Carolina Panthers' Perry Fewell is shown during his first press conference as the NFL football team's interim head coach, at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C., Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019. Ron Rivera was fired as head coach on Tuesday. (David T. Foster III/The Charlotte Observer via AP)
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) leaves the field during the second half of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints, Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019, in Atlanta. The New Orleans Saints won 26-18. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn speaks to an official during the first half of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints, Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
ATLANTA (AP) Former Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Roddy White says he tells players, “You're always being evaluated, whether you're winning or losing.”
The same is true for NFL coaches.
Panthers interim coach Perry Fewell begins his audition for the full-time position when Carolina visits Atlanta, where Falcons coach Dan Quinn's status is uncertain, on Sunday.
“It gives me an opportunity to prove it, and it gives our players an opportunity to prove it,” said Fewell, who took over for the fired Ron Rivera on Tuesday. “That’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to go out and prove that we can win a football game this Sunday, and then we will move to the next objective."
The Falcons (3-9) have been eliminated from playoff contention. Quinn took the Falcons to the Super Bowl in 2016 and another playoff berth the following year. This season will be his second straight with a losing record.
White, the Falcons' all-time leader in receptions, will be inducted into the team's Ring of Honor on Sunday. His 11 seasons with Atlanta included Quinn's 2015 debut season.
“I think Dan is a good coach," White said Wednesday. “I really have respect for him and the things he's done for our organization."
White is an assistant coach at Johns Creek High School in the Atlanta area. He said he has “zero" interest in becoming an NFL coach. One reason is the instability of what he said is “a win-now league."
The latest example of impatience came when Panthers owner David Tepper fired Rivera, who has the most wins of any coach in Carolina history (76-63-1 in the regular season).
Fewell was Carolina's secondary coach before being named interim coach. Four straight losses left the Panthers (5-7) on the brink of elimination from the playoff race and prompted Tepper to move on from Rivera so he could begin searching for the next coach.
Fewell was interim coach in Buffalo in 2009.
“It helps that I’ve done this before," he said. “I have this experience, so I know where to go, what to do and how to do it.”
Quinn has been unable to fix such nagging problems as a poor running game, leaky protection for quarterback Matt Ryan and an inconsistent pass rush. Ryan was sacked nine times in last week's 26-18 loss to New Orleans.
One of Atlanta's few 2019 highlights was a 29-3 win at Carolina on Nov. 17, leaving Quinn 7-2 in the series.
The Falcons hope that sweeping the season series with the Panthers could be the start of a strong finish to a disappointing season. It's not known if that would be enough to save Quinn's job.
NEW TURNER IN CHARGE
Buried in the news of Rivera's firing was that Tepper promoted quarterbacks coach Scott Turner to offensive coordinator and play caller. Turner replaces his father, Norv, who was removed from the role and will serve as assistant to the head coach. There won't likely be wholesale changes to the Panthers' offense, but Scott Turner will hope to be more successful than his dad in the red zone. Carolina's struggles near the goal line were a big factor in four losses this season.
HOPE FOR JULIO
Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones returned to practice this week after missing last week's game with a shoulder injury. It was the first game Jones missed since 2016. He hasn't had a touchdown catch since Week 3. Jones' expected return would come one week after running back Devonta Freeman made his return after missing two games with a sprained foot.
ALLEN REMAINS AT QB
Fewell announced season-ending foot surgery for Cam Newton this week. There has been no talk of playing third-round draft pick Will Grier, and Fewell said the Panthers will stick with second-year quarterback Kyle Allen against Atlanta. Allen is 5-5 as a starter, but has lost five of his last six starts. He threw four interceptions and was sacked five times in last month's loss to the Falcons.
Ryan said the Falcons haven't given up on the season. “I think the mindset has been good," he said. “We’ve got a good group of guys in this building that are committed to one another and committed to trying to play well for one another."
The Panthers' poor run defense helped lead to Rivera's exit. Defensive coordinator Eric Washington is expected to take over the play calls against Atlanta with some input from Fewell. Significant improvement may be difficult with defensive tackles Dontari Poe and Kawann Short on injured reserve. The Panthers are allowing 137.5 yards per game on the ground and have surrendered a league-high 22 touchdowns rushing. That could be good news for Freeman, who is still looking for his first rushing TD of the season. Carolina has also allowed 18 run plays of 20 or more yards.
Kansas City Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt said the team could wait until next year to sign quarterback Patrick Mahomes to a long-term contract extension. "I don't want to say necessarily it has to be this offseason, but I will say that it's a priority to get him done," Hunt said. A first-round pick in 2017, Mahomes is eligible for a contract extension now that he's finished his third year in the NFL, but it sounds like the Chiefs aren't exactly in a hurry to get something done. The 24-year-old didn't post the gaudy numbers he had in 2018 -- 5,097 yards, 50 touchdowns -- but he was still more than adequate with 4,031 yards, 26 touchdowns and only five interceptions in 14 games. Mahomes is an elite signal-caller with exceptional athleticism with both his arm and legs. He's here to stay as a high-end QB1 and will take on the 49ers in the Super Bowl this Sunday.
Free-agent RB Alex Collins (Ravens) and QB Chris Streveler (CFL) worked out for the Miami Dolphins recently.
San Francisco 49ers DE Dee Ford (knee, hamstring) said he's not 100 percent and will play through pain of knee tendonitis and a hamstring injury in the Super Bowl.
