Hitting the NFC South hot spots

I just jumped into the mailbag for the first time in several days due to the fact I was a bit tied up covering the Monday Night Football game between the Saints and Falcons, flying back home and taking care of some other assignments. But the mailbag was overflowing, mostly from the Atlanta and New Orleans precincts, but I also included questions on Carolina and Tampa Bay. So let's look at what's on the minds of fans around the NFC South.

Numerous New Orleans fans wrote to ask why I’m making such a “big deal’’ out of some Saints posing for pictures on the Falcons logo after Monday night’s game.

Pat Yasinskas: It’s part of my job description. Perhaps New Orleans fans have been a bit spoiled because just about every word written about the Saints over the past year has been justifiably glowing. This was an incident that angered a lot of people outside of New Orleans, and it had to be mentioned because it is a big deal in Atlanta and other places. I don’t think I really ripped the Saints -- although I did say what they did might not have been a great idea -- nearly as much as some other media members. I’ve had several follow-up items because the Saints and Falcons continue to talk about it.

Numerous Atlanta fans wrote to ask why I didn’t use a certain vulgar quote that was used by a New Orleans player to describe what the Saints were doing.

Pat Yasinskas: I wasn’t there to hear Remi Ayodele’s quote, so I couldn’t use it. But, if I had tried, I don’t think our editors would have run it. We have some pretty strict rules on that sort of thing. In fairness to Ayodele, I believe he was talking only in a figurative sense.

Numerous New Orleans fans said I gave Roddy White a pass on his Twitter comments.

Pat Yasinskas: Final word, for now, on this shouting match between the Saints and Falcons fans, although I'm sure it will continue in the comments section. Look at Wednesday’s NFC South Stock Watch. In the first two items, I was critical of the Saints and White. Both teams were at fault and that’s been pointed out. This spat isn’t about me. It’s about the Saints and Falcons. They were going back and forth before the game and they’re still doing it. That is part of the beauty of a rivalry. And, hey, it’s not a stretch to think New Orleans and Atlanta will meet again in the playoffs, so all this stuff could come up again.

Harris in Weaverville, N.C., writes: Do you have any insight on how Carolina’s process for looking for a new coach will go and how long that process might take.

Pat Yasinskas: As I’ve written several times, general manager Marty Hurney will stay with the team as coach John Fox leaves. Hurney will join with team president Danny Morrison to spearhead the search. That’s kind of the same approach the Panthers took in 2002 when they hired Fox. At that time, Hurney and former team president Mark Richardson led the search and owner Jerry Richardson had the final say. It will be the same thing this time, except Morrison will take over the Mark Richardson role. Jerry Richardson is more tied up in the league’s labor situation than most people realize. He’ll let Hurney and Morrison do the groundwork and he’ll get involved when the list is narrowed down. Knowing how Hurney operates, I’d expect this to be a very methodical search with the Panthers looking at several candidates and perhaps bringing several back for a second round of interviews. I still suspect the winner will be someone that hasn’t been a head coach in the NFL before and probably will be a current NFL assistant. But the Panthers aren’t closing any doors and it’s possible they will at least look at a college coach or two. As far as a time frame, my best guess is it will take a couple of weeks. When Fox was hired, the process took about three weeks.

Victor in Texas writes: Will Tampa Bay’s success this year translate into some prime-time television games next season.

Pat Yasinskas: Yes, I expect that will happen. The Bucs are a team on the rise and they’ve got some potential big names in Josh Freeman, Mike Williams and LeGarrette Blount. That gives them a bit of star power, but I don’t think you’ll see more than one or two prime-time games next season. For the Bucs to get four or five prime-time games, they need to continue winning, Freeman, Williams and Blount need to continue building their star power, and it wouldn’t hurt if Raymond James Stadium starts selling out again. I don’t think the NFL wants to show many prime-time games with a half-empty stadium in the background.