Shop Fantasy Central Golf Guide Email Travel Subscribe SI About Us NFL Football Fantasy More Football Leagues

  pro football
depth charts
baseball S
col. football S
pro basketball S
m. college bb S
w. college bb S
hockey S
golf plus S
tennis S
soccer S
motor sports
olympic sports
women's sports
more sports

 Sportsman of the Year
 Heisman Trophy
 Swimsuit 2001

 Fantasy Central
 Inside Game
 Video Plus
 Your Turn
 Message Boards
 Email Newsletters
 Golf Guide
 Cities GROUP
 Sports Illustrated
 Life of Reilly
 SI Women
 SI for Kids
 Press Room
 TBS/TNT Sports
 CNN Languages

 SI Customer Service
 SI Media Kits
 Get into College
 Sports Memorabilia

Haslett a slam dunk as top coach

Click here for more on this story
Posted: Wednesday January 17, 2001 3:56 PM


Click here to submit a question to Sports Illustrated's Peter King.

The topics this week in the ol' mailbag are honor, the sanctity of a contract, the weekly Rams rant, an incredibly detailed query from a Swiss Packer fan, my horrendous All-Pro picks, the former Aints, a football team with a few fans in Texas, the Big Game, Kerry Collins, Ryan (Hasn't Turned Over a New) Leaf, the inconsistency of Starbucks and my high regard for Marshall Faulk.

The envelopes, please.

Jim Haslett has done the best coaching job in the NFL in the last 30 years. What do the Saints do now to improve for 2001? Do they trade Jeff Blake? What about Ricky Williams? And what does Randy Mueller do differently this offseason in regard to free agency and the draft? Aaron Brooks reminds me too much of Dave Krieg.
—Dave Decker, Harahan, La.

Agreed. Haslett, in a year of very good coaching jobs, is the slam-dunk coach of the year. Here is my formula for Saints Success 2001:

1. Re-sign corner Kevin Mathis -- a steal in the '00 offseason from Dallas for linebacker Chris Bordano -- and sign Tampa Bay free-agent cornerback Ronde Barber. It might cost $5 million a year for Barber, but the debacle against Randy Moss in the divisional playoff game showed the crying need for an experienced, physical corner.

2. Do not trade Blake. Let him go to camp and compete with Brooks for the starting job. You need two good ones these days.

3. Get a run-stopping linebacker.

4. Make sure Williams is healthy and has a non-controversial offseason.

5. Draft a good possession wideout, or, if somehow Keenan McCardell slips through the cracks after the Jags waive him, sign him.

I'm still trying to get over the Eagles' playoff loss. It's going to take a while. If there's one thing that all Eagles fans know, it's that we need a big-play wide receiver. Do you know who the Eagles are trying to get? I know we have a lot under the cap so I'm hoping for someone like Eric Moulds.
—Shan Gian, Camp Hill, Pa.

I have no clue who they're aiming for, but Andy Reid didn't fall off the turnip truck yesterday. I'm sure they'll try to sign Moulds or McCardell or move up in the draft to get Koren Robinson or David Terrell, the two best wideouts coming out. And hey, look on the very bright side: You never thought the Eagles would win a playoff game this season, did you? And you are euphoric the Eagles have the third-most cap money to spend in 2001, aren't you? Be happy. It's a great time to be an Eagles fan.

I wanted to ask you about the 2001 Pack. Do you think Green Bay can cut loose Dorsey Levens, Brian Williams, Earl Dotson, Antonio Freeman and Frank Winters? The Packers would lessen their cap troubles, but they'd lose the ties to the Super Bowl teams of a few years ago. Even last year I would have been out of my mind to suggest cutting their starting halfback, arguably their best defensive player, best lineman, No. 1 receiver and bodyguard/best friend of Brett Favre, respectively. Now with all the capable young guys waiting to step up, such a move is not only financially wise but also almost necessary. With the exception of Freeman at wide receiver, every position is covered for next season. Do you think such a business decision is forthcoming?
—Mike Konsek, Zurich, Switzerland

Wow. Did you just move to Switzerland from Ashwaubenon?

Bill Parcells often talks about the lessons he learned from keeping too many veterans after the Giants' 1986 Super Bowl season, and how it's crucial in today's game to know when to say goodbye. Of all those veterans, Winters and Freeman are the most valuable commodities to the Packers. Winters is still playing at a solid level, and I give Freeman, if he can stop getting into all these ticky-tack troubles, one or two more big-time years with Favre. Forget Levens. He can't stay healthy, and Ahman Green is the best back on that team, hands down, right now. I'd go with Green and Herbert "Whisper" Goodman next fall if I were Mike Sherman.

Please help me understand your justification for choosing Peyton Manning as your All-Pro quarterback. His stats were solid, but nothing spectacular, and the one knock on Manning in college was that the guy can't win big games. (Remember those games against Florida, as well as that crummy Orange Bowl against Nebraska?) Well, it's happening again in the NFL. Wouldn't Rich Gannon, Donovan McNabb or even Jeff Garcia have been better choices?
—Jay Z., Phoenix

This is an excellent question. I spent more than an hour on this decision over the few days I considered it. In the end, here's what I thought:

1. I eliminated the league's three top-rated quarterbacks, Brian Griese, Trent Green and Kurt Warner, because they didn't play enough.

