“(Derrick) Henry is now the most compelling single figure in the final four of the 2019 season. Weren’t we entering an era of interchangeable running backs, backs that couldn’t and shouldn’t dominate games? Nobody told Henry.” – King on Derrick Henry
“The 49ers have built the best defensive front in football…What the Niners have done with the line shows how every team can turn around the franchise.” – King
“Knowing that at 36 he doesn’t know how many January chances he’ll get, Rodgers won his first playoff game in three years with the kind of deft touch passes that will land him Canton on a first ballot one day.” – King on Aaron Rodgers
“Cleveland’s a dumpster fire…I’m talking strictly football here. I don’t know what…you would hire Kevin Stefanski for.” – Chris Simms on the Browns
STAMFORD, Conn. – Jan. 13, 2020 – Peter King speaks with Tennessee running back Derrick Henry and Green Bay first-year head coach Matt LaFleur in this week’s edition of Football Morning in America, available now exclusively on NBCSports.com. King also recaps Divisional weekend, looks ahead to the Conference Championship matchups, hands out his awards from the weekend, and discusses the Rooney Rule. King also outlines the 40 hours that led to the Giants hiring Joe Judge and the Panthers hiring Matt Rhule.
Additionally, across NBC Sports, Mike Tirico, Tony Dungy, Rodney Harrison, Chris Simms, and Mike Florio recap Divisional weekend, while Florio and Simms break down all of the action across the NFL on PFT Live and Chris Simms Unbuttoned.
The following are highlights from this week’s edition of Football Morning in America:
GREEN BAY PACKERS
King: “I came to Green Bay wondering about (Aaron) Rodgers. (Stupidly, as it turns out.)…But the Packers were back. They were NFC North champs. So the numbers, well, who cares about the numbers when you’re 13-3.”
King on Packers head coach Matt LaFleur: “Rodgers and his revival were vital this weekend. But he’s got a good partner too. LaFleur’s done a good job this year massaging some plays so they look new to a defense.”
LaFleur to King on Rodgers’ first TD of the game to WR Davante Adams: “That play is not one we’ve used. We just added it a week or so ago, to be truthful. It made sense. When you put so much of a similar play on tape for opponents to see, and you decide to change it a little bit, you hope you can catch the defense. That’s what you have to do in offensive football today.”
King on LaFleur: “That’s the kind of play that Rodgers has to see and say, I’m dealing with a guy who’s got next-level knowledge of offense, just like I do.”
King on Packers’ third-and-eight conversion with 2:19 left in the game: “So this was a third-and-eight Rodgers needed to convert if the Packers wanted to win their first playoff game in three years. And of course Rodgers changed the play.”
LaFleur on Rodgers changing the play: “I can’t wait to go back and watch the tape of that play. I wasn’t anticipating it. But you know Aaron. He’s been doing this a long time. He knows.”
King: “I don’t know if the Packers have it in them to go to San Francisco and win Sunday, but I think they’ll be more competitive than they were in November’s 37-8 loss to the Niners. The blossoming LaFleur-Rodgers partnership should see to that.”
King on Derrick Henry: “(Derrick) Henry is now the most compelling single figure in the final four of the 2019 season. Weren’t we entering an era of interchangeable running backs, backs that couldn’t and shouldn’t dominate games? Nobody told Henry.”
King on Henry’s humbleness: “Henry is almost disdainful of his accomplishments. Every time he’s asked about these unprecedented achievements, he’ll stage a diversion. I got to him 75 minutes after Saturday night’s game, and his response was almost diffident.”
Henry to King: “Man, I don’t care. Stats…We won. We won. We advanced. That’s what I care about.”
King: “Not many players in football, at any position, can be unstoppable when you know exactly what’s coming. But in the last three weeks, Houston, New England and Baltimore, all playing at home, have been powerless to stop Henry.”
Henry to King: “For the good of the team, I’m happy. Individual goals are a little selfish to me. My goal is to win for this team. We’re advancing. That’s what matters to me.”
King on the Ravens: “Regarding the Ravens, who played stale and unsteady in a surprisingly poor performance, there are questions about John Harbaugh resting seven veterans for the meaningless Week 17 games.”
King: “If I were GM Eric DeCosta and Harbaugh, I’d assign one of the young mathematical logicians to study whether it is indeed unanswerable, or is there some knowledge to be gained by studying teams that rested guys and those that played Week 17 as normal.”
Chiefs Safety Tyrann Mathieu to King: “Our coordinator, coach (Steve) Spagnuolo, told us something when it looked bad that was really helpful: ‘Don’t dwell on bad plays. Don’t dwell on good plays. Dwell on the next play.’ Plus, we got Patrick.”
Mathieu on facing the Titans: “It’s smashmouth, old-time, classic football. We gotta tackle Derrick Henry. That’s it. You get a chance, you gotta tackle him…My mindset is, and all my guys will know it, there’s no next week. We gotta tackle Derrick Henry”
King on San Francisco’s defense: “Six sacks by San Francisco defensive linemen Saturday, in a game that felt like the Vikings were never in…The 49ers have built the best defensive front in football.”
