Week Six mailbag

In the video edition of the Week Six mailbag, we addressed the question of whether the NFL ever would employ the tweak to the two-point conversion rule that allows the defensive team to score two points of its own by forcing a turnover and returning the ball to the opposite end zone.  And in so doing, we seemed to recall that the league had experimented with the college version of the rule in a past preseason. 

We promised a definitive answer in the written version of the Week Six mailbag.  So we asked NFL spokesman Greg Aiello if the league ever has experimented with that specific twist to the two-pointer rule.  And Aiello said that the league has not done so.

There, that was simple.  Next up, we provide simple answers to the rest of the best of the questions we received this week.

If you can provide a perspective where it’s possible to see that trading Harrison for Mike Bell was a good trade for the Browns, I’d like to hear it. I thought Mike Holmgren knew what he was doing.  Jon S.

Harrison simply didn’t fit the style of the Cleveland offense, which presently covets hard-nosed chain movers, not smaller, more versatile backs.  The trade with the Eagles for Mike Bell made sense because Bell better meshes the Browns’ offense than Harrison, and Harrison better meshes with the Eagles’ offense than Bell.

Still, it’s somewhat surprising that the Browns didn’t trade Harrison in the offseason, when his stock was much higher coming off a strong closing kick to the 2009 season.
If the Niners don’t turn things around like their owner Jed York thinks they will, who do you see replacing Mike Singletary next season?  Anthony P.

If York’s unusual decision to proclaim this week that the 49ers will win the division despite not yet winning a game represents a new attitude that York intends to bring to his franchise, the perfect choice to take over the team would be the guy who’s a DNA match to Jets coach Rex Ryan — Browns defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.

After struggling through a couple of defensive-minded coaches who failed as head coaches in San Fran (Mike Nolan and Singletary), York possibly will shy away from a defensive guru like Rob Ryan and look for someone who could become the next Bill Walsh.

But who would it be?  No offense is piling up both yardage and points this year, which means that no offensive coordinator has emerged as the “hot” candidate to take the next step next year.  And the college ranks have proven to be too risky, especially with the Niners’ franchise still trying to recover from the Dennis Erickson experiment.  

It’s obvious the Green Bay Packers have had a ton of serious and season-ending injuries this year.  Obviously, some of the injuries were freak and just happen, but the sheer number of them seems like it’s more than just a coincidence.  Do you think any of it is attributable to conditioning, and if so should the coaching staff be held accountable?  Patrick in Nashville.

Whenever a team has a rash of injuries, we consider the possibility of issues with the training staff and/or the strength and conditioning program.  Though it’s not a direct function of coaching, the head coach bears responsibility to the extent that he hires and supervises the folks responsible for preventing injuries and/or helping players quickly recover from them.

Generally speaking, muscle strains and pulls can be a consequence of substandard conditioning or overzealous workouts.  Injuries to bones and ligaments are less avoidable, though enhanced flexibility could help avoid ligament damage.
With the decimation of the linebacking corps, Shawne Merriman’s soon-to-be release, etc., do you foresee or expect the Chargers to make a trade to improve the team?  It was written that Vincent Jackson could soon come in, so do you think we use him as trade bait for another player and a pick?  It seems we need a spark the way Chris Chambers gave us one a few years back.  Linh N.

The Chargers don’t seem to be inclined to trade Vincent Jackson, and they also don’t seem to be inclined to trade for help.  Instead, G.M. A.J. Smith appears to be content to play the hand he has previously dealt himself, trusting that a franchise quarterback and a solid-but-not-spectacular supporting cast can dig the team out of its fourth straight 2-3 start.  
If a player like Patriots guard Logan Mankins or Chargers receiver Vincent Jackson holds out for long as possible while still accruing a season played towards free agency, does their potential lack of performance hurt what the original team acquires for compensatory picks?  Mike G, Milford, NH.
In last week’s mailbag, we passed along this observation from the league office regarding the top-secret formula for determining compensatory draft picks:  “Compensatory free agents are determined by a formula based on salary, playing time and postseason honors.”

So, yes.  To the extent that performance affects playing time and/or postseason honors, their limited availability would be a factor in the eventual determination of a compensatory draft pick.

Also, keep in mind that compensatory draft picks are available only for teams that experience net losses in free agency.  If the Patriots or the Chargers sign more free agents than they lose in 2011, they get no compensatory draft picks.

Everyone and their mother knows Buffalo is bottoming out to get a high draft pick. When does it become acceptable for players, coaches, and even local media to acknowledge this fact publicly?  Ryan in Buffalo.

I don’t believe that the Bills intentionally are losing in order to get a high draft pick.  Instead, I simply believe that they are incompetent.  If they were doing it on purpose, at least they could feel like they were accomplishing something.    
Why did the Niners insist on getting away from the offense Alex Smith was successful with in the second half of last season?  Patrick.

It’s entirely possible that opposing defensive coordinators spent time in the offseason figuring out how to stop the San Fran offense that emerged last year, and that former offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye wasn’t able to take the offense to the next level.
How do rookies, who unlike Tim Tebow don’t sign endorsement deals before they ever strap on an NFL helmet, live between the draft and when their contract is signed? This question is mainly focused on the players drafted third round and below, ones that aren’t signing the huge contracts, whose family may not be in a position to support them until they sign.  Josh.

