The Chat House with Michael Wilbon

Michael Wilbon
Washington Post Sports Columnist
Monday, September 20, 2010; 1:30 PM

Welcome to another edition of The Chat House, where Post columnist Michael Wilbon was online Monday, Sept. 20, at 1:30 p.m. ET to discuss the Redskins loss to the Texans, college football, 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.


Navy Yard: Michael -

Sally Jenkins had a very interesting column (as usual) last week about the nature of the relationship between reporters and athletes in the locker room.

So I was wondering... Is there a difference in the quality of coverage between a sport that allows locker room access (baseball, football, basketball) and one that does not (tennis, golf)? Women in locker rooms: a controversy only to those uninvolved

Michael Wilbon: Hi everybody! Coming to you from Scottsdale, Az. where I'm spending a few days...We'll obviously jump into football issues from yesterday...but this was such a good question, such a different question...I never thought of whether there's a difference, actually. With individual sports you have so many fewer sources for information. Players have agents, yes, but there's no GM, almost never a coach in the way players on a team sport have an authority figure...The only access you have, usually, is after matches or during a tournament...The coverage of big team sports is much more extensive. If Tiger decides to not talk on a Friday, there's no access. If T.O. decides not to talk on a Sunday, there are still teammates who might be able to give you a glimpse inside what he was thinking when he caught or dropped a certain pass, or what his relationship with his coach or QB is like..."Quality of coverage" is something I'd have to think more about. The coverage of golf, historically, has been least of the action, the people, the places. It's different, for sure. The coverage of pro football is more exhaustive because there so many people doing it...Basketball is a much more social sport, even though the players are among the most famous people on the planet. Access to Michael Jordan at any time in his career was 10 times greater than to Tom Brady or to Joe Montana...It's a complex question we could talk about for an hour, but those are some of my thoughts...


Coaching Carousel coming to a stop?: Mike Shanahan has a new job, Tony Dungy and Jon Gruden look very happy on TV, and Bill Cowher hasn't been heard from in a while. When the annual NFL head coach death watch starts in a week or two, will there be any big names left to choose from, or will teams have to start looking from within?

Michael Wilbon: Oh, trust me, you'll hear Gruden's name mentioned...same with Cowher. I think people will wonder whether he's interested in returning in the wake of the death of his wife Kay recently after her battle with cancer...I think the number of teams who consult Dungy is really revealing, just about the amount of respect people have for him and the way he conducted himself and his business. I don't know that he'll return...but I think he'll help teams (college and pro) identify who they perhaps should be talking to.


Boston, MA: Not just in light of what happened this weekend, but I think there could be a change to the OT rules. I'm cool with sudden death, but the problem is the kickers have just gotten too good.

How about you have to win by 6? If you win the toss, drive, and get the touchdown - congrats. If you just get a field goal, you have to punt it, let your defense make a stop and do it again. I'm just saying it works for Tennis...

Michael Wilbon: Didn't the NFL just adopt new rules for the postseason? Or am I dreaming? I'm having a senior moment, but there were new rules that included scoring a touchdown instead of a field goal initially...Or am I imagining this?


Bethesda, MD: Michael: having moved here from in 1993, just when the Redskins got bad, I have no deep connection to the team, even if I am a fan. So with a measure of objectivity, it was nice to feel yesterday like the Skins rejoined the national conversation, if only for a moment, and perhaps riding the coattails of the real team of the day, the Texans. I don't need the Redskins to go to the playoffs, let alone win the Super Bowl. I just need them to play exciting football in games that matter. They gave us that yesterday. Even having watched a loss, I actually feel pretty good.

(Now I know all the "real fans" will berate me.)

Michael Wilbon: You sound a lot like Thomas Boswell, who wrote something of that tone this morning in his column in The Washington Post. I'm not a fan of the team so I'm not emotionally invested whatsoever...BUT I've watched the Redskins closely for long enough (since 1980) to understand completely what you're saying. Even though they blew a big lead they didn't look like a stumblebum outfit, which has been the case so often. I think progress is being made, and since the NFC East is so blah, I don't think winning the division is out of the question. Problem I see is that the offense doesn't have a single explosive player that can help Donovan McNabb change the game. The Houston Texans, for example, have Arian Foster who can put so much pressure on a defense...Who do the Redskins have? Nobody I can see running or catching. The backs and WRs are too old, all past the point where they can just break open a game almost by themselves...Well, that will just have to wait for another time...but I still see a team that looks like a professional outfit...If only they can get a defensive lineman who can either engage people in the middle or pressure up the middle...Oooops, they have that guy in No. 92 and won't play him. Nice. Not everything, then, is completely changed.


