NFL Insider

Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Columnist
Tuesday, February 5, 2008 11:00 AM

The Post's Mark Maske was online Tuesday, Feb. 5 at 11 a.m. ET to discuss the Super Bowl and 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: Hi, everyone. Let's get right to it.


Newport News, VA: On the play that resulted in the long pass to Tyree during the final drive, could Eli have been considered "in the grasp" and the play blown dead? Replays seemed to show that it was very close and with the rules designed to protect QB's........ Imagine if the ref had blown the whistle on what turned out to be the play of the game and perhaps the play of the season. Did the media bring this up after the game?

Mark Maske: Some people brought up that point but after watching the play a few times, I don't think anyone ever really had him in the grasp. He was just kind of bouncing off people and moving around. The defensive players were grabbing at him but no one ever had what the rule calls "grasp and control." It was just a great, great play by Manning, leading to a great, great catch by David Tyree.


Rockville, Md.: Mark: in the aftermath of the game, there have been endless discussions about whether this was the greatest Super Bowl ever, the biggest upset ever, etc. However, there hasn't been much discussion regarding where the Patriots' loss ranks in terms of Super Bowl chokes. What do you think?

Mark Maske: I don't call it a choke. The Giants went out and won the game. The Patriots didn't do anything to hand it to them. The Giants took it. In terms of upsets, it certainly ranks up there among Super Bowl upsets but it's not nearly as big as Jets over Colts. In that game, there was a question about whether the Jets even belonged on the same field with the Colts. In this game, we knew the Giants belonged on the same field. We'd seen them stay competitive with the Patriots in the regular season finale. It's still a big, big upset, but not as big as the Jets pulled off.


New York: Re: Jerry Jones assistant coach hiring binge

Have you ever seen anything like this? Jones is hiring every senior top-dollar candidate around? CW is he's doing it for Garrett's benefit in 2009, but these guys are all ambitious themselves and they would want the job for themselves if it comes open.

Mark Maske: It's been done before right here in Washington. Dan Snyder paid big money to bring in Gregg Williams and Al Saunders to work for Joe Gibbs. If Jason Garrett stays in Dallas, he absolutely gets the head coaching job after Wade Phillips. It doesn't matter who else is on the staff. It's Garrett's job.


Bethesda, Md.: How bad do the Patriots feel after going 18-0 and losing the game that matters most? What are you hearing about the congressional interest in Spygate and the Rams walk through taping allegations? Will anything come of this?

Mark Maske: Some of the Patriots players seemed to feel right after the game that losing the Super Bowl pretty much wiped out everything they'd accomplished during the season. Maybe they'll feel a little bit differently about that over time, I don't know. They still have the only 16-0 regular season in NFL history and they're still the only team to reach 18-0 in a single season.

The only way SpyGate goes anywhere from here is if Matt Walsh, the former Patriots video assistant, or someone else has evidence that the Patriots really did videotape the Rams' walk-through before the Super Bowl, or evidence of some other misdeed that the league hasn't already punished the team for. Evidence like that would bring significant new penalties. I'm guessing the Congressional interest in all of this will blow over pretty quickly now.


Am I correct in that it would be unheard of...: for Wes Welker to still have won the MVP award for Sunday even though the Pats didn't win? As a Pats fan, I admit to some bias, but he was just amazing out there no matter what, and I think he deserves it more than Manning did. Everyone I've talked to was pointing at Welker for that award had the Pats won.

Mark Maske: Welker played extremely well, but once Eli Manning took the Giants down the field at the end and they won I thought it was perfectly justified for Manning to be the MVP. I thought choosing Justin Tuck would have been justified, too, if it had gone that way. The Giants really won the game on defense and the Patriots simply couldn't block Tuck.


Arlington, Va.: One of the unsung heroes for the Giants is general manager Jerry Reese, who is in his first year. It seemed like all of the Giants' draft picks from last year contributed, and they are one of the youngest teams in the league. It also sounds like they are I good shape contract and cap wise. I don't imagine those lessons will resonate in the wilds of Ashburn, Va.

Mark Maske: Jerry Reese had an outstanding first year as a general manager. That draft, as you mentioned, was superb. He also handled the Michael Strahan holdout well back in training camp and seemed to be an influence on some of the positive changes in Tom Coughlin's coaching approach. Also give some credit to Reese's predecessor, Ernie Accorsi. Trading for Eli Manning looks a little better now than it did a month ago, doesn't it?


