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Ten things I think I think

Posted: Monday January 3, 2005 9:22AM; Updated: Monday January 3, 2005 11:48PM
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1. I think it's been a long time, since 9/11, that I've felt as touched by a disaster as the earthquake and tsunami in southern Asia. The devastation, the random devastation, is something I'm sure none of use can understand unless we've seen it with our own eyes. Because we can't, I suggest a terrific Washington Post dispatch from Thailand from Saturday's paper, "Letter from Phuket: A Devastating Lesson in Mortality,'' by Peter S. Goodman. Wrote Goodman: "What do you do when your wife is washed off the beach in front of your eyes? Who do you tell when you had to run for your life with your back turned and have survived but don't know where your children are? What report do you file after your infant has been pried from your arms by a powerful wave? You cannot see this, take this in, watch hundreds of people cope day after day and not be deeply moved.'' The world helped us after 9/11. We need to help the world now. After reading so much about what CNN's Sanjay Gupta called "the worst natural disaster most of use will ever see in our lifetime,'' I have only one thing to say: Please do what you can. Check out oxfamamerica.org, or redcross.org, or any of the sites providing such urgently needed services on the front page of whatever browser you use. (I know this is not the place you'd normally read about this, and I'll stop now, but it's something I had to say.)

2. I think these are my quick-hit thoughts of the football weekend:

a. Bowl Thought I: I have no idea what position Texas QB Vince Young and his bizarre sidearm delivery will play someday in the NFL. All I know is that he's one of the best runners with the football I've ever seen. What a Rose Bowl.

b. Bowl Thought II: Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz made himself more money over the weekend than any other coach in the game. With Iowa's upset of LSU, Ferentz now is 11-2, 10-3 and 10-2 over the last three years. With the high regard NFL front-office people have for him, Ferentz is going to be able to name his situation after next year, or the year after or whenever he wants to come to the NFL. If he ever does. When I talked to him a month ago, he said, "My life won't be incomplete if I don't coach in a Super Bowl, although it's something I've always wanted to do.''

c. Bowl Thought III: Tyler Palko, the Pitt quarterback, is going to be a good NFL player. What an arm. Nice delivery, good accuracy. Dave Wannstedt, you're a very lucky man to have this kid for a year or two.

d. The Bills were playing for a playoff spot. The Steelers were playing for nothing. Game was in Billsville, where the anticipation was incredible. And a third of the crowd, maybe 25,000 nutjobs, stood and screamed at the opening kickoff, waving Terrible Towels. Steelers Nation, I bow to you. You're a heck of a fandom.

e. I'm not saying Tommy Maddox stinks, but let's just say it's a good thing Ben Roethlisberger was in the ol' bullpen.

f. Koy Detmer looks like a roadie for the Traveling Wilburys. And from the snapshots I saw of the Eagles' embarrassment against Cincinnati, he plays like one too.

The 41-year-old Vinny Testaverde played the entire game against the Giants on Sunday night even though the Cowboys were not in playoff contention.

g. It is insane that Bill Parcells started Vinny Testaverde last night. Insane.

h. Carl Banks, the former Giants linebacker, is good and frank and has few sacred cows in his show on Sirius Satellite radio's NFL channel. The more I hear him, the more I like him.

i. Speaking of Sirius, Warren Sapp has a weekly gig on network, and here's what he said the other day about Mike Martz: "We know Martz is a little on the girlie side anyway.''

 j. What?!!

k. Joe Horn is one heck of a football player.

l. And Muhsin Muhammad is about as close to a perfect receiver as God ever designed. The hands, the balance, the precise route-running, the consistency, the blocking. What a player.

m. Talked to Roethlisberger after yesterday's game. He's fine.

3. I think the college coaching industry -- and, to a lesser degree, the NFL coaches who take advantage of it -- is scurrilous for making contracts mean so little. Really, how can Louisville coach Bobby Petrino sign a six-year extension and less than a week later flirt with the LSU job? Forget what his word is worth. Nothing, obviously. But why sign a coach to a Division I contract if in a week he can go talk to another Division I team about its head-coaching job? What possible meaning does the contract have? And now comes word that Jacksonville coach Jack Del Rio flirted with LSU before backing out of a prospective interview on Friday ... while his team was preparing for the final game of its season -- a game with playoff implications! Absurd!

4. I think despite all the guff I've given Buffalo GM Tom Donahoe over the last couple of years -- for drafting Willis McGahee when he didn't need another running back, for quite possibly overpaying for Drew Bledsoe, for being too quick to part with his first-round picks in exchange for immediate gratification -- some of the decisions I've rapped Donahoe for are starting to look good. Some of them look very good. McGahee is a 237-pound stud, a back for all seasons assuming he can stay healthy. Next year, he'll be one of the best three or four backs in football. The jury's still out on Bledsoe, who was horrendous against the Steelers, and J.P. Losman, the Tulane kid drafted last April to succeed Bledsoe with the first-rounder borrowed from the 2005 draft. The only thing that won't work out just the way Donahoe had planned is the deal he's going to have to strike to move Travis Henry in the offseason. Henry's been hurt and lousy this year, and I doubt with the collegiate riches in the running-back crop expected next April that Henry will fetch more than a low second-round pick or high third. But that proves what a good choice, in retrospect, McGahee was.

