Dr Z
Friday January 11th, 2008

Without further ado-doo, let's get to the burning issue of the day. Pat of Amenian, N.Y., asks the following: "Do you think Jessica Simpson is just an excuse for Romo's poor play, or do you think he just doesn't handle the pressure of playoff time?"

In order to answer that question, I have to take a roundabout route, and in that circuitous fashion your question, hopefully, will be covered. Is this OK? It's the best I can do.

First, a little background on the whole nature of football players and, uh, well, activities that might detract from their passion for the game. Walt Michaels of the old Paul Brown Cleveland Browns once told me Brown had a rule players were not to sleep with their wives (girlfriends not mentioned) after Tuesday. My first question when I heard that was, "How would he ever know? Did he hide in the closet?"

"Honor system," Walt said, with a wink.

Now I find that funny, too, so as you can see, I'm trying to establish myself as a guy who doesn't take this kind of stuff too seriously. YET, and I wish to stress this teeny weeny little adverb, this Romo thing does not sit right with yours truly. He's coming off a bad three-game set; Eagles, Panthers, Redskins. He has a bad thumb and his go-to receiver might be down for the count. Not a happy time.

The game he had against the Eagles -- and maybe the thumb was responsible for it and maybe it wasn't -- was as bad a game as I've seen a QB have this season. And I'm talking about some of Trent Dilfer's desperate afternoons and Testaverde's Tribulations and the birth and death of Charlie Frye, etc. In doing my quarterback ratings I have a little mark I make for a bad pass -- a poor decision, flutterball, wild throw and so forth. Tom Brady, on a good day, might have one or two, sometimes none. If Peyton Manning's facing a tough rush, he might have three or four. Brett Favre on a wild streak might get up to five or six. I think the worst game I recorded for Eli Manning this season was one in which he had nine, and that's a lot.

Romo against Philly had 14. I probably have, sometime in the past, recorded that many, but I can't recall when.

If I were Wade Phillips and I had an open weekend ahead, I wouldn't make Romo strap on the pads and get to work, but I'd damn well make sure to tell him to get his ass into Jason Garrett's office and work this thing out. Instead it's off to Cancun on the Airhead Express with his tootsie. I don't buy it. If I were betting, I'd jump on the Giants, getting 7½. And that's all I have to say on the subject -- until I have something more to say.

My All-Pro team, as usual, has generated its share of froth. First I'll address the blog questions (Quogs? Blestions?) that Andrew set up, and since most of them revolve around my choosing Reggie Wayne over T.O., I'll concentrate on that one. With a chart ... one of a few that I devoted to the head-to-head matchup. This is just another way of doing it, and in no way definitive. It's my tracking of the week-by-week performances of each, awarding an advantage each time, and I think you'll agree that I'm being more than fair to T.O.

OK, bring it on. Here come the people who hate me and my All-Pro selections, and the following e-mails, to save time, all will begin with, "HOW COULD YOU?"

" ... bail out on Cromartie?" (Mike of Rochester). Easy. Picked the guys I graded higher. He's my No. 3 corner, but if you pick up the magazine, you'll see he made my team. Huh? How could this be? Now you see it, now you don't. One of the mysteries of modern science, and some day I'll explain to you this monumental glitch.

"Have one running back instead of two? A lot of teams actually use two."(Hayden of Valhalla, N.Y.). I have in front of me the year-end rushing statistics. On teams in which everyone stayed relatively healthy, or one guy didn't take over for another as featured back, there were only four that saw two backs share the wealth, Minnesota with Peterson and Taylor, Jacksonville with Taylor and Jones-Drew, Dallas with Jones and Barber and Atlanta with Dunn and Norwood. And even these teams seldom had both of them in the same alignment. That means that teams work with one feature back. And that's the way I designed my All-Pro team.

"Not list DeAngelo Hall?" (Andy of Atlanta). DeAngelo giveth, DeAngelo taketh away. Andy even answers his own question: "This is a young guy who used to be a Pro-Bowler, who now bites on almost every double move. Were the projections wrong all along, or has he regressed tremendously?" Thank you for an accurate, concise answer. May I please enlist your services in answering a kind of pesty question from a guy called Andy from Atlanta? And in answer to the latter, he once had tremendous talent, he has regressed, and I don't think he got very good coaching. A new regime will fix all that, or he just might have to pack it in and go work for ESPN or some other wonderful network.

"not see enough in DeMeco Ryans to even warrant strong consideration?" (Kyle of Sleepy Hollow, N.Y.). When I wrote about my All-Pros I said that at times I ran across a player who might have crashed the list, somewhere, if I had done a workup on him, but, because of the press of time, I just couldn't, since after a few looks I could tell that he wasn't going to be among the very top guys. Now this might be unfair, but honestly, days and days and days went into this project.

