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doc Z's windba...err mailbag 9-26


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A sea of seething

'Hawks fans want respect for their 3-0 squad

Posted: Friday September 26, 2003 4:17PM; Updated: Friday September 26, 2003 4:17PM


"I've been holding back," Jimmy said, "so this week you get the rips."

Achtung, rippers! I will not treat your complaints with disrespect. Gone will be the usual attempts at cleverness. Serious agitation demands a serious response.

First, the Seahawks Affair. Everybody hates the No. 9 spot I assigned them in this week's Power Rankings.

From Paul of Yakima, Wash: "Let me ask you this: Are you intellectually dishonest? Or are you intellectually bankrupt?" (Intellectually honest. Financially bankrupt).

From Danny of Vancouver: "Why, oh, why do you consistently show no love for the Seattle Seahawks? What more does this team have to do?" (Answer is coming).

From D.J. of Orlando, Fla.: "Have a nice day, and may the Seahawks &%$# (all symbols have been faithfully reproduced) all over you, your car and your physic-based comments." (If you'd see my car, a '92 Honda Civic with about a million miles on it, you'd realize that your suggestion would improve it. What's a "physic-based comment?" I asked the Flaming Redhead. "I think he meant 'psychic,'" she said. I still don't understand).

From Garret of Houston: "Clearly your 'rankings' are not an actual evaluation but simply who you think has the prettier uniforms." (Actually, I kind of hate the uniform angle in postgame stories, such as, they were inspired by their new uniforms, etc. Jerseys mean very little, except as an object of ridicule when the opposing team is wearing something outlandish).

That's the quartet of letters Jimmy has seen fit to forward to me, and you have to understand that he generally sends a representative sampling of e-mails addressing the most pressing issues, and you can multiply by about 40 to see how many actual letters were received on a given topic.

Here's why I ranked Seattle No. 9 this week. Judging a team is a lot easier to do after three games than before the season starts, when you have a kind of mental picture of where a team should be, based on nothing more than guesswork. Thus, when Minnesota upset the Packers -- everybody's preseason winner in the NFC North -- in Week 1 at Lambeau, no less, the Vikings assumed heroic proportions. We didn't know at the time that the Packers were seriously flawed. Seattle, on the other hand, beat New Orleans at home that week, winning the game on Saints' turnovers and penalties while being outgained, 359 yards to 270. Hardly a ringing endorsement, but I raised the 'Hawks nine places, from 22nd to 13th. The Vikings, based on their shocking upset, were awarded the No. 7 spot.

Then came the second week. My top three teams lost. Minnesota and Seattle each moved up three spots, to fourth and 10th, respectively. Basically, my board was in good shape. The rankings could be shaken by a major upset in any direction, a top team losing, a bottom team upsetting somebody, which is the way this thing works. The Seahawks were 2-0, but I had three 1-1 teams above them -- the Titans, Bucs and Steelers -- not because of any anti-Seattle bias but because I simply thought those teams were better. After Week 3, I moved the Steelers down one spot and the 'Hawks up one, even though Pittsburgh won. Steelers fans would have a legitimate complaint. Based on Miami's impressive defeat of Buffalo, the Bills vacated their position in the top 10 and the Dolphins jumped from 13th to 7th. Again, the reason why I ranked the 2-1 Dolphins over the 3-0 'Hawks is that I felt Miami was a better team at that point, pure and simple. These evaluations will change. Everything changes. The season is only three weeks old, for gosh sakes.

Now I'll concede that Seattle might be a better team than the Vikings and Panthers, both of whom are ranked higher. But to move those two out of the spots they earned earlier in the season would be cruel and unusual punishment. Stick around, though. Things'll happen.

As far as Dallas getting that big hike during its bye week, which Paul mentioned in his e-mail ... I was looking for an excuse to move the Cowboys up, because I like their style, and the loss of four teams immediately above them gave me my chance. But why would a Seahawks fan care about the rumbling that goes on four spots below his team? It has nothing to do with Seattle's standing in the chart.

The one comment I will take exception to, however, comes from the Vancouver e-mailer, who feels that my Seahawks bias is so deep that I've even stiffed great Seattle players of the past, such as Steve Largent and Ken Easley. That's a bad one, pal, because, as a Hall of Fame selector I take this stuff very seriously. You've accused me of the kind of small-mindedness that I've been fighting against throughout my whole career. Largent ranks with Raymond Berry as one of the finest possession receivers of all time, although he could also get downfield, to which his 16 yards-per-catch average testifies. Easley's career was, unfortunately, cut short by injury at age 28, which is why he's not in the Hall of Fame. But he was a dynamic hitter, a skillful ball-stripper and a general creator of turnovers -- one of the best ever at that. (When have you ever, for that matter, seen me write that much about strong safeties anyway?) If you check back through my All-Pro teams for both Sports Illustrated, and before that, the New York Post, you'll find Largent's and Easley's names prominently mentioned, plus other 'Hawks I picked but no one else did at the time, i.e. CB Duane Harper, FS Eugene Robinson, and this was way before he showed up as an elder statesman in Atlanta.

