Oct 8, 2022; Dallas, Texas, USA;  Texas Longhorns defensive end Justice Finkley (1) and Texas Longhorns defensive lineman Keondre Coburn (99) sack Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Davis Beville (11) during the second half at the Cotton Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Big 12 releases football schedule for 14-team season

The 2023 Big 12 football schedule, released on Tuesday, will make for some awkward get-togethers.

While BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF are joining the league, Oklahoma and Texas have not yet departed for the SEC.

All 14 teams will play nine conference games, starting Sept. 16 when newcomer Houston hosts TCU, the 2022 College Football Playoff runner-up and a former Southwest Conference rival.

Texas will face just two of the Big 12’s newest entries, and the games will come back-to-back. The Longhorns will visit Houston Oct. 21 and host BYU Oct. 28

Oklahoma, meanwhile, will open its Big 12 schedule by visiting Cincinnati Sept. 23. The Sooners will later host UCF Oct. 21 and travel to BYU Nov. 18.

The annual Red River Rivalry between Texas and Oklahoma is set for Oct. 7 at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.

A rematch of last season’s Big 12 championship game, between TCU and equally surprising Kansas State, will be Oct. 21 in Manhattan, Kan.

Oklahoma State is slated to host Oklahoma on Nov. 4 in the Bedlam series matchup.

Oklahoma and Texas will join the SEC in either 2024 or 2025. The two bluebloods’ decision to jump ship prompted the Big 12 to invite BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF, some of the most successful athletic programs from outside the power conferences.

–Field Level Media

Jan 25, 2022; Metairie, LA, USA;  New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton speaks during a press conference at Ochsner Sports Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Wevers-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Broncos finalizing deal to make Sean Payton new head coach

Former New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton is about to become the head coach of the Denver Broncos.

According to ESPN, the two teams agreed to compensation on Tuesday afternoon that would clear the path for Payton to be hired by the Broncos. Denver would trade a first-round pick in 2023 — No. 29 overall — and a second-round pick in 2024 for Payton and a third-round pick.

Payton, 59, is the biggest name available in the coaching market. He is still under contract with New Orleans through the 2024 season after stepping aside as the Saints’ coach in January 2022 after 15 seasons.

Payton said last week that the price for an NFL team to hire him in this cycle would likely be a mid- to late-first-round draft pick.

In addition to the Broncos, Payton also has interviewed with the Houston Texans, Arizona Cardinals and Carolina Panthers.

The 2023 first-round draft pick was received in the trade deadline deal with the Miami Dolphins for outside linebacker Bradley Chubb.

Payton took last season off after coaching New Orleans to a 152-89 record in 15 seasons. He guided the Saints to the 2009 season Super Bowl title.

The Super Bowl-winning season is the lone time Payton has won multiple games in the postseason. He has a 9-8 mark in nine appearances.

The Saints won 10 or more games nine times under Payton. They went 9-8 in his final season in 2021.

The Broncos have missed the playoffs in seven straight seasons and have sustained six consecutive losing campaigns.

Despite acquiring quarterback Russell Wilson from the Seattle Seahawks prior to last season, Denver was just 5-12 and first-year coach Nathaniel Hackett was fired with two games remaining in the regular season.

–Field Level Media

Dec 24, 2022; Santa Clara, California, USA;  San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans reacts during the third quarter against the Washington Commanders at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Reports: Texans hire 49ers DC DeMeco Ryans as head coach

The Houston Texans hired DeMeco Ryans as their head coach Tuesday afternoon, multiple reports said.

The hire was widely expected after the NFL Network and KPRC2 in Houston reported Monday that the Texans planned to finalize a deal with Ryans after a second interview. With Ryans’ San Francisco 49ers losing in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday, he was freed up to complete a second interview with Houston, per NFL rules.

The Texans’ official Twitter account posted earlier Tuesday that the team had “completed additional discussions with DeMeco Ryans regarding our head coaching position.”

Ryans, 38, spent the past two seasons as the 49ers’ defensive coordinator. He was their inside linebackers coach for three seasons before that.

