INDIANAPOLIS – "So, what do you think of our new coach?" Daniel Snyder asked last Thursday, catching me off guard like an Antwaan Randle El reverse from his own end zone. Sitting at a table in the lobby bar of the Marriott Downtown, the Washington Redskins' owner and his executive vice president-football operations, Vinny Cerrato, waited eagerly for my answer.
Very quickly, I had to come up with a take on Jim Zorn, preferably one that wouldn't provoke any red-wine spillage.
"Uh," I stammered, "I'm just going to trust that you guys know something I don't know, and that's why you did what you did."
Snyder and Cerrato cracked up. They know the deal: Given that Zorn, a longtime quarterbacks coach, had never been an NFL coordinator, their decision to hire him earlier this month as Joe Gibbs' successor was one of the more out-of-the-blue moves in recent memory. Snyder and Cerrato don't expect the rest of the football world to see what they see – yet.
When I learned of Zorn's hiring, two weeks after he'd come aboard as Washington's offensive coordinator, my initial reaction was not a favorable one. I'm a big fan of Gregg Williams, Gibbs' defensive coordinator and presumed successor, and I was bummed that he didn't get the job. I also greatly admire former New York Giants coach Jim Fassel, who was strung along for a month (and, in fact, recommended Zorn to the team in the first place) before getting spurned, which ticked me off.
I'd never met Zorn, but I figured that if he were such an offensive whiz, it wouldn't have taken seven years on Mike Holmgren's Seattle Seahawks staff for him to score a coordinator's gig. But the more I've talked to people over the past couple of weeks, the more I'm starting to wonder whether this just might work.
"I know it sounds random," says San Francisco 49ers backup quarterback Trent Dilfer, who played for the Seahawks from 2001-04. "But if you take a step back and think about it, why not Jim Zorn? Matthew Hasselbeck said it best when we talked the other night: 'We've always said there need to be more out-of-the-box coaches, so we have to love this move.' Because no one is more out-of-the-box than Jim."
Sitting there listening to Snyder and Cerrato tell me how, as their long search dragged on, they warmed to the idea of hiring Zorn for the big job; hearing them describe the way he bonded with the rest of the coaching staff before he ever was a head-coaching candidate, I began to adjust my thinking. Maybe, as with the Rooneys and Mike Tomlin the previous year, Snyder's deliberate, open-minded approach to a coaching search had uncovered a gem.
I could be wrong, of course. And if I am, it won't cost me $15 million. That's why, in the end, Snyder's is the only opinion that matters.
TRIPPIN' ON E(MAIL)
"I just read your article on the combine meat market and I don't follow sports, so it was interesting to hear about such a practice. You made a comparison between the ogling done by the scouts and performers being ogled by men in a strip club, but it seems much closer to the ogling done by buyers at a slave auction! Especially when you mentioned things like, 'being drafted by a company located in a potentially random part of the U.S. and forced to negotiate exclusively with that entity, or find another line of work.' Not that I feel sorry for them for a second, ha, or that their lives are in any other way comparable to the lives of slaves. I just thought I'd point how the scrutiny of the players' bodies as a basis for their being drafted sounded to me like a slave auction. Very interesting article."
You are one of many readers to bring up the slave-auction comparison, and while it certainly is not perfect – there are plenty of white prospects; these men are acting of their own volition; the ones who make it are well-compensated – there are certainly some disturbing parallels.
"Liked your column on the combine. It sounds like a modern-day slave trade. And yes, I am a black man and no, I wouldn't have been offended if you used that analogy, but great column regardless."
Thanks. Now let's hear from some of those wacky readers I like to call "The Offended."
"After thinking about this article, I would have to say that the most disturbing portion is the writer. If the writer really cared about protecting these guys from embarrassment, as he asserts, why would he post their names and then their physical descriptions? It is one thing to piss yourself in front of a crowd; it is another thing for a national writer to post your name and an account of the event for millions to read. Later in the article the author quotes (Scot) McCloughan as saying, '… Mark Tauscher,' he says. 'If you saw him in a pair of underwear, it was just disgusting. He was so soft. Well, guess what – the guy's been a pretty damn good player for a long time.' Michael Silver's apparent agenda here, regardless of what he says, is to point out how disturbed he is that men are inspecting men. His protests that he is not a homophobe are weak. 'Though doth protest too much.' If Michael really cared about the players, why would he throw Tauscher, (Isaac) Hilton under the bus? Is he making them unwilling martyrs in his quest for decency for all the others? I hope Michael doesn't save me from embarrassment by using my name in an editorial on the sanctity of private masturbation."
That last analogy is a little over my head, but there was nothing private about what happened to Isaac Hilton – and I suppose that is part of the point I intended to get across. And if I hadn't included his name, how many of you would have fired off emails reading, "You obviously made this up …"?
"Shame on you for telling the story about the kid who wet himself. Was he not humiliated enough without you re-telling the tale for every horse's arse to laugh over again? What a creepy thing to do. Hope you never find yourself in an embarrassing situation. Perhaps someone as senstive as you will find your humiliation entertaining enough to tell the rest of the world about it. (Then again, perhaps you deserve such a humbling experience. It might make you think again before you write another story like this.)"
The NFL has a system in which young men are paraded around in their underwear, a stressful state of affairs that in one extreme case caused a man to wet himself in front of hundreds of leering onlookers, and I'm the one who should feel ashamed? Had this happened in a meeting room, or had a player wet his bed at the team hotel, there'd be no need to write about it. But this humiliation happened precisely because Hilton was placed in such a humiliating context in the first place.
