Sunday at the Post


“The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding, go out to meet it.” — Thucydides (Greek historian and author, 460-404 B.C.)

From the White House:

As Memorial Day approaches, it’s time to pause and consider the true meaning of this holiday. Memorial Day represents one day of national awareness and reverence, honoring those Americans who died while defending our nation and its values. While we should honor these heroes every day for the profound contributions they made to secure our nation's freedom, we should honor them especially on Memorial Day.

In this time of unprecedented success and prosperity throughout our land, I ask that all Americans come together to recognize how fortunate we are to live in freedom and to observe a universal “National Moment
of Remembrance” on each Memorial Day. This memorial observance represents a simple and unifying way to commemorate our history and honor the struggle to protect our freedoms.

Accordingly, I hereby direct all executive departments and agencies, in consultation with the White House Program for the National Moment of Remembrance, to promote a “National Moment of Remembrance” to occur at 3 p.m. (local time) on each Memorial Day.

Therefore at 3 tomorrow, please raise a glass and toast all of those who fought for our rights, for our honor and most of all for our freedom.


“I would hope you would support who we are, not who we are not. These six individuals have made a choice to work, a choice to sacrifice, to put themselves on the line 23 nights for the next four months, to represent you, this high school. That kind of commitment and effort deserves and demands your respect. This is your team.” — Coach Norman Dale, from the movie “Hoosiers,” in honor of Dennis Hopper, who died Saturday

Thank yous never appear in print as strongly as they come from the heart, and today there are many people I want to strongly thank.

Thank yous are in order to:

Andrew and Jack for their great partnership and shared vision. I have broken up the team, but we will always continue forward with teamwork.

Matt Bowen for the dedication and, of course, the first-class seat to Amsterdam when the Boss returns. You’re a true pro, on and off the field. Good luck with your book.

Joe “The Tipper” Fortenbaugh for your hard work, your passion and most of all your spirit, which served as the foundation for the site.

Wes Bunting for a great passion, a great eye and a great work ethic. And a great person.

Michael Martinez, who saw too many of my grammar and spelling mistakes way too early in the morning. Never complained, never missed a day and made the rhythm of the words work.

Ray Gustini, who worked hard to help us launch the site and now has found a new platform to spew his words. Fake Al Davis might end up with his own website.

To Bob Boland, who is one of the most talented people I’ve ever met and whom I look forward to spending time with in the near future working on many project together.

To Samantha, who kept the Post focused on the task at hand, always reminding us to keep the dream alive and doing all the little things to ensure the dream could run.

To Diana, who is filled with many great ideas and the work ethic to make them all come true.

To Chad C., who helped us in our early stages as we found our collective voice.

To Hollie, who made one appearance. We kept hoping for more.

To Dave and Scott, who helped with great ideas and writing to keep the Post moving forward. Both are talented writers, and I look forward to reading more.

To Josh for helping with our first fantasy guide. I wish you well.

To Lex, our first editor and friend. The book is going to happen!

To the boys at Fordham for reading the site every day and proudly wearing the T-shirts.

To Ms. Jenny. Her words on the death of Steve McNair were heartfelt and moving. May her Titans rise again this year!

To Ken, who started as a reader and now has become a great friend. I appreciate all your help.

To Michael “One Vick Comment a Month” D., who has been a fan, friend and voice of reason. Thanks for all your help.

To my two boys Mick and Matt, who are the pride of my life.

And the biggest and loudest thank you to my loving wife, who deserves all the credit, the pats on the back and the shout outs for being a great mother, great person and great wife. Love you.


“We on this continent should never forget that men first crossed the Atlantic not to find soil for their ploughs but to secure liberty for their souls.” — Robert J. McCracken

Congratulations to my youngest son Matthew, who got his first hole-in-one on Friday at Great Bay Country Club in Somers Point, N.J. I’m proud of his efforts and honored that he signed the free drinks to my tab at the club. But what makes me proudest is that both my sons enjoyed the accomplishment equally. Life without envy among family members is what makes families strong. Congratulations to Matt, and thanks to Mick.


“There are those, I know, who will say that the liberation of humanity, the freedom of man and mind, is nothing but a dream. They are right. It is the American dream.” — Archibald MacLeish

• “Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Yet it is the one essential, vital quality for those who seek to change a world that yields most painfully to change.” –– Ted Kennedy, in his eulogy to his brother, Robert

• “The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it's indifference.”— Elie Wiesel

• “If you don't have enemies, you don't have character.” — Paul Newman

• “Build me a son, O Lord, who will be strong enough to know when he is weak, and brave enough to face himself when he is afraid, one who will be proud and unbending in honest defeat, and humble and gentle in victory.” – Gen. Douglas MacArthur

I am cheating here – Lincoln’s letter to his son’s school teacher. I count it as one quote:

• He will have to learn, I know, that all men are not just, all men are not true. But teach him also that for every scoundrel there is a hero; that for every selfish Politician, there is a dedicated leader…Teach him for every enemy there is a friend,

• Steer him away from envy, if you can, teach him the secret of quiet laughter.

• Let him learn early that the bullies are the easiest to lick…Teach him, if you can, the wonder of books…But also give him quiet time to ponder the eternal mystery of birds in the sky, bees in the sun, and the flowers on a green hillside.

• In the school teach him it is far honourable to fail than to cheat…T
each him to have faith in his own ideas, even if everyone tells him they are wrong…Teach him to be gentle with gentle people, and tough with the tough.

• Try to give my son the strength not to follow the crowd when everyone is getting on the band wagon…Teach him to listen to all men…but teach him also to filter all he hears on a screen of truth, and take only the good that comes through.

• Teach him if you can, how to laugh when he is sad…Teach him there is no shame in tears, Teach him to scoff at cynics and to beware of too much sweetness…Teach him to sell his brawn and brain to the highest bidders but never to put a price-tag on his heart and soul.

• Teach him to close his ears to a howling mob and to stand and fight if he thinks he’s right. Treat him gently, but do not cuddle him, because only the test of fire makes fine steel.

• Let him have the courage to be impatient…let him have the patience to be brave. Teach him always to have sublime faith in himself, because then he will have sublime faith in mankind.

• This is a big order, but see what you can do… He is such a fine little fellow, my son!


“I have never been able to think of the day as one of mourning; I have never quite been able to feel that half-masted flags were appropriate on Decoration Day. I have rather felt that the flag should be at the peak, because those whose dying we commemorate rejoiced in seeing it where their valor placed it. We honor them in a joyous, thankful, triumphant commemoration of what they did.” — Benjamin Harrison

1. The Raiders’ grievance with JaMarcus Russell is one that many in the league who write contracts feel they have no chance of winning. They tried to get Russell to give money back before they cut him — on the grounds he was a bust. Russell was not good, but a guaranteed contract is a guaranteed contract, even in Raiders land.

2. LenDale White’s termination by the Seahawks was not a surprise. White has never been a hard worker, and he thought he had the job won in Seattle on reputation, never having to earn it. He’ll struggle to find work.