A former linebacker, Ryans spent the first six seasons of his playing career with the Texans, who selected him with the first pick of the second round in the 2006 draft. He was Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2006 and was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2007 and 2009.

Ryans also spent 2012-15 with the Philadelphia Eagles.

In 140 career games (139 starts), Ryans amassed 970 tackles, 13.5 sacks, seven interceptions, seven forced fumbles and 10 fumble recoveries.

His work with the 49ers’ defense drew plaudits. He assumed the coordinator position after Robert Saleh left the team to take the New York Jets’ head job. The Niners allowed the fewest points (16.3) and yards per game (300.6) in the NFL in 2022 and generated 30 takeaways.

Ryans replaces Lovie Smith, who was the second straight Texans coach to be let go after one season. The Texans went 3-13-1 in 2022 and will pick second in April’s NFL draft.

The 49ers have requested to interview Steve Wilks for their defensive coordinator vacancy. Wilks is under contract with the Carolina Panthers, where he was the defensive coordinator and interim head coach in 2022. Carolina interviewed Wilks for the full-time head coach gig before hiring Frank Reich.

–Field Level Media

Jan 31, 2023; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers head coach Frank Reich speaks at his introductory press conference at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Griffin Zetterberg-USA TODAY Sports

Panthers’ Frank Reich vows standard of excellence, roster collaboration

For the man who threw the first touchdown pass in team history, new Panthers head coach Frank Reich knows what the “secret sauce” is in Carolina, and it’s not the quarterback.

It’s the Panthers’ defense.

Reich was introduced Tuesday in Charlotte as the team’s new head coach, and while he continues to think about specifics of how it will be done, Reich promised a “standard of excellence” and roster collaboration.

Reich shook hands with current players who were in attendance before taking the stage. Some of his old 1995 teammates came out as well, including Carlton Bailey, Gerald Williams, Pete Metzelaars, Dwight Stone, John Kasay and Mark Rodenhauser.

“The standard is the best,” Reich said in his opening remarks. “That’s what we’re reaching for, nothing but the best. Let’s have a consistency of excellence in everything that we do. … At the top end is championships and the bottom end, we’re a playoff team.”

And unlike the previous tenure of the exiled Matt Rhule, the Panthers’ roster will be a work of collaboration between Reich and general manager Scott Fitterer.

“It’s not a one-man show,” Reich said. “It’s balance of power. Scott will have control of the 53. I’ll have control of who’s active, who’s not active. But, ultimately, that’s on paper. In reality, this is 100 percent collaborative. … We’re gonna tirelessly work where we’re gonna have the same vision.

“We’ll have disagreements. … We’ll have different ideas. But, ultimately, we’ll come together as one and decide who are the best players on this team and how to build this team,” Reich said.

The biggest roster question is at quarterback, where the Panthers cycled through three quarterbacks alone in 2022 — Baker Mayfield (six starts), Sam Darnold (six starts) and PJ Walker (five starts).

“You’ve got to have stability at quarterback,” Reich said. “We’ve learned to adapt, but that’s not the ideal situation.”

Reich added that figuring out the QB position will be priority No. 1 for himself, Fitterer and owner David Tepper.

But Reich knows what he has in his defense.

“I think the defense has been a real strong suit, been a top-level defense,” Reich said. “A top-five defense can elevate you as a team. Not only be in every game but find a way to win every game. We understand we’re in a league that is offensively driven, but kind of the secret sauce is create and build upon the momentum we have here, the players, the roster we have here on defense.”

Reich also said no decision has been made about whether he will call offensive plays. Though he enjoys it, he noted a trend of head coaches moving away from that. He said he wants to fill out his offensive staff before he makes a decision about play-calling.

–Field Level Media

Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel responds to questions during a press conference to announce the teams new general manager Ran Carthon at Ascension Saint Thomas Sports Park Friday, Jan. 20, 2023, in Nashville, Tenn.

