The Chat House

Michael Wilbon
Washington Post Sports Columnist
Monday, November 13, 2006; 1:15 PM

Welcome to another edition of The Chat House where Post columnist Michael Wilbon was online Monday, Nov. 13, at 1:15 p.m. ET to take your questions and comments about the latest sports news and his recent columns.

The transcript follows.


Springfield, Va.: Not much to say except: YAY BEARS!!

Michael Wilbon: I'm just arriving at the stadium in Charlotte and will be functional in about seven to 10 I hope everybody hangs with me as I make it to the set where first we'll chat and then I'll get ready for "PTI" at around 2:20 or so...Thanks. Mike


New York, N.Y.: Has the NFL game passed Joe Gibbs by?

Michael Wilbon: Okay, I'm here and ready to roll. We start, of course, with the Redskins.

They stink.

They don't seem to have any fire. It's hard to identify the team leaders. It's even harder to understand what in the world the coaches are doing. It's a mess. Gibbs sorta acknowledged the game had passed him by when he turned over calling the plays to Al Saunders. And you can't let a kid quarterback just sit on the bench forever, especially not when you've spent No. 1, No. 2 and No. 4 picks to get him and your incumbent QB is on his way out. So much stuff makes no trading for T.J. Duckett and not using him. Like having a big, strong and tough back like Mike Sellers and not using him in goal line situations. Every time I'm around other teams in the NFL, people who work or play for that team come up and ask, "What in the hell are the Redskins doing?" It's unbelievable how curious people are about such a bad team...And it's because Gibbs is the coach and because the Redskins spent so much money (again) ill-advisedly, according to them...What a mess. They were the only sad-sack team in the NFL yesterday...Well, maybe Arizona. At least the Giants had five starters injured and out. What was the Redskins excuse? They had no fire, played with no apparent purpose, and looked bad in every phase of the they beat Dallas last week and spent the rest of the week thinking they were good. If you matched the Raiders and Redskins tomorrow in a game at a neutral site, I'd take the Raiders. At least their defense appears nasty and passionate.


La Plata, Md.: It's not all the offensive lines fault. The 'Skins do not have a blocking tight end and it shows week after week.

Michael Wilbon: Blocking tight end is a small detail. It's not one of the top 15 things that ails the Redskins in the big picture.


College Park, Md.: Freddy Adu's your boy. Where's he gonna go?

Michael Wilbon: If Man U. wants to...or any premiere team in Europe, you go, right? Uh, go. I wish Freddie well and hope this turns out great for him.


Crisfield, Md:.when would you put in Jason Campbell? I was thinking four weeks ago.

Michael Wilbon: Definitely two weeks ago in that game in Indy...Not putting him in is starting to look simply out of touch. He doesn't have to start, but he needs to play. Look at Vince Young and the progress he's made since he started for the first time...I think it was five weeks ago. The kid really is coming along. Campbell hasn't even had his first growing pain yet. I guess the Redskins are waiting until next year so he can be green then, too.


Washington, D.C.: Other than feeling the tone of the game, players and possibly crowd, how much does actually being at a game improve the sportwriter's analysis of most contests? Can you basically produce the same written work from watching it on television, or is game attendance more a precaution in the event something extraordinary happens on the field/court.

Michael Wilbon: No, you cannot produce anything close to a fully comprehensive piece watching on TV. First and foremost, you see in-person what the camera might not show you. Second, you need the access to the players and coaches afterward (and, maybe, the officials) to ask guys why things happened the way they did...both the obvious questions and some that aren't so obvious...The real work for sportswriters begins after the games in the locker room. You oughta come out of those rooms know a helluva lot more than you did when you walked in...or you haven't done your job well.


Giants Stadium: I can't remember any other supposedly big time QB having the accuracy issues of Eli Manning. The guy kills drives by missing wide open receivers. Very frustrating.

Michael Wilbon: He certainly didn't play well last night...but the Bears do put pressure on you. And his starting left tackle went out with a broken leg, leaving ancient Bob Whitfield (who, to be fair, was a great player in his prime) to try and block speed-rusher Alex Brown...Not a good matchup. Brown, I think, got both of the Bears sacks on Eli.


