Monthly Archives: January 2013

The Passing of the Torch?

By Kevin York

Photo Credit: (Cary Edmondson/USA Today Sports)

Photo Credit: (Cary Edmondson/USA Today Sports)

The past two weeks have been full of Super Bowl story angles on the Harbaughs, Ravens, 49ers and various members of each team. Lost amid all the hype surrounding Ray Lewis’ impending retirement and the crowning of wonderkind of the moment, Colin Kaepernick, as the league’s next great quarterback is a story that, frankly, I’m surprised I haven’t heard much about. It’s the story of the meeting of two inside linebackers, one already established as a Hall of Fame shoo in, potentially the best linebacker of all time, and the other, a promising, young player that reminds many of the former.

I’m talking about Ray Lewis and Patrick Willis.

As Lewis’ career winds to an end in the Super Bowl, Willis has put himself in a position to take over the mantle as the premier inside linebacker in the game. Over the first few years of Willis’ career, we heard this Lewis-Willis comparison many times. The way Willis approached the game, the way he played it, his body, it all reminded us of Ray Lewis. So why haven’t we heard about this passing of the torch the past two weeks?

Perhaps because the workman-like, no frills, stoic approach Willis takes isn’t something that makes a lot of waves among the other showier stories that emerge during Super Bowl week (Chris Culliver anyone?). Or maybe it’s because his 49ers have finally had some other stars emerge, stars that want the attention (looking at you Kaepernick). Or maybe it’s because Willis’ counterpart on the inside of the San Francisco linebacking corps, NaVorro Bowman, also emerged as a prime time player this year.

I don’t have the answer as to why, but in my eyes, the comparison still sticks. So I decided to take it a step further than the eyeball test. Over the first six years of each of their careers, Ray Lewis and Patrick Willis have played the exact same number of games. They each only missed four total games over that span (maybe they have the same deer antler spray guy). It sets things up perfectly to compare the two head to head. Is Willis really deserving of the comparison? How does he stack up to the future Hall of Famer? Can we say that this is a passing of the torch situation?

Total Tackles
Lewis (875) vs. Willis (812)

Solo Tackles
Lewis (698) vs. Willis (621)

Lewis (19.5) vs. Willis (17.5)

Lewis (12) vs. Willis (7)

While Willis’ numbers are good, they don’t quite stack up to those that Lewis put together over his first six seasons. Of course, we’re looking at these numbers in a vacuum, which for some reason, people tend to do a lot when they look at sports stats. One could easily argue that Lewis had much better defensive tackles lining up in front of him over his first six seasons, absorbing blockers, freeing Lewis to make more plays. In fact, this has long been an argument made against Lewis by the Ray-Ray haters. Nonetheless, the fact that Lewis’ numbers are better across the board, make quite a statement.

Given these numbers, I think we can reasonably say that although Willis is a good player, it’s unfair to compare him to Lewis. After six seasons, Lewis had already established himself as the type of player that could be called generational. Willis isn’t at that point, and at this point in his career, about halfway through, I think he’d have to increase his production a bit to reach that status by the end of his career. What could make that even harder is that over the previous two seasons, we’ve started to see his counterpart on the interior of San Francisco’s linebacking corps, NaVorro Bowman, emerge as just as good of a linebacker as Willis himself, possibly even better. In my opinion, Bowman had the better 2012 campaign.

Not quite a passing of the torch situation, but on Sunday we’re in for a treat watching two defenses anchored by stellar, Pro Bowl caliber (at least until the past two seasons in Lewis’ case) inside linebackers. These two solid defenses have been overshadowed a bit by their offenses leading up to the game, but come Sunday, I have a feeling we may be in for a defensive battle.

By Kevin York
Follow Kevin on Twitter at @kevin_york
You can contact Kevin at

The Best Offensive Line Story of the Year: The Up and Down Tale of Bryant McKinnie

By Kevin York

Photo Credit: (Jake Roth/ US Presswire)

Photo Credit: (Jake Roth/ US Presswire)

As people look forward to Sundays Super Bowl, there’s been plenty of talk about the skill position players. Joe Flacco. Colin Kaepernick. Ray Rice. Frank Gore. Michael Crabtree. And of course, Ray Lewis’ retirement. There’s a big storyline that many people are missing though, and it’s one that casual fans may not notice.

This Super Bowl matchup features two really, really good offensive lines.

