The Chat House with Michael Wilbon

Michael Wilbon
Washington Post Sports Columnist
Monday, November 8, 2010; 1:30 PM

Welcome to another edition of The Chat House, where Post columnist Michael Wilbon was online Monday, Nov. 8 at 1:30 p.m. ET to discuss the Redskins and NFL, the NBA, college football, all the latest sports news and his recent columns.


Fairfax, VA: Do you have any thoughts on what Terry Bradshaw said yesterday about the McNabb bencing situation: "Donovan, you've had a great 11 years and we all respect you for what you've done. Do not allow your 12th year to go down in ruins with a man questioning your intelligence. I don't believe in the out of shape thing. When they start questioning your intelligence, don't smile and say 'it's OK, it's the coach's decision.' You fight for respect...You fight for it and you stand up to Mike Shanahan. You understand me? Don't let it happen. If you don't, then like most people in America, I'm just going to think maybe the coach is right."

Michael Wilbon: Hi Everybody...We'll jump right into a number of topics, starting with Donovan McNabb even though the Redskins were off this weekend. And we'll go initially with Terry Bradshaw's comments. He's a Hall of Fame QB who had his intelligence questioned during his four Super Bowl career...And when Terry comes out and says something like this, as strongly as he said it, it has plenty of credence to me. The more I think about Shanahan's comments the angrier I get, in part because I'm starting to believe, with an assist from several players and former NFL coaches, that the Shanahans knew exactly what they were doing, which if true would be so incredibly sinister. Donovan does not want to get in a you-know-what match with the Shanahans, which seems smart. I've been in communication with Donovan, and trust me, he's keeping his head about it in a way I told him I could never...But T. Bradshaw makes a compelling appeal to Donovan. Doesn's this remind you of when Marty Schottenheimer (who has his son along, too) messed with Darrell Green at the start of training camp then spend the rest of the fall saying he didn't do it? Again, as I wrote last week, it's just plain dumb.


Bristow, VA: Do you think we will ever get to the point where saying that an individual black quarterback may not completely grasp the intricacies of a certain coach's two-minute offense is not met with suggestions that the particular coach is somehow/possibly slandering all black QB's? Obviously the context of my question is Coach Shanahan's first reason given for benching Donovan McNabb.

Michael Wilbon: I don't know how many people are suggesting he slandered ALL black QBs. But he seems to have slandered this one, hasn't he. I know this: if Shanahan had said this about some unproven black QB the reaction wouldn't be what it is. But he said it about a guy who's led teams to five conference championship games and one Super Bowl. And you're trying to tell me that Mike Shanahan's offense is that much more complex than Andy Reid's? I don't believe that for a second. Does Shanahan believe he's a genius to that degree? Probably, yes.


Hi, I'm Cam Newton: If you're voting for the Heisman, can I count on your vote or do you think I'm Reggie Bush, Part Deux, and don't want to deal with that headache again?

Michael Wilbon: Voters don't deal with any kind of headache after they vote. Trust me, I voted for 15 years or so...It's not like voters have to vote to take it back if something bad happens. They don't. Suppose nothing bad happens down the road. Could you say, "Oooops, let me re-cast my vote!" And then who would you vote for and what would you know about that kid going forward?


Boise vs Auburn: It far easier to win one game than to keep winning a whole season. Because of a lackluster performance by VT, Boise still has no really high quality wins (the same could not be said about TCU). Auburn does. As anyone who watches the NFL can tell you, having extra time to prepare can make any team look great. Winning every week, without months to prepare is a lot harder.

Boise has beat one average team, one good team and a bunch of awful teams. I don't feel you would be making the same argument if a ACC or Big East team was undefeated but never beat a top 10 team all year.

Michael Wilbon: I don't think Auburn has any spectacular win yet. It'll have to if the Tigers are going to remain undefeated because a trip to Tuscaloosa to play The Tide looms. Get back to me after that game...


Notre Dame: How does Notre Dame get back to respectability--I'm not talking about contending for a national title, but just respectability?

