All right boys and girls. ... The 2006 regular season is over, post-season play is ongoing and aside from coaching changes, there isn't much in the way of hard news to work with this time of the year.
But there is some. And where there isn't news, there is plenty of speculation and rumor to discuss. So, it's time to crank up our usual off-season slate of goodies with my weekly Fantasy Notebook.
Before we begin, I'd like to rehash my standard lecture about news: It's provisional. It's the best we know today. It will change tomorrow. It's ongoing.
I say this because being well informed is a never-ending process. One news item in and of itself might be interesting or even exciting. But when we put together a series of news items going back over a period of time, our ability to make judgements based on that info improves greatly.
Picture a graph. One data point isn't sufficient. The more points you add, the greater the clarity and the better your results. News is the same. ...
Hence, the weekly Fantasy Notebook, Headline News stories (focusing on and analyzing major news as developments warrant) and the News & Views section of the site, where you can keep up with general developments on a daily basis.
Now, with the preliminaries out of the way let's get the ball rolling. ...
Starting in Kansas City. ... As Yahoo! Sports correspondent Jason Cole first noted, not more than an hour after losing to Indianapolis in the first round of the playoffs, head coach Herman Edwards was already considering the future of his team.
That could include some drastic moves this offseason. "We're going to have to blow it up a little bit, we're pretty old," Edwards said.
Indeed. Cole went on to remind readers the Chiefs had 12 regular starters in '06 who will be 30 or older next season. That ranks as one of the oldest teams in the league.
Furthermore, Cole correctly suggested that running back Larry Johnson aged quite a big this season after setting an NFL record with 416 carries.
Edwards hopes to get another running back who can take at least 75 of those carries from Johnson's workload, if not 100.
After that, Edwards believes the Chiefs must find a legitimate wide receiver to complement Johnson, quarterback Trent Green and tight end Tony Gonzalez.
And Gonzalez' return was assured this week, when he reached an agreement on a five-year contract extension. The star tight end first told FOXSports.com insider Jay Glazer the new deal includes a stunning $17.750 million in guaranteed bonus money and averages more than $6.25 million per year -- huge numbers for a tight end -- with $18.750 million over the first three years.
In comparison, Chargers All-Pro tight end Antonio Gates had $10 million guaranteed in his deal.
"I'm happy that I get to end my career where it started," Gonzalez told Glazer. "I really didn't know what was going to happen for a while but in the end the Chiefs really stepped up for me."
"I think he deserved this contract," general manager Carl Peterson said. "Was it more than I wanted to pay? Sure. It always is. But he is, in my opinion, the best tight end in pro football. This allows him to be compensated as he deserves.
"There have been some rookies who came in and got bigger signing bonuses, but put it all together, Tony's been the highest-paid tight end in the NFL for several years, and this makes sure he will remain so."
Had Gonzalez not agreed to the new deal, he had until Friday afternoon to send in a letter voiding his contract in order to become an unrestricted free agent. Earlier in the year he told Glazer that he would void and hit the open market if they could not agree on a substantial raise from his previous deal.
Had he hit the open market he would have had serious interest from a handful of teams looking to upgrade their receiving corps.
In addition, Edwards in their year-end meeting ensured Gonzalez that they would use his receiving skills even more next year than they had down the stretch this season.
"We've got to find a way to make that happen," the coach told Kansas City Star staffer Adam Teicher. "He wasn't as big a factor (inside the 20) as he could be for us.
"He's still playing at a high level. He takes care of himself. He trains hard in the offseason. He never was the fastest guy. That's not his deal. His deal was body position and being able to wall guys off and making the tough catch when he's covered. He can still do that as well as he ever did.
"What I wanted to see out of him this year is that when he caught the ball, one guy shouldn't be able to tackle him. That's something he did very, very well. He made a lot of yards after he caught the passes. ..."
But making better use of Gonzalez will apparently be the tip of the iceberg in terms of offensive changes in 2007.
While Edwards told reporters on Monday that he couldn't be specific about many of the changes because they are still to be decided, he indicated they would probably include a different scheme -- and maybe a new starting quarterback.
They won't include a new coordinator. Edwards said Mike Solari would continue in that job no matter what type of offense the Chiefs use.
"I told Mike today that he did a good job for his first year," Edwards said. "That's a tough seat he's sitting in. A lot of the things that happened to us -- losing some players, losing the quarterback -- affected him. He had never called an offensive play. That's hard. He will be so much better next year. It won't even be close.
