capable television in every living room, but I'd buy one now if the price was right and there was enough programming.
After watching this single game, I feel as I did the first time I saw a college basketball game in high definition and the first time I watched the Food Network and "Animal Planet" and a Ducks hockey game on HD. Now it's going to be hard to go back to plain old digital HD television.
I'd gone to this game skeptical. My only memories of 3-D were of some long-ago monster movie in which the cardboard glasses were clumsy and ineffective, everything seemed herky-jerky and I was left feeling a little queasy, a smidgen dizzy and with a spring-loaded headache from trying to focus.
That wasn't the case this time. I was eager for halftime to be over so I could see more. I wondered what a Super Bowl halftime show would look like in 3-D, and while some viewers left Thursday night asking for "more cheerleaders," I'd be happy with more Darren Sproles making his cuts and following his blockers into the end zone, where you could, indeed, make the call.
Know what would be really cool in 3-D? Hockey. Imagine a well-struck puck coming at you. The theaters might need to put up a plexiglass shield just to make you feel safe.
-- Diane Pucin
Photo: Invited football fans with 3-D glasses taking in the NFL game broadcast at the Mann Chinese Thursday night. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times
First pop-up photo: What the screen image was without the glasses. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times
Second pop-up photo: San Diego Chargers receiver Vincent Jackson pulls in a pass for a 46-yard gain in the first quarter. At left is Oakland Raiders defensive back Nnamdi Asomugha. Credit: Lenny Ignelzi / Associated Press
First things first: Let's look at the voting in our poll from Tuesday. If Michael Phelps is SI's sportsman of the year, who would be No. 2? The winner is Jamaica's Usain Bolt. He had 16 of the 83 votes, or 19% of the balloting. Tiger Woods, who has been out of action since April, had a steady 10 votes from the start and at the end pulled out a second-place finish with 11 votes. Coming in third (and I am proud of you readers with this one) was L.A.'s own Candace Parker, who had a flurry of votes yesterday and finished with 10. Being named the WNBA's rookie of the year and most valuable player wasn't enough to beat out Tiger, which goes to prove Tiger's pull. Now, Bolt is no surprise as the winner. He proved at the Beijing Games that he is, indeed, faster than anyone on Earth. His achievements were spectacular, never mind the suspicions of steroid use that trailed his team. I loved his crowd-pleasing theatrics too. His absolute joy. But remember how IOC chief Jacques Rogge dissed Boltfor those theatrics? Rogge proved to be the fuddy-duddy everyone suspected.
3-D tonight: The San Diego Chargers host the Oakland Raiders tonight in the NFL Network game. Here is the most interesting thing about it: It is being broadcast in 3-Din a handful of movie theaters to demonstrate the technology. One is in Hollywood, by invitation only, and Diane Pucin, our media writer, will be there and will write about the experience tonight. But the Raiders are upset about the 3-D showings because the Bay Area is not one of the locations.
To give or not to give: You might have read Bill Plaschke's column last weekon Frank and Jamie McCourt. And today Kurt Streeter weighs in. And T.J. Simers, of course, has another view. (P.S.: I like Jamie McCourt's style and attitude.) But enough already. I have paid a lot of money (pre-recession) to sit in Dodger Stadium and watch this team. For years. There should be room and money enough to give a lot to the community and to field a team that will make it to the playoffs. To be blunt, that's why owners are called rich. This past season was so much fun after you signed Manny Ramirez. Not before. That wasn't a fluke. Would I pay big money to watch James Loney? Uh, no. Sorry, James. And, let's not forget the McCourts brought us Andruw Jones (this past season, a .158 batting average in 75 games). Good grief. Other team owners manage to work hard for the community on many levels. It shouldn't be one side against the other. Show us greatness in charity, hope and faith ... show us greatness in Chavez Ravine. Lest we not forget, here is a clip from one of the pre-Manny games in which Andruw Jones was booed after making another out. Notice the empty seats.
-- Debbie Goffa
Top photo: Jamaica's Usain Bolt celebrates winning the gold in the men's 200-meter final at the Beijing Olympics. Credit: Thomas Kienzle / Associated Press
Inset: Candace Parker holds her trophy after being named the WNBA's most valuable player. Credit: Eric Gay / Associated Press
It's always Christmas Day for me, at least whenever there is a new television invention.
I had SO wanted to take a week off work the first time I had cable television available in my Cincinnati neighborhood. All my friends and colleagues had already entered that new world but it seemed as if I were getting 40 pounds of gold when the cable guy came and hooked up my first box. I was transfixed by some awful Tom Skerritt movie (can't even begin to remember its name) but it didn't matter. I had HBO!
And the wonder is still with me.
On the day when Nickelodeon appeared on my cable, whoopee! Up all night with Nick at Nite! ESPN2? Now I could watch sports I didn't care about ... 24 hours a day.
