Chat with Gary Horton
Welcome to SportsNation! On Monday, ESPN's NFL "Caveman" himself, Gary Horton, stops in to talk some football and other news from around the league.
Horton, from Scouts Inc., works year-round on ESPN's NFL-related shows, including NFL32, where he breaks down film, earning him his Caveman nickname.
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 (4:05 PM)
I think tonight is a really exciting game between two teams with really strong playoff hopes. The Redskins especially are going to be behind the 8 ball if they don't win this game. This is have everything you want in a Monday Night Football game. Maybe the only thing that is more exciting is next week's game, Houston and New England. We are lucky to have good games like this the next couple of weeks.
shane (jersey city)
Can Christian Ponder get the vikings to the playoffs?
Gary Horton (4:07 PM)
The Christian Ponder I saw earlier in the season, I thought had a chance. The one I've seen the last month has no chance. Bad decisions. Indecisive throws. Not enough weapons. And, I don't think, a lot of confidence. The only shot they have is if Peterson dominates with the run game and they control time of possession. I'm one of those guys that believed in the Vikings early in the season, but having watched them the last month, I'm not even close to that any more.
Do you expect McElroy to start next week?
Gary Horton (4:09 PM)
I would not be surprised if Ryan went back to Sanchez, and gave him one more shot. I think this coaching staff still thinks they have a chance to make the playoffs. They probably looked at Sunday's win and, even though it was ugly, it was a step in the right direction. I don't think they saw enough from McElroy to think he's anywhere close to the future. It seems to be obvious that they don't believe in Tebow, otherwise this would be an interesting storyline going back to his home of Jacksonville. I wouldn't be surprised if they went back to Sanchez. He had the second half to sit and watch and reflect. I think it's unbelievably important that this coaching staff evaluates the QB position thoroughly because they can not go into the offseason without a firm plan for this position.
Craig G. (Fairfield, CA)
Hey Gary, what do you see as the Lions main issue in not having more wins? Thanks!
Gary Horton (4:11 PM)
It seems to me that the Lions stub their feet every week. It could be an individual. It could be a unit. They just don't finish. And when I watch them on film, they don't play with discipline. We know they don't have a run game, but they are getting production from their TEs in the short passing game as an extension of the run game. I love the Stafford-Johnson connection right now. The DL has not dominated like we expected them to, though they haven't been awful. The weakness on this team is probably the back seven on defense. They just don't finish. Something is missing with this team.
H Gary, If Lovie smith and his team missed the playoff AGIAN, should he be fired? Thanks.
Gary Horton (4:13 PM)
No, because I think they've achieved as well as most people expected. I think this is a very stable team. I believe the coaches are very comfortable with Lovie. I don't think a shakeup would be necessary. However, age, especially on defense, is going to be a factor and they must fix this OL, if they want to have any success going forward. But I think they're playing about as well as you'd expect.
Michael [via mobile]
Did Brandon Weeden show he's tough enough to hang in the pocket under pressure and still make the throws yesterday? Compared to week #1 it was night and day. Will they be a 4-8 team playoff contenders regret playing when it's all said and done?
Gary Horton (4:14 PM)
I think you're probably pretty accurate. He looks comfortable running this team. I really like the way he's finding his WRs. He shows good toughness. This Browns team is certainly not very good, but I think I'm seeing steady improvement. I know there is a lot of young players here to build around. If you're a Browns fan, you're totally optimistic about the future. You think you have your QB and RB and that's a pretty good start.
Hi Gary, If not for Andrew Luck and RG iii Russell Wilson would be a lock for rookie of the year. How has he progressed this season in your view?
Gary Horton (4:16 PM)
That's a hypothetical question, but I will say this, as great as Luck and RGIII have played, I think you have to put Wilson in that same category. All three of them have one thing in common: no stage is too big. They seem to love pressure. They play way beyond their years. While Wilson's skill set may not be as eye opening as the other two, he's just a guy that makes plays. I don't think you can separate him from the other two guys in this conversation.
Gary Horton (4:16 PM)
He wasn't the first or second pick of the draft, keep that in mind. He has had to come from a ways back to become the unquestioned leader of this team. That say something.
Harbaugh is going to sink the 49ers with his Kaepernick infatuation. Sure Smith isn't elite but he is very reliable and steady. And that's all the 49ers need with that D. What in the world is the coach thinking?
