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The Chat House with Michael Wilbon

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Michael Wilbon
Washington Post Sports Columnist
Monday, November 17, 2008; 1:15 PM

Post columnist Michael Wilbon was online Monday, Nov. 17 at 1:15 p.m. ET to take your questions and comments about the Redskins-Dallas, college, football, the NBA and his latest columns.

A transcript follows.


Roanoke, Va.: Do you agree that Skin's Achilles heel is both their offensive and defensive lines?

Michael Wilbon: Hi everybody...from the comfort of my own chair in the PTI Buffalo for us today...Well, Tony is there, of course. But I'm here in the studio for probably the rest of the Monday Night season...Good to be home, actually, before setting sail on my NBA adventures...but that's for another time...The Redskins didn't look too good last night, did they? Line play? It wasn't great. But I think it's a mentality they lack, a certain toughness. Three times this season the Redskins have lost to a physically tougher opponent: Giants, Steelers, Cowboys. They were just tougher physically, running the ball when they had to...That's a mentality, to me anyway...and I think that's the one failing, often but not always, of teams that play the west coast offense.


Vienna, Va.: Michael,

One thing that impressed me about Obama is that he didn't cave into a "politically neutral" statement about how he loves both Chicago teams. Even if you love the Cubs, you got to respect the man's convictions.

Michael Wilbon: I do...


Mt. Airy, Md.: Michael -- How many more missed/blown/incorrect calls with the NFL accept from its officiating crew? It really seems to be an obvious problem this season. Not just for/against one's favorite team, but in multiple games each week. Can this be corrected or do fans and teams just have to accept it?

Michael Wilbon: I don't make "fans" a part of any of these equations. Fans aren't involved. Teams have to accept it in the immediacy of the call, but their owners can demand better of the league and the officials, who by the way, can have a bad stretch just like any team. It's been a bad year for officiating...and I don't mean a number or percentage of calls. I'm talking about highly visible and important calls. There have been more mistakes in that department, it seems to me, than I can ever remember. And that ain't good. The owners and the league need to get busy, before the fans--there's that word--faith in the zebras is shaken...


Monterey, Calif.: Ten games into the season the Redskins have been outscored by their opponents, by one point. The Cowboys have outscored their opposition by the same margin, one point. For weeks you have been calling the Dallas, overrated, mediocre, pitiful, etc. Doesn't this mean that the Skins also overrated, mediocre, pitiful, etc.?

Michael Wilbon: The Redskins weren't the favorite coming into the season to win the NFC; the Cowboys were. It was almost unanimous, though not the pick here (Saints-Giants was my NFC championship game pick, so I could have it half-right). I thought the Redskins were a 9-win team, maybe an 8-win team and they're better than I thought. Expectations always govern whether you think a team is overrated, underrated or playing to expectations. The Falcons, at 6-4, were underrated coming in. Nobody thought the Cowboys were going to be 6-4 when they were 3-0 to start the season.


Arlington, Va.: Two Part Question:

1. Did you believe at the time that Dallas was making the right move on 4th and 2 at (I believe) the 17?

2. Who do you think made that decision? Phillips, Jones, or the players?

Michael Wilbon: Yes, and the coach.


Denver, Colo.: Wilbon, what's up with the Bears? There's no way Green Bay should have blown them out this week.

Michael Wilbon: The Bears had won four straight in Lambeau Field, so I was expecting the worst...and got it. The Bears defense is way, way overrated. I hate the coordinator's approach with that defense, and the QB was gimpy at best. The Bears are probably a well-prepared team, but they looked poorly coached on game days. Their schemes, particularly on offense, seem unsophisticated and without nuance. I love the Bears but I have no faith in this particularly edition of the team. None. And I blame it on, largely, the coaching staff. Total reversal from two years ago when I loved what the coaches were doing. Hey, coaches can have bad years, too, just like players and sportswriters...


Burke, Va.: Michael,

What does a peek into your crystal ball have to say about the future of sports journalism, both print and broadcast?

Michael Wilbon: Oh, please...we're not going to have a 45-minutes discussion of that, which is what it takes...


Alexandria, Va.: Michael, did you see Polamalu's first interception yesterday? I thought for sure it hit the ground and couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the replay -- truly one of the best INTs I've ever seen. Too bad the boneheaded call at the end of the game is what got most of the attention.

Michael Wilbon: Yeah, because either way the Steelers won the game. I don't play fantasy football and I don't bet, so I don't care about the point spread. Incredible interception, yes.


