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The Chat House With Michael Wilbon

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Michael Wilbon
Washington Post Sports Columnist
Monday, September 28, 2009; 1:15 PM

Welcome to another edition of The Chat House, where Post columnist Michael Wilbon was online Mon., Sep. 28 to discuss the Redskins' shocking loss to the Lions, the NFL, college football, 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.

A transcript follows

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People, calm down: I've been a Redskins fan for 35 years and I've never seen the fan base get this riled up. I know everyone's mad, but I want to deep breath and calm down. It's not the end of the world. The sky is not falling. Tomorrow will be a better day. Now that we're all calm, I want everyone to take all their Redskins paraphernalia, light it on fire and head over to the Ravens bandwagon with me.

Michael Wilbon: Ha! Thank you for that tone setter...Hi everybody. Wow, nothing like a Redskins meltdown to get the metropolis up in arms. We'll jump right in and spend a ton of time on the Redskins and their predicament, with Jim Zorn at the center. I've been living in Washington for nearly 30 years and I don't know that this isn't the most upset I've EVER seen the fandom. And it's understandable. I went into the weekend thinking that firing Jim Zorn would be a massive mistake, a really stupid but totally in-character thing for the Redskins to do. But now, I think if I owned the team and they lost to Tampa at home Sunday (which is unthinkable) I'd fire him. Yep, a loss to Tampa would mean, among other things, that Zorn had lost the team...not to mention a pair of games (Detroit and Tampa) to two of the four worst teams in the NFL (Cleveland and Kansas City being the other two) and slipped by another (St. Louis)...And by the way, how great do the Baltimore Ravens look? Joe Flacco ain't some ordinary game manager now, is he? He and Matt Ryan look like real-deal young QBs. You know what they have in common: they're well coached. And in Flacco's case he's in one of the most stable organizations in the league. All of you who ripped into me for saying a few weeks ago there's a trickle down effect...you can get on your knees with your apologies now. Thank you. The Ravens might be the best team in the NFL. Seriously. Okay, Drew Brees and the Saints appear unstoppable but wouldn't you want to see the Ravens D get a crack at the Saints O? Ah, football matchups...something Redskins fans might not get to enjoy at any time this season...

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Mike - love the chats.

What's the point of blaming one person (eg, Zorn, Campbell) when the problem seems much deeper and broader? What do you think the problem is?

What do you think, short of Snyder selling the team, would be the Rx for the Redskins' woes?

Michael Wilbon: The problem starts at the top. It almost always does. It's a dysfunctional organization and the men at the top seem more interested in blaming other people than taking stock of what they do repeatedly that doesn't work. That's the problem with the Clippers, with the Cardinals before Bill Bidwill's kid took over...just like the franchises with owners who get it (Steelers, Broncos, Yankees, Red Sox, Lakers) consistently hang around at or near the top, certainly in contention. Zorn and Campbell are too far down the totem pole to carry the burden of this, even though as coach and QB they have to. But the BIG PICTURE problem is way above them, the revolving door of players, letting terrific role players (Ryan Clark, for example) wander off so they can chase big-names stars. They're stuck in a pattern that we all can see doesn't work; yet you know there's an Albert Haynesworth in-waiting out there. His agent is probably on the phone with the Redskins right now saying, "My guy can fix all your problems...if you only had him. He'll be a free agent at the end of the season" And they'll fall for it. Seems they always do. If it's not a player, it'll be a glamour-puss coach ... We've seen it repeatedly over a 10-year period. That's the problem with the Redskins, more than position-by-position issues.

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Fairfax, Va.: Mike,

I was appalled to see Redskins players smiling and laughing at the end of the game yesterday. You would never see any jocularity from a Gibbs team after a loss. It seems the Redskins are where players come after their most useful years are over and they realize they'll never win a championship so they figure they might as well get paid some of Snyder's loot.

Michael Wilbon: The second part of that is true, but the first part of your comment is an overreaction. You have to look at games that don't involve your team, in this case the Redskins. Do you watch other games and other teams. These players, whether they win or lose a game, know their opponents, sometimes intimately. They used to play together in the NFL, or in college, or played against one another, or have the same agent, or work out with the same trainer in the off-season, or roomed together somewhere...They greet each other after games, and this is simply the culture of today's sporting events ... EVERY SPORT. We're not in Lombardi's time, or even Joe Gibbs I. Pat Riley can't even enforce anymore his "no fraternization" rule during the playoffs...It doesn't mean they're not ticked about losing, but they're civil after a sporting event. I don't see any harm in it, even though I remember the days you're talking about...

