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A lack of institutional control (cont.)

Posted: Friday December 14, 2007 11:57AM; Updated: Friday December 14, 2007 3:40PM
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Hines Ward's reputation for hard work and good behavior may buy him a bit more leeway on the field than other receivers.
Hines Ward's reputation for hard work and good behavior may buy him a bit more leeway on the field than other receivers.
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
Dr. Z will answer select user questions each week in his NFL mailbag.
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From Ken of Miami, who's still bitter about the Saban episode: "Where would you rank Petrino on the list of coaches who have screwed over their previous teams by quitting on them?" Eighteenth out of 149.

To Tom of Minneapolis -- and I appreciate your sentiments -- out of the thousands of letters I have received, ripping this devil of a coach, yours is unique. You are blasting him for not going for the deuce after the touchdown that brought the Falcons to 31-14 down with 8:52 to go Monday night. You are right, of course. A deficit of 16 makes it a two-score margin, and under normal circumstances, a team could conceivably come back. I'll let you in on a secret. It never crossed my mind at the time. My whole focus was, "please, no time outs, nothing to drag this agony out any longer." I watch all games until the very end, and I still had work to do after that final whistle sounded. A selfish interpretation, I know, but what are ya gonna do? You are right in your overall feeling, as well, that coaches, in their obsession with the trivial, often lose sight of the big picture, such as the clock, the score, the point spread, et al.

Joel of London, Ont., and I thank you and so does Flaming Red, anyway Joel ... where was I? Oh yes ... he does not like the double standard that exists in the NFL. Hines Ward "leads with his helmet and buries it in some defender's chin" and gets nothing but praise all around. Let some defensive player do it, though, and he'll be standing tall in front of Marshall Wyatt Goodell. First of all, you can risk paralysis by drilling a guy with your hat if you're so inclined; it's the helmet to helmet shots that get flagged. Second, some players, through hard work, dedication, and a habit of saying the right things, are beloved by the league, in its desire to project the correct image. In other words, at times they get away with murder. Not naming any names, but I think you get the point. Ward plays rough, but in his defense, he doesn't whine when someone takes an extra shot at him.

Daniel of Grand Prairie, Texas ... hey, I had an old girlfriend who lived there ... she lived in The Projects, right near the row of factories ... just kidding, Dan old boy, just kidding ... anyway thank you for what you wrote and I will answer anything that's on your mind, except for that one thing nobody mentions, of course. Punting? Sure, what's the beef? Will the first punter who records a net of 40 for his career have a shot at the Hall of Fame? I doubt it. A good part of my youth was spent trying to get the old Niners punter, Tommy Davis, the greatest I've ever seen, into the hallowed chambers, and I never got very far. Ray Guy's name comes up every year and always gets rejected. A boomer who never bothered to avoid the middle of the end zone.

Which brings us to Steve of Toronto, whose aims are for modest for the Giants' Jeff Feagles, the best placement punter in the game today. Pinned the Eagles deep in the last minute with his perfectly placed effort, caused them to start on their own 11. Will these types of performances at least get Feagles into the Pro Bowl? Afraid not. Most of the voters look at numbers ... highest gross, and in rare instances, highest net. Feagles' work is appreciated only by people who understand the game, which eliminates about 90 percent of those who pack the Pro Bowl ballots.

Mike of Chicago asks about the idea of rotating defensive linemen and keeping them fresh. "I don't remember guys like Merlin Olsen, Alan Page and Bob Lilly needing to be kept fresh." Fresh? You should have heard the way they talked to their wives. "For the love of ..." Take it easy, Linda, I'm answering it ... I answer everything. As you know, Mike, I'm addicted to the past, but I have to admit that the pace of the game has changed. More pass rushing, more pursuit. It used to be a strength game, now it's a speed game. The non-stop action will burn them out if you don't give them occasional relief.

From Tony B. of San Antonio: "Haven't heard a word about national anthems this year. What's the longest you've timed so far, and how'd you like it?" The longest, in fact the longest I've timed in the last 20 years, was the most recent one, in Houston, at the Broncos-Texans game. I was watching the pregame, and during one of Adam Schefter's on the field reports, you could hear this lady practicing the anthem in the background. "Uh oh," I said to myself, "It's a blockbuster and I missed the start." Not to worry. They presented it in its entirety, for real, later on. "Houston's own" Kimberly Caldwell, an American Idol finalist, mooing and hooing and groaning through 2:19.09. For those of you who keep splits, she hit the turn ("Rockets red glare") in 58.4, reached Heartbreak Hill ("O say does tha-at star spangled ba-a-ner-er ye-et wa-ave") in 1.28.2, which is sub-two minute pace, but slowed to a crawl on the hill. The time was 19 seconds and change short of my all time record. How was it? As dismal as it gets, man. Even worse.

Mike of Pittsburgh says I'm wrong in downplaying the role that bulletin board material has on teams. It's a game of emotion, he says. Is that right? Gosh, waddya know? OK, keep telling yourself that they psych themselves by reading what's written about them in the paper. And I'll tell you that one of the big differences between the old time game and the NFL of today is the loss of the ability to laugh. The sense of humor seems to have gone the way of the $10,000 contract.

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