Washington, D.C.: Oh Michael, you are in Phoenix for last weeks game but not Buffalo this week?? That sounds fishy ... but I guess I cant blame you!

You mentioned mentality as a reason for the Skins getting beat by tougher teams. How much of that comes from the coach vs. the players? Say what you want about Gibbs, his players were mentally tough. Are we seeing a change w/a new more laid back head coach or do you have to put it on the players to be prepared physically and mentally?

Michael Wilbon: Bill Walsh was "laid back" from appearances but his teams were as tough, physically and mentally, as any. I don't know Zorn well enough and I'm not around the team day-to-day to assess why that is. But I don't think it's a coincidence that the Redskins lost to those three teams. The Eagles, whom the Redskins defeated, are tough but unable to do certain things physically because management is too stupid to put a big, every-down, short-yardage back on that team...Dumbest thing ever to try and play in the NFC, particularly the NFC East, without a back of some size...Anyway, the Redskins don't finish drives and they don't score enough from close-in. This was a problem during the Gibbs II era, as well, if I'm not mistaken. And the Monday Night selections aren't geographical...there are budgetary considerations, as for any company in this day and time, and last week just happened to be the last of the season (though also the cheapest, since there's no room and board for me in Arizona)...


Fairfax, Va.: Michael:

Is it true that a Redskins Rally Rag can be easily converted into a crying towel?

If I ran the Skins and somebody came to me with the "Rally Rag" idea, I would have seriously considered firing them on the sport. That's an idea of majestic awfulness.

What say you?

Michael Wilbon: I like you. A lot.


Arlington, Va.: Mike, quick question: Who do you like in the MNF game tonight?

Michael Wilbon: I like the opportunity to watch my TiVo'd episodes of Boston Legal and Life on Mars tonight. In my pool I took Buffalo, but with a real low number, reflecting my lack of confidence in my pick...Not a great matchup tonight...I'll click back-and-forth but they'd better get me quick...Gotta check the NBA schedule as well.


Alexandria, Va.: Mike, do you think Herm Edwards deserves at least another year at the Chiefs? I know " o so close" doesn't cut it, but I feel like they are a good team in the making. Your thoughts?

Michael Wilbon: I haven't pay really close attention to the Chiefs, but I don't know if I'd use the word "deserve." I hope Herm gets another chance and yes, they seem competitive. But I don't know what management there expects, and if they think they should be further along. I know this: they went into the season without a franchise quarterback and hardly ever does a team go very far without one.


Washington, D.C.: What did you think of Obama's proposed solution to the college football playoff scene?

Michael Wilbon: You ever read one of my columns on this topic over the last, oh, 12 years? You ever been in the chat house before today? That's like asking me, "Mike, where did you grow up?"


Charleston, S.C.: Two Part Question -- Will the Skins be able to pull off a Playoff Wildcard Birth and will Clinton Portis be able to come back from his injury and attempt a shot at the 2,000 yard mark?

Michael Wilbon: 2,000 yards? What in the world would make you think Portis was ever going to do that on a team that plays the west coast offense? No. Absolutely not. And as far as the wild-card question, they should be able to do that...They've got the 49ers (though that's going to be tougher), Seahawks and, what, Bengals or somebody else really awful on the road? Yeah, the Redskins ought to be able to win 10...and they hold tie-breaker advantage over the Saints...But they've also got the Eagles and Giants here...will be the wire.


Miramar, Fla.: Michael: The Redskins started out the first half of the season 6-2 and are now 0-2 (losing 3 out of last 5) to start the second half of the season. They seem to have a talented offensive line when you look at the names but then you look at Dallas' D-line last night as well as the Giants offensive line and you have to wonder if we actually need to upgrade or O & D lines next year. Your thoughts?

Michael Wilbon: Most teams need to constantly upgrade their lines, both of them. So, yes. But it's not like that wasn't known going into the season.


A Tie?: Geesh, Michael, how does a tie factor into making the playoffs? It has been so long since there has been one. Pretty bad that one team can't at least get a field goal in 15 extra minutes of play.

Michael Wilbon: Go to the NFL's web site because I have no idea any longer and I'm not going to guess at it...The way the season is going now, Tampa Bay and the Falcons/Cowboys/Redskins, all with 6-4...Very tight.


Washington, D.C.: What are your thoughts on Cassell, and where do you think he ends up next year?

Michael Wilbon: Why not in New England, depending on Tom Brady's health? Teams are ALWAYS in need of quarterbacks. Teams in desperate need: Lions, Vikings, Chiefs (although Thigpen is really How about the 49ers?