The big guys in the trenches often get overlooked because they don’t score and they don’t tackle. There aren’t a lot of stats to measure them by, at least none that someone watching a game on tv instead of from the press box can keep track of easily.

San Francisco has one of the three best offensive lines in the game, maybe even the best. They’ve largely built it from the ground up through the draft, which is exactly the way I’d do it if I were running a team. I always advocate building a team from the inside out, starting with two strong lines. A good offensive line can make an average quarterback or running back good or a below average quarterback or running back average. Everything starts with the offensive line. You can’t run or pass with any effectiveness unless the big uglies up front are winning their battles.

Photo Credit: (Paul Sakuma)

Photo Credit: (Paul Sakuma)

The 49ers’ Mike Iupati is probably the best guard in the league. Joe Staley is a top five tackle and the other tackle, Anthony Davis, is a top ten tackle. They drafted all three along with Iupati’s counterpart opposite him on the right side of the line, Alex Boone. Only center, eleven year veteran Jonathan Goodwin, was not drafted by the 49ers.

Baltimore’s offensive line is not quite as good as San Francisco’s, and wasn’t as built through the draft, but is also a top ten unit. I don’t know the last time we’ve seen two lines this good in the Super Bowl. We didn’t get it last year. New England and New York deployed solid lines, but they weren’t in the same league as this year’s group. The Packers and Steelers started two injury plagued lines the year prior.

It really is a great story, but the matchup of these two great offensive lines isn’t the story I’m referring to in the title of this post. That story belongs to just one member of the Baltimore Ravens’ offensive line.

When people think about the Ravens’ offensive line, the first name that usually pops in their head is Michael Oher, the big tackle that the book and movie, The Blind Side, were based on. Next is probably guard Marshal Yanda. I mentioned earlier that San Francisco’s Iupati is probably the best guard in the league; Yanda is the other guard in that conversation. Both made my All-Pro team. Once you get past Oher and Yanda, the next name to come up is center Matt Birk, the veteran who was close to retiring last year, but came back another year for a shot to win the big one.

The name that probably doesn’t come up as often is the Ravens’ other tackle, Bryant McKinnie, and for good reason. He reported late to camp, out of shape and overweight. The team cut his salary and he sulked his way through bad practices. He wasn’t a starter at the beginning of the year; he wasn’t even a starter at the end of the year. McKinnie didn’t become a starter for this year’s Ravens team until the wild card round playoff game against the Colts.

What did he do in that game, his first start of the season? McKinnie held Colts pass rusher Dwight Freeney to not only zero sacks, but no tackles at all. None.

Bryant McKinnie began his college football career at Lackawanna College in Scranton, Pennsylvania, where he moved from his high school position of defensive end to offensive tackle. After two years at this junior college, he transferred to the University of Miami for his junior and senior year. As a Hurricane, he was an All-American his junior year and was unanimously selected for the honor again as a senior. He also received the Outland Trophy as the nation’s best interior lineman, was selected as Sports Illustrated’s Player of the Year and finished eighth in the Heisman voting as a senior. That 2001 Miami team also won the national championship.

Photo Credit: (Doug Pensinger/Allsport)

Photo Credit: (Doug Pensinger/Allsport)

McKinnie was drafted in the first round of the 2002 NFL draft as a 6’9″ 335 pound senior by the Minnesota Vikings with the seventh overall pick. For the next eight years, the giant tackle was a mainstay on the Vikings’ offensive line, even making the Pro Bowl in 2009. From 2003-2007, McKinnie started every game and had a streak of 80 straight games started. He was a solid NFL tackle and for the most part, lived up to the hype surrounding him coming out of Miami.

In the summer of 2011, his fortunes went south, and due to his own doing. He reported to training camp weighing over 400 pounds; this coming after he finished the previous season at 360 pounds and promised coaches he would get in shape over the summer and drop some weight.

After he was cut by the Vikings, McKinnie was signed by the Baltimore Ravens, largely due to former Miami teammate Ed Reed speaking on his behalf to Baltimore management and vouching for him. He started all 16 games for Baltimore that year, but then at the beginning of 2012, McKinnie’s fortunes again changed as I described earlier with reporting to camp overweight and having his salary cut.

So how did we get to this point? How did McKinnie regain his starting job, in the playoffs no less, and dominate a great pass rusher like Dwight Freeney?

