Balzer on NFL: Avant pays, Joseph has new look

It was only a matter of time until former New York Giants running back Tiki Barber weighed in on his old team’s record, which sat at 3-7 entering this past weekend’s game.

Barber has never been a fan of head coach Tom Coughlin, and while with the Giants he also questioned the leadership of quarterback Eli Manning, one time saying Manning’s leadership was “almost comical.” There was some poetic justice when the Giants won the Super Bowl in the 2007 season, the year after Barber retired. <

Of course, Barber also probably forgets his penchant for fumbling from 2000-2003 when he had 35 fumbles. After Coughlin took over in 2004, and made it clear fumbling wouldn’t be tolerated, Barber slashed his fumbles to a total of nine in his final three seasons, when he reeled off rushing totals of 1518, 1860 and 1662 yards, the best of his career.

That didn’t keep Barber from claiming in his autobiography that Coughlin was the reason he retired because the coach robbed him “of the joy I felt playing football.”

Not surprisingly, Barber couldn’t stop himself when he said on a radio interview in Los Angeles, “The Giants players are not listening to Tom Coughlin anymore. As much as they want to pass the buck and ‘Oh, it was the offensive coordinator, let’s get rid of Kevin Gilbride and bring in Ben McAdoo.’ And, ‘Oh, now it’s the defensive coordinator, so maybe it’s time to get rid of Perry Fewell.’

“At some point, it trickles uphill and it has to be Tom Coughlin’s responsibility. And it is time – and I’ve held off from saying this – for them to make a change.”

One of the most popular recent criticisms of coaches for teams with losing records is that the coach “has lost the locker room,” or as Barber said, players aren’t listening anymore. As if anyone on the outside can adequately judge what goes on inside the locker room and in team meetings.

Naturally, Manning was asked about Barber’s comments, and said, “That’s nice of him. It’s good to hear from old Tiki.”

Then, when asked if it can be a distraction to a team when a former player publicly says the head coach should be fired, Manning said, “I think it depends on your opinion of that player. I think that can make a big difference in how you react to it.”


A Football Decision

Two days after Carolina Panthers wide receiver Jason Avant criticized the play-calling philosophy of head coach Ron Rivera late in a Week 11 loss to Atlanta, Avant was released. But Rivera insisted the decision had nothing to do with Avant’s public stance. Rivera went so far as to say he didn’t even know about it.

“Guys, I have no idea what he said,” Rivera said. “This had nothing to do with it. And that needs to stop right here.”

Avant had said, “I’ve been in the league a long time. I know two things. You never want to give a team a chance to win a game, with how much time was left on the clock. And asking a kicker to make a 50-yard field goal with the game on the line is rough sledding.

“If that’s the only option, yes. But if it’s not, you want to get as close as you can and think score and play to score a touchdown. Because I’d rather the team have to score a touchdown to win the game than to have to kick a field goal. It’s just a lot different. It’s a 30-yard difference.”

Of course, the missed field goal was 46 yards, not 50, and the head-scratching decision occurred on third down. Trailing 19-17, the Panthers were at the Falcons 32-yard line with 1:42 left in the game and had first-and-10. Runs by DeAngelo Williams (1) and Cam Newton (4) moved the ball to the 27, and Atlanta called their first and second timeouts after those plays. The second play began with 1:35 to play, and rather than let the clock run, Jonathan Stewart ran for minus-1 yard with 1:31 left. The Falcons didn’t call timeout and, inexplicably, the missed field goal was attempted with 1:26 remaining. Had it been good, that would have left Atlanta with a timeout and a decent amount of time remaining.

In any event, Rivera said the departure of Avant was traced only to the development of undrafted rookie free-agent receiver Philly Brown, who scored on a 47-yard fourth-quarter play that put Carolina briefly ahead, 17-16.

Said Rivera, “This had everything to do with what we see in Philly and the potential in him. When you have veteran guys who play a lot in front of younger guys that have potential, sometimes you stunt their growth. This is something we felt we needed to do to give Philly an opportunity to be on the field more.”

Give Me a Head with Hair …

St. Louis Rams right guard Davin Joseph received a game ball for his play against Denver in a Week 11 upset victory, and then arrived for work the following Wednesday minus the extremely long and thick dreadlocks he had since high school. It was difficult to recognize him.

Joseph turned 31 this past Saturday (Nov. 22) and said, “I’ll be 31. It was time for a change. But it feels pretty naked.”

He decided the day before to have it done and when asked if he closed his eyes during the process, said laughing, “I was told not to look until it was over.”

Coincidentally, Joseph did not practice that Wednesday and it was listed as non-injury related. Perhaps he was getting accustomed to the new look and had to get an adjustment on his helmet because of the lost hair. Joseph fully participated Thursday prior to the Rams’ game against San Diego.

The Quote

Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis said he still has confidence in general manager Reggie McKenzie despite the team’s 1-10 record. McKenzie faced a bad salary-cap situation when he was hired in 2012. Davis told NFL Network, “We are in really good shape, based on the way Reggie put all the contracts together and everything else. We’re not settled with a lot of upside-down situations anymore. The situation he walked into originally was pretty tough. The deconstruction phase of that went very, very well. I think we’re a pretty desirable place for someone that wants to come in and build.”