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Savran: Kordell's progress simply impressive

Saturday, November 24, 2001

Thanksgiving leftovers:

Practice may make perfect when pertaining to reading defenses, knowing receivers' routes and the timing between wideout and quarterback. But knowing the exact split second to release a football, or being accurate with the throw isn't learned behavior. It's instinctive.

You can teach a pitcher how to throw a new pitch, but that doesn't guarantee he'll throw it for strikes.

So how to explain Kordell Stewart's 60 percent completion rate after multiple seasons of ankle ball? Of the skin being scraped off the pigskin from friction off the artificial turf at Three Rivers Stadium?

Even in his benchmark season of 1997, his completion percentage was just a touch over 50 percent with 21 interceptions in 18 games. Maybe some of it has to do with simplified, less-demanding throws.

Still, it's a credit to him that he has improved this much.

From the man bites dog file. Give kudos to the much maligned corpse of wide receivers for Kordell's elevated completion percentage. It seems logical to me that if Stewart has gone 124 throws without an interception, the receivers must be running disciplined routes, even if they don't always catch the ball when the route intersects with the throw.

There's no wrong choice in picking your MVAC -- Most Valuable Assistant Coach. Coordinators Mike Mularkey and Tim Lewis are top contenders, as is quarterback coach Tom Clements. But my vote goes to Russ Grimm.

Not only has he made this offensive line better, he has changed its personality. Grimm has transformed them into a physical band of maulers, scratching, clawing and punishing defenders, not just shielding them from the ball carrier by leaning on them. It's the way he played in Washington as a member of the famed Hogs.

People credit Jerome Bettis for softening defenses so they want no part of him late in a game. The offensive line beats up those defenders before they ever get a whiff of Bus fumes.

When does freedom of expression bleed into taunting? The National Football League justifiably is concerned about its image being sullied by employing murder suspects, handgun carriers and drug- and spouse-abusers. The connection isn't clear, but league bigwigs have nonetheless correctly directed officials to crack down on taunting, which exhibits a lack of respect for the basic concept of competition itself. But what constitutes taunting?

Randy Moss' nauseating display Monday night was deemed worthy of a flag. Why? As detestable as it was, there was no defender within 15 yards. Who was he taunting, Giants' defensive coordinator John Fox for calling the all-out blitz, which transformed Moss into a true "lonesome" end?

I never thought I'd be defending Moss or those of his ilk, but dances of celebration, to a reasonable degree, shouldn't be penalized. The game is too corporate as it is.

Now, a pumped fist would be plenty for me. But I'm a white guy in my 50s, and I shouldn't be imposing my standards of celebration on players who are mostly African-Americans in their 20s. The NFL is run by white guys in their 60s and 70s. They must be careful not to do the same.

Mike Fetters wants to be traded. Do you blame him?

How can the Pirates possibly survive such a devastating loss? Don't let the bullpen gate hit you in your ample backside, Mike.

I wonder if the Colorado Avalanche, who pay Patrick Roy millions to win the Stanley Cup, think that's less important than Canada winning an Olympic gold medal.

Before their game at Nashville last night, Penguins defensemen had contributed a grand total of three goals, one of them by Mike Wilson, who now toils in Wilkes-Barre. Is there any doubt that the Penguins' biggest need is an offensive presence on the blue line?

Certainly the absence of high-powered forwards partially explains their embarrassing power play. But there's also a glaring absence of someone who would force opponents to fear his shot from the point and/or respect his passing ability should they come out to challenge, leaving forwards unmarked down low. If you're already thinking deadline deals, think offensive defenseman. In fact, why wait until mid-March?

Mario Lemieux has proven to possess superhuman powers. But even at the higher end of the spectrum, he remains human. Had the prescribed regimen of three to four weeks of post-op recuperation been adhered to, Mario might be draped in his jersey tonight, not in a Hugo Boss creation.

As nicely as he dresses, all would prefer him to see him in his Penguins suit, not his Penguins suite.


Stan Savran hosts a sports talk show weeknights from 8 to 9 p.m. on WBGG-AM (970).

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