I just took a look in the mailbag and I want to thank you for providing tons of input on the best coach in NFC South history. I’m going to give you a couple more days to voice your opinions before I run a post with selected thoughts from readers. And I’ll also be voicing my rankings.
I’m still undecided, but a quick scan of your responses has Tony Dungy with a pretty good lead over Sean Payton right now. Again, we’re going to save this topic for the coming days. Right now, we’ll go with a mailbag on other topics, but the first letter is relevant to the best coach in NFC South history question.
Lloyd in Baton Rouge, La., writes: I would like a clarification with your best head coach "assignment." Based on how I read your requirements, I interpret that any coach EVER from Tampa, Atlanta, New Orleans, and Carolina should be considered. Meaning people like Hank Stram could be included. So do I have it right? Plus, are we to take into account ONLY what they did with the NFC South team or can we included what they've done with other teams also?
Pat Yasinskas: Yes, let’s go with anyone who ever was a head coach for the Bucs, Panthers, Falcons and Saints. So someone like Stram certainly is eligible. But I want to emphasize that I think we should limit it only to what a coach did while coaching an NFC South team. In other words, let’s judge Stram only on what he did with the Saints. In that setting, Dungy’s success with the Colts doesn’t count. What Dan Reeves did with the Broncos and Giants doesn’t matter either. Only what they did with NFC South teams.
Brandon in Destrehan, La., writes: With all of the uncertainty about who will replace Scott Fujita at linebacker this year, I have a lot of confidence that one of the young players that are already on the roster will be able to step up and be a contributor. Personally, I'm a big fan of both Jo-Lonn Dunbar and Jonathan Casillas. That being said, do you think that either one of them is the front-runner to get the starting spot?
Pat Yasinskas: I think the Saints agree with you about the potential of their young linebackers. Dunbar was getting a lot of work with the first team in minicamp and I think he’s a real candidate to start. The Saints also picked up Clint Ingram, who had been a starter in Jacksonville. He’s coming back from an injury and could challenge Dunbar.
ATLJBO in Atlanta writes: Has a player created any buzz in the Falcons camp?
Pat Yasinskas: I think the guy who has lifted spirits most in Atlanta is running back Michael Turner. That’s simply because he’s in great shape. That wasn’t really the case at this time a year ago and it might have played a role in him getting banged up last season. Turner is working very hard on his conditioning and is determined to prove that his brilliant 2008 season was not a one-time thing.
Pat Yasinskas: Not going to happen. First off, it doesn’t fit what the Panthers are doing with their youth movement. If the Panthers wanted a veteran receiver, they would have kept Muhammad for another year. At first, he wanted to continue playing and the Panthers didn’t offer him a contract. We all know Muhammad fit well in Carolina’s system and in the locker room. Owens comes with a lot more baggage. Owner Jerry Richardson won’t touch him because of that and my guess is coach John Fox and general manager Marty Hurney wouldn’t have any interest in Owens anyway.
Ollie in Gulfport, Miss., writes: According to nola.com, if Pierre Thomsas doesn’t sign his tender by Monday , the Saints front office will lower his tender offer. Mickey Loomis is dug in and he not giving Thomas anymore than his first offer? What you think Pat?
Pat Yasinskas: This is going to be an interesting one to watch. I think Loomis and the Saints have taken the smart approach. They’ve placed a value on Thomas and they’re not going to overpay him. He’s a very nice running back, but he’s not a dominant one. With Reggie Bush and Lynell Hamilton already there, the Saints can bring in another role player at running back if they can’t get things resolved with Thomas.