Sports Outside the Beltway

Doug Flutie for Hall of Fame?

A handful of sportswriters and talk show hosts have floated the idea of recently retired quarterback Doug Flutie for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. There’s no doubt the Heisman winner deserves to be in the college hall–and he is–but did he really have a HOF pro career? Mark Kreidler thinks so.

Flutie had one startling, statistics-grabbing, championship-winning, scramble-matic career in pro football. He just didn’t do the best of it in the NFL.


When Flutie’s retirement was announced Monday, the Hall of Fame question came up pretty quick. It’s a fair thing to ask, in the sense that Flutie passed for more than 58,000 yards in his career and wound up with 369 touchdown throws. He also was named the top player in his league six times, and he played on three championship teams.

Alas, the league was the Canadian Football League. And even if I could construct an argument that Flutie dominated the CFL at a time when it was in one of its more impressive periods in terms of overall talent, what does that matter to you, drinker of (insert liquid here), official beverage of the National Football League?

More to the point, what does that mean in Canton-ese?

Only Warren Moon has made the Hall of Fame with a significant CFL blot on his résumé, and you get the feeling the voters this year sort of agreed not to hold that against him rather than actually considering it in his favor. In Flutie’s case, though, the opposite effect is in play: Doug’s best years undoubtedly came in Canada, and he was truly, almost transcendently, excellent during those years. What’s that worth?


One of the counterarguments you get in a conversation like this is the dreaded draw-the-line theory, as in, “If they let Flutie in for being a good CFL quarterback, where does the madness stop? Is Mark Grieb next, with his shimmering Arena Football League numbers?” It’s low-grade mumbling, of course, since there isn’t another case remotely similar to Flutie’s (unless you know of a sizzling hot NFL Europe player I’ve somehow been missing in my weekly updates). Beyond that, it’s a given that all leagues are not created equal, that there is no sister to the NFL anywhere, and that, generally speaking, the best football players on Earth are toiling in the Tagliabue Division. I’m guessing the Canton voters know that.


All told, he had a great ride. He did win titles. He was the MVP (or the Most Outstanding Player, as the CFL dubs it). He was, for years, The Man in his league, the best at what he did. He had legions of fans. He had avid followers. He confounded coaches, stirred up teammates, had an ego, threw touchdowns, made money — the whole deal. He lived a bunch of professional lifetimes in a single career.

While I think Flutie deserves serious consideration, he falls short (no pun intended) in my book. Warren Moon was, to me, a no-brainer. He had an excellent NFL career plus five CFL championships. Yes, I think the CFL should count as “bonus points” if you will. But it’s simply not a comparable league. (By the way, there is a Canadian Football Hall of Fame. Flutie deserves to be in it. He almost certainly will be on the first ballot once he’s eligible.)

Flutie was, at best, an average NFL quarterback. That’s the highest level of the pro game. Just as we don’t give the Heisman for dominance in Division III or consider Eddie Robinson on the same level at Bear Bryant, Joe Paterno, and Bobby Bowdon–or Pat Summit with Dean Smith–we shouldn’t consider dominance of a minor league as the major component for Hall enshrinement.

Would we put a real life Crash Davis into Cooperstown? I don’t think so.


Saints Set Season Ticket Sales Record

The New Orleans Saints have set a new franchise season ticket sales record–despite a population half what it was before Hurricane Katrina.

The New Orleans Saints have set a franchise record for season-ticket sales, four months before making their post-Hurricane Katrina return to the Superdome. The Saints, who spent last season in San Antonio after Katrina flooded the city and severely damaged the Superdome, have sold 54,969 season tickets, surpassing the previous record of 53,728 set in August 2003.

Owner Tom Benson said Wednesday that the Saints received “a spike” in ticket sales after drafting Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush last month, but they were already on a record pace. “I want to thank the devoted and loyal fans who have shown tremendous support for the New Orleans Saints,” Benson said. “This is a great day for the Saints and the city of New Orleans and the state of Louisiana. To sell a record number of tickets four months before our first game is unbelievable.”

