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Saturday, February 12, 2011
Mailbag: Getting down to serious business

By Paul Kuharsky
ESPN.com

I asked for mail, you responded. (Especially if you are a Colts’ follower.) I offer my thanks …

These two entries came within three minutes of each other

Nate from Indy writes: Explain something to me, sir. Teams first ask for permission to talk to members of other teams' coaching staffs in order to interview them for coaching positions. This makes sense - if you're under contract with one team, you shouldn't be allowed to shop yourself around to other teams. The question is: Why would a team allow any staff to talk to another team? The individual signed a contract. Much like players, shouldn't they be expected to fulfill it?

Jon Clay from Abingdon, Va., writes: What kind of a tool of a boss would not let their assistant coach try to better their position during the offseason? I understand locking people up once camps start, but why not let Bill Callahan interview for a BETTER job? As a Titans fan I don't think he is the answer, but aren't the Jets taking a chance at having a disgruntled employee next season?

Paul Kuharsky: Jon kind of answers Nate’s question. The rationale for letting a guy talk is giving him a chance at upward mobility. I think most head coaches don’t want to hold their guys back. At the same time, if a departure would leave a gaping hole, the first obligation is for a head coach to field the best team working under the best staff. So it really is a case-by-case basis. Many more requests are denied than permitted, and we don’t know the scope of it -- I’m sure a vast majority of denied requests are kept in-house by the teams involved.


Shreyans Bafna from Solon, Ohio writes: Why are the Colts so worried about getting an offensive linemen or wide receiver? How about defensive tackle? The Colts lose mostly when they can't get the ball back. The Jets ran all over them in the playoff game. How about picking up Richard Seymour, Haloti Ngata, or Tamba Hali in free agency? If we can't get them how about Albert Haynesworth? He may be troubled but he's bigger and better than anyone we have right now.

Paul Kuharsky: It’s certainly a position where they need to get better as well, and I’d rank it third.

The guys you mention are likely to be tagged or re-signed and I don’t think the Colts will get a free agent of that magnitude. While better defense up the middle will help Peyton Manning, I believe they’ll think what’s most helpful to him are things that more directly impact him, like his pass protection and weapons.

Haynesworth has the sort of issues the Colts are not usually willing to take on. He’s also under contract.


Richard from Madison, Ala., writes: If there were no restrictions, no other positions to fill and no cap, how many O-linemen would you go after for Indy through the draft and through free agency?

Paul Kuharsky: Under your scenario, I don’t think it would be difficult to get better at every one of the five positions. But I’d kick Charlie Johnson to a guard spot and get someone who could definitely replace Jeff Saturday in a year. So let’s say three starters and an up-and-comer.


Scott Van Dyke from Lafayette, Ind., writes: I know that under the current CBA that the draft will be the last thing that NFL teams will be doing in terms of adding players. Is there a system in place where teams can negotiate with undrafted free agents after the draft is over with a new CBA in place? I know the Colts add a handful of roster spots that way better than most teams. How would the lack of a CBA affect undrafted free agents?

Paul Kuharsky: There is not such a system in place. The last pick of the draft is the last guy added. There will be no undrafted rookie free agent-market if there is no new CBA. That hurts the Colts as much as anyone, but I think it will only mean that those players get their phone calls the day a new deal kicks off instead of the last day of the draft.


Doug Walker from Atlanta writes: As a Jaguars fan I am clearly biased but it feels like the Titans and Texans are on a downward trend at least for a season or two and Peyton Manning, although still an elite quarterback, started to show signs of fatigue. With all of this, do you think the Jaguars will be chosen as the favorites for next season in the AFC South? The main reason why I think that is because our team has very few veterans and many of our starters are young and still developing. The arrow is pointing up. What is your opinion?

Paul Kuharsky: I think you want Manning to show signs of fatigue. He didn’t look fatigued to me. He had a bad three-game stretch, and he also did some miraculous work considering the injury losses at premium positions. If the Colts win the division last year, there is no way they aren’t favorites going forward.

The Jaguars should be better than the Texans and Titans, but year-to-year there is no guarantee, and they are a very poor team when it comes to finishing off a season. The arrow is pointing up on a lot of guys, but they still have insufficient weapons, no safeties and a quarterback whose arrow is pointing sideways.


Chris George in Nashville writes: What direction do you see the Titans going at QB? Also, is there a scenario where we would unload Chris Johnson to another team (for a draft pick) before he hits the running back wall and "loses his value?"

Paul Kuharsky: Chris Johnson is a very skilled player, but running backs do not have huge trade value. The league’s rushing leader last season, Arian Foster, was a guy who was not drafted. Football is usually not baseball, where you unload a guy for picks.