Washington, DC: After years of trashing fantasy football, what made you decide to give it a shot?

Michael Wilbon: Peer pressure in the PTI offices. I don't much like it. I'm trying. I don't even remember to "set my lineup" on Fridays and have to be bailed out by one of my colleagues (thanks Liz) all the time...It's an acquired taste. I like trying to pick games on Sunday, but the Fantasy thing is taking me some time to get used to...But Matt Schaub is the QB of Sayers Butkus, so that 497 yards of passing has my attention!


Washington, D.C.: Who's the more impactful player on the Steelers: Roethlisberger or Polamalu?

Michael Wilbon: Great question. Great. I'd almost always answer the QB, especially when he can both take a beating and deliver in the clutch so many times as Big Ben has...BUT, these first two weeks have reminded folks how important a great defense keyed by a great player can be. Boy, that's a tossup...I'd say the Steelers are still going to need Big Ben to win, but it's so hard to separate their impact.


Washington, DC: I know you love Ben Roesthlisberger as a player, but the engine that drives that team has always been its defense. Has his importance diminished at all recently, and would you still take him over any other QB in the league?

Michael Wilbon: Similar to the last question, except the end. If I had to win a game today with my life on the line (my usual criteria) who would I pick as my QB? I've said Big Ben for the last three-plus years. Right now? I'd say Drew Brees. But I could change back if Ben comes back to form by Thanksgiving.


Annapolis : A question for Boston, MA on the OT rules and kickers being "too good" .... if so, why didn't Gano kick it good again?

Michael Wilbon: He said that, not me. And how about that timeout called by Kubiak? I bet you Redskins fans want a rule against that last-second timeout, don't you?


Fairfax, Va.: Did you see the Nadal vs. Djokovic match? I thought it was one of the better played finals ever. Nadal is a great, great athlete. Djokovic showed some real grit.

Will Nadal break Federer's grand slam record?

Michael Wilbon: It was a very well-played final of the U.S. of the better ones ever? Naaaaaw...I remember finals involving Connors, McEnroe, Borg, Sampras, Aassi...stuff that seemed epic to me. This was nice, but not that.


Norv Turner, Jim Zorn, Mike Shanahan: Comment: If either Turner or Zorn had lost a 17 point third quarter lead, heads would have been called for and the rails out of town greased. On the other hand, after yesterday's game all we hear (from the sports talk radio callers) is how great it was that the Redskins were able to play on par with the Texas, one of the great teams in the NFL.

Michael Wilbon: Yeah, context is everything. Again, when the Redskins lost those kinds of games in recent years they seemed discombobulated, in over their heads. This time to me, it just seemed Houston played better and put its personnel to better use. And the Texans NO DOUBT have better players on offense than the Redskins. It's not even close. Andre Johnson and Arian Foster? The Redskins don't have anybody within light years of either of those two. Hell, Andre Johnson is likely the best receiver in the game today...He and Larry Fitzgerald are my favorites...There's a reason the Texans were favored to win that game yesterday, even though they were on the road.


Milwaukee, WI: Big Monday Night Football week. Both the Packers and Bears are 2-0, who you got?

Michael Wilbon: Who do I have? I'm from the South Side of Chicago. You new to this rodeo?


Portland, OR: Mike,

Do you think that the Texans have proven that they are a playoff caliber team or do we need to hold off on their anointment?

Michael Wilbon: You don't prove jack after two games. Nothing. Nada.


How about them Cowyboys?: Just how awful are the Cowboys right now? Is this the last year for Wade Phillips?

Michael Wilbon: They're awful, and I wonder who's going to be the scapegoat? I think jason Garrett, the offensive coordinator, will go before Wade. But if the Cowboys miss the playoffs, Wade's history. That you can book.


