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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
Tuesday, January 19, 2010; 1:15 PM

Welcome to another edition of The Chat House, where Post columnist Michael Wilbon will be online Jan. 19 at 1:15 p.m. ET 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.

A transcript follows.

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Arlington, Va.: Which D.C. team do you think is worse when it comes to the draft, the Wizards or the Redskins? Granted the Redskins trade most of their picks away, but both teams seem to lack the ability to make any significant improvements through the draft and to scout and select players who can make a consistent contribution. And year after year when you look at the list of great young players who are taken by other teams picking after the Redskins and Wizards it is difficult to understand why they lack the capability to scout as well as the rest of the teams their leagues do.

Michael Wilbon: Hi everybody ... Thanks for chatting on Tuesday, since so many of you were off from work and away from your computers yesterday because of the Martin Luther King holiday ... Boy, it's hard to come up with a flattering question regarding the Redskins and Wizards, isn't it? And yes, poor drafting is part of the big, big problem with the Wizards and Redskins. Their issues, is seems to me, are very different. For years and years the Bullets/Wizards didn't spend the money scouting to come up with international players. I remember having breakfast with Big Gheorghe Muresan the morning after the Bullets took him in the second round and he told me the Bullets had never seen him play in person, never talked to him ... John Nash, the GM at the time, I believe, simply didn't have the budget to do that. Now, that was some years ago and the Wizards spend money now. I know the people who scout. I KNOW how good they are, how thorough and smart and savvy a guy like Ed Tapscott is ... So, that isn't the case anymore, that the Wizards don't blanket every basketball competition necessary to see. They do. Ernie Grunfeld decided, essentially, to not use the draft this last year. The Kwame Brown fiasco wasn't on Ernie's watch; that was Michael Jordan's pick ... Truth be told, the Wizards haven't had that automatic hall of fame pick, like LeBron or Tim Duncan just sitting there. They've had inadequate drafting, bad luck, the whole nine yards. The Redskins -- this Redskins administration anyway -- just doesn't care about the draft. Now, this kid Orakpo seems like the real deal, but overall -- and this goes back to George Allen -- the philosophy of the Washington Redskins regarding the draft is that the franchise has ways to build a team other than drafting. This worked for Joe Gibbs ... not so much since.

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Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.: As someone who often bashes the Nationals for not being competitive, how do you answer Tom Boswell's column about the Wizards/Bullets over the last 30 years?

Michael Wilbon: Boswell wrote a smart, measured column on the Bullets/Wizards today. He hit the franchise hard, and legitimately so, but didn't go out of his way to kill the franchise. He said they've been underachievers for a lot of years and he's dead on. Who's going to argue with that?

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Woodbridge, Va.: I'm reading that Grunfeld is being offered garbage for Jamison and or Butler. Should they take what they can get for those players just to say they are cleaning house, or should they expect something close to equal value.

Michael Wilbon: I don't hear that ... I hear Amare Stoudemire was offered as part of a deal some weeks, if not months, ago. And I'd try to take back garbage for them, if by garbage you mean guys who aren't impact players anymore who are in the final years of their contracts. You do that to get cap room and draft picks, which is the way you're going to have to build this team. If the Wizards, with Randy Foye playing point guard in place of Gilbert Arenas, run off a 10-out-of-12 streak or something like that I might reconsider. But me? I'd be trying to break this team up because the nucleus has been together too long without having any success, and that simply doesn't work in basketball. I'd try and get Butler and Jamison to contenders because they've earned it. Jamison, in particular, helped transform the Wizards from nothing to a team that reached the playoffs four staight years. But by the time the Wizards rebuild, Jamison and Butler won't be able to help. Again, if they get on a run right now I might live with it to try and make the playoffs this year then start unloading during the summer after the playoffs when you've seen what this group can do with Foye as your playmaker.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Mike,

Here are a couple of moves that Ted Leonsis could do to jump start the re-building of the Wizards. First, trade Arenas. (no brainer)

Second, trade Jamison or Butler or both for picks. I WOULD HATE HATE HATE to see them go. Classy men and hard working players. I really think they like it here in D.C.

Third, and this is the tricky part. Whenever Kevin Durant becomes available after his rookie contract expires, GO AND GET him!! Pay him an "Arenas" contract if not more to bring him home and that will be a heck of a start for re-building the Wizards.

Thoughts?

Michael Wilbon: First of all, if you're Leonsis you're trying to see that the Arenas contract, the $75 million that is still owed, is voided. Second, why would Kevin Durant leave Jeff Green, Russell Westbrook, this rookie Hardin? Why? He's the star of a team that could be in the conference finals in three years, when Kobe and Tim Duncan are gone, or fading to the point that they're not going to lead a team to the championship. He'd be crazy to do that. Crazy...you mean just to come home? Guys don't look things that way, otherwise Grant Hill would have come back, and Dwyane Wade would be headed to Chicago ... Ooops, I'm not supposed to mention that.