Plenty of players get loans based on their looming signing bonuses.  The loans can come from banks, agents, friends, or family.  Also, players receive a “per diem” payment for participating in offseason workouts in May and June.  
Any chance Dallas trades Tashard Choice to a team that needs a running back.  Ken P.

Is there a “chance”?  Yes. 

But the price would have to be right.  The Cowboys still hope to contend for the postseason, and trading away a capable running back would leave them with two.  If one gets injured, the Cowboys instantly would be thin at the position.

In the last couple of years, the league/media tends to focus on a different ‘sexy’ position every year as the position that matters most or has the greatest impact on a game. In the late 80s and early 90s, it was linebacker. A few years ago, it was left tackle. After that, it was defensive end. I believe the next ‘sexy’ position will be safety. What do you think?  Jason M.

Safety already is a “sexy” position for teams that employ the Cover 2 defense, which places greater emphasis on the abilities of the safeties and in many situations relegates cornerbacks to handling short pass routes and providing run support.  And with elite safeties like Troy Polamalu, Ed Reed, and (thanks to his role in the Redskins’ new 3-4 defense) LaRon Landry, the position gets plenty of attention.
If guard Logan Mankins comes back to the Patriots in Week 10 would he still be property of the Patriots next year?  If not what is the best the Patriots would receive in a compensatory pick?  Ed.

If Mankins shows up by Week 10, he’d pick up a sixth year of service and undoubtedly would be eligible for unrestricted fre

e agency in 2011.  The Patriots could restrict his movement via the franchise tag, if the franchise tag survives in the new labor deal.  

As to the compensatory pick the Patriots would receive, we’ve decided that it’s easier to figure out the number of jelly beans that would fit into Cowboys Stadium than it would be to predict with any degree of certainty the formula regarding compensatory draft picks.
How do you think Ed Reed’s return to Baltimore will impact the Ravens’ defense?  John C.

It’s hard to say.  As of Monday, he’ll be eligible to emerge from the Physically Unable to Perform list, and there have been multiple indications that he’ll play in Week Seven.  But Reed needs to get himself into game shape after recovering from major hip surgery, and it could take a few weeks for Reed to get back to the best of his abilities.
Why are concussions handled differently for different teams? We have seen a lot of media attention when a player gets a concussion and in most cases they don’t play the following week. It seems Dallas gets a free pass. No one wants to upset Jerry’s circus.  A.J.

I disagree with that assessment.  The league takes concussions seriously now, and doctors control the question of whether a player will be cleared to play.  Though some may believe that team doctors can be “influenced” in this regard, an independent neurological consultant also must sign off on the move.
If you look at the Jets’ schedule, they are legitimately better than nine of their remaining 11 opponents (with the Packers and Steelers being the two left out). Is it safe to say that anything less than 11 wins would be a disappointment? Kamran Y.

The Jets are better than the Packers.  Then again, the better team doesn’t always win the game.  At 4-1, the Jets most likely can lose four of the final 11 games and still qualify for the playoffs.  It will be a more certain proposition if they lose only three more.  (Indeed, the 2008 Patriots missed the playoffs despite an 11-5 record.)

9 responses to “Week Six mailbag

  1. First!
    I wait around for three hours for something new to read and all I get is this video.

  2. If you look at the Jet’s schedule, you will notice that the Jet’s play all of last year’s playoff teams at home. They play three home games against non-playoff teams: Buffalo, Miami and Huston.
    How lucky for the Jets…

  3. Good stuff.
    Black and Blue division is back to being black and blue. Packers have just proven to be the softest in the division.
    Turning coordinators into head coaches is a crap shoot like anything else. Some just can’t do it, some can light a fire as an interim, like Mike, but can’t manage a full season.
    Alex Smith has had constant turnover with coaching and coordinators. While this doesn’t excuse his bad mistakes, he hasn’t had a chance to settle in. Guy is a tease with his flashes of brilliance.
    Pats need to send Manchild to the Bears. Maybe trade him for one of our star receivers.
    I wouldn’t expect Reed to impact the Ravens as much as Polamalu has with the Steelers. While Reed’s return will help, hip injuries for someone constantly turning is a tough recovery.
    Eagles are the team most likely to be voted for “how not to handle a concussion.” Check YouTube for Steward Bradley concussion if you have any doubts.

  4. If the NFL really took concussions seriously the entire coaching/medical staff of the eagles would be fired. I’ll never forget that linebacker who couldn’t even walk off the field under his own power obviously suffering from a pretty severe concussion being sent back out to play the next series, then at halftime being declared out.

  5. There should be no question that Singletary should be relieved of the HC duties after the Reg season. Especially if they (the 9ers) pull a Detroit Lions.

  6. “Harrison didn’t fit the Browns mold”
    Yes, Harrison was successful, and that does not fit the Browns mold.
    He had to go.

  7. watch the games last season – harrison actually didn’t play well – the oline opened HUGE holes that anyone could have run through. plus, james davis has more speed and swerve. harrison was a pass blocking and fumbling liability. the browns tried to trade him last offseason but there were no takers. great trade by cleveland.

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