MORT'S MAILBAG: July 19
Q: What's your take on Terry Glenn producing for a full season? I think if all goes well early, he'll be OK. If he struggles early, will he be able to keep focused and work through any problems? And what are your odds on the Green Bay Packers getting to the Big Dance? -- Jeff Heimke, Green Bay, Wis.
MORT -- Jeff, I have to see how things develop during training camp, but my gut (based on early reviews from coaches and players) is that Glenn will have a very big year. Will he stay healthy? To me, that's the biggest question. I like the Packers a lot; they are really among a handful of Super Bowl contenders. I give them as good a chance as anybody to overtake the Rams -- still the team to beat in 2002.
Q: With the Pittsburgh Steelers keeping and re-signing almost all 22 starters, how dominant will they be? They are in a weak division. I only see Miami and possibly Oakland as roadblocks keeping them from the Super Bowl. How well do they match up against the NFC power teams and how good a shot do they have at winning it all this year? -- Joe, Philadelphia
MORT -- Joe, the Steelers are the AFC favorites, as far as I'm concerned. I'm sure there will be a a couple of surprise roadblocks, but Bill Cowher should be able to get over the hump with this Steelers team.
Q: I think the Washington Redskins have a good chance of being good this year, and I think that coach Steve Spurrier knows the limitations of his team, don't you? -- Raymond Parker, Capitol Heights, Md.
MORT -- Raymond, I believe the Redskins have a shot to be a playoff contender, but I'm not sure Spurrier thinks they have any limitations. That's one thing I really like about Steve, and I think players will like -- the man has a great deal of confidence in himself, his staff and his players. Already.
Q: Are there any indications from the Detroit Lions that Joey Harrington may have a shot at the starting job if he impresses Matt Millen and Marty Mornhinweg enough in camp? -- Mark, Macomb, Mich.
MORT -- Mark, if Harrington can get signed on time, he would have a shot because Mornhinweg pushed hard for him. Mike McMahon has limited playing experience, so I don't know if that gives him a major advantage. Here's the catch: Millen was not gung-ho on drafting Harrington. He likes McMahon. He is not about to cave in to pressure in contract negotiations with Harrington (no voidables, no escalators, etc.) going into camp. That may be the key because there is very little chance Harrington will be a starter if he is a training camp holdout because of contract negotiations.
Q: Everyone writes about the boldness of the New England Patriots' trade of Drew Bledsoe within the AFC East division. Clearly, the Patriots' coaching staff thinks it can beat Bledsoe's Buffalo Bills (and it gives the Patriots extra reason to be "up" for a divisional rival that they have played with lackluster energy in recent years). But, counter to the "always trade your best outside the division" mantra, don't you think trading Bledsoe to the Bills might actually be an asset to the Patriots' overall chance for success this coming season? His quarterbacking talents will be going after the Jets and Dolphins throughout the season, potentially racking up losses for those teams and keeping them off the Patriots' pace. As long as you think you can beat your rivals, you want them to be strong enough to take other teams in the division out. From this perspective, I don't see any down side to the trade. Your thoughts? -- Daniel Mackay, Albany, N.Y.
MORT -- Daniel, you certainly have offered a unique viewpoint on the Bledsoe deal. I think the Patriots dragged their feet on the deal, hoping they would not have to trade him inside the AFC East. The Pats struggled with the Bills in two victories last season (12-9 OT in Week 14). Certainly, Bill Belichick has confidence he has a handle on Bledsoe, but that would put Bledsoe in good company with just about any quarterback who has to face Belichick's defensive schemes. Bottom line: I think the Pats made the Bills a very interesting team in 2002.
Q: Do you think if the Oakland Raiders don't go far this year, they will let go of Rich Gannon and concentrate on signing Charles Woodson, who will be a free agent after the 2003 season? -- Muhsin Khan, Cote St. Luc, Montreal
MORT -- Muhsin, I have little doubt that the Raiders will retain Woodson, regardless of Gannon's status. Al Davis has always coveted cover corners, and he won't let one of the best ones walk away. I guess if Gannon really bombed this season, the Raiders could walk away from his new contract when the year's over, but my guess is that the Raiders will be highly competitive again and that Gannon will be very effective. He has shown no signs of slowing down. He's only getting better.