5. I think any coach who wants to sit players to either get them healthy for the playoffs or to avoid getting them hurt before the playoffs is smart. And he's earned the right to do it by winning enough games to make the 16th meaningless.

6. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:

a. Saw Kinsey the other night. It's no Sideways, but it was a good, thoughtful, educational and entertaining movie. Two impressions: Man, were we uptight a couple of generations ago. And Liam Neeson is such a great actor. Why isn't he appreciated more? Also saw Mean Girls on TV. Sheeesh. I asked the King girls after the movie (family night at the movies, yippee!) if that's what high school was really like for them. They said no, not really. I breathed an extremely large sigh of relief.

b. Actually read a couple of books over the holiday. Mary Beth is a Dan Brown fan and gave me her dog-eared Angels and Demons, the thriller that sets up The DaVinci Code. It's one those 500-plus page jobs that takes a day to read because you hate putting it down. The other book, Faithful, is the Stephen King/Stewart O'Nan fans' view of the Red Sox season. It's about 70 percent a blog of the day-by-day ups and downs, enjoyable for those who Sox-watch. King's a riot ("The Christing Yankees won again'' sounds like something I say about 98 times a year), once exulting about driving from Boston to his home in Maine with the Red Sox having just won and Angel of Harlem loud on the radio. "Call me a dope if you want, but I think this is as good as it gets with your clothes on,'' King writes. I appreciate O'Nan's ardor, I suppose, but any man with a kid in college who hangs around the player's entrance of Fenway Park to stick his hat through a narrow opening to get player autographs ... well, it's a tad much.

c. Baseball Stat of the Week: With Randy Johnson joining the staff, the Yankees' five-man starting rotation will make $65 million in 2005, more than 20 or so entire teams in Major League Baseball.

d. Restaurant recommendation if you visit Manhattan and love Italian: Felidia, on East 58th near Second Avenue, with owner Lidia, the warm-as-a-sauna Italian Mom-type seen on TV, roaming the place making sure you're happy with her three-meat ravioli and squash-and-mushroom soup. Awesome.

e. Walking around north Jersey with a long-sleeve shirt and no coat on New Year's Eve: Weird.

f. Fifty-two degrees at kickoff in Buffalo Jan. 2: Weirder.

Many believe USC quarterback will declare himself eligible for the NFL draft this year and possibly be the No. 1 overall pick.
Harry How/Getty Images

7. I think, if he can be assured of being a top-five pick, USC quarterback Matt Leinart will probably bypass his remaining college eligibility and take his gaudy numbers (66 touchdowns, 15 interceptions) to the NFL. Just a gut feeling. But Leinart's dad has been given the names and phone numbers of six leading NFL GMs or scouting directors to investigate where Matt might be picked if he comes out. And so I asked San Francisco GM Terry Donahue: It's ridiculously premature, but what are you going to do with the first pick in the draft? "We've got so many needs,'' Donahue said, "that we're going to assess who is the best player in the draft and take him -- whether it's a quarterback, left tackle, running back, whatever. The unfortunate thing for us -- and what else is new this year, with everything that's gone wrong for us -- is that there really isn't that franchise player in the draft. So I doubt any team would give us a slew of picks for our top pick. I just don't see it happening.'' But what if Leinart takes his Heisman and enters the draft early? "Having not really done all our homework yet, obviously it would be a hard question to answer. But I don't think so. In terms of athleticism, he doesn't appear to be Carson Palmer. When Leinart gets flushed to the right, it's hard for him to make a play. I'm not sure he'd be a good fit for us.'' I'm fairly astonished by this. The kid's 24-1 as a starter. I think the Niners have to strongly consider Leinart if he comes out. I would ask this question: If Antrel Rolle, the Miami cornerback, is graded the best player in the draft (I know the 49ers like him), would you take a corner with the way the rules have been made offense-friendly instead of a quarterback who has dominated the top level of college football?

8. I think this is the mark of a truly great football player: Since turning 30 some 19 months ago, Curtis Martin has rushed for 3,005 yards in 32 games, the best two-year total of his life.

9. I think that stunning TD run by Tiki Barber just before midnight cost the San Diego Chargers dearly. Five-win teams will draft between four and seven in the first round next April; six-win teams, like the Giants are now, will occupy spots eight through 12.

10. I think uneasy lies the crown on Jon Gruden's head, or something like that. The Bucs are 12-20 since the Super Bowl. That's the same record Steve Superior had in two Washington seasons. Not saying Gruden's job should be in danger. Not at all. Just saying when you make the wrong decisions while rebuilding after winning, you pay dearly because the margin of error after winning is slim with all the big contracts that have to disappear.

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.