The Chat House with Michael Wilbon

Michael Wilbon
Washington Post Sports Columnist
Monday, January 5, 2009; 1:15 PM

Welcome to the first The Chat House of 2009, where Post columnist Michael Wilbon was online Monday, Jan. 5 at 1:15 p.m. ET to take your questions about the NFL playoffs, why he gave up New Year's Day bowl games and breakfast with Norman Chad.

A transcript follows.

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Bowl Games: I could not agree more with your Saturday column about the New Year's Day bowls. The only one I watched was the Rose Bowl, I used to watch them all.

I've never been for a playoff, but there's no going back to the old days and with what they've done now to the bowl schedule a playoff is the only answer. Eight or 16 teams - I don't care. But once a playoff is in the Bowls will die (NIT anyone) and that will be a shame. But the end comes for all things. It is now the Bowls time. Old Habit Was Kicked on New Year's Day (Post, Jan. 3)

Michael Wilbon: Happy New Year everybody!!! Welcome back after our week off. I'm in Arizona soaking up some sun in what has become a holiday ritual of sorts...We'll chat about mostly football today, college and NFL...Thanks for the feedback on my column from New Year's Day (actually, the day after)...I don't think the bowls are dead. I think the whole thing has to be reconfigured...The teams that don't make the playoff would be in bowl games, still...And you would need seven bowl games (for example, Rose, Sugar, Orange, Fiesta, Cotton, Outback, Gator) to stage the playoff games. The conference affiliation would be dead for the most part, but not the bowl games themselves...Anyway, no, resolution on the field doesn't work in this day and time. That's over. The Orange Bowl ratings were down 22 percent and I'm surprised it wasn't more...


Ellicott City, Md.: Has Ed Reed cemented his place in the Hall of Fame yet, or will it take another year or two? (We know Ray Lewis is already there, right?)

Michael Wilbon: Ed Reed's been on my mind, too. The guy is a force of nature. He's like Butkus and Ronnie Lott and Jack Lambert...He's the most disruptive defensive back of his generation...maybe going all the way back to Lott. I think Reed is in. A trip to the Super Bowl, win or lose, would cement it but if I was still voting I'd put a check by his name on the ballot. Because of Lewis and Reed the Ravens have a chance right now. They can beat Tennessee. They can beat the Steelers. They can beat the Chargers. I believe that...even though Baltimore has a mediocre offense (at best) I think a defense that dominant can win. We saw it in 2000...Trent Dilfer, the QB on that Super Bowl team, was a veteran and Flacco, of course, is a rookie and rooks are always at a disadvantage...Having said that, I love the way the Ravens play...


Arlington, Va.: For a league supposedly based on parity, why did we have an undefeated team last year and an oh-for-sixteen (unfeated??) team this year? Even before the salary cap was instated, there were two (I think) such cases ever. And now there are two in a row? What's up with that?

Michael Wilbon: I think the Lions are a total fluke. Total. They're bad, but not as bad as some other recent teams, in my opinion. Look what else happened this season...The Patriots won 11 and didn't get in. The Bears and Bucs went 9-7 and didn't get in. San Diego went 8-8 and did and now looks like a viable Super Bowl team...I think the evidence on the side of parity is much greater...


New Orleans: Tough way for Tony Dungy to end his career (most likely). There will always be a constant debate regarding overtime rules in the NFL. Leave it the way it is, change it to college rules, or play a fifth quarter that is not sudden death. What is your opinion?

Michael Wilbon: I hope you guys got the answer on the Barkley situation, which just jumped off my screen...Can somebody let me know whether it was published? As for Dungy, do you have more info than others? Do you know he's ending his coaching career, because I don't. As for OT, it needs to be more like the college game, in that each team needs to have at least one shot.


Bowl Games as Playoffs: But once the Orange Bowl is "only" the semi-final of the playoffs it stops being the "Orange Bowl." It wouldn't take the NCAA long to figure out it doesn't need that committee in Miami with the orange colored jackets.