Cabin John, MD.: Mike - I saw you the other day - you are always pleasant and gracious, and I thank you. You've lost so much weight! You look great! How did you do it? My doctor is predicting imminent doom. Admiring fans want to know!

Michael Wilbon: You're kind, thank you. You don't want my diet. Heart attack and Diabetes. Not the way to go. I haven't lost THAT much weight. Hit a high of 252 pounds a dozen years or so 224 today, give or take a pound...might actually be down to 220 but I don't obsess about the number...I know I've lost inches because I'm taking a ton of clothes to be altered, which is good...But I'm no saint. I've had to cut my sugar intake by about 90 percent...or I should. No Frosted Flakes (my favorite thing in life was Frosted Flakes with my morning newspaper)...dramatic cutdown on fast food...Haven't had Popeyes since the heart attack...McDonald's visits cut dramatically (but not eliminated...Shhhh!), and same with Dunkin Donuts...(down 90 percent)...Trust me, whatever the reason is, cutting sugar usually leads to weight loss. And a consistent session with the treadmill (at least three times a week) works wonders.


Israel: You're not that old yet, Mr. W-

NFL owners pass playoff overtime rules modification (ESPN)

Michael Wilbon: thank you for that!


Atlanta, GA: Love that the Cowboys are 0-2. At some point, will people stop overrating Tony Romo? Or will we have to hear how great he is for the remainder of his career?

Michael Wilbon: It's going to take awhile longer, but I don't fault just Romo. I'd take Romo as my QB. There seem to be quite a few knuckleheads on the Cowboys..There's just a disconnect somewhere. I don't want to lay that all off on Romo.


Washington, DC: "...that timeout call by Kubiak..."

As a Redskins fan, I hate that that call negated a game-winning field goal. As a football fan, I'd consider it coaching negligence to NOT make that call. Go figure.

Michael Wilbon: That's the only answer, thank you.


Vienna, Va.: I still dont get the logic of having Tiger Woods on the Ryder Cup team. The last Ryder Cup team beat Europe handily, and Tiger has never been known as a team guy

Michael Wilbon: Tiger, necessarily, has a different sense of urgency and hustle about him. He's "trying to make the team" again and that ought to create a different man and a different result. Remember, I was the one who thought picking Tiger to win The Masters in April was the dumbest thing I ever heard. I didn't think he was going to win jack this year because his head wasn't in it, his heart wasn't in it, and he damn sure wasn't practicing with the fanatical dedication that characterized his career...ALL that, or much of it, I think, has changed with his divorce and with time.


Washington, D.C.: Yesterday's loss felt very familiar. If you look back at the Redskins' losses in recent years, a depressing number of them have come from failure to preserve second-half leads. Even most of the wins were won by frantically holding off a rally at the last second. The only convincing victory I can think of was last year against Oakland, and that's not saying much.

Yesterday was vintage. They took an early lead and then seemed to slack off, slowly frittering away the lead and missing numerous opportunities to deliver the knockout blow. Is some problem with focus or concentration making them chronically incapable of putting a team away? Or is this simply a reflection of the reality that they've been good enough to be competitive but not quite good enough to win most games?

Michael Wilbon: Might be some of the latter...and you raise a perfectly legitimate point. There's one thing I hesitate to mention...oh what the hell! Isn't arrogance the Redskins problem because it permeates the organization, from the top? Even Shanahan, who is a proven winner and a man who knows how to put together a team and get the max from a group of men, has this arrogant thing going on with Haynesworth. I just think there's still too much "I know what's best" with a sneer going on at Redskins Park. Just a theory. Look, there are things the Redskins need ON the field, but I think what you're describing is symptomatic of something bigger...Everybody disagree with me?


Tampa, FL: Rays v. Yankees in da Bronx. Who wins: Rays, who've won 4 of last 6 against the Yankees, or The Evil Empire?

Michael Wilbon: Yankees.


Two Games Prove Nothing: You're right as usual. My team, the pathetic Bills, were 5-1 a couple of years ago and you were interviewing Trent Edwards on PTI as a rising young QB. They finished 7-9 that year and this year look like they might be the worst team in the league.

