Chat with Michael Wilbon: Redskins, Jim Caldwell, NFL playoffs, Wizards and more

Michael Wilbon
Washington Post Sports Columnist
Monday, December 28, 2009; 2:00 PM

Welcome to another edition of The Chat House, where Post columnist Michael Wilbon was online Dec. 28 at 2 p.m. ET to discuss the Redskins, the upcoming NFL playoffs, the decision of Colts coach Jim Caldwell not to bench his starters, the retirement of Urban Meyer, 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.


Somerville, MA: You could see it on the Colts faces yesterday as they were sitting on the sideline. They were totally deflated, like a sub-.500 team watching themselves get blowed out. And having that sort of losing attitude build over a couple weeks and having it carry over into the playoffs will most likely mean a flat performance from the Colts in round 2. Wouldn't you agree Mr. Wilbon?

Michael Wilbon: Yes, I would...Hi everybody...Welcome to a slightly later edition of the Chat House...I just arrived in Arizona for a few days of sun (though not today; it's impossibly cloudy with a desert storm blowing through)...You can bet Tony and on, on PTI this afternoon, will lead with the Colts and the Bill Polian/Jim Caldwell decision to bench the starters, beginning with Peyton Manning, in the third quarter with a lead while playing at home...I believe the decision deflated the Colts players as well; their reactions said they wanted no part of this and I don't blame them. It stinks on 100 levels. And no, I don't think after essentially three Sundays off--Week 16, Week 17, and bye-week in the playoffs -- that the Colts' offense will have the timing it needs to win a championship. If we're wrong and the Colts win the Super Bowl they'll point to good health and say that's the way to go...If they lose we'll (okay, I'll) point to rust and bad karma as reasons they didn't win. I find the decision despicable on every level...


Washington, D.C.: MW, do you think Urban Meyer's waffling is genuine or simply designed to hold recruits in the Gator loop?

Michael Wilbon: This is a fair and smart question. Do I put it past the Florida Gator people to try and devise a plan that will ultimately allow Urban to do what he needs to do while holding the recruits in place? Not for a second. I hope Urban Meyer will take care of his health, first and foremost. Reading his wife's quotes, she sounded like this was simply something he HAD to do, and the resignation was the smart way to go...On the other hand, I went back to work six days after a heart attack. These are very individual decisions and waffling about what to do and when is part of the reaction to difficult news. But I would hope it's not driven by the SEC recruiting wars. How sad would that be?


Washington DC: If the Colts had been 13-1 yesterday when Caldwell took out his starters, do you think anyone would have cared? I understand that everyone wants to see an undefeated season -- if only to shut up the Dolphins players - but if they'd had one loss, then wouldn't the reaction be that the coach did the right thing by playing Manning for one half to make sure he isn't rusty then sitting him?

Michael Wilbon: Of course, the reaction at 13-1 wouldn't be the same. It's quitting on history. It's not trying. So few teams have the stones to go for it, which is one reason I so love the 1996 Chicago Bulls of Michael Jordan, Phil Jackson and Scottie Pippen.

That team WENT FOR IT. Jordan played 42 minutes in the team's historic 70th victory, a 6-point win in Milwaukee. The Bulls went 12-2 in their final 14 games, 18-3 in the final 21 and 24-4 over the final 28. Jordan averaged 37.7 minutes per game that season, and 31.2 points per game in the final four, including a pair of 24-minute performances in WINS. In the one loss, against the Pacers, he played 31 minutes even though the 70th and 71st wins had already been accomplished.

THAT's going for it, boys and girls. The Colts, who already have a championship to the credit in the Peyton Manning era, didn't go for it. They ran FROM it. Coaches keep starters in game all the time in the fourth quarter with 21, 28-point leads. Manning has gone seasons without missing a snap. And now, with a lead at home, you yank him in the third? One more time: it stinks. Polian and Caldwell can flip off everybody if the Colts win...But I'd rather see a team spy to win 'em all than pack it in and run from history by saying, "That was never our goal to begin with." Teams adjust their goals all the time, based on how the season goes.


Falls Church, Va.: What was Gilbert thinking, keeping GUNS in his locker? Thanks! Wizards' Arenas investigated for gun possession

Michael Wilbon: I've heard his reasoning for it, getting them out of the house. But why the arena? All professional athletes, especially the ones who've been around for awhile in the same town as Gil has D.C., know some law enforcement officials they can call and say, "Hey, what do I do with this stuff now that I want to get rid of it?" How hard would that be?


