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Replacement refs, Vilma in the spotlight again after Monday

There is so much to be hissy about today -- the embarrassment of the replacement officials and the continuing he-said, he-said Saints saga most notably -- but there's one question on the tip of everybody's tongue today that I simply must answer:

What in the world is going on with Andy Reid's mustache?

You've seen the thing. It's past Stadlerville and headed into Yosemite Sam territory. Reid always had a nicely kept 'stache, and now it looks like he's five months into his facial hair trimmer being held hostage.

Turns out there's a method to his hairness: Reid is growing the mustache as a tribute to high school offensive line coach Andy Cheschelski, who died of cancer earlier this year in Los Angeles. Reid played for two coaches, Cheschelski and his offensive coordinator, Danny Hime, who had flowing mustaches. When Cheschelski died this year, Reid told Hime he'd stop trimming the mustache to pay homage to a coach who he says taught him much about football and about life.

"Those guys have been watching over me since I was a kid, and I really appreciate all they've done for me in my life,'' Reid told me. "My wife doesn't even know why I'm doing this. I just thought it would be a good way to honor them.''

Cheschelski had a long mustache and longer beard when he coached Reid. Hime, Reid said, "had the Yosemite Sam look. When I told Danny about [growing his out], he was fired up."

One big mystery down, a few to go. Other league items today:

The replacements: The league cannot be serious. After the lack of control in Sunday's games (and the report out of Philadelphia Monday that one official in Baltimore-Philly told LeSean McCoy, "I need you for my fantasy team"), the officials in Monday night's 27-21 Atlanta win over Denver took it to a new level. If you saw it, you know what I'm talking about. If you didn't, don't waste your time.

"This is not the NFL I worked for. Don't care whose fault it is,'' tweeted former officiating chief Mike Pereira last night, watching the game. As I tweeted, I feel the legitimacy of the NFL is at stake. The league has to grit its teeth and pick up the phone this week and make a deal, even if it's a deal it doesn't want to make, including better pension benefits to the 107 officials who have not maxed out in the current system.

Jonathan Vilma: Who do you believe? So the NFL now has former coaches Gregg Williams and Mike Cerullo saying Vilma made a $10,000 offer to any player who would knock Brett Favre out of the 2009 NFC Championship Game -- something we knew the league had to have in its pocket before releasing all of the Vilma-damning information back in March. Vilma, on Twitter, said he had nine affidavits from people claiming he never offered money as an incentive to injure.

My first reaction: You're going to have to decide who you believe: two coaches who were in the room that night (and maybe more, though we don't know if there are other witnesses who have corroborated the details without the NFL releasing their stories) or nine others who also were apparently in the room, presumably players mostly.

I believe there are at least three people who were present who have told the league Vilma offered the money. The fact that the NFL has been so strident about Vilma's role in this leads me to think that at least Williams was strident that he heard the offer in the room, and Williams had to know there was going to be a good chance he was going to go down as an all-time rat when he told the league that.

The motivation for nine teammates or coaches still on the Saints' staff -- if that's who the nine in Vilma's corner are -- is to stand behind their man. The motivation for Williams is to tell the truth to try to save his career, even when he knows what he's saying might damn him as a snitch for violating the sanctity of the team meeting room. As I say, you'll decide who to believe, but I keep coming back to the fact that the NFL knew it was committing character assassination on Vilma when it released its findings in March and then made more of its evidence public in June -- and the league wouldn't be doing that if it wasn't confident in its case.

Reggie Bush: After the most explosive rushing day of his career -- 26 carries, 172 yards, two touchdowns against Oakland -- Miami running back Reggie Bush sounded very happy to be Miami running back Reggie Bush. "I always knew it was in me," Bush told me after the game. "But New Orleans wasn't a ground-and-pound team. I've got no problem with that. We won a Super Bowl playing that way. And I enjoyed my time there, and I'm not mad at anybody. But I always knew if I was given the chance to be this kind of back, I could do it."

Bush says he thinks his knees can withstand 16 games, but that obviously will be the big question for coach Joe Philbin as the Dolphins' season goes on. The 27-year-old has only played a 16-game season once, his rookie year in 2006. Most football people believe Bush needs to be managed and shouldn't be a workhorse back. I asked him if he thought he could be a 325-carry guy. "I just want to be an effective player, no matter how many times I carry it," he said. "I feel good, but after 26 carries I'm pretty sore. I do think I'll be able to make it through the season fine."

If he can, defenses won't be able to tee off on rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill so readily.

Steve Young: Pretty smart for a football player. On the ESPN postgame show last night, Young was brilliant on the ref lockout -- and why the NFL doesn't care what you think. The league might say it cares for your opinion here, but it doesn't.

