STAMFORD, Conn. — The XFL says former Buffalo Bills general manager Doug Whaley has been hired as the league’s senior vice president for football operations.
Whaley will report to commissioner and CEO Oliver Luck.
Whaley spent the majority of his career with the Bills, Pittsburgh Steelers and Seattle Seahawks. He was with the Bills from 2010-17 in a variety of roles before his promotion to GM from 2013-17.
Before joining the Bills, Whaley spent 11 years with the Steelers as the team’s pro scouting coordinator, where he won two Super Bowls.
Whaley is currently serving as the director of college recruiting for the NFL Players Association’s Collegiate Bowl through the end of the year.
The XFL kicks off in early 2020. The league will start with eight teams, 45-man active rosters, and a 10-week regular-season schedule, with a postseason consisting of two semifinal playoff games and a championship game.
DENVER — In a season when so much has not gone right for the Denver Broncos, at least kicker Brandon McManus had seemed to keep himself above the struggles that have befallen so many of his teammates.
Then, in a testament to their spiraling season the Broncos fell to 3-6 Sunday when McManus’ dramatic, potential game-winner sailed wide right on the last play of a 19-17 loss to the Houston Texans. McManus had missed a 62-yard field goal just before halftime as the two misses were just his second and third misses of the season.
And while there was an unpredictable wind and his offense could have done a little more to help his cause in each instance to get him closer, McManus took the blame.
“Both kicks were terrible kicks by me,” McManus said. “I didn’t even give them a chance. Like I said, it’s tough on these guys to fight so hard and just to have two terrible kicks and not even give myself a chance to make them.”
The Broncos have had so much unravel on them at times this season, whether it has been game-crippling turnovers, drive-killing penalties, a pile of missed tackles or just plain bad injury luck, but McManus had been a given for much of the first half of the season. He had made his first 11 field goal attempts of the season, including a 39-yard game-winner over the Oakland Raiders in Week 2.
But he missed a 55-yarder last week in the Broncos’ 30-23 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs to go with Sunday’s two misses. Since Sunday’s misses came after McManus had hit a 44-yarder in the first quarter, it marked the first time in his five years as the Broncos’ kicker that McManus had missed consecutive attempts.
Earlier this season he had called that streak “the thing I’m most proud of because to go back out there after a miss and make one for your team, that’s huge, that’s an important part of the job, that’s the difference between making it in this job or not, what you do after misses.”
Sunday, however, MvManus’ team didn’t do him any favors. On the final drive, a drive that had seen the Broncos convert on two fourth-down plays, the Broncos had a first-and-10 at the Texans’ 37-yard line with 43 seconds to play.
The Broncos ran just one play, a 5-yard pass from Case Keenum to tight end Jeff Heuerman over the next 30 seconds. And with just 13 seconds to play, with Keenum in the shotgun, they ran Phillip Lindsay into the middle of the Texans defensive line for a loss of one yard.
It meant, instead of a more manageable kick McManus could have if the Broncos had done a little more with the previous 40 seconds, he was facing a 51-yarder with three seconds left in the game. Casey Kreiter’s snap was high, but punter Colby Wadman got the ball placed for the kick, a kick McManus said he knew “instantly” was a miss.
“It sucks because you come in kicking pretty well and like I said, two bad kicks didn’t even give us a chance,” McManus said.
Broncos coach Vance Joseph had McManus attempt the 62-yarder with 22 seconds left in the first half and that attempt was short and wide right. The Texans went 20 yards on three plays with the cozy field position they had following the miss and Texans’ kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn made a made a 46-yarder to close out the half to turn a 13-10 Texans lead into a 16-10 margin at halftime.
“At half, I mean that’s totally on me” Joseph said. “Trying to be greedy, trying to get three more points there and it cost us three. I get that.”
“I let these guys down,” McManus said. “I’ve got to do better and play a bigger role in helping bounce this team back.”