3. Cowboys wide receiver Patrick Crayton will have to wait until a team is willing to trade for him because the Cowboys keep saying they won’t waive him, that he’s too valuable right now. We shall see.

4. It sounds like Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is fully aware of his responsibility to the community and the team. This week will be vital to Big Ben as he restores and repairs his relationship with his teammates.

5. Expect the Redskins to hire a pro personnel director in the near future. They’ve talked to several NFL people, from former Saints GM Bill Kuharich to former Titans and Raiders personnel man Rich Snead and former Bronco Chris Trulove.


“And they who for their country die shall fill an honored grave, for glory lights the soldier's tomb, and beauty weeps the brave.” — Joseph Drake

Memorial Day means summer vacation, and summer vacation means using your free time wisely — and productively. Here is Leo Babauta’s advice on using free time. I’m going to follow it this summer.

(From Leo: My name is Leo Babauta, and I’m the creator and writer here at I’m married with six kids(!), I live on Guam (but moving to S.F. in June 2010), I’m a writer and a runner and a vegan. I like long walks on the beach (at least, the one time I tried it, except for the sandfleas) and read trashy novels (also some good ones). I also created (on minimalism) and Write To Done (for writers and bloggers). I’m the author of a new best-selling book, “The Power of Less: The Fine Art of Limiting Yourself to the Essential, in Business and in Life.”)

If you’ve got a big block of free time, the best way to put that to use is to relax, have fun, decompress from a stressful day or spend time with a loved one. But if you’ve just got a little chunk — say five or 10 minutes — there’s no time to do any of the fun stuff. Put those little chunks of time to their most productive use.
Everyone works differently, so the best use of your free time really depends on you, your working style and what’s on your to-do list. But it’s handy to have a list like this in order to quickly find a way to put that little spare time to work instantly, without any thought.

Use the following list as a way to spark ideas for what you can do in a short amount of time.

• Reading file. Clip magazine articles or print out good articles or reports for reading later, and keep them in a folder marked “Reading File.” Take this wherever you go, and any time you have a little chunk of time, you can knock off items in your Reading File. Keep a reading file on your computer (or in your bookmarks) for quick reading while at your desk (or on the road if you’ve got a laptop).

• Clear out inbox. Got a meeting in five minutes? Use it to get your physical or email inbox to empty. If you’ve got a lot in your inbox, you’ll have to work quickly, and you may not get everything done, but reducing your pile can be a big help. And having an empty inbox is a wonderful feeling.

• Phone calls. Keep a list of phone calls you need to make, with phone numbers, and carry it everywhere. Whether you’re at your desk or on the road, you can knock a few calls off your list in a short amount of time.

• Make money. This is my favorite productive use of free time. I have a list of articles I need to write, and when I get some spare minutes, I’ll knock off half an article real quick. If you get 5-10 chunks of free time a day, you can make a decent side income. Figure out how you can freelance your skills, and have work lined up that you can knock out quickly — break it up into little chunks, so those chunks can be done in short bursts.

• File. No one likes to do this. If you’re on top of your game, you’re filing stuff immediately so it doesn’t pile up. But if you’ve just come off a really busy spurt, you may have a bunch of documents or files laying around. Or maybe you have a big stack of stuff to file. Cut into that stack with every little bit of spare time you get, and soon you’ll be in filing Nirvana.

• Network. Only have two minutes? Shoot off a quick email to a colleague. Even just a “touching bases” or follow-up email can do wonders for your working relationship. Or shoot off a quick question, and put it on your follow-up list for later.

• Clear out feeds. If my email inbox is empty, and I have some spare time, I like to go to my Google Reader and clear out my feed inbox.

• Goal time. Take 10 minutes to think about your goals, personal and professional. If you don’t have a list of goals, start on one. If you’ve got a list of goals, review them. Write down a list of action steps you can take over the next couple of weeks to make these goals a reality. What action step can you do today? The more you focus on these goals, and review them, the more likely they will come true.

• Update fina
nces. Many people fall behind with their finances, either in paying bills (they don’t have time), or entering transactions in their financial software, or clearing their checkbook, or reviewing their budget. Take a few minutes to update these things. It just takes 10-15 minutes every now and then.

• Brainstorm ideas. Another favorite of mine if I just have five minutes — I’ll break out my pocket notebook, and start a brainstorming list for a project or article. Whatever you’ve got coming up in your work or personal life, it can benefit from a brainstorm. And that doesn’t take long.

• Clear off desk. Similar to the filing tip above, but this applies to whatever junk you’ve got cluttering up your desk. Or on the floor around your desk. Trash stuff, file stuff, put it in its place. A clear desk makes for a more productive you. And it’s oddly satisfying.

• Exercise. Never have time to exercise? Ten minutes is enough to get off some pushups and crunches. Do that 2-3 times a day and you’ve got a fit new you.

• Take a walk. This is another form of exercise that doesn’t take long, and you can do it anywhere — but even more important, it’s a good way to stretch your legs from sitting at your desk too long, and it gets your creative juices flowing. If you’re ever stuck for ideas, taking a walk is a good way to get unstuck.

• Follow up. Keep a follow-up list for everything you’re waiting on. Return calls, emails, memos — anything that someone owes you, put on the list. When you’ve got a spare 10 minutes, do some follow-up calls or emails.

• Meditate. You don’t need a yoga mat to do this. Just do it at your desk. Focus on your breathing. A quick 5-10 minutes of meditation (or even a nap) can be tremendously refreshing.

• Research. This is a daunting task for me. So I do it in little spurts. If I’ve only got a few minutes, I’ll do some quick research and take some notes. Do this a few times, and I’m done!

• Outline. Similar to brainstorming, but more formal. I like to do an outline of a complicated article, report or project, and it helps speed things along when I get to the actual writing. And it only takes a few minutes.

• Get prepped. Outlining is one way to prep for longer work, but there’s a lot of other ways you can prep for the next task on your list. You may not have time to actually start on the task right now, but when you come back from your meeting or lunch, you’ll be all prepped and ready to go.

• Be early. Got some spare time before a meeting? Show up for the meeting early. Sure, you might feel like a chump sitting there alone, but actually people respect those who show up early. It’s better than being late (unless you’re trying to play a power trip or something, but that’s not appreciated in many circles).

• Log. If you keep a log of anything, a few spare minutes is the perfect time to update the log. Actually, the perfect time to update the log is right after you do the activity (exercise, eat, crank a widget), but if you didn’t have time to do it before, your five-minute break is as good a time as any.


