NFL Insider

Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Columnist
Tuesday, November 13, 2007; 11:00 AM

The Post's Mark Maske was online Tuesday, Nov. 13 at 11 a.m. ET to discuss the latest news from around the NFL.

A transcript follows.

Mark writes the NFL Insider blog, and is the author of the new book War Without Death: A Year of Extreme Competition in Pro Football's NFC East.


Mark Maske: Hello, everyone. Let's get right to it.


San Diego, CA: What was up with the Colts/Chargers game? Have you ever seen a top team like the Colts play down to the level of an inferior team so badly?

Mark Maske: Keep in mind the team that the Colts were fielding. That wasn't really the Colts. They didn't have Marvin Harrison or Dallas Clark. They didn't have Tony Ugoh and lost his backup at left tackle. They were playing guys they'd just signed on the offensive line. They couldn't even dress out the full 45-man roster. They could only find 44 guys healthy enough. That was as depleted as you can possibly be. I'm sure Peyton Manning felt like he had to take some chances and that's part of the reason for the six interceptions. And they still almost won the game, if only the greatest clutch kicker ever doesn't miss a gimme field goal.


Arlington, Va.: Mark, What's the latest with Larry Johnson? I'm surprised how little I've heard on this top running back's injury status.

Mark Maske: There isn't much. There was a TV report out of Denver last week that he had a broken bone in his foot and would miss the rest of the season. The Chiefs deny that. They seem to expect him back at some point but they're waiting for further evaluation until they say more. These midfoot injuries can be kind of tricky. I'd be surprised to see him play much more this season.


Washington, D.C.: The last day or so I have been hearing about the top three quarterbacks in the league. The order has been 1. Brady 2. Manning 3. Roethlisberger or Romo. I am partial to Big Ben but that is through jaded eyes. Who are your best three quarterbacks now and the rationale?

Mark Maske: I would have to go Brady first, Manning second and Roethlisberger third. Favre and Romo are right there in the mix, too. Roethlisberger is having a great season. It's no disgrace to be the next-best guy behind Brady and Manning.


Philadelphia: Mark - thanks again for doing these chats!

The hug between Andy Reid and Donovan seemed like a much needed relief after the 'Skins game. Yet we still here that McNabb and Philly will part ways after this year. Will next year bring more hugs or was this a goodbye and thanks for everything hug.


Mark Maske: I'd say it's too early to know. Will Reid step down after the season because of his family issues? No one but him knows. If the Eagles finish strong, you would think they would keep McNabb around and keep pushing for a championship. If things fall apart, they could decide to rebuild and go with Kevin Kolb as the starter. That could lead them to letting go of McNabb. But, to me, it all depends on what happens down the stretch and what the feeling is about the direction of the team when the season ends.


Baltimore MD: Billick's job security: A couple weeks ago, I asked if Brian Billick was at all on the hot seat and, if I recall correctly, you said no because the Ravens had had such a good year last year and Billick signed a four year extension.

Do you still think he's safe? Because the Baltimore media sure don't. And the Baltimore fans sure want him gone.

Mark Maske: Who knew it would get this bad, this quickly? I'm usually not one to promote knee-jerk reactions. But if they keep embarrassing themselves week after week the rest of the season, you'd have to at least consider his job security an issue.


Arlington, Va.: Mark,

Football rule question: what is the rationale behind receivers being called inbound if they are pushed out in the air? In my mind it is a solid defensive play to push a receiver out before they can get their feet down. Thanks.

Mark Maske: Your thinking makes some sense but it's just not the way the rules are drawn up.


Alexandria, Va.: Who is most likely to miss the NFC playoffs this year based on their current position and remaining schedule? Redskins, Giants, Lions, or Saints?

Mark Maske: The Lions' schedule in the second half is quite difficult. You want to like the Saints' chances but how can you after they lose to the Rams? The Redskins have to pull things together. If they can do it, you might say you like them and the Giants for the wild cards. The Giants-Lions game this weekend is very, very big for potential tiebreaker purposes.


Rockville, MD: Has anyone looked at the remaining schedule for the 'Skins? They will probably be an underdog in the following games: both Cowboy games, the Tampa Bay game, and the Giants game. They might even be underdogs (or no more than a 3 point favorite) when they play the Bills and the Bears at home. The Vikings game on the road is another possible loss. While 1 game out of the playoffs now, a 6-10 season is not out of the question. Is this too pessimistic?