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Alexandria, Va.: Mike,

Why did Minnesota get so little respect prior to the game this weekend and going into the playoffs from most supposed "experts" including going against Romo etc. It would seem that even you said that the Packers were the team to beat in the post-season. Bradshaw was the only FOX analyst to pick them pregame. How do you see them shaping up against the Saints?

Michael Wilbon: I'm not even going to sit here and tell you I have ANY insight into the Saints-Vikings. These are two teams that lost three straight and four of five going in. I'm guilty of not thinking much of the Vikings before last week. They'd lost four of five; why would I? Why would anybody. The Cardinals starched them. The Bears beat them. My God, the Bears? They limped home, as did the Saints. But they had the bye week and got well ... I have zero idea about this Sunday's NFC Championship. I have no idea and will just leave it that way. No idea.

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Blow Outs: I think that as the NFL game has clipped the wings of defensive backs and curtailed the hitting of quarterbacks the games have become more and more likely to be blow outs. I think the Cards/pack is the aberration not the other games. Just look at the last 5 years and all games were the combined score was greater than 55. What is the average margin of victory in those games?

I dont think the NFL should overlook that the best game of the weekend, was the one playing by the "old" rules. In its effort to highlight and emphasize the pass, the NFL may be hurting the overall product by producing to many blowouts. The questoin becomes do we want to sit through 10 or 15 blowouts for the chance to see just one: Cardinals/Packers (that game was great, and I think it is what the NFL wants, but how often is that outcome likely?)

Michael Wilbon: Amen. Well said. I agree with everything you said ... although I wouldn't say the NFL has clipped the wings of just the D-backs. The NFL has essentially legislated defense out of the game. And perhaps this is the result. Yes, the one game where there was real defense and hitting Sunday -- Jets over Chargers -- was the only one worth watching. I'm not even going to pretend I know how this weekend's games will turn out.

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Houston, Texas: What's your take on the Vikings going for the late touchdown near the end of the game yesterday?

Michael Wilbon: We talked about this yesterday on PTI. Remember, Wade Phillips called timeouts on three consecutives plays with six minutes to play in that game. You call timeouts in the fourth quarter, it tells the opposing team you're still playing ... you've conceded nothing. So, if Wade Phillips wants to keep playing and his starters are in and he's blitzing and throwing the ball every down to get back in the game even though he's down 24 points, fine. I like that spirit. I like it that you're telling you're team, "It's the final game of the season if we lose and we're not going to wave a white flag!" But once you say that, don't tie the hands of the Vikings and tell them they can't pass the ball because it's running it up. To hell with that.

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Miami, Fla.: I wanted to get your thoughts on which victory of the divisional playoffs was most impressive?

Michael Wilbon: The Jets beating the Chargers. This isn't close and isn't debatable. The Saints SHOULD beat the Cardinals at home. The Vikings SHOULD beat the Cowboys at home. The Colts SHOULD beat the Ravens at home. They were the best teams over the course of the regular season. The Chargers had won 11 straight games, right? But the Jets went in there with their 9-7 record and took Norv Turner and Philip Rivers apart. That was a shocker, which is hard to get in pro sports in the post-season, and damn impressive. To win with defense these days, whn the NFL has almost legislated it out, is very, very impressive.

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Rockville, Md.: After watching the Jets defense shut down the Chargers, is it really that far out of the realm of possibility that they could do the same thing to Manning, who has less firepower, and steal an entry into the Super Bowl? Whoever said defense wins championships is looking pretty smart right now, in my opinion.

Michael Wilbon: Yeah, especially since every rule designed the last 20 years was done so to give offense every advantage. I love the quote from Rex Ryan, "Sometimes when you hit a quarterback the whole team feels it," is brilliant and it really is a new way of saying Al Davis' old line, "The Quarterback must go down and he must go down hard." That's the essence of football and the NFL has tried to erase it. Good for Rex Ryan, the old dinosaur, for staying true to his dad and to the roots of the old NFL.

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McLean, Va.: Can I get a shoutout for my Wahoos!? I was a Leitao fan, but I can't argue with what Tony Bennett has done -- kudos to him.

I know, I know, I shouldn't get ahead of myself. What are the odds that the 'Hoos don't even make the NIT and what are the odds of them making the Big Dance do you think?

Also, I heard a trivia question recently. Is it true that Northwestern is the only Divsion 1 school that has never made the NCAA Tourney? Not rubbing it in, merely curious.

