- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Scribblings, asides and assorted observations from the NFL’s first playoff weekend:

• Watching the Giants-Eagles bout Sunday night, all I could think was: Out with the Old Tiki, in with the New Tiki. While Tiki Barber, in perhaps his final NFL game, was rushing for 137 yards for New York, Brian Westbrook — the closest thing to a twin this side of Ronde — was gaining 141 for Philadelphia and helping his team advance, 23-20.

Westbrook might be a little shorter and stockier than Barber, but their running and receiving abilities are eerily similar. Consider: Going into this season, Westbrook had gained 3,972 yards from scrimmage in his first four years. Barber’s total in his first four years: 3,916.

It wasn’t until later in his career that the Giants increased Tiki’s workload and he began putting up big numbers. The Eagles might not do that with Brian, though, because Andy Reid seems more inclined to spread the ball around (and because No. 36 has had his share of injuries). But any fan concerned about Tiki Withdrawal can always shift his attentions to Westbrook in the coming seasons. Plenty of life left in those legs.

• Speaking of Reid, a lot of people were down on him after his club collapsed a year ago, but the Eagles were back on top in the NFC East this season despite losing Jevon Kearse early and Donovan McNabb in Week 11. Another reason to appreciate him: Every time he has taken Philly to the playoffs — six in all — he has won at least one game. The only other current coach who has done that is the Patriots’ Bill Belichick.

• Mike “The Genius” Shanahan, meanwhile, has won just one playoff game in the last eight years.

• Two things about the Chiefs’ miserable performance against the Colts:

1. As inept as their offense was, they still gained 6 more yards (126) than the Redskins did last year in their playoff victory over the Bucs.

2. Had Al Saunders been calling the plays, they would have had 126 yards before they got off the bus.

• Can we declare the Tony Romo Love Affair officially over? I mean, after sabotaging the field goal attempt that should have beaten the Seahawks, he’s more deserving of a date with an undertaker than an Underwood.

The moral of the Romo story is this: Quarterbacking isn’t nearly as easy as he made it look in his first five starts. There are going to be highs and lows for every QB — it’s part of the process — and now Tony has sampled both sides of it. I’m still convinced he has a bright future, but it would be nice if the Cowboys relieved him of the holding duties. He has enough to worry about with Bill Parcells in one ear and Terrell Owens in the other.

• News item: Falcons tap Louisville coach Bobby Petrino to replace Jim Mora Jr.

Comment: Petrino’s offenses at Louisville short-circuited scoreboards, but his Jacksonville Jaguars offense in 2001 — the one season he served as coordinator — was nothing special. The Jags were held to 21 points or less in 12 of their 16 games. Yes, Fred Taylor got hurt that year, but they still had a terrific receiving duo in Jimmy Smith and Keenan McCardell.

They also had Mark Brunell. In fact, Petrino has coached both Brunell and Jason Campbell (the latter during a brief stop at Auburn in 2002). If you already knew that — I didn’t until I looked it up — you’d probably make a great contestant on “Stump the Schwab.”

Maybe Petrino will be able to figure out what to do with Michael Vick, the Allen Iverson of the NFL. I wouldn’t count on it, though. Vick is a riddle wrapped in a bandana inside an enigma — or something like that. Given the experience of other college coaches who have taken a shot at the pros, Petrino is more likely to be the Next Steve Spurrier than the Next Jimmy Johnson.

• Incidentally, Petrino is a graduate of Carroll College in Waukesha, Wis. (not to be confused with John Carroll University outside Cleveland, Don Shula’s alma mater). Amazingly, he isn’t the first pro football coach the school has produced. Wally Lemm (Class of 1942) led the Houston Oilers to the AFL championship in 1961 and later turned out some good teams with the St. Louis Cardinals.

What’s with the NFL hiring all these coaches from obscure colleges, anyway? There are now three from Eastern Illinois (Shanahan, the Saints’ Sean Payton and the Vikings’ Brad Childress), two from Wesleyan University in Connecticut (Belichick and the Jets’ Eric Mangini) and one from Baker University in Kansas (the Packers’ Mike McCarthy).

It just dawned on me: The naming rights to the Cardinals’ new stadium were bought by the University of Phoenix, an Internet degree mill. It’s only a matter of time, I suppose, before we get an NFL coach from there.

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