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Fairfax, Va.: So you mentioned Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco. Who are your top five young quarterbacks? I'd add Sanchez and Stafford to that ... not sure who I might pick for the fifth, though.

Michael Wilbon: I'm not adding Stafford to that list...not yet... Why would I? Because he beat the Redskins? No, not me. Gotta see more. Ryan and Flacco and Sanchez, yes. ... Does Aaron Rodgers, in his second year as a starter, qualify? I'd have him perhaps atop that list. But that might be the extent of it ... Oh, and I like the kid in Buffalo from Stanford, Trent Edwards, a lot. When T.O. is thrown off the team for trying to undermine him, Edwards will get back on track and be a really fine QB.

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Redskins Loyalty for sale on eBay: This is pretty funny ...

"After years of constantly being subjected to disappointment, bad decisions, bad draft picks,bad contracts, overpriced tickets and overall Mediocrity, I am deciding to sell my loyalty to the Washington Redskins for the rest of the 2009- 2010 NFL season. I will sell my "fan-ship" and support any of 30 teams.. Notice, I didn't say 31, because, I under no circumstances will I ever root for the Dallas Cowboys.The Winning Bidder will get my undivided, unwavering support for their team for the rest of the season. SInce I have the Direct TV NFL Superfan Package, I will watch my new team's games and will cheer wholeheartedly for victory on sundays, even if it mean against my beloved redskins.. I will also support by purchasing the teams merchandise, including, but not limited to Jerseys, hats, flags and other team apparel. I will take pictures of myself in my new teams gear and send them to the winning big. Happy Bidding and good luck"

washingtonpost.com: My NFL Team Loyalty for Sale (end time Oct-04-09 11:58:06 PDT) (eBay)

Michael Wilbon: Wow, seems you and the owner of your original team are just made for each other ...

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HockeyTown, Va.: Too much doom and gloom with the skins. Onto something positive - the Caps season gets going on Thursday. The addition of Knuble was huge. How do you like their chances of taking another step this season?

Michael Wilbon: I'm not going to pretend that the Caps and Wizards are on my radar yet because they're not. THIS IS SEPTEMBER. It's ridiculous that either sport is on-deck...You know the Capitals chances, like any NHL team, depends on goaltending...and the evolution of the star players. Does Ovechkin burn to win and pull even with Crosby and Malkin? Or is he satisfied with awards and stardom? The Capitals are talented enough to win, yes. But as one of my favorite coaches always says, "To win, everybody has to give up something..." What are the Capitals' best players ready to sacrifice in order to win?

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Washington, D.C.: Michael,

Not to knock Jason Campbell, but there is something to be said about drafting "pro-ready" players. When we drafted Campbell, many people said he was still 2 years away from starting (meaning the team would have 3 years of production before he becomes a free agent). I am not gifting in NFL talent evaluation, but to me, the expectation there means, 2 years on the bench, 1 year of ups and downs, and 2 years of production. To get maximum player value, wouldn't it make sense to draft someone who is "ready" to step in during the first season?

Michael Wilbon: Nobody KNOWS that. People might think they know. And in the case of Matt Ryan the Falcons thought they knew, though he was under NO pressure because the Falcons were in a shambles (or thought to be) after the Michael Vick drama. I don't know how many people thought Joe Flacco, coming out of Delaware, was "pro-ready." That draft is as much a crap shoot as it is science and if you don't think so, go back through the drafts and see how many "pro-ready" players were ready to pack their bags and go back home after a couple of years.

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College Park, Md.: Hi Mike

I was at the game yesterday and Ford Field is an outstanding stadium. Jason Campbell was our best player yesterday and knowing how our owner operates he won't be back next season. We don't draft offensive lineman which results in us not being able to score a TD from our opponents 1 yard line. We don't draft defensive lineman which results in 0 pass rush being generated. These problems have been around this team way before Zorn was in the Redskins vocabulary.

I held up a fire Snyder sign and got a positive reaction from the crowd. I showed Jon Jansen the sign after the game and he had a big smile on his face. I'm getting tired of the local media on TV and the radio acting as if the Lions weren't the better team. Mike, how do the Redskins turn this around? Does Snyder finally hire a real GM when the season is over?

