Week Eight mailbag

The bad news?  We were unable to do a video mailbag this week.

The good news?  We’ve put together a supersized written mailbag, with 16 questions answered and asked.

The best news?  It’s now done, so I can get some sleep before we start the eighth Sunday football marathon of the season.

Of the well-known coaches who have been out of the league for a while (Bill Cowher, Jon Gruden, Marty Schottenheimer), which are most likely to end up coaching in the NFL in 2011?  Are there any candidates for a surprise return such as Jimmy Johnson, Brian Billick, Jim Fassel, or Dennis Green?  Vik A.

I’ll venture far out onto a limb and say, “It depends.”  Let’s look at each guy you mentioned, in no particular order.

Schottenheimer:  He’s 67.  He’s done.  If he were coming back, he’d be back by now.  This is his fourth year out of the game.  He doesn’t even have much of a presence in the media.  If he wanted to come back, he’d be involved in some significant capacity in national radio and/or television.

Cowher:  He’ll come back under the right circumstances.  The key factors?  Money, power, and the presence of a good quarterback who has more than a couple years left.  Cowher’s name has been coming up in connection with the Dallas job, but I’m not sure he’d be happy to let Jerry Jones run the show.  It will depend on whether Cowher has other viable options — and whether he really wants to come back in 2011.   

Gruden:  In many ways, Gruden occupies the best situation of all former coaches, and the worst.  He’ll occupy a spot at the top of the “A” list as long as he remains in the Monday Night Football booth.  At some point, he’ll have to play that card in order to give it value, and then the card will be gone.  So the challenge will be for Gruden to jump at the right time.  Like Cowher, money, power, and the presence of a good quarterback will be major factors in Gruden’s ultimate decision.

Johnson:  He’s been gone too long.  It’s highly unlikely that he’ll return.  He’s rarely even mentioned as a potential candidate.

Billick:  His inability to develop a quarterback during nine seasons as the Ravens head coach has made him an afterthought when it comes to filling seats on the annual NFL merry-go-round.  He’s also regarded in some circles as a pain in the posterior.

Fassel:  He’d love to get back in, but his success last year with the UFL’s Las Vegas Locomotives didn’t earn him even a sniff.  He has been out of the NFL for too long to be taken seriously as a candidate to return.

Green:  See Fassel, without the UFL success.  Green would want power more than money, but he doesn’t have the pelts on the wall to prompt anyone to give it to him.   
Considering the recent news with the NFL trying to crack down on helmet-to-helmet hits, the study of brain injuries of players that suffer concussions, and the NFL wanting an 18-game schedule, do you the think popularity of the NFL will go down because of the concern of players getting injured?  More parents won’t let their kids play football. And I believe the NFL in 10 years will no longer be the most popular sport in this country if they don’t figure a way to fix these issues when it comes to injuries.  Dennis, Flushing, NY.

The NFL has become the highest-profile example of a problem that arises in many sports.  Head injuries happen in baseball, hockey, MMA, soccer.  The issue presents the biggest challenges not for the NFL but for girls’ high school soccer, where the participants often lack the neck strength to absorb a “header.”

To a certain degree or another, some in the media (particularly those who don’t like football and/or prefer baseball) see an opportunity to diminish the NFL.  But the fans don’t seem to care about the issue, primarily since most of the players don’t seem to care about it, either.

They take the risks because they love the game.  Millions of young American men and women risk their lives for far less money in the military. 

If football players choose to assume the risk of playing football, why should anyone stop them?  Plenty of players would be more than willing to trade future years of illness in exchange for the financial security that pro football provides.

As to those who choose to play football at the youth and high school levels, it will be interesting to see whether participation rates decrease in the next 10 to 20 years.  Much of it will depend on what else we learn about the impact of concussions.  Even then, those lessons must also be applied to other sports that involve regular blows to the head, including soccer.

Especially soccer.  
Week Seven saw a lot of high-scoring games, more so than the previous six weeks. Could this be indicative of the rule change, that defensive players were holding back for fear of being fined/penalized/suspended?  Tim, Philadelphia.
First, keep in mind that the rules have not changed.  The enforcement of the rules has changed, that’s all.

Second, it’s too early to tell based on one weekend of action whether defensive players are “holding back.”  It’s possible that last weekend’s scoring outburst resulted from the offenses finally catching up with the defenses.  It’s possible that it was simply the law of averages.

We won’t know whether the new approach to enforcement has influenced increased scoring until we have more weeks of action to assess.

When will Chargers running back Ryan Mathews get more touches?  I understand coach Norv Turner moving toward Darren Sproles as Mathews is having trouble picking up the pass rush, but Turner shouldn’t have made the claim that the rookie would get 280 touches this year.  I think he can get it done on the ground.  When will he become a more integral part of the offense?  Chad D.
Mathews hasn’t gotten more touches because he hasn’t been participating in practice on a consistent basis.  He hasn’t been participating in practice on a consistent basis because he has been injured.