"Mike's the guy. He's going to be a heck of an offensive coordinator. Next year will be a lot different for him. I was so much better my second year as a head coach. He'll gain more confidence. He knows me better now. Mike had to learn the passing game.
"You don't learn that in a year unless you're a coordinator. He was an offensive-line coach. That's something he had to go through."
With Solari firmly in place, the first real indication of change came Friday, when Edwards fired quarterbacks coach Terry Shea, who had strong ties to former head coach Dick Vermeil and was a devotee of onetime offensive coordinator Al Saunders.
Offensive assistant Dick Curl is a former quarterbacks coach in college and is a candidate to replace Shea.
According to ESPN.com insider Len Pasquarelli, Shea's departure clears way for a more power-based attack.
Pasquarelli added, however, that while Edwards wants to continue to run the ball, with Johnson the centerpiece of the attack, he also wants to be more aggressive throwing vertically.
According to Teicher, Edwards has contemplated changes through the course of a bumpy offensive season. Last Saturday's 23-8 loss to the Colts in a first-round playoff game in Indianapolis helped drive home the point.
The Chiefs had 126 yards and failed to get a first down until their eighth possession.
"We didn't handle their speed real well," Edwards said.
"We have to take a hard look at ourselves. You have to be realistic and ask yourself if we're really capable of (successfully running their current system). I want to make sure of one thing: Whatever type of system we run; young players have to be able to play. They can't wait a year or two to get on the field. I don't want to be in a situation where young guys who have some talent can't play because the system is too complex.
"There are some things we do very well. There are things we can do even better. That's what I'm talking about here: How do we do these things better? It's not a laundry list of things.
"These are just things that allow us to get the football to the right players."
Another goal will be to simplify the scheme by cutting back on the number of plays and their complexities. That specific change would be aimed toward making things easier for younger players.
And according to Topeka Capital-Journal staffer Tully Corcoran, Edwards specifically mentioned rookie wide receiver Jeff Webb, a sixth-round draft pick who played sparingly on offense when discussing those younger players.
Teicher suggested the coach might also be hoping another rookie wideout, Chris Hannon and perhaps even rookie quarterback Brodie Croyle can push for time.
"I just know it has to be player-friendly," Edwards said. "It has to be something that young players at all positions can play. I want to give the quarterback even more ability to change some things at the line of scrimmage.
"I want him to have the ability to get to anything we have right now."
Which brings us back to Green. ...
As noted above, Edwards wouldn't address the issue of whether the veteran would return as the starting quarterback. Green's play dropped off significantly this season after he missed eight games because of a concussion.
"That's not even something we're discussing right now," Edwards said. "There are a whole lot of other things we have to do as far as the program before we start worrying about player situations. That's second on the agenda."
But as Teicher noted, the coach's refusal to back Green, who will turn 37 this summer, speaks loudly. So does the decision to cut Shea loose. The two men are very close on and off the field.
The conservative Edwards believes in ball control above all. Green committed three turnovers in the final regular-season game against Jacksonville and three more in the loss to the Colts.
Green realizes changes are coming.
"Oh, there will be (change)," he told Star staffer Sam Mellinger. "It's not a matter if I want it. There will be. Every year, there's about 10 to 15 new players, and this year there may be more than that, if you just base it on what coach Edwards has said. ..."
Or in Green's case, on what Edwards didn't say. ...
Other Fantasy-specific news and notes of interest this week. ...
In New York. ... Much to the chagrin of Giants fans across the land, Tom Coughlin will return as head coach next season. After two days of talks with team president John Mara and treasurer Jonathan Tisch, Coughlin was given a one-year contract extension through 2008.
But as New York Newsday staffer Arthur Staple suggested, the upcoming season will be his make-or-break year after the team executives voiced their displeasure about the team's underachievement this season.
"He knows that we need to do better, that our expectations are much higher," Mara said Wednesday. "I think that we have enough talent on this roster to do better ... Given all [the injuries], I'm still not happy being 8-8, but we didn't believe given those circumstances that a change was warranted."
Coughlin said he never thought he was in danger of being fired despite a 2-6 slide after a 6-2 start. The Giants made the playoffs despite being a .500 team and lost to the Eagles, 23-20, on Sunday, their second consecutive exit on the first weekend of the playoffs.
