NFL Insider

Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Columnist
Tuesday, January 29, 2008; 4:00 PM

The Post's Mark Maske was online Tuesday, Jan. 29 at 4 p.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.


Washington, D.C.: Bill Belichick game-planned two of the greatest upsets in Super Bowl history; Giants over Bills and Patriots over Rams.

Do the Giants really have a legitimate shot at defeating Belichick and Brady given two weeks of prep?

Mark Maske: You would think that the Patriots, with Belichick, will learn more from the meeting in the regular season finale than the Giants will. You would think the Patriots will throw some things at Eli Manning that he didn't see in the regular season game. History tells us not to doubt Belichick and Tom Brady in a Super Bowl. But even with all that, I think the Giants and Manning are very, very confident right now and are playing really well, and they'll make the game relatively competitive before the Patriots win.

And oh, by the way, hello everyone and let's get started. I'm sorry I kept you waiting but I was at media day at the stadium earlier.


M Street NW, Washington, D.C.: Mark, who do you like in the semifinalist Class of 2008 to get inducted into the Hall of Fame?

Mark Maske: I'm just starting to talk to some of the voters and trying to get a feel for it. I'm not sure yet about the class as a whole but when it comes to Darrell Green and Art Monk, I think Green will get in and Monk has the best chance he's ever had. I'm not saying he'll get in. I'm just saying he has the best chance he's ever had.


Annandale, Va.: Hi Mark,

Isn't it very unusual for an NFL coach to be hired and have little to no impact on who his coordinators and assistants will be?

I would think this would make many candidates think that this is not the job for them.

Or is it common in NFL for things like this to happen?

Mark Maske: It's not common, by any means. We did see the Cowboys hire Jason Garrett as their offensive coordinator last year before they hired Wade Phillips as their head coach. But having an entire staff except the head coach in place? That's pretty odd.


Flushing, N.Y.: Mark, thanks for taking my question. I'm a lifelong Redskins fan and I like everyone else can't make sense of this circus that we seem to be in. As a football guy, who do you think would be the best coach (not Gregg Williams) for the 'Skins with the staff that they already have assembled?


Mark Maske: I wouldn't have any problem with either Jim Fassel or Steve Mariucci. I'd be a little skeptical of Steve Spagnuolo or Josh McDaniels. No one really thought of Spagnuolo as a hot head coaching candidate until a few weeks ago. McDaniels is 31 years old and probably needs a few more years as a coordinator.


Alexandria Va: Looks like the Skins will win the offseason drama contest again this year, and the season isn't even over.

Mark Maske: I don't know. The Raiders might win that prize.


Gore, Va.: How do owners & other NFL folks seem to view Daniel Snyder in light of his moves on the coaching front and the Cerrato front in the past week?

Mark Maske: I think people around the league are like everyone else. They're just scratching their heads and trying to figure out what's going on with the Redskins. But you know what? Any ridicule that they get now won't really matter if they pick a coach who ends up winning for them.


Washington, D.C.: How desperate would a coach have to be to take the Redskins job, given the fact that he'll have no say in his staff? Hasn't Snyder basically eliminated a number of possible candidates by hiring the coordinators first?

Mark Maske: Fassel is on board with these coordinators. You would assume that Mariucci, if indeed the Redskins have been talking to Mariucci, is on board as well. Some of the candidates might have had a great deal of input into this staff.


Washington, D.C.: Given the perfect conditions will allow the Patriots to air it out, how do do see the Giants secondary covering Moss and Stallworth?

Mark Maske: I think we'll see the Patriots score 35 points or more. If the Giants go to extremes to take away Moss the way the Jaguars and Chargers did in the AFC playoffs, they'll be vulnerable to being hurt by Wes Welker and the other receivers, and by the running of Laurence Maroney. If the Giants are going to win, they need to find a way to score 35 or 40 points themselves. But we saw in the regular season finale that they're capable of doing that against the Patriots.


D.C.: The only half-way decent passing team the Giants had to stop was the Cowboys (not counting Packers game due to conditions). How do they stop the Patriots air attack?