The population of New Orleans remains less than half of what it was before the storm hit Aug. 29. “It’s truly inspirational to see these fans rally around the team and the city,” Benson said. “We knew the fans were there, but we didn’t know whether they would be able to be involved with buying tickets or not. “People talk about there only being 100,000 or so back, but a lot of them are just 30 miles or so up the road and they’re back buying tickets.”

The only bad news is that sales of all-important luxury suites are down.

Despite the increase in season ticket sales, executive vice president of administration Rita Benson LeBlanc said the team has sold 81 of the 137 suites in the Superdome, and Tom Benson said the sale of corporate sponsorships has been disappointing but improving. NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue has made several visits to the region since the Saints returned in January. On Feb. 14, Tagliabue and Benson met with a group of 27 area business leaders who pledged to help sell tickets, suites and sponsorships. “The commissioner and I have been very disappointed with the reaction of the business community,” Benson said. “But their support is coming. A lot of businesses are having problems and it’s been very difficult for them to make commitments. We’re looking forward to them doing their part.”

Still, excellent news overall.

This is especially heartening considering that a few months ago there was serious talk of the Saints not returning to town.




Former NFL TE Dan Ross Dead at 49

From AP

HAVERHILL, Mass. – Dan Ross, who set the record for most Super Bowl receptions with the Bengals in 1982, has died. He was 49.

The former tight end collapsed at his home in Atkinson, N.H., shortly after returning from a jog Tuesday evening, Northeastern’s sports information department said. He was taken to Merrimack Valley Hospital in Haverhill, where he died.

Ross, who starred for the Huskies and was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2004, was drafted 30th overall by Cincinnati in 1979 and spent parts of six seasons with the Bengals. His best season came in 1981, when he set career highs with 71 catches for 910 yards and five touchdowns while helping the Bengals to their first AFC championship.

Ross made a Super Bowl-record 11 catches for 104 yards and two touchdowns in the Bengals’ 26-21 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in 1982. Jerry Rice and Deion Branch have since tied the mark.

Ross had a total of 263 receptions for 3,204 yards and 16 TDs with the Bengals. He also played for the Seattle Seahawks and finished his career in 1986 with the Green Bay Packers. Ross played in the USFL for the New Orleans/Portland Breakers from 1984-85.


Ross is survived by his wife, Joan, and two children Dan Jr., 22, and Jillian, 23.

I attended that Super Bowl game(the only one I’ve seen in person) along with my father. My father did the payroll for Harness racing driver Ted Taylor. Ted was the brother-in-law of Paul Brown, the former owner of the Bengals. So I remember Ross and the game very well. RIP


Reggie Bush Wears #5 Jersey for Trading Card Photo

Reggie Bush wore a New Orleans Saints jersey with the number 5 on it for his football card photo, despite NFL rules specifying that running backs wear jerseys in the 20s, 30s, or 40s.

Reggie Bush Saints #5 Jersey Photo Reggie Bush just might return to the Coliseum this weekend for the NFL Rookie Premiere wearing the No. 5. Just hours an official with the NFL Players Association said that Bush, a running back, would be wearing No. 25 for the union’s trading photo shoot, Bush’s marketing agent Mike Ornstein told that the team is fine with Bush wearing No. 5, and his client will do so.

Reggie Bush’s efforts to get No. 5 will have to go to the desk of commissioner Paul Tagliabue. The NFL Competition Committee held a conference call last Friday and talked about changing the uniform numbering policy.

On Tuesday, Ornstein said he lobbied Saints officials, who have the final say on what number Bush will wear for the photo shoot, and apparently prevailed. Calls placed to the Saints were not immediately returned.