Gary Horton (4:20 PM)
I think it's a great topic to debate and I probably disagree with you a little bit. I think you could make the case for Harbaugh having a lot of guts making this decision and Smith would have been the easy way to go. You know you're going to win a lot of games and be a playoff team with him. But I think what Harbqaugh felt was that the ceiling for Kaepernick is considerably higher and he gave them a much better chance to go all of the way and be a Super Bowl team. That made his decision somewhat gutsy. I don't think he's infatuated with Kaepernick. I just think he feels he has a better skill set and a chance for more explosive plays. As unfair as it may seem, I think there's also a feeling that if for some reason Kaepernick fails, they could go back to Smith and get that same production and consistency. We know he's a high quality character guy, so while he may not like the decision, he can deal with it. Remember, these coaches see these players in practice every day. They know what they can and can't do, so I think we have to defer to them, even though I know what you're saying.
How much money has Joe Flacco cost himself with his play this year?
Gary Horton (4:22 PM)
I'm not sure it's a lot, because he doesn't play badly every week. It seems like he's the ultimate roller coaster. He'll have a bad game and then come back and look like an all-Pro QB. This organization is deeply invested in him and they'll probably have a feeling that they can work out his inconsistency, even though I don't understand how he can look so bad at times. They don't have a choice, he's their QB moving forward. He's the face of the franchise. But I don't see how they can get "cute" and not treat him fairly. If I'm an executive with the Ravens, I might have some sleepless nights about the money I may have to spend and the inconsistency that might come with it.
How big was Charlie Batch yesterday?
Gary Horton (4:24 PM)
To be honest I was shocked. The guy I saw a week ago I thought had no chance to be competitive. I thought his performance showed the character and resilience of the organization. It was a win they badly needed and it's something they can really build around as Big Ben comes back. On the other hand, I thought it was embarrassing for Baltimore. To lose a game at home when they clearly had the Steelers outmanned and have their QB outplayed by Batch. But maybe that's the way of the AFC North. It may be likely that this is the last game that we see Batch start or play any significant amount. What a great way to go out. I'm told that everybody around him has tremendous respect for how he carries himself and how he's mentored Big Ben.
Hi Gary, patriots vs Texans next MNF. the winner of that has a chance for bye ans Broncos and Ravens are right in the mix. So who do you think will get the first round bye in AFC?
Gary Horton (4:26 PM)
I think both New England and Houston will have first round byes. We're probably looking at a preview of the AFC championship game. Those first round byes will come down to how the teams play it in the last few weeks of the season. With so many of these races being decided so early, you have to decide how you're going to play these guys or if you're going to rest them at the end of the year. With byes and home field advantage at stake that teams would play all of their guys right up to the end. But we've seen the past few years, a lot of examples, where coaches thought being healthy was the most important part going into the playoffs.
Any predictions on tonights game?
Gary Horton (4:28 PM)
I think it may come down to the pass rush of the Giants v. RGIII. This has been a unit that I don't think has played up to expectations the entire season, until a week ago. When they are going good, they can protect the back end of that defense and really disrupt the opposing QB. If they don't have a big game, I think RGIII will make some plays in the passing game. The other key is the run game of Washington. This Giants defense has not been consistent against power run games. If Washington can run the ball and control the clock and keep the Giants out of pass rush mode, it could get interesting. The thing that we always concern ourselves with the Giants is what team shows up. You would certainly think they'd be ready to play in a game like this, but who knows.
Who should start on sunday for the Jets?
Gary Horton (4:33 PM)
If healthy, I would probably start Tim Tebow. I would give him maybe two games to prove that he has no chance to be the guy of the future. I think the coaches believe that's the case, but I think it's important to not go into the offseason with the fan base still wondering if he can be the guy. I think that needs to be solved. After that two game sampling, I would go back to Sanchez and give him two games to show that he can be the future of this franchise. I think we know what McElroy's limitations are. While it was a nice story on Sunday I don't think anyone thinks he can carry an offense for a length of time. For this coaching staff, they have to get a better handle on what they have in Sanchez and Tebow going into the offseason. I think that's a huge problem for this franchise going forward. They must decide if they need to start over this offseason.
Gary Horton (4:33 PM)
I think this is a great old fashioned, NFC East battle tonight. I think we will get both teams' best shots. There is nothing like December football in the NFL with so much to play for each week.