Mark Maske: They don't, if Brady has time to set up and throw. The Giants' best chance to slow down the Patriots will be to hit Brady early and often. If Brady's ankle isn't right and he can't move from side to side in the pocket to create throwing lanes for himself, the Giants' task gets a little easier. The Giants certainly have the pass rushers to get it done.


Laplata, Md.: Mark,

Thanks for taking my question,I was wondering,with possible rain in the forecast for Super Bowl Sunday in Arizona. What's the NFL's plan in case of bad weather?Is there a chance of a repeat of last-year's horrible weather,and let the teams play in whatever conditions exist?Or will they simply close the roof?


Mark Maske: If the weather is bad, they'll close the roof. I saw a forecast out here this morning that called for maybe some light rain on Sunday but nothing significant. We had a lot of rain out here this past Sunday and early Monday but it cleared up today.


D.C.: What do you make of the Falcons hiring Mike Smith? The Jaguars always struck me as a team that doesn't change its gameplan. Will he be a good head coach?

Mark Maske: It seemed, to me, to be a pretty uninspired choice. I don't know of any other team in the league that regarded Mike Smith as a head coaching candidate. The Falcons liked Steve Spagnuolo, the Giants' defensive coordinator, but didn't want to wait until after the Super Bowl. But then again, I remember when the Packers hired Mike McCarthy that a lot of people thought it was a pretty odd and uninspired choice, and that has worked out pretty well for them.


New York City: Mark, if the Redskins due hire Steve Mariucci as the new head coach, it appears that he has all the "right" personnel and management in place but what about the players? We know that certain players such as C.P and Santana Moss may thrive in a West Coast offense, but what about players such as Samuels, Thomas, Jansen and even Cooley, that prefer "smashmouth" football?

I feel as though it will take several years before we have the right personnel on the offensive side of the ball to run Zorn/Mariucci's offense smoothly...

Mark Maske: It will be interesting to see exactly what Zorn's offense will be. I think he'll get away from a straight West Coast system a little bit. I don't think it will be an exact clone of what Seattle's offense was because that was so influenced by Mike Holmgren. From what everyone tells me, Zorn will be smart enough and quarterback-friendly enough to adapt his system to the strengths of Jason Campbell.


Conspira, CY: Any chance Belichick and Brady orchestrated the whole boot/injury fiasco so that the G-men focus on getting to Brady with the pass-rush, while the Pats parry with some play-action runs?

Mark Maske: No, I think it was a legitimate injury. It's obvious that Brady will play in this game but I think it remains to be seen if that injury will affect him in a significant way.


D.C.: What's it like out there in Arizona? Are there a lot more Giants' fans than Patriots' fans?

Mark Maske: It's too early in the week to tell. It's mostly just media people in town so far. As a general rule, the Super Bowl city starts really filling up with fans on about Thursday.


Yorktown: I kinda think Danny Snyder has already tried all the various kinds of coaches available: ancient taskmaster (Schottenheimer), college wunderkind (Spurrier), and revered legend (Gibbs). What's left?

Mark Maske: One that will win a Super Bowl for him.


Devil's Advocate, NC: Hi Mark,

Apparently, the rest of the NFL is snickering--if not laughing out loud-- at the Redskins for giving Vinny Cerrato what amounts to be a GM position.

Can you please shed some light as to exactly why Vinny is so poorly regarded in the NFL as a personnel guy?

Mark Maske: I've never really figured that out. He's better than he gets credit for being.


DC: How's Michael Wilbon doing? Have you spoken with him recently?

Mark Maske: We've traded some messages back and forth but I haven't spoken to him. He seems to be doing well and hopefully he'll be out of the hospital very soon. Let's all hope that everything goes smoothly from here and he's back to work in the not-too-distant future. In addition to being a great, great journalist, he is one of the truly wonderful people in this business and he has been a great friend to me for as long as I can remember.


Washington, D.C.: We all know how to stop Tom Brady and the Patriots; run the ball and harass the quarterback. Why should the outcome of the Super Bowl be any different from the 18 games the Patriots have already won?