Both No. 5 and No. 25 jerseys will be on hand at the event, according to Pam Adolph, vice president of apparel operations for Players Inc., the union’s marketing arm. For years, Players Inc. has been putting on the event so that card companies can release cards with players in their jerseys before the season starts. Almost all the players have their numbers set by the time of the shoot, though it’s not unprecedented that a player has worn a different number jersey at the shoot than he did once the season started. In 2004, Cleveland Browns tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. wore No. 11, but at the end of the preseason, Winslow convinced Aaron Shea to allow him to wear No. 80. “Guys have been shot in one number and wound up playing in another,” Adolph said. “If the Saints are OK with it and Reggie is OK with it, we don’t see it as a big deal.”

Bush wore No. 5 in high school and at the University of Southern California, but under current NFL rules, running backs are only allowed to wear numbers 20 through 49. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told on Monday that the owners will not be voting specifically on a Bush exemption. In order for Bush to be granted No. 5, the numbering rules themselves would have to be changed.

Ornstein originally said that Bush would donate 25 percent of all the royalties he received from jersey sales toward Hurricane Katrina charities if the league granted him the right to wear No. 5. But Ornstein said that Bush has now agreed to make the donation no matter what number he wears.

Saints running back Fred McAfee currently wears the No. 25, so it’s not exactly clear whether that number will definitely be worn by Bush.

“Truthfully, with Reggie Bush, it’s not going to matter what number he wears,” Josh Goodstadt, an executive with Players Inc., which oversees the production of more than 32 million packs of NFL player trading cards each year. “He’s already so hot in the trading card world and the input we’ve gathered from our licensees is that the number he wears, in the long run, won’t help or hurt the sales of his cards.”

Quite right. And, frankly, I’ve known about this rule since literally before Reggie Bush was born. I don’t understand why athletes with NFL aspirations don’t just pick jersey numbers that conform to those rules when they’re coming up. It’s not like superstar athletes are going to be denied a number–especially when they have 29 to chose from.


Shanahan Tired of Lelie’s Holdout

Ashley Lelie’s contract holdout is winning him no fans on the Broncos coaching staff.

Ashley Lelie’s absence is starting to chafe Denver Broncos coach Mike Shanahan. As promised, Lelie was a no-show Tuesday when the Broncos gathered for onfield work for the first time since losing the AFC title game to Pittsburgh in January. “I can’t worry about the guys that aren’t here — or the guy that’s not here,” Shanahan said after his nine-day quarterbacks camp opened without the recalcitrant former first-round draft pick. “The only thing I’m concerned about are the people that are here. “I know it’s hard to be the No. 1 wide receiver when you’re not competing.”

One player Shanahan was surprised to see in attendance was tackle/tight end Dwayne Carswell, who was critically injured in a car crash last October. “Dwayne is a lot farther ahead than I thought he would be,” Shanahan said. “He’s out there ready to practice already. I did not think that would be possible after watching him over the last couple of months. He is an overachiever, he works extremely hard. He has a big passion for the game.”

Lelie insists he does, too. He wants to be a featured pass-catcher in somebody’s offense and is convinced he’ll never get that opportunity in Denver, where Rod Smith is entrenched and former Pro Bowl receiver Javon Walker, acquired in a draft-day trade with Green Bay, is expected to start on the other side. Lelie wasn’t pleased with the Broncos’ interest in Terrell Owens and declined to attend the club’s offseason conditioning program, forgoing a $100,000 contract incentive to work out instead in Tempe, Ariz. — with Walker, oddly enough.

When you’ve got a man coming back early from a serious car crash to practice, it makes crybaby contract holdouts seem even more petty. The bottom line is Lelie is under contract with the Broncos. That they’re looking elsewhere for a number one wideout is more an indication of his ability–or work ethic–than anything else. He should cowboy up and play better if he thinks he’s the #1 guy.


Seahawks Sign Holmgren to Two-Year Extension

The Walrus will continue to walk the sidelines in Seattle for a little while longer.