“The legacy of heroes is the memory of a great name and the inheritance of a great example.” — Benjamin Disraeli

1. “Little Big Things” by Tom Peters

2 “The Last Stand: Sitting Bull and the Battle of Little Big Horn” by Nathanial Philbrick

3. “The Other Wes Moore” by Wes Moore (a fellow alum of Valley Forge Military Academy)

4. “Drive” by Daniel H. Pink

5. “The War Lovers” by Evan Thomas


“Well tollin' for the searching ones on this speechless secret trail, For the lonesome haunted lovers with too personal a tale, And for each young heart for each channeled soul misplaced inside a jail, Yeah we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashin’.” — Bob Dylan

A Dying Father's Lessons on Life for His Teenaged Daughter

How (and Why) to Stop Multi-tasking


“It is a mistake to try to look too far ahead. The chain of destiny can only be grasped one link at a time.” — Winston Churchill

Diary Of A Last and Final Flight Home

February 17, 2007


I was at curbside at 24th and M, Washington D.C. 16 Degrees with a light breeze. Going home after my second week of freezing temps to my warm home in SoCal. Take a walk on the beach, ride a horse, climb a mountain and get back to living. I'm tired of the cold.


Paying the taxi fare at Dulles in front of the United Airlines counter, still cold.


Engaged the self-serve ticker machine and it delivers my ticket, baggage tag and boarding pass. Hmmm, that Marine over there is all dressed up in his dress blues a bit early this morning…”Good Morning, Captain, you're looking sharp.” He says, “Thank you, sir.”

Pass Security and to my gate for a decaf coffee and 5 hours sleep. A quick check of the flight status monitor and UA Flt 211 is on time. I'm up front, so how bad can that be? Hmmm, there's that same Marine. He must be heading to Pendleton to see his lady at LAX for the long weekend, all dressed up like that. Or maybe not. I dunno.

The speaker system announces, “Attention in the boarding area, we'll begin boarding in 10 minutes, we have some additional duties to attend to this morning, but we'll have you out of here on time.”

The Marine Captain has now been joined by five others. BINGO, I get it, he's not visiting his lady, he's an official escort. I remember doing that once, CACO duty. I still remember the names of the victim and family, the Bruno Family in Mojave — all of them, wows, that was 24 years ago.

On board, 0600

“Good morning, folks, this is the captain. This morning, we've been attending to some additional duties, and I apologize for being 10 minutes late for push back, but I believe we'll be early into LAX. This morning it is my sad pleasure to announce that 1st LT Jared Landaker, USMC, will be flying with us to his Big Bear home in Southern California. Jared lost his life over the skies of Iraq earlier this month, and today we have the honor of returning him home along with his mother, father and brother. Please join me in making the journey comfortable for the Landaker family and their uniformed escort. Now sit back and enjoy your ride. We're not expecting any turbulence until we reach the Rocky Mountain area, but we'll do what we can to ensure a smooth ride. For those interested, you can listen in to our progress on Channel 9.”

Click Channel 9: “Good morning UA 211. You are cleared to taxi, takeoff and cleared to LAX as filed.”

4 hours and 35 minutes later over Big Bear MT, the AB320 makes a left roll, a steep bank and then one to the right. Nice touch. Nice tribute. Five minutes out from landing, the Captain comes on the speaker: “Ladies and Gents, after landing I'm leaving the fasten seatbelt sign on, and I ask everyone to please yield to the Landaker family. Please remain seated until all members of the family have departed the aircraft. Thank you for your patience. We are 20 minutes early.”

On roll out, I notice red lights, eme
rgency vehicles approaching. We're being escorted directly to our gate, no waiting, not even a pause. Out the left window, a dozen Marines in full dress blues. A true class act by everyone, down to a person. Way to go United Airlines for doing things RIGHT, Air Traffic Control for getting the message, and to all security personnel for your display of brotherhood.

When the family departed the aircraft, everyone sat silent, then I heard a lady say,”God Bless you and your family, and thank you.” Then a somber round of applause. The Captain read a prepared note from Mrs. Landaker to the effect, “Thank you all for your patience and heartfelt concern for us and our son. We sincerely appreciate the sentiment. It's good to have Jared home.”

After departing the a/c I found myself along with 30 others from our flight looking out the lobby window back at the plane. Not a dry eye. It was one of the most emotional moments I've ever experienced. We all stood there silently, and watched as Jared was taken by his honor guard to an awaiting hearse. Then the motorcade slowly made its way off the ramp.

I realized I had finally seen the silent majority. It is deep within us all. Black, Brown, White, Yellow, Red, Purple, we're all children, parents, brothers, sisters, etc. — we are an American family.

Official Report: February 7, 2007, Anbar Province, Iraq. 1st LT Jared Landaker, United States Marine Corps, from Big Bear, California, gave his live in service to his country. Fatally wounded when his CH-46 helicopter was shot down by enemy fire. Jared and his crew all perished. His life was the ultimate sacrifice of a grateful military family and nation.

His death occurred at the same time as Anna Nicole Smith, a drug-using person with a 7th grade education of no pedigree who dominated our news for two weeks while Jared became a number on CNN. And most unfortunately, Jared's death underscores a fact that we are a military at war, not a nation at war. It has been said that Marines are at war. America is at the mall.

1st LT Landaker, a man I came to know in the sky's over America on 17 February 2007, from me to you, aviator to aviator, I am unbelievably humbled. It was my high honor to share your last flight. God bless you.

Semper Fi.

And one final thank you for reading my work. It has been an honor.

Diner morning news: A difficult goodbye

QUOTE: “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” — Carol Sobieski and Thomas Meehan, “Annie”

A tearful goodbye

It’s with great sadness that this Sunday will be my last column here at the National Football Post, as I’m leaving to continue my TV career with NFL Network and writing for This was an extremely hard career decision for me, as the Post is — and always will be — my baby. But to continue to work for NFL Network, I had to make a difficult choice. And a very difficult choice it was.

At the Post, I leave behind some incredible partners, dedicated to serving our audience and making a difference in covering the NFL. This will not change as I step away because the foundation of the Post will always remain the same: a unique analysis and perspective of the news in the NFL. I learned long ago that we are all replaceable, and certainly the Post will continue to grow at record pace — without me.

The NFP has provided me an opportunity to express my views, share my thoughts, meet wonderful people, read disconcerting comments, be called an idiot on a daily basis, be corrected on my spelling and grammar mistakes, meet fans like Yahoo Dave, Mr. Murder, Patrick and many more who love their teams, and come in contact with some whose emails I just delete before reading. I’ve loved being able to be in contact with so many. Yet all of you have made me laugh, pissed me off, made me think and made me want to write again. Most of all, you have helped me improve as a writer, a football man and a human being. Thank you all very much.

Look for Sunday at the Post…

Follow me on Twitter: michaelombardi

Diner morning news: Can 49ers reach playoffs?

QUOTE: “I am confirmed in my division of human energies. Ambitious people climb, but faithful people build.” — Julia Ward Howe

Is this the 49ers year?

Wednesday, on NFL Network’s “Total Access,” we had Mike Singletary on the show to discuss his team and the outlook for the 2010 season. The 49ers finished strong last year, winning their final two games against the Lions and Rams to get to the .500 mark. As a result, many experts suspect this year will be their breakout year — the year they finally become the kind of team Singletary wants and the year they return to the playoffs.

