NFL Insider

Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Columnist
Tuesday, September 16, 2008; 11:00 AM

Washington Post columnist and NFL Insider blogger Mark Maske was online Tuesday, Sept. 16 at 11 a.m. ET to discuss the results from week two and all the latest news from around the league.

A transcript follows.

Mark writes the NFL Insider blog, and is the author of the new book Without Death: A Year of Extreme Competition in Pro Football's NFC East. He's also a panelist on the's pro football group blog The League.


Mark Maske: Hi, everyone. There's plenty to talk about so let's get right to it.


New England: New England was able to run on the Jets when Morris and Jordan hit the holes.

Based on this evidence, how much more patience will the NE Coaching Staff have with the Laurence Maroney dance routine?

Also, did Brett Favre come back so he could extend his record...most career INTs?


Mark Maske: I think you'll see all those guys play, along with Kevin Faulk. Picking up Jordan could end up being a steal.

I've said all along that the Favre that we see with the Jets this season is more likely to resemble the Favre of 2005 and 2006 than last season's version.


Reston, Va.: Do you think Andy Reid should have benched DeSean last night after nearly costing them 7 points? Or did sending him on their next series teach him a lesson?

Mark Maske: That was a terrible, silly mistake. But don't forget that he got open and made the catch in the first place. The Eagles need him in their offense.


South Riding, Va.: What was it with last night's Dallas-Philly game? Everyone is touting both team's offenses, but it didn't seem like either team's defense showed much last night. Your thoughts?

Mark Maske: Both teams have to have major defensive concerns coming out of that game. But that was an intense, crisp, high-level game. I think you'll see both defenses play better when matched up against lesser offenses. The Eagles shut down the Rams in the opener and the Cowboys bottled up the Browns pretty well.


Arlington, Va.: Why can't the NFL ever seem to get instant replay right? Why even have it with the weird conditions they place on it?

Mark Maske: It just needs to be constantly tinkered with. The league fixed a related type of play last year when it changed the rule so that the defense could be awarded possession when it recovers a fumble on a botched down-by-contact call. Now I'm sure they'll fix this type of play so the defense can be awarded possession if it happens again. It won't do this season's Chargers any good, but it will keep it from happening again. The system will never be perfect.


Alexandria, Va.: Okay, so last night you had two high power offenses playing against soft defenses, resulting in a high-scoring entertaining game that gives the media even more reason to fawn over Dallas, but I don't think either team will be able to light up the board like that against the underrated Steelers. That linebacking corps is looking a lot like it did in the Greg Lloyd days, and people are going to be surprised how potent the Ben-Willy-Hines-Santonio combo can be, especially with Kemoeatu and Hartwig shoring up the O-line from last year.

Mark Maske: I'm with you on the Steelers. I think they're very, very good. With Brady out in New England and the Colts and Chargers struggling, I'd say the Steelers are the best team in the AFC right now. It will be interesting to see how they fare defensively in Philadelphia this weekend.


Norfolk, Va.: Hi Mark, With the way that Dallas and Philly slugged it out last night and with how impressive the NY Giants have looked is it fair to say that the road to the NFC East title still goes through the defending Super Bowl Champs??

Mark Maske: You would have to say that the Cowboys, Giants and Eagles all are among the top 10 teams in the league right now. The Cowboys are still my favorite in the division and in the entire NFC. But the Giants and Eagles aren't far behind at all.


Chantilly, Va.: Do you think the rules committee will be making changes regarding the horrific call Hokuli made on Sunday?

Mark Maske: Yes, I think that rule will be changed like the down-by-contact rule was changed. If a similar play happens in the future, possession would be awarded to the defensive team. Players will simply be coached to jump on any loose ball even if they hear the whistle. When the league changed the down-by-contact rule so that the defense could be awarded possession under similar circumstances, the people on the competition committee looked at tapes from games in the past and determined that players usually kept playing after the whistle, anyway, and went after the loose ball.


Washington : We saw a game canceled last weekend due to the storm. We know about the Saints history with this, and three teams in Florida are also targets of hurricane problems. I could see a pattern of game cancellations becoming a real problem long term, as the climate continues to change. Any thoughts by the NFL to find some alternate-site stadiums where these teams can play their games, the way the Saints used the Alamo Dome last time.