Michael Wilbon: People jump to waaaaay to many conclusions in sports, and more than that in pro football. Just watch the season...Root if you want. Just to come to crazy conclusions. I know because as a Bears fan I do just what I am cautioning you guys not to do.


Milwaukee, WI: No, I'm not new to this rodeo. I just want to get you on the record so I can laugh at you when the Pack smoke the Bears at Soldier Field!

By the way, do you think Ted Thompson made the right move with Aaron Rodgers and Brett Favre?

Michael Wilbon: You must be new to this rodeo because I wrote for two years that picking Rodgers over Favre was the right move, even though the Packers were terribly clumsy in their execution and I ripped management for that. Now, the Packers are a better team and should win the game. Most people have the Pack winning the NFC North. NOBODY I read in the preseason picked the Bears to reach the playoffs as a division winner or wild card team. BUT if we whip the Cheeseheads butts, as I sure hope we do, I will be gloating and looking for your trash-talking butt.


Poetic Justice: (I'm not sure if this question went through.)

As I recall, Mike Shanahan was the one who first called a timeout just as a kicker was kicking, starting this abominable trend. There is poetic justice in Kubiak's timeout yesterday. And I say that as a Redskins fan.

Michael Wilbon: Very Fair. And thanks for the history lesson. The Chat House loves a little history.


San Francisco: Arrogance or not, the Redskins would have won that game with one well-timed interception. Where was the defensive playmaking we have come to know and love over the years? D. Hall was right to make that critique.

Michael Wilbon: What team are you talking about, the Ravens? Defensive playmaking? The Gregg Williams teams made some defensive plays, but otherwise? Okay, I guess Marvin Lewis' one Redskins defense did that. I'd say the last 10 years the Redskins have had, what, three good defensive teams? Four? Maybe four of the last 12 years?


Coaching: Cowher is going to Carolina if he wants it next year.

Hot seats will be:

Chicago (if they aren't over .500) Dallas (Would they promote Garrett?)


Houston (if they collapse)


Michael Wilbon: I'd agree with all of that, except Dallas. Promote Garrett? What have you been watching. Garrett is the source of the problem, or at least a great deal of it.


DC: Thing about Dungy is that it appears he REALLY doesn't want to get back into coaching. So he has no reason to give anything but his full and total opinion. Makes him great. Others in his position seem a bit more guarded.

Michael Wilbon: Yes, I agree with every word of that. His opinions have such great weight to them because he never seems to have an's a great thing to watch. I've talked to Tony a couple of times the last few months and he seems to love his life right now...


Cleveland: With another slow start by the Browns. Do you think Eric Mangini is on the hot seat. I am hoping the Browns would consider going after Jon Gruden.

Michael Wilbon: Yes, and yes. I just said I think Gruden's name will come up. Were the Brownies on that earlier list of coaches on the hot seat? If not, it should have been. How long before folks start suggesting that Holmgren should coach?


DC: I know you're a Chicago guy, but is Mike Singletary losing it as a coach?

Michael Wilbon: maybe. But let's see how the 49ers respond tonight against the Saints...


Baltimore: What did you think of that horrendous penalty on Ray Lewis for tripping which led to a field goal, and his rant after the game?

Michael Wilbon: I agree completely with his rant, that QBs are protected in a way that tilts the game. I also understand the NFL's desire to protect its greatest asset. And the game has changed forever in that regard. But it's no the game I grew up watching, where the QBs can't be tackled hard...I think the seriousness of head injuries in football, over a long period of time, will diminish the product. I really do. And I don't know what anybody can do about it. I just don't see it being the same game or having the same appeal in 25-30 years...Unless somebody can come up with a helmet that radically reduces the head injuries the league is protecting against now...


Springfield, VA: What got lost in all the post-mortem about the Skins loss was that McNabb looked super. In command, on target, spreading it around, getting big plays, converting third downs, getting touchdowns rather than field goals. That's the best the passing game has looked in years, literally. We don't Vincent Jackson. We need a running game, and we'll be good enough on offense.

Michael Wilbon: You need Vincent Jackson and a young, bullish runner. You need both. That's as obvious as your on-the-money observation about McNabb...


