After one year in Tampa Bay purgatory, the star cornerback moved his Island to New England and discovered football paradise -- a successful franchise willing to pay him a ton of money, if only for one year. It's "so surreal to me," he said Tuesday at media day, soaking up the moment.
As for his old team -- the Jets, not the Buccaneers -- he so doesn't care about their hard times.
At media day, Revis was asked if he feels sorry for the suffering Jets' fans.
"Do I feel sorry for the Jets' fans? Um, not really," he said, according to NJ Advance Media. "It's not really my call. I didn't make the call. Management made the call at that time and they felt it was best to get rid of me. That was the situation. That is how I look at it."
The Jets got rid of him because Revis showed no flexibility whatsoever in negotiations, demanding franchise-quarterback money. If he had been willing to bend a little, there might have been a chance to work out a long-term deal. But, no. Revis, always about the money, shot his way out of town. He dropped some hints last year about wanting to return, but that was more PR than anything else.
He got what he wanted -- a championship-caliber team and a big pay day, not necessarily in that order.
On Tuesday, the Jets announced the hirings of Kevin Patullo (quarterbacks), Marcel Shipp (running backs) and Steve Marshall (offensive line).
For Shipp, a former NFL running back, this is his first NFL coaching gig. Shipp, who knows Bowles from the Arizona Cardinals, got into coaching only three years ago. He spent one year in the United Football League, one year as a Cardinals intern and last year at his alma mater, UMass, where he coached the running backs.
The quarterbacks position is an important job on any staff, particularly the Jets, who have a developing quarterback in Geno Smith. Patullo was the assistant receivers coach for the Tennessee Titans last season. Prior to that, he spent three seasons on Chan Gailey's staff with the Buffalo Bills (2010-12), working as a quality control assistant.
The Jets' plan is to have Gailey, the offensive coordinator, assist Patullo with the quarterbacks.
Marshall has coached with three teams, most recently with the Green Bay Packers. He was their assistant line coach for a year.
In case you're wondering, Bowles' staff looks like this:
Offensive coordinator -- Gailey
Offensive assistants -- Patullo (quarterbacks), Shipp (running backs), Marshall (line) and Karl Dorrell (receivers). They still need a tight ends coach.
Defensive coordinator -- Kacy Rodgers
Defensive assistants -- Pepper Johnson (line), Mike Caldwell (assistant head coach/inside linebackers), Mark Collins (outside linebackers), Joe Danna (secondary).
Special-teams coordinator -- Bobby April
On Tuesday, Heimerdinger was officially named to general manager Mike Maccagnan's staff. The hiring was reported last week, but there was some question as to what title he'd be given. And now we know.
At 28, Heimerdinger is younger than some of the players on the Jets' roster. He's relatively inexperienced for a front office position (only five years in the NFL), but he has an excellent reputation and he knows Maccagnan from their days with the Houston Texans. Heimerdinger was a scouting intern while Maccagnan worked in the Texans' scouting department.
Heimerdinger spent the past three seasons with the St. Louis Rams. He was a personnel analyst, evaluating pro and college players. His job was to evaluate the players on nine NFL rosters, along with cross checking on quarterbacks, wide receivers and tight ends in free agency. He also served as the Rams' college scout for the Southwest, also cross checking on wide receivers. That's his area of expertise, as he played receiver for Colorado State and Northern Colorado.
He's the son of the late Mike Heimerdinger, a longtime offensive coordinator who died of cancer in 2011 at the age of 58. He was the Jets' offensive coordinator in 2005.
This was Maccagnan's first addition to the front office. Previously, he fired the Jets' top college scouts, Terry Bradway and Jeff Bauer. He's also expected to hire Chicago Bears scout Rex Hogan as the director of college scouting.
You remember Mitchell, of course. He was the Jets' first-round draft pick in 1992, an athletic tight end who never lived up to his potential. A writer once described Mitchell this way: Body by Porsche, brain by Mattel. Sweetheart of a guy, though.
So at the end of Belichick's session with reporters, one that will be remembered for his non-answers on DeflateGate, Mitchell -- working for ESPN Brazil -- stepped up and fired a question that actually included a fib.
Mitchell got a smile out of Belichick, who responded, "No, thank you. I think we have an opening on our staff, if you’d like it. We’ll put you out in front there."