Michael Wilbon: The Lions are the better team. Stop equating talent with "better team." They're not the same. And nobody awards "Ws" to the so-called "better team." People around here need to get over that. Now, having said that I agree with EVERYTHING else you said. Hell, I've been writing about that for years. I wrote about the linemen issue just before the 2009 draft when Snyder/Cerrato undermined Jason Campbell, whom by the way is completing something like 70 percent of his passes...You're right, they'll blame Campbell because it's easy and they don't want to do the smart, quiet thing and draft linemen because it's not sexy enough ... Will Snyder ever turn the franchise over to a guy like Bill Polian? No, I don't see it. And yes, this is why they're where they are. That, too, I've been writing for 10 years. If all Cerrato is is a tag-team partner to Dan, then he's not a GM...and I haven't been nearly as down on Vinny as most people around here. I think if he acts independently he knows how to put together a team...If he's just Dan's boy, then what's it worth?

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Bethel, Conn.: What possible reason could there be for not throwing into the end zone at the end of the game? I know the game was 99 percent lost at that point, but why not try? I bring it up not because I think it would have made a difference, but because it is symbolic of Zorn's erratic decision making

Michael Wilbon: I'm sorry, it's 99 percent lost? Really? Did you watch Brett Favre in the SAME CIRCUMSTANCE? Was his game lost? What? Nothing's lost when you're at, what, the 36 yard-line or something like that with four downs and a QB who can throw it there easily? Are you kidding me? Zorn didn't distinguish himself there either. Those were four completely lame plays. If you want to run hook-and-lateral, do it on first down when nobody's expecting it, or second down ... But fourth down? I agree with Boswell, who wrote this morning that Zorn knows tons and tons and tons about football, but seemingly little about the decision-making that burdens a head coach. He's absolutely terrible when it comes to making those decisions or feeling out his team. Terrible.

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Derwood, Md.: Mike,

How about Brett Favre? Most people thought he was egocentric and dumb for not retiring. Well, he may be egocentric but he's playing great football right now. It looks like he's got a few more years left in him.

Michael Wilbon: I thought he was egocentric FOR retiring. I get upset with Favre because he ought to stop being Hamlet every spring/summer and play football precisely because he's great at it. One of the best ever. That's why this annual "I gotta check with my family" stuff is such crapola. Just play, Bret. Play.

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Washington DC: There was a screening for "Without Bias", a documentary on the life and death of Len Bias this weekend. I hear that you participated in the film and it's a must see. Have you seen the film yet? If so what are your thoughts?

Michael Wilbon: I haven't seen it yet, but I've talked to people who have who say it's terrific and I hope it is. The people who produced and worked on that project put so much heart and thought into it...I hope it's great...The story of Len Bias is in some ways a defining story in my career as a journalist and I'm fascinated at a level that I doubt will diminish much. I knew him, covered him, marveled at his talent and still grow depressed by his death. His early college sweetheart, as it turns out, is one of my dear, dear friends...I can't wait to see it.

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San Francisco: How about Shaun Hill? I'm impressed with what he's been able to do so far, and with Gore out vs. the Vikings he still kept the game close, and the 49ers would have won save Favre's incredible pass at the end.

Michael Wilbon: What does it mean for Maryland football that Shaun Hill and Vernon Davis played at Maryland, but without results that would hint they'd be really, really big-time NFL players? Does it suggest they were incredibly well-schooled (I think so) or that the Terrapins underachieved during their time in uniform (I fear so)...Yeah, Hill looks like a very good QB and I should have listed him with the other good young QBs somebody asked about earlier.

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Re- Skins: What seems interesting to me is that no one seems all that surprised that the Redskins lost to the Lions.

Is that due to knowing what's going on or simply expecting the worst? Or both?

Michael Wilbon: Good question. Both is the answer...I was only 10-5 in my confidence pool with the Monday Night game still to go...But I did pick the Lions to win, so I certainly didn't think it was a surprise. I do think, though, that the Redskins will beat Tampa Bay easily Sunday...

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Bluffton, S.C.: What's the latest on Tim Tebow? Do you think he should sit out for a while? Aren't concussions pretty serious injuries?

Michael Wilbon: Not all concussions are the same, just like not all ankle or knee or shoulder injuries are the same. Head injuries, while all are serious, have degrees. Tebow and Florida are fortunate to have a bye-week this Saturday and can observe him over a longer period of time...I just hope the best for the kid.

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Arizona Bay, Ariz.: Which is the worse owner: Peter Angelos or Dan Synder?

Michael Wilbon: Ding, Ding, Ding!!! Question of the day, boys and girls. This is the winner. Wow. I don't know where to go with this. They're both incredibly wealthy and accomplished guys who took over healthy franchises that had already experienced the ultimate in sports success ... then had no such success for themselves despite excessive meddling instead of turning over the reins to people who were expert in those sports. Angelos, I would bet, will never have that success, and I do mean never. Snyder, I hope, is young enough to recover from this and become as successful competitively as he is with the bottom line.