Capitol Hill: Will you be covering the Olympics in person or will the NBA keep you from going there? What events are you looking forward to the most?

Michael Wilbon: I will not be covering the Vancouver Olympics. And I must tell you, I'm not crying my eyes out about it. Don't get me wrong, I love the Olympics. But the Winter Games have become the Figure Skating Prom covered by a NBC and a few writers (dear friends of mine) who revel in it...I don't care about what the networks care about or what my editors have cared about at the Winter Games. I care about the hockey; it's the best hockey tournament in the world. NO fighting, no blood-letting. No thugery. It's the most skilled players facing each other for two weeks and it's a marvel. I like the downhill skiing and a few other events, but I don't care about the Winter Games nearly as much as I care about the Summer Games. I've done three (Albertville in '92, Nagano in '98 and Salt Lake City in '02) and loved being there. But the Winter Games need to be seen in person. I probably won't watch more than three or four hours total on TV. I'm not going to sit in front of the television waiting on downhill. Sorry, I just won't. And yes, my NBA life for ABC/ESPN which started four years ago and hosting PTI outrank the Winter Olympics...I don't even think we'll talk very much about Vancouver (the prettiest city in North America) on PTI, though I could be wrong about that. I guess events will dictate...


Washington, D.C.: Northwestern is ranked in the Top 25 in the AP poll for the first time since the '60s. Cause for celebration?

Michael Wilbon: Hell yes. Oh, absolutely yes. We have some moments in our program's history, like drubbing Magic's Michigan State team the year they won it all (1979)...But we're the only BCS school (I believe) to have never reached the NCAA men's basketball tournament...And that's hard to swallow. Even Kornheiser's Binghamton Bearcats have reached the tournament and we haven't. We've got a shot, and I'm overjoyed. Bill Carmody and the coaching staff have done a really nice job this year...I don't want to get too carried away. We've had nice starts before in other decades and finished flat and missed the tournament. But a New Year's Day Bowl game (Outback Bowl vs. Auburn), a defending five-time national champion women's lacrosse team, and a one-loss basketball team with a shot at the tournament...I'm floating.


Mishawaka, IN: Urban was selfish to go through all this drama now. There was absolutely no reason to do anything until after Signing Day -- by fussing now he is messing with Florida's recruiting class. I understand Meyer wasn't looking forward to crisscrossing the country courting 18-year-olds, but please! He would have had plenty of time between the end of February and Labor Day to recharge his batteries. Just take naps while you're flying on the charter plane, and be sure to eat salads while you're traveling. It's just not that difficult.

Michael Wilbon: I think (trust) this is tongue-in-cheek. If so, right on.


Baltimore: Sir:

The Ravens had two touchdowns called back due to penalties yesterday and more than 100 yards of penalties overall. We here in Charm City are quite upset over Coach Harbaugh's seeming failure to instill discipline on a team. Lack of discipline was one of the reasons Billick is no longer around, after all. Is there any hope whatsoever for such a talented but stupid team to make a run in January?

Also, how come Billick isn't mentioned for the D.C. job, or any other HC positions?

Michael Wilbon: I don't know about the discipline issue; I think the players on hand are going to play to and over the edge and if you want another personality you'll have to get different players, which ain't all that easy. As for Billick, I'm starting to conclude he might not be that interested, because I'd hire him in a second over some of the names that are being mentioned. Pete Carroll or Brian Billick? Please, that's not even close. He's won a Super Bowl, for crying out loud. He's terrific on TV, too. Terrific. I'm an unabashed Billick fan. I'd love for him to coach the Bears next season.


Vancouver: I've never been to Vancouver, so I'll defer, but prettier than Seattle? San Diego? San Francisco? Really? I gotta see that.

Michael Wilbon: Then you gotta see it. I have been there...and to all the others you just named. It's a combination, visually, of Seattle and San Francisco...It's a stunning city, pretty in the dead of winter and in mid-summer. I was just there a couple of summers ago and realized I had UNDERRATED just how beautiful it is, and I already thought it was the most beautiful city in North America.


Washington DC: Mike,

What do you think about the debate of using Olympic style testing for the Pacquiao vs. Mayweather fight? Do you think Pacquiao has something to hide?

