- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 25, 2004

Happy holidays, Vonnie Holliday.

Merry Christmas, Claude Noel.

• • •

There’s no truth to the rumor that the AP poll will be replaced in the BCS formula by Rock, Paper, Scissors.

• • •

Fantasy headline:

BCS Shakeup:

AP board out,

Ouija board in

• • •

Number of the Week: $2,412,286. (The bowl payout to each of the seven Big East schools this year, the biggest of any conference, as calculated by the Roanoke Times. The ACC, to which Miami and Virginia Tech defected in search of greener pastures, will dole out $1,735,091 to each of its 11 members — $677,195 less.)

• • •

Brett Favre is such a fabulous quarterback — as he reminded us again Friday against the Vikings — that I’m almost willing to overlook his performance in “Something About Mary.”

• • •

Which is the bigger bummer, that only one Redskin made the Pro Bowl (Marcus Washington) or that two of last year’s Redskins made it (Jeremiah Trotter with Philadelphia and Champ Bailey with Denver)?

• • •

Nothing much seems to happen in Redskins games. Ever notice that? Joe Gibbs’ offense doesn’t score a lot, and Gregg Williams’ defense doesn’t give up a lot. In fact, only 443 points have been scored, total, in their first 14 games — an average of 31.6 (or about 10 below the league norm).

I decided to find out how unusual this is, whether the Redskins might actually be one of the Least Exciting Teams in Recent NFL History. The answer: Most definitely. Here are the Top 10 — or Bottom 10, depending on your point of view — in this category since 1978 (when the rules were changed to increase scoring):

(Note: PF = Points For; PA = Points Against; PerG = Points Per Game.)

Yr.TeamPFPA PerG

‘93Bears23423029.0

‘78Broncos28219830.0

‘82 Seahawks* 12714730.4

‘00 Ravens33316531.1

‘79 Chiefs23826231.3

‘78 Bucs24125931.3

‘94 Cardinals23526731.4

‘99 Bucs27023531.6

‘98 Eagles16134431.6

‘04 Redskins 209 234 31.6

*Nine-game strike season

• • •

“Least Exciting,” by the way, doesn’t necessarily mean bad. The ‘00 Ravens, after all, won the Super Bowl, and four other teams on the list made the playoffs.

• • •

FYI: George Allen’s last Redskins club, in 1977, was even less exciting than the current Redskins. His Over-the-Hillers scored 196 points and allowed 189, which figures out to 27.5 a game.

• • •

The least exciting team in modern times might have been the 1934-35 Chicago Cardinals. A mere 15.7 points, on average, were scored in their 23 games those seasons — 7.8 by them and 7.9 by the Other Guys. (To their credit, they posted an 11-10-2 record during this otherwise uneventful stretch and just missed playing in the championship game in ‘35.)

• • •

A few other statistical observations as the NFL’s 85th season winds down:

• The player I feel sorriest for is Tiki Barber. He was averaging 152.2 yards from scrimmage in the Giants’ first 10 games, which put him on pace to break Marshall Faulk’s NFL mark of 2,429 for a season (1999, to be exact). But then Tom Coughlin made Eli Manning the starting quarterback, and the offense shut down for three games. So much for Tiki’s shot at history. (He can still top 2,000, though, which is impressive enough.)

• There are quite a number of first-time 1,000-yard rushers this year — Rudi Johnson (1,324), Reuben Droughns (1,073) and Chris Brown (1,067) already have reached the figure, and Willis McGahee (947), Kevin Jones (938) and Michael Vick (889) are well within range. Still, that isn’t even close to the record of nine first-time 1,000-yard men, set in 2000. How many of them can you name? (They’re listed later in the column.)

• Guess we should start taking the Titans’ Billy Volek more seriously, now that he’s become just the fourth QB to throw for 400 yards in consecutive games. (Dan Fouts, Dan Marino and Phil Simms are the others to do it.) Volek, in case you’d forgotten, was the quarterback at Fresno State before David Carr.

• • •

Best putdown of a sportscaster, 2004:

“Sean and I are friends, we talk a lot, but he can get carried away. He is the guy who was walking around this locker room with a Christmas tree shaved in his head one year. That was him, wasn’t it?”

— Vikings assistant coach Chris Walsh on former teammate Sean Salisbury, now with ESPN (as quoted by Patrick Reusse of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune)

• • •

I never thought of the District of Columbia as a Cradle of Quarterbacks until I read the latest issue of Sports Illustrated. According to SI, “since 1970, Louisiana has sent more passers per capita to the NFL than any other state [a total of 24, including Terry Bradshaw, Jake Delhomme, Peyton Manning and Doug Williams].” However … had “Washington, D.C., which has produced Byron Leftwich, Anthony Dilweg and Mike Kruczek, been included, the District would have been ahead of Louisiana on the per capita list.”

• • •

Speaking of quarterback factories, did you know Sonny Jurgensen and Roman Gabriel — both of whom threw more than 200 touchdown passes in the NFL — went to the same high school in Wilmington, N.C. (New Hanover)? I found that out watching Doc Walker’s “ProView” show the other day on Comcast SportsNet. Jurgensen reminisced about the time he and Gabriel faced each other in 1967; Sonny had four TD passes, Roman had two for the Rams, and the game ended in a 28-28 tie.

• • •

A number of NFL teams this year are experimenting with selling seats — just a few — right on the sideline. This is hardly a new idea in Chicago, though. In the old days, George Halas used to put fans in folding chairs in the vicinity of the opponents’ bench.

“The game would be in progress,” a club executive once recalled, “and this hot dog vendor would be walking out there in front of our bench, leaning over players to make a sale to the fans.”

• • •

I’m not saying the New Orleans Hornets are easy pickings, but players around the NBA have begun to refer to them as “The Five People You Meet in Heaven.”

• • •

Elsewhere in pro basketball, an arbitrator knocked 10 games off Jermaine O’Neal’s suspension stemming from the Pacers-Pistons brawl. The final CompuBox figures, apparently, showed O’Neal landing far fewer power punches than originally thought.

• • •

News item: Capitals ruffian Brendan Witt heads to England to play with the Bracknell Bees of the British National League.

Comment: In his spare time — who knows? — maybe Witter will do some Shakespeare. He’d make a great Iago.

• • •

Answer to trivia question: The nine first-time 1,000-yard rushers in the NFL in 2000 were Mike Anderson (1,487), Jamal Lewis (1,364), James Stewart (1,184), Ahman Green (1,175), Lamar Smith (1,139), James Allen (1,120), Tyrone Wheatley (1,046), Tiki Barber (1,006) and Ricky Williams (1,006).

• • •

And finally …

A moment of silence, please, for Johnny Oates, the former Orioles catcher and manager, who died Friday at 58.

Oates and O’s skipper Earl Weaver had an unusual relationship, according to Johnny. “Earl … only spoke to me twice,” he told a reporter a few years ago. “Once, our catcher got hurt, and I said, ‘I’ll get in there for you, Earl.’ He said, ‘Fat chance.’ After I got traded, he said, ‘Enjoy Atlanta.’” (Much thanks to BaseballLibrary.com for this nugget.)

• The Sunday Column will take a brief holiday break and return — pale, rested and ready — Jan. 9.

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