Michael Wilbon: Great question! Notre Dame has to begin with a specific admission: that it isn't going to dominate the game anymore and thatthe arrogance about the program has to go...The next thing might be getting rid of Brian Kelly, who seems to have just the arrogance I'm talking about getting rid throw an interception in the end zone when a field goal (from a kid who has made 18 striaght) wins the game, and to then stand up there and say he'd do it again...see, that has to go. Of course, Notre Dame can be great again. But it might come in five-year runs, maybe seven years, like the one Oklahoma had, or the one Ohio State had or the one Florida just had...But 20 years of simply beating up on people and getting every recruit you want? That's over. Those days are gone. Terrific high school players play all over the country now; nobody's going to stockpile players and simply rule the game uninterrupted. Notre Dame has been unable, I think, to accept that...Look, it's one of the great institutions in the country. There's NO PLACE in America more beautiful on a Saturday afternoon in October or early Novemeber than South Bend, Ind. Trust me, I've been to 95 percent of the Division I football stadiums in the country...Even so, you're guaranteed nothing anymore and I don't sense the people who run Notre Dame football get that yet.


Plummer on Shanahan: I absolutely loved what Jake Plummer said about Mike Shanahan looking for the next John Elway. Seeing Jason Campbell play well for Tom Cable (who's no quarterback guru), makes me think that Shanahan is less a great coach, rather a good coach who got lucky. Because great coaches know how to build Super Bowl defenses, not just rely on their quarterback.

Michael Wilbon: Mike Shanahan--never forget this--won zero playoff games before he coached Elway and has won one playoff game since Elway retired...that one with Jake Plummer...Something to keep in mind.


Re: Black quarterbacks: Mike,

I read the earlier chatter's question as asking whether in 2010, one can state that a quarterback who has not grasped a coach's playbook can do so irrespective of race.

As a former football player, I played with both black and white kids. Some white kids were smart, some were dumb. Same with the black players.

I guess my question is: have we not gotten to the point where race has to be considered in describing whether someone knows the playbook or not? It's not a rhetorical question...I really do want to know your view.

Michael Wilbon: Great comment/question. Thank you very much for sharing that. I think we're closer than we've ever been to the point you're asking about...but not all the way there yet. I think players are closer than most. It's a fascinating thing interacting with former players. Their respect for others is so completely across racial lines. One of the wonderful things about playing on a team is you get rid of preconceived notions and are a lot more likely to base your observations on things that fly in the face of sterotypes. So, I'm not about to label Mike Shanahan a bigot; he's too smart, too sophisticated, coached too many players and has mentored too many black players to simply lay that out there. I know black players who LOVE Shanahan. HOWEVER, QB is a different animal, culturally. I've wondered in the past why Shanahan has had no black QBs to speak of...not in Denver anyway...I don't have any answers; I just wonder. I know from my own experience as a black reporter that Shanahan, in my time covering the league, couldn't have been nicer, more respectful and open to me. Hell, he's called me to say "nice job" when I've written about things that don't even pertain to him, specifically. I've enjoyed what brief encounters, and several longer ones, with mike Shanahan, professionall and oversimplifying here would be unreasonable and unfair. But dealing with the concept and reality of QB in America is complex...I know this: a great many black fans of the Redskins (or of Donovan McNabb) are pointedly angry at Shanahan right now, and I doubt he knows it because football coaches are often oblivious (purposely) to reactions to the decisions they make. But somebody might want to make him aware of this particular disappointment because these feelings can cut deep.


DC: I know beating the Patriots must have been sweet for Mangini yesterday, but seriously, there's no need for the Gatorade shower after going 3-5.

Michael Wilbon: It's nice of the players to show they know how important this game was...but was it over the top? Oh yes. Completely.


Brooklyn, NY: What good is there in employing an offense that the players have difficulty executing? Why must the players conform to the strategy, instead of the strategy conforming to the players? Why not play to the strengths of the men you have instead forcing them to fit like you're cramming in jigsaw pieces?