Michael Wilbon: All I know is he's passed all his drug tests. All of them. I think Mayweather is trying to get inside Pacquiao's head because he knows Pacquiao's the better fighter. Ultimately, I expect $40 to $50 million to bring people to use good sense...then again, fighters had stupidly thrown away great paydays before. It would be our loss and Mayweather's considering there's no fight out there that would get him 20 percent of that kind of payday.


Washington D.C.: Mike:

The sad news about George Micheal made me think about how lucky we've been to have truly great writers, columnists and media people in this region (from you and Tony to Boswell, Norman Chad, Feinstein, Aldridge, Shirley Povich and many, many others).

As much crap as you get from fans across the year, I wanted to sincerely thank you for everything you write. Though I may not agree with everything I read in the Sports Pages, I travel enough to know that we're lucky to have the best sports media in America.

Michael Wilbon: Thank you for that; it's very kind. George heavily influenced my television career. I wrote a column about him that appeared in the Christmas Day editions of The Post. I spent 40 Thursday nights a year with George from 1997 through 2007, plus about 20 Thursday nights in 1995, 1996 and 2008...That's a lot of time. And enjoyed every minute of it immensely. George was an American Original, a hard-working, plain-talking man with very humble origins, big ambitions and a bigger personality. I'm damn lucky, for whatever reasons, to have had him in my life and for him and his wonderful wife Pat to have included me in theirs.

_______________________ George Michael: The man who was must-see TV

_______________________ Wilbon on Indianapolis: Colts' disappointing decision


Laurel, Md.: Are the Lakers more flawed than we thought, or are the Cavaliers just THAT good? What a dismantling!

Michael Wilbon: I think the Lakers could have some rough spots during the season. They've narrowly avoided losing at Oklahoma City and Sacramento (two nights ago, in 2OT). But I also think they're the best team in the NBA. Where's the big flaw? If Andrew Bynum stays healthy and Ron Artest is out there for 70-plus regular season games and the entire post-season, I don't see the Lakers losing. With Kobe, Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, Artest, Bynum and the best coach in the business, I just don't see them losing, not even to the Celtics or Cavs. It was one brilliant game the Cavaliers played Christmas Day. Cleveland needed that. The Lakers? Not so much.


Richmond, VA: Forget the standings, based on current form I would say the Eagles and the Chargers are best teams in their respective conferences? What do you say Mr. Wilbon?

Michael Wilbon: Eagles and Chargers here, too. Unless...the Cowboys beat the Eagles and I go with Packers and Chargers. Don't sleep on the Cheeseheads!


Washington, DC: According to Arena, as I read here, his contact with law enforcement was through a security officer at the arena, which is why he brought them there. Supposedly he was going to pass it on to him to give to law enforcement, or something like that.

It does sound a little dubious, but it is quite plausible considering that the guns weren't loaded and there's not logical reason for him to have an unloaded gun in his locker. You're a relatively new father yourself, so you may know better than I whether, and how much a man can change when he has a child. But at the risk of sounding naïve, I think I believe him.

Michael Wilbon: Yeah, I hear and it yes, changes take place...I think constantly about going the other way. My dad always had a gun to protect his family. And while many of you will see this (and speak to it) as a political issue, I believe in not just the right to protect one's family, but what I see (because of the way I grew up) with the practicality of it...So, I might go the other way from Gil, 180 degrees. I don't believe in guns for sport. I don't hunt, don't see the point in collecting firearms...don't get any of that stuff. But to protect me and mine? Yep, I believe in that.


Chicago: Really? You'd can Lovie for Billick?

Michael Wilbon: In a heartbeat. And most of my issue with Lovie has to do with keeping Ron Turner, who has to have the worst offense in the NFL. It's awful. If Lovie wants to show loyalty to his staff, fine. I admire that to a degree. I'd admire it while I was calling him and his staffers in to clean out their offices.


Vienna, Va.: If you don't play to win the game -- as the Colts did -- they should give the fans their money back.

Michael Wilbon: Should, but won't. Teams pay lip service to how much they care about fans. What they care about is that fans spend money on the product. That's it.


Washington, DC: Will you and Tony have a segment on PTI about George Michael?

Michael Wilbon: Yes...a melancholy Happy Trails.


Charles Town, WV: I think what I'll miss most about George Michael is his incredible enthusiasm for sports - all sports. That guy could get me excited about NASCAR. NASCAR!! I'm so sorry for your loss, and OUR loss. What everyone sees on ESPN today, George Michael created. I only hope that some day he'll be fully recognized for what he did - revolutionizing sports journalism (and yes - for the better). George Michael: The man who was must-see TV

Michael Wilbon: I think he's being recognized for it now, by lots of people from coast-to-coast. And he's so deserving.