Singletary wanted the 49ers to be a physical team that could run the ball well to control the game. His vision is for them to be the type of physical team that can control the line of scrimmage with the running game and blend in the play action pass for the big play. But last year, the 49ers could not run the ball on first down — or any down for that matter — and once they got behind in the down-and-distance count, they struggled to be productive on offense. The Niners struggled to overcome any negative plays during a drive — they ranked second in the NFL in allowing sacks on first down, surrendering 18, and led the league in three-and-outs. So when an opposing defense was able to get the 49ers in second or long, or any third and long, a punt was the next play. Third down — especially third and long — was the 49ers’ offensive nemesis: They were below 30 percent converting all third downs but 17 percent on third and 10 or more, ranking slightly ahead of the Bills for 31st in the NFL. Ouch. Before you think the 49ers can win the West, you better hope they can become more effective making plays in the passing game.

The disconnect for me when talking about the 49ers centers on the philosophy. Can you really be a great running team in the NFL and make a deep run in the playoffs? Yes, I know the Jets did it last year, but they were helped down the stretch (remember Indy lying down?), and even the Jets know they must throw the ball effectively to improve. The Chargers and 49ers were the two worst running teams on first down in the league, but because the Chargers could throw the ball — down the field — they finished fourth in points scored.

Even if Singletary is able to get the 49ers to become a better running team, will this make them a playoff team? The 49ers must become a better passing team, they must be able to handle the blitz better and they must make plays down the field if they’re going to make a playoff appearance. For all the talk about the 49ers becoming more of a Mike Singletary type of team this year, they might want to spend more time working on a third down package, on their passing game and on their ability to overcome negative plays.

The 49ers are tough, they are physical, they are a Mike Singletary type of team — but Mike must modify his philosophy to fit into today’s game and pass the torch to his quarterback. I have been very critical of 49ers quarterback Alex Smith, but with a better team around him and another year in the same system, this can be his year — at least a make-or-break year. By the end of next season, the 49ers will know if they have their franchise quarterback or if they regret not making the move for former Eagle Donovan McNabb.

If the 49ers make the playoffs, it will be because they have become Alex Smith’s team — not Singletary’s team. Smith must make the difference. He must make the key plays, and he must be the stimulus in the offense. Had they traded for McNabb, they would be a viable Super Bowl contender, but without him, they are hoping to be a viable playoff team — and that viability lies with Smith.

Follow me on Twitter: michaelombardi

Diner morning news: Is Fisher a voice of reason?

QUOTE: “Apathy can be overcome by enthusiasm, and enthusiasm can only be aroused by two things: first, an ideal, with takes the imagination by storm, and second, a definite intelligible plan for carrying that ideal into practice.” – Arnold J. Toynbee

Jeff Fisher and Chris Johnson

Titans head coach Jeff Fisher wants to sit down with star running back Chris Johnson in an effort to bring Johnson into camp. Little known to many people, Johnson’s agent, Joel Segal, was in Nashville last week discussing multiple proposals with general manager Mike Reinfeldt in an effort to reward Johnson for out-playing his rookie contract. Segal knows he’s fighting an uphill battle, but he has Johnson’s two-year production on his side. Segal is attempting to be proactive in his effort to get the team to reward Johnson, and the Titans want players to honor their contracts — at least for the first three years. Both sides have strong positions, and working behind the scenes is best for both.

Since Johnson and his agent have met with the Titans, what will a meeting between Fisher and Johnson produce? It will open the lines of communication between them, and since Fisher has been involved with the organization since 1994, he knows how owner Bud Adams will behave in these kinds of situations. Fisher doesn’t do contracts in Tennessee, but he can be the voice of reason with Johnson. So the more the two sides talk, the better the chances of finding a resolution to their differences.

New York/New Jersey

The Sopranos and the New York family shared the Esplanade project based in Newark, N.J., and now in real life the NFL has a Super Bowl in the Meadowlands shared by New York and New Jersey. How come NY/NJ always shares, whether it’s on TV or in real life? Tuesday, NFL owners voted to give the New York/New Jersey area the Super Bowl in 2014 for our first very outdoor cold-weather Super Bowl.

February is not a warm month, and despite all these predictions about the average temperatures in February in the Garden State hovering around 40 degrees, the game will be cold for the players and cold for the fans. Will it be a good Super Bowl? Who can ever really say, but NY/NJ is a great setting for this event. It will be a fun week, but it will also be a security nightmare — especially for anyone who has to enter New York every day for work.

I know it will be cold, and both teams will have to be ready to handle the elements — wind being the primary concern. In the old Meadowlands, wind was a problem. Giants QB Eli Manning actually has a higher quarterback rating on the road than at home and a higher percentage of pass completions, albeit a very small difference, largely because of the wind. Before this game is played in 2014, we’ll know the wind factor in the new stadium, which will help the teams that get to play in the game handle the elements. Cold is not a big problem for the players — but wind does affect the game. So instead of discussing the average temp in February, we need to determine how the wind might alter the game.

My only other suggestion would be to make sure Bruce Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi and all NY/NJ acts handle the pregame and halftime entertainment and that the crew from “The Sopranos” welcomes the fans to the Garden State.

Follow me on Twitter: michaelombardi

DMN: Will the real Kyle Orton please stand up?

QUOTE: “The progress of the intellect is to the clearer vision of causes, which neglects surface differences. To the poet, to the philosopher, to the saint, all things are friendly and sacred, all events profitable, all days holy, all men divine.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Denver trading Kyle Orton?

I’ve spent as much time in Denver the past few months as I’ve spent at my home on the Jersey Shore. With each visit, I’ve been able to watch practice, talk football with the coaches and discuss their players, their schemes and the changes they have planned for the coming season. The common theme — and perhaps the only theme — in Denver has always been, “We’re trying to build a competitive team that will be tough in tough times.” They’ve always been firmly behind quarterback Kyle Orton but have been very careful to make sure no one has a free pass on being competitive and earning the job.

The trade talk surrounding Orton before the draft was not real — nor would have been realistic. Think about it. The Broncos had no idea they would be able to draft Florida quarterback Tim Tebow in March or April, so how could they trade Orton without a viable proven solution on the roster? I realize Brady Quinn was on the roster, but very few believed he was a proven solution. (By the way, I love discussing, or even just mentioning, the former Browns quarterback because I always receive a rude, and I mean extremely rude, email from one of his supporters. I get such pleasure in deleting his email — before reading — so keep sending.) So why would the Broncos even consider trading Orton this spring? It just doesn’t make sense.

However, what does make sense is to keep the competitive pressure on Orton, make him fight for his job and let his true colors come to the fore. Players often tell you who they really are in terms of competitiveness, yet executives or coaches never want to believe them. We see this more often in the NBA, when some great players disappear at crunch time (insert Vince Carter here), but coaches keep believing they’ll find the magic and break out of their supposed slump. In reality, there is no slump that is just the player. In scouting, you must learn the difference between a player who works hard and a player who competes. Some can work hard in their preparation during the week, but when the lights go on, they disappear. Others won’t work very hard in their preparation, but on Sunday, they compete like no other — they’ll do whatever it takes to win. Some might have both qualities, but the key in scouting is to make sure you can clearly differentiate.