Mark Maske: I don't completely agree, actually. I know the usual formula when you face a team with a great offense is to have your offense run the ball to try to keep it away from them. But to me, the Patriots are going to score 35 points on you in a good-weather game, no matter what you do. So to me, that means you have to be very aggressive yourself on offense. You have to throw the ball on first and second downs. You have to take chances. You have to go for it on some fourth downs and maybe mix in an onside kick or two. You have to play the game like you need 40 points to win. You can't settle for field goals. On defense, I think you have to be very physical with Moss and go after Brady and try to hit him. You might give up some big plays, but you just might force some turnovers, too. It's a formula where, if a bunch of things go wrong, you could get beaten very badly, but if a lot of things go right, you actually give yourself a chance to win against a great, great team.


Washington, D.C.: What do you make of Don Shula (once again) rooting against the Patriots? I don't see Jack Nicklaus rooting against Tiger or Pete Sampras rooting against Federer.

Mark Maske: I find the behavior of the '72 Dolphins amusing more than anything else, not scandalous.


Oakland, Calif.: Where do you think the messiest front office/coaching staff currently is outside of Washington? It seems D.C.'s a given to take the crown, but there's Oakland, San Francisco, etc. Where would you least like to work as either a member of the brass, or a coach of any level?

Mark Maske: I think the Raiders are the winners in this competition. It's difficult to believe their denials in this latest Lane Kiffin saga when, if you recall, they denied the report that they were going to fire Art Shell--shortly before they fired Art Shell.


Ashburn, Va: Any chance the league would encourage Al Davis to step aside in Oakland? The franchise is becoming a joke.

Mark Maske: I could not ever envision Al Davis stepping aside willingly. I like him very much on a personal level and respect very much what he's done in his career. But there's no way to look at what has gone on with that franchise in recent years and believe that it is a smooth-running operation at the moment.


San Diego, CA: What are you going to do during the offseason? Prepare for the draft coverage? seems like covering football is a year round job.

Mark Maske: All football, all the time. It goes from the scouting combine to free agency to the league meetings to the draft to minicamps. The only real down time in the NFL calendar these days if from about mid-June until mid-July.


New York: Rumor is, for what it's worth, the Dolphins like Chris Long with the No. 1 pick, if they keep it.

My first question to you, coming from a Houston Texans fan, would Bill Parcells be subject to as much ridicule for passing on Darren McFadden as the Texans were on passing on Reggie Bush, in taking a top-flight defensive end at No. 1.

Second question: does the Giants making the Super Bowl in large part due to the magnificence of their defensive ends not support the idea that DEs are as important as any non-QB position in football?

Mark Maske: I don't think the Dolphins will take a running back, any running back, with Ronnie Brown already there. There are too many other holes to fill. Certainly they'd love to trade the pick but that will be hard to do. I don't see a lot of teams wanting to trade up in this draft. It's way, way too early to have a good feel for who would go at No. 1 if the Dolphins keep the pick.


Interviews: Mark,

Any idea what Snyder and Williams talked about for all those hours and multiple interviews? I mean, come on, after so many hours what is there to talk about?

I can only think that after a few hours, Snyder pulled out a Wii and they played video games for hours and hours.

Mark Maske: I think there were some issues with Gregg Williams on a personal level that went back to the 2006 season. I also believe that Williams hurt his candidacy with the 10-man thing this past season. It really showed us the best and the worst of Gregg Williams. It was an appropriate tribute and the players loved that he did it. It was the right thing to do. On the other hand, he absolutely had to tell Joe Gibbs that he was going to do it, and he failed to do that.


DC: I have a question regarding the hiring of coordinators before a head coach. How common is this practice across the league? In your opinion, is this an acceptable way to construct a coaching staff?

Mark Maske: It's certainly an unorthodox way to construct a coaching staff. I don't think you'll see a lot of other teams around the NFL copying the approach. I guess we'll find out in the future if it was misguided or not.


Mark Maske: I'm going to run, folks. Thanks, as always, for the questions and enjoy the game this weekend. It should be a good one.


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