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The Chat House With Michael Wilbon

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Michael Wilbon
Washington Post Sports Columnist
Monday, November 9, 2009; 1:15 PM

Welcome to another edition of The Chat House, where Post columnist Michael Wilbon was online Mon., Nov. 9 at 1:15 p.m. ET to discuss the Redskins, the NFL, the MLB playoffs, the early NBA season, 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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Denver, Colo.: Mike,

Sonny Jurgensen was reported to say that all of the skins major decisions (i.e., no attention to the o-line in the draft, Sherm Lewis, etc.) of the last two years are tied to Cerrato and that Cerrato is likely to take the fall for the team's poor showing this year. Do you see it that way? Or is Cerrato likely to stick around to remain Snyder's confidant/mouthpiece/whatever-the-heck-he-is? Perceived or otherwise.

Michael Wilbon: Hi Everybody ... We'll jump right into the NFL, the Redskins specifically, and deal with some college football, the Wizards if anybody wants to ... maybe a nod to Mad Men, which might be the best television series I've ever seen. Here we go. When Sonny J. says something, I learned a long time ago to listen closely, very closely.

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Anonymous: What is the word in D.C. as to who will replace Jim Zorn. Will Snyder be smart enough to realize that he MUST hire a GM with a lot of experience and then sit back and trun over the reigns?

Michael Wilbon: There are a lot of words, 24/7, here in D.C. as to whom will replace Zorn. I don't put any stock in any of it because the people talking aren't the ones who will make the decision on the next coach. I don't know whether Snyder will hire somebody to oversee the football operation or not. He should. That doesn't mean he will. If you ask me to bet on what he'll do, I'd bet he will not hire a strong football person to run the operation, that he will hire one more celebrity coach to run the whole thing and it will be a disaster. In other words, I don't know Snyder shares our opinion on who should run the Redskins. I think there's more pain and suffering before Snyder does a 180 turn ...

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Washington, D.C.: In these days of free agents and salary caps, isn't a good GM more important than a god coach? I am asking because as a Seahawks fan it seems clear to me that the Hawks have to start rebuilding, but I have no confidence in the GM, Ruskel, to do the job (this is a guy who let Steve Hutchinson go to the Vikings by screwing up the transition and franchise designations to save a couple of hundred grand, and who traded a first round draft pick for Deion Branch). He took a perennial contender and turned it into a 4-12 team last year and probably something close to that this year. It seems to me that the coach frequently ends up taking the fall for the GM's mistakes.

Michael Wilbon: Yes, I think having a really good GM or Director of Football Ops, or Club President -- whatever you want to call the person--is the most critical thing to have in today's football program. And if you have one, he's likely to hire the right coach.

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Arlington, Va.: Mike, as a fellow Northwestern alumnus, I am just so happy to see the Wildcats knock off Iowa so that my team, Ohio State, can win the Big 10 outright. With another 10 win season and Rose Bowl appearance, shouldn't the Buckeye faithful back off of the criticism of Jim Tressel? Or is he going to be under appreciated indefinitely?

Michael Wilbon: I think Ohio State fans, like Alabama and Florida and Notre Dame and Nebraksa and USC and Texas and Oklahoma and a handful of others, believe it's their birthright to be ranked in the top 3 every year or the coach should be wary. I don't know how many coaches are appreciated for long in college football. Look at Bob Stoops at Oklahoma right now. He won a national championship, played in at least one other, played in 7 BCS bowl games and people are grumbling there now. Nothing is ever enough in these places, where college football is king. Let's see what happens with Urban Meyer in Florida if they go 9-3 two straight seasons. Ohio State isn't quite that extreme, but it's only one rung down the ladder...And no worries, we were happy to oblige you Buckeyes with beating the Hawkeyes Saturday. Sorry that Iowa QB got his ankle busted though ... hated seeing that happen.

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Bethesda, Md.: Will Larry Johnson be picked up by any team in the NFL after he clears waivers?

Michael Wilbon: I wouldn't think so. Can't turn the odometer back. Like a lot of backs who were great for a stretch, the wear and tear is just too much. Teams use up durable backs like Johnson and the player gets angry, understandably. And Johnson, to make matters worse, behaves badly on a number of different levels. No, I don't see it happening and if it does it will be very short lived.

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Falls Church, Va.: Could it be that the conventional wisdom about Synder is off a bit? Could it be that he isn't so much the tyrant but rather someone who listens too closely to football incompetents? Wasn't it Sonny J who whispered in Synder's ear a few years ago that bringing in Jeff George would be a great idea?

