A couple of points about the New Orleans-Seattle wild-card matchup in the Pacific Northwest on Saturday afternoon:
• Seattle's Charlie Whitehurst wants to start the game over Matt Hasselbeck but doesn't know if he will. Whitehurst feels significantly more confident today than he did a week ago, due to his play in the 16-6 win over the Rams on Sunday night that sent the Seahawks into the playoffs. It was his second start ever, and he began it in style, with a six-play, 87-yard drive that produced all the points Seattle needed to win.
"I knew I was good enough to do it,'' he said. "I never lost confidence in myself this year, but this was a great game -- that first drive really lifted us. I didn't have to do much, really. I'm just happy that Pete [Carroll] showed the confidence in me to give me this chance.''
Carroll actually told Whitehurst after the previous week's loss at Tampa Bay that he'd be the starter in Week 17, and they kept it quiet during the week. "Pete's been great to play for,'' Whitehurst said. "Right from the start. I remember I'd been there a day or two after getting traded from San Diego in the spring, and Matt and I went out to throw, and our receivers already had done their work for the day. So Pete says, 'I'll catch for you.' Here he is, however old he is [actually 59], with a bad knee, running goal-line fades for us. We can't tire him out. At the end of the workout, I turn to Matt and say, 'Did our head coach just have a throwing workout with us?' It was amazing.''
• The Saints will install their game plan today through Thursday afternoon, then fly the 2,100 miles from New Orleans to Seattle on Thursday night and work out at Qwest Field on Friday. "It could be worse,'' Saints coach Sean Payton said to me and Bob Papa this morning on Sirius NFL Radio. "We knew if we were the fifth seed in the playoffs that we'd be playing on Saturday afternoon. So we'll go out there, set up shop, get two good nights in the hotel and a walkthrough in on the field.''
Quick correction from yesterday's column: the Sam Bradford interview I referred to was done by Al Michaels, not Bob Costas. My error. Sorry.
Onto your email:
• THIS IS A NICE TRIBUTE, TO SEND BRETT FAVRE INTO RETIREMENT.
So I take it you don't like Favre.
• YES. LOTS OF THEM.
It's not a year for great alternatives in the coaching business. But just remember what happened three years ago, when Mike Smith got the Atlanta job and John Harbaugh the Baltimore job. Both hires were widely panned. Who's panning them now?
• I'M WITH YOU, GAVIN.
I agree. It's just not a sport suited to an all-star game. I think it's a worthless exercise.
• THE ANSWER IS YES.
Great question, Michael. I agree with you. When I go to training camps nowadays, it seems to me the players are coached more to strip the football than they were years ago. And it's something most teams practice during the season as well. Very observant of you.
• I AM CONFUSED TOO.
I didn't know, either, until the league's Terence Malangone forward me this information this morning: Beginning in 2010, a change was made to how teams are paired in the schedule rotation to ensure that teams playing the AFC and NFC West divisions would not be required to make two West Coast trips (e.g. at San Francisco and at Seattle), while other teams in their division had none (e.g. at St. Louis and at Arizona) ... Seems a quirky and unimportant rules change that hurts fans to me, because now, potentially and anecdotally, a great player like Ben Roethlisberger could play his entire career and never play in Seattle. The Steelers could go 12 years without playing in Seattle. I don't like that.
• MIKE SEEMS TO BE A LITTLE UPSET WITH HIS BETTER HALF.
I wish I could give you some instant counseling, but I am too busy getting coaches hired in the NFL. I must say, Mike: This is one of the more entertaining e-mails in the long history of the Tuesday column. Thanks for writing it.
• WHY THANK YOU.
That is such a nice thing to say. Thanks. I felt the same uplifted way about Tomsula.
• THANK YOU VERY MUCH, KELLEY.
Sorry for your loss, Kelley. I am touched to read this.