Mathews initially sprained an ankle in Week Two, which kept him from getting as much work in practice as he needs.  This week, he finally was able to practice on Wednesday for the first time since suffering the injury.

“What’s hurt him is he hasn’t had a lot of reps,” running backs coach
Ollie Wilson recently told Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune.  “This is the first week he’s had the whole week. Even [Thursday], we saw better than we saw on Wednesday.”

Thus, it looks like Mathews could start having more of an impact for the Chargers sooner rather than later.

Why doesn’t the NFL conduct all replays at headquarters like the NHL?  Clayton K.
The NFL is concerned about the efficiency of the process; thus, the league has grafted the chess game known as the “coach’s challenge” onto the attempt to get it right.  Exporting the evaluation to some distant and remote cubicle could slow the process down considerably, especially since the league office would be required to articulate the explanation to the referee, who then would presumably convey it to the crowd.

Given that the on-field referee retreats to an on-field video box to make the decision in real time, the league also seems to be disinclined to create the perception that replay decisions come from an ivory tower.  Likewise, a pronouncement from the “league office” could result in a perception that some of the calls are influenced by whether the “league office” likes or dislikes a given team.

For the NHL, most of the decisions are conducive to a simple video review.  For example, either the puck crossed the red line, or it didn’t.  For the NFL, plenty of the decisions rile up fans regardless of the video evidence and/or the explanation provided.  It makes much more sense for that explanation to be determined and articulated by one of the officials assigned to the game. 

Could someone explain the logic behind John York’s statements earlier this year that the NFL is dead set on having a London franchise, yet there seems to be no headway with producing a franchise in Toronto?  Seems to me that any franchise outside the United States would logically still be in North America, plus there is a huge NFL following in Southwestern Ontario. I have friends in London, and they couldn’t care less about the NFL.  Seriously, this one-game-a-year at Wembley is nothing more than a novelty, and just wouldn’t be sustained for a 17-week season.  Ryan M.
The NFL has a team in Toronto — the Bills.  Owner Ralph Wilson’s effort to play games in Toronto is aimed at regionalizing the franchise in order to insulate it against moving after the 92-year-old AFL pioneer passes on.  If successful, more games will be played in Toronto.

As to the possibility of putting a team in London, Commissioner Roger Goodell’s recent remarks make clear that it’s coming, eventually.

The only question becomes whether the first team to move will move to L.A. or London — and whether the NFL would consider expanding by two franchises, with one in each city.

As a Giants fan, I have enjoyed the quick starts that most of Tom Coughlin’s teams have produced, but I have been tortured by the team’s stumble to the finish line of the regular season almost every year.  While the early-season success is nice, I believe the coaching staff’s unwillingness to change up their game plans for the second half of the season is the main reason for their second-half declines.  Once the season hits the midpoint, other teams have a lot more data with which to scout a team and build a game plan.  The Giants seem to always “stick with what worked”, even in the face of better opponent preparation.  Your thoughts?  Kevin K.
Um.  Uh.  Um.  The 2007 Giants started 0-2, surrendering 80 points in two weeks.  They ultimately nailed down a playoff berth with one week to spare, they nearly prevented a perfect regular season by the Patriots in an otherwise meaningless game, and then they ran the table, winning three playoff games on the road before blocking the Patriots from completing the NFL’s first 19-0 campaign.

Do you think Colt McCoy should remain the starter for the Cleveland Browns?  Should Wallace move into the No. 2 spot?  Given what you’ve seen in his first couple of starts, how would you rate McCoy’s future potential as a QB in the NFL?  Scott, Durham.

Though Wallace believes that he should move ahead of McCoy when healthy (of course, under Wallace’s reasoning Jake Delhomme should get the starting job when healthy, too), the Browns need to go with the hot hand.  And McCoy has it.

McCoy’s numbers aren’t great.  He threw only 16 passes against the Saints, completing nine.  But McCoy had the wheel when the Browns scored one of their biggest wins since the franchise was reconstituted in 1999, and that should count for something.

Team president Mike Holmgren likes McCoy, and that should count for something, too.  McCoy also has done well in shifting from backup to starter.

“He had a harder transition to not being the man than to being the man,” coach Eric Mangini told me after Sunday’s 30-17 win at the Superdome.  “For a lot of guys, the jump to being the starter is overwhelming.”

Still, don’t count on McCoy being handed the job early in the week.  “Colt could very easily start,” Mangini said, referring to the team’s November 7 game against the Patriots.  “Colt’s done enough to start over a hobbled [Delhomme or Wallace].”   