Bryant McKinnie worked his butt off, for one thing. In addition, a string of other things happened along Baltimore’s offensive line that eventually put McKinnie back in a place to step back into a starting role. Ironically, turns out Michael Oher was not as astute at protecting Joe Flacco’s blind side as the movie based on him would seem to indicate. He’s much better playing at the right tackle spot where he can run block. However, during the regular season, the Ravens played Oher at left tackle and rookie Jah Reid at right tackle since McKinnie reported to camp out of shape. When Reid suffered a toe injury, and McKinnie had put together several really good weeks of practice, it led coach John Harbaugh to move Oher back to right tackle, where he played in previous seasons, and start McKinnie at left tackle.

The lineup change ended up paying off for Harbaugh, McKinnie and Baltimore. The big tackle has played well throughout the playoffs and done his part to give Joe Flacco plenty of time to throw the ball downfield, which is exactly what he’s done.

While this matchup of offensive lines is certainly impressive, what’s more impressive is the up and down story of Bryant McKinnie and how he’s worked himself back into a job and helped lead his team to a Super Bowl appearance.

By Kevin York
Follow Kevin on Twitter at @kevin_york
You can contact Kevin at

Super Bowl XLVII Prop Bets

By Matt Ginn

While the spectacle and majesty of sport in general is of course my primary reason for following along with my favorite teams, life is always a little more interesting when you have money on the line. It is in that spirit that I’ve selected Super Bowl Prop bets to be my initial foray into The Couchletes.

I’d love to be able to adapt in-depth game analysis to search for value comparing odds on various bets, but I suck at in-depth pregame analysis and analysis done after the fact isn’t very helpful when you have to place the bets ahead of time. So I’ll just take a look at a sampling of the props compelling to me.

SUPER BOWL XLVII SPECIALS – Highest Scoring Quarter

1st Quarter 4/1

2nd Quarter 8/5

3rd Quarter 3/1

4th Quarter 2/1

My initial thought on seeing this bet was to bet the 3rd quarter. Being a 49ers fan I’ve seen most of their games and feel that they’ve been an occasionally slow starting team that likes deferring when they win the opening kick, are great at in-game adjustments and possess an explosive offense. After minimal research I found that the 3rd quarter hasn’t been significantly higher scoring for either the 49ers or their opponents for the majority of the season and that this is just a narrative I created, probably due to being more intoxicated as the game went on. However, I did notice a few high scoring 4th quarters while digging through this season’s box scores and started leaning towards betting the 4th even though the odds are fairly low. The flip side to that argument (that I had with myself in my head) is that the Ravens have been a successful team going deep, the 49ers’ safeties have been susceptible to being beat by the deep ball in recent weeks and that both teams are going to want to get out to a fast start. So, I’m leaning towards the 1st quarter for those reasons and because the payout is the best. I’m nothing if not a sucker for an underdog. $40 on 1st.

SUPER BOWL XLVII SPECIALS – Who will the Super Bowl MVP of the Game thank first?

Teammates 5/4

God 5/2

Coach 12/1

Family 12/1

Owner 15/1

Does Not Thank Anyone 9/4

A couple of interesting plays here. If the Ravens win, barring a huge game by either of the Rays (Lewis or Rice), we’re probably looking at an MVP for Flacco. I don’t know Flacco’s personal religious beliefs but he seems cut from the same no-nonsense, no-interesting-quote cloth as Brady, Rodgers and the Manning boys, Eli’s love of pranks aside, and would most likely thank his teammates, coach, owner and then God for “really putting it all on the line” and “winning one for Ray (Lewis)”. Pretty much any Raven will feel inclined to mention Ray Lewis first if they win the MVP, so teammates seems like a fairly safe bet if you’re counting on a Ravens win and don’t have much confidence in a washed-up alleged murderer who hasn’t played his best football in 3+ years stealing the MVP trophy based on sentimentality. If Lewis wins the MVP he’ll thank God, and wouldn’t we all if we beat a murder rap without serving any jail time?

But if you like the 49ers, and I do, then you have to assume it’ll be Kaepernick taking home the trophy. Kaep has also come across as a professional, handling the media well and not making waves for anything out of the ordinary, but he’s also an outspoken Christian who has multiple tattoos referencing bible passages and seems inclined to praise God first in any hypothetical MVP speech he’s giving. I’m putting $50 on teammates and $40 on God, hoping one of them comes through for a small profit.

