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NFL Insider

Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Columnist
Tuesday, January 22, 2008 11:00 AM

The Post's Mark Maske was online Tuesday, Jan. 22 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.

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

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Rockville, Md.: Is it still the consensus around the NFL that Gregg Williams is still the front-runner for the 'Skins coaching job, or is there now a sense that Snyder is doing everything possible to avoid hiring Williams?

Mark Maske: I think people around the league still believe it's probably Gregg Williams's job but they're wondering why it hasn't happened yet. I think the same thing I've thought all along. The one reason not to hire Gregg Williams is if you can get a proven winner of a head coach like Bill Cowher. At some point, the Redskins need to stack the money in front of Cowher, figuratively if not literally, and make him see what he's turning down. If he still says no, I can't think of anyone else who's out there and available who's good enough to go outside the organization and essentially have to start over next season.

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formerly Appleton, Wisc.: Hey Mark,

Couldn't get over how little impact Favre had in the game. He appeared almost disinterested- just too cold? Old?

Your thoughts?

Mark Maske: It just happens sometimes, I guess. You're right. The Packers really did very little on offense except for the one big play. But he still had a superb season and I would still think we'll see him back next season.

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Ellicott City, Md.: The Baltimore press has vilified Jason Garrett for his actions in rejecting the Ravens' head coaching job, saying he used them and the Falcons to get what he always wanted, the money of a head coach w/out the corresponding responsibilities. What is your take on this? It seems reasonable to me that he might want to "test the waters" before deciding to remain where he is, but the Balt. press sure doesn't see it that way.

Mark Maske: He had leverage and he used it. Good for him. But you do need to be careful about turning down head coaching jobs because there is no guarantee that you'll be in demand forever -- or even a year from now, for that matter.

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Soft wing of the HOF: Which current Hall Fame member made it in despite questions about his toughness? Jan Stenerud? LT has enough stats to make it in but he will always be considered soft for sitting out pretty much all of the Colts and Pats games for an injury that didn't even require surgery at the end of the year. Contrast that to his QB who played with a completely torn ACL after having surgery before the game just to play. I thought (and still think) Rivers is a hot-headed punk, but I have the utmost respect for what he did against the Pats.

Mark Maske: It's hard not to have some level of admiration for Rivers playing in that game, six days after having knee surgery and knowing he was headed toward more knee surgery for a torn ACL. It might not have been very wise, but it certainly was tough. I have mixed feelings on Tomlinson. Yes, he looks bad compared to Rivers. But a running back playing on a bad knee is different than a quarterback playing on a bad knee in terms of your ability to be productive, and I do buy his argument that him at 50 percent was less helpful to the team than Michael Turner and Darren Sproles at 100 percent.

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Westford, Vt: If Dan Snyder is committing to winning, why in the world is Jim Fassel a serious candidate? If Snyder goes outside to hire his coach, doesn't he take a serious chance of alienating the players on this team since this will be yet another rehashing of the roster, will most definitely stunt the growth of a promising young QB and set the franchise back another 5 years. Did he learn nothing from Gibbs, continuity is what you need to win in this league, not turnover, and that is the only thing Snyder has been good at since buying the team.

Mark Maske: I'm not anti-Fassel. He reached a Super Bowl with a Giants team that wasn't all that good. Is he that much better than Gregg Williams as a head coaching candidate that you would risk starting over by bringing in someone from the outside? It's borderline.

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Boston: Did TMZ photogs also catch a hyberbaric chamber delivery to Gissele's apartment, because that's what I'd like my Super Bowl QB to be in for the next two weeks to make his plant foot as strong as possible heading into the big one. Is Bridget Moynahan sticking needles into the foot of a Tom Brady doll (if she wasn't before she is now after seeing those flowers). Oh well, at least he didn't have a Yankees cap on.

Mark Maske: If Brady's injury was all that serious, I think you would have seen him back in Foxborough getting treatment instead of in New York yesterday. When he says he's playing in the Super Bowl, I believe him. But you do wonder when he got hurt, whether it was something he might have had going into the Chargers game and he aggravated it then and maybe it affected his performance.

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New Jersey: I don't understand how the Colts are allowed to write into Caldwell's contract that he is the next head coach. If he were white this wouldn't be allowed. Doesn't this give teams with the top coordinators who happen to be minorities an unfair advantage?

I have no doubt in my mind Jerry Jones promised Garrett that he is the next head coach, but he can't contractually say that. And there is the million dollar G. Willams bonus, but I thought I read on the post.com that it's just rumored and that clause couldn't be found.

