Saints GM returns from bounty suspension

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Saints GM returns from bounty suspension

From Comcast SportsNetMETAIRIE, La. (AP) -- Now that New Orleans general manager Mickey Loomis has returned to work, the Saints need his crisis-management skills to be sharp.The organization continues to be rife with unsettled issues, some of which have made its fan base uneasy.So there was no time for Loomis to ease back into a routine Tuesday after serving his eight-game suspension in connection with the NFL's bounty probe of the Saints.His immediate tasks include clearing up the status of Sean Payton's contract extension through 2015, which NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has so far refused to approve since the coach signed it in 2011.Recent revelations that Payton is still not officially under contract beyond this season have only pushed anxiety-ridden Saints fans closer to panic. New Orleans has struggled while Payton has served his season-long bounty suspension, which, in the minds of many, has only strengthened the fiery and innovative coach's value.Loomis also will have to oversee contingency plans in the event that defensive end Will Smith and linebacker Jonathan Vilma have to serve their own bounty suspensions, which so far have been delayed by legal moves.The GM kept a low profile on his first day back.The Saints did not make him available to reporters and he did not immediately respond to requests for comments about his return to his Saints duties.Assistant head coach Joe Vitt said even he did not have much time to chat with Loomis when they met Tuesday morning, but Vitt stressed that people throughout the organization were comforted by knowledge that the GM was back for the last half of what has already been an extraordinarily eventful season."Listen, Mickey and Sean are the leaders of this building. It's not only great for Mickey to be back for our players and our coaching staff, but every person in our building," Vitt said. "Slowly but surely we're starting to get people back. Everybody knows here what Mickey means to me, but he also means just as much to everybody else in our building and our football team."Vitt also sounded skeptical of the idea that Payton would leave."Our football team loves Sean Payton. Sean Payton loves this football team," Vitt said. "Sean Payton loves this city. And this city loves Sean Payton. That goes a long way. That's what I know."At 3-5, the Saints are playoff longshots as they head into next Sunday's showdown in the Superdome with undefeated NFC South Division leaders Atlanta (8-0). Yet a sense of hope permeated team headquarters after a 28-13 victory over Philadelphia on Monday night that marked New Orleans' third victory in four games."I love this football team. I love the resolve. I love the togetherness. I love their work habits," Vitt said. "All that being said, we've got to get better this week."If the Saints are to get better, such strides will have to be made in an environment of uncertainty.Two people familiar with Payton's contract situation told The Associated Press that the Saints and Payton still see nothing wrong with a provision in the coach's extension that would allow Payton to opt out of his contract if Loomis -- who hired Payton in 2006 -- were to leave the club. The people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the NFL and Saints have declined public comment on the matter, say the Saints and Payton believe the provision is similar to one that allowed Bill Parcells to leave his post as executive vice president with Miami if ownership changed.Goodell has not publicly specified his problem with Payton's extension, which pays more than 6 million a year. The NFL has said the commissioner has not made a final determination about Payton's contract status for next season. Goodell has said, however, that he has discussed his concerns with the Saints and asked the club to rework part of the deal.Although Payton is suspended, he and the Saints currently may address Goodell's concerns with the extension, providing some hope of resolving the matter before the coach effectively becomes a free agent.Another major area of uncertainty involves ongoing challenges to players' bounty suspensions.Although Goodell has recused himself as arbitrator for four current or former Saints players' appeals of their bounty suspensions, the players -- Smith, Vilma, Cleveland linebacker Scott Fujita and free agent defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove -- objected to Goodell's decision to appoint former commissioner Paul Tagliabue to handle the matter. The players say Tagliabue has a conflict because he works for the law firm that has represented the NFL in bounty-related matters. Tagliabue has given no indication he intends to step down, leaving the matter for a federal judge in New Orleans to decide.In the meantime, Smith and Vilma keep playing, and Saints coaches make weekly game plans on the assumption they'll have the two defenders in the lineup."You have to have a little bit of foresight should something happen. We've kind of just been under that thing all year long," defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said. "Once we know the week is set the way the week is, we just move on and worry about the opponent we're playing."The Saints won't want to lose Smith and Vilma, given their leadership roles on a unit that needs help. The Saints are last in the NFL in yards allowed (471.3 per game) but did come through with clutch plays against the Eagles, including Patrick Robinson's interception return for a touchdown, a fumble recovery and seven sacks. Smith had two sacks and Vilma had two tackles for losses.If the suspensions are upheld, Smith will have to serve four games and Vilma the rest of the season.Saints linebacker Scott Shanle said he hopes that won't happen, but added that the Saints know worrying about it won't do any good."We're at the point now where it seems like every week there's something new to distract us, so people are like, The hell with it. We'll wait to figure it out when the time comes,'" Shanle said. "We're trying to fight our way back into something and with all the distractions we've had week in and week out, I think guys just kind of put blinders on."

Pats OC McDaniels 'impressed' by York, Marathe

Pats OC McDaniels 'impressed' by York, Marathe

New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels announced Monday morning he has pulled his name from consideration for the 49ers’ head-coaching job.