King on San Francisco’s defensive line: “What the Niners have done with the line shows how every team can turn around the franchise, assuming it drafts consistently well.”
CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP PREVIEW
King on Titans-Chiefs: “I absolutely think the Titans have a chance, but all they have to do is watch tape of Kansas City falling behind by 24 against Houston to see how fast the Chiefs changed the game. Tennessee can’t afford many mistakes Sunday at Arrowhead.”
King on the Titans & Derrick Henry: “It’s amazing that, here we are, forecasting the conference title games, and the biggest issue revolves around whether anyone in football can stop the running back on the team that entered the postseason thought to be 12th out of 12 playoff teams.”
King on Packers-49ers: “The way I saw the San Francisco front Saturday, Green Bay will have to use an extra blocker often, make sure Rodgers gets rid of it quickly, and play its best game of the year, by far, to score enough to win.”
KING’S DIVISIONAL AWARDS
Offensive Players of the Week: Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay, Travis Kelce, Kansas City, & Derrick Henry, Tennessee.
King on Rodgers: “Knowing that at 36 he doesn’t know how many January chances he’ll get, Rodgers won his first playoff game in three years with the kind of deft touch passes that will land him Canton on a first ballot one day.”
Defensive Players of the Week: Richard Sherman, San Francisco, Jurrell Casey, Tennessee, & Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith, Green Bay.
King on Sherman: “Big players make big plays in big games…For the game, (Kirk) Cousins targeted Sherman just three times, with one completion (for nine yards) and the one pick. That’s what I call a shut-down corner.”
King: “Having known Dan Rooney well before he died in 2017, I can say without hesitation that he would be ashamed of what’s happened to the well-intentioned 17-year-old Rooney Rule…The rule is a mockery of a sham.”
Giants owner John Mara to King: “We’re obviously using the Rooney Rule for the head coaching candidates, but I think we may have to use the rule for the feeder positions…I can tell you: This is a real concern of the commissioner and the league”
King’s recommendations to fix the rule:
- Increase the mandated minority-candidate interviews from one to two, and make owners meet each minority candidate;
- Mandate that one of the three pipeline positions on every new coaching staff be a minority;
- Expand the Rooney Rule to coordinator positions;
- Make January a dark period for coaching interviews and hires;
- Ramp up (with NFL funding) program for developing minority coaches.
Click here to watch Tony Dungy’s thoughts on how to fix the Rooney Rule from Saturday’s pre-game show.
The following are clips from Saturday’s special edition of Football Night in America:
- Vikings-49ers Recap: The FNIA crew recaps San Francisco’s win over the Vikings.
- George Kittle Feature: 49ers tight end George Kittle and his family reflect on the All-Pro’s childhood, detail the role family plays in his life and explain the importance of the inspirational letters his dad writes him before every game.
- Mike Tirico & the Shanahans: Tirico sits down with 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan‘s parents, Mike and Peggy Shanahan, to discuss Mike’s former coaching career, the 49ers and how their son grew into the coach he is today.
- Tony Dungy & Kirk Cousins: Dungy interviews Kirk Cousins about dealing with critics, the impact of his first playoff win, and the origins of ‘You like that?!’
The following are additional highlights of NBC Sports’ NFL coverage heading into Championship Sunday:
- Mike Florio and Chris Simms, with guest Peter King, discuss all things NFL on PFT Live, including Divisional Weekend recaps and Conference Championship previews.
- On Chris Simms Unbuttoned, Simms breaks down the Divisional games and power ranks the craziness of the Texans-Chiefs game.
Simms: “Cleveland’s a dumpster fire, that’s all I can really say…This is nothing personal…I don’t know (Kevin Stefanski). I’m sure he’s a really fine guy. I know some of the human beings in Cleveland, they’re good human beings…I’m talking strictly football here. I don’t know what the hell you would hire Kevin Stefanski for. I’m sorry, I don’t know. Mike Zimmer is telling you not to hire him. Have you listened the quotes he said the last eight weeks of the year? He’s telling you (Gary) Kubiak is the greatest thing that’s happened since he’s been there. Everything he praises is Gary Kubiak. But Stefanski is going to get a head coaching job? What the hell is Cleveland doing? I don’t know. I just don’t get it. We’ve watched the offense – there’s issues in Minnesota. If they can’t run the ball, it’s the most basic offense we’ve seen. So what are you really getting here?”
A new “Football Morning in America” posts every Monday morning exclusively on NBCSports.com through the NFL season. It was announced in May that King signed an exclusive agreement with NBC Sports Group that included writing a weekly Monday morning NFL column for NBCSports.com; making regular appearances on NBCSN’s and NBC Sports Radio’s PFT Live with Mike Florio; and continuing to contribute to Football Night in America, the most-watched studio show in sports.