As for the actual question, Mitchell must have "misremembered" because he never played on the 1996 Jets, the team that finished 1-15. He was on the team from 1992 to 1995, going 3-13 in his final season.
After the news conference, Boston.com caught up with Mitchell and asked why he was so complimentary of Belichick.
"I played for the Jets," Mitchell said. "He was my coach."
Once again, we have to call a foul. Technically, he never played for Belichick.
In 1999, Bill Parcells gave Mitchell a free-agent contract, offering the chance to re-start his career after a couple of years away from football. Belichick was the defensive coordinator at the time. Mitchell lasted exactly one day in training camp, bolting in the middle of the night without telling anyone. I remember Parcells saying that Mitchell left "with the crickets."
About three weeks later, Mitchell called me, saying he was planning to call Parcells to ask for another chance. When I relayed Mitchell's plan to Parcells later that day, the coach gave a dismissive wave of the hand, muttered a couple of expletives and walked away. And that was the end of Johnny Mitchell with the Jets.
Years earlier, though, Mitchell did, in fact, play for Pete Carroll, the Seattle Seahawks' coach. In fact, he had his best season under Carroll, with 58 catches, 749 yards and four touchdowns in 1994. Mitchell told Boston.com that he bumped into Carroll on Monday at a Super Bowl media session.
"I took the nicest photo," Mitchell said. "I think I got the photo of the day. We laughed. I can’t find it right now, but it was the photo of the day."
History tells us it's a fan-enraging, reputation-tarnishing job in which you're second-guessed for just about everything. Five men have held the position since 2001, and not one of them has gone on to bigger and better things. The Jets and the Buffalo Bills are the only AFC teams since 2001 that haven't produced an offensive coordinator who has become a head coach at the pro or college level (not counting Tony Sparano's interim title last season for the Oakland Raiders). In other words, it's a dead-end gig.
Why is that? A few reasons:
There's no place to hide. Because the Jets have employed defense-minded head coaches (Todd Bowles is the sixth straight), the offensive coordinator is front and center, an easy target for fans and media. Quarterback instability, too, has been a huge factor; you can't make chicken salad out of you-know-what. Also, the scrutiny is relentless. The New York media are "tenacious," a former Jets OC said. "It makes the job really difficult." The last reason: The "Madden" video game. Yes, really. Now everyone thinks they can call plays and do it better than the professionals.
Consider what happened to the five OCs who preceded Gailey:
- Marty Mornhinweg (2013-14) -- The Jets scored fewer than 300 points in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1995-96 -- aka the Rich Kotite years. There was no room for Mornhinweg on Rex Ryan's Florham Park-to-Orchard Park shuttle, so he had to accept a demotion, becoming the Baltimore Ravens' quarterbacks coach -- his lowest rung on the coaching ladder since 1996.
- Sparano (2012) -- Two words: Tim Tebow. Need we say more? Sparano, fired by Ryan, landed a job as the offensive line coach of the Raiders. He went 3-9 as the interim coach after Dennis Allen was fired, but he wasn't rehired. He's now with the San Francisco 49ers, coaching the tight ends, a position he last held in 2004. Sparano is going backward -- quickly.
- Brian Schottenheimer (2006-11) -- He probably deserves an award for lasting six years under two coaches and three starting quarterbacks. The Jets' two highest point totals in the past 16 years came on Schottenheimer's watch (408 in '08, 377 in '11), but it wasn't good enough. He was the first of Ryan's OCs to be shown the door. After a three-year run with the St. Louis Rams, Schottenheimer is out of the NFL. He's the new OC at Georgia. It was nice knowing you.
- Mike Heimerdinger (2005): The well-respected Heimerdinger was supposed to be Herm Edwards' savior, but he lost his top two quarterbacks to season-ending injuries in the same game, and that was all she wrote. He remained in the league through 2010. He died of cancer in 2011 at the age of 58.
- Paul Hackett (2001-04): The tabloids loved him, filling their pages with "Paul Can't Hack-it" headlines. Few coaches in recent New York sports history have absorbed as much criticism as Hackett. Edwards was so eager to get rid of him that he fired Hackett two days after a playoff loss. True story: Hackett ran into his replacement -- Heimerdinger -- as he was leaving the building. Now 67 years old, Hackett never became a coordinator again and has been retired since 2010.