Michael Wilbon: It's only the semifinal, or less, three of four years now when the BCS title game is either in the Rose, Fiesta or what's the difference, exactly?


New Orleans: Do you think a head coach should be fired if he interviews for another posistion? Such as in the case involving Boston College coach Jeff Jagodzinski and the Jets.

Michael Wilbon: I guess an employer always has that right, but it seems shortsighted to me. If the NFL team doesn't hire your coach you still get the buzz from it...and what would seem to me to be a nice little recruiting pitch...


Washington , DC: I could not agree with any column more than than I agreed with Saturday's column on the fiasco the Bowl season has become. Even the observation about the Cotton Bowl becoming just another Bowl when it used to be the place to watch the Southwest Conference champ, usually a top 5 team. A 3 week quarter/semi/final cycle, starting perhaps Christmas or Boxing Day, would be fair. That would make 7 prime bowls, instead of having one of the BCS bowls inevitably being "The Dogs of the Big Conferences" game, to go with "The Mismatch Bowl." If I had a lesser bowl, I'd much rather have a BCS quarterfinal than the 7th ACC team with 6 wins v. the 3d WAC team.

Michael Wilbon: Thanks for the comment and feedback...


Washington, D.C.: If the AP voters have any guts, shouldn't Utah be No. 1? They beat a number of ranked teams and thumped Alabama. If this were the pre-BCS days (see BYU), Utah would probably be ranked No. 1 as the only undefeated team. We all rightly complain about the BCS so why should the pollsters rubber stamp the "BCS Champion" like sheep?

Michael Wilbon: If I still voted I wonder what I'd do...I love the fact that Utah beat an Alabama team that was No. 1 in the BCS poll. Love it. Boise and now Utah have elbowed their way into the national college football discussion, and boy don't the Big Dogs hate that!


Washington: Arlington is confusing parity with mediocrity. Parity does not mean each team has a record between 7-9 and 9-7. Parity is a result of a salary cap which gives each team the opportunity to build a championship caliber roster, and to turn around a crappy program as quickly as within one season. Unless your owner is Al Davis or that guy in Cincinnati. See Dolphins, Miami (2008). And see South, NFC the last few seasons.

Baseball, however, lacks parity. Not coincidentally, it lacks a salary cap. Too many teams are eliminated before the season starts and too few teams can compete with the Yankees and Red Sox for top dollar free agents.

Michael Wilbon: Thank you much.


LeBron James: Did I travel or not? More importantly, did my explanation of the "crab dribble" hurt or help my case with refs in the future?

Michael Wilbon: I have no idea what a crab dribble is, but I like LeBron's creativity.


Silver Spring, Md.: Mike, now that MNF is over, do you know if/where Tony will end up on the radio? Can't wait to hear more of his kvetching...

Also, can I just give a negative shout-out to Snyder's monopoly of sports radio? For the entire football season it became impossible to simply get an overview of what happened over the weekend in football, let alone in other sports, when EVERY SHOW, ALL DAY is Skins all the time...

Michael Wilbon: Well now, there's no monopoly or off-limit topic here, so there we go. And Tony's not signed on anywhere yet to do radio, as far as I know...


Arlington, VA: Mike: Do you have any comment on your friend Charles Barkley and his recent arrest?

Michael Wilbon: I guess my previous answer didn't get published, so we'll go one more time...Driving while intoxicated isn't tolerable...It's just too dangerous. Somebody could be hurt...fatally. I'm glad Charles wasn't hurt, and I'm glad nobody else was. I also wish I'd stayed with him that night (I left the group to return home early on Dec. 30) because I think I could have gotten him to flip me the keys as he's done on several previous occasions, since I rarely have even a single drink. I hope Charles can turn this, drinking & driving, into a crusade against doing it. A man of his stature and substance can. I don't know of any other instances where he's been charged with this, and I hope it's the one and only time. He's a dear, dear friend to me and my family and I think this is a once-in-a-lifetime lesson.