Mark Maske: I would think it will be handled on a case-by-case basis going forward. There are usually several options. In this case, we saw the league first move the Ravens-Texans game back from Sunday afternoon to Monday night, then juggle the schedule to get it rescheduled for November. There also was consideration given to playing the game Monday night in another city, maybe New Orleans or Atlanta.


Poplar Bluff, Mo.: How many games do you think Rams coach Scott Linehan has before he is fired? Who do you see taking over the Rams if Linehan is fired, Cowher, Marty S., etc.? Thanks for the chat.

Mark Maske: I do think there's a chance he's fired during the season. That is not a team completely without talent. It just plays like one. I wouldn't think someone from the outside would come in and take over.

If you're Bill Cowher or Marty Schottenheimer, you probably don't want to walk into a mess like that and try to fix it in the middle of a season. That's almost impossible. It would almost have to be someone from the inside for the rest of the season, then go out and bring in someone new afterward.


New York: I know this is a touchy subject, but I must ask:

Given Mike Shanahan's effusive praise for Hochuli, praise which was immediately and brutally shot down by Jerry Jones, is it conceivable Hochuli is biased in favor of the Broncos and what happened Sunday wasn't an "honest" mistake?

Mark Maske: No, I don't attach any motives like that to the blown call. He just missed it. It happens. It was an obvious fumble and should have been called a fumble, but I don't believe it goes beyond being a very bad call at a very bad time for the Chargers.

Shanahan's comments were ridiculous. Don't try to say what a wonderful job the guy and his crew did when he made one of the highest-profile officiating mistakes in memory and determined the outcome of the game. Please.


D.C.: Mark, as informed and knowledgeable as you are, I can't believe you're drinking the Cowboy kookaid like all the rest of your media brethren. Their secondary is awful. They were getting lit up by a team missing its top two wide outs.

And yes, while they do have an explosive offense, they have yet to prove they can get it done deep in the season, as many teams who are so pass-happy also struggle.

While I understand the Redskins are widely believed to finish last in the division, they may also have the best defense, with apologies to the Giants, and if the offense continues to progress, who knows. Key injuries can shake things up in a hurry.

Mark Maske: We have to put the injuries aside. They will happen and they will be a factor in how the season turns out, but we can't predict them so don't try.

I just don't see the Redskins being on even footing right now with the other teams in this division. The Giants didn't play very well in the opener and the Redskins couldn't take advantage. I guess we'll find out soon enough with the upcoming schedule, won't we?

With the Cowboys, it's an offensive league, a passing league, a quarterbacks' league. The Cowboys can throw the ball and score points. Their defense certainly struggled last night. But it played halfway decent in Cleveland and let's see how it fares against some other lesser teams. I'm not saying it will be dominant. Just being okay could be enough with the offense that the Cowboys have.


Alexandria, Va.: Regarding the blown call... I think the NFL should consider the option of using the NHL model. In hockey, whenever there is a controversial call they go to the head NHL review team in Toronto to make a judgment, making every effort to get it right, which they do 99 percent of the time and within a couple of minutes.

If the NFL was committed to getting calls right from the top down, they could have a "command center" of the best officials that monitor the games every week and make judgments on controversial calls.

Mark Maske: That's not the issue here. The issue was that the rule did not allow the blown call to be corrected by replay. The referee saw on the replay that he'd made a mistake. He just couldn't correct it, under the rule. It's the rule that needs changing, not the entire replay system.


Washington, D.C.: The FOX guys were pretty hard on Zorn before the game. What's the consensus about him with the rest of his peers?

Mark Maske: I'm not sure there is a consensus. It's just too soon to know. I think people around the league respected him as a teacher of quarterbacks and thought he was ready to be an offensive coordinator, but no one was thinking of him as being on the cusp of being a head coach.


Bethesda, Md.: Is Spygate over? The furor seemed to die down when the Patriots lost the super bowl.

Mark Maske: Agreed. That loss to the Giants took all the steam out of Spygate.