Kansas City Chiefs running back LeSean McCoy, who hasn't had a touch since Week 15 and who was inactive for the AFC Championship against the Titans, said he's not ready to retire after this season. "Nah, I'm not ready to retire, yet," McCoy said. "I still can play. So, I'm not going to retire yet, but that day is coming. That day is definitely coming." The 31-year-old has taken a back seat to running backs Damien Williams and rookie Darwin Thompson down the stretch, and he's unlikely to have much of a role, if any, in the Super Bowl against the 49ers. Shady has become more of a mentor in the running back room than an on-field performer for fantasy owners.
San Francisco 49ers RB Tevin Coleman (shoulder) said his injured shoulder is feeling good but wants to see how his range of motion is and how he will be able to manage the pain in his shoulder.
Fantasy Spin: Fantasy players will need to monitor Coleman's practice participation this week to see if he will be in any danger of missing the Super Bowl. He will be part of a committee if he plays and can be a flex option.
Los Angeles Chargers impending free-agent QB Philip Rivers' status with the Chargers is uncertain at this time, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. The team may consider placing the franchise tag on him or let him leave in free agency.
Fantasy Spin: Fantasy players will need to monitor the situation to see where Rivers will be playing in 2020. He likely will find a starting job this offseason but may only be a No. 2 quarterback in fantasy leagues.
San Francisco 49ers TE George Kittle (shoulder) said he has been playing the last two seasons with a torn labrum in his right shoulder and does not plan to have surgery on the shoulder.
Fantasy Spin: Kittle seems to be playing fine despite the injury and continues to be an important part of the running and passing game. He continues to be one of the top tight ends in the NFL and is a must-start fantasy option.
San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle (shoulder) said that he's been playing through a torn labrum in his right shoulder since the start of the 2018 season. "So I dislocated my shoulder last year," Kittle said Sunday on the Pardon My Take podcast, "and my labrum is completely torn. So I don't get surgery on it -- [The protective sleeve] basically helps me, so it doesn't hurt all the time." He didn't miss any games in 2018 and set the single-season record for receiving yards by a tight end with 1,377. Kittle said there's "no chance" he has surgery in the future. The 26-year-old has been quiet in the postseason with four catches for 35 yards in two games, but the Niners haven't really needed him with their ground game humming. That could change in the Super Bowl against the Chiefs on Feb. 2.
Free-agent WR Tommylee Lewis (Lions) signed a Reserve/Future contract with the New Orleans Saints Monday, Jan. 27. Terms of the contract were not disclosed.
Chicago Bears WR Taylor Gabriel could be released this offseason since the team could save $4.5 million in salary cap space.
Fantasy Spin: Gabriel struggled with concussions this season but can be a role in an offense because of his playmaking abilities. He probably will be avoided in most fantasy leagues no matter where he plays in 2020.
Cleveland Browns running back Kareem Hunt, who will be a free agent in March, emotionally admitted that he would fail a drug test to a police officer during a traffic stop recently. This was caught on video of the police officer's dash cam during the traffic stop. Hunt also admitted that the small amounts of marijuana found in the car were his, but the officer let Hunt off with just the speeding ticket. It remains to be seen if the NFL will consider a suspension for the 24-year-old from this incident. Hunt was released by the Chiefs during the 2018 season due to a domestic-violence incident, and he served a suspension before making his Browns debut in 2019. If he signs with another team this offseason and is given bell-cow duties in the backfield, Hunt could have RB1 upside.
The Los Angeles Chargers have "moved on from Philip Rivers," according to FOX Sports' Jay Glazer. Rivers is set to become a free agent in March, and the writing was on the wall when he recently moved his entire family from San Diego to Florida. Rivers will end a 16-year run with the Chargers, but it remains to be seen where he'll land on the free-agent market this offseason. The Buccaneers are a popular expected destination, but that'll only be if they move on from Jameis Winston. Rivers completed 66 percent of his passes for 4,615 yards, 23 touchdowns and 20 interceptions in 2019 for a QB rating of 88.5. He might have a few more seasons left in him, but at 38 years old his arm strength is clearly deteriorating, and he'll probably be more of a QB2 in 2020, depending on where he winds up.
The Buffalo Bills were cleared of violating policy over the reporting of DE Jerry Hughes' (wrist) wrist injury in 2019. Hughes posted to social media that he was undergoing surgery after playing the season with torn ligaments, but he was not listed on the injury report.
Philadelphia Eagles DT Fletcher Cox was credited with a 61-yard interception return for touchdown at the Pro Bowl on Sunday, Jan. 26.
Indianapolis Colts TE Jack Doyle posted three catches for 63 yards and a touchdown on four targets for the AFC at the Pro Bowl Sunday, Jan. 26.
Pittsburgh Steelers DE T.J. Watt posted an 82-yard fumble return for touchdown in the fourth quarter for the AFC at the Pro Bowl in Orlando on Sunday, Jan. 26.
Baltimore Ravens TE Mark Andrews ended up with a game-high nine receptions for an AFC-best 73 yards and a touchdown on 10 targets at the Pro Bowl on Sunday, Jan. 26.
Jacksonville Jaguars WR DJ Chark Jr. registered two grabs for 67 yards, including a 60-yard touchdown in the third quarter, for the AFC at the Pro Bowl on Sunday, Jan. 26.
Green Bay Packers WR Davante Adams ended up with a team-high six receptions for 61 yards and two touchdowns on seven targets for the NFC at the Pro Bowl Sunday, Jan. 26.