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Browns will jump-start coaching derby

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Posted: Monday December 28, 1998 12:00 PM


This Week's Awards | Ten Things I Think I Think | Top 10 Teams

Click here to send a question to Peter King's NFL Mailbag.

EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey -- Have you ever seen a final NFL Sunday with so little suspense?

Arizona or the Giants or Tampa for the sixth NFC seed? Whoopee! The battle for an AFC 4-5 Wild Card home game? Boyohboy!

(I do have a football quiz for you, to get you into the Week 17 spirit. The winner of this wins a lifetime subscription to Here goes: In order, name me the Cincinnati Bengals' depth chart at quarterback this past weekend. Answer: Hidden in this column.)

The best race of the day was the one for the receiving title. Miami's O.J. McDuffie edged Arizona's Frank Sanders, 90 receptions to 89. Terrell Davis beat back Jamal Anderson for the rushing title, 2,008 yards to 1,845. Imagine the Dolphins going back to the run and McDuffie winning the receiving title.

But the big news of the day? Easy. Miami defensive end Jason Taylor is out for the playoffs after he broke his right clavicle on the Georgia Dome AstroTurf. There's not a better edge pass-rusher in the AFC right now, and whenever you're reading this -- Monday at noon, Tuesday over breakfast, Thursday at your New Year's Eve party -- I can guarantee you Jimmy Johnson is absolutely sick over losing Taylor.

Opinions? Got a few. One in capital letters. WHY DO SOME OF THE PLAYERS IN THIS LEAGUE CELEBRATE AND PRANCE AROUND AT THE MOST INAPPROPRIATE TIMES, IN THE MOST INAPPROPRIATE WAYS?! PLEASE! I MUST KNOW! WHY DO THEY CELEBRATE WHEN THEY'RE DOWN BY THREE TOUCHDOWNS FOR MAKING A RUN-OF-THE-MILL PLAY?! I HATE IT! I HATE IT PASSIONATELY! When Atlanta jumped out to a 21-0 first-half lead over Miami, and Dolphins wideout Lamar Thomas caught a 20ish-yard pass from Dan Marino over the middle, and Thomas stood up and started prancing around like a geisha and flapping his arms like a cornered seagull, I wanted to jump through the TV screen and take the guy by the throat and scream: "You look like an idiot! Grow up!"

OK. Enough venting.

The most suspenseful news of this weekend? It's this: Who will Cleveland president Carmen Policy call this week when, as the czar of the expansion Browns, he has the right to contact head and assistant coaches of teams still in the playoffs as well as assistants from teams knocked out of the playoffs? My best-guess list of Policy's wish list:

  • San Francisco coach Steve Mariucci . He could well be a casualty of Eddie DeBartolo 's foray back into ownership in San Francisco if the league allows DeBartolo to regain control of the 49ers and chase Mike Holmgren for the coach-GM job.

  • Offensive coordinators Gary Kubiak (Denver) and Brian Billick (Minnesota), though I think Kubiak will stay in Denver and the Browns are lukewarm on Billick.

  • University of Texas coach Mack Brown , who will take advantage of a weak field of college coaches because all the prime guys -- Northwestern's Gary Barnett , Michigan State's Nick Saban and Stanford's Tyrone Willingham -- had .500 seasons or worse.

  • Green Bay quarterback coach Andy Reid . Lots of GM-types like Reid, a worker-bee Holmgren disciple.

    Seeing as though this is a stream-of-consciousness column, here's my contribution to the end-of-the-regular-season revelry, my not-so-annual NFL quotes of the year follow. The best quotes of 1998 don't include one from the Don King of the NFL, Denver tight end Shannon Sharpe. My logic, quite simply, was that he had about 386 of them, and I just couldn't single one out, although his feelings on Terrell Davis fumbling in week 13 ("Terrell hasn't fumbled since Moby Dick was a minnow") tempted me. Here are the best of the rest, in inverse order:

    10. Washington cornerback Darrell Green, after the Redskins fell to 0-7 entering their bye week: "We could use three byes. If I could buy someone else's bye, I'd buy it."

    9. Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy , on the Patriots' pending move to Hartford: "Compared to Hartford, Worcester is Paris."

    8. Buffalo owner Ralph Wilson , after commissioner Paul Tagliabue threatened him with a $50,000 fine for ripping the officials after a November 29 loss at New England: "The next time, he may ask me to sit in a corner."

    7a. San Diego owner Alex Spanos , after the Chargers selected quarterback Ryan Leaf with the second choice in the April draft: "Ladies and gentleman, we have the player who's going to lead us to the Super Bowl."