Lawrence, Kan.: Do you think the college basketball will be on a different level now with players not going straight to the NBA?

Michael Wilbon: Yes...more kids will actually learn to play...even though many of them think they already know. Both the college game and the NBA will be better. How could the college game not be better with Greg Oden for a year or two...And how could the NBA team that drafts him not benefit from him transitioning from boyhood to manhood, and from learning how to practice, how to play, how to deal with pressure (in March Madness). The only thing wrong with the new rule is that it doesn't go far enough. The age limit ought to be 20.


Carlos, Washington, D.C.: So how about those Wildcats upsetting Ohio State? Great call!

Michael Wilbon: Hey, it was a hopeful call. That's my school, my team, and I was hoping...Didn't come close to working out, but I'll cheer for them again next week...and we were coming off a victory at Iowa, having held Michigan to 17-3 the previous week in The Big House...I was playing a hunch that turned on me!


Bethesda, Md.: What do you think the odds are that not only will Gibbs not play Campbell this year, but that he'll bring in another veteran past his prime for next year? I really hate to say it, but I'm beginning to think that it's time for Gibbs to go.

Michael Wilbon: There's an increasing number of you out there, coming out into the sunlight and proclaiming your skepticism...We'll have to see if this is a populist movement! I think Gibbs/Saunders have to play Campbell. They're too smart to be so shortsighted as to not play him at all. It would be enormously stupid.


Baltimore: Ravens seem to pull it out week after week -- can they go all the way?

Michael Wilbon: I don't think the Ravens are as good as the Patriots (who have lost two straight) or San Diego (whom they beat a few weeks ago)...and definitely not Indy...But I think a Ravens-Indy AFC Championship game matchup would be a goodie...But the Ravens have to have Ray Lewis sharp and healthy. These back injuries are tricky...I hope Ray is back on the field next week.


Washington, D.C.: What do you think of the Terps chances of running the table? They haven't won any games decisively but they have won five straight and they always seem to finish the season strong. Is there any chance of them making a BCS bowl?

Michael Wilbon: Don't the Terps have Boston College this weekend, then mighty Wake Forest, then (potentially) Virginia Tech in the ACC championship game? Boy, that might be asking a lot. Big ups to the Terrapins and Ralph Friedgen for what they've done thus far...Who had them at, what, 8-2? They've been opportunistic and jumped up to smack down opponents who are struggling a bit. Good for them. I don't know about running the table, but 9-3 wouldn't be half-bad, would it?


SE, D.C.: Who will be the first player to rip Gibbs, the organization, and the QB in the paper?

As a fan -- I would applaud someone doing it.

Michael Wilbon: Why, so you can feel better? You think that helps the team get better? Overwhelmingly, it doesn't. So, your frustration should be the team's No. 1 concern?


Washington, D.C.: You wrote two or three weeks ago that the Redskins need to start playing Jason Campbell. Well, Brunell still looks like crap and Campbell still hasn't gotten his first NFL snap. If Joe Gibbs doesn't let the kid play now that this season is obviously going nowhere what does that say about Gibbs? Delusional? Senile? Loyal to a fault? This is getting ridiculous.

Michael Wilbon: I don't have an answer (yet) to what it says about Joe Gibbs that he hasn't played Jason Campbell...But I'm willing to let you wander out there on that limb.


Warrenton, Va: Has Tony Romo surprised you?

Michael Wilbon: Yeah, maybe a little. He can run and throw on the run. I like guys who can buy themselves time to throw or create plays by moving around. You don't have to actually scramble ahead...But pass rushes are too sophisticated now to just sit back there and get pounded. Romo looks pretty good to me, and I was stunned when Parcells put him in for Drew Bledsoe a few weeks ago during that Monday Night Football game against the Giants.


Washington, D.C.: Hi Mike,

Amidst the turmoil with the offense this year, do you think Al Saunders will return? As a lifelong Redskins fan, with the failures by the front office to BUILD a team properly...the near future looks very bleak!

