Colts look to make smooth O-coordinator transition
Associated Press Writer
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) – Jim Caldwell has a simple plan to integrate a new offensive coordinator with reigning NFL MVP Peyton Manning leading an already potent scoring attack.
Don’t mess it up.
The Indianapolis Colts coach said Tuesday he expects some minor changes, but tinkering with the offense too much could be “dangerous.”
“I’m not certain why you would try to take a guy who’s been on the rise statistically in every single category, MVP of last year and just keeps going in the right direction, why in the world would you want to change it?” Caldwell said.
After the Colts lost the Super Bowl to New Orleans, Tom Moore stepped down as offensive coordinator, a position he held the last 12 years. Moore became senior offensive assistant last weekend to help with the transition of new coordinator Clyde Christensen, who was promoted from assistant head coach/wide receivers.
Caldwell said Christensen will call the plays and likely do so from the press box after spending last year on the sideline. But Caldwell said there is still a chance Christensen could end up on the sideline.
The biggest improvement Caldwell wants to make is in the Colts’ running game, which gained a league-worst 80.9 yards per game during the regular season. Tweaking anything else is something he’ll do with caution.
“Every year we look at different ways to get a little bit better,” Caldwell said. “But that’s one of the things that I think is dangerous. You have to be careful. You want to stay with your core values, I think that’s extremely important. But you don’t want to get stale. It will catch up with you quickly.”
Coping with change is hardly new for the Colts.
Moore and offensive line coach Howard Mudd abruptly retired before last season after the NFL changed its pension plan. The coaches feared they would lose money if they didn’t retire under the old rules, but eventually returned after working out details regarding their financial considerations. Mudd retired after the Super Bowl.
“Every year, there’s something different,” Caldwell said. “There’s always things to sort out.”
TEBOW TALK: There might not have been a better example of Tim Tebow’s draft status than the talk in the room full of NFL coaches Tuesday morning.
A lot of compliments. A lot of questions.
“Tim has every intangible that you could ever want in a quarterback,” said new Buffalo Bills coach Chan Gailey, who is poring through film of the former Florida quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner.
“The bottom line on him is, is his delivery going to keep him from being able to play? How much is there to be done yet? And how much of a change can he make? Because if you go with the delivery he had, he will really struggle in this league.”
Tebow has been bombarded by critics for his elongated throwing motion and limited time in a traditional NFL-style offense. At Florida’s pro day last week, he showed off a new, quicker release that left many coaches and scouts impressed.
Count Patriots coach Bill Belichick among them.
“I think it’s obvious that in the last six weeks he’s had some major changes,” Belichick said. “My sense of Tim Tebow is if you asked him to play nose tackle, he’d play nose.”
And what type of nose tackle would he make?
“I think he’d be one of the faster ones,” Belichick joked.
CORNERING THE MARKET: Jets coach Rex Ryan believes his team has cornered the market on elite NFL cornerbacks.
The Jets traded with San Diego for Antonio Cromartie, who will start opposite All-Pro Darrelle Revis in 2010. Ryan already has proclaimed Revis as the best at the position. He says Cromartie is in that class, too.
“Antonio Cromartie might have as much talent as any player I’ve been around playing cornerback,” Ryan said of the fifth-year player the Jets acquired for a conditional draft pick. “Combine him with Darrelle Revis and that will be a pretty lethal combination. It allows us to not just roll coverage to one cornerback or the other, and we had to do that a lot last year.”
Ryan recalls being impressed when Cromartie worked out at Florida State before his draft year, and watching him turn into an All-Pro in 2007, when he had an NFL-leading 10 interceptions.
“That was the best I’d seen at any workout,” said Ryan, who was Baltimore’s defensive coordinator at the time.
But Cromartie struggled the past two seasons – on and off the field. His poor tackling has been criticized, and the 25-year-old Cromartie has fathered seven children by women in five states.
“He’s got some maturing to do,” Ryan said. “Is he perfect? Probably not.”
BOXING BRADY: Apparently Tom Brady wasn’t taking enough hits as New England’s quarterback, so he’s taking up another physical sport.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick confirmed Tuesday that Brady has been boxing in the Los Angeles area as part of the quarterback’s offseason conditioning. Belichick had no problem with the program, so long as Brady doesn’t get knocked out.
Asked what type of boxer Brady would be, Belichick was quick to answer.
“Somebody that gets knocked down,” he joked.
SPARANO JR: Tony Sparano tried to talk his son out of coaching with no such luck.
Instead, the son of the Miami Dolphins coach is trying to follow in dad’s footsteps.
Sparano said he was happy to learn that his 23-year-old son, Tony Sparano Jr., was hired as defensive line assistant for the Hartford Colonials of the United Football League this week. Sparano said his son took home several academic honors while playing defensive end for Albany (N.Y.) and could have pursued other, less stressful jobs, but his interest has always been football.
The Dolphins coach said it was possible his son could be on his staff one day. First, he’d like for him to make a name for himself.
“I could see that happening when he’s ready down the road,” Sparano said. “Sometimes it’s better they go off on their own and learn things and come back.”
PERFORMANCE BONUSES: Minnesota Vikings center John Sullivan was the top earner in the NFL’s performance-based pay program that awards players for playing time based on their salary level.
Sullivan, a 2008 sixth-round draft selection from Notre Dame, earned $397,555 in additional pay. He became a starter last season.
Next on the list was Chicago cornerback Zack Bowman, a fifth-rounder in 2008 who led the team in interceptions last year with six. He earned an extra $355,355.
Patriots linebacker Gary Guyton ($349,437), Steelers cornerback William Gay ($325,607) and 49ers receiver Josh Morgan ($325,421) rounded out the top five.
More than $109.5 million of bonuses was distributed to 25 players for their performances during the 2009 season. Players have been paid nearly $600 million during the eight seasons of the program, which has expired because it only applies to years with a salary cap. The 2010 season has no cap.
AP Football Writer Barry Wilner contributed to this report.