By Don Banks
February 15, 2008

Just wondering, but ...

• If the Patriots routinely video-taped their opponents' signals dating from the start of New England's Bill Belichick era in 2000, with Belichick maintaining to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell that he thought such practices were legal, what, pray tell, did the Pats head coach think that memo the league sent out Sept. 6, 2006, was all about?

You know the one I'm talking about. In it, the NFL's executive vice president of football operations, Ray Anderson, stated rather flatly that "Videotaping of any type, including but not limited to taping of an opponent's offensive or defensive signals, is prohibited on the sidelines, in the coaches' booth, in the locker room, or at any other locations accessible to club staff members during the game.''

Not a lot of wiggle room there, is there? If Belichick read that and still thought he could make his case for the legality of his team's taping, he probably thought Roger Clemens came off as utterly convincing in this week's congressional hearing.

• When exactly did Chad Johnson get his feelings hurt so severely? The Bengals' Pro Bowl receiver keeps saying he has been made the scapegoat in Cincinnati, and that he is being blamed for the team's chronic underachievement. But the last time I checked, it was the Bengals' perennial lack of performance on defense that has been long faulted for the team's lack of success. Hasn't it?

• How glad these days do you think University of Southern Cal offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian is that he passed on the Oakland head coaching job last year? That could have been him -- instead of his friend and fellow USC assistant Lane Kiffin -- being excommunicated in his own building by Raiders owner Al Davis. Who needs the mind games that you have to endure to work for the once-proud but now pathetic Raiders?

• Any chance Zach Thomas follows Junior Seau's lead and becomes the latest ex-Dolphin linebacker to jump at the opportunity to pull on a Patriots jersey? He'd actually drop the team's median age slightly at inside linebacker, because he's almost three months younger than Tedy Bruschi (who turns 35 in June) and four and a half years younger than Seau (who hit 39 in January).

My guess would be no, on the premise that New England's linebacking corps is as veteran as it's going to get. Health is another issue that doesn't seem to work in Thomas' favor.

• Could Asante Samuel be the next big-name Patriot who gets paid handsomely upon relocating to another team but never again approaches the level of play he achieved when he was wearing the flying Elvis logo on his helmet? If so, he'd follow in the footsteps of such notables as Lawyer Milloy, Tebucky Jones, Damien Woody, David Givens, David Patten, Joe Andruzzi, Willie McGinest, Ty Law and Deion Branch.

On the flip side, I'd say that Adam Vinatieri didn't exactly drop off the radar screen once he donned Colts colors. If Samuel does become the latest ex-Pat to hit the jackpot -- and I believe he will -- I could see him being another exception to the rule.

• Does anyone know if Bobby Petrino has mastered that "Woo Pig Sooey'' chant at Arkansas yet? I don't care how much money you're getting paid, you've still got to look yourself in the mirror every day. And just knowing that I've got hundreds of "Woo Pig Sooeys'' in my future would make me want to try a different line of work.

• Was Jets defensive coordinator Bob Sutton really ever about to lose his job last month, or was that all a figment of the media's imagination? Something tells me it was plenty real, but then the Raiders' Davis wouldn't let Rob Ryan escape Oakland and Rex Ryan chose to re-up in Baltimore after losing out to John Harbaugh in the team's head coaching search.

And that's the way that works sometimes in the game of musical chairs that is the NFL coaching ranks, dear readers.

• Would anyone be surprised if the whole Randy Moss alleged battery incident in January just quietly faded away? From day one of this saga, it didn't seem like there was much there there, if you know what I mean. The temporary restraining order that was issued against Moss is now in place until March 28, but no criminal charges have been filed, and any potential leverage that Rachelle Washington had to entice Moss into a six-figure injury settlement seemingly disappeared as soon as the story went public and was at least partially confirmed by Moss.

• Anyone keeping track of the fact that only three of the past 21 NFL head coaching vacancies -- covering '06-08 -- have been filled by an African-American, with really a net loss of one in terms of minority representation in the past two years?

The way I figure it, Mike Tomlin was hired in Pittsburgh in early '07, but Oakland's Art Shell and Arizona's Dennis Green were both canned after the '06 season. And Herman Edwards jumped from the Jets to the Chiefs in '06, which didn't increase or decrease the level of minority hires.

There remains six black head coaches in the NFL: Chicago's Lovie Smith, Cincinnati's Marvin Lewis, Cleveland's Romeo Crennel, Indy's Tony Dungy, Edwards and Tomlin. There was a league-high seven in '06, when both Green and Shell were still employed. Whenever Dungy decides to retire, he'll be replaced by Colts assistant head coach Jim Caldwell, keeping the number static.

• Can you imagine what Vince Lombardi would have thought of being given a personality test by the Packers as part of his interview for Green Bay's head coaching job? I was told by a league source this week that the Falcons had their head coaching candidates take a personality test as part of their second interviews, and that eventual hire Mike Smith scored well on it in relation to his fit with new Atlanta general manager Thomas Dimitroff.

And with that, has come to the NFL.

• Which new head coach has the best chance to be a first-year success story? It's early in the game, and the personnel acquisition season could change this dramatically, but my rankings would start with John Harbaugh in Baltimore holding a slight edge over Jim Zorn in Washington, and then followed by Tony Sparano in Miami and Mike Smith in Atlanta.

It's not going to be easy. The Dolphins, Falcons and Ravens were a combined 10-38 in '07, with the Redskins going 9-7 and making the NFC playoffs as a wild card.

• What kind of crowd does Brady Quinn hang out with? I'm sure there's more to this story than we know right now, but Quinn being accused of tossing out homophobic slurs outside of a Columbus, Ohio, restaurant on New Year's Day probably isn't the kind of press that the Browns are hoping for as they try to negotiate a contract extension with starting quarterback Derek Anderson, a restricted free agent-to-be.

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