Next set of rippers, please. Line up over there and kindly check your weapons at the door. I promised a serious evaluation of the Colts, and instead, there was the usual smirky nonsense. This comes from Danny of Indianapolis, Bob of Victorville, Calif., and Jeff of Independence, Iowa. Sorry, gentlemen, you're absolutely right. I saw Indy once this season, against Tennessee in Week 2. Right away it became obvious to me what the big difference was. Edgerrin James is a dynamo again. Last year they should have sat him down until he got well. His ineffectiveness permeated the whole operation. A running game that ranked seventh in the league in 2001 sank to 26th last season. That kind of thing affects both sides of the ball. When you're used to a certain luxury, you struggle without it. Just ask the Jets, now that Curtis Martin is a lesser factor.

I liked the rookies I saw on the Colts. TE Dallas Clark seems like a fine complement to Marcus Pollard, who looks like he's on the downside. You always need receivers to keep people from ganging up on Marvin Harrison, and now it looks like Reggie Wayne might step up into that role. The D-line looked active, the corners were more aggressive in their coverage than they were last year. Does this mean that the Colts finally have a defense that can dominate? Too early to tell.

Oops, the whistle just blew and the ref is awarding me a time out -- from the heavy chains of serious football. I was hoping that my story about spotting the bear in our backyard (which was completely true, incidentally) would draw at least one response, and by golly it did. From Wallace of Shreveport, La. "What kind of moron would tell you to feed and try to make friends with the black bears in your neighborhood?" Well, ever since bears became a problem in our area, I've been doing some in-depth reading on the subject. The most helpful book I found -- actually the Flaming Redhead found it and gave it to me -- was written by a blonde-haired young woman who has considerable experience in the matter. She described an incident involving not one bear but three of them. She mentioned that depriving them of their food, especially porridge, could result in a very ugly situation, so to stay on the safe side, one must never be tempted to eat any of it himself or herself. So, you see, I was only following instructions.

Back to the mines. Redskins fans don't like to be shortstopped by Seahawks admirers, and I don't blame them. Lowell of Raleigh, N.C., thinks I'm insane to rank the Cowboys ahead of the 'Skins. Perhaps, but Cowboys beat Giants and Giants beat 'Skins, yadda, yadda, yadda, and you know something? I'm getting tired of all this ****ing about the rankings. It'll sort itself out when Dallas and Washington play each other in ... what's that? IN SIX WEEKS? Oh, no. Six more weeks of this!

Here's another 'Skins question from ... well, it's from Dan of Baltimore, and guess what? No rip. Used to hate me, now he likes me. Sounds like a verse from Amazing Grace. Says I put a smile on his face. (Which, as you know, can be used as an umbrella on a rainy day). Then he had to go and spoil things with a football question. Is Patrick Ramsey for real? Is he a product of the coach's superior coaching, or a talent in his own right? Well, against the Giants he put together one of my two favorite QB games of the young season, the other one belonging to the Browns' Kelly Holcomb, who engineered last Sunday's stirring comeback against the Niners on one leg, the other one having been broken at the time. That's kind of the way I am now ... I lean toward the fall-and-redemption aspect, the QB who starts off badly, ends up brilliantly, facing heavy odds ... or odd people who happen to be heavy. I like that much better than the other way around, i.e., the guy who comes out smoking and then kind of flattens out, a la Jake Plummer's performance against Oakland, effective as it was. I thought Ramsey looked terrific against the Giants. Was that a momentary aberration? Quien sabe? We'll find out. I also thought the 'Skins' offense, once it got going, looked very well coached. Thanks, Dan, for the nice things you said that I didn't mention.

