The Chat House With Michael Wilbon: Redskins vs. Giants, the Bruce Allen regime and more NFL news

Michael Wilbon
Washington Post Sports Columnist
Tuesday, December 22, 2009; 1:15 PM

Welcome to another edition of The Chat House, where Post columnist Michael Wilbon was online Tue., Dec. 22 to discuss the best sports stories of the decade, Redskins, Tiger Woods, the NFL, the Wizards, the 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.

Mike was also excited to defend his candidates for best sports story, athlete and overlooked story of the decade, which are open for user voting now at World Wide Wilbon.

A transcript follows

Discussion Archive * Column Archive * Talking Points Videos


Wheaton, Md.: It seems all the blame for last night's game is Zorn's and players not responding but it seems the Shermans and Blache/Gray have escaped any responsibility for planning or calling bad games. One Zorn play does not a game win. Or lose.

Michael Wilbon: Okay, let's dive right into the debacle before Christmas, the Redskins unthinkable beatdown loss to the Giants last night at FedEx. Look, I know we have to play the blame game; that's a big part of the consumption of sports ... But there's no defense of Jim Zorn, and it has little to do with one play called. The team wasn't ready to play. They weren't ready to meet the fire from a division opponent. That's the job of the head coach, not Jerry Gray or Greg Blache ... Nobody gets any credit after a night like last night, but the head coach gets most of the game. It's his job to take the blame when a team loses like that ... And it's too bad because Zorn has only two games left in his career as Redskins head coach and it would be nice if he could go out a little better than this ... Wow.


Thomasville, Ga.: Mike,

Looking back on the whole mess, since we are doing all decade stuff, would you say Snyders worst move, among thousands, was to fire Charley Casserly? And, what do you think the decade would have looked like with Charley at the helm?

Michael Wilbon: Firing Casserly hasn't worked out real well, has it? It's not like you couldn't make the case he should be fired, because you could at the time. The real problem is that Snyder didn't hire a proven football executive to run the team. That, I think, is the worst move...essentially trying to do it himself while consulting Vinny Cerrato on player personnel issues. So, what is it, two playoff appearances in the decade? Do I have that right?


Washington, DC: As a counter to the "Best of the Decade" lists, I'd say we saw some candidates for "Worst of the Decade" last night.

That game would have to be near the top of the "Worst Monday Night Football Game of the Decade" list, as well as the "trick play" fake field goal making the "Worst Football Play of the Decade" list.

Seriously, after that performance, the Redskins should not be invited back to MNF for the forseeable future.

Michael Wilbon: I was a little surprised the Redskins, given they weren't any good by the end of last season, merited a second MNF shot this season. Who was forecasting so much Redskins improvement that they should be included twice? All preseason long, TK drank the kool-aid and said repeatedly the Redskins had 12-4 talent. Ooops. I think I predicted a season no better than 9-7 but more like 8-8, and I was way wrong, too. I can't remember the decade or Redskins games, even though I covered the virtually every one of them (all of the games on the road, for sure) from 2000 through 2006. I'm trying to think if I've seen any more comic moments than the fake FG attempt...I can't, honestly. I'd have to go back through all the games to really declare it the dumbest play of the last 10 years...But it HAS to be on the list, right? I mean, to call it once was stupid. To call it a second time after the timeout was unthinkably stupid...My friend and colleague David Aldridge called it a high school play by a high school coach. Ouch.


Silver Spring, Maryland: Maybe the Redskins would hire better folks if they bothered to comply with the Rooney Rule. Sometimes going for the next hot coach isn't always the right move. A more diverse search would be a sign of a more diligent search and it may uncover a talented coach or administrator of any race.

Michael Wilbon: God Bless you for that. Well said. Very well said. Amen to that. Stop playing Celebrity Football and work at finding out who the best people for the job are. Some teams (Steelers, for one ... Ravens ... the new-and-improved Cardinals) actually do that.


Fairfax, Va.: Mike, maybe now that Bruce Allen is in the house the team finally knows that a big broom is going to sweep through Ashburn and they let-down/gave up. Not everyone (certainly not Jason Campbell), but enough.

It is one thing to talk in generalities about change, it is another to come face-to-face with change.

Michael Wilbon: And it's yet another thing to actually make the RIGHT changes, smart changes, effective changes. I mean, Bruce Allen could get this totally wrong. He didn't do anything that helped the situation in Tampa. And he was the capologist in Oakland, not the guy in charge of Big Changes. He didn't do player personnel there ... So, how do we know he's going to make all the right moves. He might. I think he's done the kind of work that would suggest he'd be good for the job. But are we certain? No. He's not Bill Polian or Ron Wolf (who built the Packers) or Bobby Beathard (who built the Redskins and Chargers under Bobby Ross that got to a Super Bowl). Worthy guy to have the job? Yes. Lock to make it all work? No.


Monterey, Calif.: That lonesome-tailback playground play would work better if it was Michael Vick instead of Hunter Smith taking the snap. Wonder if the Eagles were watching?