Nas Titans Carthon 026

Titans switching to turf surface for 2023

The Tennessee Titans are going away from natural grass and will install “cutting-edge field turf” in time for the 2023 NFL season.

According to the Titans, they’re replacing their grass with monofilament, Matrix Helix Turf with organic infill, becoming the “first NFL stadium with the technology of a synthetic turf system that incorporates organic infill.”

“There is nothing more important than the health and safety of our players,” Titans head coach Mike Vrabel said in a news release. “It’s hard to grow grass. It gets slick. We put new turf down, we try and put new sod down and it’s slick, you see guys slipping.

“Our grass surface is not on the level of some of the other grass surfaces (across the NFL). At the beginning of the year, summer, training camp, early season, I can see it being very consistent. But as the season wears on, and the weather changes, there is a noticeable difference in performance of the field,” Vrabel added.

The switch comes amid a raging debate between the NFL Players Association and the league about natural vs. artificial surfaces.

NFLPA president JC Tretter wrote last fall that “NFL clubs should proactively change all field surfaces to natural grass.”

Citing statistics, Tretter wrote “NFL players consistently experienced a much higher rate of non-contact lower extremity injuries on turf compared to natural surfaces.”

Meanwhile, the Titans in their release said Nissan Stadium in Nashville “consistently had amongst the highest lower body injuries of any stadium across the league” during the 2018-21 seasons on natural grass.

That’s due to the region’s transition climate zone, the team said.

“Ultimately there’s just a limit to how much can be done for a natural grass surface in this part of the country,” Titans president and CEO Burke Nihill said. “This turf is cutting-edge technology and will be a huge improvement in terms of consistency and performance.”

–Field Level Media

Dec 18, 2022; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) gestures against the New England Patriots in the first half at Allegiant Stadium. The Raiders defeated the Patriots 30-24. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Raiders QB Derek Carr not permitted to seek trade

The Las Vegas Raiders have not granted quarterback Derek Carr permission to speak to potential trade partners, multiple outlets reported.

The Raiders have to trade or cut their all-time leading passer before Feb. 15, the date his $32.9 million base salary for 2023 and another $7.5 million for 2024 become fully guaranteed.

Carr, 31, has veto power over any trade.

The Raiders benched him for the final two games of the 2022 regular season in favor of Jarrett Stidham. Carr then left the team, with permission, to avoid being a distraction. He tweeted a farewell message to Raiders fans on Jan. 12: “Raider Nation it breaks my heart I didn’t get an opportunity to say goodbye in person.”

Carr apparently will get that chance this week at the Pro Bowl Games in Las Vegas. He announced on Tuesday that he had been named as a replacement for the showcase, his fourth Pro Bowl selection.

“Well… maybe this invitation got lost in the mail from past seasons but I’m going back to pro bowl #4,” he posted on Twitter. “See you soon Vegas!”

A trade would appear to be beneficial to both parties. The Raiders could land a draft pick or a veteran player in return for the nine-year starter, while Carr could get to hand-pick his landing spot.

So what’s the hangup? The Athletic speculated that the Raiders “might be concerned” that Carr’s agent, Tim Younger, would rather work out a free-agent deal for his client than help out with trade terms. Younger declined comment for that story.

Carr completed 60.8 percent of his passes for 3,522 yards with 24 touchdowns and 14 interceptions in 15 games this season. He is the franchise’s all-time leader in passing yards (35,222) and touchdowns (217).

–Field Level Media

Michigan State Spartans cornerback Khary Crump (14) and Ohio State Buckeyes long snapper Bradley Robinson (42) share words after a punt return.

Syndication The Columbus Dispatch

Michigan State’s Khary Crump gets probation for tunnel brawl

Michigan State defensive back Khary Crump was sentenced Tuesday to 12 months of probation and 80 hours of community service for his role in the tunnel brawl at Michigan in October.

The sentence resolves Crump’s plea deal earlier this month. He pleaded guilty Jan. 5 to misdemeanor counts of assault and battery and disorderly person jostling after initially being charged with felony assault.