So yes, Synder's management style is horrible from any perspective, but maybe he is bringing in the football guys that most are calling for (GM, personnel guy, etc.), it's just that he likes the stupid ones.

Michael Wilbon: First, it's plain dumb to put Sonny under the category of "football incompetent" and second, Snyder better start listening to and hiring the right person ... one that can make a series of informed decisions based on years and years of working in various football capacities.

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Arlington, Va.: Which famous coach is so anxious to return that he would subject himself to Snyder's need to control everything?

Michael Wilbon: Oh, you don't think there are guys who would come here for $6, $7 million a year? Holmgren. Gruden. You don't think those guys would do it. I bet they absolutely would.

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Feeling Your Pain: The bad situation in Washington D.C. sounds a lot like the bad ownership we've had here in Detroit for the past 40 some years.

I hope your suffering doesn't last that long.

What was your take on Riggins' slam down on Synder?

Michael Wilbon: That John Riggins, by virtue of his time served as a Hall of Fame player, can say whatever he wants ... He's earned the right. I'm biased when it comes to Sonny and Riggo. I worked with them both for a dozen years and I think the world of them, their knowledge and insight. They're not just entitled to their opinions; years of effort, physical suffering and observation have given them the right to express those views ... however harsh some people may think they are. I love to hear from Sonny and John whenver possible on all things NFL and Redskins related.

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Laurel, Md.: I have a feeling that Dan Snyder and Vinny Cerrato intentionally put Jason Campbell in a bad situation to fail so that they could have a justification to pursue another QB in the offseason. Can you explain to me why they didn't address the team offensive line issue last offseason?

Michael Wilbon: Because it's not sexy enough...And because they thought with the reacquisition of Derrick Dockery the OL would be better. Of course, we know now it wasn't enough, not nearly enough. But it's sexier to pursue the next babe quarterback than it is to trade down and wind up w three picks to use on young linemen, isn't it?

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Neverland: Couldn't Blache had found something else to talk to the media about than Snyder? Maybe he really does want the head coach job.

Michael Wilbon: Maybe it really doesn't matter in the least.

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Washington, D.C.: Mike - The Wizards look horrible again, but I'm feeling quite cheerful about it. It's a long season, and for once the defense actually looks solid, while it is the horrible offense (A/TO) that has killed them. Makes sense that it will take time for all the new players and the new system to gel, right? Or am I being wildly over-optimistic? What do you think the outlook is?

Michael Wilbon: I picked the Wizards to finish seventh in the Eastern Conference and I thought the optimism about the team (SI picked them to finish fourth in the East) was wildly over the top. If the defense is better, that's a good start because Flip knows how to coach offense. That's in his wheelhouse. He'll improve that. I don't see enough size. I don't think Blatche is ready to really make the step up, meaning play well against quality opponents. I hope I'm wrong about that. The importance of Antawn Jamison's return to the lineup cannot be overstated. He's critical to whatever the Wizards are going to do. And I like Mike Miller, who's out for a bit now...They've got to have relative health, and Gilbert (to me) is way ahead of an reasonable timetable. I watched him closely the other night against Miami and it was very, very encouraging the way he could get off either foot, just like he used to, to the rim ... and explode while doing it. Now, he's not finishing the way he used to but he's getting there, and getting there ahead of the defense very often. I was shocked by that, to tell you the truth. He looks so close. And yes, it takes time to incorporate all this. I think seventh is about where the Wizards will shake out. I'd love to see them higher but I think that would be expecting too much.

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Washington, D.C.: For what it is worth, Holmgren is already on record as saying he thinks the Redskins have treated Zorn unfairly by bringing in Lewis and taking play calling responsibility away from him

Michael Wilbon: And that means what, that Holmgren wouldn't come in and take, oh, $8-10 million a year to run and coach the Redskins? I don't think he should do both; I don't think anybody should do both. Holmgren has already proven he's a great, great coach when he doesn't have personnel responsibility. As coach only he's been to three Super Bowls. As GM/Coach he's been to zero. You can say that's a coincidence; I call it proof beyond reasonable doubt.

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Tyrant?: I don't see Snyder so much as "tyrant." I see him as someone who wants to be able to take credit for putting a good team together. He thinks the Redskins have put together a great set of players and the coach has ruined it.

Michael Wilbon: And you express a valid view. Others are stronger in their belief and offer anecdotal evidence to support the contention that Snyder is far worse...