Michael Wilbon: Good thought.


Arlington, Va.: MW-

What's your take on the Rooney Rule, and the Redskins supposed ways of working around it. I've thought for a while now that they brought in Sherm Lewis to have a way to work around the Rooney Rule and hire Shenahan. I know this is a delicate topic, but I'd love to hear your thoughts on it.

Michael Wilbon: Great question ... I think if you try and circumvent the Rooney Rule you should lose a first-round draft pick. If you give show-pony interviews you should be fined $1 million dolars. It's a league rule, so adhere to it or be punished severely ... Here's the thing: If you take the process seriously -- and I'm talking about all the clubs, not just the Redskins -- you'll find new and worthy people. And even if you don't hire that guy, you might at the winter meetings say to another GM, "You know who really impressed me in the interview process, a guy we didn't hire but a guy you should look at?" That's how you get more people into the pipeline and therefore a more diverse group of managers. You get a handle on who you think is good by exposure, not by simply going with the "hot" candidate. If you don't take the interview process seriously then you don't know who the bright new candidates are, regardless of race or gender. It's dangerous, it's lazy, and it leads to bad hires and teams that aren't as good as the marquee suggests.


Fire Zorn Now?: Michael,

Since it is widely recognized that Zorn is gone after the end of the season, and that he is going to get his remaining contract money, why wait? Even if Shanahan isn't ready or willing to step in now, let some hotshot assistant or Sherm have a couple of games to run the whole show. There is nothing to gain by keeping JZ around to the end at this point.

Michael Wilbon: I agree with you completely. A decision was made after that loss to the Chiefs to bring in Sherman Lewis. And since the losses got closer, it's as if it was okay to lose close and keep Zorn. You have to pay him anyway when you fire him, so, yeah, let an assistant coach the team and see what the response is. Let's see what Jerry Gray can do ... or whomever. I just think Snyder wants to finish the season and be able to say he didn't fire the coach in-season ... as if Zorn wasn't fired in spirit four, five weeks ago.


Washington, D.C.: Is it EVER a good idea to rest your starters for the playoffs? Sure, there is always some risk that a key player will be hurt in game 15 or 16. But there is a far higher probability that the team will lose its momentum and be unable to flip the switch back to "on" come playoff time. Your thoughts?

Michael Wilbon: I wrote a column about this last week. I think, generally speaking, it's an awful idea to rest guys more than the last week. One game, Week 16, fine. Sit 'em. But if you're a top seed that means two full weeks off because of the bye-week, which brings about issues of rust ... I think teams lose momentum like this at times. I think it happened to the Colts a couple of times. I think it happened to the Mike Ditka Bears after the Super Bowl season, when they lost games to the Redskins in 1986 and 1987. And those were 14-2 and 12-4 teams. I don't like it 90 percent of the time. But injuries play such a part in football, more than in any other sport, that coaches who already conservative by nature become even more conservative and sit people down asap ...


Bowls and Playoffs: Why does it have to be one or the other, Michael? I would institute an eight-team playoff system to determine the national champ. Would take seven games to determine the winner. Let the most prestigious bowls (current BCS bowls) bid to host one of those seven games. Then let the other 25 or so other bowl games take place just like now. Why wouldn't that work?

Michael Wilbon: That's already what most of us are suggesting. We WANT the teams not in the playoffs to compete in bowl games. You think I don't want my alma mater, Northwestern, to play in New Year's Day in the Outback Bowl? And you could use four bowls for the quarterfinals games, two different bowl games for the semifinals and one for the championship game ... Yes, that's the idea. Nobody I know is saying ditch the bowls. Rotate the championship game just as it is now. Let the Rose, Sugar, Orange, Fiesta and Cotton participate in this thing on some rotating basis. Even bring in a new bowl now and then. There's enough action for a lot of people in this party ...


Herndon, Va.: Mike,

Your comments regarding Rooney Rule's impact on the pipeline of prospective management/coaching talent implies that only minorities are being overlooked at the expense of the "hot" prospect. There are hundreds of non-minority assistants in the league who would be doubly penalized by virute of their not being a "hot" commodity nor being a minority. Can you admit that there is coaching talent out there which has been overlooked because of the Rooney Rule?

Michael Wilbon: No. You're presumption is flawed. What Dan Rooney and Paul Tagliabue and others observed over a period of many years was that men of color were being ignored ... or passed over intentionally. That doesn't happen to white coaches BECAUSE OF COLOR. It might happen because they're shy or considered too far or too quiet or drink too much or have some flaw ... or perhaps have no flaw and as you suggest just get overlooked. But it doesn't happen, by definition, BECAUSE THEY LOOK DIFFERENT. So, after Tony Dungy sat ignored for years -- and please don't tell me you think he was lacking in any area -- there were some men of influence in the league who said, "Enough of this!" To go with your premise, you'd have to tell me why a white candidate with a big resume would be passed over. Do you know of any? Tell me who. I grant you that people of whatever color slip between the cracks sometime, good and talented people ... But it happened with ALL black coaches for 75 years. Surely, you see the difference.


