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The Chat House with Michael Wilbon: NFL playoffs, Redskins future, Wizards and more

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Michael Wilbon
Washington Post Sports Columnist
Monday, January 11, 2010; 1:15 PM

Welcome to another edition of The Chat House, where Post columnist Michael Wilbon wasonline Jan. 11 to discuss the Redskins' future, the NFL playoffs, 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

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turnovers!: Michael -

Can you think of a game that had a turnover on the first and last play? Crazy.

I'm scared of Dallas now. Will be interesting to see the contrasting Colts-Ravens. Doesn't see likely, but still hoping for Saints-Colts SB.

Oh, and an 18 game NFL schedule would be insane.

Michael Wilbon: Hi everybody...coming to you from Scottsdale, Ariz. where it's in the 60s (on the way to 70) and cloudless ... completely blue sky with a slight breeze. It's a to-die-for day out here but I'm returning to D.C. late this afternoon. Talk about Wrong Way Corrigan! If anybody has some creative ways for me stay out here semi-legitimately, I'm all ears. Anyway, we'll talk about mostly football, the Wizards, maybe a little Redskins. I was at the Cardinals-Packers thriller yesterday, the game that saved the first weekend of the playoffs, so we'll start there. The first and final plays were fascinating, but it's what happened in between that was compelling. Nine TD passes to just one interception ... just about 800 yards passing ... highest scoring game in NFL playoff history ... I generally don't like games with zero defense but this was some roller coaster ride, one of the most entertaining pro football games I've ever covered. In part, it's because the passing was so precise, particularly Kurt Warner, who when healthy is unstoppable. Personally, I'd love to see Cowboys vs. Cardinals in the new Cowboys playpen. As far as Colts and Ravens, Baltimore will do the one thing that bothers Peyton Manning: hit him in the mouth. It's the thing that bothers Tom Brady, too, which we saw yesterday. It doesn't bother every QB the same. I know the Steelers didn't even make the playoffs, but getting hit doesn't bother Ben Roethlisberger as much as it does Brady and Manning. Didn't bother John Elway as much either. And yes, an 18-game schedule would be both stupid and greedy ... maybe in reverse order.

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Rockville, Md.: With Washington and Seattle both conducting token interviews to get around the Rooney Rule, what is your take on the rule's future? One could make the case that Washington and Seattle each only had one candidate in mind (given the amount of money they are shelling out). Is the rule becoming a joke?

Michael Wilbon: Yes it is. I will say this: if black candidates are being put into the cycle of hiring and wind up getting the next job, or in the door for the next job then the Rooney Rule will be serving its purpose in a secondary way. Even so, Roger Goodell ought to do what Paul Tagliabue did when he was commissioner and get on the phone, get in owners' faces (even though they employ him) and tell them under no uncertain circumstances that if they don't comply they'll be punished severely. It's simple: Do you want to enforce the rules or not? If so, do something about it. The NFL is a law-and-order, our-way-or-the-highway league. So why not now?

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New York City: Mike Tannenbaum deserves a lot of credit for aggressively trading up in the draft for Revis, (Sanchez) and Shonn Greene.

Michael Wilbon: You always deserve credit when you draft the right players, whether you move up or down in the process. And Revis (sp?) is perhaps the best cornerback in the NFL. That's what having a great personnel guy can do for a club. You wouldn't want to have one of those, would you? You think Rex Ryan had time to coach his team and scout those guys? I don't.

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Anonymous: Wow, what a bunch of stinkers! I have to ask this question, how have the Patriots performed overall post "signal spying" scandal?

They seem to have become mortal and worst. The very play the Ravens scored on was diagrammed by Marshal Faulk on the NFL network.

Michael Wilbon: Be careful now. Remember, the Patriots won 18 straight games after Spygate. Yes, they lost the Super Bowl, but still won 10 games without Tom Brady last year and 10 games (or was it 11) with Brady coming back this year. The loss yesterday to the Ravens was a crusher, and I think the run as we've know it is over. I can't see the Patriots holding onto Randy Moss another year and they almost have to be in re-load mode ... but I don't want to start throwing dirt over the Patriots just yet ...