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Herndon, Va.: Mike,

Is it hard to cover so many disappointing sports teams in D.C.? Is it easier and better for you to cover teams that win vs. losers?

Michael Wilbon: Good question. It's more fun to cover winning teams, yes. I covered college basketball for this newspaper when Georgetown and Virginia were Final Four good repeatedly and it was just great ... Maryland football during the Bobby Ross years was so much fun to cover, as was Navy with David Robinson. I was writing columns by the time Maryland and George Mason had their runs and they were just thrilling times. Pro sports...not quite as much. The Bullets/Wizards have never made it past the second round in my 29 1/2 years here. Caps were fun in the Finals in '98. I wasn't the Redskins beat writer, but I was The Post's NFL beat writer during part of the Redskins run. I was the guy who was out in Denver writing about Elway or in Dallas when they traded Herschel Walker for an entire team, or writing about the Bears bolt to the Super Bowl, or Montana's/Walsh's 49ers. Remember, though, as a sportswriter in the 80s, 90s, 00s, it's not like we don't go to the Super Bowl, NBA Finals, BCS championship game, Stanley Cup playoffs because the local team doesn't go. They might go home but I'm still at the event. We're not tied emotionally to the local teams like the fans are, though it's nice to see them win. Readers/listners/viewers are more into it...although I came to know a few years ago that viewership of the old "Redskins Report" with George, Sonny and Riggo (and me) higher after a loss than after wins. Go figure. But if you press me on who I'd rather see have a great season, Maryland basketball, Georgetown basketball, Navy football or the Redskins, the answer would always be the college guys. I've got my own sorry professional teams to be wrapped up and disappointed in...

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Terps Fan: Shaun Hill is around 30 yrs old since his senior year at MD was in 2001. He spent 2 years at Maryland after attending junior college. In his senior year he led the Terps to the Orange Bowl. I'd say he far exceeded his wildest dreams at MD and the same could be said for the pros. As for Vernon, he led the ACC in receiving yds as a junior from the TE position and subsequently was drafted in the top 10.

The 49ers vs Vikings game had a number of Terps represented. Hill, Davis, EJ Henderson, Madieu Williams, and Jeff Dugan.

Michael Wilbon: I didn't remember Shaun being the QB of that team, so thank you much for the refresher..And yeah, there are a number of Maryland guys in the pros and doing well. (Vernon wasn't on that Orange Bowl team, was he?) And people love drafting Terps because they're said to be so well-schooled by Ralph and his staff. ... So that returns me to my question, though it doesn't pertain to Shaun ... What's happened? How come they can beat Rutgers?

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Re: Worse owner -- Snyder or Angelos: I'm as harsh a critic of Snyder as anyone. But Peter Angelos fired John Miller!! Seriously?? Plenty of owners consistently put a bad product on the field. Peter Angelos directly degraded the entertainment value of his product by firing an immensely talented announcer who is one of the quintessential voices of the game.

But this is splitting hairs. They are both awful.

Michael Wilbon: Yeah, firing Miller does set yuou apart, doesn't it. Thanks.

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Angelos vs. Snyder: While you might be right that Angelos will never achieve the success of the old O's (who were the best franchise in the majors for two decades), he has done one thing that does make him better than Snyder. He hired MacPhail and seems to be letting him do his job (for once). As reported elsewhere this doesn't extend to dabbling in the free agent market, but for the first time in recent memory the O's have some young talent.

Michael Wilbon: Thank you

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Houston: I like that quote -- to win everyone has to give up something. Who said that? I want to use it for my youth soccer team.

Michael Wilbon: My good friend, and very, very smart man, Ed Tapscott.

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Arlington, Va.: Michael is it because Synder is such a good business man the reason he thinks he knows how to run the daily operations of a NFL team?

Michael Wilbon: I've always thought that's exactly why. "I did this, therefore, I can do that." Not necessarily. Snyder wouldn't be the first great businessman to try and apply that logic ... unsuccessfully ...

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Devin Hester: Any chance I stop returning kicks?

Michael Wilbon: He's already stopped, for the most part. Daneil (sp?) Manning is doing that for the Bears...did it last year. I think he led the NFL in kick returns actually ...

