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The Chat House With Michael Wilbon

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Michael Wilbon
Washington Post Sports Columnist
Monday, September 21, 2009; 1:15 PM

Welcome to another edition of The Chat House, where Post columnist Michael Wilbon will be online Mon., Sep. 21 at 1:15 p.m. ET to discuss the NFL, Serena Williams' Flushing faux paus, World Wide Wilbon (which is Not Just Another Sorry, No-Account Sports Blog) the latest sports news, his columns and anything else on your mind.


Colonial Beach, Va.: Who does the play calling for the Redskins? They should be fired. Who designs the red zone plays? They should be fired.

Michael Wilbon: Good afternoon everybody...well, it's still morning in Arizona where I am but nevertheless ... Ahhhh, good, honest anger over the Redskins. We'll start with some venting, and I know from talking to enough people back at home last night and this morning that there are hundreds of thousands of you. The Redskins offense is about as bad as there is in the NFL today. I don't know what specific plays you object to, but what I found eyebrow raising was Jim Zorn late in the game going for it on fourth-and-one instead of kicking the field goal. Goodness, I know coaches have to show some confidence in their players ... I get what Zorn was trying to do, but it easily could have cost the Redskins the game ... I watched intently yesterday trying to figure out what it is ... No one thing seems glaringly inadequate, yet the sum is so, so weak. It's so puny, the offense. The receivers made some nice catches, especially the one Randle-El made over the shoulder and leaping ... Campbell made some nice throws. Cooley made some nice catches. Portis wasn't great but he was okay ... Yet, when taken it total it stinks. Play-calling is part of the problem. But it's not the worst; it's not as bad as, say, the Bears play calling. The Redskins are very, very lucky the defense was lights out and the opponent is probably one of the three worst teams in the league ... Same scenario next week in Detroit, but being on the road throws another variable in there that the offense might not be able to overcome.


L'Enfant, Washington, D.C.: Wilbon - I know it's early, but is it fair to say that the Redskins' 2008 Draft is the worst ever? With Randy Thomas going down for the season yesterday, it's seems like just another example of how the Redskins have wasted the opportunity to get deep on the offensive line.

Michael Wilbon: Uh, yes. When they kept flirting with trading more draft choices for Jay Cutler my response was they should draft some linemen. The Redskins needed to fortify that line during the off-season, and getting my man Derrick Dockery back from Buffalo did help in that regard. And let me say I do love Arakpo. But there was a need along the line and if the Redskins needed to make a deal to get more draft choices (imagine that!) then they should have done it to fortify the line.


re: Romo: First, kudos to my Giants for spoiling the Cowboys' party. They certainly surprised the heck out of me by pulling out a win.

With that said, can the rest of the sportswriting community finally admit that Tony Romo is one of, if not the, most over-rated quarterbacks playing right now?

With the Giants' inability to score TDs inside the redzone, if Romo didn't choke in big games, the Cowboys would have won.

Michael Wilbon: Uh, read this sportswriter over the last four years and get back to me...


Huntersville, N.C.: From Boswell's WaPo article today-

"One of the critical ways to measure an NFL quarterback is his percentage of touchdown passes. In all eras, from Sammy Baugh (6.2 percent of his passes were touchdowns) to the present, the great passers know how to finish a drive. A typical touchdown percentage for a star is between 4.5 percent and 6 percent. Below 4 percent is poor. Zorn himself, as well as ex-Redskins coach Steve Spurrier, were only at 3.5 percent. Out of all the 219 passers in NFL history who have thrown at least 900 passes, Campbell ranks in a five-way tie for 201st at 3.1 percent. Only 14 quarterbacks, all nonentities, rank lower!"

How is this Jim Zorn's fault and could Bill Cowher change it? How about a Hall of Fame Coach like Joe Gibbs or an offensive genius like say Al Saunders? Thomas Boswell: Expect the Expected (Washington Post, Sep. 21)

Michael Wilbon: Very nice use of statistics ... But didn't Gibbs coach him already? Bill Cower, if he'd wanted to be the coach, would have been the coach already. This is in part about coaching, and in part about the entire franchise and the constant changes made that undermine the development of franchise players. The whole culture of upheaval contribute not just to the issues Campbell is having, but other players, like Lavar Arrington, who had five or six coordinators in five or six years. It's called dysfunction.


