One day after Bobby Petrino's unexpected resignation, Emmitt Thomas inherited an Atlanta Falcons team eager for new leadership.
Thomas, 64, was promoted yesterday from defensive backs coach to interim head coach for the last three games of the season. The former defensive back, who helped the Kansas City Chiefs win the Super Bowl after the 1969 season, was the Eagles' defensive coordinator from 1995 to 1998.
Petrino resigned to become coach at Arkansas - and left behind Atlanta players who feel betrayed that he quit after 13 games, and furious that he left word in a brief note placed on the players' lockers.
"When we saw him doing his press conference at Arkansas, that's what I think brought up the anger," quarterback Joey Harrington said. "To have him talk about family, about team, and about commitment, and then to come in here and have a form letter at your locker . . . That's not how a man acts. That's how a coward acts."
Perhaps the most surprised in Atlanta was owner Arthur Blank. After getting a call from Dallas Cowboys owner (and Arkansas alumnus) Jerry Jones, Blank had an extended meeting with Petrino on Monday to discuss the coach's concerns.
"He stood up, we shook hands and he said, 'You have a head coach,' " Blank said.
Twenty-four hours later, Petrino submitted his resignation, hopped on a plane to Arkansas, and signed a deal as Razorbacks coach.
"The best way to describe the way we feel," Blank said, "is betrayed."
"This league is not for everybody," safety Lawyer Milloy said. "This league is for real men. I think he realized he didn't belong here."
Now Thomas, the first black head coach in the team's history, has to deal with the dregs of a 3-10 season.
"I'm honored and excited and nervous and happy to have the opportunity," Thomas said. "It's an opportunity for myself and the other coaches and coordinators to try to rally these guys and get them going to play competitive football the rest of the season."
Thomas did not lobby to be considered for the full-time position.
Petrino's brother, wide receivers coach Paul Petrino, also resigned.
The contest between the New York Jets and New England Patriots began last season.
The Jets were caught videotaping at Gillette Stadium last season, and the Patriots had that New York employee removed from the area, according to published reports. Jets coach Eric Mangini said his team received permission to film behind both end zones during the playoff game in January.
Mangini maintained the Jets did nothing wrong, and had filmed at New England during the regular season without incident. It was nothing like what the Patriots did earlier this season, when a New England employee was caught taping New York's defensive signals and punished by the league, he said.
Receiver Terry Glenn went through some drills at practice for the first time all season.
But Glenn, who is recovering from two knee operations, is not expected to play Sunday against the Eagles.
The Chicago Bears signed defensive tackle Matt Toeaina to a three-year contract. . . . The Baltimore Ravens placed cornerback Chris McAlister on injured reserve with a sore knee. . . . The New Orleans Saints signed kicker Martin Gramatica and placed Olindo Mare on injured reserve. . . . The Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed running back Zack Crockett for the second time this season . . . The Jacksonville Jaguars placed three-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Marcus Stroud on injured reserve, three days after he reinjured his surgically repaired right ankle. . . . The Arizona Cardinals placed tight end Leonard Pope on injured reserve with a dislocated right ankle. . . . The San Francisco 49ers put quarterback Alex Smith on injured reserve and signed much-traveled Chris Weinke. . . . The Denver Broncos signed linebacker Jamie Winborn to a two-year contract extension through 2009.
Miami Dolphins' coach Cam Camerson said he will change quarterbacks for the third time this season and reinstall Cleo Lemon as the starter for the 0-13 team. . . . Cincinnati's right tackle Willie Anderson (foot, knee injuries) did not practice. . . . Bills defensive end Chris Kelsay practiced for the first time since spraining his left ankle more than two weeks ago. . . . Vinny Testaverde missed practice, and Carolina coach John Fox declined to name a starting quarterback for the Panthers' game Sunday against Seattle.