The Seahawks re-signed their most important 2007 free agent Tuesday afternoon when they reached a two-year contract extension for coach Mike Holmgren, whose contract was set to expire after this season.

Holmgren’s agent, Bob LaMonte, finalized the contract extension one week after flying to Seattle last Tuesday to meet with Seahawks officials. Terms of the contract weren’t available, but Holmgren was negotiating from a position of strength. With a $7 million salary in 2006, Holmgren was negotiating as the highest paid coach in the league.

In 1999, Holmgren signed a record-breaking eight-year, $35 million deal as the coach-general manager of the franchise. He’s been to four playoffs during his first seven years and had his first trip to the Super Bowl as the Seahawks coach this past season. The Super Bowl loss to Pittsburgh was hard on him, and it initially gave him second thoughts about wanting to sign an extension. At the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, Holmgren still wasn’t sure about re-signing.

Frankly, Holmgren is overrated as a coach. He won one Super Bowl with Brett Favre and Reggie White on his team and lost another. He’s now lost another with Matt Hasselbeck and Shaun Alexander. For a coach with so much talent on his rosters, his record is mediocre.


Paterno and Bowden Headline 2006 Hall of Fame Class

Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden have been elected to the College Football Hall of Fame.

Since Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden failed to meet the qualifications for induction into the college football Hall of Fame, the folks who run the hall simply changed the rules. Instead of requiring a coach be retired, the National Football Foundation decided to make any active coach over 75 eligible for induction. With the red tape cut, the winningest coaches in Division I-A were elected Tuesday and can now be called Hall of Famers.

“I wasn’t expecting it because I thought you had to die first — and I didn’t want to volunteer for that,” Bowden said during a conference call. “They might have changed the rules to get me and Joe in. But I’m very excited about it.”

Paterno, who will turn 80 in December, has won 354 games and two national championships in 40 seasons as Penn State’s head coach. No one has ever coached longer and won more games at one Division I-A school. The 76-year-old Bowden leads major college football with 359 victories, 286 — and two national titles — since taking over at Florida State in 1976.

Certainly, these guys deserve it.

The two coaches will be joined by a slew of players:

    • Bob Anderson — RB, Colorado, 1967-69
    • Bennie Blades — DB, Miami (Fla.), 1985-87
    • Carl Eller — T, Minnesota, 1961-63
    • Steve Emtman — DL, Washington, 1989-91
    • Thomas Everett — FS, Baylor, 1983-86
    • Chad Hennings — DT, Air Force, 1984-87
    • Chip Kell — OG, Tennessee, 1968-70
    • Mike Phipps — QB, Purdue, 1967-69
    • Mike Rozier — RB, Nebraska, 1981-83
    • Jeff Siemon — LB, Stanford, 1968-71
    • Bruce Smith — DT, Virginia Tech, 1981-84
    • Emmitt Smith — RB, Florida, 1987-89
    • Charlie Ward — QB, Florida State, 1989, 1991-93


Giving New Meaning to the Term ‘Golf Hazard’


MOUNT MERAPI, Indonesia – The caddies have fled. A pair of cleaning women squat beneath the shade of a tree close to the 18th hole. The club’s manager sits and smokes, knowing he is in for a quiet couple of weeks.

When dormant, the volcano that gives Golf Merapi club its name is its biggest draw. Golfers from around the world come for the experience of playing on the flanks of a still active volcano, the crater of which is just 5 miles from the course.

But when the mountain is erupting, it stops play like nothing else.

That has to be some kind of understatement.

Golf Volcano Mt. Merapi “I tell people, it is probably safer to stay at home,” said Sukirman, the manager who like many Indonesians goes by a single name.

As Sukirman spoke the peak belched massive clouds of ash and sent searing hot gas clouds rolling down its slopes Monday. The club is situated just outside the peak’s mandatory evacuation zone, and it is not the only business suffering because of Merapi’s wrath, which scientists say could last several weeks.