Austin, Texas: Good Monday to you, Wilbon. At what point does Virginia Tech have to do something with the coaching staff on the offensive side of the ball? Assuming that the talent is roughly equivalent (and if you go by the annual recruiting ratings, it is), the only variable that accounts for consistently awful performance is coaching.

It's frustrating to see championship caliber defenses rendered irrelevant because of inept offenses.

Michael Wilbon: I'm totally with you on this, though it's a tough remedy. Look, that's a very, very good program Frank Beamer has built at Virginia Tech. It's a top 20 program every single year...But it's not top five because the Hokies cannot beat the top five-top 10 teams. They beat up on the opponents they should and lose to the ones they don't measure up to. Maryland had this problem for awhile when they could beat everybody except Penn State and Clemson...It's not a given that teams get to be top five. But Va Tech in November isn't a serious threat to win the national championship because it can't win those necessary games. Now, I'm not going to rip a program or fire coaches for that ... The school might, if its top dawgs think a national championship is the bottom line. I guess if you want to say "win it all" or be fired it's okay for you...I think it's a little extreme, although we agree there's separation between Va. Tech and the programs it aspires to be.


Balitmore, Md.: Hi Mike, Everyone at my house loves your work -- thanks!

With the internet giving us all access to the universe of sportswriters, are there any that you would recommend as "must reads" to a standard sports junkie? I am thinking of those like you and Boswell who write about sports but always seem to transcend the topic at hand.

Michael Wilbon: First, thank you. Second, reading is like everything else that's subjective in that it depends on your tastes and interests. Take a look at and look at the top ten list and links list of stories that interest you and I think that will let you identify the writers you'll find consistently enjoyable. It might run more along regional lines, or topical areas, or just the style of writers ... There's a lot to choose from out there ... My list depends largely on topic and what expertise writers bring to bear on that subject matter ... Could be Peter King of SI on pro football, or Bob Ryan and Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe on all things New England, or J.A. Adande of or Mark Heisler of the L.A. Times on the NBA ... And there are all kinds of websites now, like that have people who are right on the money with analysis and discussion.


New York, N.Y.: Hey Michael, let me ask your opinion on a question I've been curious about:

In New York, I've always heard that the Yankees command a huge TV audience. This gives them a lot of money they can use to go off and buy free agents, which allows them to be a contender for year to year.

Why doesn't this same line of reasoning apply to the Knicks? I'd think the basketball following in New York would be at least as much as baseball.

Thanks very much.

Michael Wilbon: Baseball doesn't have a salary cap. The NBA does. Oh, and from the previous question don't let me forget my friend Sam Smith, formerly of the Chicago Tribune, who now writes the same great pro basketball column he always has; it just appears on


Albuquerque, N.M.: With all the Redskins line woes, Why didn't they go after Derrick Dockery's teammate from Buffalo? And now that Thomas is out, is he still available?

Michael Wilbon: Knock knock ... Dock is back with the Redskins ...


Fredericksburg, Va.: I was pleasantly surprised to finally see the no-huddle. That's when they started to look like an NFL offense. Having waited so long to run an offense, Zorn seems reluctant to give up any control. I think he's really tight and his team plays tight. How about him trying to call time late - with about 20 sec on the play clock. Danny Smith had to physically restrain him. He seems overwhelmed.

Michael Wilbon: any criticism you offer up right now is going to seem valid because they look so inept offensively. Yeah, Zorn could be overwhelmed...I want to see what happens these next few weeks against inferior opponents like the Lions, Bucs and Chiefs.


Brady blues: Did Tom Brady and the Pats just have a bad day, or are there genuine troubles that may make this year's team less successful than last year?