Thanks for taking my question.

Michael Wilbon: Dan Snyder has had several chances to turn over the football operation, as some owners do, to a general manager and won't. We've had the conversation a half-dozen times and there are various reasons he doesn't feel the need to. My position is quite simple: The coach and GM need to be different people. They work at cross purposes. The GM is concerned, primarily, with the long-range future of the franchise. The head coach is concerned, primarily, with the health of the team this minute and nothing beyond this week. Gibbs did his championship work with Bobby Beathard running the day-to-day football operation. I believe in GMs.


D.C.: Yes -- the frustration of fans should be their No. 1 concern -- their fans that they rip off every other week at Fed Ex Field.

Michael Wilbon: If winning was the No. 1 concern, and it had better be, would you feel "ripped off"? No, you wouldn't.


Arlington, Va.: Did you hear about Steve Czaban (sports radio personality) asking Brunell on the Comcast postgame show whether he'd ask Joe Gibbs to put in Campbell for the rest of the season? For team growth/benefit? Why don't reporters ask the tough questions that need to be asked at press conferences?

Michael Wilbon: No, I don't listen to Redskins postgame on the radio. And because Czaban asked a question you don't like, you think no reporters ask tough questions at press conferences? How many postgame sessions have you ever attended? And keep in mind (a little inside-baseball here), many times I don't ask the questions I consider most important during press conferences, so that everybody can share the answer. Usually, I try to ask those questions privately so that I get the answer and MY READERS get the info and not everybody's readers...That's the nature of competition. And when you've been doing something for a long time, if the people you're covering respect you, they'll talk to you personally outside of the news conference, which is often just a waste of time.


NYC: What do you think of Ray Lewis's comments on the Sunday pregame shows that the McNair situation in Tennessee may have been racially motivated? Seems to me that of all teams, to accuse Tennessee of that is a stretch. I think it was an all too familiar story of owners disrespecting the people who have bled for them to protect a few bucks, as well as underestimating the same peoples business acumen in estimating their worth. In other words, they thought they could take advantage of McNair's loyalty and get him on the cheap, and when he was insulted they had not much choice but to lose a great player to save their business face.

Michael Wilbon: I think your analysis is dead on, in terms of bleeding an employee to death...dead on. But Ray didn't introduce race. Ray said, "I don't want to think this is just about black and white...but I can't see Brett Favre or Peyton Manning being locked out and treated like that..." That's the gist of what Ray said, and I agree with him. I couldn't see that happening with those guys either...Bigotry isn't always obvious or overt and it's very, very often something people aren't aware they're doing. But I reject the notion that because the Titans have had three black quarterbacks (Warren Moon in Houston when they were the Oilers), McNair and Vince Young means the organization is free of bigotry. Black people have always been accepted as performers for white people...For 200 years, it's been okay to entertain or perform...that doesn't mean the same people were treated equally. They were, until 45 years ago, asked to then eat in the kitchen. You can respect a man for one thing but not another, as many of us have found out personally every day. Do I think that is the way I'd characterize the head coach, Jeff Fisher? No, anything but. And McNair went out of his way to say, "Not Jeff Fisher." People who have played sports are among the least bigoted people because they've lived with folks of various colors. They've shared clubhouses and dugouts and locker rooms and shower stalls. They've come to know each other's wives and children. And they've come to love people of different colors on their teams, and hate people of the same color...Now, the executives? That's a different story. They're not in dugouts or clubhouses or showers with people different than they are...


Washington, D.C.: Hey Mike...Love your columns, chats, and "PTI."

What's your outlook on the college basketball season? Do you think Florida can repeat? Is this finally the year Duke doesn't win the ACC? Who's front-runner for the Naismith Award?


Michael Wilbon: I think Florida ought to be favored to repeat, but I think it's too hard today to repeat. North Carolina should be good. Ohio State. Georgetown. Yokim Noah of the defending champs certainly starts out with the game and the publicity to be player-of-the-year, doesn't he?