Mara said he and Tisch did not tell Coughlin to change the coaching staff, although defensive coordinator Tim Lewis was subsequently fired. Coughlin said the firing and hiring of assistants is entirely his call; Mara said the hiring of a new general manager is his and Tisch's call.
All indications currently point towards the team naming Jerry Reese general manager, perhaps as early as next week. Reese, the Giants' director of player personnel, is the leading in-house candidate to replace Ernie Accorsi, whose retirement becomes official Monday.
As far as Coughlin is concerned, "he did not have to save his job, he did not have to talk us into anything," Tisch said. "There was no lightning bolt, just a continuation of a plan he outlined three years ago."
Mara and Tisch spoke about the perception that Coughlin was their fathers' choice. Wellington Mara and Bob Tisch, who died within three weeks of each other in the autumn of 2005, signed off on Coughlin's hiring, but John Mara and Accorsi were the ones who interviewed Coughlin.
"This was not anything that was forced upon me or forced upon this organization by my father," Mara said. "This was my decision as much it was anybody else's."
Wednesday's decision certainly was Mara's as well, with an equal vote by the Tisch family.
During the season's low point, a 30-7 loss to the Saints at home on Dec. 24, fans chanted "Fire Coughlin!" Mara acknowledged that the decision to extend Coughlin's deal might be unpopular.
"I'm aware that there will be a number of fans who will not be pleased with that decision," he said. "I'm certainly sensitive to what the fans think. And believe me, I have received a lot of mail, particularly over the last eight or 10 weeks. But at the end of the day, you can't make decisions based on what the fans' sentiment is at that time."
Or what some players have said, anonymously or publicly.
Three prominent Giants gave statements in support of Coughlin Wednesday, including Jeremy Shockey, one of his occasional critics, along with Michael Strahan and Antonio Pierce.
Said Shockey, "Everyone on this team, no matter what anyone from the outside says, understands that nothing is more important to coach Coughlin than winning, and that's what you want from your coach."
As Staple noted, Coughlin gets one more season to try to do that. The big question is whether Eli Manning will help him.
During their two days of discussions on the Giants' future, Mara, Tisch and Coughlin agreed on one major point. If Manning's play does not improve next season, there might not be many offseason chats between the execs and the coach in 2008.
"Obviously, [Manning] was a major part of our discussions," Mara said. "Eli needs to play more consistently. He would be the first one to admit that. Something that I have been concerned about is his play over the second half of the season. There is nobody in this building that doubts his ability and that feels like he is not the guy to lead us to where we want to get."
The only number that improved for Manning in 2006 was completion percentage. It rose from 52.8 in 2005 to 57.7, but he was under 51.5 percent for five of the final eight games of the regular season.
He will have a new position coach for 2007. Kevin Gilbride was moved up to offensive coordinator for the last regular-season game and the playoff loss, and an NFL Network report said Gilbride will remain as offensive coordinator next season, though the team would not confirm that.
Manning has had a good relationship with Gilbride, his only quarterbacks coach with the Giants.
Manning will have more to shoulder next season with Tiki Barber retired, and there still is plenty of uncertainty about whether Manning can be a vocal leader with his reserved personality. But the commitment to him is still there.
"We know the talent is there because we have seen him do it," Mara said. "We have seen him bring us down the field, at the end of the game, to win a game for us ... So I know the talent is in there. We all believe that. But we need to have him play more consistently. ..."
One last note here. ... Before Coughlin's return was officially announced, Plaxico Burress was asked what he'd say to a new head coach who asked him to participate in the Giants off-season program.
"Tell him I'll see him in training camp," Burress, who trains away from the team, in Miami, told the New York Post. Apparently that won't change, either. ...
In Jacksonville. ... Dirk Koetter will be the third offensive coordinator in the last four years to take a crack at improving the Jaguars' passing game, which ranked 24th in the NFL this season.
And as Florida Times-Union staffer Vito Stellino noted this week, Koetter is doing it at a time when the team hasn't identified its starting quarterback or No. 1 receiver for next season, and the future of head coach Jack Del Rio is uncertain because he's entering his fifth season without a playoff victory on his resume.
Yet Koetter, who will start working for the Jaguars tomorrow after being hired last Monday, doesn't have second thoughts about coming aboard. Bill Musgrave and Carl Smith each were fired after serving two years as Del Rio's offensive coordinator.
"I'm not concerned," said Koetter, a former Arizona State and Boise State head coach. "As a coach, you go in, and you're loyal to the head coach and loyal to the organization, and you have confidence that things are going to turn out [well]."
