Dr Z
Friday December 21st, 2007

It's getting on, and I'm already late for my appointment at the tattooist's, so I'll make this short. Here are my co-Emailers of the Week and away we go.

Michael of Baton Rouge, La., (Achtung, e-mailers! Always include your last name when you're shooting for the Grande Prix) writes the following, as a reply to that flaming stuff I wrote about Ark and Saw snatching Bobby Petrino away from the Falcons -- "What about Mr. Huizenga jetting into Baton Rouge and hiring Nick Saban, under contract, in the middle of bowl preparation and recruiting for LSU?"

That was the first salvo. The cavalry charge was led by a member of the profession, Rick Korch, Football Information Director at the University of Miami, and I'll print his letter with not one comma omitted because when this comes up for trial, I don't want the lawyers claiming that I messed with it in any way.

"Look here, Z. Aside from being a fat punk, you've got an IQ the size of an after dinner mint ... " Wait a minute. Wrong letter ... that's the one from my ex-wife. OK, here it is:

"I've enjoyed reading you for decades now, but you really missed it when you ripped colleges for hiring coaches who had NFL contracts. As if NFL teams didn't do the same EXACT thing.

"Nick Saban was under contract to LSU when he was signed by the Dolphins.

"Bobby Petrino was under contract to Louisville when he was signed by the Falcons.

"Tom Coughlin was under contract to Boston College when he was signed by the Jaguars.

"Here at Miami, where I've been four years since leaving the Jaguars, Jimmy Johnson was under contract when he was signed by the Cowboys, Dennis Erickson was under contract when he was signed by the Seahawks, Butch Davis was under contract when he was signed by the Browns.

"Probably every college coach who went to the NFL in modern history was under contract. Hypocrisy? It's been done both ways. Exactly the same way."

OK, I admit it, I'm the referee who ejects the guy who retaliates, rather than the first guy to throw the punch. I got carried away, mainly because I dislike the hypocrisy of the college community more than I do the NFL variety, although it's close. At least the NFL doesn't try to place a phony tag, such as "scholar athletes" on its warriors, and make them pretend to attend classes. But I'm bobbing and weaving now. Those two e-mailers nailed me and I admit it.

"Why are you always the first one to beat yourself up?" a sympathetic reader wrote about a decade ago. It's always been the way. When we're in a restaurant and the waitress brings out the mains and says, "Careful, this plate is REALLY hot," I've got to immediately lift it with both hands. One young woman got so upset that she practically shrieked, "What are you DOING?" and I said, "I'm into pain." Ten minutes later we had a different waitress. I could see the first one going up to the maitre'd and saying, "I'm not waiting on freaks."

So Rick and Michael, please feel free to write in the future, anytime you feel like ruining the day for an old person who's never done you any harm.

I answered this question, maybe six or seven years ago, but the numbers were different, and besides, I like it anyway. Valarie of South Laguna Beach, Calif., asks, "Which will we see first in sports, the 500-pound lineman or the eight-foot basketball center?" The 500-pounder. Even though, statistically, the eight footer is closer (Sun Ming Ming at 7-9 is 96.4 percent of the way there, 410-pound ex-Detroit guard Aaron Gibson, the heaviest ever on record, was only 82 percent home), there have been athletic 500-pounders in the sumo ring, whereas no eight-footer has done anything more strenuous than stringing telephone wires.

Sam in Sangerstown, N.Y., asks if Bill Parcells is the right fit for the Dolphins. Depends on what he has to do. I can't see Cameron staying on, with Bill looking over his shoulder. It would be much healthier with Parcells hiring his own man, someone he can work with comfortably. I know the first guy I would hire, if I were him -- his son-in-law, Scott Pioli, who's done such a great job, lining up all that talent for the Patriots. And thanks, Sam, for what you wrote.

Tyler of Sanger, Calif., says he has been bugged for years by this question -- "Has there ever been a successful scheme created in the modern NFL that utilizes a running quarterback?" Let's go back a ways. The first of the great T-formation QB's had been run and pass single wing tailbacks in college ... Sid Luckman, Sammy Baugh, Otto Graham. So no real accommodation was necessary. The scramblers were kind of oddball entries, highly entertaining but not followers of a scheme -- Marlin the Magician Briscoe, Fran Tarkenton, Frankie Albert. But except for Tarkenton, pocket passers went into the Hall of Fame, not "scatter guys," as Weeb Ewbank termed them.