Who is the real Kyle Orton? Is he able to handle the competitive challenges he faces, or is he going to back down? If he can handle the challenge, the Broncos can believe in him — if he can’t, the Broncos must believe still in him, but at least they’ll have options. Orton must prove to his coaches, his teammates and most of all himself that he wasn’t satisfied with his play last season. He must re-establish himself with a competitive nature that won’t be satisfied until he has led the team deep into the playoffs. He must show that he can work hard and be competitive on game day. Many might view Orton as an overachiever, but in reality, the reason he has never reached the level of contract he greatly desires is more because he’s an underachiever. At times, he falls short in the competitive arena — but now he has the pressure on his back to make sure he keeps competing. By all their moves this offseason, the Broncos are in position to see who’s “the real” Kyle Orton.

I’m giddy

To borrow a phrase from the Sports Guy, Bill Simmons, I’m giddy. Giddy because my beloved 76ers have hired the right man to coach the team. If you’re a young coach, or want to be a coach, you must watch the Doug Collins press conference as he breaks down the team and talks about the coaching profession. He was humble, prepared, knowledgeable and ready to achieve.

Collins has learned from his past mistakes, and he has used the time off preparing for his next job — not complaining about lost opportunities. It was so refreshing to hear him talk, and whether you’re a 76ers fan or not, a basketball fan or not, you should listen to Collins as he talks about being a coach.

I am giddy squared.

Follow me on Twitter: michaelombardi

Sunday at the Post


“My daughter, Lauren Hammond, age 21, has been involved with Best Buddies for about eight years. She has Asperger's Syndrome. As parents of this special girl, we are most grateful to all of the young men and women who are buddies to people like our daughter. You may never know the true value of the time that you have so generously given to these kids…but we know. The lives of all involved in this program are enriched, including ours.” — Lori Hammond

On June 5, celebrities, athletes, individuals with intellectual disabilities and people just like you will take the challenge and come together on bike and on foot to make a difference and change lives. It's much more than a ride, a run or a walk. With VIP treatment along the way and a private concert by KC and the Sunshine Band, lobster bake and party at the finish, the Audi Best Buddies Challenge is an experience of a lifetime.

Even though Best Buddies has advanced tremendously in our short existence, many areas of the country and many regions of the world still lack programs to help people with IDDs become part of mainstream society. Our goal is to continue expanding nationwide and at the local community level, while more broadly engaging the global community through our programs.

“Special Olympics athletes are spokespersons for freedom itself — they ask for the freedom to live, the freedom to belong, the freedom to contribute, the freedom to have a chance. And of all the values that unite and inspire us to seek a better world, no value holds a higher place than the value of freedom.” — Eunice Kennedy Shriver


“The greater you become, the more you must practice humility.” — Ben Sira

1. I know Bill Romanowski well, and he knows what he’s talking about when it comes to performance enhancing drugs. “The only way you can get that substance that he took, hCG, in your body is to inject it, OK?” Romanowski said. “So let's get that clear. So his sob story on TV was, I'm just going to say, was a total lie, OK — from his own admission of usage.” That comment is not meant to be vindictive toward Cushing but rather an honest explanation.

2. The Titans are not going to change their position with regard to redoing Chris Johnson’s deal, but I’m sure his agent, Joel Segal, will keep sending them new ideas and proposals to get them to see his point of view. Johnson has to be proactive in his approach because even though he has outplayed his contract, the Collective Bargaining Agreement does not favor his holdout.

3. Typically, the owners’ meeting in May is very low key in terms of rule changes, but there seems to be strong sentiment to move the overtime rules to the regular season. Coaches I’ve talked to seem more willing now to accept the change in the regular season than when it was first passed. This will be a very interesting vote, and I expect it to be very close, especially if there are not many football people in the room.

4. Speaking of no football people in the room, when the owners vote on which city will host the 2014 Super Bowl, it will be done by secret ballot, and owners or their representatives are the only ones to vote. Can the Super Bowl be played in a cold weather city in 2014? From what I’m hearing, it seems more likely now than it did six months ago.

5. It makes no sense for quarterback Jay Cutler or new offensive coordinator Mike Martz to watch any 2009 Bears offensive game tape. The Bears will run a new style of offense, and Martz will be able to teach Cutler what he needs from his old Rams tape, then watching him run the offense.

6. I’m not predicting Brett Favre’s eventual return to the Vikings now, but from all indications there has never been a sign from either party that Favre is not coming back. The Vikings didn’t draft a quarterback, they’ve never seemed worried about the future at the position, and Favre has done the necessary medical procedures to come back. I’m told that the ankle procedure he had recently would not be necessary for a career playing golf, but it is necessary for an NFL QB.


“Taking charge of your own learning is taking charge of your life.” — Warren Bennis

Joe Girardi: The Life's Work Interview by Katherine Bell, Harvard Business Review

Joe Girardi wrote in a third-grade essay that he wanted to play for the Chicago Cubs. He grew up to do exactly that. After retiring from catching, he coached for the New York Yankees and managed the Florida Marlins for one year, at the end of which he was both fired and named National League Manager of the Year. He then replaced his former boss, Joe Torre, as manager of the Yankees. In 2009, he took the team to its 27th World Series championship.

You’re famous for being information-driven and analytical in your approach to managing.

I love numbers. You can never give me too many numbers. I believe they tell a story, if you have a large enough sample. I have an industrial engineering degree — a degree in problem solving, basically. But my whole family is math-oriented, and that’s always been how I see things.

How do you coach players to know when to abandon the plan and listen to their guts?

If you think too much, you fail, because the game happens too quickly. The key is preparation. You tell the player, “Here’s the information — now go play.” The data has to become instinctual. You can’t think about it in the middle of a pitch. Some players have a hard time using information to improve their instincts, and they usually weed themselves out.

When you went from the Marlins to the Yankees, how did you change your approach from managing a team of rookies to managing one full of stars?

To me the principles are the same. You have to show faith in your players and lead by example. You ask your players to be prepared mentally and physically, and so you have to be prepared. Beyond that, you’ve got to adapt to the type of players you have. If you’ve got a home-run-hitting team, you can’t make them all base stealers and vice versa. When I had young players, we taught them a little bit more about the big-league life. But that only took about 30 or 40 days, once the season started. People think superstars are unapproachable. Most stars I’ve met want to just be normal people. I try to treat them like they’re men — just normal guys. They have an exciting job, they’re on TV, and they’re talked about. But they have normal problems. They hurt just like everybody.

When you were catching and saw a pitcher losing focus, how did you get him back on track?

I would walk out there and talk to him and just say, “Try to change the rhythm a bit. Try to keep it simple.&rd
quo; Usually there’s one pitch that gets a pitcher back to his mechanics and you’ve got to know what it is. When a guy gets traded to the team, you’ve got to figure out that pitch as quickly as you can. You can’t figure it out in spring training because the emotions aren’t quite the same.