Koetter has never coached on the NFL level, but he's confident that he can make the transition. Also making a transition will be Jaguars players, who will learn yet another offense, but Koetter said he might try to make it easier by keeping some of the current terminology.
"There aren't any great secrets out there," he said.
According to Stellino, Koetter has a reputation for liking to throw deep with play-action passes off the running game. That seems to be a good fit for the Jaguars, who ranked third in the NFL in rushing this season, and Koetter said he likes to tailor his approach to his players' strengths.
"I believe in running the football with vertical play action off of that," Koetter said. "If that's the type of players we have, and that's what the head coach wants, we'll try to achieve that."
Of the quarterback position, Koetter said he expects all three -- Byron Leftwich, David Garrard and Quinn Gray -- to return next season.
Of any supposed rift between Leftwich and Del Rio, Koetter said, "I don't know anything about that. That's all stuff that happened in the past. That's none of my business. That's all stuff that will be handled by Jack and the front office. But as far as I'm concerned, we'll have the same three quarterbacks we have now."
According to Pro Football Weekly, Gray, who began the season third on the depth chart, will get a chance to compete with Garrard for the starting spot next season if the Jaguars don't bring in a veteran signal caller.
PFW still expects Leftwich, who began the season as the starter, to be traded in the offseason.
Koetter didn't want to get into too many specifics about the Jaguars' offense because he hasn't had a chance to look at much film, and he's no longer a head coach.
"When I was the head coach, I could say anything I wanted to," he said. "Now I've got to see what Jack wants."
In Cleveland. ... According to Akron Beacon Journal beat writer Patrick McManamon, the latest name to surface in the Browns' search for an offensive coordinator indicates that the team's offense could take a new direction in 2007.
Add Greg Knapp to the mix. The Browns have strong interest in the coach who exclusively has run the West Coast system.
Knapp confirmed that he was in town Tuesday to interview.
"It went very well, and that's about all I want to say about it," Knap told McManamon on Wednesday.
Knapp was offensive coordinator with the Atlanta Falcons the past two years. He was offensive coordinator with the San Francisco 49ers from 2001 to '03 and their quarterback coach from 1998 to 2000.
Browns general manager Phil Savage, speaking at his annual post-season news conference Wednesday, declined to comment on coaches from outside the team who have been interviewed.
He did confirm the Browns have interviewed two of their assistants, Jeff Davidson and Rip Scherer, and said they could interview a few more candidates.
Savage, though, intimated that the team might hire a coordinator soon -- and that might point to Knapp, who was let go when the Falcons fired Jim Mora.
"Do we want to wait and maybe put ourselves in a position toward the end of the playoffs and Super Bowl waiting for a coach on one of those teams?" Savage said. "And then have to put a staff together? Versus going ahead and maybe doing something proactive in the next couple days?"
Savage said the Browns want "a leader" as the new coordinator, someone who will "take the bull by the horns and say, `This is what we're going to do.' "
As McManamon noted, Knapp has coached the West Coast system his entire career. Although it did not work well in the long run with Michael Vick in Atlanta, the Falcons did reach the NFC Championship Game in Knapp's first season.
The 49ers had success when Knapp called the plays for Jeff Garcia.
The West Coast offense -- developed by former 49ers coach Bill Walsh and used by Mike Holmgren with the Seattle Seahawks and Andy Reid with the Philadelphia Eagles -- relies on quick passing and allows the quarterback to get out of the pocket and throw on the run, something Charlie Frye does well.
The past two years, the Browns have run the New England Patriots' system, which is more of a straight drop-back style.
Savage said the Browns' offensive struggles in 2006 were not all the fault of the quarterback, and he listed as one of his disappointments the failure to establish an offensive identity.
And as McManamon noted, a West Coast system would bring an instant identity.
McManamon went on to point out it's interesting that Frye might seem best suited to a West Coast offense, and Derek Anderson would be suited to the Patriots style.
Savage said Frye enters the offseason as the incumbent. He added that the free-agent market for quarterbacks is not inspiring.
For what it's worth, Savage also said keeping coach Romeo Crennel was "the right thing to do."
"There's no way I can look in the mirror and say this is all Romeo Crennel's fault," he said. "It's just not fair to him."
Of course, all bets will be off this time next year, when Bill Cowher hits the market. ...
Meanwhile, the team has started interviewing for a new strength coach and might dip into the college ranks for a receivers and tight ends coach. This after John Lott, Terry Robiskie and Ben Coates got the boot last week.