Kensington: Michael,

I noticed in today's print edition that three beat reporters and two columnists wrote on the Skins/Texans game. The two columnists seemed to approach the storyline of the game from individual perspectives, as would be expected (Boswell: McNabb's presence is promising; Hamilton: The skins will be interesting to watch this year, if nothing else). The three beat reporters, however, seemed to embrace a shared storyline (The Skins collapsed late; the defense melted down, etc.).

Just curious, are broad editorial decisions made about the context from which beat reporters are to write about sporting events? In other words, does a senior editor gather the beat reporters and say: "The story of this game is X" or "The backdrop to which you should set your reporting should be Y"?

Thanks for these chats.

Michael Wilbon: So you want some work product, do you? Yes, a senior editor is sitting right there with all the Post reporters/columnists at every Redskins home game and the conversations about what should be written are going on constantly for three-plus hours. I read Boz last night before I went to bed (okay, 4 a.m. eastern time when you consider the time difference)...but I wasn't there so don't know what was discussed. It's a difficult thing to nail since you've got so many people (five, six, seven) in the locker room trying to work different angles, coming up with different information. Suppose for example, I got to the locker room intending to write about McNabb, but an offensive lineman with whom I have a great relationship, tells me about a big development with the offensive line after everybody else (players and reporters) have left the locker room. What would I do, write the McNabb feature or jump onto this new theme? Nothing's in stone. You have to adjust on deadline sometimes. My favorite seasons of writing columns on the Redskins were when Richard Justice was the beat writer and it was just the two of us at road games producing four pieces...Not much input to wait on in that situation.


Germantown, MD: With the way Michael Vick has been playing, how short of a leash is Kevin Kolb on? Do you see a scenario where Vick becomes Philly's permanent starting QB?

Michael Wilbon: Yeah, here's the scenario: Kolb stays woozy and can't play another two or three weeks. OR Kolb comes back and lays an egg while Vick continues to come in from the bullpen to save the team.


Greensboro,N.C.: Mike, based on what happened at Tennessee, don't you think Bruce Pearl should be fired? Thanks.

Michael Wilbon: I don't know about "should be" but from what I'm hearing it sounds like "might be." He's not out of the woods yet. It seems like the NCAA is really cracking down, and if that's so, good. I love Bruce Pearl but he put himself in the trouble he's in. Nobody else to blame and the NCAA doesn't need to tolerate this.


Perspective, USA: They may have problems in their passing defense, but let's face it: the Texans are a damn good team.

Michael Wilbon: Can't wait to see the Texans-Cowboys game this coming Sunday...If the Cowboys go 0-3 somebody's going to be fired. And if the Texans go 3-0 by beating the Colts, Redskins on the road and the Cowboys...boy, they'd be sky-high...


Washington DC : Re head injuries in football: I saw a clip where Beano Cook said that players would be better off playing in the leather helmets worn by Red Grange, because the contemporary helmets lull them thinking it's safe to lead with their heads and knock a runner or receiver down instead of wrapping up and tackling. Not going to be happen, but a provocative observation I think.

Michael Wilbon: It's an observation shared by a lot of folks, including an increasing number of physicians. No, we won't see it, but you wonder where football is going next.


Fairfax, VA: Mike,

It seems like every time a player holds out they come back and get hurt. Yesterday it was Revis hurting his hamstring. I don't get it. Is game shape really that different from great athletic shape? Can't a someone like Revis hire a personal trainer and get in shape equal to what he would have missing training camp. I understand having your timing off, not learning all the plays not being used to being hit but not being able to run full out - it doesn't seem that hard for someone who is a world class athlete and whose job it is to be in shape.


Michael Wilbon: Look this up: Emmitt Smith missed the first two games of the season (and all of training camp) after the Cowboys won their first Super Bowl of the Jones-Johnson we must be talking about 1992...Anyway, Smith missed all of camp and the first two games. The Cowboys started 0-2 and Emmitt got his money and won his point...then strapped it on and led the Cowboys to the Super Bowl again. He was in fine shape. So was Michael Strahan when he led the Giants to the Super Bowl a few years ago after missing the entire training camp. Shame on Revis if he wasn't in shape, but I'm not going to let him use missing training camp as the excuse.