Cairo, Egypt: How long do you think before Dan Snyder replaces Jim Zorn with Mike Shanahan? I hope he doesn't, but given Mr. Snyder's track record, I wouldn't put it past him.

Michael Wilbon: Why would Shanahan come to the Redskins? For what? I don't see that at all.


Falls Church, Va.: Were you surprised at all by Mangini's firing? OK, the Jets didn't make the playoffs, but they did make a lot of improvements this year. Or was it always understood that Mangini was betting his job on the decision to replace Pennington with Favre?

Michael Wilbon: I wasn't surprised because it was reported all week leading up to the finale that if the Jets didn't make the playoffs Mangini would be fired...It's New York. Why would I be surprised? The Jets spent a lot of money in the off-season, and not just on Favre...They expected to make the playoffs and didn't. Shanahan was the only real surprise, given his track record and two Super Bowls. Mangini had made the playoffs once in four years. No surprise there, sorry...


Rockville, Md.: Baseball lacks parity?? How do you explain the White Sox, Cardinals, Phillies and Marlins winning the World Series in recent years? And the Tigers and Rays making it that far?

Michael Wilbon: Thank you...


Washington, D.C.: I'm one of the people who watched the Orange Bowl, but then I went to Virginia Tech. I was also surprised that the game drew as many viewers as it did. There must be some college football fans who will watch whatever game is on, which is what the BCS folks are banking on. I'm curious how small the numbers would have been if, as it used to be, the Sugar Bowl was held at the same time.

Do you think Texas will manhandle Ohio State as badly as Southern Cal did to Penn State?

Michael Wilbon: I think it will be a close, close game that goes to the final minute. How about that? And I doubt I'll watch any of it...It's around the bend, literally, and I'm not even going. And I LOVE the Fiesta Bowl...But the game comes too late into January when I'm back into pro football and the NBA. The window on college football has closed for me...and I suspect others as well, from the feedback I've gotten.


Warrenton, Va.: Despite the unfortunate result, how fun was it to see hockey at Wrigley?

Michael Wilbon: It was okay. Just okay. The visuals weren't much. The game should have been played at Soldier Field, which I'd been saying for months. Wrigley is too circular for there to have been great visuals, which is the only reason to play the game other than the fun of being outdooors. They made the effort, but didn't get the right venue when it's right there to be had.


Fumble! : Why would a TV network or whoever it was hire on Matt Millen as a studio talking head. I don't follow the Detroit Lions at all, but its apparent he had no idea what he was doing for quite some time and we're to expect his football analysis is important to listen to?

Michael Wilbon: Of course, you make a perfectly valid point. BUT, Matt Millen was absolutely great before he went to Detroit. He was one of the best TV analysts. I wondered if the networks would think he was tainted now that he was such a huge failure in Detroit. Apparently not, since he's going to NBC. They'll have, what, 30 people on the set over there pretty soon? I expect Millen to be great on TV again, but I also wonder if I'm going to tune him out because of the Detroit situation. I hope not. I've liked and respected Matt for my entire career as a sportswriter...I would never make the case that he's unsuited to analyze football...I just couldn't do that.


Washington, D.C.: I was really sad to hear that NBC made the stupid decision to get rid of George Michael and my favorite show Redskins Report (with you of course). I have watched every week for as long as I can remember. 1) What are they thinking? 2) Any chance you guys will move the show to another network? There are a LOT of us that would happily tune in wherever you move.