Randall Cunningham brought a new dimension of athleticism to the position, further exemplified by Steve Young and Michael Vick. There were rollouts and half-rolls injected into the offense to take advantage of their ability, but I don't think the coordinators really departed radically from the system. But if I would pinpoint one quarterback whose unique abilities caused the coach to build some elements of them into his attack, I would say Joe Montana with the 49ers. Bill Walsh worked very hard on what he called "bad situation drills," knowing that Montana was gifted enough to make them pay off.

Mike of Oakville, Ont., wants to know about my book. What book? Oh, that one? Well, I sent the agent 15 chapters, with hopes that he'd try to sell it on that basis. He gave me suggestions for making it more attractive to prospective publishers. They usually involved turning it more into a series of Sports Illustrated bonus pieces, featuring prominent folks I've met, rather than examining my outlook on life. And that's where we stand, if that's the right word for it. And thank you for asking, and your pledge to buy the first thousand copies.

His question: Can I share his optimism about the Bills' chances for next year? Depends on how far you expect them to go. Ever since the end of the days of Jim Kelly and the K-Gun, I haven't regarded them as one of football's dynamic organizations. Solid, hard working, tough, honest, yes. But not something to pop your eyes open. Possible playoffs for next year, which is what I've been saying for the last 12 or 13 years about them.

From Dave of Irvine, Calif. -- "If you could come up with a brand new sport, what would it be?" Women's sumo.

Eric of Philly, and thanks for your comments, goes to considerable length to impress upon me Brian Westbrook's importance to the Eagles. Before you get too wound up, Eric, let me put it this way, and what I'm about to tell you is a big no-no because my all-pro selections are supposed to be Surprise! Surprise! BUT ... I pick, as you know, only one running back, and Westbrook, not Adrian Peterson, is my all-pro runner for 2007.

Now here's my kind of letter. Reggie of Chicago says I owe him a new monitor because when he read about Kimberly Caldwell's rendition of the National Anthem he sprayed coke all over his machine. Don't spend your $$$. Next time I'm out your way, I'll drop by and fix it up for you. And now I've got another coke-sprayer to worry about because when The Flaming Redhead read that she practically exploded. How stupid am I about anything technical ... I mean anything at all?

Well, when my computer acts up and I call Technical Assistance at SI, there's always a problem with the terms they use. They automatically think everyone's on the same page, and I haven't a clue what they're talking about. After one guy laid a whole bunch of this geekese on me, I said, "Let me ask you this. If they're cross-keying their linebackers, how do you set up your weakside protection?" "Now how the hell should I ... ?" he began, but I cut him off at the pass.

"You see, I know that," I said, which was a lie, of course, because I had merely spouted gobblydegook, "but that's the way I react to that stuff you tell me." What was the outcome of that little exchange? It was reported to the Assistant Managing Editor, who told me, "One more incident like that and you go on report."

John of Fuquay-Varina (X-rated town?), N.C., asks me what Fred Taylor's legacy will be. Last year I did a work-up on him, listing the runners who were picked ahead of him each year for the Pro Bowl. He really didn't get such a raw deal, if you do it that way. It's just that the overall result is so sad. Maybe they ought to give some kind of award like the Academy Awards people do -- for long and meritorious service. His enshrinement discussion will be interesting. I think the fact that he was neglected for so long will work in his favor, and people will feel guilty about it, and his chances will improve. And thanks for your nice words.

Jacob of Baltimore says, if tackles are better than guards, why doesn't the NFL draft nothing but tackles? Actually, many NFL guards are failed tackles. But a guard has to be more explosive within a smaller area. A tackle has to have more range, quicker feet and longer arms. But the way the NFL is today, guards will knock guys off the ball and create a hole, whereas tackles will do it by position-blocking.