SUPER BOWL XLVII – The largest points lead of the game by either team will be

Over/Under 13 (-115)

I’m taking the over. 49ers have been behind by 17 and been ahead by 21 in their two playoff games this year, but just look at the scoring progression in the SF – Falcons game and you’ll see my rationale. 17-0 Falcons, 14 straight by SF, another TD for the falcons on a two minute drill and then 14 straight for the 49ers again. Granted, the only time the lead was greater than the 13 points we’re looking for here was the 17-0 start, but the 49ers have shown a tendency in the last few weeks to both score in bunches and allow scoring in bunches. Largest leads (for either side) going back to week 15 from the NFC Championship game, 17 Falcons, 21 GB (Hi Kevin!), 21 Arizona, 36 Seattle (I don’t want to talk about it) and 28 New England (Hi Amy!).

What about Baltimore though, how did the scoring progress in their games? I’ll use their last 6 games, though I think the team has changed a bit since being blown out by Denver in week 15, I want to use the same length of time that I did for the 49ers. Largest lead (for either side) going back to week 15 from the AFC Championship game, 15 New England, 7 Denver, 15 Indianapolis, 9 Cincinnati, 26 NYG and 28 Denver.

In games played by either of these teams over the past 6 weeks the 13 number has been surpassed in 9 of the 11 games competed. I could easily see this game starting out 14-0 or 21-7 before turning into the hair-pulling, nail-biting tight game it’s destined to be. $115 on the over.


For my last Super Bowl bet, I’m just betting the spread. After opening at SF -4.5 in most places the number has started creeping toward the Ravens. At the time of this writing (one week before the Super Bowl) the current line is SF -4 (-105). If you aren’t familiar with point spreads this means the 49ers would have to win by four or more points to payoff a bet on them, the -105 accounts for the casino’s portion of your bet, or the vig. A $105 bet on the 49ers to cover would only pay $100 if you won in addition to the stake (amount bet). If you were to bet on Baltimore you would need them to win outright or to lose by less than four. A four point 49ers win would result in a push and no bets winning or losing. As I’ve said (repeatedly) I’m a 49ers fan and I would rather get the apocalypse inducing super-flu for a month than bet against my team in the Super Bowl. $105 on the 49ers to win and cover 31-24.

A small caveat on this post – Don’t actually trust me for betting advice. For one, betting is illegal in most places in the United States and on top of that I’m not a professional gambler. As I said at the top life is just a little more interesting when you have some money on the line.

By Matt Ginn
Follow Matt on Twitter at @mattginn



New Roster Acquisitions – Part 2

As Kevin said back in September, writing a blog is hard work. Between our day jobs, wives, and, for at least one of us, kids, keeping up the publishing frequency around here can become quite daunting. Fortunately, Kevin has quite a bit of free time on his hands and has done a great job carrying the load for us of late. However, with that in mind, he and I began considering what we could do to ease that burden some.

The only logical thing to do was to interview some new writers and bring them on. So, that’s exactly what we did, except that the “interview” consisted of one question: “Do you want to join The Couchletes?”

We started our search by evaluating what we currently have: Two main contributors that are Bay Area-based with strong affiliations to two completely different sets of regional sports teams. I love the Niners, Kevin loves the Packers (and I love the Niners vs. the Packers). I’m an Oakland A’s guy, he loves the Cleveland Indians (I know, I don’t get it either). What we sought was more diversity since the rest of The Couchletes are primarily Bay Area sports team fans. What we ended up with was more of the same, but it doesn’t mean we didn’t try!

Today, we’re announcing the addition of two more writers.

Matt Ginn – Matt is Bay Area born and raised. Having grown up in the East Bay with me (Ryan), he shares many of the same affiliations – Niners, A’s and maybe Giants at times, Sharks, Warriors, etc. Matt has a keen interest in football like the rest of us, but he also loves the English Premier League. And, while not many people like soccer in the U.S., we may get a post or two from Matt on his affinity for New Castle (football club and beer) and maybe some love poems about Wayne Rooney. Only time will tell. Matt also likes to gamble, something he will prove with his first post which will publish tomorrow. Keep an eye out for that!