Baltimore: The Pro Bowl: Do you see the NFL simply pulling the plug on this game anytime soon. It's the only "all star" game that takes place after the season is over. Every year, more and more guys selected bow out, making the voting meaningless. I guess 25 years ago, before the salary boom, the thought of some extra bucks and a free trip to Hawaii was pretty enticing, but now it's meaningless. Thanks.

Mark Maske: I guess it could happen. Gene Upshaw mentioned it as a possibility last week. Up until then, most of the talk I'd heard had been about the possibility of moving the Pro Bowl to the Sunday before the Super Bowl and playing it in the Super Bowl city to try to drum up some interest in it.


Seoul: Hey Mark-

Steve Spagnuolo looks like quite a defensive coordinator. But does he have enough experience to be a head coach? People are forgetting that his defense gave up 38 points in week 17 against New England. In NY he worked with a stable of high-quality pass rushers, something Washington does not have. Gregg Williams tried blitzing aggressively a season ago and our weak secondary was exposed. Is Snyder setting up Spanguolo for failure, assuming he gets the job?

Mark Maske: It's a very good question. A month ago, no one in the NFL was overly excited about Steve Spagnuolo as a head coaching candidate. He might have been on the radar screen, but he certainly wasn't all the rage. Now he's the prize catch. I guess that should make you a little wary. On the other hand, look around and look who got the other head coaching jobs around the league during this hiring cycle--Tony Sparano, John Harbaugh and Mike Smith. Taken in that context, it's not such a stretch to go crazy over Steve Spagnuolo. It's simply not a year with overwhelming head coaching candidates available.


Rockville, Md.: I would have given the MVP to the entire defensive line of the Giants. Eli had a very good game, but the Giants won BECAUSE of the defensive line.

Also, will the NFL fine Belichick for leaving the field before the end of the game? That was about the most classless think I have ever seen him do, and that is saying a lot! He ignore the ref and practically pushed him aside to shake hands and get off the field. There was NO excuse for that behavior, even for him.

Mark Maske: I wouldn't have argued with that MVP choice although, as I said, I don't think choosing Manning was a big mistake.

On Belichick, there was confusion there about whether the game was over when everyone ran on the field, and I'm not sure Belichick knew there was a second left. He was asked about it afterward and seemed confused. He said he was on the field for the end of the game. If he really didn't know, okay. If he did, you're right, it's very poor behavior.


Claverack, N.Y.: Has anyone talked to the Patriot's kicker? How must that feel, knowing your coach would rather go for it on 4th and 13 than have you try a makable field goal? Is Belichick getting a bit too much benefit-of-the-doubt over this very curious call?

Mark Maske: It would have been a 49-yard kick, I believe, and Stephen Gostkowski's longest field goal during the regular season was 45 yards. Belichick was asked about it after the game and said he just thought it was too far. It was a field-position-type game, yes. I still think it was a coaching mistake. The roof was closed. The game was indoors in perfect conditions. I think you have to try that field goal.


Re: Pro Bowl: Every Patriots offensive lineman that made the Pro Bowl should turn their airline tickets in and not show up. After the Super Bowl, none of them deserve to be called Pro Bowlers.

Mark Maske: The Giants' defensive line certainly was dominant, you're right. If I have a chance to sit down and watch the game again, I'd like to try to figure out if I think Brady's ankle was a factor. He's usually very good at moving around just enough in the pocket to create space for himself, avoid a rush and open up a passing lane. He wasn't able to do that in this game, but at first glance I'm not sure how much of it was his physical status and how much was that there simply was nowhere to go. I did think that his ankle might have affected some of his down field passing. He didn't deliver the ball very accurately down the field and I thought his footwork and inability to really push off his right foot to throw were factors in that. I'm not making an excuse for the Patriots, just an observation. All teams and most players must deal with injuries by the end of a long season.


Lorton, Va.: Mark,

Do you have any idea if the NFL will be expanding in the near future? The current 32-team league works really well, but I know all good things don't last. Especially with the potential to increase league revenue.