    7b. San Diego owner Bobby Beathard, when Leaf -- troubled by horrible play and wild stories of off-field carousing -- was benched in November: "A career could be crumbling before our eyes."

    6. Jets fullback Keith Byars, on peaking late in the season as a team: "You want your crescendo to really explode in January."

    5. Carolina tight end Wesley Walls after the Panthers fell to 0-5 with a loss at Dallas: "We're playing like a bunch of stupid idiots. We're going to go to a brain surgeon and get a lobotomy."

    4. Tampa Bay defensive end Chidi Ahanotu, on breaking a season-opening two-game losing streak in the Bucs' new stadium, which has a pirate ship in the east end zone: "If we go 0-3, everyone abandons ship. And we just got the ship."

    3. NFL senior director of officiating Jerry Seeman , describing a pass-interference call on a New England Hail Mary pass against Buffalo that led to a furor over NFL officiating: "Ludicrous call."

    2. Dallas guard Nate Newton, on the offseason workouts that caused him to lose at least 70 pounds: "It was time for some serious sweat-crackin'. If the sweat ain't running down the crack of your butt, you ain't workin'."

    1. Rookie Jets right tackle Jason Fabini, praised by coach Bill Parcells for, in the coach's words, making "zero" mental errors: "When the rookies came in here, coach Parcells gave us four things he wanted us to do that would help us make the team. One was, 'No mental mistakes.' One was, 'Be reliable' ... Uhh, I forget what the other two were."

    And now for this week's awards:  

    Offensive Player of the Week: New York Giants QB Kent Graham. We all may have been wrong about this guy. Maybe. But Sunday at the Vet, Graham continued to stake his claim on the Giants' 1999 starting job. He threw two second-half touchdowns to Chris Calloway, and Calloway dropped a third. Graham's second TD pass to Calloway was absolutely textbook -- a quick pump-fake to freeze the Eagles corner, then a perfect 18-yard spiral that hit Calloway in stride. He has five touchdown throws and no interceptions in the Giants' impressive three-game late-season run, wins over Denver, Kansas City and Philadelphia.

    Defensive Player of the Week: Green Bay DE Regggie White. OK, so I'm a old softie. But the Packers-Bears matchup was probably White's last regular-season game, and it took just seven minutes for White to make the defensive play of the game. On the Bears' first series, the eminently shaky Steve Stenstrom went back to pass. White steamed around right tackle Big Cat Williams and banged into Stenstrom's arm as he was throwing. The ball fluttered into linebacker Keith McKenzie's hands, and he took it for a 33-yard touchdown. (By the way, I also considered Arizona safety Kwamie Lassiter for his four-pick day against San Diego's Craig Whelihan.)

    (Quiz answer: 1. Paul Justin. 2. Eric Kresser. 3. Stepfret Williams. I'm dead serious. And if any you got that, your name is either Bruce Coslet or Sick Dog.)

    Special-Teams Player of the Week: (tie) Minnesota long snapper Mike Morris and Minnesota placement holder Mitch Berger. I have sung the praises of Gary Anderson all season for being the first kicker in the history of the game (minimum 30 kicks) to make every kick of a regular season. His 10-point performance in Minnesota's 26-16 win at Nashville (3-3 field goals, 1-1 extra points) made him perfect on 35 field goals and 59 extra points for the year. "It's pretty hard to go through a season with that many perfect snaps and that many perfect holds," Anderson said. "Mike and Mitch deserve a lot of credit for never messing up."

    Goat of the Week: Miami cornerback Terrell Buckley. He got beat cleanly for touchdowns by Atlanta quarterbacks Chris Chandler and Steve DeBerg. This is a man who wants All-Pro consideration? This is a man who should looking in his rear-view mirror at Patrick Surtain.

    Coach of the Week: New York Jets coach Bill Parcells. I've been around Parcells for 14 years, and I don't think I've seen him any happier than he was after a game than after Sunday's 31-10 win over the Patriots. "We played like champions," he said. 'Nuff said.

    Now onto The 10 Things I Think I Think:  

    1. I think it was nice of the Bengals to show up Sunday. Way to help Bruce Coslet save his job, fellas.

    2. I think the most interesting stat of the season, now that we're trying to put 1998 in perspective, is this one: For the first time this decade, no wideout caught 100 passes. There's no one reason why that happened, other than a couple of coaches put their feet down and said stats don't matter. After Oakland coach Jon Gruden took over the team, he stood in front of the players at their first team meeting and said: "I don't give a damn about your incentive clauses." There goes Tim Brown's 100. In Cincinnati, Carl Pickens inherited a quarterback, Neil O'Donnell, who doesn't thrown much downfield, so there went his chance to repeat at 100. In San Francisco, Terrell Owens and J.J. Stokes were healthier and at least as open as Jerry Rice, which Steve Young noticed. There went Rice's shot at 100. In Detroit, Herman Moore's security blanket, Scott Mitchell, got benched, and Moore's production plummeted when egalitarian quarterback Charlie Batch started playing. There you have it.