The real question is whether McCoy has done enough to start when the other two guys are healthy.
Hey Mike, let’s assume a couple of things with the Favre situation.  Let’s say he did send the pics, that they had been texting back and forth on a regular basis so the sexual harassment issue is out the window, let’s say she does have “pics” of other famous folks privates.  Can Favre come back and sue her for distributing his picture without his consent, especially if he ends up divorced?  John.
Once Favre sends those pictures, all bets are off.  Absent some special legal relationship that would require Jenn Sterger to maintain the confidentiality of those pictures, she can do whatever she wants.

Besides, Farve gains nothing by doing anything that would prolong this mess.  He needs it to go away, sooner rather than later.

As more info comes to light about agents paying college football players, it seems to me that this becomes one more strike against the college game.  Since it seems that there is little that can be done to prevent agents from corrupting the system, perhaps the time has come for the NFL to strongly consider the formation of a minor league football system, and to end the corruption that I believe to be very widespread in the NCAA.  I know that the NFL owners see the NCAA as a cheap training ground, but the problems of the NCAA corruption are starting to seep into the pro level. What do you think?  Is it time to get a true farm system going and draft high school players with the understanding it’ll take two-to-four years before they can move from the minors into the “big league”?  Jim.
It’s an interesting concept, but college football has become too big.  A true farm system that competes with college football would face a steep uphill climb.  Also, the NCAA has enough money and juice to stir up Congress in an effort to block the NFL from dangling money in the faces of kids who otherwise would get an education — even though most of them don’t want the education in the first place.

It will be far easier, and cheaper, for the NFL to help clean up the college game.    

As an avid Eagles fan, I don’t know how to feel about my team so far.  We have shown a lot of promise in some games, but flopped in high-pressure situations.  Kevin Kolb appears to b

e great and horrible at the same time.  I know many Eagles’ fans support Vick as the starter for this year, but how does that set us up for the future?  We have Kolb under contract through next year, but could we see Vick re-signed as our starting quarterback past this season?  Danny D.

This one depends largely on whether Vick can continue to play like he played before having his rib cage treated like an accordion.  If he does — and if the Eagles make it to the playoffs — Philly likely will sign Vick to a long-term deal.  If Vick doesn’t, then Kolb could get the nod come 2011.

Either way, look for the astute and shrewd Eagles to try to get the most out of the situation, obtaining value for whichever guy they don’t keep.
Florio, is it fair to say that Josh Freeman is the best of the second-year quarterbacks? Sanchez gets all the talk becasue of where he plays but Josh has arguably been far more impressive after comparing the talent level of their respective teamates.  Joe A.

It’s too early to tell how the three first-round quarterbacks from 2009 stack up.  It looks like none of them will receive the dreaded “bust” label.  (Beyond round one, it’s hard to find a 2009 rookie quarterback who isn’t a bust.)

Freeman has done well.  The Bucs are contenders.  If they make it to the postseason, Freeman’s stock will go up, considerably.
John Fox will not be back at Carolina next year, where do you see him going.  He’s respected and a good coach regarless of his record.  David M.
Obviously, it depends on where the vacancies are.  Fox has been linked to the Cowboys and Browns.  The Giants are a possibility, if coach Tom Coughlin’s team slumps in 2010 like it did in 2009 . . . but not like 2007.

Everyone assumes that if a franchise is going to move (Minnesota, Buffalo, Jacksonville) that they are going to move to L.A.  Realistically, which of these cities are in the best position to get a franchise:  San Antonio, Las Vegas, Orlando, Birmingham, AL, Columbus, OH, Portland, OR, Oklahoma City, Toronto?  Frankly, I don’t see a lot of cities that currently do not have franchises that would make an attractive option for relocation.  Michael K.
The only two cities about which there’s currently any buzz for landing an NFL team are London and L.A. 

As mentioned above, Toronto remains in the mix as a regional anchor for the Bills.

Do you think there’s any correlation between Jared Allen’s play this season and the fact that he’s playing without a Mullet for the first time in his career? Kind of like the biblical story of Samson & Delilah when Samson cuts his hair and loses all his strength?  Jeff I.
To the extent that the absence of the mullet is a symbol of Allen’s domestication, then yes.  With an offseason that included getting married, Allen possibly wasn’t as committed to his craft as he has been in past years.  As a result, his play has suffered.

Next year, the mullet will be back, along with the guy who had been a terror in opposing backfields last year and previously.

Until then, it’s unknown whether Allen will regain his form.
Will the NFL also fine offensive players like running backs who lower their heads to run over defensive players.  Manny, Hampton Roads.

Any time a player uses his helmet as a weapon, he should be penalized and fined.  Eventually, he should be suspended.