When a player — or the whole team — is in a slump, how do you manage that?

Number one, you can’t panic. You can’t have a bad week and start throwing things. Your character has to be the same whether you are winning or losing. If it’s not, then you care about the winning and losing more than you do about the people. What they’re doing is hard. I tell myself every day, it’s not easy to hit, it’s not easy to pitch, they don’t have Nintendo controllers in their hands to help them guide the ball.

I also believe that you can’t say, “I understand what you’re going through.” Because you can’t — you don’t have the same personality. I lost my mom when I was 19. But I would never tell someone who’s losing a parent in their teenage years, “I understand what you’re going through.” I would say, “I lost my mom when I was 19, and it was very difficult. If you want to talk to me about it, I’m here.”

You mentored Jorge Posada, knowing he was going to replace you as catcher for the Yankees. How did you make that relationship work?

I’ve always been taught that it’s team first, and if you want to win as a team, you have to help each other and share your information. It’s also my faith. I believe that God’s going to put me where he wants me no matter what I do. Eventually Jorge was going to take over that spot, whether I helped him or not. So why wouldn’t I try to make our club better?

Jorge made me a better player too. Competing against each other and communicating made us all better.

Now that he’s the senior catcher and there are other people coming up, what have you told him about how to mentor them?

The interesting thing is that when someone mentors you, it comes naturally for you to do it to someone else. I’ve seen it in Andy Pettitte, I’ve seen it in Jorge, I’ve seen it in Mo. All these guys were mentored when they were younger. Everything comes full circle. I don’t really have to say anything. I’ll see Jorge talking to a young catcher just sharing his knowledge and it comes naturally for him.

When you replaced Joe Torre, how did you go about setting your own direction for the Yankees?

Most people, including Joe, advised me, “Be yourself. Don’t try to be somebody else.” I had to earn the players’ trust. I knew it would take time and I’d have to work very hard at it, because they had been with Joe a long time. I would flat out ask players, “Do you trust me?” One was a little hesitant. I said, “You know what? I’m going to prove you can trust me.” And so I had to go out and prove it to him.

One of the lessons I learned when I was a young boy was from Dave Rogers, my Little League coach on the 11- and 12-year-old all-star team. I was 10, and he put me on the team over a 12-year-old. A lot of parents were outraged. He stuck his neck out for me because he believed in me. At times you really have to stick your neck out for a player. And you have to be thick-skinned enough to take the heat that you might get because of it.

You haven’t talked much about the circumstances in which you left the Marlins. What do you recommend about when and how to confront a boss?

Where and when are the most important things. There’s a respectful way to do it. I tell my players to confront me. If you don’t think I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing, tell me. I think it’s healthy when a player can come in and say, “I don’t think I’m getting this,” or, “We need that.” That means they trust you. If I ever get to the point where I don’t want to hear from my players, then I’m not doing my job.

What challenges come with being the most successful sports franchise in American history?

The expectation that it’s going to be done every year is the biggest challenge. I like that expectation, because it pushes people to a higher level. But it can be hard on players. Everything we do is under a microscope. Every player who goes out there this year is going to have a bad day or a bad week or even a bad month. But it’s the overall picture that matters, and that’s why the togetherness we have as a team is so important. You can’t get caught up in what you hear and what you read. Your value can’t come from others. It can’t, or you’ll be torn up.

Demands on your time are also a challenge. When you’re bigger, there’s more attention on you, and you have to manage your time better. People are going to want to talk to you more hours of the day. Sometimes in our business, it seems like we’re always at the ballpark, but family time is instrumental. It’s important that you keep your priorities straight.

During the steroid scandals, the public lost some faith in baseball. There’s a parallel now in business; many leaders are trying to figure out how to regain the public’s trust. How have you handled that?

Everyone says perception is reality. That really bothers me because perception is not reality; reality is reality. Have there been illegal things done in our country? Yes. Have there been illegal drugs used? Yes. That doesn’t mean everyone used them, right? There are people who have done it the right way. My job is not to judge people. My job is to get the best out of people.

I have a responsibility to fans. I understand that and I take that very seriously. But I have a huge responsibility to the team that I need to take care of first. Just like any human being, we’re all going to make mistakes. But we’re trying to make the game better.

Do you ever get bored?

Do games get long? Does the job sometimes become a grind from a physical standpoint? Yeah. But I don’t get bored. I love what I do. I love competition and strategy. I love seeing people succeed — you can be losing a game 19-2 and you can still see that.

27 Ways To Make Yourself Miserable

By Don Meyer, men’s basketball coach at Northern State University

• Think about yourself
• Talk about yourself
• Listen greedily to what people say about you
• Expect to be appreciated
• Be sensitive to slights
• Never forgive any criticism
• Trust nobody but yourself
• Demand agreement with your own views on everything
• Sulk if people are not grateful to you for favors shown them
• Be on the lookout for a good time for yourself
• Shirk your duties if possible
• Do as little as possible for others
• Let anger and resentment build up inside of you
• Seek only pleasure
• Do what ever is convenient
• Don’t do your best
• Don’t do what you know is right
• Let your body get fat and out of shape
• Don’t take time to rest and relax to enjoy life
• Take everything seriously
• Be cheap with your money
• Spend your money foolishly
• Don’t ask God for help
• Try to do everything yourself
• Live in the past
• Live in the future
• Try to control the uncontrollable


“If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” — Harvey Mackey

Twelve wins away: Don Meyer's hard road back from the brink

Winning, loyalty or immortality?


“The more we progress the more we tend to progress. We advance not in arithmetical but in geometrical progression. We draw compound interest on the whole capital of knowledge and virtue which has been accumulated since the dawning of time.” — Conan Doyle

The Little Boy Who Wanted to Buy a Doll For His Sister in Heaven

On the last day before Christmas, I hurried to go to the supermarket to buy the remaining of the gifts I didn't manage to buy earlier. When I saw all the people there, I started to complain to myself: “It is going to take forever here and I still have so many other places to go…Christmas really is getting more and more annoying every year. How I wish I could just lie down, go to sleep and only wake up after it…”

Nonetheless, I made my way to the toy section, and there I started to curse the prices, wondering if all kids really play with such expensive toys. While looking in the toy section, I noticed a small boy of about 5 years old, pressing a doll against his chest. He kept on touching the hair of the doll and looked so sad. I wondered who was this doll for.

Then the little boy turned to the old woman next to him: “Granny, are you sure I don't have enough money?” The old lady replied: “You know that you don't have enough money to buy this doll, my dear.” Then she asked him to stay there for five minutes while she went to look around. She left quickly. The little boy was still holding the doll in his hand.

Finally, I started to walk toward him and I asked him who did he want to give this doll to.

“It is the doll that my sister loved most and wanted so much for this Christmas. She was so sure that Santa Claus would bring it to her.”