I had actually thought in the 16-0 season, a loss to the Giants in that final season game would have resulted in the Pats retooling, then winning the Super Bowl. Maybe an early loss isn't such a bad thing?

Michael Wilbon: Maybe a great many of you who slurp the Patriots are just as guilty as those who think Tony Romo is God's great gift to quarterbacking. The Patriots, as I mentioned at length a couple of weeks ago, have fewer than half the defensive players they had in 2004 when they last won it all and probably about half the defensive players they had on the 2007 16-0 team. The running game is average at best. Brady is 32 years old coming off serious knee surgery and teams have a better idea of how to attack him. Coaches like Rex Ryan aren't going to treat him like he wears a tux; people aren't afraid now of hitting him in the mouth, which is what I suggested two years ago which offended so many people ... Tom Brady and the Patriots were -- and I do mean were -- absolutely great, damn near flawless at one point. But I don't think we're going to see that this year. They should be 0-2, could bounce back to go 10-6 or 11-5. I picked them to win their division, but nothing more than that. And now, I have my doubts about their ability to even do that. This Sunday's home game against young, confident Atlanta is a biggie.


Washington, D.C.: The two following things from yesterday's game disturb me:

1) Danny Smith having to chase Zorn down and physically prevent him from calling a timeout in the 4th quarter, and

2) seeing Jim Zorn clearly mouth the words "Half Back Pass" right before Portis threw a (surprise) half back pass.

Should a head coach need his special teams coach to keep him from making bonehead calls? Shouldn't a head coach NOT mouth the play he is calling as he's calling it for all to see? Ugh.

Michael Wilbon: I'll just let some of you rant, as long as it's clean!


Washington, D.C.: Did you notice that Zorn clearly said the words "half back pass" before Portis was charged with doing just that? Any chance the Rams noticed that? I mean, code words maybe!?

Michael Wilbon: Here we go!


Reston, Va.: Mike, haven't we read this book before with the Redskins? Should Dan Snyder be writing the book, editing the book or just publishing the book? Darn it, I hate this book! New author please!

Michael Wilbon: I think Dan Snyder owns all the means to publish, and has the option for the rest of his natural life ... Get used to the book.


Arlington, Va.: How did the Redskins end up with so many cupcakes in their schedule? I mean really awful teams. I see they do have to play the likes of the Saints later in the season but this first part of the year is just full of patsies.

Michael Wilbon: The schedule is 90 percent set by formula. Teams play other entire divisions in that division) on a rotating basis. It's random. So six division games, eight by playing the prescribed rotating divisions (one AFC, one NFC), and two conference games based on where you finished the previous year ... Problem is, if you got Atlanta last year, in 2008, you thought you were getting a patsy and didn't. Pro football changes in that regard faster than any of the other professional sports.


Cleveland Park, Washington, D.C.: Bottom line, is Jim Zorn in over his head? Wouldn't be the first time someone got thrown to the wolves too soon in the NFL.

Michael Wilbon: No ... and some guys sink (Rod Marinelli) and other guys swim (Andy Reid). Suppose the Redskins beat the stinky teams and go 5-1 before facing Philly?


Laurel, Md.: Mike, here is a question that will probably rankle some feathers but I have been trying to get an answer from other national columnist with no success: Why is it when a black quarterback is deemed unsuccessful, or mediocre, some fans question his intelligence?

Last week there were comments about Campbell's intelligence and whether he had the "mental" acumen to play the position. Unless the person making the statement has a copy of the playbook and is familiar with what the player knows, or doesn't know, he is clueless about the players knowledge, of lack thereof.

I am actually a Vikings fan and notice this same type of language about their backup qb, Tarvaris Jackson. Why can't the black qb's just be intelligent qb's but mediocre players? Of all the white qb busts throughout history, I don't recall their intelligence being questioned. Shuler (game moving too fast), Leaf (immature), Leinhart (immature, questionable arm strength), Alex Smith (San Francisco), Charlie Frye (Cleveland), Charlie Whitehurst (San Diego), Brodie Croyle (Kansas City) are all qb's taken over the past few years (Shuler over 10) that didn't pan out, but I don't recall their intelligence ever being questioned. Thanks.

