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No way around it

Rule restricting assistant coaches unlikely to change

Posted: Friday January 30, 2004 5:55PM; Updated: Friday January 30, 2004 6:24PM
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HOUSTON -- Paul Tagliabue probably won't be on Romeo Crennel's or Charlie Weis' Christmas-card list. At his annual State of the NFL press conference Friday, the commissioner said that he doesn't see the league changing its rule that prohibits coaches on teams still in the playoffs from taking head-coaching positions until their club's season is complete.

"I don't personally feel there's much we can do," Tagliabue said. "... We've worked on this literally for decades. Each year there are one or two coaches who seem to get their opportunities deferred. ... We saw a similar thing with Marvin Lewis, but now he's a head coach. ... I personally don't think [the rules] could be changed very much."

I saw Dennis Green Friday morning and asked him about making teams wait until February to hire head coaches. He, like most other league people, think it's unrealistic. Too many chances to cheat. Well, yes, but it's better than the alternative, isn't it? It's better than the most qualified coaches having to lose in order to get a good chance to be a head coach.

I've run my idea -- embargoing all coaching interviews by NFL candidates until two days after the Super Bowl -- past a few league people this week, and I can tell it's got no chance of being implemented. Too much potential for cheating; that's the big knock. And NFL teams want to get a head start on scouting and free-agency exploration; they wouldn't want to waste the month of January.

"If we did that," one league official said of pushing back the hiring period, "we'd have to have an NCAA-type enforcement division. How could we keep up with that level of potential cheating?''

Valid point. I just think, though, that a $500,000 fine and potential loss of draft choice would be a pretty stiff deterrent.

Weird Media Note of the Day

At his news conference, Tagliabue said that we may one day see a quarterback named Yao Fling play pro football.

Quote of the Day

"The Bengals are back, and everyone else in the league better beware.''

--Tagliabue commenting Friday on your favorite Midwestern felines.

Houston Note of the Day

Even commissioners have to eat. The most popular dining establishment here, from the talk around town, is a place called Mark's Restaurant. It's located on Westheimer, not far from downtown, in a converted church. Mark's hosted the commissioner and friends the other night. Some of the Sports Illustrated staff ate there Thursday night. And, let me tell you, this restaurant is unrivaled in my history at the Super Bowl. The venison, the heirloom tomato salad, the latte, the Boston cream pie. If it were not obscene, I would have eaten six pieces of that pie.

Tagliabue, by the way, had the Russian Boar.

I'm not going to make a single joke about that.

Five Things I Think I Think

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1. I think the perception that playoff games and regular-season games are officiated differently is starting to tick off Tagliabue. "Our officiating is consistent in the regular season and the postseason,'' said Tagliabue, and then he went off on the criticism of the officiating crew in the New England-Indianapolis playoff game, during which the zebras seemed to swallow the whistles in the final couple of minutes. "What affected the Colts' performance is that the New England defense was on the field and not Kansas City's.'' Zing! "We can overcomplicate everything in life,'' he said. "[The quality of officiating] is not the issue here.'' I beg to differ. The quality of officiating was definitely the issue in the last Colts' drive of the AFC Championship game.

2. I think Tagliabue sounded gloomy about the future of the Chargers in San Diego. He said he felt the negotiations for a new stadium had reached an impasse. "It is an urgent situation,'' he said, and he's right.

3. I think I was glad to hear Tagliabue say that he will continue to monetarily slap down the dolts who do the silly things while "celebrating" touchdowns and other big plays. "The discipline will escalate if it doesn't stop,'' the commissioner said.

4. I think the Maurice Clarett case will not be settled by the league. It will be court or bust.

5. I think there has never been less said by two coaches in their final pre-Super Bowl press briefings than what Bill Belichick and John Fox uttered Friday morning. Geez, let's play this thing.

Sports Illustrated senior writer Peter King covers the NFL beat for the magazine and is a regular contributor to SI.com. Monday Morning Quarterback appears in this space every week.

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