Michael Wilbon: I should indeed address the end of both "Redskins Report" and "Full Court Press" which aired on WRC at 7 p.m. on Saturdays for years and years...First, and I know I speak for Sonny, Riggo, Kornheiser and DuPree, I thank George Michael for giving us the chance to be part of something we loved so much, that was so well received, and that stayed on the air so long. WRC canceled both shows and I don't really know why because I'm not part of those discussions. I'm incredible fortunate to have been a part of both shows, Redskins Report since 1995 and Full Court Press since January of 1997. FCP, few know, was Sonny's idea. He conceived it sitting on the set one night and George turned to him and said, "That's a great idea, Sonny...You have to be on." Sonny said no, of course, but it was his idea and few people know as much about pro basketball as Sonny J. He could have done the show and would have been great at it...Anyway, we had a blast and hate to see the shows go, but this is media life in a new economy...I have no idea if either show will resurface elsewhere on the local dial...If they don't, thanks for putting up with us. And thanks to George Michael, who should resurface because he's an icon here. He's THE BEST HERE! There's nobody better than George, and his staff, starting with our producer, Jeff Greenberg, who did both shows and put up with our whining and scheduling difficulties...A million thanks to them both.


DC: Why was the NFL threatening to blackout the games in Minnesota and Miami if they didn't sell out? I guess Roger Goodell doesn't care if we are in the worst economy in a while and people are on the struggle.

Michael Wilbon: These are rules that were worked out long ago and there may be government involvement in them; I'm not sure. But it wasn't as simple as the NFL saying, "We're lifting the blackout." I don't think so anyway, but this will need some more reporting on my part. Miami sold out early. It was Arizona and Minnesota that struggled.


Bowling for Dollars: As someone who didn't watch any bowl games this year, I totally understood your column about New Year's Day games. Do you think the sponsorships have also cheapened things and made the games seem less relevant? I mean, who can get worked up about the Meineke Car Care Bowl?

Michael Wilbon: I don't think that has much to do with it. I think we accept sponsorship in these times; look at NASCAR. I just think the games seem like exhibitions unless they lead to a final conclusion.


Bethesda, Md.: Did writing the game story for Cards/Falcons on Saturday for the Washington Post instead of your usual column make you long for your days as a beat writer?!

Michael Wilbon: Uhhhhh, no! And I did write a column. Look again. I wrote both the game story and the column. And no, I have NEVER longed for being a beat writer again. Not a single day. It's too hard.

_______________________ Game Story: Warner, James Lead Cardinals to Win

Column: Not the Same Old Cardinals


New Orleans: Why don't you vote for Hall of Fame, NFL MVP balloting, etc. anymore?

Michael Wilbon: The Washington Post adopted a policy that its full-time reporters/columnists not vote as a representatives of the organization anymore and I abide by that. But, because of my ABC/ESPN basketball duties I DO vote, as a representative for that employer, for the NBA regular-season awards. I long ago had stopped voting for Heisman (20 years, or close to it) and AP football and basketball. The Pro Football Hall of Fame was the last thing I did (1997-2006) and I would have had to stop anyway, seeing as I'm now on NBA assignment on Super Bowl Sunday for ABC and no longer at the Super Bowl beyond Friday...Voting is Saturday morning...I also don't see the volume of pro football games I used to see...I don't go in as many locker rooms. That time now is split between pro football and pro basketball...with more golf thrown in the mix...


Detroit: I don't think Matt Millen's performance off camera matters. Analyzing the game on TV is not remotely the same as coaching or managing an NFL team. Would Al Michaels would be a good coach? Besides, there are plenty of people who give advice on things they may not have been successful at. There are plenty of divorced marriage counselors I'm sure.

Michael Wilbon: Good point. Thank you.


Silver Spring, Md.: No George Michael on TV anywhere in D.C.?

How is this possible?

Michael Wilbon: Because the people who run local TV in a great many markets don't make the brightest decisions. I usually don't understand what in the world they're doing. If you have George


Reston, VA: Any chance Full Court Press appears on another station this spring?

Michael Wilbon: Not that I know of...And, I was answering the previous question and was in mid-sentence when it cut off (something is wrong with my keyboard)...if you have George Michael you have ratings. What has Channel 4 done? Save money? Maybe. I don't know. I guess that's the mission. It is a business. But if you have George, Vance, Doreen, Arch...leave it alone. It's a winner...But I don't know jack about business. I do know about content and appeal and they had it for years and years and years.


Ravens Fan: Yes the BCS system stinks. And a bunch of NFL coaches got canned, but there were 4 NFL playoff football games played this weekend. How about some love for the winners?

