Good Morning, Broncos fans! After a mostly meh wild card weekend, the decisions of two head coaches are in the spotlight today.
First, there's old friend Mike Shanahan, who left a gimpy RG3 on the field, only to have the dynamic quarterback further aggravate the knee injury he'd suffered in Week 14 against Baltimore, and leave for good in the fourth quarter. While many are skewering Shanahan for the decision, Griffin demanded that he be kept in the game, and let's not forget that Shanny himself almost died playing football, so it's not like he was asking his player to do something he wouldn't have done.
That doesn't make his decision right, and it doesn't mean reason ruled the day, but as Patrick Hruby writes, that's the problem with football. Mike Silver rightly points out that people should think about their own reactions to Jay Cutler's knee injury from a couple of years ago before they judge Shanny and RG3.
As for the original injury, Shanahan doubled down on his claim that Dr. James Andrews had cleared Griffin on the sideline during the Baltimore game, so stay tuned for that he said/he said showdown. Should get more interesting before all's done with.
The other big decision to consider is that of Chip Kelly, who will be returning to coach the Ducks at Oregon rather than take the Browns or Eagles job in the NFL. Speculation is that Nike's Phil Knight stepped in and made Kelly an offer he couldn't refu$e, but there are still expectations that Kelly's program is about to face NCAA sanctions for recruiting violations.
But perhaps this wasn't really about money, and is rather a continuation of Kelly's career pattern, where he waits for his dream job to come available. Which NFL gig is that? Apparently, it could be the one in New England, where the Patriots featured a high-speed attack inspired by Kelly's Oregon one, when they defeated the Broncos in Week 5. The issue with that theory, as Toni Monkovic does note, is that there's no indication that Bill Belichick will retire anytime soon, and then there's also the thought that Josh McDaniels is waiting for that very same job.
As for Mike McCoy, it turns out he never interviewed with the Bills, who went instead with Doug Marrone of Syracuse. McCoy met with Arizona on Saturday, and reportedly interviewed with the Eagles and Bears yesterday.
But his competition for those gigs is growing, as the Cardinals have added Bengals OC Jay Gruden to their list of candidates, and the Bears will interview old friend Rick Dennison and Seahawks OC Darrell Bevell.
The Broncos expect to have Chris Kuper back for Saturday, and they're not overly concerned about Ryan Clady's status, either.
Linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, who missed the first matchup between Denver and Baltimore, reaggravated an ankle injury yesterday but says he'll be ready to go on Saturday.
The emergence of Bernard Pierce means the task of stopping Baltimore's run game doesn't get a whole lot easier when Ray Rice isn't in the game.
Baltimore will not only be healthier for the rematch, but their offense will bring along a greater comfort level with Jim Caldwell calling plays than last time.
Several Ravens had tough talk for the Broncos and Mark Kiszla.
Jeff Legwold wonders if the Ravens will again have success using its tight ends in the passing game against Denver, as many opponents have so far this season.
Andy Benoit says Baltimore's reshuffled offensive line fared well in the run game yesterday, but expects the group to struggle against Denver's pass rush. The Sun's Mike Preston thinks the Ravens must stick with the lineup they used yesterday, and not reinsert normal starting LG Jah Reid.
Despite all the attention, Ray Lewis had a rather poor game according to PFF's grades, whereas Paul Kruger was the clear player of the game.
Don Banks, Clark Judge, and Nate Davis don't give the Ravens much of a chance Saturday, while Ashley Fox thinks their only path to victory is knocking Peyton Manning out of the game early on; Jeffri Chadiha doesn't see the Ravens pulling off the upset, but he says they'll need a whole lot more offense to do so.
A fake Von Miller page on Facebook offered up some trash talk to the Ravens, but the Broncos have made clear the message didn't come from Von.
A Denver return to New Orleans for the Super Bowl would be particularly meaningful for former Broncos radio man Larry Zimmer, who is a New Orleans native and called the first two Super Bowls the team played there.
Seattle fears that DE Chris Clemons may have torn an ACL in last night's win.
Cleveland has added Indy's Bruce Arians and Alouettes coach Marc Trestman to their head-coaching search.
The Chargers were expected to name either current team exec Jimmy Raye or Colts personnel man Tom Telesco their next GM in the coming days, but they are also expected to interview Niners exec Tom Gamble.
Jacksonville is also reportedly down to two GM candidates: Atlanta's David Caldwell, and Arizona's Steve Keim.
Mike Tanier wasn't particularly impressed by the Ravens, and he expects them to receive another beatdown from the Broncos.
Chase Stuart looks back at the 2012 seasons of the South division teams.
Here are the NFL prospects Bucky Brooks will be focusing on during tonight's National Championship game.
Updates: 9:30am ET - Peter King, Football Outsiders links added (Analysis); 9:47am ET - Bill Barnwell, Scott Kacsmar, Bomani Jones links added