10 questions with Al Michaels
By Al Michaels
Special to ABC Sports Online

Monday Night Football play-by-play announcer Al Michaels recently answered 10 user questions on a variety of topics related to MNF and the National Football League.

If you'd like to send a question to Al, click here and fill out the accompanying form.

Do you foresee a time when MNF's schedule will be determined during the ongoing season, in order to insure the best games are featured?
Jim Lynch -- Burlingame, Calif.

Al Michaels: For the last few years, we at ABC have been lobbying for what we have called a "flexible schedule," which would allow us to select a game of importance in the latter part of the season. We'd like to think that progress has been made in this area, but one of the problems is that the other television partners, FOX and CBS, would lose one game from their inventory. Neither of those networks want to lose a game, and I can certainly understand their reasoning, but I think that accommodations can be made to please all parties.

The flexible schedule would not only benefit the networks, but it would benefit the fans. Nobody wants to see teams out of contention showcased in December and January. I'm sure this is something that will be discussed again this offseason. It's an area of concern, and hopefully for the fans and everyone involved, a decision will be made.

Emmitt Smith
Emmitt Smith has split running back duties with Troy Hambrick this season.
Do you think Emmitt Smith has lost a step? If not, why do you think the media, in particular, feels that way?
Terrell Powe -- Akron, Ohio

Al Michaels: Any time a running back reaches the age of 31 or 32, he has to lose a step. No one is a freak of nature. No one is going to be able to take the pounding a running back has to take over a 10- or 12-year career and not lose a step. However, that doesn't mean that Emmitt Smith -- or somebody like him -- is any less effective.

I liken it often to a baseball pitcher who, as he moves into his 30s might not throw as hard as he did in his 20s, but is a lot smarter, knows how to change speeds and work the corners of the plate, and thus can be every bit as effective. That analogy can be applied to a running back as well, in that with his wealth of experience, and the knowledge he's obviously accumulated through the years, Emmitt Smith would be a much smarter runner at this point of his career.

I still believe Emmitt has enough left in the tank to be a productive back over the next couple of seasons.

Is it good for the league that there aren't any dominant teams?
Robert Monroe -- Brighton, N.Y.

Al Michaels: It's funny, but when there are dominant teams, there are a number of people who rail about the fact that they're always seeing the Dallas Cowboys or the San Francisco 49ers or the Green Bay either in the playoffs or in the Super Bowl. Now that we've come almost full circle and seem to have teams coming out of nowhere each season to ascend to the Super Bowl, people are railing about the fact that we don't have any dominant teams anymore.

This, to me, is one of those seesaw arguments that keeps going back and forth, and will continue to do so. It provides fodder for talk shows and newspaper columnists.

I'm not sure there's a clear-cut answer. It seems to me, if there are dominant teams, people enjoy discussing whether that's good or bad for the game, and if there aren't any dominant teams, then people enjoy discussing that. If nothing else, it provides a platform for argument either way, and as far as the NFL is concerned, when people are discussing their product, they're happy that so much attention is being paid to whatever it is the fans want to discuss.

Drew Bledsoe, Tom Brady
With Tom Brady's emergence, the Patriots have a difficult to decision to make this offseason regarding Drew Bledsoe.
What is your educated guess as to where Drew Bledsoe will be next year?
Peter J. Gallo -- Boca Raton, Fla.

Al Michaels: If the Patriots feel that Tom Brady is their man and they want to dance the dance with him in the future, then Bledsoe will be expendable. A couple of things are possible: It's conceivable that they could leave him exposed in the expansion draft and he could wind up with the Houston Texans, but a more likely scenario would be a trade, and there are a number of teams that would become vastly improved with Drew Bledsoe.

For example, he would be a great fit with the Dallas Cowboys. He possesses a lot of the attributes that Troy Aikman was able to bring to that organization for a number of years. I don't have any inside information about this, but the Cowboys are one of the teams that I'm certain would look very carefully and seriously at acquiring Bledsoe.

Who do you think will win the AFC championship this year?
Mark Cluff -- Redondo Beach, Calif.

