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SAM FARMER / ON THE NFL

Three coordinators get the ax when offenses struggle in exhibition games

Kansas City, Tampa Bay and Buffalo look for a change of direction. Each team will open the season against a top-10 defense from last season.

September 06, 2009|SAM FARMER

Bad things happen in threes?

That was the case for NFL offensive coordinators this week, as Kansas City's Chan Gailey, Tampa Bay's Jeff Jagodzinski and Buffalo's Turk Schonert were dismissed in rapid-fire succession, meaning those teams had to make significant adjustments less than two weeks before the season kicks off.

What's more, each of those teams faces one of last season's top-10 defenses in its opener. The Chiefs play at Baltimore; the Buccaneers play host to Dallas; and the Bills play the first half of a Monday night doubleheader at New England.

Of the three offenses in question, the most surprising to struggle has been Buffalo. The Bills, who have a usually accurate yet ill-protected quarterback in Trent Edwards, have seen their No. 1 offense produce no touchdowns and only one field goal in exhibitions, with five turnovers and five sacks.

Yes, Terrell Owens was on the field for only one possession this summer. But unless Schonert's successor, Alex Van Pelt, can turn things around quickly, things could get out of hand in the opener.

The last time the Patriots lost in Week 1 was a 31-0 stunner against Buffalo in 2003. New England would wind up capping that season with a mirror-image 31-0 victory over the Bills, and went on to win the Super Bowl.

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No holes in his game

Here's more from a recent interview with San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson, who caused a bit of a stir by making the argument that, despite missing the Chargers' last two playoff losses because of injuries, he's a better all-round back than 2008 rushing champion Adrian Peterson.

Tomlinson, the 2006 most valuable player, takes issue with those who say he's a product of the right offensive system in San Diego and wouldn't have racked up all those yards elsewhere.

"The funny thing is I saw an article with Jim Brown and Adrian Peterson, and I was mentioned about how I was fortunate to play in the system I've been in," he said. "It said the system has made me, and that I wasn't a downhill runner. That's funny to me, because when Marty [Schottenheimer] was here, our play was power. We ran that all day -- down the 'A' gap, and that's where I made my hay at. If that's not a downhill runner, then I don't know what is.

"I think people want to look for something sometimes just to say, 'He can't do that very well.' But any time you look back, I've done it. Everything that supposedly I haven't been able to do.

"People have said, 'He's the most versatile running back.' Well, what is that? Ain't a running back supposed to be able to run, catch, block, throw, run inside, run outside? A running back's supposed to be able to do all of that. Goal line, I'm in there; short yardage, I'm in there.

"It's motivating to hear these things. It makes me better."

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Raider degrader

The Chargers open the season at Oakland, which is probably good news for Tomlinson, who has had some monster games against the Raiders during his career. Among his 16 games against them, he has had rushing totals of 153, 187, 243, 164, 140, 131, 109, 198 and 106 yards (although, oddly, only three touchdowns rushing.)

While first insisting he looks at the Raiders as just another opponent, he later conceded they might be slightly more than that.

"When Marty was here, he just had a certain mind-set when he played the Raiders," he said. "He hated them. He just kind of wanted to pile on. So part of that was something developed in me through him. He'd get my butt going with that Raider week stuff."

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Ready for his close-up?

The ideal height of the Dallas Cowboys' new video board is up for debate. But the quality of the picture isn't. By all accounts, it provides a bright, impossibly crisp view of the game.

Maybe too crisp.

"If you have a zit or something, it will show it off a little bit," Cowboys kicker David Buehler said. "You've got to clean yourself up and come out looking decent."

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Making (air)waves

Even in the face of tough economic times and often low season-ticket renewal rates, the NFL is staunchly standing by its policy of local TV blackouts for games that don't sell out.

Said Commissioner Roger Goodell: "The way we've looked at it is the blackout policy has had decades of existence and it is an intelligent approach and it has been good for our fans and good for the league to stay on free television. That's the key feature to us."

There figure to be significantly more blackouts this season than last, when only nine of 256 were kept off the air. So far this decade, blackouts have been avoided in 92% of games, which is significantly better than the 1990s (69%), '80s (60%) and '70s (50%).

Goodell said the league's "worst-case projections" for this season call for 80% of games to be shown on local TV. As for the concept of allowing local TV to air taped versions of blacked-out games later in the day, he said that's not likely because there will be three games on TV every Sunday in every market, and replays would "conflict with our other broadcasts."

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sam.farmer@latimes.com

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