Strug­gling teams start from scratch

Los Angeles Times - - Morn­ing Brief­ing - sam.farmer@la­times.com twit­ter.com/LATimes­farmer

The win­less San Fran­cisco 49ers scratched of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Jimmy Raye on Mon­day, fir­ing him a day after he got a vote of con­fi­dence from Coach Mike Singletary.

The win­less Buf­falo Bills scratched Trent Ed­wards, re­leas­ing the quar­ter­back who took ev­ery first-team snap dur­ing the off-sea­son and in training camp.

The win­less Carolina Pan­thers? They sim­ply scratched their heads.

“We are what we are,” Coach John Fox said, “and that’s what I’m try­ing to change so we’re not that.”

Three weeks into the NFL sea­son and the drama is al­ready de­serv­ing of a dou­ble take. The 49ers were sup­posed to be the class of the NFC West. The Dal­las Cow­boys and Min­nesota Vik­ings — both of whom picked up their first vic­to­ries Sun­day — were sup­posed to be strong Su­per Bowl con­tenders.

The Pitts­burgh Steel­ers were sup­posed to wob­ble along dur­ing Ben Roeth­lis­berger’s four-game sus­pen­sion, yet they’re un­de­feated. And the un­de­feated Kansas City Chiefs? They had won a to­tal of 10 games the last three seasons.

After tak­ing a long look at the first three weeks — watch­ing ev­ery minute of ev­ery game from his per­sonal TV stu­dio in North­ern Cal­i­for­nia — no less an NFL au­thor­ity than John Mad­den has one word of ad­vice: Re­lax. The sea­son has only just be­gun.

“The way foot­ball is to­day with all the off-sea­son move­ment, you don’t know who’s go­ing to be good un­til the half­way point of the sea­son,” Mad­den said Mon­day in a phone in­ter­view. “We tend to jump a lit­tle too soon on the band­wagon. We go from the first week to who’s go­ing to be in the Su­per Bowl.”

The way Mad­den sees it, the best foot­ball — the crisp, well-ex­e­cuted stuff — will start tak­ing shape around Week 4.

“It takes about that long to get ready to play pro foot­ball the way we know it,” he said. “And after that it takes an­other four or five weeks to see who’s re­ally go­ing to be the team that year.”

That said, Mad­den con­fessed he’s been a bit sur­prised about the rise of the Chiefs and the Tampa Bay Buc­ca­neers, who lost Sun­day to Pitts­burgh.

“Go­ing into Sun­day, those were the two teams I re­ally didn’t be­lieve in that were un­de­feated,” he said. “After watch­ing [Sun­day], I kind of be­lieve in Kansas City be­cause they look like they’ve re­ally started to turn things around. They make you blink your eyes, and maybe it’s that you didn’t pay a lot of at­ten­tion to them the last cou­ple years.

“They brought a lot of new play­ers in, new coaches — Char­lie Weis, Romeo Cren­nel — and, hell, they look pretty good. I don’t know if they’re ready to do great things as a play­off team, but they’re a hell of a lot bet­ter than the Kansas City team that I last looked at.”

Ex­tra points

Go­ing for two (more) — Bill Po­lian says the NFL is headed for an 18-game sea­son.

Po­lian, pres­i­dent of the Indianapolis Colts and a mem­ber of the NFL’s com­pe­ti­tion com­mit­tee, called the de­ci­sion to ex­pand the reg­u­lar sea­son a “ fait

ac­com­pli” on his weekly ra­dio show Mon­day.

Po­lian is con­cerned that drop­ping two ex­hi­bi­tion games will make it more dif­fi­cult to eval­u­ate young play­ers. He said the so­lu­tion might be work­ing to­gether with nearby NFL teams to stage com­bined prac­tices or scrim­mages.

Com­mis­sioner Roger Good­ell and some NFL own­ers have ex­pressed a de­sire for an ex­panded sea­son, but no for­mal de­ci­sion has been an­nounced. Own­ers and league ex­ec­u­tives will con­vene in Chicago next month for the an­nual fall meet­ings.

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