Silver Spring, Md.: The Skins lack a lot of physical talent to start with on both sides of the line of scrimmage. There's no excuse that really 1 player from the draft is playing at a consistent level. They do have some good players but just not enough.

Michael Wilbon: I'd agree with that...


Bethesda, Md.: Now that you'll be home on Monday's for the rest of the season, will you be covering any Redskins games for the Post?

Michael Wilbon: Not much. My backing out of the first-line of Redskins coverage has less to do with being at Monday Night Football than it does having to travel for my NBA assignments on ABC and ESPN...That takes up 25 weekends, give or take a couple, a year...And the days of me traveling 45 weekends a year (the NFL takes up 20) are over...I'm old and getting older this week. AND I've got a 7-month old son I care more to see than Zorn, Portis and Moss...16 straight seasons of every Redskins road game won't let me approach the one-and-only Shirley Povich, but it's least for now.


Chicagoland: So, do the Bears go with Orton next year, or try to find a "franchise" QB?

Michael Wilbon: Go with Orton and try to draft the kid from Texas Tech or somebody who looks like a franchise QB...But I like Orton. He was hurt yesterday and tried to give it a go. I'd rather have him limping (I think) than Grossman running.


Delaware: If Utah and Boise State both finish the year undefeated, should both of them make it to the BCS? And if so, who do you think should they replace? A one-loss Oklahoma team (provided they beat Texas Tech this weekend), a one-loss Texas Tech, a one-loss Texas team, possibly a one-loss Alabama team or a one-loss USC team (they are still in second place in the PAC 10 to Oregon State)?

Michael Wilbon: There are five BCS bowl games, so 10 teams. So here's what we're looking at: Alabama-Florida winner, Texas Tech-Oklahoma winner, Texas, Penn State, Oregon State and USC...The teams I don't want to see jump Boise and Utah are the Big East winner and the ACC winner. Please. I'll take Boise State or Utah straight up against either of those conference winners. Don't tell me Maryland, no matter how well they play ranked teams, could beat Boise State or Utah on a neutral field. And Cincinnati is nothing special, out of the Big East.


Washington, D.C.: To me, the highlight of the weekend was rooting for the tie in the Eagles-Bengals game. It was a display of ineptitude on both sides that is rarely seen. The best part had to be at the end, when some Eagles players were celebrating the field goal going wide at the end of OT. Celebrating a tie against the Bengals?? Those guys should have been silent after such an awful game.

Michael Wilbon: Thank you very much for that. The Eagles were dreadful. Period.


Washington, D.C.: ESPN is breaking news that Mark Cuban is in trouble for insider trading. Whoopsie! This is pretty much the final nail in the Cuban-Buying-Cubs coffin, then again the first 300 nails were hammered in by MLB and Bud Selig. Hello John Canning! Awesome. (

Michael Wilbon: Why is that awesome? And are you a Cubs fan? Do you know anything about Canning or the Cubs ownership. Or are you, as I suspect, simply a yahoo?


Waldorf, Md.: Could the Skins fans please realize that even though it was a loss, was ANYONE other than the people in the locker room thinking the Skins would be in the playoff hunt in week ten?

I mean you still have 6 games left. Stop being woe is me. Its not the end of the world. Looking at the schedule in the pre-season, I was thinking they would be lucky to get 6 wins all YEAR never the less by week 10.

Michael Wilbon: Ah, a dose of perspective. Why would anybody in town (or the team's headquarters) want to have that?


Washington, D.C.: Hey Mike, it's funny how you have been always harsh on the Redskins, i.e.. the last 3-4 years. But this year, all of a sudden, you seem to be saying nice things about them. You seem to be attacking the Cowboys now. What gives?

Michael Wilbon: I've been saying for three years the Cowboys are overrated. I'm not attacking them. I like their owner tons, and their QB as well. I just think when you 0-for-the last 12 years in the playoffs, criticism is warranted. Not even Jerry Jones runs from that. He doesn't, if you read the column about the conversation I had with him Friday in Sunday's newspaper...I like the way the Redskins started the season and I'm not about to take the position they're bums because they're 6-4...They're lacking a certain toughness, I think, that puts them at a disadvantage against the Steelers and Giants...


Baltimore, Md.: Giants as the class of the NFC: Michael, the Ravens were supposed to match up pretty well against the Giants, especially on defense, but it didn't turn out that way. Baltimore gave up something like 170 rushing yards. Right now, do you see anyone in the NFC likely to stop them from getting to another Super Bowl.

