MORT'S MAILBAG: Oct. 2
Q: The playing field for the Packers-Panthers game was the worst I've ever seen. Even in monsoons or in Green Bay in December the conditions have been better. What should the NFL and/or the players association do to make sure we don't have a field this unplayable again? -- Laup, Plover, Wis.
MORT -- Mr. Laup, it was atrocious. The Panthers were embarrassed and called the NFL to ask for help with the field. Packers player rep Mike Flanagan called NFLPA executive director Gene Upshaw to complain, and Upshaw called commissioner Paul Tagliabue. If it isn't fixed, don't be surprised if the players revolt and refuse to play, as happened at Veterans Stadium in the preseason. However, Panthers owner Jerry Richardson is willing to pay whatever it takes to get it fixed. He is a class owner who will do the right thing.
Q: What do you think the NFL will do for loyal fans who have already made nonrefundable travel arrangements for the originally scheduled Super Bowl date? All the talk I have heard only discusses the compensation of the auto-convention attendants. How does the NFL plan to assist fans in attending the game on its rescheduled date? -- Heather, Miami
|Ron Dayne ran for 111 yards on 19 carries Sunday vs. the Saints.|
MORT -- Heather, I didn't even think about that, but I will bring it to the attention of the NFL. Is it possible the airlines would cooperate? After all, it is still four months away from the Super Bowl.
Q: Since Ron Dayne is running the ball well and seems to perform better with more attempts, do you think he should get the bulk of the carries this year? -- Jody Potter, Dover, N.H.
MORT -- Jody, Ron Dayne is running well, but I think the Giants believe the "Thunder and Lightning" mix is still the way to go. But there is no question that if a big back like Dayne shows he can handle the load, it is very tempting to let him do it. Also, there is no dispute that most backs get better with more carries. That's also true of Tiki Barber, but he did tweak his hamstring, so that may give Dayne a chance to do more.
Q: As a lifelong Redskins fan, the past three weeks have been painful, to say the least. What seems to be the problem between the coaching staff and the players? Is there any hope for a turnaround this year? -- Ray Knott, Amissville, Va.
MORT -- Ray, there are a lot of Redskins fans who can't believe how bad it is with your team. I never expected it to be this bad, but I think the players have to be accountable for how they prepare and play each week. They do show up at the pay window to collect their checks, so regardless of their ill feelings toward Marty Schottenheimer, they have a professional responsibility to the fans and to owner Daniel Snyder, who has been generous. Schottenheimer had a team meeting Monday in which they "aired out" their frustrations. The players have complained that Marty is too rigid, that training camp was too demanding, that there is no flexibility in the coach's approach. But as Gene Upshaw told me Monday, training camp is over and the players need to let go. Dick Vermeil encountered similar rebellion when he reported to the Rams. Bill Parcells also had the same approach with the Patriots and Jets, but Parcells had two Super Bowl rings, which bought him credibility. Schottenheimer is one of the winningest coaches in recent NFL history -- the problem is, he has never won a Super Bowl.
Q: There is a lot of heat on first-year Washington head coach Marty Schottenheimer already, but shouldn't there be just as much heat on first-year Detroit head coach Marty Mornhinweg for the Lions' early pitiful play? -- John Krisp, Denver
MORT -- John, it's not a good year to be a Marty, is it? Marty Mornhinweg is feeling the heat, too, but this is also a player problem. The Lions have a small cell of players whom Bobby Ross considered a problem, and Mornhinweg is experiencing the same thing.
Q: Is it not clear that Seahawks head coach/GM Mike Holmgren is in way over his head? The 'Hawks have been to the first round of the playoffs once since Holmgren started calling all the shots for Paul Allen. True, it appears that the pressure is indeed getting to him (when 'Hawks fans recently booed and yelled "Dil-fer" after Holmgren refused to play the Super Bowl quarterback, he subsequently bad-mouthed the fans). How long are we expected to wait for Seattle's so-called "rebuilding phase" to last? With the expensive stadium soon to debut upon the Seattle skyline, is the Emerald City going to see a change with the Seahawks? -- Maureen Odell, Leavenworth, Wash.
MORT -- Maureen, I'm not ready to concede that Holmgren is in way over his head. When he decided to go with a young, talented QB like Matt Hasselbeck, plus the young receivers, it was a signal (to me, at least) that he was looking at 2002 as the payoff year. Now, does he get that year from Allen? I don't know. I do think the Seahawks have to be more respectable than what they've shown. As for Dilfer, don't be delusional. As for the coach railing at the fans, he did that in the privacy of his locker room and it leaked out. That's not all that unusual, and I think Mike handled that with integrity by admitting it and apologizing. My guess is that he gets through 2002 to prove to the owner he knows what he is doing, or you will see a change.
Q: You might wanna pay a bit more attention to the schedule there. Quote from Oct. 1 article: "At least the Raiders get to heal up with a bye week to get ready for their big game in Indianapolis on Oct. 14." Unless you think Dallas is a bye (not far from it). -- P. Stone, Maryland
MORT -- Mr. Stone, yeah, my bad. I forgot that the Raiders and Cowboys agreed to move their game to this Sunday. But, yes, it does have some "bye" implications to it for the Raiders, huh? Then again, the Cowboys competed well against the Oaklanders in the preseason.
Editor's note: Rest easy, Dallas and Oakland fans -- the above sentence has been deleted from the story in question.
Q: Let's see if I can get someone in the national media to talk Browns for once. Some of us Cleveland fans tend to think on occasion that the national media has forgotten that we have our team back -- or that the word "lowly" has been officially attached to our name, as in "the lowly Cleveland Browns surprised their opponents with a win." Anyway, my questions: 1) It seems in the last game against Jacksonville that the Browns played with a bit of a chip on their shoulders in relation to Tom Coughlin's comments, and possibly that was a factor in the upset win. Could this become a theme with this team, playing with that chip on its shoulder every week and being determined to force each opponent into respecting them by beating them? Could they maintain that attitude over the rest of the season, and do you think that this could possibly propel them to an extra win or two? 2) I realize that Coughlin is concerned about his quarterback, which is a good thing, but do you think somewhere in the back of his mind he realizes that if Gerard Warren is suspended, it will hurt a division rival, one currently tied with his team? Also, could he be providing some locker room poster material for their rematch on Dec. 16, or is it too early for that? -- David M. Gable, Warsaw, Ind.
MORT-- David, I think you are exaggerating about the "lowly" label. But I agree with you on the attitude the Browns have displayed. Butch Davis has been harping on the team that the first step it needs to make is to "earn respect" -- from the opponents, not the media. I think the Browns have the attention of everybody. Knowing Butch and his effectiveness as a leader, I think it will sustain itself. I was tempted to pick the Browns third in my AFC Central predictions, but chickened out because of some injuries and personnel issues. I now think they will win six, seven or maybe even eight games. As for the Jaguars, yes, there is potential for a rivalry to develop, which is a big statement in itself considering they beat the Browns 48-0 the last time the teams met in Jacksonville. I don't think Warren will get suspended, but he will be fined.