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SAM FARMER / ON THE NFL

Struggling NFL teams start from scratch

San Francisco lets go offensive coordinator, Buffalo releases quarterback Edwards and Carolina tries to figure things out. For those who worry, the advice from John Madden is simple: relax.

September 27, 2010|Sam Farmer

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.

"I remember a couple years ago I was talking to [former Colts and Buccaneers coach] Tony Dungy about it, and I said, `The way football is today, it takes half a season before you know who's going to be the team that year.' Instead of agreeing, Tony said, `No, I think it takes 10 games.' "

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 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 their annual fall meetings.

sam.farmer@latimes.com

twitter.com/LATimesfarmer

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