Thanks!

Michael Wilbon: Yes, it's true. But I like Northwestern's chances of getting into the NCAA Tournament this yer (13-4) more than Virginia's chances. And as a team whose football team has been pretty pathetic for awhile now, why are you inquiring about a school whose team just played on New Year's Day? Not rubbing it in, merely curious! By the way, I think Tony Bennett was a great hire. Not good, great.

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Gaithersburg, Md.: As much as I hate the Cowboys, Brooking was right about the late touchdown. I get that the Vikings have the right to do what they want and that they had to do something given that a first down wasn't possible (or at least wasn't going to be easy to get without scoring). I usually think these types of things come back to haunt teams (in terms of karma). Your thoughts on the late TD?

Michael Wilbon: Just convered this. If the Cowboys are bold enough to call timeouts and keep playing the Vikings should be bold enough to keep playing, too. That's my thought. If the Cowboys had just run the ball and run up the white flag, then fine, the Vikes should be expected to stop throwing it. But not if the other guy is calling timeouts and going for it.

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Bethesda, Md.: Hi! Mike

Do you think redskins should trade to get Jay Cutler again? I mean Shanny and Cutler have been together long enough to help the offense immediately.

Thanks.

Michael Wilbon: You only watch the Redskins, right? You're one of those people who don't pay any attention to the rest of the NFL, right? When the Redskins game ends at 4 p.m. you go and walk through downtown Bethesda to the art fair and the bookstore, right? I ask this because if you'd paid any attention to Jay Cutler's season in Chicago, even passing attention, you wouldn't even entertain the notion. Not for a second. Thanks for playing the game.

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For McLean:: No, William and Mary has never been to the dance either, and this is their year!!

Michael Wilbon: Yeah, Bill and Mary has already beaten Wake and Maryland ...

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Morgantown, W. Va.: If you were a big-time high school basketball player would you bother with the one year in college or play overseas for a year?

Michael Wilbon: If I was a big-time high school basketball player my mother (the teacher for 35 years) and my father (a man with a big voice and a toughness honed during the depression in the South picking cotton and bailing hay) would have insisted education be placed ahead of basketball and I'd hav been able to go (as was the case anyway) to just about any school in the country and I would have gone to four years of college because my father would have threatened to beat the %$^* out of me if I tried to leave early.

That's my house. Thnk Claire Huxtable and Cliff Huxtable without the education and with half the sense of humor but the authority of George Patton) ...

Now, if you're asking me what would happen if I grew up in a home that didn't insist on that...I like the Europe deal. I love what Brandon jennings did over there in his one year, what he learned, the humility he returned with to the U.S. I like most everything I know about kids going to Europe and having the boy-to-man transition there ... They need to grow up and the AAU programs, most of them, not only don't insist on it, they have no interest in it.

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Phoenix: For the past two weekends you've railed on - rightly, in my opinion - on the dull, non-competitive nature of the NFL playoffs so far, with two exceptions. Is there something specific you'd recommend the NFL do or change to make playoff games more competitive?

Also, which conference championship game are you covering this weekend? Saints - Vikings has to be the more appealing one, right?

Michael Wilbon: I'm not covering any game this weekend, actually. I'm taking part in a charity event this weekend, which means it's an off-weekend. I've never missed an NFL Conference Championship weekend in, oh, 28 years ... something like that. So this will be a first. I'll be at the Super Bowl, covering the full week, though not the game itself. My ABC NBA duties kick in on the 31st, so I've seen my last NFL game of the season (in person, that is) ... And if I'm making a recommendation, it's to let defense back in the game. Whatever you have to do to allow defense again, do it. And I wouldn't hold my breath for three seconds waiting for that.

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Washington, D.C.: Sunday's win was only Favre's fourth playoff win in his last 12 appearances. Why does the media go so crazy for the guy?

Michael Wilbon: Have you watched his career, particularly in the 1990s when he got the Packers to consecutive Super Bowls? You think this happens very often? It doesn't.

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Baltimore: Forget Durant. If I'm Ted, knowing that he likes the big splashy name as much as anyone (hello, Jaromir)...if - big IF - he get's Gil's deal voided, I'm going right at the big fish, that guy in Cleveland. Talk about the franchise doing a 180 ... and why not? If he's gonna consider sad sacks like the Knicks, Nets, and Clippers(!), why not the Wizards? There are still some solid pieces in place, even without Caron or Antawn (although they'd preferably keep one of them).