Mark Maske: That's going a little overboard. I still look at this team as no worse than 8-8. They match up okay with all of those teams you mentioned except for the Cowboys.


Washington, D.C.: What is ailing the New Orleans Saints this year? I expected them to be even better than their surprise season last year, but now they lose to the Rams? Is it their defense? What kind of year is Reggie Bush having?

Mark Maske: It has been rather difficult to figure out the Saints. They started off so bad and it wasn't just that they were losing games, it was that they couldn't get anything started on offense. That made no sense. And then they won four straight and you figured they were getting back into this thing and they might be a factor in the NFC, after all. Now they lose to the Rams. If you figure them out, let me know.


Tenleytown, D.C.: I am a lifelong Giants fan and after watching Sunday's game against the Cowboys I have come to these conclusions: Eli Manning is pretty good; the Giants are pretty good; the Cowboys are pretty good; and Tony Romo is terrific.

Glad to see you mention him as one of the top QBs, just so I know I'm not crazy in being incredibly impressed with him after watching him in action against a good Giants team.

Mark Maske: I would agree with most of that. I do think the Cowboys are better than pretty good. I think they're good--not Patriots-level good, but good. Romo, to me, isn't on the level of Tom Brady or Peyton Manning but he's on the next tier of quarterbacks.


Rosslyn, Va.: Mark, Cris Collinsworth made an interesting observation the other night that I think gets lost amid Peyton-Brady mania. If you take away the first half of last season when he was recovering from the accident and appendectomy, Ben Roethlisberger over his career is putting up some of the best numbers for a young quarterback - ever.

Mark Maske: It's true. But I don't think that's exactly being lost in the shuffle. He certainly received a lot of attention when the Steelers won the Super Bowl, and he's back to getting plenty of acclaim now.


Bethesda, Md.: Do you think Dick Jauron is the current favorite for coach of the year?

Really looking forward to the Pats/Bills on Sunday night -- so glad they moved it to prime time.

Mark Maske: He's done a very good job but my two coach of the year front-runners at this point are Mike McCarthy and Romeo Crennel.


Stevens Point, Wisc.: Why is everyone saying pointblank that the Cowboys are the best in the NFC? A few discussions mention the Packers, but most just say Dallas is easily the best team. Green Bay has a better defense and their offense is just starting to fully click. Thoughts?

Mark Maske: The Packers have to overcome this: After three or four of their wins this year, you just shake your head and say, "How in the world did they win that game?" They've come out of a few games they won and you wonder if they really were the better team. But, hey, in this league you are what your record says you are. They're 8-1. They're one of the two best teams in the NFC. Everyone can think what they want about how they stack up with the Cowboys but the thing is, they'll be on the field together pretty soon in that Thursday night game a week after Thanksgiving and we'll see then.


Alexandria, Va.: What is up with these boneheaded time-management mistakes by coaches? Two glaring mistakes involve Joe Gibbs and Romeo Crennel. On one of the timeouts in the second half, Gibbs could have taken a delay-of-game on a 23-yard chip shot which would become a 28-yard chip shot. Crennel called a timeout before a challenge and subsequently lost two timeouts upon losing the challenge. Considering these guys are NFL coaches, why are they making mistakes that a 4-year-old wouldn't make?

Mark Maske: I don't know what to say other than things get botched in the heat of the moment. Tony Dungy messed up by taking a timeout to yell at the officials during the Sunday night game and ended up not only icing his own kicker, but costing the Colts a timeout they ended up needing. Year after year, you see coaches make so many time-management mistakes. It's actually relatively rare to find a coach who manages the clock consistently well.


Arlington, Va. -- Tired of hearing COLTS EXCUSES: What is up with people giving Peyton a pass these last couple weeks? Have you seen the team that Brady won 3 Super Bowls with? His top receivers were David Patten, Kevin Faulk (RB) and Troy Brown. None of those guys is as good as Reggie Wayne. His tight ends were equally terrible and his RB was Antwoin Smith!

Mark Maske: Yeah, but the defenses on those teams were very good. No one is saying that Tom Brady isn't a great quarterback. On the Colts, clearly they haven't been at full strength in the last two games, particularly the Chargers game. That's not really giving them a pass. That's stating a fact. If they get their team back, they're a legitimate threat to beat the Patriots in the playoffs and win another Super Bowl. If this is the team they field the rest of the season, they aren't. That's not a pass. That's just the truth.


Denver: Aikman mentioned the Cowboys could be the second best team in the league. Head to head with the Pats, the Cowboys took the lead in the third quarter and killed themselves with penalties. What are your thoughts?