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Raleigh, NC: What are your thoughts about the way that the Seahawks and Redskins handled the Rooney rule? Haven't they violated the "spirit of the rule", as the Lions were accused of doing in the 2003 hiring of Mariucci?

Michael Wilbon: Yes, they have violated the rule. Clubs have thumbed their nose at a rule which has been good for the league, good for the member institutions ... all you have to do is look at the Steelers, for example. The question is whether he want to enforce the rule or not. The Fritz Pollard organization (named after the first black coach in the NFL) and the Players Association ought to be up in arms.

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Washington, D.C.: Was the Wizards re-signing Gilbert Arenas the worst contract ever signed in D.C. sports history?

Michael Wilbon: Yeah, probably. The Juwan Howard contract was larger, and he was dealt after a lot of pressure and a lot of booing. But Juwan Howard was a professional. Everything I know about him is that he is (and continues to be) a pro's pro. His teammates have always liked him, as have his coaches, in terms of attitude and being a great teammate. It's tough to say the same thing about Gilbert recently, although I should be honest about the way I've felt about the guy all these years, which is I thought he was a breath of fresh air for the first few years. The last three, dealing with injuries and now these serious gun issues, have changed all that.

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Bethesda, Maryland: Are you surprised by the success of the Rockets minus T- Mac and Yao? Credit Adelman? What about GM Daryl Morey for finding a bunch of young outstanding players? Any predictions for where T-Mac will end up?

Michael Wilbon: I happily credit Daryl ... He's a Northwestern guy, and yes the Rockets have drafted brilliantly. Adelman is a helluva coach, too, a guy who never deals in excuses. He was a terrific coach in Sacramento where he was robbed in 2002 of a chance to compete for the NBA Championship. Where will T-Mac wind up? How about in Washington, D.C.? He's in the final year of a huge contract. Why wouldn't a team that needs to start over want to trade for an expiring contract? If (BIG if) Gilbert's contract winds up being voided, why not go to Houston and offer Butler and Jamison for T-Mac? That would free up, what, something in the neighborhood of $40 million or so per year, going into the summer of 2010 with all those attractive free agents...But if the Wizards don't have a clear-cut owner. If ownership is still being negotiated it will really hurt the product on the floor because this is a hugely important summer. We can only hope that issue is cleared up and cleared up quickly.

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Scooped: How does the newspaper of Woodward and Bernstein get scooped out of the Gilbert Arenas story? What are your thoughts on this? In my opinion, Michael Lee and company ought to be embarrassed.

Michael Wilbon: read the next question and you'll find my answer.

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Washington, D.C.: Mike - I appreciated all your points in all your Arenas columns, but I was disappointed that you responded to an Al Sharpton opinion that was responding to a New York Post report that relied entirely on one dubious source (some friend of Critt's who was not at the scene) and was, apparently, exaggerated and often false. Given the uncertain state of journalism in today's world and your stated identity as a traditionalist, I hoped you would take a stronger stance against the bad reporting on this story (and others). That said, credit to you and Wash Post for continuing to report with integrity. Thoughts on my criticism?

Michael Wilbon: First, thank you for answering the previous question with your own question. And second, at the time I wrote that we didn't exactly know all the details. I was suspicious of some of the details but didn't want to knock them down without better information. Again, thanks for question/comment.

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Germantown, Md.: The Greenbay-Arizona game was awesome but wasn't the high-scoring due to horible defenses on both sides of the field? I don't think Kurt Warner can put up numbers like that against the defense of, say, the Ravens or the Cowboys?