Fairfax, Va.: At least the Redskins get a good draft pick for being terrible....oh, wait a minute, that draft pick belongs to Denver as part of the T.J. Duckett trade. They lost a third-round pick and switched positions with Denver for a guy who has seen action in two games. Do you expect Duckett to get more time now that Portis is out? Did you see "Borat" yet?

Michael Wilbon: I haven't seen "Borat" yet, but I might on Friday night...Unless I see James Bond first...And yeah, the Redskins throw away draft picks like a comedian does bad lines.


Reston, Va.: Will Floyd Mayweather really fight only one more fight? Is he unappreciated? I think he's the bomb!

Michael Wilbon: Floyd didn't look all that great in his last fight against...was it Bernadini? Folks were expecting a knockout and Floyd needed a decision. But he's 29 years old; of course he's going to fight more. Sounds like he and The Golden Boy (not Tom Brady, Oscar De La Hoya) are going to get it on soon. And why not, given the tens of millions of dollars involved? But yes, Mayweather is a great fighter.


Silver Spring, Md.: Hey Michael, posting again to see if I could get this in...Do you think Maryland-Miami should have played this past weekend, and what was your take on that situation?

Michael Wilbon: Yes, the game should have been played. I couldn't disagree more with my friend Mike Wise and other columnists who took the opposite position. This isn't high school. The games go on. You don't have to wait until Saturday to mourn. The kid, so sadly, was murdered on, what, Monday night? So, the Miami players should skip class, too, the entire week? What, they're not going to mourn on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday? No, please. I don't get that logic. Don't tell me what I should feel and how I should feel about somebody close to me (and not to you) dying. The players said they wanted to play...that's it. Case closed. I'm glad those kids got to do what they wished to the game they played with their fallen friend and teammate.


Cubbies: FYI--Aramis Ramirez just decided to stay with the Cubbies instead of test free agency. Five years, $70-some million.

Michael Wilbon:$73 million to be exact. In my household, we call that "Tony on Monday Night money." I'm glad Ramirez is staying. So, at least for one season, is Kerry Wood. I hope they're planning to use him as the closer.


State College, Pa.: What do you think about Yao Ming's start? Is he really getting better or is it just a flash in the pan? I like the way he plays -- sort of a throwback to the more nimble centers of old (as opposed to the Big Aristotle who just runs over people).

Michael Wilbon: Thank you for asking that! Anybody who knows me knows I've been touting Yao Ming since the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, which is when I first saw him play. He's averaging something like 28 points and 10 rebounds through the early part of this NBA season and he's the best low-post presence in the league by far...especially with Shaq out...I can't see Shaq playing more than 60-65 games if that. So Yao is indeed the most productive low-post player in the league...Okay, I guess Tim Duncan is sometimes a low-post player, which would make Yao No. 2. But if Yao and Tracy McGrady can remain healthy, I like Houston's chances of winning a lot of games. He can shoot, face the basket or set up with his back to the basket, pass, rebound...He had six blocked shots the other night. Remember, big guys bloom late...Yao is still, I think, just 26...He really could have a six or seven-year explosion...


D.C.: Keeping Duckett from the Eagles paid off big, eh?

Michael Wilbon: Yeah, how did that work out? But you know what? It might keep Philly from winning, too. With Duckett and Westbrook? They could hurt some people with that combination...if Andy Reid actually elected to run the ball some.


L Street: How long would Gibbs last with this record in New York? How long would Frank Robinson last at Yankee stadium? We are a patient bunch.

But the richest team in football should not frustrate fans...put Campbell in and lets take the untested Ferrari for a drive.

Michael Wilbon: I'm happy with Washington not being New York. I love to visit New York for the weekend. If D.C. was New York, I wouldn't be living here.


Washington, D.C.: Has a place kicker ever left college early??

The junior for Rutgers (Ito) looks like a great draft pick for the Redskins when they finally have a pick in the sixth round!

Michael Wilbon: Good needle!