ESPN.com, in conjunction with the smart folks at Pro Football Focus, went all-in on a project that hammered that very theme. They analyzed the rosters of the 28 teams that fell short of the conference-championship games, determining how many players away each team is from being a legitimate Super Bowl contender -- specifically, we're talking above-average players.
I disagree with a few, especially putting safety Dawan Landry and linebacker Jason Babin in the "good" category. They're not worthy, based on last season. PFF says the Jets have two elite players (Sheldon Richardson and Nick Mangold) and four good ones (Landry, Babin, Muhammad Wilkerson and Damon Harrison). Like I said, I think they pushed up Landry and Babin too far.
I buried the lead, but PFF concludes that the Jets are eight above-average players away from being a Super Bowl contender. (You hear that, Mike Maccagnan?) That number puts them 14th in the league, which is rather high for a team that finished 4-12.
Two thoughts: PFF is way off in their ratings or Rex Ryan did a lousy job of coaching the team last season.
In my opinion, it's hard to quantify the number of players a team needs to compete for a championship. A truly great player, especially a quarterback, can raise the level of those around him. Tom Brady has been doing it for years. Nevertheless, this is an interesting talking point for hardcore fans.
“That’s the Patriots. I'm not surprised at all," Richardson said Sunday night at the Pro Bowl, according to the New York Post. "If they ain't winning with controversy, they ain't winning."
This, of course, comes at a time when the Patriots have accused the Jets of breaking the rules. They filed tampering charges against the Jets for a recent comment by owner Woody Johnson, who said at an end-of-season news conference that he'd like to bring back Darrelle Revis next season. It was an off-the-cuff remark, not part of a sinister plot to lure Revis away from the Patriots, but it nevertheless might have violated the anti-tampering rules.
So now we have DeflateGate, and the Jets have to be enjoying it, watching the Patriots squirm under the intense glare of the national spotlight. Eleven of their 12 footballs reportedly were under-inflated for the AFC Championship Game, fueling the controversy.
“All 12 of [their] balls having something wrong with them does tell you something is amiss,” center Nick Mangold said at the Pro Bowl, per the Post.
“It does seem like it’s always something with the Patriots," Mangold said. "It does seem that way.”
Mangold was a member of the Jets in 2007, when the Jets reported the Patriots for illegally videotaping defensive signals during a game. Hence, SpyGate.
On Jan. 3, 2000, Victor Green walked into Bill Belichick's office and gave him a crystal paper weight, purchased from Tiffany -- a congratulatory gift on the day of his promotion. Belichick was succeeding Bill Parcells, who was planning to announce his retirement that day. Green left the office excited about the prospect of Belichick coaching the New York Jets.
"I remember it like it was yesterday," the former safety said last week.
The Jets' public relations director, Frank Ramos, also visited Belichick's office that day, but he didn't come away with the same positive feeling. His plan was to have Belichick attend Parcells' farewell news conference, creating a symbolic passing of the torch. But Belichick refused to join the festivities, prompting Ramos to think, "Something doesn't feel right."
We all know what happened the next day: Instead of a coronation, Belichick stunned the team by resigning as the "HC of the NYJ." That news conference took "bizarre" to a new level -- and Belichick did it again Saturday, delivering his "Mona Lisa Vito" defense amid Deflategate accusations.
No doubt, Deflategate will be the dominant story this week. It will provide some amusement for Jets fans -- they love to see Belichick squirm -- but it won't eliminate the cold, hard facts. It has been 46 years since the Jets reached the Super Bowl. The kids of the 1960s who idolized Joe Namath and celebrated Super Bowl III are middle-aged folks, having exchanged their radical white cleats for Velcro-strapped sneakers.
This year's matchup, between Belichick's New England Patriots and Pete Carroll's Seattle Seahawks, probably stings more than the other empty years because the two coaches are former Jets. Welcome to Super Bowl EX.
The Jets had future greatness in the building, but they tossed it out (Carroll) and watched in disbelief as it walked out (Belichick).
Carroll lasted one year as the head coach, Belichick one day.
Eight conference championships later, their careers will intersect Sunday in Glendale, Arizona, with Carroll trying to match what Belichick accomplished in 2003 and 2004 -- win back-to-back Super Bowl titles. No other coach has done it since then.
"It's kind of heartbreaking," said former Jets linebacker Marvin Jones, imagining what might have been.