Michael Wilbon: Fair question. I knocked the two defenses in my column this morning. But remember, the NFL doesn't allow the kind of defense that the Ravens played in 2000. That's been legislated out of the game. The league doesn't want that kind of defense and that kind of QB mauling, so it's out of the game. Yes, the Cowboys defensive ends could get to Warner, in theory. I hope we get to find out. The Vikings defensive line was supposed to get to Warner, too. How'd that work out? Didn't Warner torch the Vikes when their defense was still fairly highly rated?

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Alexandria, Va.: Do you think either of the young QBs (Flacco and Sanchez) can get their team to the Super Bowl? They seem to be managing games well - but you usually need a few big plays from your QB to get to the "promised land".

Michael Wilbon: No, I don't think the Jets or Ravens can get to the Super Bowl. Flacco is much further along than Sanchez but Flacco is hurting, clearly, and has to do more than 4-for-10 in Indy if the Ravens are to advance. The Ravens would have to win in Indy and in San Diego, which I don't think they can do. I actually hope they can. I tend to root for the Ravens because the owner and GM (Steve B. and Ozzie N.) are men I like a helluva lot. They had to win some big road games under Brian Billick to win the Super Bowl, but nobody as good as the Colts and Chargers appear to be now. That would be an all-time run if the Colts can do it. I see the Jets getting crunched in San Diego this week, largely because they'll exploit Sanchez.

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Washington, D.C.: How could Belichick have let a tough, Super Bowl winning team, evolve into a soft, finesse team that could let itself get smacked around like that?

Michael Wilbon: The natural forces in professional sports operate against winners. If you follow pro sports closely you should know that. Your best players grow old (Bruschi, Harrison, McGinest, etc.), leave via free agency or trade (Assante Samuel) ... Your best coaches (Weis, Crennell, the kid in Denver) leave. You draft late, you get tired from playing so late in the year...It's supposed to happen that way. The same as it happens to just about ever winner in every sport.

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Bowie, Md.: So this has got to be it for Reid-McNabb in Philly, right? That squad probably peaked five years ago. It took Cowher something like 12-13 years to win the Super Bowl, but he changed quarterbacks a few times (O'Donnell, Stewart, Maddox and I think there may have been one or two more). The Eagles have had at least a decade now with the same two guys.

Michael Wilbon: Yeah, I think the Eagles as we've known them are done. I don't think Reid is going anywhere but I don't see any reason for McNabb to be there next year. I'm already lobbying for him to be here in Arizona if Kurt Warner retires, and I have no idea whether he will. But while I like Matt Leinart a lot, it doesn't look like this coaching staff thinks of him as the QB of the future ... or even next year. McNabb with these receivers could be pretty good, right? Hell, he already lives here in the off-season. I just can't see that Philly team advancing with him leading them, largely because they've got a ton of young brash players who are of a different generation than Donovan ... differnt kind of cats, as we used to say. I don't see it.

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La Mesa, Calif.: (Where it's 73 and will top off at 75 or more going by the last few days, but enough. Please rain.)--

The way quarterbacks deliver a pass seems to me to be critical. I noticed Warner cocks his arm fully, which led to one fumble yesterday. Rivers and Roethlisberger have very tight deliveries that make stripping the ball more difficult. Just one factor, I know, but it could make a difference, or is my armchair analysis just that...?

Michael Wilbon: What, guys are supposed to all deliver the ball the same way? To have the same throwing motion? Your analysis is completely accurate but would you not want Kurt Warner because he's got a longer throwing motion? He fumbles more, no question, than Big Ben and guys with tighter motions, but Romo has a nice quick, tight motion and still fumbles. If a guy has enough attributes to make up for it you keep him and focus on what he does well.

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Falls Church, Va.: How come Tony Dungy's name isn't batted around for a $7 million deal? Is he retired for good or do you think this is something more dubious?

Michael Wilbon: Something more. The same something that made him a coach six to eight years later than he should have been in the first place.

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RE: Patriots: Ususally dynasties end with the departure of the quarterback and/or head coach. New England still has both. It's a bit premature to say it's over for them.

