MMQB Mail: Whitehurst wants shot to lead Seahawks against Saints
Charlie Whitehurst's confidence is rising after playoff-clinching win
Saints plan to arrive in Seattle on Thursday and work out at Qwest on Friday
Mailbag questions on Titans coaching, Steelers schedule and more
A couple of points about the New Orleans-Seattle wild-card matchup in the Pacific Northwest on Saturday afternoon:
Seattle's Charlie Whitehurst wants to start the game over Matt Hasselbeck but doesn't know if he will. Whitehurst feels significantly more confident today than he did a week ago, due to his play in the 16-6 win over the Rams on Sunday night that sent the Seahawks into the playoffs. It was his second start ever, and he began it in style, with a six-play, 87-yard drive that produced all the points Seattle needed to win.
"I knew I was good enough to do it,'' he said. "I never lost confidence in myself this year, but this was a great game -- that first drive really lifted us. I didn't have to do much, really. I'm just happy that Pete [Carroll] showed the confidence in me to give me this chance.''
Carroll actually told Whitehurst after the previous week's loss at Tampa Bay that he'd be the starter in Week 17, and they kept it quiet during the week. "Pete's been great to play for,'' Whitehurst said. "Right from the start. I remember I'd been there a day or two after getting traded from San Diego in the spring, and Matt and I went out to throw, and our receivers already had done their work for the day. So Pete says, 'I'll catch for you.' Here he is, however old he is [actually 59], with a bad knee, running goal-line fades for us. We can't tire him out. At the end of the workout, I turn to Matt and say, 'Did our head coach just have a throwing workout with us?' It was amazing.''
The Saints will install their game plan today through Thursday afternoon, then fly the 2,100 miles from New Orleans to Seattle on Thursday night and work out at Qwest Field on Friday. "It could be worse,'' Saints coach Sean Payton said to me and Bob Papa this morning on Sirius NFL Radio. "We knew if we were the fifth seed in the playoffs that we'd be playing on Saturday afternoon. So we'll go out there, set up shop, get two good nights in the hotel and a walkthrough in on the field.''
Quick correction from yesterday's column: the Sam Bradford interview I referred to was done by Al Michaels, not Bob Costas. My error. Sorry.
Onto your email:
THIS IS A NICE TRIBUTE, TO SEND BRETT FAVRE INTO RETIREMENT. "I hate Brett Favre; if I never see him again that would be phenomenal. Please, TV networks, do not hire him as an analyst as I WILL TURN THE CHANNEL. He is disgusting, a liar, wishy-washy and thinks he's God's gift. Thank you very much.''
-- Annice M., Pensacola, Fla.
So I take it you don't like Favre.
YES. LOTS OF THEM. "No one seems to be able to answer this question, so I'm going to ask you: if not Jeff Fisher in Tennessee, then who? Is there a coach out there who would jump at the chance to work with Vince Young? Does Mike Reinfeldt have connections to anyone in the league? I'm not a Fisher fan, but I'm concerned the alternatives aren't much better.''
It's not a year for great alternatives in the coaching business. But just remember what happened three years ago, when Mike Smith got the Atlanta job and John Harbaugh the Baltimore job. Both hires were widely panned. Who's panning them now?
I'M WITH YOU, GAVIN. "I have an idea to share. It's time to do away with the Pro Bowl. Once upon a time, when TV showed only local market and Monday Night Football games, the All-Star game provided a venue to see all the best players, many of who you may otherwise not see. But today, the NFL is everywhere and, via DirecTV or your favorite local bar, you can see most any game you want in most every market. That pointlessness, combined with the increased injury risk, just makes it more of a waste of time than the fourth preseason game. Is there any hope for the NFL moving away from the All-Star game (I'd propose an All-NFC/AFC team ala the college All-Americans) and back towards sensibility?''
-- Gavin, Frankfort, Ill.
I agree. It's just not a sport suited to an all-star game. I think it's a worthless exercise.
THE ANSWER IS YES. "Peter, I enjoy reading your column. Quick question: Are defensive players today focusing more on stripping the ball out the offensive player's hand as opposed to just tackling? Are teams more focused on the takeaway numbers as opposed to just stopping the player? It seems to me that good teams don't worry about takeaways.''
--Michael K., Plymouth, Mich.
Great question, Michael. I agree with you. When I go to training camps nowadays, it seems to me the players are coached more to strip the football than they were years ago. And it's something most teams practice during the season as well. Very observant of you.
I AM CONFUSED TOO. "I am confused about the 2011 schedule...I know that Pittsburgh will play an NFC division every four years, but Seattle played in the Burgh in 2007, why aren't the Steelers playing in Seattle in the Fall? I plan on seeing them play in every city and was planning a trip to Seattle this year. Totally bummed.''
--Kelli O., of Chicago
I didn't know, either, until the league's Terence Malangone forward me this information this morning: Beginning in 2010, a change was made to how teams are paired in the schedule rotation to ensure that teams playing the AFC and NFC West divisions would not be required to make two West Coast trips (e.g. at San Francisco and at Seattle), while other teams in their division had none (e.g. at St. Louis and at Arizona) ... Seems a quirky and unimportant rules change that hurts fans to me, because now, potentially and anecdotally, a great player like Ben Roethlisberger could play his entire career and never play in Seattle. The Steelers could go 12 years without playing in Seattle. I don't like that.
MIKE SEEMS TO BE A LITTLE UPSET WITH HIS BETTER HALF. "HELP!!! I'm trying to read your column this morning, and my wife keeps talking my ear off!!! Every new paragraph she has a different "work" story to tell me about! Sure, I know I should count my lucky stars that I have a wonderful loving wife and mother to my 3 children during the 10,065 minutes of each week that I'm not reading MMQB. But for the 15 minutes of reading I give YOU each week, I wish she would SHUSH!!! I'm 20 minutes into reading and only on page two. I'm LOSING IT PETE. LOSING IT I TELL YA!!!''
--From Mike M., Charlotte, N.C.
I wish I could give you some instant counseling, but I am too busy getting coaches hired in the NFL. I must say, Mike: This is one of the more entertaining e-mails in the long history of the Tuesday column. Thanks for writing it.
WHY THANK YOU. "No question, just a comment - I loved your article this week more than any other. Probably because as we kick off the year it was refreshing to see the human spirit thrive! I absolutely loved the story on Jim Tomsula and was reminded that we live in a country that provides us the chance to reach our dreams. The man just 13 years ago was living in his car and cleaning carpets and now -- for one week -- was the head coach of a NFL team. Dreams can happen and what a way to kick of the 2011 year! I am recharged to reach my dreams! Thanks Peter!''
-- Lori, Wappingers Falls, N.Y.
That is such a nice thing to say. Thanks. I felt the same uplifted way about Tomsula.
THANK YOU VERY MUCH, KELLEY. "My father passed away from brain cancer on New Year's Day. Why am I telling you this? Because he was a huge fan of your column, a huge fan of football, and having grown up in Pittsburgh, he was a huge fan of the Steelers. Up until his final days, he never missed your column. When he could no longer read it, I would read the key points to him. He always valued your opinion (even when going against his favorite team) because he knew you knew your business. That's all I really wanted to say. Hopefully MMQB is available in that great stadium in the sky.''
-- Kelley A., Richmond, Va.
Sorry for your loss, Kelley. I am touched to read this.