Ryans was a guy I got special film on last year. He made a lot of tackles and he swallowed a lot of fakes, and, through great athletic ability, came back and made tackles after he'd been out of position. Hence, a huge number of T and A's. This year I didn't see him noticeably advanced on his reads, but he played a bit more hesitantly, probably because the coaches got on him about being out of position. The result was a muted version of the Ryans of 2006 and in a position as swollen with quality as MLB, he just didn't figure in.

Following are e-mails from people who hate me just as deeply, but have worded their queries differently:

"There is not a single San Diego Charger on your All-Pro list. You guys wonder why everyone out here says there is an East coast bias in the media." writes Frank of Oceanside, Calif.

You think that's bad, Frank? I don't even use the proper Ca abbreviation for your state, preferring the old style Calif. Yeah, you're right. Not a single Charger. Nor a married one, either. You bet I've got a West Coast bias. After Stanford booted me out around 100 years ago I swore that never on my All-Pro team would I have a representative of the Raiders, Niners, Chargers, Rams, and to make the sweep complete, Seahawks, and just to make sure, Cardinals. And if Portland or Vancouver ever got a franchise, I'd stiff them, too. Anything else on your mind?

From Dan of Warwick, R.I.: "Not one Steeler? You are kidding, right? No. 1 defense in yardage, No. 2 in points allowed, and not one?" That's the way it works. You look at player vs. player, not the overall work of a unit. Harrison graded No. 3 on my OLB list, behind the guys I picked. Farrior was my sixth-ranked inside backer, as listed in my column. I don't pull these numbers out of the air. I work my ass off, trying to get the grades right.

Who else would you have on the defense? How about Kiesel, the RDE? OK, I graded him, too, but at DT because he reduces down most of the time. You want to know how his grades stack up? Sure, he finished tied for fifth at 3.5, behind Haynesworth (5.4), Ngata (3.7), Gregg (3.7) and Dockett (3.6). Hovan tied him at 3.5. He finished ahead of both of the Minnesota Williamses, Robertson of the Jets, plus Paterson and Wilfork. You want to feed me any other Steelers for evaluation, go right ahead. You know something? I'm getting tired of this junk. Why don't you find some of the AP selectors to pester. Ask them how they graded the tackles and guards. Ask them if they even know their names.

Hey, Frank of Oceanside, I'm not through with you yet. West Coast bias, huh? How about the fact that I had three Chargers on my All-Pro team last year, Tomlinson, Goff and Merriman? I guess that bias thing just popped up this year, huh?

You over there! I see you! What the hell do you want?

"I wanted you to know how much I enjoy reading your column every week, and as an avid oenophile and UC-Davis grad, I always appreciate hearing your wine thoughts as well. And my name is Scott Scaramastro from Elk Grove, Calif."

I, uh, well, thanks, Scott. Damn nice of you to say those things. Sorry for throwing my shoe at you. Anything I can help you with? You what? You don't understand why it seems to be only the defensive players who get face mask penalties when you've seen a lot of runners and receivers do the same thing and get away with it?

Yeah, I agree with you. And I think that, going back to the days when Tex Schramm felt that the only thing that could attract fans was lots of scoring, lots of offense, there's been an unwritten rule among officials to go easier on the offensive people. In keeping with what you're saying, the play in the Steelers-Jags game in which Hines Ward grabbed Brian Williams' face mask in the end zone and Williams actually got called for the hold is a perfect example.

From Matt of Carolina Beach, N.C. -- "Coaches say they use their charts when deciding whether or not to go for two. Why does it seem that they only consider what will happen if they make it? It's like they never consider the possibility of failing to get the points."

First of all, a coach who says he uses a chart tells me that he hasn't kept up with the game. The charts were devised in an era in which field goals weren't automatic, as they are now. You can collect a lot of threes in a hurry these days, and coaches who understand that don't go for the deuce until it's absolutely necessary in the game's dying moments.

Jonathan of Fairfax, Va., has noticed an inordinate number of helmets popping off, which, he says, can be traced to the players' laziness in snapping up their chin straps, in college as well as the NFL. "I couldn't stop yelling at the screen Monday night," he says, "when LSU's QB played the whole first series with his chin strap flapping around and his mouth guard tucked into his facemask."

I thought I was the only one who yelled at the TV. Players are lazy. In some instances they remove articles of padding to lighten themselves. I did it, toward the end of my mediocre career. The hip pads were the first to go. We didn't have mouth guards when I played, but I wore a mouthpiece when I boxed and I didn't like it. It affected my breathing, and I don't how QBs call signals with them on.

I would guess they leave their hats unsnapped out of laziness, or convenience -- just not wanting to take the trouble to snap them. Dangerous? I guess it could be, but you know how it is when we were young and foolish.

Yeah, I guess it could be legislated, but officials will tell you they have enough to worry about during a game, rather than continually stopping the action to get somebody dressed correctly. And thank you for your kind words.