From Adam of Chicago -- Who are the best blocking RBs and how would they rate, all time? I can't find any who do much run-blocking, because who are they going to block for? The fullback? So now we're talking about pass-blocking, which is a different skill. I'll turn this around and answer part two first. No one these days compares to the two best pass blockers I saw -- Marion Motley and Matt Snell, both fullbacks in the two-back era -- or the best runner who could also block for a runner, Emerson Boozer.

The great pass-blockers today? Hard to say, for an entire game, although I've seen some unlikely people get in some serious licks. Maurice Jones-Drew comes to mind. Marion Barber will pass block. Westbrook is good ... hell, he's good at everything. Clinton Portis is good. So is the Vikings' Chester Taylor. You know something, I don't like where this is going. I'm finding people I've seen get a good pop or two. I know what you're looking for -- running backs who just slug it out, delivering block after block. They don't exist. No one wants to use a thoroughbred to pull a wagon.

Ah yes, Bruce of Webster, Mass., crafty devil that he is, worries about the Dolphins, flying high these days, being concerned about a trap game in New England. Making fun of my Helpful Hints to Those Who like a Recreational Wager, are you? Yep, you called it. I can hear the Patriots right now ... "We've got to take those arrogant fish down a peg or two."

Bobby B. of Santa Fe, N.M., is shooting some Coach of the Year names at me. Jauron, McCarthy, Phillips, Crennel. Right, all the guys who did better than expected. Ho hum. That's why the Super Bowl coach never gets it, because the picks are made around now or shortly thereafter. Gimme a break, man. Bill Belichick is my Coach of the Year.

Tom of Mountain Top, Pa., asks, "What's the deal with Carson Palmer?" Oh, wildly inaccurate, more so than I've ever seen him. Hurt, more this year than ever before, by his top longball receiver who's always ready to give it the, "Who, me?" sign when a play misfires. But that's a given with Ochenta Cinco. Palmer's inaccuracy is what puzzles me. As far as that nebulous, and much overworked term, "leadership" ... first complete your damn passes, then worry about leading people.

From Dave of Boise, Idaho ... "Thoughts on the Seahawks?" Yeah, most inconsistent team in the league, and I wonder if the coach has something to do with that. Any time an organization gives out so many awards for fans who make noise and inspire penalties, it becomes suspect in my eyes.

"Thoughts on Argentinian Malbecs?" They make too much noise and drown out the other wines ... check that ... vastly improved in recent years. At one time I never liked wines from the Argentine, despite the good prices and all the publicity. Short-finishers, no real style or class, and I also got hints of unclean cooperage. Now they can come on with some elegance, especially the Malbecs, but unfortunately the prices have reflected that. For classy reds that are still decently priced, give a look to the New Zealand pinot noirs, especially from the Central Otago region.

From Ryan of Charlotsville, Va. -- Mitchell Report and its impact in football. Steroids are basically passé in the NFL. HGH is more in vogue, and as you know, it's harder to test for. I've felt for many years that the league is heavily into performance enhancers, no matter how much testing they have. This will sound like the utmost in simple-mindedness to you, but anytime I see an athlete who's 6-foot-3, 295, with 10 percent body fat, I'm willing to bet he's on the juice of some kind. God did not intend humans to look like that.

Tom of Centennial, Ohio, and thanks for your nice comments about my Thinking Man's Guide (although the whole book topic is a sore subject with me right now) finds an either-or situation between dink and dunk passing and bombs-away, a la old Raiders.

You'll notice that I didn't use the expression, West Coast Offense, because that is the middle ground between them. The West Coast Offense is a term coined by Bernie Kosar in 1993 to refer to an attack popularized by Sid Gillman and Don Coryell and then practiced by such coaches as Ernie Zampese, Norv Turner and Mike Martz, among others. I used it in a story I did about the Cowboys, and some idiot cro magnon cochon of a wire service writer in California picked it up and slapped it on the Bill Walsh-49er offense. And there it stayed, despite my threats of lawsuits, bodily harm, maiming and disfiguration. The TWCO (True West Coast Offense), mid-range, down the seams, crossing patterns at 15-18 yards, everything on rhythm, is the attack that I favor ... not dinky dunk, not bombs away.

"I have a record of each of the 956 times you have written this," says my Flaming Redhead. With about 956 more to go.

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