The Tampa Bay Buccaneers fired Coach Lovie Smith on Wednesday night.
Smith went 6-10 this season and 8-24 over two years in charge of the team. The announcement came as a surprise to many because Smith's job was not considered to be in danger.
A statement from Buccaneers co-Chairman Joel Glazer said, "This decision was difficult on a variety of levels. I am disappointed that we were not more successful these past few seasons, but we are committed to doing what is necessary to give our fans the winning team they deserve."
Smith led the Chicago Bears to the NFC title in 2006, when they lost to Indianapolis in the Super Bowl. He was 84-66 in nine seasons with Chicago.
Payton staying with Saints
New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton said he's remaining with the team, ending speculation that he could be on the move after consecutive 7-9 seasons.
"I don't envision myself ever coaching for any other clubs," Payton said. "I know it appeared there was a looming decision, but I think this is really me saying again … here I am and nothing's changing and I plan on finishing my career here … I'll be here as long as they'll have me."
Payton began his first and only NFL head coaching job with the Saints in 2006, the season after the team had been displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Since then, he has gone 87-57 in the regular season with five playoff appearances and one Super Bowl title in the 2009 season.
His playoff record is 6-4. Payton's record excludes the 2012 season, when he was suspended in connection with the NFL's bounty investigation.
Payton said his contract, which runs for two more seasons and pays him about $8 million annually, remains unchanged for now. "I'm sure at the right time, all those things will take care of themselves," he said.
Calvin Johnson considering options
Calvin Johnson has drawn comparisons to Barry Sanders in Detroit. Both made spectacular plays for the Lions. Off the field, they were quiet and humble.
The superstar receiver and Hall of Fame running back might have one more thing in common this off-season.
"Like many players at this stage of their career, I am currently evaluating options for my future," Johnson said. "I would expect to have a decision regarding this matter in the not-too-distant future."
Johnson has declined to say if he will restructure his contract, which calls for him to count $24 million against the salary cap next season.
If the option Johnson chooses is retirement, he will walk away from the game despite having the physical ability to play more just as Sanders did at the same age. The 30-year-old Johnson didn't elaborate on his options in a joint release sent by the Lions.
"We obviously have profound respect for Calvin and certainly understand and appreciate his decision to give proper thought and consideration to his football future," the team said.
Brady's ankle improving
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady walked without a limp for his media availability on Wednesday and said his right ankle was feeling better.
He said getting the week off before the Patriots' first playoff game will be helpful. "This is the first time we've had off in quite a while," he said.
Brady has received treatment for his ankle after Miami defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh landed on it Sunday in a 20-10 Dolphins victory.
Brady was held without a touchdown pass in the game for the first time this season.
The Patriots have the first week of the playoffs off. They will play at home against Cincinnati, Houston or Kansas City on Jan. 16.
Bush files lawsuit
San Francisco 49ers running back Reggie Bush filed a lawsuit against the St. Louis Regional Convention and Stadium Authority for a season-ending knee injury sustained when he slipped on bare concrete bordering the field at the Edward Jones Dome.
The suit filed in St. Louis Circuit Court referred to the surface as a "concrete ring of death." It maintains the stadium authority was negligent and seeks in excess of $50,000 plus unspecified punitive damages.
Bush was injured Nov. 1 when he ran out of bounds while returning a punt against the Rams. A week earlier, Cleveland Browns quarterback Josh McCown slipped on the surface and banged his arm, although he stayed in the game.
The surface was covered with blue rubber padding the remainder of the season.