Mark Maske: I was at that game and they certainly belonged on the field with the Patriots. I think the Patriots are the better team, but that doesn't mean the Cowboys couldn't possibly win if there's a rematch. I still think the Colts at full strength are the second-best team in the league. But with the Colts in a depleted state at the moment, I would say the Cowboys are the second-best team in the NFL right now.


Paris, Miss: I recognize that this, being the Post, will have a disproportionate amount of Redskins fans who, in turn, seem to have a disproportionate amount of optimism about their team, but can we all finally admit that the Redskins (and the Eagles too) is a little more than mediocre team that had a few decent wins. Sure, the team has some top-notch players but all-in-all, this is not a good football team.

Mark Maske: That's true of about a dozen to maybe 15 teams in the league. There are a few outstanding teams and a few very good ones and then, before you make your way down to the truly dreadful ones, there's this huge mass of mediocre teams that are good one week and bad the next.


Boston: If the Pats go undefeated in the regular season does Belichick deserve to be coach of the year? Separate from deserving the honor, would he end up getting it?

Mark Maske: It's an interesting question. When I did my midseason awards in the paper last week, I had Romeo Crennel as my coach of the half-year and I had Belichick among those who also deserve consideration. If they go 19-0 and win the Super Bowl, you'd have to consider it. I don't think he would actually get it, though. Some people wouldn't vote for him because of the talent on the roster, and many wouldn't vote for him because of the feelings about the spying scandal.


Silver Spring, Md.: What do you think the Browns will do about their QB situation? Let Anderson go as a RFA and collect picks for him? Commit to him long-term and deal Quinn? What?

Mark Maske: If Anderson keeps playing well and the team keeps winning, I don't see how you let him go. You keep him. Either he's the starter, or you give Quinn his shot and have Anderson around in case Quinn fails. But you don't let Anderson go and end up sitting there depending on an untested young quarterback with no Plan B.


Columbia, S.C.: Why are the Niners so darn bad? I'm a long time fan, and I'm just sick of this slide. Obviously, the Niners need an owner who cares, and firing Steve Mariucci was a mistake. How can they ummm...not suck?

Mark Maske: I was fooled. I thought they'd be good this year. I thought they'd been building something and then they went out last offseason and spent money and it would all work out. The real issue is, if your young franchise quarterback doesn't keep getting better, you regress as a team. That's what has happened. They need Alex Smith to be the guy and if he isn't, none of it works.


Boston: Will the Vikings' Adrian Peterson suffer the same injury prone fate in his career as Gayle Sayers given their somewhat similar reckless abandon running styles?

Mark Maske: One would certainly hope not. But the shelf lives of running backs is usually pretty small anyway, and now we've seen a guy with injury questions going into the draft suffer a knee injury during his rookie season.


Annapolis, Md.: Weren't Adalius's comments about the Ravens being chest pounders confirmed on Sunday? In the fourth quarter down 21-7, Ray Lewis and many other members of the defense were celebrating after every tackle as if they were winning the Super Bowl. Is this just a way for Lewis to motivate his defense or is this just another case of "chest thumping".

Mark Maske: It's kind of the way of the current NFL. I don't like it but all around the league, week after week, you see guys celebrating plays they make when their team is three touchdowns behind.


pack4life, Cheese State: Indulge me, and look forward a couple of games like the media did for the season's most important AFC game of the year. The most important NFC game of the year is right around the corner -- Green Bay vs. Dallas. Given that neither team looks ahead (I can, luckily, being just a fan) and win their next two games -- who do ya got?

If you think either team will lose before then -- to whom?

Mark Maske: I think both will win this weekend, and I think the Cowboys will beat the Jets on Thanksgiving. The Packers have a very tough game at Detroit on Thanksgiving. With the Lions playing at home, that game becomes pretty much a tossup. Either way, I'll probably be taking the Cowboys over the Packers. I think they're a little bit more dynamic, a little bit better, and they'll be at home. I'm not anti-Packers, as some have been suggesting to me recently. I just think the Cowboys are a slightly better team.


Crofton, Md.: Why hasn't Gibbs let Campbell run bootlegs on goal-line plays? He has the speed and strength, or even roll him out down there,from a very frustrated fan thanks

Mark Maske: That's an idea. They certainly need to try something different down there near the goal line because what they're doing isn't working and it's costing them games.


Mark Maske: I've got to run, everyone. Thanks for the questions and see you here next week.


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