Chat with Gary Horton
Welcome to SportsNation! On Monday, Scouts Inc.'s Gary Horton stops in to talk about the NFL season and other news from around the league.
Horton spent 10 years in the NFL as a scout and another 10 years at the college level as an assistant coach and recruiter. He is the founder and most seasoned member of the Scouts Inc. staff, and his extensive experience at all levels of football make him an excellent talent evaluator.
Send your questions now and join Horton Monday at 4 p.m. ET!
Gary Horton (4:03 PM)
Hello everyone! Like very week, I saw a lot of good things on Sunday. I loved watching San Fran and Detroit. But one interesting conclusion at the end of the day: how all of us overrated the NFC East and South before the season. It looks like parity is alive and well in these divisions. I just don't see an elite team week in and week out. No consistency. I'm ready for your questions!
Gary:Do you think defenses are catching up with offenses now since the lockout seemed to sway things the other way? Most points and passing yards thus far, yesterday's action seemed to indicate a shift, like the defenses are making better adjustments. What's your take? Thanks.
Gary Horton (4:05 PM)
I think that is partially true. Defensive coaches and schemes can now have a better feel of how to attack these spread passing games. Some problems still exist though. Bad tackling leads to a lot of big offensive plays. And the no huddle still keeps a lot of defenses on the field in base packages that are easy to attack. With limited padded practices I'm not sure tackling will get much better this year but overall defense should. We said all along the first month might be like preseason football.
With Green Bay down a starting safety and another safety with a club on his hand, what are the odds they would trade a late-round pick to Chicago for Chris Harris who is seeking a trade?
Gary Horton (4:08 PM)
It really isn't the Green Bay style to make a move like that. Although I do understand what you are saying. I think they will continue to use Woodson in the middle of the defense over the slot to compensate. But this organization is so conscious of building their team through the draft that I'm just not sure I see a trade happening. To be blunt, their pass defense is so bad right now, partly because of lack of a pass rush, that adding one guy I don't think would make that big of a difference. I think the Packers will continue to win by outscoring people. My only fear for them is if the offense has an off day or they hit a hot passing opponent on any given Sunday they could be in trouble.
Al (Wausau, WI)
Gary, what's your opinion about the post-game "scuffle" between Jim Harbaugh and Jim Schwartz? Do you feel the media is blowing this out of proportion? Or, do you feel they should be fined and/or suspended for what happened?
Gary Horton (4:10 PM)
I would expect a fine to come because I think it sets a bad example for young kids that don't quite understand it. But it is obviously going to be blown out of proportion because it rarely happens. I personally think Harbaugh is at fault here because it looked like he was disrespecting Schwartz with kind of a high-schoolish handshake brushoff. If I was Schwartz coming off a tough loss, I would have thought that was embarassing and I wouldn't have liked it either. I'm not sure it should be a mandate that you have to shake hands after the game. Before the game, yes. But not after. I think coaches would be relieved to not have to do that after every game. But I think coaches will be much more aware of this moving forward.
I was wondering if you can settle this. If Devin Hester finishes his career with around 20 total return touchdowns, do you think that would make him a possible HOFer? When was the last time a special teamer made it in? (because his statistics as a wideout are clearly not HOF worthy)
Gary Horton (4:14 PM)
I think it is such a unique situation and there have been so many great returners that it would be a huge debate. The problem for Hester is that he doesn't on a weekly basis produce a lot of other big plays as you point out. So it's not like he has a body of work. He is a return guy almost exclusively in terms of his consideration. Having said that, he is such a weapon and so fun to watch that I think he could be one of those guys that could break through.
How long do the Packers go before they lose their first game? They look awfully good!
Gary Horton (4:18 PM)
Three potential stumbling blocks ... at San Diego in two weeks, Thanksgiving at Detroit and then on the road the next week against the Giants. I don't see any other games that should be a problem as long as they are prepared and focused. Obviously they know the value of playing at home throughout the playoffs to get to the Super Bowl. They got away without that luxury last year but would certainly like to have it. If they can get by San Diego, the game against the Lions could be a classic. Keep in mind the Packers are so good on a fast track like they have at Detroit, that it could negate the home crowd. 16-0 is always a little far-fetched but I could certainly buy 14-2.
Will the Indianapolis Colts go 0-16 this season?
Gary Horton (4:20 PM)
We don't even have to look at the schedule to talk about this one. There is a good chance that they could go winless, even though I think they are playing hard and still pretty competitive. I actually believe Painter is getting a little better each week. I just don't think they have enough explosive players on either side of the ball to really be competitive. This defense was built to play with the lead and fly to the ball and they no longer have that luxury. That is a huge deal. There are some mediocre teams they will play that could allow for a breakthrough win if they stay focused. There are three teams at the bottom of the NFL and the same in terms of their chances to win ... Indy, Miami and St. Louis. I've watched all three and I don't see any of them that look like they can pull out of his funk. Anybody that assumes the bottom-feeding teams are playing for Andrew Luck is a slap in the face to anyone in the NFL.
If the Rams get the first pick, is Andrew Luck a good enough prospect that they would consider trading Sam Bradford?
Gary Horton (4:22 PM)
No. I don't think so. Obviously Miami and Indy would take Luck, even with Peyton Manning still in Indy and assuming he will be back. But in the case of St. Louis, I think they are comfortable with Bradford as their guy and they have so many other needs. They would try to trade the pick and come up with multiple draft picks which could help them get better in a hurry. I don't see any scenario where they would draft Luck and trade Bradford.
Josh (Chattanooga, TN)
Gary, should we expect a bunch of analysts overreacting and jumping off of the Lions Bandwagon after a single loss? It was a good opponent in arguably the biggest game in the franchise, and they still nearly pulled out the W. But, in typical fashion, I just forsee there being a bunch of "oh, well they're still the Lions" ho-hum coming from this.