Amtrak Season: Mike:

No matter how you slice it and dice it; the Skins are headed for a train wreck season.

Michael Wilbon: Really? I had then going 9-7...You think there's no chance of that?


Rockville, MD, formerly Dallas: What is wrong with my beloved Cowboys?

Michael Wilbon: They're overrated, full of themselves and don't appear particularly well-coached, even though the man who is coaching them is a pretty darn good coach (Wade Phillips)...Other than that, nothing.


Bowie, MD: Hello Mr. Wilbon and thanks for taking my question.

Are there any of the current 2-0 NFL teams (Bucs, Bears, Packers, Texans, Dolphins) that surprise you? If so, why?

Michael Wilbon: Yeah, the Chicago Bears. Because they lost their first game to the Lions on a late touchdown pass. Ooops, that wasn't allowed? Oh. The Bears are 1-1, so their just being 2-0 surprises me, though Mike Martz has done a great job so far connecting with Jay Cutler.


Arlington, VA: Which will happen first -- hell freezes over or the NFL does away with allowing a coach to tell a referee, "Hey buddy, I'll be calling a timeout soon (to ice the kicker in a field goal situation)"?

Maybe a rule that states no timeouts may be called in overtime during field goal situations once the kicking team has taken its places?

Michael Wilbon: I'd be okay with that...But you have to admit, it does add quite a bit of drama to those last-second and OT situations.


Anywhere But Landover: Mike,

Read with interest Sunday's WaPo piece on how the NFL is concerned about declining attendance because more people are watching at home. It didn't seem the NFL recognizes some of the core problems - boorish crowds, absurd parking, high costs, etc. What kind of ability does the Commissioner have to dictate or encourage change for the better? Is there any indication that some owners are more cognizant of these problems than others?

It might be a cheap shot, but Dan Snyder seemed much more concerned last year about people demonstrating their dissatisfaction with the Redskins through signs, rather than addressing more critical issues like drunken belligerents. With television ratings on the rise and attendance flagging, NFL faces a business dilemma

Michael Wilbon: I'd agree totally with your comment in the end. The experience of going to a game at Fed Ex is a terrible one. A lot of it is no fault of Snyder's because he didn't built the stadium. But the parking, the drunken behavior, the cursing, fighting...there's some of this at almost every stadium...but 91,000 people almost guarantees everything in excess. I went to the Cowboys-Redskins game last week and 90 minutes after the game was over you couldn't get out of the parking lots...I'm loathe to take my son there when he's old enough. I can see going to other cities and taking him to games...Maybe just small college football games where I can talk to him about the game and he can enjoy the feel of it without grown drunken bums cursing and fighting and spitting. It's a disgrace. Owners aren't in the stands, don't drive themselves to the game in most cases, don't sit in regular-folks's a much better product on television, which is no real problem now but could be. The Chargers were blacked out yesterday, I think...


Detroit, Mich.: To go from probably the gutsiest call in college football to celebrating a victory of Notre Dame to ending up in the operating room for a mild heart attack. Thoughts and prayers to Coach Dantonio and his family.

Michael Wilbon: This is a good way to end this week's chat. I just heard that Coach Dantonio said, "How long will this take?" when he came to, meaning essentially, "What time can I get back to work?" And if that really is the case, if that's accurately reported, Coach Dantonio doesn't get it and the doctors need to keep him in that bed a little longer. I've been there, and said the same thing, had the same feeling of, "I'm a man, I'm not staying in bed..I'll fight through this." Luckily, I had doctors, friends and some people who'd already experienced what I did (Larry King, Phil Jackson) tell me to shut up and listen. Coach Dantonio had better realize there's no trick play in OT to make your heart healthy. He's not going to fool anybody and get is ticker right. He'd better shut up and listen. I hope he does, I hope he gets well and returns to work healthier than ever. But there's some work that he has to do that has nothing to do with coaching or recruiting or calling plays. All the best of luck to him and his family...Okay, gotta run guys...Taking the rest of the week off from work but doing PTI today...See you next Monday when I'm back in Washington...Thanks for chatting...have a great week...MW


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