Al Michaels: Predictions are basically worthless, but at this particular point in time, assessing the AFC, the Pittsburgh Steelers, with a record of 10-2, are the best team in the conference. Bill Cowher has done an excellent job of turning this team around so quickly. Clearly, Kordell Stewart has made vast improvement this year, Jerome Bettis is doing what he's done so effectively over the last several years, and defensively they're playing extremely well. If they wind up with home-field advantage, the Steelers will be tough to beat.

Obviously, there are a couple of other teams that still have an opportunity to get to the Super Bowl. The Oakland Raiders are very potent offensively, and if they can shore up their run defense, a Raiders-Steelers AFC championship game would be a great matchup. Bettis would probably be the difference in a matchup of those two teams.

After their performance Monday night, the Miami Dolphins have to be taken seriously. Here's a team that seems to be jelling. They were fortunate to win eight of their first 11 games, but they provided the dominant performance their fans were looking for against the Indianapolis Colts. If they can build on that, look for the Dolphins to advance deep into the playoffs.

Do you think Jimmy Johnson will be coaching in the NFL next year, possibly with Tampa Bay?
Robert Jason -- Brentwood, Tenn.

Al Michaels: I'd be shocked. We had a halftime interview with Jimmy last week where I asked him that question. Of course, he had on his Aloha shirt and in the background, the palms were blowing in the breeze. I know how much Jimmy loves going out on his boat in the Florida Keys and how much he enjoys the rest of life, so I just can't imagine a scenario that would take him away from that lifestyle.

I thought when Jimmy left the Cowboys after the 1993 season that the only way he would return to coaching was if the Dolphin job opened up, which of course, it did two years later. Now that he's been there and done that with Miami, I don't see anything taking him away from the lifestyle he so thoroughly enjoys right now.

He's a fascinating man. Of all the coaches I've covered through the years, he's one of my all-time favorites. I love the fact that the rascal in Jimmy came out so overtly in our interview Monday night. He makes for great copy and he's a lot of fun, but he's a guy that has his life's priorities in order right now. Those priorities don't include getting back into coaching.

The Rams have played two games with no turnovers. The combined score in those games was 77-16. Do you think anyone can beat the Rams if they don't turn the ball over?
Dan Beebe -- Springville, Calif.

Al Michaels: If the Rams play an error-free game, I don't see anybody beating them. They are the best team in the league right now. There's no question that they're a very difficult team for any defense to stop. Everyone knows how much they have improved defensively.

If they protect the ball, I don't see how anyone can beat them. In fact, regardless of whether or not they protect the ball, I see them winning the Lombardi Trophy again.

Marty Mornhinweg
Matt Millen, left, and Marty Mornhinweg have endured a painful season in Detroit.
In your opinion, who is responsible for the demise of the Detroit Lions?
Kurt Kelsey -- Stevens Point, Wisc.

Al Michaels: Despite the fact that the Lions still haven't won a game, they have been highly competitive in almost all of their recent games. It's one of those weird things where this team could have won three or four games by now.

I wouldn't use the word "demise" to describe the situation in Detroit. Clearly this is a transition year -- a rebuilding year -- with a new coach in Marty Mornhinweg and a new Major Domo in Matt Millen. I know Matt very well, and, over the course of time, will be able to remedy a lot of the problems with this franchise and get them back on the right track. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Lions bounce back with a bang next year.

What are your thoughts on the BCS and the way the national championship played out?
Patrick Strong -- Salem, Ore.

Al Michaels: Living here in southern California, I'll miss hearing Rocky Top for an entire week at the end of December. I was actually looking forward to it. Tennessee has a better fight song than Nebraska.

But when it comes to college football, you'll have to e-mail the "Ol' Hoss," Keith Jackson.

Who is the most impressive rookie you've seen on Monday Night Football this season?
Steve Jorgensen -- Ypsilanti, Mich.

Al Michaels: Chris Chambers of the Miami Dolphins. It's interesting how the Dolphins, who have had a problem coming up with a top-quality wide receiver in recent years, have all of a sudden culled a real gem in a guy who was the 10th wide receiver picked in the draft.

Monday night was the first opportunity I had to see him live, The more I watch him, the more this guy looks like he's going to have a great career. He runs great routes, has great speed and seems to have developed a great chemistry with Jay Fiedler.

Just looking at him in the game against Indianapolis, he looked like he was in the prime of his career rather than the 12th game. I expect huge things from him.

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