The myth about evolution is that the strongest or the fittest survive. But in reality it is those who most quickly adapt who survive.

Michael Wilbon: Damn, do you write for a living? Well said. Can I simply steal this entire question and put it under my by-line? Seriously, you're asking a question I often ask about certain coaches. The best ones do adapt. If Bill Russell was better off not practicing at times, Red Auerbach understood that. If Michaael Jordan needed to break the the triangle offense at certain points of the game (or Kobe Bryant, for that matter) Phil Jackson understood that. Yes, yes, yes, of course you're right!


Wash, DC: "Mike Shanahan--never forget this--won zero playoff games before he coached Elway and has won one playoff game since Elway retired...that one with Jake Plummer...Something to keep in mind. "

And Bill Belichick won 1 playoff game before Brady. Bill Walsh won 0 playoff games w/out HOF's Montana and Young. Something to keep in mind as well.

Also points to the greatness of coaches like Gibbs and Parcells who could win multiple SB's w ith average QB's.

Michael Wilbon: Oh, I ALWAYS say one of the greatest feats in coaching is Joe Gibbs winning with three different QBs and three different primary RBs. No question. Didn't Walsh win some games with Steve Young, though? I'm pretty sure he did.


DC: How many titles did Elway win without Shanahan? Zero. It goes both ways.

Michael Wilbon: Elway got to THREE Super Bowls without Shanahan, so apparently it doesn't cut both ways. Three. That's 1, 2 3 Super Bowls with essentially no Pro Bowl teammates...Okay, there must have been a couple of Broncos who were Pro Bowlers w Elway, but I'm not sure ANY on offense. Please, don't go there with me. I'm an Elway-is-the-greatest-QB-of-all-time guy. Don't mess with me on Elway. Just don't. It's like going to bench to bring in Rex Grossman...You'll lose, trust me.


Crofton, MD: Michael, Just read your column on the BCS Cartel. It's depressing. What can can a fan do to bring about the needed change? Write a letter? Not watch the WWE style "National Championship Game?" Pick a soccer team from Europe to root for? What?

Michael Wilbon: All of the above. People can and do call into sports talk radio and write letters to be published and vent to the athletic director/president of their alma maters...And they can also watch old movies all day on AMC or FMC on New Year's Day if the matchups seem stale and predictable and exclusionary to them...I did that last year...watched very little of the bowl season.


Bet: So, Michael, is TK going to pay you the many K he bet you that Zenyatta would win? Seems you won that bet made on PTI. But not by much. That was an impressive finish.

Michael Wilbon: One of the greatest sporting events I've ever seen. I wish I was there. Stunning. Three-quarters of the way through, was thinking, 'What a waste of time. What a dud.' I could hear my wife stomping her feet and clapping and screaming in another room...I think the TV without TiVo was three or four seconds ahead of the TV I was watching in my man-cave. I was like, 'What the hell is she watching?' Then when Zenyatta got to the outside, I just came out of my seat like somebody had hit the ejector button...never seen anything like it. It was thrilling. Just thrilling. I'm going to let TK off the hook with simple glass of wine the next time after a round of golf.


Brooklyn, NY: "Damn, do you write for a living? Well said."

Actually, I do - and I can use some freelance work. But feel free to steal that question - I'd be honored. Just give a shout out to Mike in Brooklyn some time (easy enough name to remember).

Michael Wilbon: Ah, I can recognize talent when I see it. At least give me that! Well said...seriously.


Redskins Draft: So does this mean the Redskins will be drafting a quarterback with their first round pick next April?

Michael Wilbon: No, they'll sign somebody or trade for somebody. It's an organization that learns NOTHING over time. Nothing.


Re: Notre Dame: Having recently graduated from Notre Dame, I have to admit what you say really resonates. The undergrads today brag about national titles and Heisman winners, even though they were all before the student body was actually born! Too much of the program seems stuck in the past.

Michael Wilbon: Thanks for that observation.


Flip: Michael,

Good afternoon. Do you think Flip is the right coach for this young/inexperienced team?


