- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 22, 2006

The Sunday Column returns after a brief hiatus (due mostly to a series of Saturday Redskins games).

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As I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted …

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Classy team, the Patriots. Even though their bid for a threepeat came up short, they still voted a playoff share to Vladimir Putin.

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News item: Former Panthers cheerleader involved in bathroom brawl gets six months of probation.

Comment: Let’s hope, for her sake, that Carolina doesn’t make the Super Bowl. I mean, who wants to go down in history as the Stanley Wilson of the pompom Set?

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Speaking of the Panthers, coach John Fox is 4-0 in road playoff games. To put that in perspective, it wasn’t until two weeks ago, in Tampa, that Gibbs won his fifth road playoff game. Don Shula won three in 33 seasons. Chuck Noll won four in 23.

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After the Redskins’ Week 16 win over the Giants, Joe Gibbs said, “I don’t think it’s anything we did coaching-wise. … I [told] our players last night, ‘We don’t win with X’s and O’s. All the coaches [in the NFL] are good at what they do. It’s the attitude [the players] come with.’”

In the month since, the Redskins have spent $14million on X’s and O’s — $8million for Gregg Williams and the other $6million for Al Saunders, the new offensive oracle.

Care to amend that statement, Joe?

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Four other things I could say about the Saunders hiring:

1. Think of him as the Dan Henning of the New Millennium.

2. If Saunders’ scheme is a radical departure from Gibbs’, will that delay the ETA of Jason Campbell?

3. Suddenly, Williams has some competition for Coach Joe’s job, whenever the latter decides to step down.

4. Memo to the Redskins (who have tended to blame their late-season offensive problems on the lack of second and third receivers): In Kansas City, Saunders turned out top offenses year after year without a single Pro Bowl wideout — much less somebody as lethal as Santana Moss.

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You have to admire the friendship between Norv Turner and Mike Nolan. After all, Nolan was on Turner’s Redskins staff as his defensive coordinator, and now Norv is on Mike’s 49ers staff as his offensive coordinator.

This kind of thing doesn’t happen very often, believe me. In fact, let’s turn it into a trivia question: Name another instance of two NFL coaches Trading Places, as it were. (Answer below.)

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Maybe Mike Vanderjagt should have tried a drop kick on that UFO of a field goal attempt against the Steelers last weekend. The Colts kicker is pretty good at the old-fashioned style, according to Doug Flutie, the NFL’s resident drop kick expert.

“It was part of our pregame ritual … during our years up in Canada [with the Toronto Argonauts],” Flutie told the Boston Herald. “We had a little competition backing up from the 10 to about 40, 45 yards.”

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Then again, maybe Vanderjagt should have gone for the rouge.

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Elsewhere in the NFL, Lions president Matt Millen, who fired Steve Mariucci 11 games into the season, has settled on a new coach: Rod Marinelli. Also on Millen’s short list, I’m told, were Phil Martelli, Ed Marinaro and Liza Minnelli.

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But forget the Italian angle; Millen seems to be in love with his own initials. After all, his first coach, the one who preceded Mariucci, was Marty Mornhinweg.

And yet, year in and year out, Detroit is Mmmm, Mmmm Bad.

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Millen, Mornhinweg, Mariucci, Marinelli — how unbelievable is that?

Of course, Dan Snyder did bring Marty Schottenheimer to coach the Redskins … and then replaced him with Steve Spurrier.

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This Space bids a fond farewell to former Maryland football coach Tom Nugent, who died Thursday at 92. Obituaries credited Nugent with developing the I formation while at VMI from 1949 to ‘52 — something I didn’t know. Heck, I always assumed the I formation was invented in the ‘80s, the “Me Decade.”

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Six days after Marcus Vick was booted off the Virginia Tech football team, the lead story (with photo) in the Roanoke Times had the following headline:

“Town to kill 2 beavers.”

“My first concern is public safety,” said a Blacksburg councilman.

Which brought the following response from a visitor to a Hokies Web site: “Sure is a … relief to get back to the more pressing issues in town.”

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So I’m reading about “The Daly Planet,” John Daly’s reality show on the Golf Channel, and I’m thinking: What’s next, “Vijay’s Singh-along”?

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Another possibility for the network: “The Haases and the Haas Nots.”

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Olympic Odds — courtesy of the February issue of Esquire:

• “5 to 1: That a man wearing only the Chechen flag will get patted down before being allowed to enter the hockey arena.

• “8 to 1: That a figure skater is sticking her finger down her throat right now.

• “1,000 to 1: That one of the freestyle snowboarders lights a joint with the Olympic torch.”

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Not that we need another Bob Knight book, but the soon-to-be-released “Bob Knight: The Unauthorized Biography” contains an amusing pep talk “The General” gave his Indiana team before a tournament in Hawaii in 1975.

“If you want to enjoy Hawaii,” Knight told his players, “one day you come back again and bring your ungrateful kids and your overweight wife and you bring them all back here. It’ll still be here. We’re not here for that.”

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Answer to trivia question: In 1980, Bill Parcells was Ron Erhardt’s linebackers coach in New England. Three years later, Erhardt was Parcells’ offensive coordinator with the Giants. (It was Parcells’ predecessor in New York, Ray Perkins, who actually hired Erhardt, though. Tuna merely retained him.)

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In the college ranks, meanwhile, Jerry Glanville is the defensive coordinator at Hawaii under June Jones — a dozen years after Jones was on his Falcons staff as offensive coordinator.

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And finally …

Thanks to a recent court ruling, Caps phenom Alex Ovechkin won’t have to return to Russia (and his old team, Moscow Dynamo). It wasn’t a total slam dunk for the Big O, though. As the judge reminded him, he’ll still be required to go to Buffalo a couple of times a season.

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