Fifteen years ago, the Jets knew they were losing a brilliant defensive coach, but who knew Belichick would become the Lombardi of his era? He failed with the Cleveland Browns, so he was hardly a sure thing. Obviously, the Patriots thought otherwise. So did Green.
"I knew we were losing something pretty special," said Green, who also played a year under Belichick in New England. "I always tell people, Belichick is the best coach at every position in the NFL. That's how highly I think of him."
Belichick's legacy could be tainted by the Spygate scandal of 2007, and there will be another ugly stain on his record if the NFL's Deflategate investigation uncovers a smoking gun. If so, it's "the Barry Bonds thing, an asterisk next to his name," Jones said. "He'll always have that attached to him. But Belichick is one of those coaches that doesn't give a s---."
Like Green, Jones played for both Belichick and Carroll. Belichick was the Jets' defensive coordinator from 1997 to 1999 and Jones called him a "great coach." They said the same thing about Carroll, who was their defensive coordinator before becoming head coach in 1994. It's a fascinating comparison because the two coaches are so different, yet so much alike.
Personality-wise, Carroll and Belichick are as dissimilar as Jim Carrey and Sean Penn, but they share a self-confidence that allows them to coach aggressively. In other words, they're never afraid to wander outside the box. In the AFC divisional playoffs, Belichick confused the Baltimore Ravens with his funky formations and gadget plays. Carroll's successful fake field goal in the NFC Championship Game was a brilliant move; it changed the game for Seattle.
Carroll was hardly a star in his only season as the Jets' coach, finishing 6-10, but he was admired by many in the organization. He was upbeat and energetic -- and still is.
His former players remember him fondly, especially his pep talks. They said he had the ability to turn a casual, pregame conversation in a hotel lobby into a fire starter. He liked to use audio and visual aids during his speeches. One time, his special effects were provided by Mother Nature. Carroll pounded his fist on a podium a split-second before a clap of thunder, which knocked out the lights in the building. The timing was perfect, like something out of a corny Hollywood movie.
Carroll was criticized by fans and media for some of his methods -- too nice, they said -- but he's winning big with the same style in Seattle.
"I knew Pete was a good coach, it just took him 20 years to prove it," former Jets center Jim Sweeney said. "He was ahead of his time."
Former defensive tackle Paul Frase also was a Carroll fan, but he said the coach's "laid-back mentality didn't work well" at that particular time because of the changing landscape in the NFL. Free agency was in its infancy, and the big money was starting to pour into the players' bank accounts. That created a sense of entitlement among some players, according to Frase, who commended Carroll for taking the USC job in 2001. That allowed him to gain a greater understanding of the young minds preparing to enter the league, Frase said.
Carroll never got a chance to evolve on the Jets' job because owner Leon Hess woke up one day and decided he had to have Rich Kotite. It was a cold ending for Carroll.
When the season ended, Carroll spent a week formulating his plan for 1995. He carried a thick binder into a meeting with Hess, excited to share his thoughts on the future, but the session lasted less than a minute. Hess dropped the hammer because he wanted Kotite to be the head of "the Jets' family," as he put it.
A few days earlier, Hess was in the Bahamas when he heard on TV that Kotite had been fired by the Philadelphia Eagles. With some prodding by his daughter -- yes, really -- the wealthy oil man opted to change coaches. It was so out of character for Hess, who usually let his football people run the show.
"I was totally surprised and, quite frankly, disappointed," said Ramos, who was close to the late owner. "I always thought Pete was an outstanding coach."
A year ago, Ramos was invited to the Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium as a guest of commissioner Roger Goodell, and they watched Carroll's Seahawks claim the Lombardi Trophy on the same plot of land where he once coached the Jets. Ramos was genuinely happy for Carroll, who refused to be ruined by a premature pink slip 20 years ago.
No matter what happens Sunday, a former Jets coach will be celebrating another title. Will it be the guy they kicked out or the guy who bolted?
A few Jets-related thoughts on the game:
- Mangold and Richardson are teammates on Team Irvin, coached by Jason Garrett of the Dallas Cowboys. Mangold and Richardson have been seeing stars all week -- meaning the Cowboys' helmets -- as they have seven Dallas players on their team.
