Posted: Friday December 21, 2007 9:39AM; Updated: Friday December 21, 2007 3:59PM
I answered this question, maybe six or seven years ago, but the numbers were different, and besides, I like it anyway. Valarie of South Laguna Beach, Calif., asks, "Which will we see first in sports, the 500-pound lineman or the eight-foot basketball center?" The 500-pounder. Even though, statistically, the eight footer is closer (Sun Ming Ming at 7-9 is 96.4 percent of the way there, 410-pound ex-Detroit guard Aaron Gibson, the heaviest ever on record, was only 82 percent home), there have been athletic 500-pounders in the sumo ring, whereas no eight-footer has done anything more strenuous than stringing telephone wires.
Sam in Sangerstown, N.Y., asks if Bill Parcells is the right fit for the Dolphins. Depends on what he has to do. I can't see Cameron staying on, with Bill looking over his shoulder. It would be much healthier with Parcells hiring his own man, someone he can work with comfortably. I know the first guy I would hire, if I were him -- his son-in-law, Scott Pioli, who's done such a great job, lining up all that talent for the Patriots. And thanks, Sam, for what you wrote.
Tyler of Sanger, Calif., says he has been bugged for years by this question -- "Has there ever been a successful scheme created in the modern NFL that utilizes a running quarterback?" Let's go back a ways. The first of the great T-formation QB's had been run and pass single wing tailbacks in college ... Sid Luckman, Sammy Baugh, Otto Graham. So no real accommodation was necessary. The scramblers were kind of oddball entries, highly entertaining but not followers of a scheme -- Marlin the Magician Briscoe, Fran Tarkenton, Frankie Albert. But except for Tarkenton, pocket passers went into the Hall of Fame, not "scatter guys," as Weeb Ewbank termed them.
Randall Cunningham brought a new dimension of athleticism to the position, further exemplified by Steve Young and Michael Vick. There were rollouts and half-rolls injected into the offense to take advantage of their ability, but I don't think the coordinators really departed radically from the system. But if I would pinpoint one quarterback whose unique abilities caused the coach to build some elements of them into his attack, I would say Joe Montana with the 49ers. Bill Walsh worked very hard on what he called "bad situation drills," knowing that Montana was gifted enough to make them pay off.
Mike of Oakville, Ont., wants to know about my book. What book? Oh, that one? Well, I sent the agent 15 chapters, with hopes that he'd try to sell it on that basis. He gave me suggestions for making it more attractive to prospective publishers. They usually involved turning it more into a series of Sports Illustrated bonus pieces, featuring prominent folks I've met, rather than examining my outlook on life. And that's where we stand, if that's the right word for it. And thank you for asking, and your pledge to buy the first thousand copies.
His question: Can I share his optimism about the Bills' chances for next year? Depends on how far you expect them to go. Ever since the end of the days of Jim Kelly and the K-Gun, I haven't regarded them as one of football's dynamic organizations. Solid, hard working, tough, honest, yes. But not something to pop your eyes open. Possible playoffs for next year, which is what I've been saying for the last 12 or 13 years about them.
From Dave of Irvine, Calif. -- "If you could come up with a brand new sport, what would it be?" Women's sumo.
Eric of Philly, and thanks for your comments, goes to considerable length to impress upon me Brian Westbrook's importance to the Eagles. Before you get too wound up, Eric, let me put it this way, and what I'm about to tell you is a big no-no because my all-pro selections are supposed to be Surprise! Surprise! BUT ... I pick, as you know, only one running back, and Westbrook, not Adrian Peterson, is my all-pro runner for 2007.
Now here's my kind of letter. Reggie of Chicago says I owe him a new monitor because when he read about Kimberly Caldwell's rendition of the National Anthem he sprayed coke all over his machine. Don't spend your $$$. Next time I'm out your way, I'll drop by and fix it up for you. And now I've got another coke-sprayer to worry about because when The Flaming Redhead read that she practically exploded. How stupid am I about anything technical ... I mean anything at all?
Well, when my computer acts up and I call Technical Assistance at SI, there's always a problem with the terms they use. They automatically think everyone's on the same page, and I haven't a clue what they're talking about. After one guy laid a whole bunch of this geekese on me, I said, "Let me ask you this. If they're cross-keying their linebackers, how do you set up your weakside protection?" "Now how the hell should I ... ?" he began, but I cut him off at the pass.
"You see, I know that," I said, which was a lie, of course, because I had merely spouted gobblydegook, "but that's the way I react to that stuff you tell me." What was the outcome of that little exchange? It was reported to the Assistant Managing Editor, who told me, "One more incident like that and you go on report."