MORT'S MAILBAG: Oct. 19
Q: If Rob Johnson improves his play in the West Coast offense that Buffalo now runs (what's the realistic goal -- six wins? seven?), do you think the Bills will commit to him long term, or are they already looking at Fresno State's David Carr, along with little Danny Snyder?Understandably, Rob has quite an uphill battle, and he has a number of factors working against him. Namely injuries, inexperience on the front line, and a new O scheme. -- Derek, Falls Church, Va.
MORT: Derek, I am so glad I went to the Bills-Jaguars game Thursday night. When you see Johnson in person, you understand why the Bills have not given up on him. There are very few quarterbacks in the league who have Johnson's tools. He has size (6-foot-4, 220 pounds), he is extremely well-conditioned, he has speed and athleticism, and he has the arm and work ethic. I believe that he is lacking a few things you have hit on -- the line, in particular. Once the O-line gets some experience, and the Bills develop a running game, Johnson is going to be a Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback. I mean, he just needs more starts and stability around him, and I think the game will slow down for him, too. I bumped into a few NFL scouts Thursday night who agree that Johnson is a real talent who would command a lot of interest if the Bills let him go. I don't think that's going to happen.
Q: I'm a huge 49ers fan, and I am very excited about the 4-1 start, but I noticed that they have not beaten any good teams. They came close to beating the Rams, but that is not enough. If the 49ers make the playoffs, how far do you think they will go? -- Josh, Oxnard, Calif.
MORT: Josh, hey, enjoy the ride before you start worrying about how far the 49ers will go. I think both their wins over the Falcons are not to be taken for granted because Atlanta is improved. I will say this -- the 49ers' 4-1 start does make them dangerous because they are young and they now believe. Steve Mariucci has done a terrific job with them, along with the coaching staff. For a young team to make this kind of progress, it is a reflection of talent and an outstanding group of coaches who know how to teach the game.
Q: Chris, why do people fail to see the importance of special teams when discussing games? People think as long as you have a good field-goal kicker, you have good special teams, and it drives me nuts. Can you push for a bit more inclusion, so the fans understand why some "surprise" teams win games? Punt and kick coverage, punt and kick return stats and plays are never mentioned. I want to see a Ron Jaworski-style film breakdown of the best punt return team -- who are the best open field blockers/tacklers in the NFL? -- George Haines, New York City
MORT: George, you are on the mark. I'll make sure Jaws sees this. I also feel like I have neglected this part of the game, and I will attempt to do a better job to identify those players who truly make a difference in the game's outcome.
Q: How about a trade between Denver, the Giants and possibly another team? Denver needs a big receiver like Joe Jurevicius. Maybe put New England into the mix with the Patriots giving the Giants Terry Glenn and getting Olandis Gary. -- Ethan, New York
MORT: Ethan, I like your creativity; unfortunately, this is a league that has so many rules (many of them tied to the salary cap) that there is never a fun deal like the one you have dreamed up here. The trade deadline is Tuesday.
Q: Why don't the Atlanta Falcons use Michael Vick as a running back with Jamal Anderson out? You never know. -- Scott, Plainfield, Conn.
MORT: Scott, sorry, that would be foolish. First, it's not that easy to play running back. It would take Vick a year of training to see if he could pull it off. The other thing is, and people always miss on this, is that Vick has a terrific arm. He is a quarterback. He's at risk enough. Why put him at more risk with an experiment like the one you suggest?