Michael Wilbon: The Eagles and Ravens looked great...The Chargers put forth a mighty effort to beat the Colts and Peyton Manning. The Cardinals have a punchers' chance to beat Carolina on the road...I like the Eagles to beat the Giants and I think the Ravens can beat Tennessee...I can't wait for this weekend. It's one of the best in sports all year...I don't get the Chargers...They almost refuse to put forth maximum effort until they're tied to the tracks. Why? I hate teams like that, who almost withhold maximum effort until there's some peril. That said, the Chargers are awfully talented and can beat anybody, though I don't think they'll beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh.


Rockville, Md: RE your Ed Reed comment. I couldn't help but think that Sean Taylor could have become the same type of player Ed Reed is. Only, Sean Taylor is bigger and faster. Would have been awesome.

P.S. what do you think of Norm Chad's shots at you this morning? I know you have a good sense of humor so you probably enjoyed the comments as much as we did. From Norman's Column: "I've never been to Phoenix, Tucson, Mesa, Scottsdale, Tempe, Sedona or Flagstaff, nor even met anyone -- other than Michael Wilbon, who has failed to invite me to dinner in any of his homes -- claiming to reside in any of those towns."

Michael Wilbon: Is that in Norman's column today? I invite Norman (okay, we invite each other) to Uncle Bill's Pancake House in Manhattan Beach, Ca. Okay, Norman introduced me to the spot. You think he's leaving the beach to come to Arizona for dinner with me? Never. But I thank him for Uncle Bill's. It's probably why I'm diabetic!!! Norman, we kid because we love.


Pittsburgh: Fantastic column on New Year's Day bowl game, Mike. You nailed it. But ... we do have NCAA basketball to look forward to -- at least a champion will be crowned via the tournament. What are you most looking forward to this year as far as college basketball? And do you think the Big East will get 9, perhaps 10, tournament bids??

Michael Wilbon: Actually, I'm already tired of the Big East and the notion it might get 10 spots in the tournament or whatever. To me, this is the college football equivalent of the SEC saying the Moutain West doesn't deserve a BCS spot...Ooops...I don't know that I have any story ideas in mind for what I want to see...I kind of sign in on the college hoops season tonight. I haven't watched a single game yet, but I will starting tonight and I'll be a basketball-a-holic (both NBA and NCAA) from now until each season ends.


New York, NY: Thank you for your words about Michael. I grew up watching George Michael and Redskin report. I now live in NYC and see his influence here, as his former backup man and protege, Scott Clark, is sports anchor for ABC here.

He's gone because he's good old school. They wanted him to cut back and he said if anyone goes, he goes. Len Diebert, the former WMAL news anchor, who I interned for as a college student, was the same way and left the same way as Michael.

They're a dying breed in this age of corporate-owned media where those who treat people above profit get pushed out - whether they're a local icon or not.

Michael Wilbon: Thanks.


DC: Two playoff questions:

Is Ed Reed the best player in the NFL right now?

Are you rooting for Norv a little bit -- even if only on a personal level?

I can think of no better sign of Snyder's failure than for Norv (the coach he fired in the middle of the season, with the playoffs still in sight) to make a Super Bowl. Sorry, I didn't mean to make this about the Redskins.

Michael Wilbon: We're not going to make this about the Redskins. Ed Reed is the best defensive back since Ronnie Lott. I believe that, with all due respect to Darrell Green, a Hall of Famer. And I'd love to see Norv Turner win; a better guy would be hard to find. But I hate that his team plays sometimes. I can't stand that about any team, any sport. Play every week. Anything else should be unacceptable.


Rockville, Md.: You have to admit, Giants-Eagles in the playoffs is going to be one heck of a game. Thoughts?

Michael Wilbon: I hope it's going to be a great game because I'm going to cover it and write a column Sunday...Can't wait to see it...Okay, gotta run and do the first PTI of the New Year...See you next week...Thanks for chatting. MW


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