Michael Wilbon: There are a lot of bigots out there who can't hide or don't even realize their long held personal prejudices that they won't 'fess up to or would argue long and hard they don't even have. That's the only reason. We do with more than football in America. The same people who argue a black QBs lack of success is related to his intelligence will tell you a white kid cannot play basketball...Both come from ignorance we buy into as a culture, and we're allowed by our peers or reinforcement in media and other messages to feel okay about those presumptions ... And they don't just pertain to sports; those presumptions are everwhere. I still get "Did you play sports?" as if I couldn't have simply gone to school to study journalism ... not that I wouldn't love to have played professionally in anything. It's the presumption (black guy, writes/talks about sports ... must have been an ex-jock). It doesn't bother me, but I know where the presumption comes from. When it happens when I'm with Charles Barkley, he often steps in and says something like, "Hell, he went to school for this!" And you wonder why Donovan McNabb wants to pass and not be perceived as a runner who can't manage a football game? Please. I know exactly where he's coming from and knew it 10 years ago when he first gave voice to this concern, and all the anger it causes that nobody knows ...


Ugh-land: Mike - just for the heck of it, get out the Kreskin hat... What chance to you think that Jim Zorn has of staying a head coach through the Eagles, @Falcons, Broncos, @Cowboys, @Eagles, Saints stretch? If he's even the coach when they get to that first Eagles game.

Michael Wilbon: He'll be the coach when the season ends, however that is.


Pokes: What do you think of the new Cowboys' stadium? Will anyone one else try to top it?

Michael Wilbon: I wouldn't try to assess a stadium until I see it in person, which I haven't since it was in the middle stages of construction ... But I must say I'm more excited to see the cage dancing than anything ... And I do think it's too big and the Cowboys will have trouble avoiding black outs in the future. Dallas ain't New York. Anything more than 70,000 and the Cowboys will have trouble if they're not winning big.


Los Angeles: Free Jason Campbell!

I agree with Phil Simms. Jason Campbell seems to have every tool you need, both physical and mental. Not only that, but watching him play this year, he is also doing everything that's asked of him and doing it well. Granted, if D. Thomas and Sellers make those catches, we're not talking about this, but ... especially after that slap-in-the-quarterback's-face sequence that ended with the Portis HB option pass, it looks to me like Zorn still doesn't trust JC when it counts. And here's some direct evidence from Barry Svlruga's piece in the Post today about that 4th and inches at the end...

"Campbell lined up and saw the Rams loaded to the left side. The play was to Portis just that way. But deep in the red zone, Zorn doesn't want Campbell changing plays, lest a communication problem cause a costly turnover.

So they ran Portis, to the left side. The Rams crushed him, a two-yard loss."

What?! JC can't check out of a covered play?

My question: Will we ever at least see Jason in charge and really running the show before the team gets blown up and starts rebuilding again?

I really would like to see it. Free Jason Campbell! Broken Record: Redskins Near Goal Line, Then Bog Down (Washington Post, Sep. 21)

Michael Wilbon: I usually don't print rants this long, but it's a smart one...It doesn't need and isn't really looking for an answer...


What's the number?: Mike, we all know how Dan Snyder operates. He always wants the big name, big ticket item in the showroom window. You know he's itching to sign one of the big name coaches sitting out there (Holmgren, Cowher, Shanahan, Gruden, Billick).

My question is, how many games does Zorn have to win to keep that from happening? I say he has to go to the conference championship game or Snyder will come up with an excuse to dump him. Your thoughts?

Michael Wilbon: I agree with you wholeheartedly and think a trip to the playoffs will keep the wolf away. But a trip to the playoffs is the minimum required before the plane is gassed up and heading off looking for another big name coach.


Rockville, Md.: Mike - Is it possible that Zorn could become the Redskins head coach and never actually get to pick the quarterback he wants? I'm not saying Zorn is bad or Campbell is bad, but maybe they aren't the proper pairing.