Mark Maske: It can be written into any assistant coach's contract. The Rooney rule has a specific exception saying that a team does not need to interview a minority candidate if it promotes an assistant with a clause like that written into his contract. But it doesn't work that way for a verbal promise, and it doesn't work that way for a clause that says you get a bonus if you're not hired as the head coach.

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D.C.: Mark, I've noticed this season that all QBs have a green dot sticker on the backs of their helmets. No other players do. Can you explain?

Mark Maske: That identifies that player as the one with a coach-to-player communications device in his helmet. There can only be one on the field at a time. It came up late last season when the Falcons used Matt Schaub at quarterback and Michael Vick at running back for a few plays in a game against the Cowboys. Vick had to wear a different helmet to play running back, one without a communications device.

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Bethesda, Md.: Here is part of a quote from Vince Lombardi: "The object is to win fairly, squarely, by the rules -- but to win." The resolution of Spygate will always be very unsatisfying but I guess it will affect Belichick's and the Patriots legacy. The NFL kind of brushed it under the rug pretty quickly.

Mark Maske: I know the league is accused of that but it did impose some significant fines and strip a first-round draft pick. In terms of how much you think it detracts from the Patriots' legacy, everyone can decide that for themselves. I've come to believe it's one of those issues where we can debate it forever and one side will never convince the other. Certainly it will always be mentioned in any discussion about what Belichick and the Patriots have accomplished.

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Detroit, Mich.: Who would have thought that Eli would outplay Favre in the frozen tundra of Lambeau and make it to the Super Bowl faster than his brother -- 4 years compared to 9 years.

Mark Maske: I'm not shocked that Eli Manning played well and the Giants won that game. I thought that game was a complete tossup. Manning has been a different quarterback since that Patriots game in the regular season finale. I would expect him to play well again in the Super Bowl. I mean, this game against the Patriots is on fewer TV networks than that one was.

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Wade Phillips: Is my job in jeopardy if we take a nose dive next season? It seems like Garrett is the next coach already.

Mark Maske: It already was an odd situation because Jason Garrett was hired before Wade Phillips. It becomes even tougher on Phillips now. Clearly he's one bad season from being fired.

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Ashburn, Va.: Joe Gibbs said he came back to the Redskins because we were consistently losing and in bad shape. He wanted to come back and return the franchise to glory or at least leave it better than he found it. If Snyder hires Williams then mission accomplished. If he wants to be stupid and hire an outsider, the team will be blown up and we'll start from scratch. Mission failed. The past four years will have been a complete waste of time.

Is he maybe just interviewing Fassel to be the next offensive coordinator and maybe Schwartz to be the defensive coordinator?

Mark Maske: It's certainly possible that those were really coordinator interviews (provided that Fassel really has been interviewed) under the cover of being called head coaching interviews. On the bigger issues, I don't consider hiring from the outside a step backward if the Redskins get a head coaching candidate who's clearly better than Gregg Williams. Yes, he's done a good job as a defensive coordinator with this team but he's not a sure thing as a head coaching candidate. His tenure in Buffalo as a head coach demonstrates that.

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Philly: Sigh... I guess Reid is staying.. McNabb is staying.. the losing is staying. Please give me hope that one of the two, if not both, will soon be on their way. Please.

Mark Maske: I would think at this point Reid is staying. But it's too soon to know about McNabb. Player moves don't start happening for more than a month. I don't think you can rule out him being in Chicago or Minnesota next season.

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Washington, D.C.: How much blame should Mike McCarthy take in the Packers' loss? They only ran the ball six times in the second half. Granted they weren't running the ball well, but at least you still have to set up the play-action, especially in cold weather.

Mark Maske: McCarthy gets some blame. Favre gets some blame. But that doesn't change the fact that most of what happened in Green Bay this season was overwhelmingly positive, beginning with the coach and the quarterback.

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Boston: Hi Mark. The Pats are being accused of being dirty football players -- low blows and hits, etc. Is this a rep that's accurate? Are they any worse than any other team?

Mark Maske: I don't know how much of it is accurate. There might be some basis in fact but a lot of it strikes me as sour grapes about the team that's been the most successful. It certainly sounds that way in this instance with the accusations against Richard Seymour.

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I-270 Exit 4: The Brady "foot cast" is probably yet another attempt by the Patriots to play head games with the Giants and the media. What do you think?