"I enjoyed reading your article about NFL prospects being 'looked over' in a way that many found disquieting. Welcome to the world of women! Prospective employers, no matter what the field, do this all the time to one degree or another. Maybe by highlighting how stressful and demeaning this is for football players, you will prompt some men to think twice about how they make their hiring decisions about females. So, thanks for that. I say this even though I know I got at least two jobs because the boss liked my assets."
Nice. And in the interest of full-disclosure, was that one job per asset?
"Re. Combine meat market a little disturbing: Homoeroticism! Theirs and yours, Michael. You'd quit if it crept you out enough, right?"
Oh stop it, you silly man.
"Obviously, you have a greater concern of politics over substance … a greater sympathy of men who are privileged … to just be at a combine to have a chance at millions … and still you whine like a grieving mother. Because of this, I question your motivation, and how you can make any claim against this process. I am reluctant to say … but must conclude, that it is part of your homosexual agenda … and also of other personal issues, that you would make this some kind of sad reference to exploitation. It is unfortunate that you, who choose to write in the second-most embarrassing field (only paparazzi/celebrity expletive is worse) You are a (expletive) who has really been nothing and been nowhere … I understand … you want to make a mark. Not all of us are so stupid … nor so full of naiveté. :( another liar … fraud redeem yourself …"
Jack L. Medley
Now I'm really getting turned on …
"Why, why, why did you put the picture of Bill Parcells parading around in his tighty-whiteys in my head? That is going to be with me the entire day. You are like Dr. Evil with a pen; funny with just the right amount of evil sprinkled in. Keep up the good work making me laugh every couple of days."
Dr. Evil with a pen? Not even a MacBook? Throw me a frickin' bone here …
"Your hilarious, well-written article on the NFL combine gave me a window into the absurdity of that process. But considering you've been covering the NFL for years, I find it a little disingenuous that you're writing about this now. As if you just uncovered this secret subculture. But it was a great read nonetheless."
Thanks. Believe it or not, this was my first combine. I'm more elusive than Barry Sanders that way – or, at least, I used to be.
"Why would you call DeSean Jackson MeSean Jackson in your most recent article? The guy was never selfish at Cal; a great team player who helped my Bears to two (almost three) great seasons. I guess your just another ignorant reporter."
They may be your Bears, but judging by your inability to distinguish between 'your' and 'you're,' you clearly didn't attend the world's greatest academic institution. And if you're wondering why I called him MeSean, try talking to some of his former teammates and coaches.
"The song 'All the Young Dudes' isn't a David Bowie song covered by Mott the Hoople, it was a song written for them by David Bowie because he was a fan … I'm a fan of yours, can I write a column for you perhaps?"
You just did – well, at least, 44 words worth of one.
"Well I thought you article on the combine was dumb at best and homophobic at worst … but you redeemed yourself with the 'All the Young Dudes' parody, though I bet someone else wrote it … little did i knew when I was listening to my Mott the Hoople albums 36 yrs ago … (expletive, I'm old) that the song would be used to make fun of that whole combine thing … what's even worse is that the NFL Network shows it and people actually watch it."
You think I have a song parody ghostwriter? Fascinating.
"You stink as a writer. You're a hack who relies on clichés and negativity and you stink. Michael Bronze, stop writing and try to run a 40. When you break 4.9, you can comment on sports, otherwise just quietly discuss your lame opinions and boring observations to your probably boring white friends."
Hey, I take great offense to that. Not all of my boring friends are white.
"You a boxers or a briefs guy?"
"Do you do steriods like most other athletes?"
No. And I don't do steroids, either.
"Keyshawn (Johnson) should keep his seat at ESPN, although not hearing his less-than-insightful comments on the NFL would be a great gift to all viewers. Let's not forget he was released from his contract meaning, not good enough."
State College, Pa.
Right. And how did that work out for the Panthers last season?
Van Nuys, Calif.
Ron Jeremy is a hairy, barrel-chested man. Or so I've been told.
"The Broncos/GB Super Bowl? Yeah it may have (Brett) Favre/(John) Elway, but, come on. SF/Cincy, NYG/Buffalo, this year's Super Bowl, SEA/PIT (albeit the refs messed that one up) … and as for a response regarding who is better OJ or Barry Sanders? Hands down Barry Sanders (he is a class act, unlike like the class idiot Simpson). I think I need to apply for your job/lol. At least I know a thing or two like most of the people throughout the country when it comes to sports. Stick to delivering the sports 'paperboy'!"
Dude, seriously, do your parents know you've been playing with the computer? You're calling Seattle-Pittsburgh one of the best Super Bowls? Apparently the refs aren't the only ones who messed that one up.
"I was very lucky to have missed your column on your Super Bowl picks. From the looks of things in what others had to say about your picks. You evidently are unable to recall anything before 1998, and it shows in the responses to those that wrote to you. Whether you seem to think so or not, the Super Bowl originated in 1967, and there is 22 Super Bowls before your lack of wit started rating Super Bowls. For you to not consider any of the Super Bowls that Dallas played is an utter and complete ignorance on your part. When Dallas lost to Pittsburgh 35-31 and they were down by 22 points. They showed alot of resilience by coming back and making it a four-point deficit. Which like any sub-par fan knows that to be down by 22 points and to lose only by 4 points was an accomplishment in itself. Muchless to even think about the other five Super Bowl titles they have, and your unable to recognize them for at least one Super Bowl is a slap in the face. Must be a personal thing on your point. Oh! and by the way, your more than welcome to come over to my house. I haven't beat on a sports writer in awhile now, the change of pace will be nice."
Don't test me, bro, or I will in fact show up at your house – with an English teacher and some textbooks. .
"Wow, you made it through an entire column without name-dropping any of your sports-world friends. That couldn't have been easy for you."
No, it wasn't, as I was just screaming to Danica Patrick as we hit the straightaway at 180 …