Michael Wilbon: That might be the most subtly smart thing I've heard regarding the Redskins in 24 hours. I don't know that's the answer, but I think it's entirely possible.


Washington, D.C.: I was at the game. I would like to comment on the boos.

The first three instances were absolutely reasonable. You don't throw HB Options from the 8 after running 4 times in the last 5 plays inside the 10. You don't drop passes.

However, the booing during the kneel down was crazy. But, I think there was more to it. It was, we just paid big bucks to get in, have zero parking options below $40, can't tailgate like before, and now, we are leaving without a touchdown. It was a visceral reaction, even though not logical. I tried to tell people kneeling to win the game was obviously correct, but they just seemed to want to boo to get it out of their system.

Leaving the stadium, it was so quiet you would have thought we just left a memorial. It has been 3 times louder after LOSSES.

People were just stunned. In the end, Snyder no longer has a safety net. You can't treat fans like dirt, and the not put out a quality product.

Am I reading this wrong?

Michael Wilbon: Boom! You popped it, in my opinion. I think you're right on the money in every instance, especially the booing on the kneel-down ...


Re: Jason Campbell: Mike, I remember a great quote attributed to Johnny Unitas, who supposedly said, "You're not really a pro quarterback until you tell your coach to go to hell at least once."

I think it's time Campbell found a way to tell Zorn to back off and let him run the game on the field.

Michael Wilbon: That was back in the day when a guy like Johnny U. called his own plays. That's also not Campbell's personality, which may be an issue, too.


Ashburn, Va.: Hi Mike,

Please give an update for all the folks that are missing "Redskins Report". Is there any chance it will return??

Michael Wilbon: Channel 4 already has a Redskins show, doesn't it? Didn't I see the promos last week? If you're talking Michael/Sonny/Riggo/Wilbon, I'd say no, no chance. And I loved it beyond all reason. But it was time to go bye-bye, I guess. Goodness, what would we be saying now?


Washington, D.C.: After these two titans (Redskins, Rams) played to a close 9-7 epic thriller that reminded me of the legendary Bear/Packers games of my youth, do you envision them meeting again in the NFC championship game? If not, why not?

Michael Wilbon: I've got big money that says no chance.


Anonymous: It's really simple, the Redskins have been on the bottom third of the league for the past 10-years or so. We have all these fans born in the 70-80s and think the jersey and one player make the team. A football team needs to be built with talent, not simply bought. I'm a lifelong fan, but I have to admit I admire the Ravens and a couple other teams simply for doing it right. Am I off the Redskin's bandwagon? No, not just yet. But am I converting simply to a football fan? Most definitely. I had offers for free tickets to see the Redskins and turned them down.

Michael Wilbon: Very rational rant, and an insightful one. Is it really bottom-third? I've to check that. I bet it's right at the mid-point...Gotta ask Tony Reali to check and see where the Redskins are over the last 10 years and bring the info back to next week's Chat...Okay, gotta run and get to PTI ... I'm on vacation the rest of this week, though I will update World Wide Wilbon to some extent ... back Monday though and trust me I'm watching that Lions-Redskins game as closely (if less paasionately) than you guys will be. Have a great week and see you next week ... MW


Ann Arbor, Mich.: Dear Mr. Wilbon,

I was happy to see a question about race in today's chat, because as a long time reader, I always look forward to hearing your thoughts and opinions on the topic. It seems like World Wide Wilbon is a great forum to express your thoughts more frequently. Thank you for doing the chats and keep up the great work!

Michael Wilbon: Thanks ... It takes time to find one's stride in any medium and I'm still searching for mine in World Wide Wilbon. I gotta be more outspoken, I'm told. Imagine that! I'll get there, but it takes awhile moving out of my newspaper self to a new self ... not as easy as I thought it would be.


Boo Who: Michael,

What's your thoughts on the fans booing at the game yesterday. I think they were booing the entire organization, Snyder on down. Booing the expense tickets, crappy parking, and rather consistently average product.

Michael Wilbon: You and 1,000 others expressed just that sentiment today. Thanks.


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