Z mail (cont.)
From John of Harrisburg: "If the Patriots miss the playoffs, say go 8-8, could Tom Brady get some MVP votes?" Yes, but from places where they don't let them use sharp objects to vote with.
Jim, a PhD from Dickerson, N.D., wants to know who the real geniuses are in the NFL, the ones who appreciate grate buks and fein whine and stuf. Also, who the dummies are. Yeah, right, I'm going to start making dumb-dumb lists. Just my style. Players of a literary bent, and I assume that's what you mean? Well, Tim Green, the old Atlanta defensive end, wrote a murder mystery. Pete Gent is a best-selling author...North Dallas Forty, etc. Mark Bavaro, ex-Giant tight end, has just come out with a novel called Rough & Tumble. Gary Fencik, former Bears free safety, was a lit major at Yale. I used to get on him about the failed rhyme scheme in the Bears' Super Bowl Shuffle.
"We ain't here to cause no trouble... we're just doing the Super Bowl shuffle." As a guy with a minor in poetry, how could he have let that go through? Trouble? Shuffle? Such an easy fix... "We ain't here to cause no scuffle," etc. It got to the point where, whenever he would see me coming his eyes would whiten and he'd shy like a horse and head in an opposite direction.
Donald of Mena, Ark., wants me to recommend a Syrah or Cabernet under 40 bucks. Then he would like my opinion of the best team in the last 25 years. I'm going to cheat on both questions. Go and find a 2005 Charbono from On The Edge Winery, which, as you might know, is Dick Vermeil's place. This is a rare and exotic wine that costs about $25.
There are only 14 Charbono makers in the world, and 12 of them were represented at our Wine Media Guild luncheon a few months ago. Dick was there and lectured about his 2005, which was judged the best in show. Now it's not going to be easy to find. You might have to write to the winery, which is in Calistoga. Address it to Paul Smith and say that the doc told you to lean on him.
Best team? I'm stepping out of your 25-year limit and going back 32 years, to the 1976 Steelers that did NOT win a Super Bowl.
John of Newark would like my thoughts on the Hall of Fame guard, Gene Hickerson, who just died. In the early '60's, maybe '62 or '63, my paper sent me to Yankee Stadium to do a sidebar to run with Joe King's Giants-Browns story. Usually that meant covering the opposing team's dressing room, which I did. The Browns had beaten the Giants on a big day by Jim Brown, and when I got into the locker he was standing on a bench, holding forth, while all the peons clustered below, hanging on his every word.
Screw this, I said, and headed for the offensive linemen. Got them all to myself...Hickerson, Wooton, Schafrath, etc. And they were great guys, really colorful talkers. People just didn't talk to offensive linemen in those days. I remember Hickerson had a wound in the middle of his forehead that looked like a bullet hole. I couldn't take my eyes off it.
I even remember the headline the World-Telegram put on my story: "Don't Forget Those Toughies Who Clear the Way for Jimmy Brown." That was Hickerson, a toughie who cleared the way.
John of Arcadia, Calif., can't see a reason behind the grounding rule. Image. Doesn't look good to have too many passes deliberately grounded. You'll notice that it's seldom called when a guy throws the ball way into the stands. As far as your hope that a grounding call would be missed once in a while, forget it. That's one infraction they seem to have down cold.
Oooh, dark suspicions from Matt of Milo, Maine. Crummy defense by Scott Linehan's coordinator, Jim Haslett, but then, when Has takes over, the unit miraculously improves. Could he have built a tunnel under poor Linehan, thus getting the job? What can I say? If I knew it for sure, I would have written it by now. Or someone else would have. I've known Haslett since his playing days in Buffalo. Always seemed like a decent guy to me. It's a pretty nasty thing you're speculating about.
AJ of North Fork, N.Y., says he would defense the Wildcat by putting a linebacker on the flanked quarterback and have him treat him as a blocker and plow into him at the snap. Not a bad tactical idea, but even a quarterback, if his whole function was to keep the searchlights going and avoid trouble, would, I believe, be able to get out of the way. But when they go waltzing downfield and throw one of their half-assed blocks, I have to wonder why the defense is being so nice to them.
From Jim of West Lafayette, Ind. What's the advantage of double-tight end over two-back formation? Depends on the personnel. If you have a pass catcher, such as the Broncos' Tony Scheffler, as your second tight, then, obviously, you have another receiver to go out in the pattern. And he'll be in a better position to get downfield than the fullback will. I like it when the second TE is a great big guy, giving the offense almost another lineman for run blocking or max protecting for the pass. Examples -- Brandon Manumaleuna of the Chargers, Jason Dunn, who used to play for the Chiefs, Jim Kleinsasser of the Vikings, when he was younger and healthier. Bill Walsh never liked the two-tight end formation. He preferred the better blocking angles afforded a fullback.
From Gary of St. Louis. "Don't you find it a little unsettling that people take your rankings seriously enough to write you hateful e-mails?"
Who wants to be settled?