Luke Kuechly retired from the NFL on Tuesday night.
In the second stunning NFL player retirement in less than five months, arguably the top inside linebacker of the 2010s, Kuechly of the Carolina Panthers, announced on Twitter his playing days are over.
He did not say why.
A seven-time Pro Bowl selection and five-time all-pro, Kuechly played eight NFL seasons, all in Carolina.
Kuechly reportedly suffered three concussions from 2015-17.
In a teary video the Panthers posted to Twitter, the No. 9 overall draft pick in 2012 said “it’s a tough decision I’ve thought about a lot,” but “now is the right chance for me to move on.
“It makes me sad, because I love playing this game. I’ve played it since I was a little kid, and it’s my favourite thing to do in the world.”
Kuechly led the league in tackles in 2012 and 2014, and finishes with 1,092 — plus 18 interceptions and seven forced fumbles.
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, selected No. 1 overall in 2012, retired in August, citing frustrations over multiple long-term injury recoveries.
STEFANSKI ‘UNDAUNTED’ BY BROWNS PLIGHT
Clearly, Jimmy Haslam has a type of head coach he likes. One with an empty or near-empty head-coaching resume.
Understand that men with ample experience always apply. Haslam just never hires them.
The Cleveland Browns on Tuesday introduced Kevin Stefanski as the fifth new head coach Haslam has hired since he took over as principal owner in 2012 — and the fourth with zero previous head-coaching experience. Only Hue Jackson had any, and just one season at that, with the Oakland Raiders in 2011.
Before a new coach’s bloom in Cleveland can even loosen and fall off the rose, a frustrated, impatient Haslam rips it off first. To wit:
- Rob Chudzinski. Hired, January 2013. Fired, December 2013.
- Mike Pettine. Hired, January 2014. Fired, January 2016.
- Hue Jackson. Hired, January 2016. Fired, October 2018. And replaced on an interim basis by Gregg Williams, who applied to have the interim tag removed, but got removed himself.
- Freddie Kitchens. Hired, January 2019. Fired, December 2019.
So, what makes Stefanski — previously offensive coordinator of the Minnesota Vikings — believe his fate can be any different from his too-numerous short-term predecessors? Especially after getting interviewed last year at this time but losing out to Kitchens?
“I am undeterred. And I am undaunted,” the 37-year-old Stefanski told a news conference. “And I think the challenge is there, and I can’t wait to be a part of this change.”
Yeah, but all his predecessors preached the same message from the same dias, so what makes Stefanski think his fate will be any different?
“I understand that,” he said. “For me, and it’s easy, the focus is 2020. We’re not looking backward; we’re looking forward. And I hope all of our players know that too. When they walk into that building, whenever it is in April, we’re moving forward. And anything that has happened in our past does not affect our future.
“Why am I confident about that? Because I’ve been in the building. I know the people that we have. I know that we’re going to add to that building. I know we’re going to add players, as happens in the NFL. But I’m excited for this challenge, and I’m ready for it.”
On other topics, Stefanski said as he puts his staff together he’ll decide whether he himself will call offensive plays, or whether he’ll delegate that to an assistant.
“It doesn’t have to be me.”
He also, time and again over 20-plus minutes, heaped piles of praise on Browns starting quarterback Baker Mayfield.
As for hiring a coaching staff, and a GM as well, Stefanski promised “we’re going to be very methodical about this. We’re in no rush to do this. We want to get it right.”
Which is only half like his boss — who very much is in a rush to get it right.
Later, Haslam and Stefanski were asked to comment on reports claiming Stefanski not only must meet weekly with Haslam and the Browns’ top analytics guru — chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta — but submit to them his coaching staff’s game plan by Friday before every Sunday game, for discussion. This, after a long meeting between those parties on Mondays.
“If you owned a pro football team, would you meet with the head coach the Monday after the game?” Haslam said. “Of course you would. I mean, of course we would.
“The rumours out there, though, about presenting the game plan — those kind are just totally inaccurate, and I really think they’re irresponsible.”
Stefanski also said “it’s not true.”
Apparently Stefanski was given a five-year contract. If he makes it through Year 3 he’ll set a Haslam-owned Browns record.
Would you bet on it?
Antonio Gates, who never played college football, announced his retirement Tuesday after 16 seasons with the Chargers franchise.
Gates caught more touchdowns (116) than any tight end in NFL history.
“I find it hard to officially put this statement out and retire from the game of football,” Gates said in a statement.
The 39-year-old also ranks No. 1 among tight ends in NFL history with 21 multi-touchdown games, No. 1 with 39 TDs on third down, and No. 4 with 21 100-yard games.
He did not play in 2019, after missing only 16 games over 16 years.
ROOKIES OF THE YEAR
The Bay Area featured the top NFL rookies in 2019.
Oakland Raiders running back Josh Jacobs is the NFL’s offensive rookie of the year, while San Francisco 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa of the San Francisco 49ers is the top rookie defender and overall top rookie, according to the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA). Arizona’s Kyler Murray was named QB on PFWA’s all-rookie team.
RAIDERS FIRE LINE COACH
The Oakland Raiders fired defensive line coach Brentson Buckner on Tuesday. NFL Network said Raiders head coach Jon Gruden is expected to replace Buckner with Rod Marinelli, whom new Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy dumped as defensive coordinator to hire Mike Nolan for that job.
Standout University of Iowa DE A.J. Epenesa announced he’s turning pro. NCAA underclassmen three years removed from high school have until Friday to turn pro and apply for the 2020 NFL Draft.
BAG OF D—S
Banished wide receiver Antonio Brown continues to not exactly help in the rehabilitation of his own image. On Monday he live-streamed from his front lawn his profanity-packed screed to an ex-girlfriend, as well as to Hollywood, Fla., police — as his ex picked up their three children. Brown repeatedly called the handful of police on hand “bitch-a– (N-words)” among other disgraceful things. Brown at one point threw at police a bag of male-sex-gland-shaped gummy candy named Bag of D—s.
One day later was Brown sorry? Well, he took a photo of the Bag of Dicks and tweeted it out.
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