Michael Wilbon: I think it's over for them winning Super Bowls, but they can still win the division and be a threat in the post-season. Question is, after you've won three titles and had a perfect regular season, what else is left? What's enough?

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Rockville, Md.: What would you do if a co-worker (either Wise or Kornheiser) pooped in your shoe as a prank or mutilated one of your suits?

Michael Wilbon: Beat him 'til his mama didn't recognize him...Then again, that's not the culture of the newsroom ... but it is the culture of locker rooms. Trust me, that's daily stuff in baseball locker rooms, which are the grossest places on earth. Pooping in something (how about on a cake) is a staple in the baseball culture ... I know of an all-pro football player who peed in a teammate's car and one had to be traded ... same guy took a dump and threw the waste on a whiteboard during a team meeting he didn't want to be in ... Basketball locker rooms are pretty safe places compared to baseball and football.

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New York: There is a constant din among many sports fans and writers, as to small markets and lack of competitive balance, justifying controls on player salaries and movement. Isn't it ironic that baseball, the bogeyman, is the healthiest of our major sports by most metrics?

Michael Wilbon: I don't believe that for a minute...Pro football has Green Bay, and Jacksonville (before the economic downturn) had two AFC Championship game appearances ... Pro basketball has San Antonio which has won four, and now Oklahoma City with a good, young team that's very popular. Sacramento has been close and could be getting close again with this roster of young players...Too many small market baseball franchises seem outside looking in...Pittsburgh is the obvious one.

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Winter Olympics: Any interest in the upcoming Winter Olympics Michael? If so, what are your favorite events? I bet you are closet curling fan, right?

Michael Wilbon: You know, this is interesting. I don't know how much I'm going to watch. I've covered three Winter Games (Albertville 1992, Nagano 1998 and Salt Lake City 2002) but I'm not interested in watching on TV. I loved being there, but downhill on TV? Without the mountains in the background and the snow falling on my dome? I've seen curling, trust me, and it ain't all that. I liked it, again, in person. Many of these things don't translate to TV as well. The figure skating, I hate. That's well documented. I love the hockey. No fighting, no obstruction, no goonery. Best hockey tournament in the world. I like the speed skating. Like the women's biathlon, but again, in person. Chicks with firearms. Yeah, baby. Ooops, I'm not supposed to say that, am I?

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Wilmington, Dela.: So is Vick the future quarterback for the Eagles?

Michael Wilbon: I don't think so...unless they go with Vick over McNabb...And do I see Andy Reid doing that? No, I don't.

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USC football fans: So what are we going to do now? Our beloved Pete is leaving and going to Seattle, and there are possible penalties from the Reggie Bush and now Joe McKnight scandals. Who do you see next as the next coach of Troy? Please help Mike ...

Michael Wilbon: Jack Del Rio? Jeff Fisher? Hey, USC has resources, from within and outside the university. Don't count on a national championship next year but you guys can find somebody. I think this might be an opportunity. I think Pete was slip, slip, slippin' lately and he got out of Dodge ahead of the NCAA posse. You'll have the laugh laugh when he's fired three years into his deal in Seattle for having a bunch of 7-9 seasons and bad drafts.

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NW, Washington, D.C.: Hi Mr. Wilbon,

What are the rules and procedures regarding 'the Rooney rule?' I understand the gist or its intent (which I applaud), but it seems that the loopholes are so glaring that the spirit of the rule gets watered down. Shouldn't there be (in my opinion) stricter rules regarding the interviewing of candidates (be it making such matters public or an interviewing/hiring/firing timeline) so that it doesn't give an impression that teams/owners are interviewing candidates just to comply? Based on one certain team in DC, it seemed like there was a 'wink-wink' deal in play.

Michael Wilbon: Your question/comment is all you need to know. What you seem to think is true is true. And it is wink-wink. Pretty soon there won't even be that.

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Cowboys bandwagon: Mike, it seems like anyone and everyone is jumping on the Cowboys bandwagon. I'm not so sure myself. I'm predicting that they are going to get beaten in the Metrodome because the Vikings just have too many playmakers and I believe the Cowboys are the type of team that will fall victim to their own hype. Your thoughts?