Michael Wilbon: Maybe not, ultimately. But I think he's really, really good for John Wall.


Washington, D.C.: With all of the media coverage going to the Miami Heat, what do you think about the 7-0 Lakers? As much as I hate to admit it, this may be the best post-Magic Johnson Lakers team yet.

Michael Wilbon: You raise a totally legitimate point. Kobe's loving all this Heat hype...every word of it. This kind of stuff drives him and Phil Jackson, who relishes having left Pat Riley in his dust...I want to see these Lakers another two or three weeks, but I think your appraisal could be right on the money. The acquisition of Steve Blake is huge. Because now Derek Fisher can play his brains out for as long as he needs to (what is Fish, 36?) and Blake can spell him and the Lakers lose nothing. D-Fish doesn't have to pace himself...he can be fresher for crunch time...They've hit their stride as a team, the Lakers have, and I don't see anybody getting more than a game off them in the Western Conference playoffs. To tell you the truth, the Lakers and Celtics are still the two best teams in the NBA.


20008: Mike, you said "I don't think Auburn has any spectacular win yet. It'll have to if the Tigers are going to remain undefeated because a trip to Tuscaloosa to play The Tide looms. Get back to me after that game..."

I'm no BCS or Auburn booster, but they have beaten the #'s 5, 15, 19, and 23 teams in the current BCS standings. And if they finish out by beating UGA, Alabama, and either Florida or South Carolina in the SEC championship game, I'd say they've done enough to be ranked ahead of TCU and Boise.

Michael Wilbon: Georgia is nothing. Florida has three losses. South Carolina just had a disappointing loss two weeks ago. Don't tell me these teams can't be overrated, because I suspect they are. Hell, I KNOW some of the Big Ten teams (four of which are in the BCS top 13) are overrated because I watch ALL the Big Ten teams all the time. I've seen a couple of games in person this year and will see Iowa play at Northwestern Saturday...These teams being rated as highly as they are is often part of the fraud being perpertrated by the cartel and their agents (read: voters)...


MLB Ratings: I'm sure you saw the World Series ratings were terrible without a major market team in there. How can MLB get its mojo back? I feel like they need to push players to the forefront besides those on the Yanks or Red Sox. I mean, guys like Buster Posey, Cliff Lee, and Josh Hamilton are great players, but I think FOX spent more time talking about Nolan Ryan!

Michael Wilbon: Great point you make...I think MLB needs to go back to its roots and play all of its weekend games during the day (except for one for prime time). I think the games need to be shortened so that they last 2 1/2 hours instead of 3 1/2. I think baseball needs to become more fan friendly, and that includes ending the season no later than Oct. November, most of us are in full college football, pro football and even NBA mode. Baseball should be over by then, but these Bozos keep playing until the snow starts falling. Talk about arrogance.


Richmond, VA: If the Redskins were smart, instead of drafting a QB they'd draft some more O-linemen. Guarantee you if McNabb had more than 2.5 seconds in the pocket against Detoit, there'd be no fussing about whether he gets the offense or not. The hit and fumble on Grossman didn't surprise me at all because Donovan had been dodging pressure all game long and Grossman moves about as well as my dead gradmother.

Michael Wilbon: Amen..Another great observation. Did Shanahan question his offensive line's intelligence? Of course, the Redskins should have spent the entire draft on the OL.


Laurel, Md.: Given the ridiculous flag that was thrown on the Austin Collie hit, is the NFL over as we know it (at least defensively)?

Michael Wilbon: Yes. I wrote that two weeks ago. It'll become flag football soon enough. The NFL is afraid of hitting now...What is football going to look like 10 years down the road when all the hard hitting has been eliminated? I'm serious. I get what the NFL is trying to do, but I also know it's a violent game because if it wasn't they'd wear knit caps with logos...No amoutn of fining or suspending is going take all the violence out of football...I take that back; if the powers-that-be remove all the violence, I wonder whether tens of millions will find it appealing the way they do now...I don't have the answer, but I wonder.


