Heavy run of Hall of Fame questions. First one's the best, and its e-mailer, Andrew Levin of Hanover, Mass., is my E-mailer of the Week for submitting it. Did you know, Andrew, that along with this award goes the provision that you can always get your questions allowed through for a period of a year? Of course you didn't. I just made it up. The question is simplicity itself, but very meaningful.
"Why is Stanley Morgan constantly ignored when the Hall of Fame discussion rolls around?"
Why indeed? I certainly thought he was a great player, one of the most feared long ball threats in history. I got out my book and did a little research on Stanley. For the first six years of his career in New England he averaged 22.6 yards per reception. In every one of those six, the number was at 20.9 or better. No receiver since then has come close.
To put it in perspective, Jerry Rice's first six seasons produced a 17.6 average. James Lofton, king of the recent long ballers, averaged ... well, I didn't take his first six. I took his best six, which contained a few 20-plussers ... 18.9. The best single year that Randy Moss, today's top deep threat, had was his rookie season ... 19.0. Marvin Harrison's best was 14.5.
Are you starting to get the picture on Stanley Morgan? So with all those 120-something names we had to wade through, all those jamokes, why wasn't Morgan there? The answer is something that always sets my teeth on edge when I hear it so many times during the enshrinement meetings. "Slipped through the cracks."
I'm just as guilty as the others, dozing in my gondola by the Grand Canal. He won't slip through the cracks next year, I promise. His name will be on the list.
From Rick of Lancaster, Calif. -- Why isn't Ralph Wilson in yet? Because the trend is growing away from owner types. Many selectors are beginning to feel that they shouldn't compete head-to-head against players. They should enter by a different door.
Chris of Fayetteville, N.C., wonders how much a team's success influences an individual's chance for induction. Too much, I'm afraid. I go through that argument every year. "Well, how many Super Bowls did he win?" say the yahoos in the room. To which your faithful narrator calmly replies, "He didn't win any. One player does not win any. The team did or did not win one while he was playing quarterback." One QB who I always thought certainly deserved enshrinement was Archie Manning. I tried selling that one year and got laughed out of the room. "Are you kidding? With the record the Saints had?" A lot of things go into a bad record, but it's an argument I don't know how to win.
Here's an interesting hypothetical situation posed by Mike of Fairfax, whose kindly words brought a smile to the face of the Red Flame. What if Adrian Peterson would put the single season rushing record out of sight? "For an eternity," Mike says, but I've got a bit of an issue with that one. Then, God forbid, he gets hurt. Career's over. Terminado! Would the sheer dominance of those numbers get him into the Hall of Fame?
No. They'd draw a lot of hearts and flounders columns, and if enough of us pushed hard enough, a kind of asterisk notation, or little display with plaque, in Canton. Something to be enshrined, but on a different pedestal. You realize, of course, the weakness of your argument. There's no such thing as a record for all eternity. It would be impossible to argue it. Could be broken the next year.
Tom of Reisterstown, Md., is upset because L.C. Greenwood keeps getting stiffed. The trouble is that too many pass rushers keep coming up at the same time ... Richard Dent, L.C. Greenwood, Fred Dean, Chris Doleman, Claude Humphrey, Derrick Thomas, Andre Tippett. We could go on and on. I like them all, and when they make it through and the vote gets serious I cast one their way ... yes, I've voted for L.C. every time he got far along in the progression.
Phil of New York takes issue with my support of Terrell Davis. Lots of others, he says, can come close to TD's numbers, and their careers were longer, Priest Holmes, for instance. Why must it be either-or? Holmes will be a worthy candidate, as well, when his name comes up. Davis was the face of the franchise. He created a living memorial, whatever that means.
From Ty of Birmingham. "What is the knock on Kenny, The Snake, Stabler?" and I'll cut the question off right here because I'm just the chap to answer it for you because I'm the leading negative voice.