Q: The Kansas City Chiefs gave Marty Schottenheimer 10 years to win a Super Bowl or at least get to one. What do you think is fair to give Dick Vermeil, who I believe is a godsend if given enough time? -- Alan Wood, Las Vegas, Nev.
MORT -- Alan, Vermeil pretty much said he wanted to coach three years, so he has two seasons left on his contract. I'm sure that if the Chiefs are on track (I think they will be), and Dick wanted to extend his deal, then it will happen.
Q: Are the Arizona Cardinals trying to bring in another running back or are they going into the year with Thomas Jones as the starter? -- Don Davis, Wilmington, Del.
MORT -- Don, Cardinals coach Dave McGinnis has told me more than once this offseason that he believes Jones will have a breakthrough season. If he does, it will be contrary to what many personnel men and coaches believe about running backs -- usually, a great RB is great from the get-go.
Q: Hey Mort, how are those Eagles/Giants/Jets doing these days? Seems to me like you only like East Coast teams, overrating the New York Giants every year and the Philadelphia Eagles. Don't expect them to do the same next season -- Luke Eggum, Eagan, Minn.
MORT -- Luke, man, you're a little rough on me early this year. I have no fondness for any team based on its regional status. (I happen to be a native Southern Californian). I did pick the Giants in 2000 to be a playoff team (they were NFC champs; beat the Vikes); I did pick the Eagles to win the NFC East in 2001 (they did). I don't think I picked the New York Jets last year. Now, I like the Eagles to win the NFC East again. I believe the Giants and Jets are destined for .500 seasons, although I think the Giants might surprise with the pressure off.
Q: Will Fred Taylor be at 100 percent at the beginning of the season and what are the chances that he will last for the whole season? -- Vik, Danville, Calif.
MORT -- Vik, yes and zero. The Jacksonville Jaguars will go into the season holding their breath again on Taylor. He has had an outstanding offseason, by every account. But Taylor's durability is a liability. That's his history, so that's what my answer is based on. The best reason to give Taylor the benefit of doubt and project a dynamite year is that he is in the final year of his contract. That's notable, especially for Taylor, who was financially ripped off by his convicted agent (Tank Black).
Q: I would like your view on Lawrence Phillips getting another shot in the NFL. I have friends and former teammates who are on the (CFL) Alouettes who firmly believe he will be back in the NFL after this year. -- Christopher Anstey, Toronto, Ontario
MORT -- Christopher, don't hold your breath. Remember, the most damaging thing that happened to Phillips' NFL career came when Jimmy Johnson cut him in Miami. Johnson's reason? Phillips' talent was a big letdown. He wasn't a stud runner, after all. Very average. Combined with the other issues, I'd be surprised if Phillips was given another chance in the NFL. But I have been surprised before.
Q: Do you feel that it will take a 1-3 start by Dallas to insert Chad Hutchinson at QB or can he impress enough during training to start outright? -- Jeff Romano, Kissimmee, Fla.
MORT -- Jeff, good question. There's an outside chance that Hutchinson could open the season as the starter if Quincy Carter really struggles and Hutchinson shines in preseason. Internally, the Cowboys think Hutchinson has the chance to be a star, but there is a big unknown -- can he play when the bullets are flying? Much will depend on Carter. If the Cowboys are 1-3, and Carter is a contributor to that start, then it's reasonable to speculate that a change would be in order because of the higher expectations in the Dallas camp.
Q: What does the future hold for the 49ers staying in San Francisco? -- Chris Milewski, Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
MORT -- Chris, the York family that owns the 49ers have to make some big strides to address a very sorry stadium situation. I don't think they will ever move because the NFL considers San Francisco to be a five-star location.
Q: If the San Diego Chargers move to L.A., do you think that the NFL would consider letting the Seattle Seahawks return to the AFC West and switching the Chargers to the NFC West? I think it would make sense for the fans of both L.A. and Seattle. I hope the Chargers don't move, though. If a team moves, I'd rather it be the Cardinals. -- John, Buffalo, N.Y.
MORT -- John, I don't think the NFL will consider any such swap between the Chargers and Seahawks. Remember, the Chargers actually began their franchise in L.A., so nothing changes the deep-rooted AFL ties to the Raiders, Chiefs and Broncos. I also hope the Chargers don't move from San Diego, but it's a real possibility. Rule out the Cardinals for now. The Colts, Raiders and Vikings are more viable candidates.