McDaniels interviewed with 49ers executives Jed York and Paraag Marathe on Saturday, Jan. 7, while the Patriots were on the bye week as the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs. McDaniels indicated he also met with Brian Hampton, the 49ers’ director of football administration and analytics.

"I was really impressed with Jed York and Paraag and Brian, and people that came for the 49ers organization,” McDaniels said in a conference call with reporters who cover the Patriots.

“They did a great job with their presentation,” McDaniels added. “Again, (I’m) humbled to be included in that process. At this time, it's just best for my family and myself to remain here in New England, and focus on this year's playoffs and finish out the year however it turns out."

McDaniels said his main focus would be on helping prepare the Patriots to face the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday in the AFC Championship game.

McDaniels, 40, was viewed as one of the hot head-coaching candidates, along with Atlanta offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, this offseasons. He has served the past five seasons as New England’s offensive coordinator under Bill Belichick.

Shanahan becomes the leading candidate for the 49ers’ job. The 49ers interviewed Seattle offensive line/assistant head coach Tom Cable on Sunday. Shanahan and Cable are the only known remaining candidates for the job to replace Chip Kelly, who was hired after a 2-14 season.

McDaniels became Denver’s head coach in 2009. He was fired after 12 games in 2010 after his teams compiled an 11-17 record. He returned to the Patriots in 2012 and has served as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach on Bill Belichick’s staff.

McDaniels, who also interviewed with the 49ers last year, also had interviews on Jan. 7 with Jacksonville and the Los Angeles Rams. Jacksonville hired Doug Marrone, while the Rams hired Sean McVay.

“I've always said how grateful I am for this opportunity to work here for Mr. Kraft his family and coach under Bill with a lot of great guys on our staff and have the privilege to work with the players we get to work with each day," McDaniels said. "It's a great opportunity. Very thankful to be here and very much looking forward to this week against Pittsburgh."

Lengthy coaching search increases chances of failure for 49ers

Lengthy coaching search increases chances of failure for 49ers

The San Francisco 49ers are on the verge of having the least interesting (or appealing) job search in recent NFL history. In fact, they may have already achieved that honor.

While the other 31 teams were either already set and found their guy (or guys) in a fairly timely fashion, Jed York and Paraag Marathe are still interviewing candidates, and if reports are to be believed that their top coaching choice, Josh McDaniels, has decided to pass in hopes of finding a better gig in the next job vacancy cycle, they are now considered within football as they are outside it.

An ongoing disaster.

Since the end of the season, the 49ers have been without a head coach for 15 days, and a general manager for 17. York and Marathe have shown no particular urgency in filling either job, presumably on the theory that they can wait until February 6, the day after the Super Bowl, if need be.

The problem with that plan, of course, is that for 37 days (or 39) it’s rabbit season/duck season/rabbit season/duck season/York season, and when it’s York season, it’s also brand season.

In other words, the 49ers are currently further from New England, Pittsburgh, Green Bay and Atlanta than any other team, and while nothing really matters in mid-January for 28 of the 32 teams, the notion that a potential head coach would be willing to wait out the current cycle in hopes of doing better next time should be sufficiently galling to a fan base already revolted by its team.

This would all be different if there was a reason to be encouraged by York’s hiring history. Even the one he got right (He Whose Name Must Never Be Spoken, Michigan Division) he got wrong because he hired someone he thought he could tame and failed miserably – a clear vetting problem that lays squarely at the feet of the employer.

So no, York has shown no facility for coaching personnel judgment, and since owners hire coaches (and can’t be dismissed, as a great man once said) this delay does not represent wisdom but an increasing chance of failure.

Which brings us to Kyle Shanahan or Tom Cable, two guys who probably can’t be as picky as McDaniels.

Shanahan, the Atlanta offensive coordinator, has helped the Falcons create the most dynamic offense of the decade, but would be coming to a place where he has zero dynamic players, and therefore would be savaged almost immediately for not “coaching ‘em up,” as Chip Kelly was halfway through his first season, and Jim Tomsula was on the day of his first press conference.

Cable, the Seattle assistant head coach and offensive line coach, comes pre-condemned for coaching the Oakland Raiders in the aftermath of the Al Davis-Lane Kiffin tire fire, as well for as clocking assistant coach Randy Hanson (a lawsuit was settled in arbitration) and for allegations of domestic violence that Davis cited when he fired him after 44 games. He would not be given much benefit of the doubt because his history does not comfort, and because these are angry times in 49er World anyway.

So the speculation drags on, mostly on a low simmer, and it only makes York and Marathe look like the masters of a sinking ship. That isn’t a truly fair characterization, since by rule they have to wait on Shanahan, but when it comes to a 2-14 team (which has won one less game in the last two years in the last year of the discredited-in-house coach with no name) run by the son of a man who had his own organizational issues with the very same franchise, fair has nothing to do with it.

But look at the bright side. This could last another three weeks. At least they’ll know they didn’t get their first choice.