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Posted: Friday September 19, 2008 11:35AM; Updated: Friday September 19, 2008 11:35AM
Dr. Z Dr. Z >
NFL MAILBAG

Z Mail: Insight into Hochuli's other side, 'MNF' is a freak show, more

Story Highlights
  • If Roger Goodell cared about safety, he'd ban artificial turf
  • Why don't teams employ OL specialists on passing downs?
  • Giants, Seahawks fans among the outraged from Power Rankings
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Dr. Z's Mailbag
Dr. Z will answer select user questions each week in his NFL mailbag.
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Quick guide on how to make instant friends -- rip any network announcers who annoy you. You'll always get support among your fellow viewers. Only exceptions were John Madden in the Summerall days, and Matt Millen. But I'm not going to lead the piece with this. It's too easy a fix. I'm going to introduce you to my Emailer of the Week, and I wish he had a last name because I'd certainly use it, but since he's a modest chap, he never dreamed that his little missive would reap such a gaudy harvest.

Step forward and claim your prize, Jim of Phoenix, because you have done a valuable thing. You have served to educate myself and my readers. You have seen the lawyer side of Ed Hochuli. We have seen only the referee side.

"I had to suffer through an hour long CLE (Continuing Legal Education) seminar this past summer," wrote Jim , an attorney, "where Hochuli droned on and on about how we should all live our lives modeling ourselves after him. Call me fragile minded, but I could never figure out how learning about what goes on behind the scenes at a football game is supposed to make me a better lawyer."

Excellence in football as a metaphor for excellence in life is not one of my deep beliefs. The NFL player turned minister tells about how he found God at the bottom of a pileup. The business executive brags about the rapid decisions he made behind center that set up the bold strokes of merger and acquisition. Fooey, I say. A person isn't a success in life because he could put on a great pass rush at one time. He's a success because he developed a complete set of skills. This isn't a popular opinion, and the guys who make four and five figures a pop, doing those motivational speeches, certainly wouldn't wish me well.

• I particularly liked two more emails, and I will do the last name honors on each of them. Call them Emailer of the Week runners up. "I saw where Roger Goodell has just issued a memo to all teams," writes Tim Caretti of Arlington, Va., "basically saying that safety is paramount and any conduct that unnecessarily risks injuries to NFL players will be severely punished. Next time you see him, ask him when he's going to do something positive about getting rid of artificial turf, if he wants to protect the players."

I've gotten off the soap box on this one because if the players, through their association, didn't think the issue was worth fighting over, I wasn't going to take on their fight for them. I used to ask Gene Upshaw why that was always the first giveback issue in bargaining talks, the first one to come off the table. He said the players were more interested in money issues. No one ever will convince me that artificial turf, no matter how many modifications have improved it, is not dangerous. But it would be presumptuous of me to tell Goodell to be a spokesman for the players when management hired him.

• Real good one from Graeme Saint of Chelmsford, England, and let me say, Graeme, that the best capsule description of football that I've ever heard came from a London fan 25 years ago. I was covering the Cards-Vikings exhibition game in Wembley. I spent the second half going through the stands, asking British fans what they thought of American football.

"I'm a chess player," one young man told me, " and what I love about the American game is that it's a neverending set of chess problems. Each situation presents a different problem, and a solution is attempted. Then every 30 seconds or so the board is re-set and a new problem is presented. Fascinating."

So it doesn't surprise me, Graeme, that you've come up with a question that I have seriously asked many times. When specialists come in on practically every play, at almost all positions, why isn't there a specialist pass-blocker, lighter and quicker-footed, to come in at tackle on obvious passing downs to face the greyhounds coming around the corner at 90 mph?

The most serious answer came from the late Bill Walsh, who said he actually contemplated it for a while. "First of all, even on long yardage you must keep the running threat alive, and this would absolutely tip it off that it's a pass. Secondly, you're neglecting a very important quality in a good pass blocking tackle. Long arms. An absolute necessity. It means that even if he's beaten to the outside, he can steer the guy wider than he'd like and keep him out. Smaller, quicker people usually don't have arms that are long enough. Tall, skinny stringbeans wouldn't be able to generate enough leverage"

I know, I know, he was the guru, but I STILL think it's a good idea, as you do.

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