Mark Maske: Interesting theory. Brady didn't exactly hide it, did he? He showed up in the media capital of the world wearing a protective boot. I think Brady and the Patriots would have been much more secretive if this had been an injury that's a real concern to them in terms of Brady's availability for the Super Bowl.

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Worcester, Mass.: First Jax was the team that could beat the Pats, then it was the Bolts who had the team, now we hear why the Giants pass rush will beat them.

I know the Giants can play with them but, seriously, would this a bigger upset than NE over the Rams?

Mark Maske: I'm not the one who thought that either the Jaguars or the Chargers had the goods to challenge the Patriots. The Giants are a different story. They do have the elements that it takes to stay in a game with the Patriots and maybe beat them. We've already seen that once. It would be a huge, huge upset, simply because the Patriots are going for 19-0. But you can't rule it out. The Giants can compete and know they can compete.

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Arlington, Va.: I apologize for going all Tim Russert on you, but on your September 18th chat the following exchange was made:

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Bend, Ore.: what's your take on the Giants? Is this a case of early injuries sinking the team? Is it not having Tiki? How come the defense looks so porous?

Mark Maske: That sure seems to be a team headed to a 4-12 season. Not having Tiki Barber certainly is an issue, but the defense has just been horrendous. They started to rebuild the secondary but still have a long way to go. Moving Mathias Kiwanuka from defensive end to linebacker hasn't worked out so far.

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Care to issue a mea culpa?

Mark Maske: I take it all back!

Just kidding. Really, I don't. If the Redskins had finished off that game against the Giants and beaten them in the third game of the season, I still think the Giants would have gone 4-12. It just goes to show you how a team's season can turn on a few plays. Momentum really builds in this league, one direction or the other.

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Atlanta: A lot of teams, including the Falcons, are looking for a top personnel man. Floyd Reese was just that for the Titans. The Titans are still winning on his drafts. Why isn't his name hot for these jobs?

Mark Maske: I guess it's the sense that Jeff Fisher had a good deal of control in Tennessee. But I think Floyd Reese did a terrific job with the Titans and should be able to get a general manager job somewhere, if that's what he wants.

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D.C.: How much of a chance do the Giants have given that the Patriots will be playing under perfect conditions (warm weather, no wind)?

Mark Maske: The Giants have a chance because they can rush the passer and they have an offense that can score 35 or 40 points on the Patriots. Now, you would think that Bill Belichick, with two weeks to get ready instead of the six days that he had last time these teams played, will come up with some things to give some different looks to Eli Manning. You would think the Patriots, because of Belichick, will learn more from the last meeting and make better adjustments. But that doesn't mean the Giants can't compete again and have a chance to win again, particularly if Brady is less than 100 percent.

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Washington, D.C.: A while ago, both Bill Parcells and Mike Ditka both said that if the '85 Bears were to play the '07 Patriots they would lose because the Patriots would just spread them out, and the Bears' secondary wasn't good enough to cover the Patriots' receivers. Interesting.

Mark Maske: Yes, but could the Patriots protect Brady against that pass rush? It's fun to talk about but it doesn't really matter what anyone says on a topic like that.

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Falls Church, Va.: Given the Patriots' history and Belichick's nature, I think we have to assume that Brady's mysterious foot cast (without any evidence of injury in the game) is a deliberate deception, don't we?

Mark Maske: That's an interesting conspiracy theory. I just think it's a signal that Brady and the Patriots aren't all that concerned because they certainly would have been much more secretive if there was any chance of Brady not being ready to play in the Super Bowl.

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Montana: Hi Mark, with the talk of adding a 17th game to the schedule, what is the players union saying about this? Also does that mean an earlier start to the season, or an even later Superbowl? Thanks.

Mark Maske: The idea behind a 17th regular season game would be to accommodate more overseas play, with the goal of increasing the global popularity of the sport and generating more revenues for everyone -- including the players. Thus, the union would be on board. I don't know if it's gotten far enough to know whether the extra week would come at the beginning or the end. I guess you could eliminate the bye week and have the season not be any longer, but I'm guessing they'd want to keep the bye if you're adding more international travel to the equation.

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Green Bay, Wisc.: I think the offensive line should have worn long sleeves. Instead of trying to prove how manly they are.

Mark Maske: Personally, I'm all for being warm.

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Mark Maske: I'm going to run, everyone. Thanks for the questions and I'll talk to you next Tuesday from Phoenix.

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