Baltimore: Michael: Do you think Zorn will be QB coach in Cleveland for Holmgren? Lord knows they could use one. They probably could have done better this year with Zorn at quarterback!

Michael Wilbon: Hmmm, that sounds like a nice suggestion, actually.


Herndon, Va.: Mr. Mike:

Happy Holidays to the littlest Wilbon and the rest of the Wilbons. While I'm not so merry right now, sitting through that mess until the 4th quarter, I have hopes for the Redskins' future. What I can't understand is how a team can't get up for a MONDAY NIGHT GAME!. Sure, they're all always downers, especially if the team isn't that good, but flat on Monday night just doesn't make sense.

Michael Wilbon: First, thanks, and Happy Holidays to you and yours, too. Second, don't presume they weren't "up" for the game. People can come out too "up" for the game, which I think happens all the time, and get completely deflated after giving up a quick touchdown. If being "UP" for these games what mattered most the most emotional teams would win 11 games a year, and they don't. The Redskins aren't as good, weren't as well-prepared and then got hit in the head as soon as the bell sounded. Game over.


Washington, D.C.: I was somewhat surprised to see the comment from Haynesworth in the paper this morning regarding the lack of leadership. Not that he wasn't right on the money, but I can't recall a player actully admitting that new leadership was required.This shows me that if you want loyalty, better buy a dog. Although I really like Zorn and think he would have been better served as maybe a quarterback coach rather than a head coach, this was really a slap in the face! Guess he'll be cleaning out his office in a couple of weeks.

Michael Wilbon: Hmmmmm, yes. That's the case. I'll be at the San Diego-Redskins game in California to just cover the burial, if you will. Kinda sad ... but necessary.


Playoffs?: In all honesty, who cares about NCAA football playoffs? What's the big deal? Last time I checked, there was no Amendment to the Constitution outlining the inalienable right to a clear cut football champion. If Congress is going to waste time on the NCAA, they should focus on the hypocrisy of the entire system and the explotation of the student athlete. The notion that every red-blooded American must know, without doubt, the best College Football in the land is nonsense.

Michael Wilbon: Never say I won't publish opposing views ... even though I agree with the "hypocrisy of the entire system and the exploitation of the student athlete" line.


South Riding, Va.: I am a huge Giants fan -- but I have to admit feeling sorry for the Redskin fans last night. The fake field goal play was an abomination. When I think about people who had to dig out of the storm and brave cold temps to watch that game, only to see the majority of the players have no interest, the coach is a dead man walking, and Sherman Helmsley as George Jefferson could have called a better game -- it's just an insult. And leaving Jason Campbell out there with no protection -- he could have been seriously injured -- and for what?

I could not even feel proud of my team because the Redskins were such an embarrassment!

Michael Wilbon: The only thing I would caution you about is tying poor performance -- even one as dreadful as that -- with effort. They're not as related as people uttering the cliche would have you believed ...


Washington, DC: Mike, You've been covering sports a long time. Have you ever come across a professional coach who seems as clueless, and inarticulate about the sport he coaches, as Jim Zorn? Watching his post game pressers is, well, sad.

Michael Wilbon: Yeah, I've seen it all, pretty much. And Zorn just doesn't seem to have the command a head coach should have. And who's fault is that? The owner's fault for making him the head coach. Why would you visit with Zorn and make him the head coach?


Richmond, Va.: "Show pony" interview is an interesting point. Do you think Jerry Gray is getting mentioned merely as a head fake toward the Rooney Rule, with Shanahan already in the bag?

Michael Wilbon: I hope not because I know Jerry Gray a little bit and I think he's a worthy man, a worthy candidate to be somebody's head coach. And I don't know that Shanahan is in the bag. You think he wouldn't seriously entertain going to coach the Cowboys? Or the Bears. The man grew up in Chicago, remember. You think that wouldn't have some appeal to him, coaching the kid (Jay Cutler) who needs him and has played well under him already?


Burke, Va.: It seems to me the only chance for success is for Dan Snyder to let Bruce Allen run football operations with interference from the top. Do you think Snyder will let that happen?

Michael Wilbon: No. I have to see that to believe it. why would I believe that without proof, given the way Snyder has run the team for 10 years? Gotta show me ... Okay, I also gotta run and start preparing for PTI. This is the last chat before Christmas and we wont' do one on the 28th of December because I'll be away for the Holiday ... But we're back in early Janaury after the regular season has concluded. Hope everybody has a wonderful couple of weeks and enjoys family and good cheer during the Holiday Season ... Travel safely, be well, Jingle all the way ... MW


Washington, D.C.: How on Earth does the Rooney Rule cause people to be overlooked, as that one commenter suggested?! Owners are welcome to interview as many of those white 'hot prospects' as they want.

Michael Wilbon: Fair point.


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