He’s one of Tennessee’s three best players, and he’s a few years away from wear and tear being an issue. I don’t see how the Titans get better by moving him, and I don’t think he’d bring back all you think he would.

Here is my take on quarterback options.


Mad Mike from Houston writes: I know this has nothing to do with the division, but how can Cris Carter not be in the HOF as of yet? Clearly, one of the best WRs of all time, easily top 10, makes no sense. What are your thoughts?

Paul Kuharsky: Who do you take out that got in during his eligibility to get him in? He’ll get in. Be a little patient.


Joe from Kaiserslautern Germany writes: I've seen some teams that are releasing defensive backs to start the offseason, like Eric King from Detroit and Eric Coleman from Atlanta. Also Ronde Barber could hit the market. (He's getting up there though). I don't know much about them but at this point it seems like even an average secondary would be an improvement. I'm not knocking the theoretical starters Indy has but let’s face it, Antoine Bethea and Melvin Bullitt are the only ones that can stay on the field. Do you know anything about these Erics?

Paul Kuharsky: Bullitt has been durable, but was hurt in 2010.

As guys like that hit the market, if you are cornerback needy and can grab them cheap, I’d pounce. Fill up the roster any way you can now not knowing what’s going to happen to free agency and the trade market later. That said, there are corner-needy teams that would be more aggressive in such a scenario than the Colts. If King isn’t good enough for Detroit, where the secondary isn’t sterling, I doubt he’s a big help to Indianapolis.

While they need depth, if they are healthy they can be strong at that spot with Kelvin Hayden and Jerraud Powers as the starters and Justin Tryon and Jacob Lacey as situational guys. They should also have Kevin Thomas back healthy.


Austin from Philadelphia writes: My friend Matt and I were discussing Mike Munchak's (rumored) coaching moves thus far. What is your opinion on Munchak trying to recruit former Oiler players to coach? Do you think he is trying to build chemistry within the coaching staff and players or just looking up contacts in his phone book?

Paul Kuharsky: I’ve gotten a couple another notes on this. Let’s not cast this as some major trend. Bruce Matthews, as a Hall of Fame lineman and Munchak’s close friend, was a no-brainer who was available. If Jerry Gray or Frank Bush is hired, they are connected too. But Gray’s connection is from coaching with Matthews far more than from playing with him.

Would three new hires being former Oilers really be some sort of trend that was devised to create staff chemistry? In a word, no. It’s somewhat coincidental that guys who are available happen to have those ties and that Munchak is connected to them. And if the new defensive coordinator isn’t Gray, secondary coach Marcus Robertson could be fired, so that would be subtracting a former Oiler from the staff.


Robert Sawyer from Killeen, Texas, writes: Jason Babin finally lived up to his status of being a first-round pick last year. With him being a free agent, and the Texans switching to a 3-4, what do you think are the chances of him coming back to Houston? I think it would be a great idea and that he could compliment Mario Williams if not challenge for the number one spot. Your thoughts?

Paul Kuharsky: I would put the Texans as about the last team to chase Babin. He was great as a 4-3, go-get-the-quarterback guy. Why take him, again, and try to force a fit into a 3-4? And if he was in Houston, he wouldn’t have the slightest chance of displacing Mario Williams as the No. 1 end or pass rusher. When healthy, Williams is a premiere guy. In a 3-4, Babin is a tweener, probably more of a outside linebacker. And Houston failed miserably at trying to make him that once already.


Ryan Wilhite from Indianapolis writes: Why do all my questions end up in the trash bin of writers instead of being answered?

Paul Kuharsky: Don’t be so hard on yourself. I don’t trash messages I don’t have a chance to answer. I usually just let them sit.


A courageous, nameless reader writes: Hey Paul. Just stopping by to tell you man you are a [bleeping] biased [bleep]. How do you even have a job as a blogger when you are the most biased [bleep], probably throughout all of ESPN? I'm sorry, but your writing is terrible, and half of the time my 5 year old daughter finds misspellings and grammatical mistakes throughout your garbage blog. Get some sources who actually know things about the NFL, and stop getting your information from other biased sports sites. You suck. Yours Truly, Someone who really thinks you suck at what you do.

Paul Kuharsky: Is your daughter available as a proofreader? I love how you own your comments with no name and a fake email address so I can’t even write back to say thanks so much for your constructive criticism. All that hammering and still, you're reading and taking the time to write. I am really impressed. Here is a post I did recently to try to help you understand what I do and the concept of bias.

Like everyone represented here and everyone reading, I say thanks for doing so and for taking the time to write.

The mailbag’s open 24/7/365 right here. I'm also happy to interact via Twitter and Facebook. Want to tip me off on something, you can even e-mail me directly at pkuharsky@gmail.com.