- I'm curious to see how Richardson approaches his first Pro Bowl. He was bitterly disappointed that he didn't make the initial roster -- he made it as an alternate -- so he could try to use the game as a stage to show everyone he belongs with the best of the best. One of his linemates is St. Louis Rams rookie Aaron Donald, whom former Jets coach Rex Ryan felt undeservedly was selected over Richardson. We all know Richardson plays with a chip on his shoulder; don't be surprised if he plays this one at regular-season speed.
- This will feel like an AFC East game for Mangold. Team Carter includes three defensive linemen from the Buffalo Bills -- Mario Williams, Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus. This is supposed to be a fun event, but the presence of the Buffalo trio will remind Mangold of two brutal losses from the season. By the way, this will be Mangold's sixth Pro Bowl.
- We all know that free-agent recruiting happens at the Pro Bowl. Mangold and Richardson are teammates with Green Bay Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb, who will be one of the marquee free agents. Think Mangold and Richardson might drop a few positive words on the Jets' behalf? Maybe. Arizona Cardinals cornerback Antonio Cromartie also is eligible for free agency, and it probably won't take much arm-twisting to make him consider a return to the Jets. He speaks highly of new coach Todd Bowles, his former Arizona defensive coordinator.
- Could the Jets have more than two representatives next year? Absolutely. Defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson has been on the cusp of the Pro Bowl for two years. A sleeper could be linebacker Demario Davis, who enters a contract year and should thrive in Bowles' attacking defense. Nose tackle Damon Harrison, too, could be a Pro Bowl possibility. Next year could be a defensive resurgence for the Jets.
Paul was the Curtis Martin of beat writers, bringing it day after day, week after week. He had that edgy, tabloid mentality, a must in the New York market, but he also had the ability to humanize the men behind the facemasks. His stories made you laugh, made you cry, made you think. He covered everyone from Mark Gastineau to Wayne Chrebet, taking you inside the locker room and the coaches offices every morning as you rode the train to work or ate your breakfast.
The players loved Paul because he knew how to handle difficult stories and ask tough questions. He didn't hammer them or try to embarrass them in front of a group, yet he had a way of getting them to open up. He had the uncanny ability to see beyond the next game and the next deadline. To him, it was just a game. I'll never forget the day in 1992 when Dennis Byrd broke his neck. It was a major news story, and everybody in the press box was working furiously, consumed by the moment and the assignment, perhaps forgetting that a man -- a husband and father -- was in a hospital, not knowing if he'd ever walk again.
Then I got a tap on the shoulder from Paul. He had tears in his eyes.
"Can you believe this?" he asked, his voice mixed with shock and sadness.
It was a sobering reality check for a young sports writer.
And, of course, he kicked my ass in the next day's paper, reporting exclusively that Byrd had learned only a few days earlier that his wife was pregnant.
On Saturday evening, Paul's forever words -- Can you believe this? -- came rushing back to me when I heard the news: After a long illness, Paul died peacefully at his home, gone too soon at the age of 57.
No, I can't believe it.
The phone call was inevitable, because he had been battling for so long, but it still takes your breath away. For months --- years, really -- Paul was as tough as the men he covered, never complaining about his plight. Never, not once. We talked for hours, usually on my long commute to New Jersey, and it was always about the Jets, the Giants, the beat and, of course, our families. His three favorite subjects were Eric, Evan and Alex, his three sons. Yep, he was a real-life Fred McMurray.
Paul was a Giants fan, and he was touting Odell Beckham Jr. long before he made The Catch. Paul hadn't been to a game or a press box in years, but he knew stuff. He knew a good story from a really good story and he could tell the difference between the truth and public relations spin. Once a newspaperman, always a newspaperman.
We started out as competitors, the Daily News versus Newsday, but it quickly turned into friendship. Don't get me wrong, the competition was fierce. After Byrd's injury, every beat guy was scrambling to get the first hospital interview. Obviously, we couldn't get anywhere near his room, so Paul came up with the idea to give a tape recorder and a list of questions to one of Byrd's teammates, who would ask the questions bedside and record the interview. Luckily for me, the player got cold feet or else it would've been another butt kicking in the next day's paper.
On the rare occasion when I beat him on a story, he'd usually walk over to me in the press room and whisper, "Nice job, young Rich." He called me that even when it wasn't true anymore, but it always sounded good. So did the compliments. They always meant more coming from him, because he was the best.