The whole digital idea was cool and when we got our first flat screen a couple of years ago I was trying to figure out how much vacation time I could take immediately and just stare. When our cable provider, Cox, started rolling out a whole new tier of HD channels, I was refreshing the Cox home page 10 times a day to see when our city would go on line. Charles Barkley's sweat on TNT HD so real I wanted to towel off his face. What could be better?
And now I'm going to the Mann Chinese Six theaters Thursday night to watch an NFL Network broadcast of the Oakland Raiders at San Diego Chargers game in 3-D. It's a limited trial -- the 3-D game will also be shown in one theater in Boston and one in New York. The producing company is 3Ality Digital.
It's an invitation-only evening of experimental theater. Whatever the future of 3-D sporting broadcasts is, it's too soon to tell.
But according to a USA today article, Fox is going to show its BCS bowl games (that means not you, Rose Bowl, on ABC) in about 150 theaters nationwide including a yet-to-be-determined number in the Los Angeles area. Would you go to a theater and put on goofy glasses to watch Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford throw a pass into your lap, or at least have that feeling?
In my Friday media column I'll have a report on the 3-D experience and hopefully a hint of what might be the future of this experiment. But here's my question. I wear eyeglasses. So do I just put the 3-D glasses over my regular glasses? (The answer is yes.) But won't that be uncomfortable? (I am told no, it's not.) But if I don't wear my regular glasses will I be able to see just with the 3-D glasses? OK, is it too late to get contacts?
-- Diane Pucin
Top photo: A pair of 3-D movie glasses. Credit: Roslyn Rahman / AFP / Getty Images
Inset: The glasses Diane will wear over her regular eyewear. Credit: Real 3D Inc.
First things first: The Pittsburgh Steelers played the San Diego Chargers last night. The big story of this game was not the snowy conditions or the oddball final score of 11-10in favor of the Steelers. Nor was it the wild last play by the Chargers, who threw at least two laterals-- the last into the hands of ex-USC star Troy Polamalu (seen above on an earlier play), who took it for an apparent touchdown with no time left. No, the real story is that $100 million was bet on this game, two-thirds of it on the Steelers, who were five-point favorites. That touchdown gave a lot of bettors reason to yell in joy. Ah, but then came a video review. The officiating crew said no touchdown because the lateral was actually an illegal forward pass. Pittsburgh bettors lost. After the game, the official admitted that a mistake was made, and the touchdown should have counted. That meant a swing of more than $60 million within seconds.
Steelers-Chargers II: The vice president of officiating for the NFL, Mike Pereira, was on the Dan Patrick radio show this morning and said yes he saw the play as it happened. "I was trying to figure out what the heck was going on," he admitted. Should it have been called a touchdown? "Yes," said Pereira, who added that no one is happy with what happened and the biggest problem now is "how do we figure out how to not let this happen again." He added, "We had a miscommunication by the crew, kind of amazing." Pereira does not advocate moving officiating decisions to some headquarters, as the NHL does on controversial goals. "We need to leave officiating on the field ... and we need to expect them to be right."
And finally: Here are two videos of Troy Polamalu in last night's game: one amazing interception (photo above) and the other the second is the end-of-game call. Enjoy. The interception. And the last play.
A different rivalry: The Kings and Ducks went at it last night, and unfortunately game time was the same as the Steelers-Chargers game. So I watched hockey and was still able to catch the last part of the football game. The Kings looked strong on defense and, um, not so good on offense. I started wondering if they still had an offense. But then the Ducks have Teemu Selanne (18 points, 17th in the league), Corey Perry (20 points, 12th) and Ryan Getzlaf (22 points, 5th) and they're hard to hold back. Anze Kopitar has just 13 points so far (two goals, 11 assists for 88th place). Yet Drew Doughty stood out again, as did Matt Greene and Kyle Quincey. But when your points leader has two goals and next highest is Dustin Brown with six goals (and five assists, 119th) ... And who is this Brett Festerling? We found out last night that he is a pretty good defenseman.
And if you haven't read Helene Elliott's columnon the Ducks' team doctor, who lost his home in one of the wildfires here this weekend, check it out.
Kings add: You know how well Kings goalie Erik Ersberg played because he was named one of the three stars last night. Here is the box score and below is a video of the game's highlights.
Ducks add: Randy Youngman of the O.C. Register said the Ducks ex-GM Brian Burkeis headed to Vancouver on Tuesday but not to talk to the Canucks, where he was once the GM. There was a report Saturday that attorneys for Burke and for the Maple Leafs made contact. But Burke told Youngman on Sunday that he has not yet talked to the Leafs, explaining his attorney merely had called to make the Leafs aware the Ducks had filed the paperwork with the NHL to make it legal for other teams to approach him. So, no, Burke is allegedly not hunting for a job. Only hunting for real, sadly. But maybe someone should trail Burke while he's in Canada to see if he does indeed meet with someone from the Leafs. You never know.