Anonymous: "Elway got to THREE Super Bowls without Shanahan"

He still didn't win them. I'm not saying I know this is because of Shanny, but it is a fact. Had Elway never won those titles, he'd been seen as the greatest choker of all time, not the greatest QB. And that's not my opinion, that's was his reputation after going 0-3 in those Super Bowls.

Michael Wilbon: You're wrong. Is Dan Marino, who got to one, seen as a great choker? Is Fran Tarkenton, who got to three, seen as a great choker. Is Jim Kelly seeen as that? No. And Elway didn't have anything close to the team Kelly had. Elway was a one-man band, and played his way into the Super Bowl...Three.


Re: Elway: Mike, I'm almost there with you. I think Elway was the best "total package" at QB ever: size, strength, arm strength, mobility, poise, command of the game, etc. But QB's are like religion: everybody can only worship one god. I grew up in Baltimore and I worship at the Church of Johnny Unitas. I'll still take him over Elway because of Unitas' greater command of the offensive gameplan and playcalling ability. I realize Unitas' era allowed and required him to do that and Elway's didn't, but I still go with Unitas.

Michael Wilbon: I would never argue against Unitas, I would never argue against Joe Montana (who I used to argue in favor of) and I would never argue against Otto Graham. I argue in favor of Elway, but I understand supporting those three gentlemen. Hell, Graham is the greatst athlete in the history of Northwestern University, so you KNOW I'm not going to argue against that. I just think Elway, to get to five (which nobody else has done) and to win with so little help....that puts him atop the mountain for me...


A Coach who Adapts: As much as I loathe the Dookies, I always liked this Coach K line--"We don't coach AN offense, we coach offense."

Maybe they need that attitude in Ashburn

Michael Wilbon: Yes Sir!


RE: MLB arrogance: And yet they want to EXPAND the playoffs! Talk about arrogant.

Michael Wilbon: Yeah, that would be a disaster...But so is the NFL expanding the season with a workforce struggling to stay healthy in a 16-game season.


DC: Michael,

I'd be interested to get your take on JoePa's 400 wins this weekend, especially since it came against your alma mater. Seems like a lot of respect between Paterno and Fitzgerald.

Michael Wilbon: Congrats to Coach Paterno, who has been such an incredible coach for such a long time. When I broke into covering college football in the early 1980s, Coach Joe was in his 50s, and I went to Happy Valley several times and he was so incredibly patient with me and gracious to me...and I was a kid he could have told to get lost. But he never did. I hated that we blew a 21-0 lead but when it was 21-0 I said aloud at the grill at Four Streams the final score would be 35-28...Well, it was 35-21...but I've spent enough time covering college football to see that coming. I'm a little worried, actually, about the respect Joe has for my coach, Pat Fitzgerald, whom I'd like to keep around Northwestern for the next, oh, 30 years or so...he's done a fabulous job at his (and my) alma mater...And I know from conversations with Penn State alums that Joe, who doesn't have much time left on that sideline, loves Fitz as much as any coach in the Big Ten...So now you know why I'm a touch worried.


DC: If you could talk to Jerry Jones in the strictest of confidence, do you think he would admit that running off Bill Parcells was a bad idea?

Michael Wilbon: Yes. And I can say that without any hesitation I believe he would say that...Folks believe Wade Phillips is going to be fired today; I don't. I think Jerry is going to stand by what he said last week, that Wade will finish this season. Wade won't begin next season, but I don't think Jerry is going to dump him, even if the Cowboys lose their next five games, which they could quite easily...Okay, I gotta run and prepare for PTI...See you guys next week, on Tuesday the 16th, the afternoon following the Redskins-Eagles Monday Night game...Take care, have a great week, thanks as always for chatting. MW


Baltimore MD: Schottenheimer and Darrell Green: Mike, I don't remember this dustup. Can you summarize? (And who the hell would pick a fight with a guy who was the best cover corner in the league for, what, 15 years?)

Michael Wilbon: Marty did. Tried to run him off...Go back in the archives and read the columns I wrote about that episode.


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