Garoppolo, who was a child in the Chicago area at the peak of basketball legend Michael Jordan’s Hall of Fame career, told ESPN this week that he signed with Jordan’s signature brand over the summer, making it the newest addition to his endorsement portfolio.
An official announcement about the addition of Garoppolo and other newly signed Jordan Brand athletes is expected next week.
“Since I got in the league, it was one of my dreams to be with Jordan and it came true, so I’m pretty excited about it,” Garoppolo told ESPN.
Garoppolo’s dream is tied to his Chicago-area roots. Garoppolo grew up in Arlington Heights, Ill., in a family full of Chicago sports fans. His basement was full of tributes to the Garoppolo family’s favorite teams: The Bulls, the NFL’s Bears and MLB’s White Sox.
At the center of it all was Jordan, who was dominating the NBA when Garoppolo was just a child. And while his specific memories of Jordan are limited, he was never far away from tales (and YouTube clips) of Jordan’s on-court dominance and off-court brand-building.
“I was pretty young but even when they were winning those championships, I can remember staying up with my three brothers, mom and dad, we’d all be in the living room watching it,” Garoppolo said. “It was so exciting. Ever since I was a little kid, he’s been my favorite athlete so it’s pretty cool to be part of his brand now.”
Garoppolo, who has mostly kept his focus on football since joining the 49ers last October, said he and his agency began weighing various opportunities presented by Under Armour, Adidas, Nike and Nike subsidiary Jordan in the spring, just before the Niners started organized team activities.
Around that time, Garoppolo gave the shoes a test drive after the company sent over a pair of the Jordan 11’s in cleat form. He’s since tested others and counts the 3’s as his favorites while noting that there’s something new and special planned for the season opener against the Minnesota Vikings on Sept. 9.
Jordan Brand is obviously most known for Jordan himself and his signature shoes but former and current athletes such as Derek Jeter and Russell Westbrook are also part of the company’s stable.
While Jordan Brand has many NFL players under its umbrella, the number is less than 20 with defensive backs such as Earl Thomas and Jalen Ramsey among the best of the group. Garoppolo is the only known starting quarterback signed to the brand, though Green Bay backup DeShone Kizer is also part of the Jordan team. More NFL players are expected to be announced along with Garoppolo next week.
In addition to his new deal with Jordan, Garoppolo also has endorsements with New Era and Bose. For the time being, Garoppolo said not to expect to see any big marketing campaigns involving him, though he acknowledged that there are more business-related initiatives in the works.
“Each player, you are your own brand,” Garoppolo said. “I don’t currently have one yet. We’re working on that but you have got to treat your brand like you want to be perceived by everybody. I think Michael did a great job of that.”
“As I officially close one chapter of my life and begin another, I could not be more thrilled to join another championship team at ESPN,” Cruz said in a statement. “I’m excited to get started and share my insight and analysis with the viewers and fans of the NFL.”
He was a force for the New York Giants from 2011-14, a time span in which he caught 241 passes for 3,626 yards and 23 touchdowns. He also had a strong playoffs after the 2011 season when he had 21 receptions for 269 yards in four games and caught a touchdown pass in the Giants’ 21-17 victory over the Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI.
Injuries derailed Cruz’s career with the Giants, who released him in February last year. He suffered a torn patellar tendon in October 2014 and missed the entire 2015 season. He had just 39 catches for 586 yards and a touchdown in 2016.
After being released by the Giants he signed with the Chicago Bears but was released by the team last September and didn’t play last season.
“I got some s— to prove,” read the caption of the photo.
Coleman has thus far failed to live up to his billing in the NFL. Once the Fred Biletnikoff Award winner as college football’s most outstanding receiver during his final season at Baylor in 2015, Coleman was selected by the Browns’ former front office as the No. 15 overall pick in the 2016 draft.
Two years later, new Browns general manager John Dorsey essentially gifted Coleman to the Bills for the low price of a 2020 seventh-round pick. The Bills will owe Coleman the $3.5 million in fully-guaranteed base salaries that remain on Coleman’s contract, which runs through the 2019 season.
