Leach, Texas Tech parting was only a matter of time

The dismissal of Texas Tech head coach Mike Leach on Wednesday should come as no surprise, as both Leach and the Red Raiders’ administration seemed ready to move on as early as last offseason when it took both parties more than 10 months to hammer out a contract extension for the eccentric coach.

The tense and sometimes heated negotiations were often played out in public, with Leach broadcasting his feelings both nationally on ESPN and on local radio in Lubbock in an effort to get a new deal.

Leach also interviewed for the opening at the University of Washington that eventually went to Steve Sarkisian — perhaps a negotiating tactic, perhaps a feeling on his part that change was necessary.

Wednesday’s firing comes after the 48-year-old coach was accused of improperly treating injured wide receiver Adam James, who is the son of ESPN analyst and former SMU Mustang Craig James, while the player was recovering from a concussion.

In addition to the uncomfortable relationship Leach had forged with the Texas Tech administration, it certainly didn’t help his fate that fellow Big 12 head coach Mark Mangino was recently dismissed from Kansas for alleged mistreatment of his own players.

So the question now becomes where does Texas Tech go from here?

In the short term, defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeill will still coach the Alamo Bowl game against Michigan State after being named interim coach when Leach was suspended.

In the long term, athletic director Gerald Myers will have to find a suitable replacement for a coach who compiled an 84-43 record and a trip to the postseason in each of his 10 seasons at the school.

Baylor head coach Art Briles is most likely at the top of Myers’ list, as the former University of Houston coach is a Texas Tech alum and was an assistant in Lubbock before his stint with the Cougars. Briles hasn’t exactly put up staggering numbers in Waco — posting back-to-back 4-8 seasons in his first two years, but his name came up in February when the Leach contract negotiations were not progressing. In five seasons at Houston, he took the Cougars to three bowl games — coming up short in all of them — but went 18-8 in his final two seasons. Does the fact that he served as an assistant under Leach actually hurt his candidacy, though?

Arizona offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes is another potential candidate with Texas Tech ties. Not only did he also spend time as an assistant in Lubbock under Leach, but he’s the son of former Red Raiders coach Spike Dykes. Again, is it possible that his ties to Leach actually end up hurting his chances given all that has occurred?

Kevin Sumlin’s the guy who may in fact be the best fit for the Red Raiders’ personnel. Sumlin, who replaced Briles at Houston, has been running Leach’s spread offense, which led to the astonishing numbers put up by QB Case Keenum — and also led to a victory over Tech this season.

Besides former SEC mainstays Tommy Tuberville and Phillip Fulmer, whose names are sure to come up in conversation, what about a certain successful head coach in the state of Texas currently leading a program back from the dead?

I wrote on Tuesday about the lack of national recognition current SMU head coach June Jones receives when coaching vacancies occur, questioning why any athletic director at a school in a BCS conference wouldn’t want to reach out to Jones and take a chance on a coach whose offense does nothing but work very well.

While the run-and-shoot is not the fabled spread offense, fans in Lubbock are used to scoring points — and Jones’ system does just that. Under Leach, Texas Tech led the FBS in passing yardage six times. I’m willing to bet that a Red Raiders team led by Jones would not miss a beat.

Then again, Texas Tech may want to refrain from anything that has to do with SMU until this Leach-James controversy comes to a conclusion.

While there are no winners in this unfortunate situation, let’s hope for the sake of the players, remaining coaches, fans and alumni that Red Raiders football will return to being known for crazy passing numbers and not crazy off the field issues.

Dave Miller is the Web Manager of the National Football Post. You can follow him on Twitter at Miller_Dave.

Biggs: Eagles' Harris fined $7,500

Philadelphia Eagles rookie safety Macho Harris was fined $7,500 by the NFL for a hit on Denver Broncos tight end Tony Scheffler in their game Sunday.

Harris was called for unnecessary roughness on the play, an Asante Samuel interception, and the penalty negated a 40-yard return and backed the Eagles up on their own 1-yard line. They led 27-10 at the time, and the Broncos rallied from there to tie the game.

“I didn’t even read it,” Harris told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “I just checked the amount. Hopfeully, I get to appeal it.”

Andy Reid wasn’t happy with the call and told reporters “let’s move on” when it was brought up.

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Biggs: Bears place Tillman, Idonije on IR

The Chicago Bears placed cornerback Charles Tillman and defensive tackle Israel Idonije on injured reserve today.

Tillman suffered cracked ribs and a bruised lung when he was hit by the helmet of teammate Craig Steltz in Monday’s victory over the Minnesota Vikings. He was hospitalized and the lung injury will take some time to heal. Idonije suffered a foot injury that will require six weeks to heal, but he is not expected to require surgery.

