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I seriously doubt it.
Face it, the Lions are 0-13 on merit. Their defense is atrocious, and all of their remaining opponents are capable of piling up a healthy amount of yards and points without even necessarily playing their best. Detroit's only real threat on offense is wide receiver Calvin Johnson, and that gives opposing defenses an advantage because they can focus on taking him away without worrying about being burned elsewhere.
And, oh by the way, with Daunte Culpepper's aching shoulder, the Lions don't even have a starting quarterback.
First, let's not overlook the fact the Dolphins (8-5) only have one more victory than the Redskins (7-6). And the reason the Dolphins have a better chance to reach the postseason has a lot to do with the fact they are in a division with two other 8-5 teams (Jets and Patriots) and the 6-7 Bills, while the Redskins are in a division with the 11-2 Giants, the 8-5 Cowboys and the 7-5-1 Eagles.
Still, to a certain degree, you have to wonder if Taylor feels some regret. As you pointed out, he wanted out of Miami because, at this late stage of his career, he preferred being with a contender rather than part of a rebuilding process. Like so many of us, he clearly didn't expect the Dolphins to make the dramatic improvement they made.
But I sense his greatest frustration is that he hasn't made much of an impact on the Redskins' defense, which has sorely lacked a pass rush all season and was counting on generating plenty of heat on quarterbacks after adding the NFL's second-ranked active player in career sacks. A freak calf injury that Taylor suffered in September and required emergency surgery caused a major setback, as did the second operation he needed soon thereafter because of an infection.
Redskins coaches have tried moving Taylor around to various spots in an effort to enhance his ability to find clearer paths to the quarterback, but that has produced only mixed results. The fact is, at 34 and trying to recover from a serious injury, Taylor is probably not as effective as he was even a year ago, when he had 11 sacks.
Meanwhile, the Dolphins, in switching to a 3-4 defensive scheme, unleashed a new pass-rushing terror in linebacker Joey Porter, whose 16.5 sacks lead the NFL and allowed Miami to surpass last year's total of 30 by two with three games left.
Question: My three-part question is this: How would you rank the current Steelers defense against the defenses for the four Super Bowl teams of the '70s? How would you rank it against defenses in modern NFL history? And, in your esteemed opinion, is Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau deserving of Hall of Fame honors for his 50-plus years of NFL excellence as a player and a coach, and will he get there? -- Jeff T., Harmony, Pa.
I think the current Pittsburgh defense compares favorably against those Steel Curtain defenses.
It could be argued that, statistically, it's even better when you consider it has a shot of becoming the only defense to rank No. 1 in the league in overall yards allowed, rushing yards allowed, passing yards allowed and fewest points allowed since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger. And when you consider all of those incredibly talented players from the Steel Curtain, it's amazing to see linebackers James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley emerge as the most prolific sacking duo in club history. The one reason I would hesitate to call the current Pittsburgh defense better is that it hasn't had a major role in producing four Super Bowl championships as the unit in the '70s did.
I do think LeBeau is a Hall-of-Famer. Getting there won't be easy for someone who has spent the better part of his career as an assistant coach; it's hard enough for head coaches to get in. But he deserves to be there.
Question: How many times are Buffalo Bills fans going to have to endure the promise of an up-and-coming, young team that will break out and have a playoff run? As a season-ticket holder, year after year, it gets harder and harder to believe that the team is worth our hard-earned money. We have so much talent in every facet of our team, but when push comes to shove, it always ends in some coaching blunder. How hard is it to understand that you are not going to have a successful team until you stop bargain-basement shopping for coaches that are not proven and get a real coach that doesn't play to be in the game for three quarters in hopes that you can pull one out in the fourth? If the Bills could get a real coach, like Bill Cowher, maybe there would be a Super Bowl parade in our future for the city that has endured heartbreak for so many years. -- Zach C.
However, I also don't think all of the blame should fall on Jauron or the coaching staff. I'm not convinced that the Bills are as well-stocked with talented players as you think they are. How many true difference-makers do they really have? By my count, maybe three, and that would include injured defensive end Aaron Schobel and would not include a quarterback. That's a problem that no coach, no matter how good he might be, could overcome.
It's true that the Bills have never believed in making a substantial financial investment in a head coach, and don't look for that to change. They will not pursue Cowher or any other high-profile candidate. Have they suffered from that approach? Perhaps, but I don't necessarily believe that it's impossible for them to succeed by finding someone under the radar who grows into something special. After all, Marv Levy went from being a color analyst on the television coverage of their preseason games to a Hall-of-Fame coach.