Paul had a lot of friends in football, none bigger than Roger Goodell. In 1983, Paul was a rookie beat writer when Goodell was a public relations intern for the Jets, and they became buddies. Paul treated him like a somebody, not a low-level employee. Goodell never forgot it. Who knew he'd become the commissioner of the NFL? Several years ago, Paul invited me to a small dinner party with Goodell, and it was a blast, listening to them tell stories about old road trips with the Jets.
A few years ago, Goodell honored Paul with a cocktail reception at the league offices. Paul couldn't make it, as his body had begun to betray him, but it was a wonderful evening. No one will ever know how much Goodell helped Paul and his family through difficult times.
Until I met Paul, I never knew the meaning of the word mensch. After laughing, he set me straight and now, 30 years later, I can proudly say my best friend, Paul Needell, was a mensch. And he will be missed by many.
3. April fools: April is a very interesting addition. About 10 years ago, he was regarded as one of the top special-teams coaches in the league, but his reputation has sagged in recent years, particularly the last two seasons with the Raiders. Combining the stats for 2013 and 2014, the Raiders ranked in the bottom eight in four major categories -- punt and kickoff return, along with opposing punt and kickoff return. They also committed 40 penalties, the seventh-highest total in the league on special teams. A silver lining? They blocked four punts, tied for the NFL lead.
4. Hip, hip, Hooey! Let the record show the first player acquisition of the Mike Maccagnan era is tackle Sean Hooey, a 6-foot-9, 304-pound lineman who spent 2013 on the St. Louis Rams' practice squad. He signed a reserve-futures contract.
5. Houston, we've got a comparison: People tell me Maccagnan is a savvy talent-evaluator, but his three drafts as the Houston Texans' director of college scouting have been just ordinary to date. From 2012 to 2014, they drafted 27 players and they've combined for 214 games started. That includes defensive tackle Chris Jones, who was cut by Houston and has started 22 games for the New England Patriots. As a comparison, the Jets, who fired two GMs in that span, drafted the same number of players for a total of 219 starts. Obviously, the Texans' drafting record will look a lot better if Jadeveon Clowney, the No. 1 overall pick last year, recovers from his knee issues.
6. What a week: You think Woody Johnson had a satisfying week or what? On Monday, his bitter rival -- the New England Patriots -- was swallowed up in the DeflateGate scandal. On Wednesday, he introduced his new GM and coach. On Thursday, his longtime political rival, New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, was arrested on corruption charges. In 2005, Silver torpedoed the Jets owner's bid for a West Side stadium. Johnson's enemies are dropping. This is his Michael Corleone moment.
Needell made his name at the New York Daily News, covering the New York Jets from 1983 to 1996. In 1996, Needell left the Daily News to cover the NFL for Star-Ledger of Newark, where he worked until 2010.
At the Daily News, Needell chronicled one of the most colorful eras in Jets history, bringing the personalities and inner workings of the team to his readers every morning in the pre-Internet age.
He was well-respected for his reporting skills in a competitive market, but what separated Needell was his ability to humanize the people he covered, according to former Jets and team officials.
“The sports writing business lost a great one,” former Jets defensive end Jeff Lageman said Saturday night.
“I always had tremendous respect for Paul,” Lageman added. “I mean, he was just a great guy. I can’t remember ever having a conversation with him where he didn’t say, ‘How are you doing?’ He always asked non-football questions. He cared about you as a person, not just a player. Pretty special guy.”
Needell started on the Jets’ beat the same year they drafted quarterback Ken O’Brien. They hit it off instantly.
“He always took the personal side into consideration,” O’Brien recalled. “He was never consumed with X's and O's. To me, he always saw the big picture. We had a great relationship, and I knew I could trust him. He was a friend. We had that bond.”
In '83, Needell befriended a Jets public-relations intern named Roger Goodell, and they became lifelong friends. A few years back, Goodell organized a tribute for Needell at the NFL offices, where about 100 family members, journalists and league officials turned out. The event included a touching speech by the commissioner. Because of his illness, Needell was unable to attend, but he listened via speaker phone and responded with a hilarious acceptance speech -- an example of his unbreakable spirit.
"In a 'Tale of the Tape,' I was taller than NFL writer Paul Needell, but he was helluva lot tougher...especially in recent years. R.I.P," tweeted Joe Browne, the senior adviser to the commissioner.
Former longtime Jets public relations director Frank Ramos said Needell was “very fair” in his reporting, always giving the organization a chance to give its side on a particular story.