In his prime, while it lasted, he was very accurate. Then he became consistently inaccurate. His teammates wondered why. That's as far as I'll take this one. A few years ago, the person presenting him at the enshrinement meeting mentioned how he had "always been cooperative with the media." My hand shot up as if it were on a spring, and I reminded this ninny about how the Snake invited Bob Padecky of the Sacramento Bee down to the Redneck Riviera to do some offseason interviewing. And when Padecky showed up, all of a sudden Kenny's buddies on the Mobile PD found some drugs that had been planted in the writer's car, and off he went to the joint. For a night. Then he was released with no charges filed. Yeah, Kenny will make it. After I'm morto.
Josh G. of New York asks, "How can you leave out LeRoy Butler?" You can't. You shouldn't. Make that they shouldn't. He was a fine player, the leader of the Packer defense through some glory times. That error will not be repeated next year. So now that's two names I have to send in. Who was the first again? Linda, who was the first one? Right, Stanley Morgan. How quickly we forget ... when we're pushing 90.
Don Shula's comments about the Patriots' prospective unbeaten season being accompanied by an asterisk got some people annoyed, but it tickled me. On many levels. That's Shoes, for you. Highly opinionated and terminally cranky. Brings back memories, boy does it. C'mon, Andrew G. of Powell, Ohio. A nice sensible guy like you, with such good things to say about your humble messenger, don't get all wrapped up in a knot about this thing. Nobody's going to be handing out asterisks, as if they were gold stars in class. Let Shoes carry on a little, if it makes him happy.
And Tom of Indy wants my opinion on the matter. Just gave it to you. And Mike M. of Colorado Springs takes the matter one step further and levels both barrels at that "rude, unsportsmanlike and obnoxious bunch," who can't wait to pop their Champagne corks after another prospective unbeaten team perishes. Believe me, Michael, they're basically good guys. But you know, or maybe you don't ... you get a little mileage on you, you tend to throw things out of proportion. It's a miracle that I've remained so serene and level-headed.
Isn't it, Linda? Honey, isn't it? OK, ha ha, my head has been leveled. Very funny. Where were we?
More on the Patriots, this time in relation to the Colts. If all the Colts' wounded return to action for the next go round, this time up in Foxboro, asks Andrew of Toronto, who wins? "Please give a hurt Colts' fan a reason to believe." Well, I don't believe that Marvin Harrison will come riding in on a white horse and save the day. I just get the feeling that his knee is shot, that even if he comes back somehow, he won't be a downfield threat.
The other guys? Yeah, although Ugoh probably would have gotten worn down by Jarvis Green the same as Johnson did. They really needed those linebackers, especially Keiaho, who's quick and athletic, and they need Sanders to step up and make more of the kind of plays he did when he spilled Maroney for minus-two on third and short. But where was he the rest of the time? I'm guessing he was still hurt, and if your Colts are going to have a chance in the rematch, No. 21's going to have to be the defensive counterpart to Joseph Addai, whom, as I've mentioned, was my player of the game.
Charlie of NYC says he saw Brady faking a draw in the second half and dropping back to pass. That's what they mean by "play action," and he's very good at it.
Marty of Ortonville, Mich., would like my take on the announcing by the CBS crew of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms. He thought it was "deplorable, with several mistakes and wrong names thrown about." Not as bad as others, from my standpoint. Wrong names don't bother me too much, unless they persist in the mistake. What I really can't stand are things that are overlooked or neglected, and they were OK in this regard. But when we were pretty well along in the first half, all of a sudden a cold chill swept over me and I got the feeling that they'd never presented the lineups. I hope I'm wrong and I just missed them. If this is true, though, and CBS is copying the habit from Fox, then my God, it's the end of all intelligent life as we know it.
Poor Jack of East Freetown, Mass. He is cursed with a mind that works exactly as mine does. He sees the Patriots at 15-0, having clinched everything there is to clinch, and faced with the big decision -- do we rest Brady and the varsity against the Giants or don't we? You know, I'm getting all excited thinking about it, about all the editorials that will be written, pro and con, on every continent, including Antarctica. Me, personally? I'd go for the big bananas, but I don't have to make a living at it. But if Bill Belichick, in one final thrust of defiance, were to play Matt Cassel and thereby blow the unbeaten season, I might faint from joy, the joyful anticipation of the long, wild howls that would come from every corner of the universe.