And re: the "rally rags," another reason to hate them is that, to my knowledge, the word "rally" has never been associated with football. Baseball, yes (a late inning rally), but football?

Michael Wilbon: I won't even address the Redskins promotion with the towels's not worthy of talking about. As for the Ravens, they're not in the Giants class, though I think the Ravens are having a very nice season. Look, it's one game, not a season. If the Giants had to play best-of-three in the playoffs, they'd win the NFC, no question. But one game? Didn't the Giants just beat a team in last year's Super Bowl that was thought by many to be unbeatable?


Washington, D.C.: Of course we know where you stand on a playoff system in college football. I think the better question would be what do you think of Obama saying he may "throw his weight around" to get a playoff system in place. I believe it was a recent chat where you said the POTUS should have bigger things to worry about and was most likely just giving his opinion on MNF the night before the election. Now that he has said he may do something about it, what do you think?

Michael Wilbon: Well, we KNOW he has bigger things to tackle, and I KNOW his "throw my weight around" line was mostly toungue-in-cheek...But, every POTUS in modern times has had a sports jones. Eisenhower's was golf. Nixon wanted to be a sportswriter. Kennedy was about football. Johnson and Ford were hugely into college football (Ford played at Michigan)...Okay, Carter wasn't really. The Bushes are both baseball fanatics; the elder played at Yale and the younger owned the Rangers...Clinton (I can't resist this) played the field! Ha Ha! Okay, Clinton is a golfer and NBA fan. I once said with Michael Jordan in a room off the visiting locker room while he waited for President Clinton to come to Capitals Centre...When I asked Jordan why he was still in his suit and not in uniform, he said, pulling out a Cigar, "You want me to agree the President of the United States in my BVDs." This, clearly, was before he signed with Haynes...Anyway, if Obama can use the influence of the White House to get a playoff system, good. How much time could it take? How many phone calls. He can come on PTI and demand it. I'd love that.


Washington, D.C.: Is it just me, or was the Bengals-Eagles game one of the crappiest you've seen in a while? I'm an Eagles fan, but I thought the outcome was appropriate, as BOTH teams deserved to lose that debacle...

Michael Wilbon: Yes...I was rooting for the field goal to be wide just so neither would get any real satisfaction from that garbage.


El Segundo, Calif.: Michael, Isn't it time the NFL went to full time refs? You have 50 year old guys trying to keep up with world class athletes, plus they don't even know the rules. Also, it's time to go to the college system of replay review (every play is reviewed upstairs on a wide screen TV with instead of under that ridiculous hood)?

Michael Wilbon: Yes, and yes...You should visit the chat house more frequently.


Eagles players celebrating: I think they were celebrating because they though they were going to double OT. At least that's what Donovan said after the game, he actually though there was another overtime!

Michael Wilbon: Donovan was trying to make a point that he hates the rule...But if Donovan hadn't played so badly--I love him, but he was terrible yesterday--they wouldn't have needed OT in the first place.


Columbia, S.C.: Do you ever find it hard to be a college sports fan? I do -- especially right now. The University of South Carolina's state funds cut almost 20% midyear, and we give the defensive coordinator a raise. We leave the stadium lights on for the place kicker to practice. Clemson buys out Tommy Bowden for millions. I know that college sports gets money from ticket sales. But, do you think it ever crosses Saban's mind to give some of that back? Do donors think (or maybe U. Presidents ask) that those millions could build a library or pay for scholarships? I love sports. But, it's just getting sickening.

Michael Wilbon: HELLO! Boosters pay for most of this stuff, especially coaches salaries. Boosters. Alums. "Donors" as you call them. They give money for whatever reason they want. Usually the football team.


Presidents: Don't forget Reagan started out as a baseball announcer.

Michael Wilbon: Of course...I said that in my head but the words didn't make it to my fingers. Thanks.


Washington, D.C.: If you had one of the top draft picks next year would you take Tim Tebow, or is he just too big of a risk?

Michael Wilbon: Big Risk from my way of thinking. Tebow over the kid from Texas Tech, Graham Harrell? No chance. Not me. Don't get me wrong, Tebow is a fabulous college quarterback. But does what he can do now translate to playing on Sundays? I don't think so.


Delaware: This year might be the best year to have the the best case for a playoff. There is 8-10 teams that a capable to winning the National Championship. USC, Florida, Alabama, Oklahoma, Texas, Texas Tech, Boise State, Utah and Penn State.

If those nine teams had a playoff, who would win it?

Michael Wilbon: Florida or Texas Tech would be my bet. USC is pretty darned good, too...Depends on the seeding. If USC had to play Florida in the semis, but Texas Tech played Penn State...See what I'm getting at?