Brooklyn, NY: I'm 38 and have been a loyal 'Skins fan for at least 39 years. Two questions:

1. Can you recall a more humiliating Redskins season?

2. I'm considering abandoning the "maroon & black." If you were a New Yorker, would you become a Giants or Jets fan?

Michael Wilbon: I've rooted for the Cubs for 46 of my 51 years and have had zero World Series appearances to your three Super Bowl Championships. Shut up and go to your room, please. I have no time for whiny fans who think it's their birthright to win and always ask about whether this is the worst year ever. The Redskins have had plenty of bad seasons (just look at the record book before Vince Lombardi and then George Allen arrived) and plenty of great ones...just like a lot of other teams.


TMZ: Would Shaq want to be in the same arena as Gil with guns?

Michael Wilbon: Ha ha! The Internet savvy among you (probably 75 percent) will get this one...I'm not going there though.


DC: Was wondering if you caught John Calipari's response to Bob Knight's criticism. Not knowing Calipari personally I would not know if this is par for the course for him, and was wondering what you or others more familiar with him would have expected? Calipari disagrees with Knight's accusation

Michael Wilbon: I do know Coach Cal and that's EXACTLY what I expected, a take-the-high-road approach and not start any kind of fight. I thought it was brilliant PR and the perfect way to handle it.


DC: I'm sick of hearing people defend Jason Campbell because of the lack of quality up front. Correct me if I'm wrong, wasn't Roethlisberger the most sacked QB last year and he went on WIN THE SUPERBOWL! Look at how Aaron Rogers is getting pushed around this year and let's compare the numbers???

Michael Wilbon: Doesn't Big Ben have Hines Ward? And doesn't Aaron Rodgers have Donald Driver? You don't want to suggest Campbell has anybody like that, do you? Or the stability of system those two have had in Pittsburgh and Green Bay? I didn't think so. Sacks are about all they have in common.


DC: Mike,

I'm trying desperately to think of a relevant, compelling Redskins question. I swear, I really am trying...nope, still nothing.

We are all just waiting for the end of the season so something promising can happen on the coaching/personnel front. I can't think of a less compelling Redskins-Cowboys game in my lifetime than the one played last night. Is this a night is darkest before the dawn situation?

Michael Wilbon: It's a bad season. Don't make it a metaphor for life. There might be more...probably will be.


Tucson, Arizona: Who has a better chance of being a Redskin next year - Campbell or Portis?

Michael Wilbon: Campbell. If the Redskins have Portis and do not have Campbell they'll probably have made yet another really stupid decision.


Houston: Being a transplanted Virginian, I must say when I heard the news of George Michael's passing it really hit me hard what a huge loss it was. I tried explaining to my wife (who does not love sports the way I do) and I couldn't come up with words to describe how much his work affected how I viewed sports growing up. I remember staying up late nights to watch the Sports Machine before there was ESPN or specifically watching NBC so I could watch longer local sports segments and to see his banter back and forth with Jim Vance and others on the set. And then of course Redskins Report and Full Court Press... his broadcasts were just remarkable.

It did get me to thinking though, how radically different sports broadcasting and journalism is today versus then today. As Mike Wise touched upon in his article, it is all about the "sports clip bite" on the evening news or even trying to cram as much content into a SportsCenter. I think in general its systemic of where we are with media in general - why newspapers are dying. I'll take the time to sit down and read a Sunday paper's sports section, but generations after me I guess would rather have the condensed version. I was curious what your thoughts are on this trend and would also love to hear a funny George story that you maybe haven't shared before. Sometimes its the good funny memories that best define how one remembers people so important to us that have passed away.

Thanks as always for the chats

Michael Wilbon: Goodness, we're getting to this too late in the session because I have to go to a studio 30 minutes away in Tempe to prepare for PTI...If somebody reminds me, I'll do this next week...Trust me, I've got anecdotes about George. Yep, lots of 'em...Thanks for sharing your feelings of George and stretching some more George discussion to next week will keep us talking about him, which is something that would please me greatly...Take care, Happy New Year everybody...My last week of 2009 and first week of 2010 will start tonight with Lakers at Suns here in Phoenix, then Celtics at Suns Wednesday night, then Redskins at Chargers between there will be some golf and plenty of football watching...See you guys next


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