The peak sputtered to life several weeks ago and activity has steadily increased.


Sukirman said the caddies that ply the 6,969-yard, par-72 course ran home when a particularly large eruption shook the mountain Monday. The club closed its gates, and most of its 250 staff were told not to come to work.

“This is the risk of putting a club here,” Sukirman said.

That would certainly apply to homes, businesses etc. Man has a long history of building near volcanos. Do I need remind anyone of Pompeii?

This golf course’s hazard reminds me of an old episode of MASH where Col. Blake is playing golf near the camp. Hawkeye decribes the hole as “Out of bounds left, North Korean snipers. Out of Bounds right, land mines.” Or something like that.

And you wonder why some people think golfers are crazy.


Marcus Vick Signs with Dolphins as Slash

The Dolphins gave Kyle Turley a brief tryout as a tight end before letting him go. Now, they’re giving Marcus Vick a chance to make the team as a specialty player.

The Miami Dolphins saw enough potential in Marcus Vick – both on- and off-the-field – to believe he deserves a chance as a free agent. Vick, the brother of Atlanta quarterback Michael Vick, signed with the Dolphins on Monday, agreeing to a free-agent deal after his many problems at Virginia Tech cost him a chance to be selected in the NFL draft.


Vick, who participated in a three-day minicamp with the Dolphins earlier this month, completed 177 of 289 passes for 2,393 yards with 17 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, leading Virginia Tech to an 11-2 record and berth in the Atlantic Coast Conference title game in 2005. But his career with the Hokies included many transgressions. He made an obscene gesture to fans during a game at West Virginia, and stomped on Louisville player Elvis Dumervil’s leg during the Gator Bowl. Vick was suspended by Virginia Tech for the 2004 season because of legal problems, then was eventually dismissed from the team after being stopped for speeding and driving with a revoked or suspended license.

The Dolphins are listing Vick as a “wide receiver-quarterback-specialist,” clearly indicating that he could be tried in a number of roles. During the recent minicamp, Vick spent at least one practice session at wide receiver, and probably isn’t being looked at as a serious quarterback candidate – not with newcomers Daunte Culpepper and Joey Harrington now at that position.

Vick is a very talented athlete but his constant troubles kept him from developing his potential as a quarterback. He’d likely be better off going to Canada or the Arena League to get some more experience rather than trying to make it as an NFL utility player.


Philip Rivers Era Begins in San Diego

Like it or not, the starting job is now Philip Rivers’.

Monday marked a milestone in Philip Rivers’ NFL career, even if it was just glorified touch football. Rivers was finally in charge after two years as a bench warmer, leading the San Diego Chargers through their first workout since he became the starting quarterback.

“I’ve been kind of eager for this day to get here just to get back out on the field knowing the last organized play I ran left a bad taste in my mouth,” Rivers said after the first of 14 “voluntary” offseason workouts, conducted in shorts, jerseys and helmets. “I thought it was a good first day for all of us. The tempo was good, the attitude was great and we threw the ball around pretty good,” Rivers said.

The last time Rivers was under center he was mopping up for Drew Brees, who was hurt in a loss to Denver in a meaningless season finale. Brees needed surgery for a dislocated throwing shoulder, became damaged goods in the eyes of the Chargers and was allowed to leave as a free agent, signing with the New Orleans Saints.

After making an NCAA-record 51 starts at North Carolina State, Rivers sat behind Brees the last two years. Rivers appeared in four games, with zero starts. Being No. 1 on the depth chart “feels a little different,” Rivers said. “These last two years, a part of me was missing a little bit because you had to take a little bit of a back seat, and rightly so, in certain areas.”

The Chargers screwed up big time by giving up on Drew Brees and drafting another QB so soon. They really had no choice, given the economics, to let Brees leave town this offseason and hand the job to Rivers. Time will tell whether that was a second mistake.


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