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Brandywine, Md.: Will Navy's coach become the new coach for Maryland?

Michael Wilbon: How much of this is attributed to the new Navy coach, who has done a fabulous job? And how much is still because of Paul Johnson's work before he left for Georgia Tech, which might finish in the top six or seven? I don't know the answer. But I know that Navy whipped up on Notre Dame the other day, has beaten Notre Dame twice in the last three years, and has outplayed the Irish three straight times. Wow.

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Your top three picks ...: So, who would be your top three picks to replace Vinny?

Michael Wilbon: I've got one choice: Bill Polian. That's it. That's the list.

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New Jersey: What would you say about the play of Jason Campbell yesterday? I thought he played well in the second half when the O-line actually blocked for him. I know I'm one of the few, but with a not so good class of free agent QBs in the offseason, Id much rather resign Campbell, draft an offensive lineman with our first pick, and get a QB later in the draft to compete with Campbell. What's your take?

Michael Wilbon: Jason needs time to throw, sometimes too much time. He is undoubtedly not where he should be because of so many different offensive coordinators and systems. That's the club's fault, not Campbell's. Still, there are certain things Jason has got to do a lot better, and it only makes sense to committ to him if the Redskins are going to commit to a QB tutor, somebody like Holmgren, who could either do it himself or hire the right person to do it.

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Maryland: Looking at the NCAA basketball rankings, I feel that Kentucky is heavily overrated. Your thoughts?

Michael Wilbon: My solution is: don't look at the preseason college basketball rankings.

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Chicago: To almost any football enthusiast it seems obvious that a football team's success always starts with the offensive and defensive lines. Why do so many GMs not appear to get this? You mentioned earlier that it's not sexy, but neither is losing!

Michael Wilbon: A lot of GMs do get it, and follow through on that, which is how they win. Bobby Beathard always got it, which is why the Redskins line play was soooo great when he ran the Redskins. They won with three or four different lead backs (Riggins, George Rogers, Bnyer), three different QBs (Theisman, Williams, Rypien), different wide receivers (Monk, Charlie Brown and Virgil Seay, Gary Clack and Ricky Sanders). Line play -- make that great line play -- was the constant. Not obsessing every offseason over a different babe quarterback on which to waste three or four draft picks.

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Chinatown, Washington, D.C.: So after this weekend's festivites, do you think teams are still not taking the Thunder seriously? Or are they actually coming together before our eyes about a year or two ahead of schedule? This has the feelings of the Blazers two years ago, who got red hot for a while before cooling off at the end.

Michael Wilbon: Great basketball question: I thought it would take not just another year or so, but two full, or even three. And they look soooo much better than I thought, though it's early. What's been proven in modern basketball, with Magic Johnson being the only exception, is that disappointment is a key ingredient in pushing a team up the ladder. There's been an apprenticeship that simply has to be served. I think if the Thunder can get to the playoffs this year (which I just can't see happening) and get swept they'll be on their way. But getting to the playoffs is the starting point in professional sports, especially basketball.

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OK, but ...: So, who would be your top three picks to replace Vinny?

Michael Wilbon: I've got one choice: Bill Polian. That's it. That's the list.

What makes you think he'd come to Washington, D.C.? He's got a nice gig in Indianapolis right now ... right?

Michael Wilbon: Money, my man. Money. Lots of it. What's a better investment, giving $20 million up front (if you had to) to Bill Polian or $100 million or whatever it'll turn out to be to Al Haynesworth? Are you kidding me? It's not even close. Thing is, Polian would make Snyder sign some kind of document that would keep him out of the bulding for two years. Okay, he never said that, I'm saying it. But Polian wouldn't want Snyder anywhere near the combine or some of the things he goes to. Money is always the answer to everything. Stop wasting money on free agents and get the guy who knows which free agents to go after.

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Lancaster, Penn.: Re: Mad Men

Wasn't that just the most riveting show last night. I just sat there saying "Oh, my God!" over and over again. Beat the Eagles/Cowboys game hands down. The drama surrounding Don and Betty was almost as depressing as the Redskins (and, believe me, it's hard to be a Skins fan in this neck of the woods).