Crump was captured on video swinging his helmet at Michigan’s Germon Green in the tunnel following the Wolverines’ win over the Spartans at Michigan.

“I would love to regain the respect from the Spartan community and also the U-M community, in terms of on the field and off the field, to show that’s not really how I want to define myself,” Crump said in court Tuesday.

Crump was sentenced by Judge Miriam Perry in Ann Arbor’s 15th District Court under the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act, which allows the 21-year-old to have the charges dismissed and wiped from his record once he successfully completes probation.

Aside from the legal proceedings, Crump will still have to sit out the first eight games of the 2023 season in accordance with a suspension issued by the Big Ten.

However, Mike Nichols, Crump’s attorney, said Tuesday he plans to petition the conference to reduce the ban.

“Proportionality to me is important,” Nichols told the Detroit Free Press. “And 12 games is simply not proportional.”

–Field Level Media

Oct 16, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Dallas Cowboys helmet on the bench against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Panthers’ Jeff Nixon up for Cowboys OC job

The Dallas Cowboys plan to interview Carolina Panthers assistant Jeff Nixon for their vacant offensive coordinator position, multiple outlets reported Tuesday.

Nixon, 48, joined the Panthers in 2020 and was the team’s running backs coach and assistant head coach last season.

The Cowboys parted ways Sunday with offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, who took the same position with the Los Angeles Chargers on Monday.

Nixon began his NFL coaching career with the Philadelphia Eagles as an offensive/special teams assistant from 2007-10. He coached running backs with the Miami Dolphins (2011-15) and tight ends with the San Francisco 49ers (2016) before joining Baylor coach Matt Rhule’s staff in 2017.

He was the co-offensive coordinator and running backs coach for the Bears through 2019 before departing to join Rhule’s staff in Carolina.

Nixon was Carolina’s running backs coach in 2020 and became the interim offensive coordinator in 2021 after the team fired Joe Brady in December of that season.

The Panthers (7-10) fired Rhule after a 1-4 start in 2022 and finished the season under interim coach Steve Wilks.

Carolina hired Frank Reich last week to be the new head coach. Nixon is not currently listed as a member of Reich’s coaching staff with the Panthers.

–Field Level Media

Jan 29, 2023; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) raises the Lamar Hunt Trophy with tight end Travis Kelce (87) after the AFC championship NFL game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, Jan. 29, 2023, at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo. The Kansas City Chiefs advanced to the Super Bowl with a 23-20 win over the Bengals. Mandatory Credit: Sam Greene-USA TODAY Sports

Bengals-Chiefs ratings hit 4-year high for championship game

Sunday’s AFC Championship Game between Cincinnati and Kansas City was the most-watched conference title game in four years.

At an average of 53.124 million viewers, the ratings were an 11 percent increase over last year’s AFC title game between the same teams. The Chiefs won Sunday’s game 23-20 on a field goal in the final seconds.

It was the most-watched conference championship game since the New England Patriots-Chiefs AFC title game five years ago (53.9M).

The NFC title game earlier Sunday between the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers garnered an average of 47.50 million viewers, down 5 percent from last year’s NFC title game between the 49ers and Los Angeles Rams.

However, the NFC title game still ended as the second most-watched game of the season, surpassing the 45.65 million viewers who watched the 49ers-Dallas Cowboys in the divisional round.

–Field Level Media

Oct 9, 2022; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Philadelphia Eagles guard Landon Dickerson (69) against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Report: MRI negative for Eagles LG Landon Dickerson (elbow)

An MRI on Philadelphia Eagles left guard Landon Dickerson’s hyperextended right elbow came back negative, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported Tuesday.

Dickerson, a first-time Pro Bowl selection this season, is expected to play in Super Bowl LVII while wearing a brace on his arm, per the report.

The second-year player was injured during the fourth quarter of Sunday’s 31-7 win against the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC championship game.

Dickerson, 24, started all 17 games in the 2022 regular season. He has played in 31 games (30 starts) since being drafted in the second round out of Alabama in 2021.

–Field Level Media