Alton Beermann – Alton possesses probably the single coolest name out of all us Couchletes. I mean, his name is Beer Man. I consider myself a beer man, but this guy is legit. Beer Man shares his university with me (Go Aztecs!) and a love for NBA basketball that may rival our very own Mark Gaspar’s, though they’ll have to fight it out for the title. Alton is also a huge Niner and football fan. And, while he’s the youngest of the bunch (he just finished school in 2011), we feel he’s going to bring some interesting and fresh perspective to the (web)pages of this site.

Welcome, fellas!

2013 NFL Pro Bowl Preview

By Kevin York

Since I’ve written previews on a number of this season’s playoff games, including the AFC and NFC Championships, I thought I should write one for the Pro Bowl as well. Especially since it’s such an important game and fantastic match-up of strong, motivated teams.

Ok, I’m just kidding. I’m not actually writing a Pro Bowl preview. Does anyone really care about the Pro Bowl? I mean, the people playing in the game don’t even care that much.

Here’s what you can expect:

  •  Lots of scoring
  • Soft, if any, defense
  • Poor tackling
  • Potentially the last time we’ll see this game (reportedly, if the players continue not playing hard, the NFL may not play the game anymore)

So if you’re not doing anything today and find yourself watching the game, enjoy! Hope it’s better than the last few…

By Kevin York
Follow Kevin on Twitter at @kevin_york
You can contact Kevin at

Cleveland Browns Head Coach Rob Chudzinski: All the Right Moves

By Kevin York

Photo Credit: (Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer)

Photo Credit: (Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer)

Don’t laugh. I know. You read the title of this post and started laughing. Cleveland Browns and “all the right moves?” I admit, yes, that title seems like the ultimate contradiction, an oxymoron. Humor me for a minute though as I talk through this.

When the Cleveland Browns hired Rob Chudzinski I was a bit surprised. I thought they were going to go for a bigger, splashier name. They interviewed the ‘IT’ head coaching prospect Chip Kelly, after all. They also reportedly interviewed Penn State’s Bill O’Brien. After both men turned them down I thought they’d move on to someone with NFL head coaching experience, maybe trying to lure a Jon Gruden, Steve Mariucci, Brian Billick or Bill Cowher back to the sidelines. Or maybe they’d pursue a hot assistant like Bruce Arians or Greg Roman.

Nope. Instead they turned to the man that ran Carolina’s offense for the past two seasons. He had a solid 2011 campaign, but the offense seemed to regress this year. Now whether that can be pinned on Chudzinski or deserves to be blamed on quarterback Cam Newton and his sophomore slump is a valid question, but nonetheless, either way it left many wondering how good Chudzinski actually is as a coach. After being named head coach of the Browns, the question began arising, is this new Browns senior management regime any better than the old one. President Joe Banner possesses some positive experience from his time with Philadelphia. He plucked Andy Reid out of a virtual nowhere. Still, where’s the big name? Can this Chudzinski guy get them out of the cellar? Shouldn’t they have chosen someone with more experience?

Rob Chudzinski has started to answer these questions and has done so through the way he’s been filling out his coaching staff. Chudzinksi made the two most important hires on his staff in early January. He chose fired San Diego Chargers coach Norv Turner to lead the offense and former Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton to fill the same role for the Browns.

Photo Credit: (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Photo Credit: (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Many have criticized Norv Turner for the job he did in San Diego and yes, I was one of those people. Turner wasn’t a great head coach. Of course, he also wasn’t a terrible one. Don’t look at him and judge the hire based on his head coaching success (or lack thereof) though. Look at his past performance as an offensive coordinator:

  • Turner served as offensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys from 1991-1993. You may remember that those Cowboys teams won back to back Super Bowls during that time period. Turner drove that high powered offense featuring Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin, among others.
  • In 2006, Turner served as offensive coordinator of the San Francisco 49ers. He was the only offensive coordinator to get any sort of positive production out of Alex Smith until the current Jim Harbaugh-Greg Roman regime arrived in town.

Don’t forget, Turner also had some really good offenses in San Diego as head coach. What I’m getting at, is that the guy is no slouch when it comes to guiding an offense.

Photo Credit: (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Photo Credit: (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Ray Horton turned the Arizona Cardinals into one of the top defensive teams in the league. The few wins the Cardinals had this year, were largely due to excellent defensive play since its offense was anemic. Horton was interviewed for several head coaching jobs this offseason, including Arizona and Cleveland. I think this is a great hire. Horton is one of the top young defensive minds in the game.