Michael Wilbon: Okay, the sale of the franchise would have to be completed and the Wizards would have to have that plan in place and ready to hit the ground running. Yes, if I was Ted and big thinking and smart execution was part of my everyday life I'd be thinking LeBron, too. But so many other franchises have been putting together a plan for months, maybe a year or two, preparing for the 2010 summer of free agency. Ted Leonsis is at a disadvantage there. I don't want to make it sound like I'm going to underestimate Ted and his ability to catch up; plus he has smart, savvy, pragmatic people on his team of partners/advisors ... Not impossible, just harder. And you coulnd't have all the guys you have on the team now; the Wizards are over the salary cap. Even if Gil's deal is voided the Wizards would have to clear some cap room to even think about LeBron.

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Oakton, Va.: How do you hit Manning in the mouth when he'd rather take a dive? (The anti-Roethisberger, as Bob Smizik of the Pgh. Post Gazette calls him..)Does watching him take a dive have the same psychological impact on the team as hitting him in the mouth does? How important is that "thud" sound?

Michael Wilbon: People hit Manning in the mouth for years in the playoffs, which is part of the reason the Colts were such a disappointment for years in the playoffs before the 2006 season.

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Farmington, Conn.: Mike,

I read today that Norv Turner signed an extention with the Chargers. Didn't he just, once again, underachieve in the playoffs? Wasn't Marty Schottenheimer canned after a 14-2 season, and a one-and-done playoff showing (Norv was 13-3, hottest team in the league)? I was sure he would be gone. What gives?

Michael Wilbon: Yes, you read correctly...and Tony and I just talked about this seconds ago. I understand why a franchise would extend Norv Turner. But I would also understand if a franchise looked at what happens in San Diego and says, "We're not going to win a championship with this approach" and fired him. I don't know A.J. Smith, but he must feel good about the direction of the team under Norv...which is fine. You can't stand up and scream, "Fire Norv!" I just don't think they'll be any better in the post-season than they were this year or last or the year before that ...

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Washington, DC: Both the Vikings and Jets play defense and run the ball very well, while with the Colts and Saints it's all passing all the time. Is the soul of the NFL at stake here on Sunday? Because I don't want to see two finesse teams play each other in the Super Bowl.

Michael Wilbon: But that's what the league has essentially engineered. I'm with you ... though the Vikings haven't run it well lately. Adrian Peterson has been a whisper most of the season, in fact. I think he had only three 100-yard rushing days all season, though he did have 18 touchdowns. Old-fashioned football is dying, sadly for some of us.

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Washington, DC: I Confess, Mike

I was the one who had the pipe dream of Kevin Durant "coming home" to play for the Wizards. Back to reality. If the Wizards had a top three pick in the upcoming draft, which player jumps into your mind that the Wizards should consider?

Michael Wilbon: Only one. This kid John Wall, the point guard at Kentucky. He's a keeper. Might be better than Derrick Rose and Tyreke Evans, who are both terrific.

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Washington, DC: Why do I get the bad feeling that we'll be talking about officating on Monday? The Jets will be going into NFL territory on Sunday, because as we know NOBODY has dictated how the game is played more than Bill Polian.

Will the Jets be allowed to play their kind of game there?

Michael Wilbon: Boy, now that's a GREAT question. GREAT question. Obviously, I hope so. I mean, I love Peyton Manning. He's great for pro football, great for the NFL, great for those of us in media who make a living doing this. But I gotta think if the Jets touch Manning they'll pay for it in penalties like you've never seen. I hope I'm wrong, but ...

Okay, gotta run and prepare for PTI. Back Monday where we can discuss the championship games and whether the Wizards have stayed hot with Randy Foye at the point or have fallen back into their usual patter, of win 3, lose 6 ... Have a great weekend everybody. See you Monday. MW

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Olney, Md.: The Wiz are still only about 6 or 7 games out of the 8th spot. How do you assess their chances of making the playoffs?

Michael Wilbon: They're only two or three games out of the eighth spot. What standings are you consulting?

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Fairfax, Va.: Call me crazy, but I truely believe Gilbert will be here next year. It appears obvious that both Flip and Ernie are gone after this year. Everything that happened is not their fault, but time to clean house. Next year, enter Leonsis (presumably) and you have a guy that is all about second chances. He got a second chance at life and seems to be a tremendous man who cares greatly about other people. He looks at Gilbert as a man who has made mistakes, and decides to try and guide him in the right direction. Thoughts?

Michael Wilbon: Gilbert Arenas will not be with the Washington basketball franchise next year. Will not. Period.

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Jets Defense vs. Indy O: Because the Colts struggled so mightily against the "Big Bad" Ravens Defense, right?

Michael Wilbon: Indy scored 20 points on the Ravens? You think that's an offensive explosion?

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