Michael Wilbon: The scenes with Don Draper and Peggy Olson were even better, if that's possible than the ones with Don and Betty. Clearly, Betty is being written out. I thought the only thing that made the episode a 9.99 instead of a 10 was making it so that we had to dislike Betty Draper because she's being written out of the series. Man, she didn't have to be THAT cold to her children. Doesn't seeing her sitting on the flight next to homeboy seal the deal that she's out, except possibly for a few scenes next year? ... Does anybody know if January Jones is going to make movies or going to star in her own drama or whatever? Look, I hate to see January Jones go. Every man does. But the show's characters are so well-defined and the storylines are so compelling. I can't think of the last show I liked as much as Mad Men. And I'm a drama fanatic.

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Washington, D.C.: Not only does Cleveland have a horrible team aside from Lebron, they don't even have pieces that fit well with him. No shooting big to spread the floor, no passer to throw him alley oops, and no backup at his position to allow him to slide up or down based on match-ups.

Ok, ok, I know you aren't one that likes it when we get ahead of ourselves talking about the future, so I won't ask about LBJ's free agency. Instead, tell me if Cleveland is "figuring things out" or if the early season troubles are a legitimate cause for concern.

Michael Wilbon: I like your analysis of Cleveland ... very, very nice. You know who I'd add to that mix there: Allen Iverson. Seriously. He could and would come off the bench there because of LeBron and Shaq, and he knows it would be his only chance to ever win a championship. He could be the closer off the bench. He can create his own shot and can help LeBron in that regard. It would be a little like what Miami did around D. Wade three years ago ... Hell, I should be a GM ... Cleveland, make it happen.

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Anonymous: Could this season just be a ploy so Snyder can move the tem to Los Angles in 2011? The more people hate the more money he loses and pick-up for a better TV location as well as all his hollywood friends hmmmmmmm?

Michael Wilbon: If you think Snyder wants to leave Washington you don't understand Snyder very well. He'd like a new stadium alright, right here in D.C. where he grew up watching the team. He's not some outsider, or Hollywood mingler who wants to show off out there. He wants to show off right here, baby! He's a D.C. guy. He's not going anywhere.

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Washington, DC: I thought Holmgren was going to the Browns?

Michael Wilbon: I'm not saying I know Holmgren is coming here; I just said I truly believe he would come here and gladly accept Dan Snyder's money and control of the team. Gladly. Could, would ... not gonna. There's lot's of time to play out this season.

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Washington, D.C.: I don't think it's fair that much of the criticism falls on Campbell when he constantly has to worry about getting sacked before he completes a 3 step drop. How much better do you think Peyton Manning or Tom Brady would do behind our offensive line?

Michael Wilbon: Better ... but not very well. Good observation.

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Manalapan, N.J.: Mike,

Cowher to the Bears replacing Lovie Smith?

Michael Wilbon: No. Cower? The Bears? The Bears don't hire celebrity coaches and they don't pay any head coach a ton of money. The Bears and Bulls are very cheap in that way. The family that owns the Bears (Halas/McCaskey) doesn't run it that way. Lovie probably will not be fired, not with a career record better than .500 and a Super Bowl appearance to his credit and a 4-4 season ongoing. There's no such pressure on the Bears to win as is the case in New York of Philly or even Washington. You're in New Jersey and it sounds like you don't have a real feel for the midwest or that franchise, which is wildly popular and incredibly wealthy...It's not like Nebraska football or Michigan or Ohio State or a college situation where it's win or death. The Bears are going to sell out and be adored no matter what and the family, even if that changes, doesn't act rashly or harshly. Lovie, though I would probably fire him, will likely be back for the final year and maybe two years of his contract.

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Oakton, Va. : Since you opened the door... yes, "mad men" is up there in my rarefied air with "The Sopranos and "MASH." So ... is the Draper marriage over for good? Predict.

Michael Wilbon: Yes, January Jones is too big a star now to stay as some secondary character. I don't know if she can carry a show or not, or if she's going to movies instead. She cerainly seems to have that kind of star appeal...but you open up the possibilities for Don Draper this way, to meet some new starlet type that can create a buzz. ... you can have him re-marry but you can also have him be a Hefneresque character...What excitement Mad Men created by doing what it did in the season finale.

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Lancaster, Penn.: Re: January Jones FYI -- she's hosting Saturday Night Live this week.

Michael Wilbon: Yes Sir!!! I'll watch. That's the kind of great news we can end the show with ... Okay, gotta run and prepare for PTI. Hope everybody has a great week ... Take care. MW

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Washington, D.C.: Have you read the fans comments about the Bears in the Chicago Tribune today. They sound just like the Redskin fans: Fed up.

Michael Wilbon: Well, we're not that out-of-control ...

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