Chudzinkski has also been smart about the assistants he retained from Pat Shurmur’s old Browns staff. He kept the special teams coach and offensive line coach. Cleveland was near the top of the league in both of those areas. It was very smart to keep continuity for those units that were already performing well.

The decisions he’s made in his short time on the job has me thinking Chudzinski could see success in Cleveland. Of course, there’s a lot more to the job than just choosing a staff, but Browns fans have reason to feel optimistic about their new head coach given what we’ve seen so far.

By Kevin York
Follow Kevin on Twitter at @kevin_york
You can contact Kevin at

Overlooked Assistants: These Guys are Due

By Kevin York

All the open NFL head coaching jobs have been filled now. Just to recap, here are the new faces in their new places:

  • Arizona Cardinals – Bruce Arians (former Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator)
  • Buffalo Bills – Doug Marrone (former Syracuse University head coach)
  • Chicago Bears – Marc Trestman (former Montreal Alouettes head coach)
  • Cleveland Browns – Rob Chudzinski (former Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator)
  • Jacksonville Jaguars – Gus Bradley (former Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator)
  • Kansas City Chiefs – Andy Reid (former Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator)
  • Philadelphia Eagles – Chip Kelly (former University of Oregon head coach)
  • San Diego Chargers – Mike McCoy (former Denver Broncos offensive coordinator)

This year there seemed to be a higher than usual number of college head coaches considered for an NFL head coaching job. Kelly and Marrone were of course ultimately hired, but Penn State’s Bill O’Brien and Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly were also considered by at least one team.

It didn’t seem like there were as many NFL assistant coaches considered this year. Aside from the three men listed above who previously served as coordinators, there were only a few NFL assistants that frequently surfaced as candidates: Ray Horton (former Cardinals defensive coordinator, now Cleveland Browns defensive coordinator), Jay Gruden (Bengals offensive coordinator) and Keith Armstrong (Falcons special teams coordinator). All three of those men are certainly deserving, but I feel like there are three current NFL assistants that were really overlooked in the interview process.

Photo Credit: (Karl Mondon/Times-Herald)

Photo Credit: (Karl Mondon/Times-Herald)

Vic Fangio, San Francisco 49ers Defensive Coordinator
When Jim Harbaugh became head coach of the 49ers and Fangio took over the defense, he had a good amount of talent to work with, but he put all those pieces together and guided the unit to the top of the league. In both years under Fangio, most would say San Francisco’s defense has been one of the top three in the league and all the statistical categories would back that up.

Additionally, Fangio figured out ways to incorporate players such as Carlos Rogers and Donte Whitner who were cast offs from previous teams. People saw those guys as talented yet underperforming, which is why San Francisco was able to get them on the cheap. Fangio figured out ways to incorporate them into his defense and hide some of their flaws. He’s done such a stellar job of this that Rogers and Whitner have received some undue credit for their performance in these last two years. The scheme and personnel management talent that Fangio has shown are important skills for a head coach to possess.

Photo Credit: (NFL Photos/Getty Images)

Photo Credit: (NFL Photos/Getty Images)

Winston Moss, Green Bay Packers Assistant Head Coach/Inside Linebackers Coach
The former NFL linebacker has been an assistant coach since 1998 and has steadily risen through the ranks until he became assistant head coach of the Packers in 2007. He’s been seen as a talented assistant for some time and I actually thought he’d get more consideration for a head job by now.

Moss has coached Green Bay’s inside linebackers since he joined the team as an assistant in 2006. What he’s done is create one of the deepest positions on the team. Actually, probably the deepest besides wide receiver. Look at the unit this year. The starting inside linebackers were supposed to be A.J. Hawk and Desmond Bishop. Then Bishop got hurt and D.J. Smith moved into his spot. Then Smith got hurt and Brad Jones moved into his spot. Yes, a third string player ended up starting for most of the season – and did well. Moss also worked Robert Francois into his rotation and to a lesser degree, young developing players Jamari Lattimore and Terrell Manning. He’s shown a keen ability to develop young talent, a must have skill for an NFL head coach.