2. I then considered five candidates -- Jeff Garcia, Manning, Gannon, Daunte Culpepper and McNabb. I eliminated McNabb because his stats paled in comparison to the others, though he did help his team win as much, or more, than the others.

3. I eliminated Gannon because he was between 500 and 1,000 passing yards behind the other three, and because he played poorly in two losses that hurt the Raiders badly down the stretch, at Pittsburgh and at Seattle.

4. That left three very deserving players: Garcia, Culpepper and Manning. I think they are almost flip-a-coin in quality. I look at six categories pretty closely when determining the value of a quarterback. Touchdown-to-interception ratio had Garcia at plus-21, Manning at plus-18, Culpepper at plus-17; giving a slight edge to Garcia. Completion percentage was almost a wash; all were within 0.8 of a point in the 63-percent range. Total yards had Manning at 4,413, Garcia at 4,278 and Culpepper at 3,937; so a slight edge went to Manning. Culpepper led the yards-per-attempt category, with an average of 8.3, but he also throws the ball for home runs more than either other man, so I didn't put as much stock in that as I usually do; Culpepper's stat is a Randy Moss-padded number. And QB rating was a near-wash, with only 3.3 points separating the three.

5. Finally, I looked at the schedules, and the resulting seasons they played. And Manning won it here. The AFC East is the tougher division top to bottom than Garcia's (NFC West) or Culpepper's (NFC Central). And when the Colts were 7-6 and needed to run the table against three playoff contenders -- Buffalo, Miami and the Vikings -- in the season's last three weeks, Manning led the Colts to 95 points and three double-digit wins. That clinched it.

Remember, playoff games don't count in our deliberations; our ballots must be in the day after the end of the regular season. The bottom line: I didn't open the paper and look at the stats for 10 seconds and say: Well, Peyton Manning's my man.

I am a lifelong Dallas Cowboys fan and have loved the team since the day I learned how to say "football." That being said, it pains me to no end to see Jerry Jones driving the organization down a road with no foreseeable success in the future as long as he owns the team. In your opinion, how much involvement should an owner have in the daily football decisions that are made, i.e. drafting players, playbook, who to start, etc.? I understand the whole "it's his money and his product" argument, but am still bothered by the way Jones has ruined what should have been the most recent, and possibly last known, NFL dynasty. Are owners like him and Daniel Snyder the signs of a new ownership trend?
—Enrique Cano Jr., Mission, Texas

Jerry Jones is a passionate man who made a mistake. His mistake was trying to hold onto a greatness long since past instead of trying to build it up again brick-by-brick and draft-by-draft. But he will figure out a way to get the Cowboys back, once he realizes they're at rock bottom and a couple of bad years must be suffered before they start winning again. You will have to be patient. That's going to be a bad team for a couple of years. One thing I think I think: They should cut the cord with Troy Aikman, cap be damned, and move on. It's in everyone's best interest.

How do you drop a line like "Marshall Faulk is going to be a great GM some day" and not explain why? Please, please tell me what impressed you this much? I'm incredibly curious.
—Brian, Pensacola, Fla.

I'm sorry to have left you in the lurch there. My fault. Faulk is very smart, he loves the game with a passion that many new-era players don't have, he is Mike Martz's one-man Kitchen Cabinet, he sees the big picture of how a team should be built, and he is -- though difficult at times -- quite media-savvy. I really enjoy spending time with him.

Peter, I know it's still early for offseason questions, but we fans in Seattle are desperate. With two top-10 draft picks, money to burn on free agents and a new stadium on the way, the Seahawks are primed to rebuild. If you were Mike Holmgren, what moves would you make? Do you take a QB (maybe Drew Brees) in the draft, or do you use both picks on defense and try to land a veteran quarterback like Trent Green? Any thoughts? And next time you're out here try Cafe D'Arte -- there's one on Second Avenue, just down the street from the Westin.
—Nick, Seattle

I like Torrefazione, right up the block from the Westin. Uncrowded place, pleasant people, wonderful lattess, uniform espresso. But I will try the other place. Thanks.

If I'm Mike Holmgren, I look Paul Allen in the eye and ask him this question: "Do you want me to trade up for Michael Vick, which I can do by dealing the two first-round picks and probably a third rounder, and stay with Brock Huard for at least one more year? There will be pain. We will lose. We probably won't have a playoff season in 2001. But then we'll be ready to go with Vick on opening day 2002." If Allen can put earplugs in, and if Holmgren can take the professional pain of a third straight year of not fulfilling his goals, then I'd pick Vick. If not, I'd deal a one and a three to St. Louis for Trent Green and go for it in 2001.

My view? I'd deal for Green. His upside is not what Vick's is, obviously, but how many washout quarterbacks have gone high in the draft?