Young used the concept of "inelastic demand'' in discussing why the NFL doesn't care. The definition of inelastic demand is when a change in the price of an item has no effect on the public demand for it. In essence, Young said it doesn't matter how much the public screams for the real officials to come back, because the public will watch the games regardless who is officiating them. And until you vote with your eyes and your fanness -- and stop watching the games, and stop logging on to NFL.com, and stop consuming all things NFL -- all of your angst over this won't matter.

Just wanted to point this out, because it's smart and, because he said it long after many of you were in bed; I doubt many of you heard it.

Robert Griffin III: I hope he can rush the passer too. On one crushing day, the Redskins lost the two most important pressure players on their defense -- defensive end Adam Carriker (one of the best 3-4 defensive ends in the league) and linebacker Brian Orakpo (the most feared Washington rusher). Coaches always have the next-man-up mantra with their team, and they should, but there's not much they can do to throw salve on this double-barreled hit. If defensive coordinator Jim Haslett can figure a way to surround the lone remaining threat to get to the passer, Ryan Kerrigan, with a player or two the offense is going to have to account for, it'll be one of the best coaching jobs of 2012.

Now onto your email:

***

I'M A GOAT FOR NAMING GOSTKOWSKI A GOAT. "I think your labeling of Stephen Gostkowski as a Goat of the week is a little unfair. The man made four out of five field goals on the day. I feel that many of the other Patriots deserved goat of the week more than Gostkowski and you are just piling on the guy who made the last mistake.''-- From David Timmerman, of Lexington, Ky.

Fair enough. My view is he had the game in his hands with what was, for him, an easy kick. He blew it.

SCHIANO'S RIGHT. "Regarding Schiano v. Coughlin, the Bucs could have potentially won the game on that snap and the Giants could have potentially lost the game on that snap. If players aren't allowed to try in this QB Kneel situation in a one score game, why even have the play at all.''-- From James Kirkpatrick, of Toronto

Good point, which many have made. I look at the diving at knees and the pigpile and the potential strategy of linebackers/defensive linemen crashing into the backs of defensive linemen on the play, to propel them forward, and I see the danger of injury as much as anything else -- in a game that is making new rules every year to lower the risk of injury.

There's one other matter here. Watch the classic kneel-down victory formation, and you'll see a quarterback who kneels almost simultaneously to the ball slapping into his hands. It is virtually impossible, and that is being charitable, for a player on the other side of the ball to get to the quarterback to make him fumble. In my mind, the risk of injury, and vengeance from angry offensive players for taking more chopping at their legs, is not worth the scrum.

I THOUGHT GRONK IMPEDED THE GUY. "Prefacing this with the fact that I am a Patriots fan and they deserved to lose the game because they were outplayed by the Cardinals, but one call that I was shocked at and is receiving very little national attention is the horrible holding call on Rob Gronkowski on Danny Woodhead's touchdown drive. Gronk has him on the inside and released him at the same time Woodhead was running by. Poor, poor call by the refs, especially after all the downfield contact by defensive backs on receivers and tight ends throughout the game.''-- From Tyler, of New York

It was a borderline hold, I thought. But I did think Gronkowski impeded him and, though I didn't see it clearly enough on the replay from behind the play, it appeared he held him. But I have to stress that on the replay I saw I didn't see the hold. I saw the effect of a hold, but no hold, so I can't swear he held. It's the kind of play, because there wasn't an isolated instant replay on Gronkowski that I saw, that you have to think the official saw something. But with these officials, obviously, you never know.

DIFFERENT ANIMALS. "Could you explain the difference between what Greg Schiano had his team do to the Giants Sunday, and what the Eagles did to them back in the 1970's for the "Miracle in the Meadowlands.''-- From Mike, of Allentown, Pa.

In 1978, with the Giants not in victory formation, Joe Pisarcik took a handoff, wheeled to hand off to Larry Csonka, and there was a fumble, and Edwards picked it up and ran for a touchdown. On Sunday, with the Giants in victory formation, Eli Manning took a snap from center and immediately took a knee.

THE REPLACEMENTS ARE BEING TOO CAUTIOUS. "It seems to me that these guys are being taught to err on the safe side. By the safe side, I mean the side that is reviewable in a booth rather than the side that cannot be reviewed. This doesn't work in the case of the Vick incomplete pass/fumble, but I think that safe side thinking is what caused the issue and why they were so slow to actually make a call. I think with more and more experience with learning the rules and how to call them they can get quicker, but do you see this same thinking and do you think it's being taught to them that way?''-- From Nick Connor, of Milford, Ohio

It's difficult to paint all 120 replacement officials with a broad brush. But I think you're on to something. In the Eagles game Sunday, Mike Vick clearly had his arm in a throwing motion as he was being tackled, and the ball went forward, but referee Robert Frasier made no call; that tells me he knew the eye in the sky would rescue him. Either that, or he was simply overwhelmed by the stage. Either way, you can't officiate games like that.

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