Photo Credit: (Jeff Chiu/AP)

Photo Credit: (Jeff Chiu/AP)

Greg Roman, San Francisco 49ers Offensive Coordinator
What Roman has done in San Francisco is pretty remarkable. He took Alex Smith, a quarterback that was pretty much left for dead, and turned him into a Pro Bowler. No previous San Francisco offensive coordinator, except Norv Turner, had ever been able to get even consistent game management from Smith and Roman makes the guy a league leader in passing efficiency and QBR. Head coach Jim Harbaugh gets all the credit for revitalizing Smith, but Roman deserves just as much credit, if not more.

What’s possibly even more impressive is that Roman shifted the offense, in mid-season, to tailor it more for Colin Kaepernick’s skills and comfort level after Harbaugh made a quarterback switch following Smith’s concussion. The result? An offense that became dynamic and explosive. It didn’t miss a beat and improved in most areas. That’s the kind of work I’d look for in a head coach.

By Kevin York
Follow Kevin on Twitter at @kevin_york
You can contact Kevin at

Kevin’s 2012 NFL All Pro Team

By Kevin York

Yesterday we revealed the winners of our awards for the 2012 NFL season. To continue with the theme of recognizing the game’s best players of this season, today I’d like to reveal my 2012 All-Pro team. Keep in mind, this team was selected solely by me; it wasn’t decided by all of us. If you asked some of the other Couchletes for their all-pros, I’m sure they’d have many more 49ers on their team. But me? I’m a little more unbiased than them (that’s right, zero Green Bay Packers on my all-pro team).

A lot of thought went into this team so I want to explain a little for context. You’ll see no fullback on this team. Only a handful of teams even use a fullback anymore, so instead of naming one for the sake of history like the AP does (I guess that’s why they do it), I decided to name a modern all-pro team, replacing the fullback with a third wide receiver. Apologies to Vonta Leach, Marcel Reece and Michael Robinson. Sorry, guys, I can’t rationalize putting one of you on the team over someone like Brandon Marshall.

Another thing the AP does with their team, and a lot of writers do the same thing, is name 12 people to their defense – four down lineman and four linebackers. Again, that’s not a modern lineup. Hell, that’s not even a legal lineup unless you want a 12 men on the field penalty. Either choose a 4-3 or a 3-4. I decided to go with a 4-3 for mine so you’ll see four down linemen and three linebackers.

Like I said, I put quite a bit of thought into this, but let me know what you think. If you think I’m out of my mind (or even if you actually agree with me), leave a comment.

Kevin’s 2012 NFL All-Pro Team

Quarterback – Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos
Running Back – Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings
Wide Receiver – Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions
Wide Receiver – Andre Johnson, Houston Texans
Tackle – Duane Brown, Houston Texans
Guard – Mike Iupati, San Francisco 49ers
Center – John Sullivan, Minnesota Vikings
Guard – Marshal Yanda, Baltimore Ravens
Tackle – Ryan Clady, Denver Broncos
Tight End – Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots
Wide Receiver – Brandon Marshall, Chicago Bears

Defensive End – J.J. Watt, Houston Texans
Defensive Tackle – Geno Atkins, Cincinnati Bengals
Defensive Tackle – Vince Wilfork, New England Patriots
Defensive End – Cameron Wake, Miami Dolphins
Outside Linebacker – Von Miller, Denver Broncos
Inside/Middle Linebacker – Daryl Washington, Arizona Cardinals
Outside Linebacker – Jerod Mayo, New England Patriots
Cornerback – Richard Sherman, Seattle Seahawks
Cornerback – Charles Tillman, Chicago Bears
Free Safety – Jairus Byrd, Buffalo Bills
Strong Safety – Eric Weddle, San Diego Chargers

Special Teams
Kicker – Blair Walsh, Minnesota Vikings
Punter – Thomas Morstead, New Orleans Saints
Return Specialist – Jacoby Jones, Baltimore Ravens

By Kevin York
Follow Kevin on Twitter at @kevin_york
You can contact Kevin at

The Couchletes’ 2012 NFL Season Awards

By Kevin York

In December, I wrote a post previewing the NFL season awards, going division by division and highlighting the best players of the year and the potential candidates for our year end awards. Today we’re ready to reveal the best of the best, our choices for MVP, Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year, Offensive and Defensive Rookies of the Year, and Coach of the Year.

I’m not going to go through our winners and highlight a lot of stats. If you want that, check out all the other sports sites. We’re Couchletes. We don’t have the time or means to do all the research to show why a quarterback is more valuable than a running back, so I’m not going to approach this like that. I’m just going to talk, like Couchletes do.