Washington, D.C.: Zorn and Campbell got a ton of praise during the Redskins fast start, but today seem a tad behind Bugel's run game and Blatche's defense. Are you keeping the faith in the talented young Redskins in charge of the passing game?

Michael Wilbon: I'm not a fan, so faith is for you guys...I want to see the passing attack go down the field more and be more aggressive. And I want to see more power running, in addition to what Portis does on his own...


Big East Guy Married to Utah Girl: Thanks for recognizing the weakness of our conference this year. I just hope the NCAA doesn't spitefully put the Utes against Boise in one game to avoid the potential embarrassment of a Penn State loss.

Michael Wilbon: Very nice observation...


Norfolk, Va.: Hey Mike, love your work. It seems that at the start of the year Jim Zorn was able to keep defenses off balance with his play calling. Is the league adjusting to him? And does Zorn need to adjust what he is doing?

Michael Wilbon: Yes, it's a constant cat-and-mouse game...Every coach, every sport.


Glover Park: Hi Mike,

I've always wondered this and maybe you've answered in a chat before:

What is it like having WaPo Live being aired the same time as PTI? Do you hold that against the folks at WaPo Live at all?

Michael Wilbon: Oh, there's a sports show on opposite me and Tony?


College Park, Md.: I wanted to thank you for coming out to UMD last week. The discussion on sports, race, and the media was very interesting. This was the first time I've heard Len Elmore speak at length outside of broadcasting and wow, he sure is impressive. I've always enjoyed his basketball analysis, but hearing his knowledge and intellect on many other matters was entirely captivating. I hope you could pass along my thanks Len and the rest of the panel for engaging in this discussion. These web chats are fun, but it's talks like that symposium and Bob Costas' HBO special where real discussion of important issues can take place.

Michael Wilbon: Thanks for expressing that...and yes, Len Elmore is an impressive man on many, many fronts. The panel was a fun group. You can probably tell we're pretty much all friends. I should thank Gary Williams for interrupting his insane schedule to find the time to be there, the University of Maryland for hosting and organizing it, and Maury Povich, son of the late and great Shirley Povich, one of my heroes, for inviting me to participate. It was an honor.


Baltimore, Md.: Congrats on the 'Cats, sorry about the Bears. Are the Chargers dangerously close to becoming the Phoenix Suns/Dallas Mavericks of the NFL?

Michael Wilbon: The Chargers are one of those teams I would never trust...not from the beginning of the season. The comparison to the Mavericks seems apt...Very smart...I don't put the Suns in that company, just yet. They're 8-3 right now with Shaq feeling spry and throwing people to the floor (ejected last night, though I don't think it was was scary because the Pistons player hit the floor so hard)...But the Chargers, to me, are done.


Trenton, N.J.: Do you agree with Troy Palumalu calling the NFL a pansy league due to the abundance of fines being assessed throughout the league? I certainly do.

Michael Wilbon: Yes...Routine tackles of the QB are frequently penalized now. That's awful. I understand the league wanting to keep its marquee players healthy and participating each week. But football isn't golf. If you can't tackle the QB, the essence of the game changes. I understand that the NFL has a real narrow line to walk here, and I don't think the league is doing it very well right now.


Washington, D.C.: T Boone Pickens is claiming that he is broke after giving hundreds of millions to the Oklahoma State athletic program and largely neglecting the remainder of the education facilities; meanwhile Wal-Mart thrives as the Walton Family and their heirs are a large part of the University of Arkansas' $600+ million annual endowment.

Who says there is no poetic justice in the world?

Michael Wilbon: Pickens claims he is broke? This would be news to me.


Michael Wilbon: Okay, gotta run...Tony is clamoring for PTI prep time from his bus in Buffalo and I'd better run along...Good chatting, peeps...See you next Monday, same time, same channel...Oh, shout of to the 'Cats for hanging an 8th loss on Michigan for the first time in school history...I wouldn't gloat if Michigan wasn't a worthy opponent and a great school...See, I can be kind to Michigan. MW


Reno, Nev.: The NCAA just announced the brackets for its 32-team Division III football tournament, with games being played every weekend between now and the Stagg Bowl on December 20. So, the NCAA doesn't have any problems with non-scholarship athletes in D3 playing up to 5 extra games, or with the playoff extending well into the finals period at pretty much every school in the country. Do you think BCS apologists could stop citing "too many games" and "finals" as a reason not to have a playoff?

Michael Wilbon: I really like you...Thanks for pointing that out.


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