- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 7, 2007

Why was anyone surprised that San Francisco beat Denver in the last week of the NFL season? I mean, only the day before, Saddam Hussein said from the gallows, “Down with the traitors, the Americans, the spies, the Persians and the Broncos.”

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An unconfirmed report also had Saddam advising his executioners to “take Boise State and the points.”

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Not to worry, Steelers Nation. Bill Cowher may have decided to move on, but owner Dan Rooney has vowed to hire the Best Jaw Available.

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In fact, he’s probably interviewing Rutgers’ Greg Schiano as I type.

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Number of the Week: 161. That’s how many games Cowher, who’s still only 49, won in his 15 years at the Pittsburgh helm (149 regular season, 12 postseason). Trivia question: What Hall of Fame coach holds the record for most victories before the age of 50? (Answer below.)

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The NFL’s redesigned zebra outfits got mixed reviews this season, but they did accomplish one objective: Officials are no longer mistaken for Foot Locker employees.

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That’s right, never again will an inebriated fan ask Ed Hochuli for “a 10 wide.”

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If the Redskins are wondering where the takeaways went this season, the answer is obvious: Denver and San Francisco.

Champ Bailey, who was traded to the Broncos in 2004, tied for the AFC lead with 10 interceptions, and Walt Harris, who jumped to the 49ers in the off-season, tied for the NFC lead with eight.

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My 13-year-old came up with a great stat the other day. Harris, he discovered, had more interceptions and forced fumbles this year — a total of 12 (eight picks, four FFs) — than any other player in the league. And 12, of course, is the number of turnovers the Redskins forced as a team, the fewest in NFL history for a full season. (Walt was also credited with two fumble recoveries.)

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Next after Harris, with 11 INTs/forced fumbles, were the Patriots’ Asante Samuel (10/1), the Packers’ Charles Woodson (8/3) and the Dolphins’ Jason Taylor (2/9).

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Not to pile on, but: The Browns intercepted more passes in a Sept. 23, 2001, game against the Lions (7) than the Redskins did in the entire 2006 season (6).

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So I’m reading about Corey Dillon (11,241) passing O.J. Simpson (11,236) on the career rushing list, and I’m thinking: Since that 40 mph drive on the San Diego Freeway, who hasn’t passed O.J.?

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Elsewhere in pro football, Chiefs defensive end Jared Allen will serve 48 hours in jail after being charged with a second drunken driving offense. Two days in jail for two DUI charges! What they say about Allen, I guess, is true: You can’t stop him, you can only hope detain him.

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The first question I would have asked Nick Saban last Thursday is: “If a Crimson Tide player wanted to transfer, would you release him from his scholarship so he wouldn’t have to sit out a year — or are only coaches allowed to renege on agreements?

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You know Notre Dame is hopelessly behind in a game when the network puts the team’s grade point average up on the screen.

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Nobody gets blown out more intelligently than the Irish do.

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As much as I enjoyed Boise State’s Fiesta Bowl-winning play, it was not, as many claimed, the ol’ Statue of Liberty. In the Statue of Liberty, the running back runs behind the quarterback and actually plucks the ball from his hand as he reaches back to throw. That’s not what happened in the Fiesta. Boise QB Jared Zared Zabransky faked a pass first, then executed a behind-the-back, waist-level handoff to Ian Johnson with his non-throwing hand. Totally different deal.

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In reality, it was just a fancier version of a play the Redskins ran several times with Jason Campbell and Ladell Betts — a pump fake, followed by a draw. (It gained good yardage for them, too.)

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Oh, to be a headline writer in Milwaukee when Rollie Fingers was found to be Wisconsin’s seventh biggest tax delinquent.

Department of Revenue Points Finger at Rollie

Or: Fingers Handed Seven-Digit Tax Bill

Or: 1981 ERA: 1.04; 2007 Tax Tab: $1.4 M

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The state is aggressively seeking repayment, I’m told. Not only has it put a lien on Fingers’ moustache wax, it has also impounded his bullpen cart.

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Maybe Rollie could have Ross Verba write a check for him.

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As you may have read, Verba, an offensive guard with the Detroit Lions, has been arrested on a felony warrant for writing bad checks in Las Vegas. You know, if anyone were going to be arrested on a bad checks warrant, you’d think it would be a defenseman for the Philadelphia Flyers.

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Glad to see the NBA ditch synthetic basketballs and go back to leather. Let’s face it, “I love this game!” is a much catchier slogan than “More turnovers, but less dead animal skin.”

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Answer to trivia question: Packers legend Curly Lambeau, who won 207 games before his 50th birthday (22 more than Don Shula).

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And finally …

Interesting that nobody called former Indiana player Neil Reed after Bob Knight notched his record-breaking 880th victory. They probably figured he’d be too choked up to talk.

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