Michael Wilbon: I have been of the opinion for three weeks that the Saints and Vikings are done. I think the Cowboys will win in Minneapolis; the Vikings haven't beaten a good team all year. And I think the Saints best chance lies in the Cardinals being tired from yesterday's track meet.

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Gaithersburg, Md.: Are the type of pranks done by Gilbert common in the NBA? Having read the past few days, most of them seem in very bad taste and really should have clued in Wizards management about giving someone like that a guaranteed $100 million contract. Did they think he was going to be better after signing it?

Michael Wilbon: As I said earlier, there are pranks in all sports locker rooms but NBA rooms arent' anywhere near as offensive as baseball locker rooms (which are the worst by a million miles) and football. We knew who Gilbert Arenas was before they signed him. And so did Ernie Grunfeld. So let there be no excuses now.

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Iowa: I hope you're wrong about Tony Dungy not being mentioned for head coaching positions. He's one of the NFL's class acts and I would think there would be a half dozen teams that would jump if he indicated he wanted to come back. I think he's just enjoying retirement.

Michael Wilbon: Notre Dame called him. Teams call Bill Cower and he's retired. Teams call Jimmy Johnson and he's retired. Hell, teams called John Madden for years and he was retired. The Chiefs called Dick Vermeil 17 years into retirement, which he clearly enjoyed. The Redskins? Didn't they call Joe Gibbs when he's been out of football for 10 years? Nope, sorry, doesn't fly. Let's call it what it is. If Tony Dungy was white people would have been lighting up his phone. I don't think that's happened yet ... And you're right, it ought to be happening.

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McLean, Va.: Journalism question ... Maybe I'm completely wrong on this, but I've noticed that your frequency of columns has picked up a lot over the last few weeks. Is that my imagination or is that really fact? If the latter, do you just write when the right topic shows up or do you have to knock out a certain number of articles a year, or something else?

Michael Wilbon: When I write is based on what's happening in the world and what Thomas Boswell, Sally Jenkins, Mike Wise and Tracee Hamilton are doing. We all have to play nice. We have different areas of concentration. But with the Redskins hiring a new coach and the Gilbert Arenas controversy raging, coming on the heels of Tiger Woods ... these are areas which demand discussion every day ... so yes, I've written more recently. And there is no number of columns required.

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Washington, D.C.: Hey Mike how do you like my fake trade: Arenas to New York for Jeffries and Curry?

Michael Wilbon: No. Hmmmm, no.

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Re: Tony Dungy: Michael, didn't TD say on '5 Good Minutes' the other day that he had no interest in coming back to coaching in the NFL? He seemed to be speaking truth when he made that statement sticking to the reasons why he retired in the first place, i.e. working with young men, various ministries, etc..

Michael Wilbon: I belive he has no interest in coming back now. But when did that stop the Dan Snyders of the world from throwing money at people? When billionaires want somebody they make him say no with an offer. Dungy doesn't get those calls. Cower does. What's the difference between them? Maybe Cower has let it dangle that he's not UN-interested ... but now we're fishing...

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HOYA SAXA: Four in a row v U-Conn. - what a come back. I am hoping this is the sign of what is to come with the Hoyas this year. What are your thoughts on the Hilltoppers?

Michael Wilbon: Sorry, it's too early. One of my pet peeves with the sports schedule is that college basketball gets squeezed. For those of us covering the NFL and NBA, we run right out of the Super Bowl into the NBA All-Star game. I used to see more than 50 college basketball games a year in person in the 1980s and early 1990s. Now, I'm lucky to even see a game on TV before the Super Bowl ends the first week of February. That is largely due to my professional responsibilities changing, mostly my covering the NBA for ABC/ESPN ... I haven't seen Georgetown or Maryland and won't for three more weeks. I'm not the only one, though. I was talking to an ACC official the other night, somebody I've known for 30 years, and he was lamenting the college hoops season being squeezed by the NFL going on and on and on. If they go to 18 games it'll be late February before they're off the stage, which is preposterous. I now just hope to see two or three weeks of games before March Madness begins...wow, how things change.