The running backs column drew its share of responses. From Brian of Gaithersburg, Md.: Jamal Lewis. A shot at the double-mil this year? And what kind of a career is in store for him? Well, 2,000 yards is kind of a reach, since Baltimore's passing game is not feared, but it's not impossible. Here's an interesting one. How many 24-year-olds already hold their team's all-time career rushing record, as Lewis does? Just thought I'd throw that in there. Well, he's had two big yardage years and one on IR. Same thing in college. I can't predict how his knee will hold up. The surgery hasn't seemed to affect him, since he's running better now than he ever has. Your P.S. was interesting -- "No kind words this year, since you yelled at me when you answered my question last year." Yelled? WADDYA MEAN, I YELLED, DAMMIT, I DON'T YELL! And if I were you I'd cherish that hook I had with Jimmy to get myself through the gates twice, while there are people who have been on the waiting list since the AFL-NFL merger.

Jeff of Winston-Salem, N.C., feels that there are fewer good backups now than there were in Jim Brown's day because with so many teams, the talent is diluted. Well, I think there are plenty of good runners around, but coaches are afraid to use them because they are not skilled in the various nuances that weren't so prevalent in the old days. I'm talking about the ability to sort through complicated blitz schemes and find the right man to block, proficiency in check-down pass routes and hot patterns, plus other things requiring quick recognition. A guy might be a good runner, but you don't want to get your QB killed. So it's a Catch-22. Coaches are reluctant to use these guys, so they don't get the necessary reps, and meanwhile the No. 1 back gets worked to death. I like the idea of bringing in a third-down guy, but teams such as the Dolphins, Chargers, Giants, Broncos and Chiefs don't do it.

Michael of Cleveland asks an interesting question: What's more effective for a running attack, having a fullback to block in front of the ballcarrier or using a second tight end, or H-back (which means the motion TE, generally stationed behind the line and running horizontally, looking for prey, as the old single-wing blocking back used to do)? When Don Coryell was in St. Louis he brought in the two-tight end, one-back formation as a regular part of the offense. It caught on and people predicted it would take over the game. It didn't, precisely for the reason that there were some people who felt that a horizontally moving second tight end wasn't as effective as a fullback at drawing a bead on a target to block. Bill Walsh was a fullback man. He felt that the blocking angle was much better from behind the line than moving along it. There are still people who prefer the two-tight alignment. It's interesting that one of the reasons given for Eddie George's decline in Tennessee was the departure of fullback Lorenzo Neal, when in reality, the Titans used the two-tight formation much more often than the two-back in Neal's last year there. "Any suggestions on some premium sake?" Michael asks (Gee, that looks weird. How about if I spell it Sa-ke, you know the Japanese liquor?) No, no suggestions. It all tastes the same to me. I've met great connoisseurs (and that's a word I spelled correctly without having to look it up) of the beverage, but, unfortunately, I'm not one of them.

Nuch of Cleveland feels that coaches "misuse great backs later in their careers due to salaries, egos and an unwillingness to change." He feels that players such as Jerome Bettis and Emmitt Smith would have been fine role players at -- and here's the operative phrase -- reduced salaries. Right, but they don't want their salaries adjusted downward. I agree with you that coaches stay with their old vets too long, but I can't knock a guy who refuses to be heartless. One organization that was always ready to make a change when it smelled age creeping in was the Cowboys under Tom Landry. "You're kept in a constant state of nervousness," Calvin Hill once told me. "Just when you're having your best year, that's when you feel you're stepping on the banana peel."

Trent Green makes Scott of Overland Park, Kansas, nervous. Yeah, I see what you mean. Too many picks. Ball doesn't seem to have as much velocity. I hope it isn't what I usually suspect in situations such as this -- he's playing with some kind of injury that he's not telling anyone about. I will be closely monitoring this situation and will report my findings to the Board of Medical Examiners.

Still with the Chiefs, Jon of Salt Lake City, wants my forecast on the Chiefs-Broncos Week 5 matchup. Arrowhead crowd launches a frenzied noise attack on Jake Plummer. He has trouble hearing signals, which is something he seldom experienced in his days as a Cardinal. Both featured runners, Portis and Holmes, come into the game banged up. Broncos' linebacker Ian Gold comes in clean on Green in the first quarter and forces a fumble, which Denver converts into a field goal. Green comes up limping. Crowd implores him to stay in the contest. He says OK -- and has a big game late, when the sting is off the Denver pass rush. Chiefs O-line eventually takes over. Holmes is effective on short passes and finally catches a long one down the seam, which breaks the game. Final score, Chiefs 27, Broncos 20. K.C. wins the division, Denver is the wild card. A little vague, I know, but it's the best I can do from two weeks away.

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I think the Cowboys 35 points on the Giants was an aberration. too much can be taken from one game.

The Giants gave up 13 and 21 in their other games against much better offensive personnel in the Rams and Redskins.

My guess is the Giants finish way ahead of Dallas. The Redskins to me look again to be 2-3 games better than Dallas as well.

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