Last year, the NFL considered adopting a specific rule that would have prevented players like Vikings running back Adrian Peterson from initiating helmet-to-helmet contact with defensive players.  It’s something that likely will be adopted if/when a blow delivered by a tailback in that fashion results in a serious injury, either to the ball carrier or to one of the men trying to tackle him.
Of course, we’d prefer that the change be made before someone gets hurt.

14 responses to “Week Eight mailbag

  1. Please stop distinguishing between rule changes and enforcement changes with respect to helmet hits when we know it is the latter and, for practical purposes, a change in enforcement amounts to a change of the rule.

  2. The one scenario I could see Marty Schottenheimer coming back would be as defensive coordinator for Brian Schottenheimer if he gets a shot as a head coach in the next year or so.

  3. Ahem. Most college football players don’t go into the NFL and know they won’t. They really are in it to get a free education. I hate that stereotype you keep slinging around because of a tiny percentage of players.

  4. Florio seriously…? Can you honestley ever give credit to the Bucs? C’mon man there isn’t any question the Freeman is a better QB then both Sanchez or Stafford. Sanchez has a top flight defense and Pro Bowlers at almost every skill postion, Stafford can’t stay on the field and Freeman has no run game a very average defense and no proven players at any skill position. Freeman played in NY with all these 4th qtr. comebacks people would be all over him with praise. Sanchez and Freeman are close but I give the nod to Freeman less talent around him, similiar stats. Florio get a clue.

  5. Q: “Why doesn’t the NFL conduct all replays at headquarters?”
    Wrong A: “Blah, blah, blah. Yadda, yadda, yadda.”
    Right A: There exists no technical or temporal impediment to doing it at headquarters. At some point within the next two years, when a continued lack of improvement in in-stadium reviews forces the league’s hand, it will happen. At that point, the league office will continue to screw-the-pooch on replays, but at least there will be a measure of consistency. The next big replay improvement will be ball locating microchips with accelerometers located in the pigskin.

  6. Hey Mike,
    Why is Cowher such a hot head-coaching prospect?
    One thing that NEVER, EVER, gets mentioned, is that he became the Steelers’ head coach in 1992 and didn’t win a SB until 2006, that is 14 YEARS, to win one SB as head coach of one team. Let’s not forget that there were some questionable ref calls in that SB.
    Why are people calling for Norv to be fired when he has only been coaching the Chargers since 1997 and he has yet to miss the playoffs as the Chargers’ head coach?
    Can you explain to me why so many fans are salivating at the thought of Cowher being hired as a head coach given his history?

  7. Bill Cowher will be the coach of the Carolina Panthers as this is the last year on Fox’s contract, it is close to home. He has a young QB in Clausen and 2 good running backs who have a few years left.

  8. The Bucs ARE contenders. Most of their remaining schedule are winable games. Josh Freeman’s comeback performances keep them in
    the game and prove his growing leadership in the locker room. Nobody really wants to jump in the bandwagon yet , but we could be looking at the beginning of a great story. They really need to make a statement today against Arizona. Go Bucs!

  9. As for offensive ball carriers that use their helmet as a weapon, that is legal. As for suspending players based on their opponents’ injuries, that is asinine. Who’s to say that the Packers have a guy that gets hit in the head (in week 1) by Peterson, and Peterson is suspended as long as the victim is out. The Packers, knowing their playoff chances would be better off stashing a part-time player on IR and letting Peterson sit out the rest of the season, would undoubtedly do it.

  10. I absolutely HATE the idea of a London franchise. It would seem that a team in London would be the biggest pile of crap team ever. Even division games would mean an 8 hour flight. Travel like that is a huge advantage for the home team. In addition nobody in London understands a thing about American Football. They fill a stadium once a year in much the same way we might attend the circus when it comes to town. It’s a novelty act for them and that novelty will wear off in a hurry. The idea makes my stomache turn and makes me despise the comish even more than I already did.

  11. Norv Turner has only been in San Diego since 07.Can you honestly say he is better than Cohwer look at what Division the Chargers are in? Freeman is by far the best 2nd year QB!!!Freeman does far more with far less.Gruden will Coach in Dallas or a long shot in Cleveland.If Cowher coaches it will be the Giants so he can be close to his daughters.I wonder will Mariucci or Billick coach again?

  12. “Exporting the evaluation to some distant and remote cubicle could slow the process down considerably, especially since the league office would be required to articulate the explanation to the referee, who then would presumably convey it to the crowd.”
    Really ? In 2010 ? Maybe in 1975 but not with today’s technology. Communication with the off site review center would be instantaneous or effectively so. There should be no further delay than having to go upstairs to the replay official in the last 2 minutes of the half for instance.

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