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Bethesda, Md.: Could this be Shanahan's plan? Draft one of the name quarterbacks that may fall to the second round and pick up a West Coast vet like Jeff Garcia for a year to be the starter and mentor the pick ...?

Michael Wilbon: I have no idea of Shanahan's plan, and even less idea of whether his plan, whatever it is, will work. Let's just watch and see what develops. I just hope Jason Campbell gets out of here and finds a nice, quiet, stable environment in which to play. Maybe the Redskins can trade him to the Bears for Cutler ... Wouldn't you Redskins fans love that? I would!

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Mount Vernon, Va.: After watching the Orlando and New Orleans game I thought the Wizards without Agent Zero played a better, faster team game. Are they just teasing us or are the pieces starting to gel?

Michael Wilbon: They're not starting to gel after two or three games. But they could be better without him than they were going to be with him THIS season ... But don't go getting all warm and fuzzy just yet. Again, if I ran the program I'd be trading off everything, conducting a fire sale, from now until the trade deadline ...

Okay, gotta run and prepare for PTI and then a flight home. See you guys next week from the cold of Washington, D.C. UGH!!

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Washington, D.C.: Breaking news on espn.com:

Reid says McNabb will be back next year. Thus endeth the idle speculation.

washingtonpost.com: Reid says McNabb his starter in 2010 (ESPN.com, Jan. 11)

Michael Wilbon: Maybe...it's a long off-season. But thanks for the breaking news.

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Rooney Rule: Why do assistants like Gray even bother with it when asked to interview? Don't they know they are being played? EVERYONE knew Shanahan would be the hire.

Michael Wilbon: Gray has to worry about himself, get his name out there, put himself in a position where more people know him and call him in for a real interview. Same for Leslie Frazier up in Minnesota.

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The Rooney Rule: I think the rule still serves its purpose even with the token interviews. I'd point to how the Nationals conducted a bunch of interviews for their GM and manager positions before hiring the interim guys - which they were planning to do all along.

But those interviews still served a purpose. For the team, it was an opportunity to discuss their team, identify problem areas as seen by an outsider, and receive some creative ideas on how to fix them. For the interviewees, it was an opportunity to put your name out there, impress people with your ideas and professionalism, and get people talking about you as an up-and-coming candidate.

Teams that know who they want and hire that person without seriously looking at other candidates are poorly run organizations in the first place. BUt it's still an opportunity for a candidate to impress them and for that organization to tell others how impressed they were, leading to the candidate getting serious offers in the future. Now if these teams were all interviewing the exact same minority candidate and it was clear he was never going to get the job, I'd be more worried.

Anyway, the real measure of success in this field to me isn't the number of minority head coaches, but how easily they can get hired a second time after a poor showing in their first head coaching go round (like Dick Jauron, Wade Phillips, Norv Turner, Bill Bellichek, etc.)

Michael Wilbon: Fair point, and one many black coaches have themselves made recently. Thanks for this.

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Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.: Re: Rooney Rule

How come with it comes to this no one (even the media) never mentions other minorites such as Asians, Pacific Islanders, Hispanics, etc? I'm sure there ARE people of these races that are interested in coaching in the NFL too. No?

Michael Wilbon: Yes ... Tom Flores, with two Super Bowl rings, for example. yes.

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Arlington, Va.: Michael,

Who are the best recurring '5 Good Minute' personalities, in your humble opinion, that are not employed by ESPN? Which NFL broadcast team do you like the most? I thought having the 'Dos Joses' - Joe Gibbs and Joe Theisman - in the same broadcast booth for the Jets/Bengals game worked well.

Michael Wilbon: Ask me this next week, please ... Good question!

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