Mark Maske: I don't see the NFL expanding any time soon. Remember that while an extra team or teams would generate more revenues, it also would mean that the overall revenue pie would have to be cut into more slices. Certainly the league wants to put a franchise in L.A. at some point, but all indications are that will come by relocation, not expansion.


Washington, D.C.: Mark,

What business is the taping scandal or the Congress's? I mean, with steroids, they're illegal, controlled substances. I don't get it.

Mark Maske: It's a very valid question. Arlen Specter has mentioned possible legal violations relating to the stealing of industrial secrets. It does seem to be a bit of a stretch. Whether you agree with the NFL's punishment or not, there was a punishment. But it has led to the investigation being revisited, and now we'll see if anything new turns up.


Washington, D.C.: Can the Patriots resign Randy Moss and two first-round draft picks and remain under the salary cap? Do they want Randy Moss back considering that he clearly reverted to his old ways in the Super Bowl by taking some plays off and not appearing to try for all the balls thrown his way, particularly on the final failed drive?

Mark Maske: I certainly would think the Patriots will want to re-sign Moss. He had a record-setting season and, if you listen to the Patriots, his lack of production in the playoffs was due more to the defensive attention he was receiving than anything he was (or wasn't) doing. I'd be surprised to see Moss move on.


"Choking": Hi Mark,

Why are people so obsessed with labeling any failed performance in sports as an example of "choking?" The Patriots did not "choke" in the Super Bowl. They did not lose to the Giants, they were BEATEN by the Giants. It really is that simple.

Mark Maske: I agree with that assessment.


Defending Belichick...: There was a lot of confusion as to the end of the game. The Fox guys were commenting how most of the teams, a bunch of fans, etc. were out on the field with 1 second left, and it took time to get the ruling from the NFL that one more snap would have to take place. Belichick was in the tunnel by then, and likely just didn't realize the second still on the clock. Coughlin came out to greet him, so he likely thought things were done.

Mark Maske: I would tend to believe that explanation. Others have not been as willing to believe it.


NYC: Re: Spagnuolo

He's 48 years old and infinitely more qualified by pedigree and intellect to be a head coach than is John Harbaugh, for one.

He's also a very clever guy. It's not just his players' abilities, but his schemes as well. Having Tuck float between the guards to rush the passer was a somewhat brilliant strategy.

Mark Maske: I couldn't argue with the hiring of Spagnuolo. My only point earlier was that it has not been an offseason with overwhelming head coaching candidates, and you would not have called Spagnuolo an overwhelming head coaching candidate a few weeks ago.


DC - Jerry Jones Reply: Wait a minute Mark! Didn't we say the same thing...when Gibbs leaves, it is Gregg's job! We all know how that turned out. All it takes is a bad offensive year by Garrett or him not getting along with someone important...

Mark Maske: You're right. Just because you're a hot commodity now doesn't mean that you still will be that a year from now. That's why Garrett is taking a chance by passing up head coaching jobs to stay in Dallas. It's why Spagnuolo would be taking a chance if he passes on the Redskins' head coaching job, if it's offered to him. But the dynamic in Dallas seems a little bit different and it works in Garrett's favor. Jerry Jones seems to think he discovered Jason Garrett, so he'll want to do everything he can to try to have Garrett succeed as a head coach someday.


RE: Congress and Spygate: Remember, Arlen Spector has taken a lot of money from Comcast, and Comcast has had a running dispute with the NFL over the NFL Network.

Is this the story behind the story?

Mark Maske: That question was asked of Roger Goodell on Friday at his Super Bowl press conference, and he steered clear of commenting on it.


Hartford: What's your gut feeling on the Pats and spycam? The league just wants the story to go away? It's more prevalent than we realize? The coaching fraternity won't out a member? Congress will get involved?

Mark Maske: I think it happens, or at least it used to happen. I don't know how widespread it was, but I think other teams were doing it and the Patriots were the ones that got caught. I don't know that you can accuse the league of just wanting it to go away when it was the league that punished the Patriots. Yes, Eric Mangini received some backlash within the coaching ranks for his presumed role in bringing all of it to light. I think it's unlikely that Congress will get involved in any way other than applying a little bit of public pressure.


Mark Maske: Thanks for the questions, everyone. Sorry I couldn't get to all of them. Talk to you soon.


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