I replied to him that maybe Santa Claus will bring it to her after all, and not to worry. But he replied to me sadly, “No, Santa Claus cannot bring it to her where she is now. I have to give the doll to my mother so that she can give it to her when she goes there.”

His eyes were so sad while saying this. “My sister has gone to be with God. Daddy says that Mommy will also go to see God very soon, so I thought that she could bring the doll with her to give it to my sister.”

My heart nearly stopped. The little boy looked up at me and said: “I told Daddy to tell Mommy not to go yet. I asked him to wait until I came back from the store.”

Then he showed me a very nice photo of himself, where he was laughing. He then told me: “I also want Mommy to take this photo with her so that she will not forget me. I love my mommy and I wish she didn't have to leave me, but Daddy says that she has to go to be with my little sister.”

Then he looked again at the doll with sad eyes, very quietly. I quickly reached for my wallet and took a few notes and said to the boy, “What if we checked again, just in case you have enough money?”

“OK,” he said. “I hope that I have enough.” I added some of my money to his without him seeing and we started to count it. There was enough for the doll, and even some spare money.

The little boy said: “Thank you, God, for giving me enough money.” Then he looked at me and added: “I asked yesterday before I slept for God to make sure I have enough money to buy this doll so that Mommy can give it to my sister. He heard me. I also wanted to have enough money to buy a white rose for my mommy, but I didn't dare to ask God for too much. But He gave me enough to buy the doll and the white rose. 'You know, my mommy loves white roses.”

A few minutes later, the old lady came again and I left. I finished my shopping in a totally different state from when I started. I couldn't get the little boy out of my mind. Then I remembered a local newspaper article two days ago that mentioned a drunk man in a truck who hit a car where there was one young lady and a little girl. The little girl died right away, and the mother was left in a critical state. The family had to decide whether to pull the plug on the life-assisting machine because the young lady would not be able to come out of the coma that she was in.

Was this the family of the little boy? Two days after this encounter with the little boy, I read in the newspaper that the young lady had passed away. I couldn't stop myself and went to buy a bunch of white roses and I went to the mortuary where the body of the young woman was exposed for people to see and make a last wish before burial. She was there, in her coffin, holding a beautiful white rose in her hand with the photo of the little boy and the doll placed over her chest.

I left the place crying, feeling that my life had been changed forever. The love that this little boy had for his mother and his sister is still, to this day, hard to imagine. And in a fraction of a second, a drunk man had taken all this away from him.

Follow me on Twitter: michaelombardi

Diner morning news: A short path for Bradford

QUOTE: “Life — a culmination of the past, an awareness of the present, an indication of a future beyond knowledge, the quality that gives a touch of divinity to matter.” – Charles Lindbergh

Rams putting a plan in place

The challenge that awaits the Rams, and most specifically as it applies to first-rounder Sam Bradford, is when to name him the starter. But much like buying your first home, there is never a right time. It just all comes together. You think you can’t afford the house, but you get approved for a mortgage (not the subprime kind) and life goes on. And that’s exactly what awaits the Rams. There is never a right time; it will just happen. However, before all this gets started, the Rams must first get Bradford under contract in the next eight weeks.

I like that head coach Steve Spagnuolo named A.J. Feeley the starter “for right now,” making no short- or long-term commitment. Once Spagnuolo knows he has Bradford under contract, his tune will change. Essentially, the Rams will not have two different types of offenses for each player, in large part because to have any success on the field they must get their young players to execute, which means keeping their offense very basic — which helps Bradford's development. It won’t take Bradford long to know the offense, but what will take time is getting used to the speed of the game, along with being able to control and call the proper protections. Bradford will give the Rams the best chance to win now and in the future, so once he signs, his path to the starting lineup will be very short.

Overtime rules

Next week is another NFL owners meeting, which doesn’t include the head coaches – just owners and lawyers. This means there will not be any objection to moving the overtime rules from the playoffs only into the regular season — which makes sense. This new rule should be tried and tested in the regular season before being introduced in the postseason. The head coaches — especially the ones who are overseeing playoff teams — should now vote for the rules to be moved into the regular season, allowing them to at least learn the practicality of the rules before the playoffs.

The May meetings are usually reserved for the business of football along with the selections of Super Bowl sites, and this meeting will, in fact, have a Super Bowl vote for 2014. New York/New Jersey will be up for vote, and based on the brand new state-of-the-art Giants/Jets stadium sitting off exit 16W of the New Jersey Turnpike, we will have our very first cold-weather Super Bowl in 2014. I’m not sure how that’s going to work, in part because I need to determine the wind element of the new stadium and how it will affect passing games, especially as the gales of winter enter the east.

But I do hope the owners vote to bring the overtime rules to the regular season — which might not come into play next year, but at least we might be able to examine the practicalities of the rules.

Have a great weekend, and come back for the Sunday Post.

Follow me on Twitter: michaelombardi

DMN: The Bears must reinvent themselves

QUOTE: “All experience is an arch, to build upon.” – Henry Brooks Adams

Urlacher speaks up. Why?

Wednesday, Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher reacted to recent criticism from former Bears great Gale Sayers, telling the Chicago Tribune, “Does it bother me? There are enough people throwing daggers at us right now, why does one of our ex-players have to jump in? There are enough experts talking (crap) about us, so why does a Bear, an all-time great, have to jump in? I just do not like that.”

Well, of course, Mr Urlacher doesn’t like the criticism, but watching the Bears play last year was not pretty — in any phase — and they were fully deserving of the criticism. It comes with the game. (This is where I’m reminded of the scene in “The Godfather II,” where Hyman Roth tells Michael Corleone that, as upset as he was about the death of Moe Greene, he accepted his fate because “this is the business we chose, we didn’t ask for it.” Urlacher needs to understand this is the business he chose, and criticism comes with the business.) Even Urlacher criticized his team last year, believing it needed to get back to the run game, which led to my reaction: What games was he watching? Last season, the Bears couldn’t run the ball on Purdue, let alone the Vikings or Packers.

It has not been difficult to talk badly about the Bears based on their play last year, and yet not all of their problems were related to quarterback Jay Cutler’s tendency to turn the ball over. Does anyone remember the Bengals game? The Bears defense couldn’t even get properly aligned and spent most of the game out-flanked, out-coached and out-played. It doesn’t take an expert to know the Bears were not good in any element of their team — players, coaching and scheme. They tried to address some of their problems this offseason, firing their offensive staff, revamping their personnel department and spending huge sums of money in free agency. Will all these changes work? On the surface, I’m not sold, but then I’m not buying into the belief that motivates everyone at Halas Hall, which is, “In Tampa we trust.”