McManamon added the team would like Davidson to stay as line coach if he's not the coordinator, but Savage said he can't guarantee that will happen. Davidson's future with the Browns seems to depend on the new coordinator. ...
And finally, Savage laughed at the notion around the league that he, not Crennel, is hiring the coaches. "Romeo is responsible for the coaching staff," Savage said. ...
In New York. ... Chad Pennington was voted the NFL's Comeback Player of the Year, battling back from consecutive rotator cuff surgeries over the past two seasons to lead his team to a 10-6 record and playoff berth this season.
Pennington, a seventh-year pro, played a 16-game schedule for the first time in his career. He won a four-way competition for the starting job in training camp in less than a week although head coach Eric Mangini refused to make an official announcement until late in camp.
Pennington is 32-22 as a regular-season starter -- 2-3 in the postseason.
In the past five seasons, the Jets have gone to the playoffs three times with Pennington as the starter. The two seasons they didn't were when Pennington was injured.
Despite all that, Mangini refused to say on Monday that Pennington is his starting quarterback entering training camp next summer.
The reason? It's against his core value of open competition.
But as Newark Star-Ledger beat writer Dave Hutchinson pointed out, with veteran Patrick Ramsey about to get a ticket out of town, rookie Kellen Clemens would be Pennington's chief competition. That amounts to no competition at all given the Jets' complex no-huddle offense that requires the quarterback to call the play at the line of scrimmage after reading the defense.
Still, Mangini declined to name Pennington the starter although he was very complimentary of his quarterback.
"What I will say is that I know Chad now. I didn't know him that way when I got here. I like so many things about Chad. He did an outstanding job."
Asked if it's Pennington's job to lose, Mangini said: "Like with every position, we're gong to evaluate it as we go. But I really believe in Chad."
In case you missed it, Pennington completed 313 of 485 passes (65 percent) for 3,352 yards, 17 touchdowns and 16 interceptions with an 82.6 passer rating. Also in case you missed it, Mangini is only slightly less tight-lipped than his mentor Bill Belichick.
Meaning, Pennington is already locked in as the 2007 starter whether the coach admits it or not. ...
In Green Bay. ... According to PackersNews.com, Bob Harlan, the Packers' CEO, expressed no concern that Brett Favre's recent cancellation of his membership to Oneida Golf & Riding Club was a sign he's going to retire.
Harlan confirmed that Favre cancelled his membership sometime in the last few weeks. Harlan hasn't talked to Favre about it, but said with former teammates Ryan Longwell and Doug Pederson gone, Favre rarely played golf last year, so the membership wasn't worth it for him.
When asked if he thought the cancellation suggested Favre was retiring this offseason, Harlan said, "No, not at all. It's an expensive club. I don't care how much money you're making, it's very expensive, and if you're not using it, it doesn't make a lot of sense, and I think that's what happened to Brett."
Harlan said the Packers have a corporate membership for golf at Oneida in General Manager Ted Thompson's name, so Thompson or any other Oneida member Favre knows could accompany him for rounds if Favre returns next season.
Favre had been an avid golfer.
"I've heard he doesn't play at home (in Mississippi) anymore, either," Harlan said. "I've heard it's not all that important to him all at once. ..."
Let's see. ... First he cancels ankle surgery scheduled for the day after the season. Now golf isn't all that important -- all at once. While I don't think these developments tip Favre's plans, it's safe to assume his every action will prompt intense scrutiny until the official announcement on his future is made. ...
And finally. ... Cole warned readers earlier this week not to be surprised if Oakland's Al Davis puts up a fuss over paying the departing Art Shell his entire $2 million owed for next season. Davis once short-changed Mike Shanahan after firing him, forcing Shanahan to go to the league to arbitrate the matter.
Apparently Davis' final meeting with Shell was extremely contentious, which was surprising treatment of a former Raiders player. ...
Speaking of Davis and the Raiders, sources close to the situation told Cole that Davis remains committed to keeping malcontent wide receiver Randy Moss and Jerry Porter unless he gets a huge price in trade. Davis remains fearful that either of the players will go elsewhere and play well again. ...
That's it for this week's Notebook. I'll check in again next Sunday. ... In the meantime, keep an eye on the News & Views section of this site for late-breaking news and other tidbits of interest. Watch the Headline News section for more in-depth reviews of current events -- including the Fantasy Notebook.