“He earned people’s trust and respect,” Ramos said. “That’s why people gave him information. … He was so well-liked by people in the building and respected by the coaches.”
Needell, born in Brooklyn, attended Midwood High School and graduated from Stony Brook University in 1978. He landed his dream job out of college, working as a copy boy for the Daily News.
He quickly worked his way up to a professional beat, covering the New York Cosmos and New Jersey Nets. In 1983, he was bumped up to the Jets’ beat.
One of Needell’s most memorable stories was printed by the Daily News in 1995, entitled, “Confessions of a Jets Beat Writer.”
He wrote: “The wins and losses never much matter to me. The personalities and stories keep you going, even when friends wonder how many more seasons you can stomach covering an awful football team. But for me, it's not about championships. It's about observing human reactions in good times and bad.”
Needell, who lived in Rockville Centre, New York, is survived by his wife, Cathy, their three children, Eric, Evan and Alex; and his parents, Martin and Marcia Needell of Brooklyn. Funeral arrangements are pending.
Johnson, who expressed his frustration last week after missing out on the Giants' defensive coordinator job, was hired Saturday to coach the Jets' defensive line. Johnson played for the Jets in 1997 and 1998 before embarking on his coaching career. He spent 14 years as a New England Patriots assistant before leaving the Bill Belichick nest last year to become the Buffalo Bills' defensive line coach.
Johnson has no previous working experience with new coach Todd Bowles, but they share a mentor -- Bill Parcells. Johnson played for Parcells with the New York Giants and Jets; Bowles coached for Parcells with the Jets, Dallas Cowboys and Miami Dolphins.
The popular former linebacker coveted the Giants' defensive coordinator position. He interviewed for the job, but it went to Steve Spagnuolo, who previously had won a Super Bowl ring as a member of Tom Coughlin's staff.
"Moving away from the Patriots, spending a year in Buffalo, I was hoping it would open doors and open some eyes, that more people would be watching,” Johnson told the New York Daily News, "and [that some team] will give me a call before all this is said and done.
"I feel bottled up," he said. "I have a lot of knowledge and a lot of information that I feel like I just have to keep to myself."
Johnson steps into a great situation, as he will be in charge of the strongest positions on the team. The Jets' defensive line is led by Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson, who will play Sunday night in the Pro Bowl.
The Jets ended up swapping defensive line coaches with the Bills. Their former coach, Karl Dunbar, followed Rex Ryan to Buffalo.
Demaryius Thomas played one year (2007) at Georgia Tech under Chan Gailey, the Jets' new offensive coordinator. A possible reunion in New York? Fuhgeddaboudit. Yes, Thomas will be an unrestricted free agent, but the Denver Broncos won't allow him to hit the open market. If they don't sign him before the start of free agency, they will exercise the franchise tag. Eric Decker can do all the recruiting he wants, but his old buddy isn't coming to New York.
Percy Harvin and Decker. Chances are, the Harvin decision will be made before the start of free agency. The logical move is to release him. He's a good player, but he's not worth $10.5 million and -- this is important -- a fourth-round draft pick. Right now, they owe the Seahawks a sixth-rounder, but it improves to a four if he's on the roster at a certain date. There's a considerable difference between a fourth-round pick and a sixth-rounder, and I can't see Mike Maccagnan, a former scout who treasures draft picks, signing off on the upgrade for an overpriced receiver. The Jets went 1-6 without Harvin; they went 2-6 with him. They can do better in free agency and the draft.
Darrelle Revis, no. Antonio Cromartie, yes. First of all, the only reason Revis considered the Jets last offseason is because of Rex Ryan. With Ryan gone, there's no way he'd come back. As for Cromartie, yes, I could see a return. You're right, he played well for Todd Bowles (made the Pro Bowl as an alternate). He knows the scheme and wouldn't be a bad short-term solution for the Jets. But let's not forget, he'll be 31 in April. There will be younger options on the open market, including Kareem Jackson (Houston Texans) and Byron Maxwell (Seattle Seahawks), both 26. Personally, I'd go for the more expensive, long-term player because the current depth chart is devoid of sure things. Even Dee Milliner is a question mark because he's coming off Achilles' surgery.