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Arlington, Va.: Not really a question, but it strikes me that Ted Leonsis started out like Snyder, trying to win with over-the-hill veterans like Jagr. But he was smart enough to realize (around 2002-2003) that it wasn't working and he was willing to rebuild the Caps from the ground up through the draft and player development. I don't understand why Snyder can't learn from and apply that example. Football and hockey are very different sports of course, but they both have a hard salary cap and they both reward good organizations that have a constant inflow of promising young players to fill out the roster.

Michael Wilbon: Ted did learn it quickly. Snyder hasn't. Sometimes it isn't about smarts, but personality. Does Snyder strike you as the kind of guy to say, "I was totally wrong on this, and I went and talked to people who said, 'This is something you might consider.'" Ted is that kind of guy and you know that from the moment you meet him. Dan? Not so much.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Honest answer, does Snyder care more about winning or about making the Redskins the most profitable team in the league? And no, I do think the two are somewhat mutually exclusive.

My guess, with the parking/bussing fiasco and the obstructed view seats, I think he cares more about making money than winning games.

Michael Wilbon: Snyder wants to win. He does. I know Dan Snyder a little bit. I've listened to him, gotten into back-and-forth conversations. He wants to win more desperately than anybody who buys a ticket. He spent $800 mil for a franchise back when the going rate was, what, $350-$500 mil. He lays awake at night thinking of ways to help the franchise win. That doesn't mean he knows how or has done it or will ever do it. Hell, I lay awake at night thinking of breaking 70 on the golf course but that ain't gonna happen either.

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Zorny, Wash.: Do you think, intentionally or not, The Danny undermines his coaches (Zorn, Spurrier) by being buddy buddy with players like Portis?

Michael Wilbon: Yes...and that's been the case for 10 years.

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Terps: For the record the University of Maryland has been the National Champion of college football as many times as Florida State. It was twice, back in 1951 and 1953. Did they wear bars on the helmets back then?

Michael Wilbon: would you trade those two in the 1950s for something a little more recent? Yeah, I thought so.

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Baltimore, Md.: The Lions finally winning was nice (not a 'Skins fan, so I don't care), but how badly do you fell for the Lions fans who couldn't/wouldn't go to Ford Field? Thanks to the local blackout, they missed it!

Michael Wilbon: Yeah, such is life in Michigan these days, which is more difficult than in most states, certainly moreso than in and around greater Washington-Baltimore, which certainly has not been hit by the recession as hard as Michigan, Detroit specifically.

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Falls Church, Va.: What does Snyder have to do to please some people? He took a chance on fresh talent at coach, he's been enormously patient with Jason Campbell and loyal to Clinton Portis, he's drafted people for non-sexy positions, like Brian Orakpo and Sean Taylor. It's easy to blame him for the O-line, but there were only two sacks yesterday; the O-line is not the source of all problems.

Michael Wilbon: Ah, another point of view ... Thanks for this.

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Ill.: How do you like your home town's chances of the 2016 Olympics now that Obama is making the trip?

Michael Wilbon: Was that announced this morning? I was betting he would. I'm still scared to death. This has come to mean more to me than anything in my sporting life, even the Cubs winning (I think). I'll be a basket case until the announcement Friday.

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Washington, D.C.: Actually Johnny Knox is now returning kicks for the Bears. He has speed to burn ... plus they got him with a pick from Denver in the Cutler trade.

Michael Wilbon: Yeah, Knox came with the 5th-round pick that the Bears insisted on ... pretty cool. But he just got back there. Manning was there before him. I love this Knox kid. He's a game-changer.

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Baltimore: You're quite a fashionable guy, so I have to ask...Seahawks neon-green alternate unis: fair or foul?

Michael Wilbon: worst uniforms in the history of sports. The Worst. Never seen anything like it. They must have known that when they went with them. Hideous. I fear others will follow. I really do.

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Fridge: As much as I hate to say it, He's a Hall of Fame Offensive coordinator, just not a great head coach. His best teams were his earliest ones when he had Vanderlinden's recruits but his coaching staff included some great former collegiate head coaches.

Michael Wilbon: Good and fair point...Okay, gotta run to prepare for my return to PTI after four days off. Tony is atoning for whatever Tony needs to atone for today so I'll see him tomorrow and the rest of you, hopefully, next Monday. Same time, same channel. If the Redskins have lost to Tampa, Zorn will be heading to the airport. And by the way, to all the Redskins fans, from all the Bears fans, thanks for getting the attention of the Chicago players this week. They can't ignore the coaches now when they say the Lions can beat you. I don't know that the Bears will win but seems to be they've got a better chance now because they'll take the Lions more seriously. See ya' MW

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