The team promoted two players from the practice squad to take their places. Woodny Turenne, an undrafted cornerback from Louisville, and quarterback Brett Basanez were elevated. Turenne could see time on special teams in Sunday’s game at Detroit. Basanez will serve as the third quarterback.

The Bears also signed wide receiver Eric Peterman to the practice squad. The undrafted rookie from Northwestern spent training camp with the team.

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Biggs: Moose not ready to hang 'em up

They’ve going to have to tear the jersey off the backf of Muhsin Muhammad.

The Carolina Panthers wide receiver is set to become an unrestricted free agent but told vowed that he’s not done playing at 36.

“This will not be my last game,” Muhammad told the Rock Hill (S.C.) Herald. “It might be my last game as a Panther … but it will not be my last game.”

Muhammad told the newspaper he would consider returning in a lesser role. He’s caught just 46 passes and one touchdown this season. Muhammad is credited with helping bring along Steve Smith earlier in his career.

The 14-year veteran has remained in the starting lineup for Carolina, where he has spent 11 seasons.

Perhaps Muhammad needs to keep playing for the money. The Charlotte Observer reported earlier this year that Wachovia Bank sued him over a credit card bill.

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Biggs: Roy feeling pressure in Big D

Roy Williams gets it.

The Dallas Cowboys wide receiver knows he needs to step up his play, and quick.

If it wasn’t for the emergence of Miles Austin this season, there would be a greater focus on the anti-Herschel Walker trade. The Cowboys’ dynasty run under Jimmy Johnson was built by the trade of the running back Walker, and Jerry Jones’ blockbuster deal for Williams last season looks like a dud. Terrell Owens was a major pain but he produced. Dallas is having difficulty coaxing that out of Williams, who has two receptions for 18 yards in the last three games.

“If I continue to do the things I’ve been doing, I’m going to mess around and be on the sidelines playing special teams,’ Williams told David Moore of the Dallas Morning News.

Williams dropped two of three passes thrown his way at Washington, and one resulted in an interception.

“I didn’t get a look in the second half, so that’s telling me my quarterback has lost that confidence in me and so has the coordinator in calling the play for me,’’ he said. “That’s not on them. I don’t blame them. I’ve brought it on myself. I’ve got to get my stuff together and help this team win some games in the playoffs.

“I feel like I have to do something out of the ordinary here instead of just playing my game and letting the ball come to me,’ Williams said. “This season has been weird for me. I’ve always said I’ll take less stats for more wins, and that’s what’s happening. I think I’m getting tested by the man upstairs seeing if I’m really what I say I am.’’

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Panthers' Fox won't address reports of 2010 return

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Carolina Panthers coach John Fox is saying little about his future.

After a report this week that said Panthers owner Jerry Richardson will allow Fox to return next season but won’t extend his contract, Fox on Wednesday would only say that he’s got a year on his contract and that “I have an agent that deals with that.”

Fox declined to answer additional questions. When asked if he had talked to Richardson, he replied, “I am speaking English, right?”

The Charlotte Observer, citing an unidentified source, reported Monday that Fox, his coaching staff and general manager Marty Hurney would be “offered the opportunity to return next season.”

Fox is due to earn more than $6 million in 2010.

Woodley thinks Pats, Bengals will 'lay down' in their games

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Linebacker LaMarr Woodley predicts the New England Patriots and Cincinnati Bengals will “lay down” for their virtually meaningless games on Sunday because they don’t want the Super Bowl champion Steelers in the playoffs.

The Steelers (8-7), losers of five of seven, would make it in if they beat Miami, the Patriots defeat Houston, and the Bengals beat the New York Jets.

There are other combinations in which Pittsburgh could sneak in, but it’s unlikely the Steelers would make it unless New England wins.

The Patriots and Bengals have little to play for except which team will be seeded No. 3 in the AFC. With a wild-card playoff game awaiting each team next week, the Patriots and Bengals are expected to rest some starters to avoid possible injuries.

Wednesday bowl primer

Humanitarian Bowl
Idaho vs. Bowling Green
Today, 4:30 p.m. EST, ESPN

Keys to watch for:

• Idaho offensive guard Mike Iupati is clearly the top NFL prospect playing in this one and might end up being the first offensive guard drafted in April. Iupati has absolutely dominated his competition all year and possesses a rare combination of size (6-5, 330), power and overall athleticism for the position. He’s consistently able to overwhelm opponents on contact in the run game while also showcasing impressive fluidity and change-of-direction skills in pass protection. Iupati is still a bit raw and can get away with some of his technique shortcomings because of his pure physical skill set, but he looks like he could quickly mature into a good starting guard in the NFL.