MNF?: Do you think Tony's enjoying his "MNF" job? Personally, I'd rather have him back as a writer/radio/"PTI" guy than on "MNF."

Michael Wilbon: Those who have known Tony or those who have ready Tony for awhile know he's incapable of being happy...because then, what would he complain about? He'd have nothing to write about, nothing to talk on the radio about. No, he's not happy. He's never happy. Haven't you read or heard how he's out after one season because his life is so miserable!!! (A little tip: never listen to what Tony says about how miserable he is. He's used this device to make, oh, quite a few millions. Bless him. He's the best, and truly one of a kind. My career wouldn't have amounted to half of what it's become without Tony and his unhappiness.)


Baltimore: Not sure if you are still answering questions, but Maryland can't play Va Tech...Georgia Tech has already clinched the Coastal Division and will be in the ACC championship, all due to an impressive 7-0 whupping of UNC...ACC football rocks!

Michael Wilbon: Oooops. Wrong Tech. Yes, Georgia Tech...


College Park, Md.: As an addendum to the Maryland-Miami game, props to the Terps for donating their per diem money to Pata's family ...

Michael Wilbon: Yes, yes, yes. Thanks for mentioning that. It was a warm, warm act on the part of the Maryland people...Very warm.


Courthouse: So, what you thinking, Mike? Wolverines or Buckeyes? And why?

Michael Wilbon: I have no idea...Haven't done my pregame study yet. So seriously, I just don't know. I'm rooting for the Buckeyes, because as any Big Ten alumnus will tell you...there's only one school we all root against. (Michigan). I think that really does apply for about 80 percent of us who went to Big Ten schools. I almost NEVER root against Big Ten schools when we play non-conference games...Just Michigan football. It's in the blood.


Arlington, Va.: First impressions of the Wizards?

Michael Wilbon: Not much as changed. They lose too many close games...Between the Orlando game down there and the Nets game in D.C. last night, the Wizards should have won one of those...LeBron is coming Saturday; I can hardly wait.


S. Rockville, Md.: Wilbon, I know we're in the heart of football seasons (college and pro), but you missed a good one last night by not being at U. of Virginia's new arena for that game. As a UVA fan, I hope last night sets the tone for the season. Make sure you get down there this season (the February schedule looks good!).

Michael Wilbon: I know you're right about UVa's new arena...My wife went to Virginia and has already been to a function there (MC'd by Tiki and Rhonde Barber, who told me I was a knucklehead for not making that kickoff black-tie dinner). I'll get down there. Dave Leito is a coach I respect tremendously and Virginia is smart to have hired...I'm looking forward to seeing a game there this winter...But I'll wait until the ACC schedule.


No New York?: Why don't you like New York? You're a city guy! Chicago isn't exactly the sticks, though most New Yorkers might joke it is. New York is a great place to live. I grew up in D.C., I love D.C., but give me New York anyday.

Michael Wilbon: Yo, did I not say in my answer that I like NYC. I don't just like it, I love it. I love visiting. I've spent more nights in NYC than anyplace except Washington and Chicago in my lifetime. I SEEK reasons to go to NYC. One thing I miss about not doing "Sports Reporters" anymore is the Saturday nights in New York City...I love the shopping, the nightlife, the restaurants...I love being at the U.S. Open and the afternoons on weekends in the summer just hanging out...BUT, I don't want to live there. I want a car and space and trees and grass...and some quiet now and then. And because I like midtown and downtown and not the New York suburbs, it's sometimes too over-the-top. So, living in D.C. affords me the chance to sneak to NYC when I need my fix, then get the hell out of Dodge when I've had enough...See.

Okay, I gotta run. We've got Ron Jaworski as a guest, and we have to prepare for the show...For those of you in D.C., where it was miserable when I left this morning, it's 67 and sunny here in Charlotte where the Buccaneers will play the Panthers tonight.

Next week we'll see if the Redskins have sunk any lower, and we'll be able to talk about Ohio State vs. Michigan and the BCS, plus the big stuff coming up for Thanksgiving and beyond...Thanks everybody. Later.


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