The NFL notebook …
DAVIE, Fla. ó Tony Sparano stared into space stone-faced, tapping his foot and chomping on gum.
Miami Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland also wore a somber expression, his cheeks turning red as awkward details were discussed.
Team owner Stephen Ross sat between them, sweat glistening above his upper lip while he tried to put lipstick on a pig of a week for the Dolphins.
They did damage control Saturday, holding an extraordinary news conference to announce a two-year contract extension for Sparano ó and to acknowledge mistakes in dealing with the teamís coaching situation.
ěThe lines of communication should be handled differently,î Ireland said.
ěNow,î Ross said, ěI would go about it a different way.î
Ross and Ireland flew to California for an interview Thursday with Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh, leaving Sparano in very public limbo. Negotiations broke off, Harbaugh took a job with the 49ers, and Ross decided to keep Sparano.
Ross, who took over the Dolphins two years ago, said he had never interviewed a coach before and was naive to think he could keep his meeting with Harbaugh secret.
ěI should have probably let Tony know,î Ross said. ěI never thought it would be national news.î
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. ó Eric Studesville provided calm in the midst of chaos when he took over as the Denver Broncos’ interim coach following Josh McDaniels’ ouster last month.
Now, he’s get a chance to convince Broncos new boss John Elway that he should join Leslie Frazier in Minnesota and Jason Garrett in Dallas as coaches who were rewarded with the full-time gig following their midseason auditions.
Studesville will interview for Denver’s head coaching vacancy today, as will New York Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell as the Broncos begin taking a hard look at their coaching candidates.
PITTSBURGH ó The Pittsburgh Steelers didn’t secure the AFC North title and a playoff bye by beating Atlanta in their season opener. Or by winning their next two games at Tennessee and Tampa Bay with their No. 3 and 4 quarterbacks.
What’s telling is their season didn’t fall apart then, either.
The Steelers supposedly were in disarray after quarterback Ben Roethlisberger drew a four-game suspension for his misbehavior and wide receiver Santonio Holmes, the Super Bowl MVP two seasons ago, forced a trade to New York with his off-field problems. There were predictions the Steelers would be 0-4 or 1-3 by the time Roethlisberger returned, and that Baltimore might have the division title secured by then.
Being able to win despite going so far down their depth chart ó few teams keep four quarterbacks except during camp ó didn’t make the Steelers’ season, but it might have saved it. They went 3-1 during each quarter of the season and, with a 12-4 record and the No. 2 seeding in the AFC, they’re in the same position they were when they won the Super Bowl during the 2008 season.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. ó The New England Patriots have a new look, players coming and going from the first week of the season to the bye week of the playoffs.
Somehow, the results are the same. They keep winning and contending for the championship despite all the personnel changes.
Only 10 players remain on the 53-man roster from the Patriots’ last Super Bowl team three years ago. There are 25 players who joined the team this year. There are even two who were signed after the regular season ended.
Gone are Randy Moss, Laurence Maroney and injured Kevin Faulk. Say hello to Atiyyah Ellison, Landon Cohen and Marques Murrell.
“Two months ago when I came here, I was just looking for every opportunity to get the chance to do anything and took it game by game,” said Shayne Graham, who is 12-for-12 on field goals since replacing injured Stephen Gostkowski. “That’s kind of how things work around here.”
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. ó The Atlanta Falcons hope their home-field advantage in the playoffs will make up for a shortage of players who have won in the postseason.
The Falcons have no players who have appeared in a Super Bowl. Starting with veterans Tony Gonzalez and Mike Peterson, the roster is filled with players starved for playoff success.
The Falcons (13-3) earned the bye by winning the NFC South with the conference’s best record.