Gary Horton (4:24 PM)
I don't think so. There is still a healthy respect for the Lions. They are a young team that gets better each week but they aren't perfect. I'm a little worried about their lack of a physical run game, especially when they play outside in poor weather. I'm also a little worried about their pass protection. As I watch the film today, Matt Stafford got hit too much and was really pressured by San Fran. They are also not great on the back end of their defense but the front four makes up for it. This is a good team with a huge homefield advantage and I would be very surprised if they aren't a wild card team in the NFC.
James (W NY)
Christian Ponder looked good last night. Not just arm, but mobility and poise. What do you think his NFL future looks like?
Gary Horton (4:26 PM)
I think he has a chance to be a quality quarterback. It's just going to take time. As defenses see him more they will get a book on him and confusion becomes part of the issue for these young QBs. My fear is that he is playing for a veteran team with a lot of age that thought they were going to be contenders this year. There may be more rebuilding than we thought as this team moves along. That could cut down on some of Ponder's weapons and also pass protection. I thought he did a nice job on Sunday and there is certainly something to build on there.
Gary Horton (4:27 PM)
I have a question for you guys that was posed to me today ... if Ponder becomes the starter as we all expect ... do you keep McNabb as his backup and mentor holding a clipboard on the sidelines or go to Donovan and say "you had a great career", do you want us to waive you so you can latch on with another team? What do you guys think?
Gary don't you think there was a lot of positives to take away from the Cowboys loss? Seems they are getting better as the season progressees.
Gary Horton (4:30 PM)
Yes. A lot of positives. I happen to be one that thinks the Cowboys are the most talented team in the NFC East. I think the Cowboys last 11 losses are by 4 points or less. Something like that. It tells you how close they are. They aren't perfect but they have playmakers on both sides of the ball. To go into New England and hold Tom Brady to a bad passing day is very impressive. I don't know if many defenses can stop Brady at the end of a game when he has that much time. I think we are still looking for the Cowboys to break out of their funk much like we are the Jets, that we don't realize both teams lost hard fought games at Foxboro. That's not a disgrace no matter what your record is.
Al (Wausau, WI)
Could they trade McNabb to the Raiders for draft picks? Then, if they want a veteran QB on the roster, they could sign David Garrard.
Gary Horton (4:32 PM)
The problem is they would have to do it today. The trading deadline is tomorrow. I'm not sure that anybody would trade for him right now. It's nice to talk about but he has played very uneven football this season. A lot of people would say he is at the end of his rope. I don't think a team would pay to get him. I don't have any firsthand team that the Raiders would be that team anyway.
Gary, I disagree with you about the Colts taking Luck if they had the #1 pick if Manning is deemed healthy. If he is cleared and declared 100%, or at least 85%, you don't think the Colts wouldn't trade down, grab a bounty, and reload?
Gary Horton (4:35 PM)
I don't think so because you are dealing with Manning who is late in his career, as great as he has been, with a really scary injury issue with his neck. Who knows how long he can play or even if he plays again. We have nothing to go on right now. Obviously by the time we get to the draft we'll have a lot more information. Even if Peyton came back and played, you could give Luck a couple years to get ready even though he could probably start as a rookie. At the very least, you could draft him and trade him later if Manning were healthy and playing well. Much like Philly did with Kevin Kolb.
Joe (San Francisco, CA)
I think the McNabb question comes down to if they think he can be a good citizen and mentor Ponder. If he is going to be a disgruntled backup he needs to go.
Gary Horton (4:36 PM)
He has always been a good citizen and said the right things. He has a great relationship with Leslie Frazier. I think if he stays he might be OK as a mentor. But I would probably let him make that call.
Gary, Are the Ravens the second best team in the NFL right now?
Gary Horton (4:38 PM)
Yes, I would say they are No. 2 behind the Packers. I don't see a major weakness. They have a franchise runner in Rice and better targers in the receiving game that you think. I do wish they had a better vertical passing game but it is developing. And we know how good they are on defense. They are a physical, well-coached team. As Tom Jackson says, their gameplan is portable and they can take it to any sight and any weather.
Gary Horton (4:39 PM)
I do worry a little about the consistency of Joe Flacco. At times I love him but he has periods of inconsistency that don't make sense given his experience. It only takes one bad day in January to take you out of the Super Bowl race.
Craig G. (Fairfield, CA)
Hey Gary, can you comment on the job Vic Fangio is doing with the defense in San Francisco? How difficult is the transition from being a coordinator in the NCAA to the NFL? Thanks!
Gary Horton (4:41 PM)
I thought one of the biggest surprises from that game yesterday was the fact that San Fran's defensive front seven outplayed the much more heralded Detroit front seven. These guys tackle, they fly to the ball, they have good gap discipline and each week when I study them I am amazed at how well coached they are. They will show you a different wrinkle each week much like Belichick and the Patriots. I think they will continue to win because they just don't beat themselves. Everybody talks about how well they play in the second half. But I have watched them a lot on film and a big part of that success is the adjustments the coaching staff is making at halftime. In my mind right now, nobody is better at making those adjustments than the Niners.
Gary Horton (4:44 PM)
Thanks for all the great questions! As we have said many times, we thought it would take about six weeks for teams to really start playing the quality of NFL football we are used to seeing because of the lockout. That time is here. I think it will start to manifest itself each week. Ironically there are so many teams that have dug themselves into a hole that no matter how well they play, it is going to be tough to get back into the race. But the next couple months should be real fun to watch. That's what is so great about this league. We'll talk again next week!