MVP – Peyton Manning

Photo Credit: (Peter Aiken/AP)

Photo Credit: (Peter Aiken/AP)

Peyton Manning showed us what he’s worth this year. Six wins. This year’s Denver team wasn’t much different than last year’s – except at quarterback. Exchanging Tim Tebow for Peyton Manning gave them six additional wins and the top seed in the AFC. Ironically, in the playoffs the two quarterbacks reached the exact same point. We’re not going to focus on that though since this is a regular season award.

Why Manning over Adrian Peterson? Manning was playing the most crucial position on the football field and led an entirely new offense for Denver. He brought it all together. Yes, Peterson was the entire offense for Minnesota, but a quarterback has more responsibilities.
Others considered: Adrian Peterson, Tom Brady

Offensive Player of the Year – Adrian Peterson

Photo Credit: (Patric Schneider/AP)

Photo Credit: (Patric Schneider/AP)

Peterson very nearly had an all-time great season, as in better than anyone else – ever. He missed attaining that status by only nine yards. Detroit receiver Calvin Johnson actually did have an all-time great year, breaking Jerry Rice’s single season receiving yards record. So why Peterson over Johnson? It was a tough decision, but ultimately, Peterson carried more of his team’s offensive load. He needed people to block for him, but did the rest himself. Johnson needed someone to throw him the ball and people to give that person time to get him the ball. We found Peterson’s year slightly more spectacular than Johnson’s.
Others considered: Calvin Johnson, Tom Brady, Brandon Marshall

Defensive Player of the Year – J.J. Watt

Photo Credit: (Dave Einsel/AP)

Photo Credit: (Dave Einsel/AP)

J.J. Watt redefined the way not only defensive linemen play the game but also the way offensive linemen play it. It’s mind-blowing how quickly a man that big can move. Equally impressive is how great he is at defending both the run and the pass. Rarely do you find a lineman that excels so much at both. A lot of attention went to Aldon Smith and his quest to break the single-season sack record. Lost in all of that attention was the fact that Watt was just as close to breaking it.
Others considered: Von Miller, Aldon Smith, Geno Atkins

Offensive Rookie of the Year – Andrew Luck

Photo Credit: (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Photo Credit: (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

This was a strong category, but we ultimately decided that Andrew Luck stood out more than the other contenders. Luck put up great numbers for a rookie and did it without much help around him, not nearly as much as Russell Wilson and Robert Griffin III had to work with. Those two had great running games and great offensive lines to take the pressure off of them a bit. Luck didn’t have either of those and had a receiving corps comprised of Reggie Wayne and a number of no-names. Additionally, Luck was handed the entire playbook from day one. Wilson and RG3 were allowed to gradually assume more of the offense each week. That’s why we saw the Redskins running Baylor’s offense near the beginning of the year. Luck didn’t get that luxury and proved he could handle it.
Others considered: Russell Wilson, Robert Griffin III, Alfred Morris

Defensive Rookie of the Year – Luke Kuechly

Photo Credit: (Bob Leverone/AP)

Photo Credit: (Bob Leverone/AP)

This is the award that goes largely unnoticed. The general public doesn’t know the defensive rookies nearly as well as the offensive rookies. Those people missed the play of Carolina’s Luke Kuechly, a middle linebacker who should soon be finding himself appearing in Pro Bowls alongside the likes of Patrick Willis. Kueckly anchored that defense, a unit that didn’t have a lot of talent, and played superbly.
Others considered: Casey Hayward, Janoris Jenkins, Bobby Wagner

Coach of the Year – Chuck Pagano/Bruce Arians

Photo Credit: (AJ Mast/AP)

Photo Credit: (AJ Mast/AP)

No one expected the Indianapolis Colts to be very good this year. After news surfaced that Head Coach Chuck Pagano would miss much of the season due to treatment for leukemia, the expectations fell even more. The job that Chuck Pagano and Bruce Arians did this year given the circumstances was extraordinary. Arians certainly proved he deserved a head coaching job, which he received in Arizona, and I’m excited to see what Pagano can do given a full season next year. This combination overachieved with a team that didn’t have a ton of talent. Getting the kind of results they did make it hard to argue with giving them this recognition over any other.
Others considered: Pete Carroll, Jim Harbaugh, Leslie Frazier

By Kevin York
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