Mark of Rochester, Minn., and thanks, mate, for the nice stuff, worries about Adrian Peterson's looseness with the way he holds the ball, away from his body and one-handed. I think he pulls it in at the last moment. You know many great runners were a little loose with the ball. It gave them more freedom of movement, and consequently led to fumbles. But he doesn't seem to fumble (now watch him cough it up three times on Sunday).
Another chap with some very nice things to say, Tom of Owatonna, Minn.,sees three players, each of whom touched the ball an inordinate number of times last season, Larry and Rudi Johnson, plus Steven Jackson, getting hurt this year. Are they raising the odds for an injury when they carry so many times? I think so. A guy gets worn down, he gets hurt, especially a runner. Personnel guys that I know always talk about how many carries a runner has in him for a career. Of course the final tally is arrived at only when he's finished.
Andy of Denver would like my take on Tiki Barber relative to, 1) getting too much credit for his running in previous years, without enough going to his teammates, and 2) former players becoming media stars. Let me tell you something about Tiki: whatever his posture is now and whatever nasty things are written about how the team is better off without him, blah blah blah. He was a damn fine, courageous runner, who played through pain and fatigue and never took a pass on the field. The Giants never have had a better runner. That game against the Chiefs in the Meadowlands in '05 ... well, the linebackers were hurt, the offensive line was a shambles, Eli couldn't throw the ball in the ocean that day, but Tiki ran for 220 on desire, heart, moves, outlasting and out-toughing the Chiefs, you name it.
That night I wrote him a letter, care of the club. I said that the two greatest games I'd ever seen in the Meadows were Emmitt Smith's afternoon, when he separated his shoulder and they had to keep leading him back to the huddle, and his, Tiki's, game against the Chiefs. We forget what a great player he was, and now it's fashionable for people to talk tough and say how it's better playing "smashmouth" (I hate that term) with gigantic Brandon Jacobs, and all the rest of that foolish nonsense. Maybe there were guys who weren't fond of Tiki in the locker room, but on the field he was an inspiration to his teammates.
No, I never got a reply to my letter. Sometimes they don't get through. As far as super players becoming media stars, I don't pay much attention. I don't take any media people seriously unless there's some evidence that they've done some work. Which eliminates about 99 percent of those talk show yaks.
Tyler of Calgary, Alberta, asks why there are so many NFL head coaches who were defensive players. Why no offensive players? No quarterbacks. A few months ago I answered this same question. The answer is that there are. Lots of them. They just played offense, including QB, in college or places you never heard of.
From Mark of Houston: "So, with the performance of the Detroit Lions now, 1) what wine were you drinking the last time you rated them 8th?"
Beaulieu Vineyards 1974 Private Reserve Cabernet. Cost me $12 a bottle, figuring the case discount.
2) Do we have to re-evaluate Matt Millen's drafting ability?"
Yes. All of a sudden it's gotten better.
3) "How many mulligans does a GM get on hiring the wrong coach until he hits the right one?"
Something that looks like ScrivinKC of KC (what kind of name is that?) begins his plea for help this way, and it melted the hearts of Jimmy, Andrew, Paul Forrester and three cleaning ladies who had just finished toilet duty: "Hey Z ... this one drives me crackers, so please help out."
What drives him crackers is end zone yardage being added to long runs, producing, for instance, Antonio Cromartie's 109-yarder. He wants to know when this practice started. And a bit of other stuff that's kind of goofy but makes the point.
Well, as I read his plea for help, it dawned on me that, hey, 100-plus yardage runs seemed new to me, too. Wouldn't it be just like the Elias Sports Bureau to sneak in something like that in the dead of night, to juice up the records. Well, I couldn't call Elias, because they don't talk to me, imagine! So I started looking back through old NFL record manuals to see when this phenomenon first occurred. Guess what? It was always around. Even back in the 1940's there were 105 and 106-yard runs listed. To qualify, though, they have to come on the runback of a kickoff or interception or field goal attempt. A punt into the end zone, for instance, stops the action.
And thanks for your sentiments, uh, Scrivin, uh, Scriv ... I'm not sure what I'm supposed to call you. If I were Mike Silver I'd say, "Thanks, dude."