    3. I think the great myth out there is that the officials don't want instant replay. What a crock. I bet if you polled them, 80 percent would want it.

    4. I think, by position, here is my NFL all-underappreciated offensive team:

    QB: Brett Favre, Green Bay. Read in The Boston Globe last week: "It hasn't been a good year for Brett Favre." Now, 23 picks means he didn't have as good a year as he had in 1995, '96 or '97. Can we put the interceptions in perspective, please? He led the NFL with 4,212 passing yards. He was third with 31 touchdown passes. He threw 6.5 more picks than his career average. But it hasn't been a good year for Brett Favre. No wonder players look cross-eyed at the media sometimes.

    RB: Marshall Faulk, Indianapolis. "He's got magic in his legs," GM Bill Polian says. Terrell Davis will get all the All-Pro votes, and will likely be named league MVP, and those are richly deserved honors. But Faulk does more for his team.

    FB: Bob Christian, Atlanta. A load who leads the NFL in unselfishness.

    WR: Tony Simmons, New England, and Torrance Small, Indianapolis. Simmons is on his way to being a go-to guy. And Small should start next season alongside Marvin Harrison. What a threat.

    TE: Frank Wycheck, Tennessee. And Jeff Fisher uses him to the max.

    T: Jon Runyan, Tennessee, and Korey Stringer, Minnesota. Runyan, who is now famous for punching Minnesota's Jerry Ball in the, ahem, groin, on Saturday, could be a highly coveted restricted free agent. Stringer, who would have been a very rich unrestricted free agent, just re-upped with the Vikes for $18 million over 5 years.

    G: Gene Williams, Atlanta, and Kevin Donnalley, Miami. Williams helped Jamal Anderson develop into such a punishing inside runner. Donnalley was probably the Dolphins' best offensive player this year.

    C: Kevin Mawae, Jets. Maybe the Jets' highest-graded player Monday in and Monday out.

    5. I think Jerry Markbreit is headed for an officiating job in the league office. He reffed his last regular-season game in the Meadowlands Sunday and told WFAN's Dave Jennings : "It's time for me to go. I'll be 64 years old after the season, and I'm not as fast as I used to be." Markbreit's been a true asset to the game, never going overboard on the ticky-tack calls that have plagued some crews. An NFL referee for 22 years, he made an interesting comment on the difference between the game now and the game 30 years ago. "It isn't any tougher," he said. "You adjust to the intensity of the game, but the games don't seem any different than they did 30, 40 years ago."

    6. I think this tells you everything you need to know about the greatest single-season record in the NFL: Dan Marino threw a record 48 touchdown passes in 1984. Vinny Testaverde set the Jets' team record Sunday with his 29th of the year.

    7. I think if I have a lot of cap money this offseason, I make a play for Green Bay restricted free-agent pass-rusher Keith McKenzie.

    8. I think I wonder why Dan Marino is still playing in a 38-6 game late in the third quarter. And then I wonder why he's in a 38-13 game late in the third quarter.

    9. I think the Jets are two touchdowns better than the Patriots. On any field. And with or without Drew Bledsoe.

    10. I think these are my Wild Card winners: Buffalo, San Francisco, Jacksonville, Dallas. Which would set up San Francisco at Minnesota and Dallas at Atlanta as the NFC final four. The AFC semis would then be Buffalo at Denver and Jacksonville at New York Jets.

    And the MMQ season-ending Top 10 (regardless of the Pittsburgh-Jacksonville result on Monday night):  

    1. Minnesota Vikings (15-1)

    2. Denver Broncos (14-2)

    3. Atlanta Falcons (14-2)

    4. New York Jets (12-4)

    5. Jacksonville Jaguars (10-5) Assuming Mark Brunell is healthy enough to play. He threw hard on Christmas Day for the first time since suffering a high-ankle sprain, and he thinks it's a lock that he'll be sufficiently recovered when the Jaguars host a wild-card game on Sunday in Jacksonville.

    6. San Francisco 49ers (12-4)

    7. Green Bay Packers (11-5)

    8. Buffalo Bills (10-6)

    9. Miami Dolphins (10-6)

    10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-8)

    Click here to send a question or comment to Peter King's NFL Mailbag.

    Related information
    Week 17 Top Performers
    Week 17 NFL Game Capsules
    Inside the NFL with Peter King
    Last week's Monday Morning QB
    Dr. Z's 1998 All-Pro Team
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