@RichCimini: Both. Unfortunately for them, the pickings are slim in both areas. I think Jets' fans need to start coming to grips with the likelihood that Geno Smith will be in the quarterback mix. I'm not saying he will be the opening-day starter, but I think there's a chance. Even if they drafted Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota (unlikely with the sixth pick), the Jets shouldn't have to rush a rookie into the lineup. With a new coach and new GM, they can afford to take a long-term view of the situation. What about a veteran? There's not much out there. We're talking about Brian Hoyer, Mark Sanchez (forget it) and Jake Locker. Maybe they take a flyer on T.J. Yates, a former Maccagnan draft pick in Houston. The name to watch is the Texans' Ryan Fitzpatrick, who has played under Gailey with the Buffalo Bills. He's under contract, but he could be a cap casualty. He's also recovering from a broken leg, so there's that.
Will the Jets look at QB's in the draft or free agency? #jetsmail— jonnyA (@thatlockdownD) January 23, 2015
RENTON, Wash. -- Seattle Seahawks general manager John Schneider, speaking to team reporters Friday for the first time since the season began, had no update on negotiations involving quarterback Russell Wilson's contract.
"We don't have a timetable," Schneider said. "At the appropriate time when we are able to speak to his representatives, we'll do that. We're not in a situation where we can yet."
Wilson, who has a $662,000 base salary this year, is ending his third NFL season and is signed through 2015. But NFL rules permit teams to negotiate a new deal with players after their third years. That is a virtual certainty for Wilson, who likely will receive a multiyear deal in excess of $20 million per year.
Schneider also talked about the team's plans for Marshawn Lynch, who is finishing the third year of a four-year deal that will pay him $6.5 million in 2015. Lynch will be an $8.5 million salary cap hit in 2015, but the Seahawks would save $7 million if they release him.
"He's under contract next year and he's a warrior,'' Schneider said of Lynch. "He goes out there every weekend and lays it on the line. I think you'd be hard-pressed to find a better running back in the National Football League."
Lynch, who is controversial at times, has been fined twice this season for obscene gestures on touchdown runs and had to pay a $100,000 fine for not talking to the media. He also attempted to take the field for the NFC Championship Game in unapproved gold cleats. When asked if Schneider was tiring of Lynch's act, he said, "I kind of like his act."
The addition of Rodgers, 45, most recently the defensive line coach for the Miami Dolphins, makes sense because he has a history with Bowles. They worked together on Bill Parcells' Dallas Cowboys staff (2005-07) and again with the Dolphins (2008-11).
Rodgers drew praise for his work with the Dolphins, but he has no coordinator experience on any level. That's particularly noteworthy because he will be calling the defensive plays.
Bowles said in his introductory news conference that he'd have a significant role in the operation, but that he'd leave the play calling to his coordinator. This sounds similar to the Rex Ryan-Mike Pettine arrangement, circa 2011. Pettine called the plays that year, but it was largely a team effort.
Rodgers has spent his entire career coaching the defensive line, so there figures to be an adjustment as he learns the entire defensive landscape. While coaching in Miami, from 2008 to 2014, the Dolphins recorded 287 sacks, the third-highest total in the league.
April, 61, is a well-traveled veteran, as this will be his eighth NFL team. He comes from a two-year stint with the Oakland Raiders, where last season he had one of the best punters (Marquette King) and one of the best kickers (Sebastian Janikowski) -- and yet the Raiders finished only 22nd in overall special-teams performance, according to an annual study by the Dallas Morning News.
April won Special Teams Coach of the Year awards in 2004 and 2008, when he was with the Buffalo Bills. The Jets are getting used to having an April in the building. His son, Bobby April III, was on Rex Ryan's staff and followed him to Buffalo to be his linebackers coach.
The Jets also announced the hiring of eight position coaches:
- Karl Dorrell, wide receivers -- Most recently, he was the offensive coordinator at Vanderbilt. He has worked for the Houston Texans and Dolphins.
- Robby Brown, quality control-offense -- He was the running backs coach at South Alabama.
- Mike Caldwell, assistant head coach/inside linebackers -- He followed Bowles from the Arizona Cardinals.
- Mark Collins, outside linebackers -- He comes from the Atlanta Falcons' staff.
- Joe Danna, defensive backs/safeties -- He spent the last three seasons as the Falcons' secondary coach.
The strength and conditioning staff also was completed. The Jets retained Justus Galac, who returns for his third year as the head strength coach. His assistants will be Kavan Latham and Aaron McLaurin.