Mark of Lexington, N.C., would like a column from me on Joe Gibbs. He also wants to know who I think should replace him. I hope, along with you, that it'll be Gregg Williams. As far as a tribute to Joe ... well, I think he had one of the great, underrated offensive minds in the game. He had a reputation for his reliance on hog football, the counter trey, the three-TE running game, but he was really feared for that three-wideout bunch thing he designed. It seemed that no defensive coach could keep up with it, and Ricky Sanders was always breaking over the middle, scot-free. I asked Joe about it once, but I was not a writer he trusted, therefore I got little information.

Chris of Madison, Wis., wonders why receivers such as Randy Moss and T.O. don't get a regular diet of jamming at the line, with a second DB picking them up on the second go round. It drives me nuts, too. It used to drive me nuts when I saw Jerry Rice getting a clean release.

Fear of missing the jam is one thing, since receivers, especially big ones, are skilled at evading jammers. Reluctance to regularly tie up two people is another. Lots of copouts abound, but I would do just as you suggest.

I think I must have written this 400 times, but I saw Marshall play Ole Miss in the Motor City Bowl in Moss' senior year, and he started off free and easy, But when it came down to the crunch, and his team was trying to catch up, Mississippi had two little cornerbacks who played Moss tight and jammed him at the line and took him right out of his game. Toward the end he was just waving at the ball. And old Z sat down and wrote, for his NFL Draft preview, that Moss would be a tremendous bust. "They'll jam him right out of the league," I wrote. Some genius, huh?

Chris, in a P.S., asks me if I could do one piece a week on technical football, in which I took one aspect of a game and really broke it down. It's a nice thought and I'd love to do it, but the early part of the week is taken up by, first that (ugh) She Says Z Says video with Brookie, the swimming suitmodel (I get paid for this), then the Rankings Column, and now we're into Wednesday already and look-back pieces, when the rest of the world is looking ahead, just aren't in vogue.

I'll keep you in mind, though, and if I can squeeze in an analytical piece from time to time, I'll give it my best shot. Hey, maybe I can somehow squeeze it into the video, with Brookie and I demonstrating the intricacies of the zone blintz, uh, blitz.

From Joe, a Titan fan from Bridgeport, W. Va., a query that can be summed up in just two words and is followed by a whole mess of question marks: Vince Young??????

Honestly, I don't know, and I hate to waffle. To be very honest, he does some good things out there, but his accuracy isn't great. And his galloping style seems to open him up for too many shots. Is he the future? I think they have to give him at least another year and look for progress, not miracles. Too early to think about giving up.

Jason Koonce of Cleveland asks me if I could call Bill Belichick's coaching job this season the greatest in history, if the Patriots go all the way. It's possible, in the future, but I certainly wouldn't jump in and label it that immediately after the season. As with all these "greatest ever" things, time must be taken to weigh them against all comers.

There are some things you mention, though, in presenting your case, that I must amend slightly. You talk about issues such as "today's media." Hardly a problem. They are whipped dogs up there, forced to take whatever he dishes out. Is this the basis for awarding a medal? Perhaps, if you like to see a captive press, but when you're winning you can get away with almost anything.

"Free agency," is another thing you mention. Yes, in the salary-cap era, it's amazing to be able to build a storehouse of talent the way the Patriots did, but a lot of the credit for this must go to Scott Pioli, the GM and personnel man.

"Egos." Here he gets tremendous credit. Egos are made to be swallowed up in Foxboro, and if they're not, the strong inner complex of players Belichick has developed will keep things under control. There are egomaniacs on that club, to be sure, but you never hear about them. I guarantee you that if the Pats go the distance you will see, in the weeks to come, at least 150 "greatest ever" designations connected with this team, and the coaching job will be one of them.

Steve of Hickory, N.C., wants to know if any team has been consistently good in drafting quarterbacks. Well, if it has then there weren't many of them it drafted because one of the measures of success is longevity. I'm trying to think of a standout, and I can't, although the day after this column runs, I'll probably come up with half a dozen of them. Wait a minute ... how do you feel about a QB obtained through free agency? The Cowboys drafted three generations of QBs who made the Pro Bowl, although not in the first round. Roger Staubach (10th round) followed by Danny White (3rd), then Troy Aikman (1st). A break for a few years, then Romo, another Pro Bowler but a free agent.

Mike of Casselberry, Fla., asks if "an old-fashioned coach from the NFL ranks, such as a Mike Singletary-type," would be a correct head coach for the Falcons. There's a whole lot more to it than that. He has to have a knowledge of the free agency system and how to work with his GM to handle the salary cap. Inspirational speeches and tough practices don't do it anymore. It would also help if he had more than a rudimentary knowledge of the quarterback position.

I am looking out the window and I see a sea of frantic faces. "Who's the E-mailer of the Week?" they are yelling at me. Scott Scaramastro of Elk Grove, Calif. I thought I made that clear when I included his last name.

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.