“New opportunity, fresh start,” Coleman said Tuesday at the end of a rain-soaked practice, his first with the Bills after arriving at their training camp site of St. John Fisher College. “Everyday I wake up I feel like I got something to prove. It’s a huge opportunity for me and I’m blessed to be here. I’m ready to rock with Buffalo Bills.”
Coleman missed six games his rookie season after breaking his right hand and was sidelined another seven games last season after breaking a bone in the same hand. In his 19 games in the NFL, Coleman has caught 56 passes for 718 yards and five touchdowns.
His lowest moment in Cleveland came during last year’s finale when he dropped a pass on fourth-and-2 to seal the Browns’ winless season.
Coleman said Tuesday he had a feeling he might be traded by Cleveland but did not elaborate.
“A lot of things don’t work out the way you want it to work out,” he said. “I got much respect for my teammates, man. Those guys in the locker room over there in Cleveland are top-notch guys. I respect them. A great fan base in Cleveland, too, and I’m gonna leave it at that.”
The Bills limited Coleman’s participation in full-team drills Tuesday as he began getting acclimated to offensive coordinator Brian Daboll’s system. He did receive some repetitions in 11-on-11 work, catching a pass from rookie quarterback Josh Allen with the third-team offense.
“It feels good to be wanted,” Coleman said Tuesday when asked if he felt wanted in Buffalo. “But I don’t want to let them down. They have their trust in me. I really don’t want to let them down and make them right. I’m gonna work my tail off to come here and do everything I need to do to help some of the young guys out.”
The Phoenix team of the Alliance of American Football was introduced Friday, and Rick Neuheisel was named its head coach. The team will play its home games at Sun Devil Stadium.
Neuheisel has coached in the college ranks at UCLA (2008 to 2011), Washington (1999 to 2002) and Colorado (1995 to 1998). He was also a quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator with the Baltimore Ravens.
He grew up in Tempe and was a high school star there before going on to become quarterback at UCLA.
“I’m really, really proud to represent my hometown here with this new alliance. This is homegrown stuff, and I think that’s the idea behind this league,” he said in an introductory news conference. “We’re thrilled. Looking forward to the challenge. Unbelievable amount of work to be done, but [where] better than to do it right here in the Valley of the Sun?
“It couldn’t be better. It’s almost like serendipity when the phone call came … that this was a possibility.”
The Alliance will feature eight teams playing a 10-week regular season beginning Feb. 9, 2019 — the weekend after the Super Bowl — on CBS. There will be two playoff rounds and a championship game on the weekend of April 26-28.
Other head coaches in the league are Dennis Erickson (Salt Lake), Mike Singletary (Memphis), Steve Spurrier (Orlando) and Brad Childress (Atlanta).
Former head coach John Fox is joining ESPN as an NFL analyst.
Fox, who most recently coached the Chicago Bears from 2015 to 2017, will make appearances on NFL Live, SportsCenter, ESPN Radio and across ESPN’s platforms.
“The opportunity to join ESPN and stay involved with football is a privilege. While I was honored to coach in the NFL for 28 years, I’m looking forward to this new adventure sharing my experiences and passion for the game with ESPN’s viewers,” he said in a statement.
Fox was 133-123 in 16 seasons as an NFL head coach with the Carolina Panthers, Denver Broncos and Bears. He led the Panthers and Broncos to Super Bowl appearances, and his teams were 8-7 in 15 playoff games.
“John has led two different franchises to the Super Bowl and he has a great football acumen, just the kind of experience and perspective we were looking to add to our NFL studio coverage,” Seth Markman, senior coordinating producer for ESPN’s NFL studio shows, said in the statement. “In addition to his football smarts, John is also a great storyteller and he has a fun personality, so we expect fans to see a different side of the former coach in his new analyst role.”