From general manager Jerry Angelo to head coach Lovie Smith, the Bears as an organization are woven with people who experienced success in Tampa and seem to believe that everything they did while working for the Bucs will work for the Bears. Yes, the Bucs won a Super Bowl, but they never dominated the NFL in the way other successful teams have. They were more of a one-hit wonder than a dominating team, but many people have been able to enjoy the success of the team, gaining head coaching and executive positions. (That’s how the NFL works. One team has a little success and everyone wants to copy them without really understanding the actual reasons for the success). However, that was then and this is now, and no one in the NFL who tries to run a steady diet of the Tampa 2 schemes will survive. Nor will building the team in the style and manner of the old Bucs — that was one-time success story.

In fact, the Bears don’t run Tampa 2 as much as they have in the past, but they lack complexity with their defense. So once teams handle their three or four pressure packages, it’s not hard to make big plays. The Bears must reinvent themselves this year. They must play a defense that can be complex, can be attacking and is capable of lining up correctly when it faces an unbalanced look. The Bears need to focus on playing in the red zone because when studying them on tape, once a team moved the ball into the red zone, it eventually scored. But most of all, the Bears have to stop believing that Tommie Harris is Warren Sapp, that Julius Peppers will be Simeon Rice, that Lance Briggs is Derrick Brooks. And they need to find John Lynch.

For the Bears to make Gale Sayers eat his words, it will take a huge effort — a redefined effort that’s rooted in a new identity and a new way of winning games. Change has happen all over Halas Hall, and for the Bears to win next season, they have to stop thinking they’re playing with the players from the Tampa era.

Follow me on Twitter: michaelombardi

DMN: How coaches use team rankings

QUOTE: “Study as if you were to live forever. Live as if you were to die tomorrow.” – Isidore of Seville

Team rankings

Because there’s very little NFL news to discuss at this time of year (unless you want to write about players not being at OTA days because of their unhappiness over their contracts), ranking NFL teams seems to be a viable topic. But can any writer (including me) correctly rank the teams? It’s hard enough to rank them after regular-season games, let alone in the offseason. So even though it appears to be an easy piece to write, it’s really a difficult subject — but a huge bonanza for NFL head coaches.

For example, did anyone have the Bengals in the top 10 last year? Yet they made the playoffs. Everyone (including me) had the Giants in the top five, but they didn’t make the playoffs. To a man, NFL head coaches will claim they don’t pay attention to what writers write or to preseason polls, but they use them to motivate their teams and capture their players’ attention in the offseason.

One of the major challenges for every head coach at this time of year is to not over-talk to his team. Coaches have to choose their words wisely and, more importantly, the timing of their message. If they talk to the team every day, by the middle of October, the players will hear their words but won’t listen. They need to use other tools of the trade to deliver their message, and having preseason rankings — as high schoolish as that seems — helps the coach (as well as the writers) when he’s in search of talking points. For the fans, when your team is getting very little respect at this time, it actually helps them and the coach. So embracing a ranking in the 20s will be more beneficial to your team’s season than a top-10 appearance in May. Nothing matters in May anyway.

JaMarcus Russell won’t consider the CFL or AFL

NFL Network’s Jason La Canfora reported Tuesday that former Raiders first-round pick JaMarcus Russell is not considering going to the Canadian Football League or Arena Football League because he feels he has enough NFL options to keep working hard and waiting for his eventual chance. In theory, this appears to be a good course of action, but in reality, where is this opportunity to return to the NFL coming from? Why would teams wait to add a quarterback to their roster when now is the time that rosters are flexible and there’s time to develop players?

Russell claims he’s going to keep working out hard to get into shape for his next chance, but I thought he was in great shape when he reported to the Raiders’ minicamp. For me, Russell needs to be involved in football. He needs to build equity with a coach who can help him resurrect his career, not working out by himself in Mobile, Ala.

Does anyone really believe Russell is working hard? When he was employed by the Raiders, he never worked hard on his own. I always believe that past performance predicts future achievement, and Russell working hard on his own has never been productive. He desperately needs to add supporters, not be alone with family and friends in Mobile. He has to build a coalition of supporters to get back in the NFL, and being alone is not the smart play. He must now be proactive, and he has to have a plan for getting back into the NFL, not hoping he gets back.

Russell needs a complete makeover — from his advisers to his actions.

Follow me on Twitter: michaelombardi

DMN: A new deal for Andre Johnson?

QUOTE: “The biggest human temptation is … to settle for too little.” — Thomas Merton

Andre Johnson wants a new deal, with five years left on his deal

The first rule in all contract negotiations is that time equal’s money. The larger the amount of guaranteed money, the longer the length of the contract; the smaller the guarantee, the shorter the deal. In any negotiation, this simple concept starts every deal, whether the contract involves business or an NFL player. Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson signed an eight-year extension for $60 million in March 2007 in which he received $15 million in guaranteed money. In 2007, Johnson was great, and in 2010, Johnson is still great, but he wants to redo his deal — with five years left. And here’s the kicker: Texans GM Rick Smith is not upset with Johnson. This is what Smith told the Houston Chronicle:

“I’m not real worried because we re-did him with two years left on his original deal, and that was three years ago. Over the first three years of that deal, I think if you even ask him, he’s been well-compensated. He’s got five years left on his deal now (and) we’re willing to sit down and talk with him, and he knows that.”

That last comment will come and bite Smith on the butt for years to come (trust me, every team in the NFL is reading it this morning in disbelief). I hope owner Bob McNair is on board with it because once Smith starts talking to Johnson about a new deal with five years left, his locker room will be holding a champagne party. Smith seems to be fine with the concept of sitting down and talking about a new deal with five years left on the current one – but it must be foreign to McNair in any other business he owns. It’s a good thing Smith sits next to the owner at every game.

Each move a team makes with regard to contracts has significance to the entire team. One move is never independent or stands alone – it has a ripple effect, regardless of the talent level of the player. Once Smith sits down with Johnson to talk a new deal, Owen Daniels, the Pro Bowl tight end, will wonder why he’s not going first. Quarterback Matt Schaub will also want a new deal, and before too long, our Matt Bowen will expect a new deal for being first to write that the Texans are a good team.

In addition, just being good is the most significant point here. The Texans have not won anything — ever. They have been mediocre — nothing more, nothing less, and now are acting as if they won the Super Bowl. We all can see (and understand) that the Jets have the “disease of me” (see the Sunday Post), which was expected since they actually went to the playoffs last season. But the Texans having the same problem is laughable — which I’ll be doing all the way to Amsterdam when Bowen pays off his bet.

Andre Johnson is a great player, and the only person he should hold out from is himself for signing an eight-year deal. He had to know when he signed it that it would be the last deal he’d ever sign – so it had to be a great one. He has no one to blame for the deal other than his agent, who also happens to be his uncle, Andre Melton. So why go public with his displeasure? Put winning first and the team first. Reminder, the Texans have never made the playoffs.

Smith’s rationale for conducting talks centers on his policy that if the players are not in camp, he won’t talk new deal — but if they’re there, he’s open to chatting. Yet is this policy still in place even if players still have five years left on their deals? With the Brian Cushing saga last week and the Andre Johnson talks this week, the Texans have some issues in their locker room. This might be the perfect time to double down with Bowen on a new bet this year.

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