Washington, D.C.: What's your take on the Vince Young situation? Do you think black QBs have less leeway than their white counterparts?

Mark Maske: I don't see it as a racial issue. Maybe I'm wrong but it seems to me that all quarterbacks of all colors are highly scrutinized and, when they fail, often fiercely criticized. Maybe I'm just being hopeful that's the case when I say I think it's a matter of the nature of the position, not the color of the person.

This is a talented young man who has had success at every step along the way and now is facing, for perhaps the first time, some real failure and some real criticism. I hope the appropriate steps are taken for him to get the help and support he seems to need.


Washington, D.C.: How big of a question is Ben Rothlisberger's shoulder? Nothing I saw from the Steelers' game against the Browns scared me very much.

Mark Maske: Certainly it's a question. His refusal to answer any questions about his shoulder during his postgame interview with NBC led you to suspect there's something there. If he's not right, the Steelers should take the time now to get him right by the end of the season, if possible, rather than leaving him in the lineup.


Just Win Baby: Has Kiffen been fired yet? Who takes over when it happens?

Mark Maske: Not yet. The win in Kansas City might have bought him another week. But the people that you talk to in Oakland and around the league are convinced he'll be fired at some point and Rob Ryan, the defensive coordinator, will get the job. He spoke out in Al Davis's defense last week. That was telling. The other possibilities on the coaching staff are James Lofton, Greg Knapp and Tom Rathman, and the Raiders have Paul Hackett on their payroll as a scout.


Seattle: Can the Seahawks salvage their season? Can they at least beat the Rams?

Mark Maske: They can beat the Rams. I don't know that they can salvage their season. They're just so beat up at receiver, it's ridiculous.


Head Coach Death Watch!: Scott Linehan: weeks or months to go in the job?

Marvin Lewis: weeks or months to go in the job?

Lane Kiffin: weeks or get the picture.

Mark Maske: I'd give Kiffin and Linehan somewhere between days and weeks. I give Marvin Lewis months. I don't think the Bengals would fire him during the season.


Alexandria, Va.: Hi Mark,

What a difference a week makes, huh? Last week we were questioning Zorn, Campbell, the play calling, the reading of the defense, and this week, the offense is spectacular, the play calling superb, and Campbell looks like a franchise QB again...

What do you think about the Skins offense right now?

Mark Maske: It's somewhere between how it looked against the Giants and how it looked against the Saints. New Orleans was very beat up and shorthanded on defense. Still, that was a far, far better performance. It was encouraging to see Jason Campbell being given a chance to throw the ball down the field. That's what he does well.


Washington, D.C.: Just how big of a threat are the Patriots right now? Their defense looks pretty solid, and their ability to game plan week to week is remarkable.

Mark Maske: I was at Giants Stadium for the win over the Jets and that's still a very good, solid team. I look at the Patriots now as a possible 10-6 team. They can win with defense and running the ball and smarts. The question is how long Randy Moss will stay happy making two catches and having Cassel underthrow him by 10 yards when he's wide open deep.


Rockville, Md.: Maybe Vince Young isn't blowing people away with his passing, but look at what he has to work with. He did take them to the playoffs last year and was ROY the year before. Tennessee fans are just nuts for booing a still developing guy. Leinart can't even get in the lineup.

Mark Maske: The guy has won games and seems to care deeply about his performance. Being booed is part of the equation at that position. He will need to learn to deal with it.


Washington, D.C.: How short-sighted was the NFL in thinking that a game could be played at Reliant on Monday night?

By the time the league came to its senses are realized that it would not be possible, the Texans were unable to get out of Houston and the game could not be scheduled for a neutral site. Both the Ravens and Texans should get some serious compensation (i.e. draft picks or cash) for having to play 15 straight weeks (possibly more if they somehow make the playoffs).

To me, the NFL is starting to become the "Not Fair League."

Mark Maske: The unfair thing would have been playing the game in Baltimore, like when the Saints had to play a home game against the Giants in Giants Stadium. I don't find this all that unfair. Yes, it's an early bye week. But I don't find that to be so terrible under the circumstances.


Mark Maske: I'm going to run, folks. Thanks for the questions and see you here same time next Tuesday.


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