• Bowling Green has an intriguing prospect on the offensive side of the ball who might have had the most dominating season of any player in the NCAA not named Ndamukong Suh. Wide receiver Freddie Barnes currently ranks first in the nation in receptions (138), first in receiving touchdowns (16) and third in receiving yards (1,551). He isn’t the most explosive straight-line athlete and lacks the wheels to consistently threaten NFL defenses vertically, but he showcases a real feel for the pass game, has good balance as an underneath route runner and knows how to adjust to the ball. Barnes isn’t a guy with the athleticism needed to start on the outside in the NFL, but he certainly has the talent to fill out an NFL receiving corps.

• Finally, Idaho junior quarterback Nathan Enderle is definitely a guy to keep an eye on going into next year. He’s a big kid at 6-5, 227 pounds and has really taken some major strides this season as a passer who could warrant consideration as a draftable prospect heading into 2010.

Holiday Bowl
Nebraska vs. Arizona
Tonight, 8 p.m. EST, ESPN

Keys to watch for:

• The Nebraska defense starts and ends with the dominating play of defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh up front. It’s rare to find a defensive lineman with his blend of size, power, athleticism and hand quickness inside. He does such a great job controlling blocks at the point and is so long and powerful that he’s easily able to disengage on contact. Expect the Arizona offensive line to devote a ton of attention inside to Suh in order to slow down the big fellow.

• What makes the Nebraska front four so hard to block is that there’s plenty of talent around Suh that can also beat one-on-one blocks in the run and pass game. One guy in particular who’s done a great job is DT Jared Crick, a tall, long-armed kid with a strong lower half and a deceiving first step. He does a great job stacking and shedding on contact and makes it difficult for opposing offensive coordinators to draw up effective protection schemes inside.

• Arizona has its own talented front four that knows how to beat blocks and create negative plays in both the run and pass game. However, it starts with the play of DT Earl Mitchell inside. Mitchell lacks ideal power in the run game but showcases good lateral quickness and knows how to disengage on contact and make his way toward the ball. His ability to generate pressure up the gut is the key for the Arizona defense.

• The Wildcats also have a pair of defensive ends in Ricky Elmore and Brooks Reed who can press the edge and collapse the pocket in the pass game. Nebraska QB Zac Lee needs to once again manage the game and take care of the football because he will be under some major pressure at times.

• Finally, there are two intriguing defensive backs I want to mention, Nebraska strong safety Larry Asante and Arizona cornerback Devin Ross. Asante is a thick, well-built athlete who displays impressive instincts and click-and-close ability in the underneath pass game. He’s not the most gifted straight-line athlete, but he has a nose for the ball, good footwork and is a consistent tackler in space. Ross, on the other hand, is a gifted athlete who showcases great straight-line speed and impressive toughness as a tackler. He’s still raw with his footwork, has a tendency to lose balance and will give up some plays in man coverage, but he possesses the type of range needed to hold his own at the next level and looks like a guy who could develop into a starting-caliber corner with time.

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Ochocinco ready for Revis, new TD celebration

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Chad Ochocinco is ready for Darrelle Revis, with a touchdown celebration planned for the Meadowlands.

The chatty Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver took some playful shots at the Jets cornerback in an entertaining conference call with the New York media Wednesday, saying Revis couldn’t cover him “in a brown paper bag on a corner of a Manhattan street inside a phone booth.”

The friends are expected to be matched up during the game Sunday night. Ochocinco insists coach Marvin Lewis told him the Bengals are “playing to win.”

Ochocinco said he has a scoring celebration planned in which he’ll make like Fireman Ed, a regular at Jets games, by putting on a Bengals firefighter’s helmet and sitting on the goal post or one of his linemen’s shoulders to quiet the crowd.

Cowboys' Williams: 'I blame myself'

From ESPNDallas.com:

IRVING, Texas — A few days after saying he would perform better if given more opportunities, Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Roy Williams reversed field.

Williams said Wednesday that the onus is on him to earn more opportunities. He has only one catch in each of the past two games, during which he has had four passes fall incomplete after hitting him in the hands.

Quarterback Tony Romo threw only seven passes to Williams in wins over the New Orleans Saints and Washington Redskins.

Romo’s only interception of December was a ball that ricocheted off Williams’ hands to Redskins safety Reed Doughty. After Williams dropped a perfect throw during a two-minute drill before halftime, Romo didn’t look his way again Sunday night.

“You know I have to get the confidence of my quarterback, because I didn’t get a look after the first half,” Williams said. “I didn’t get a look in the second half. That’s telling me that my quarterback has lost confidence in me, and so has the coordinator as far as calling plays for me.

“That’s not on them. I don’t blame them. I blame myself. I’ve got to get my crap together and try to help this team win some games in the playoffs.”