Do you think the Chargers should try and acquire a veteran quarterback like Mark Brunell or Rob Johnson through a trade involving their No. 1 pick? It would seem that the state of the franchise is in need of an immediate boost and can't afford to wait for another QB to develop.
—Mark Bua, Carlsbad, Calif.

I'd deal for Johnson. Gut feeling. And I'd have dumped Leaf yesterday.

Obviously, the Dolphins are in need of some offensive help. What's out there in terms of free agency or trade for QBs, and what WRs available in the draft will fit into Chan Gailey's system?
—Matt, Iowa City, Iowa

I doubt the Dolphins can be serious players in the Griese sweepstakes. That being the case, I'd bring Jay Fiedler back and put my heart and soul and Chan Gailey's brain into making him a better player.

As a lifelong Rams fan, I was very upset the way the year ended. I knew even before the season started that the defense was in trouble, despite the gurus' idea that the O-line was the team's biggest problem. I was shocked, though, by how far the defense collapsed -- from No. 6 overall to No. 25. It was a disaster. I expect to see only five starters back next year (Grant Wistrom, London Fletcher, Dexter McCleon, Kevin Carter, and Dre' Bly). Who will Charlie Armey find in free agency or the draft to fill those positions?
—Marc Blattstein, Portland, Me.

The Rams have a tough task ahead of them, but they could end up with four additional picks in the top three rounds because of the Dick Vermeil compensation (a third-rounder), the Carter free-agency ransom (a first) and the Green trade (at least a one and a three). They should take the six best players, at least four on defense, and get on with rebuilding the D.

I really enjoy your columns, especially MMQB and the mailbag. But I have to disagree with you on the Dick Vermeil thing.

Vermeil is no different from any other football coach. Coaches are whores, plain and simple. They won't sign contracts unless they are long term, and then they don't ever stick to them anyway! This season, the situation has been exacerbated a bit because of the amount of moves and the high-profile names involved, but it's the same thing every year. Coaches hold teams hostage for reworked long-term deals. Then, halfway through, the coaches bolt (Bill Parcells, Al Groh, Vermeil, etc.) They do it so often, I don't understand your astonishment. I know that it probably stems from your intimate knowledge of these coaches as people, but from where I'm sitting, it's just the same old same old. It never changes. Well, except for Tony Dungy.
—Derek, Pittsburgh

Let me say this: I got quite a few notes from people who disagree with my stance on Groh -- I think Groh should never have left the Jets because he'd never have had the Virginia chance if Parcells didn't give him the Jets job, and $3.2 million to do it -- and on Vermeil declaring free agency and moving to Kansas City; I have moral problems with how that one came down, too.

My opinions are simply my opinions. In Groh's case, I don't think he should have considered any job, no matter what his heart or wallet or retirement account said. Period. The Jets gave him a chance no one else would. Period. And he hopscotched on that job after one season to another one when he knew that leaving would plunge the Jets into chaos. I think it was irresponsible, and I think he walked out on his contract and his moral obligation to the only team that ever showed head-coaching faith in him.

As for Vermeil, let me put it in terms relative to me. I currently have a contract with Sports Illustrated and CNN and It expires at the end of next season. Let's say I go to my editors now and tell them I am finished writing, and I am tired of writing and reporting, and my heart's not in it anymore, and I'm going into journalistic retirement to be a house husband. My bosses tell me how grateful they are for my 11 years of hard work, and to show that gratitude, they hand me a year's salary as a golden parachute out of the business, telling me they might call me occasionally to advise them on writing hires. Life goes on, and seven months from now, ESPN calls. Come to work for us, they say. They get me excited. They pump me up. They offer me megabucks to team up with Chris Mortensen and John Clayton and blanket the NFL. I say: Well, I need to call Sports Illustrated to tell them I'm getting back into the business; they've been so good to me. The ESPN lawyers tell me not to call, to let them handle any possible interaction between the two companies.

Now, I don't blame Vermeil for changing his mind. Not at all. But the way the thing went down -- with lawyers overruling Vermeil's good sense to do the right thing, with the Rams ripping up his contract and paying him $2 million over four years just because it was a good thing to do, and with the Rams getting back-doored -- bugs me.

I am not trying to say the moral way is the only way to live. I just think Groh, whom I don't know well, and Vermeil, whom I do, should have made different decisions -- Groh to stay and Vermeil to call the Rams and say he'd had a change of heart and ask if something could be worked out.

Sports Illustrated senior writer Peter King covers the NFL and appears regularly on CNN/Sports Illustrated and CNN's NFL Preview. To send a question to his mailbag -- which will next appear on Jan. 25 -- click here.

Related information
Previous Mailbag: A wild wild-card weekend
Visit Multimedia Central for the latest audio and video
Search our site Watch CNN/SI 24 hours a day
Sports Illustrated and CNN have combined to form a 24 hour sports news and information channel. To receive CNN/SI at your home call your cable operator or DirecTV.

CNNSI Copyright © 2001
CNN/Sports Illustrated
An AOL Time Warner Company.
All Rights Reserved.

Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.