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TIMES NFL WRITER T.J. SIMERS POSES--AND ANSWERS--THE BURNING QUESTIONS ON GAME DAY

1. Question: Is there anyone out there besides your resident football expert here who had it pegged all along that the Jets and Lions would be playing each other in the last game for the right to go to the playoffs?

Answer: Yeah, right. The Jets were 1-15 a year ago, the Lions 5-11, and has there ever been more compelling evidence about the value of a good head coach after watching the work Bill Parcells and Bobby Ross have done?

Too bad they didn’t give any thought to that in San Diego.

2. Q: Why is Steve Mariucci looking to catch his players goofing off?

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A: When San Francisco wide receiver Iheanyi Uwaezuoke missed a team meeting last week, Mariucci gave him a choice: Get fined or buy the team lunch the next day. Uwaezuoke opted to buy lunch, much to Mariucci’s relief. Mariucci bought lunch for the team earlier this season, which cost him $830, and then agreed to buy lunch each week the team won--11 wins later and lunch was costing Mariucci more than $9,000. “My kids aren’t going to private school now,” Mariucci said. “It’s straight to the JC.”

3. Q: How has the Falcons’ amazing success down the stretch caught on in Atlanta?

A: Fans in Atlanta have not been impressed. The last 20 home games have been blacked out from local television because of the team’s inability to sell out the Georgia Dome.

4. Q: Does Dave Wannstedt know what he’s doing in Chicago?

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A: It wouldn’t be a good idea to let him pick your fantasy football team for you. Everyone knows how he botched the assessment of Rick Mirer, but he let Mark Carrier sign with Detroit in the off-season because he figured Anthony Marshall could replace him as starting safety.

Last week Wannstedt released Marshall.

“It was a disappointing year for him and for me,” said Wannstedt, who remains the Bears’ coach into next season.

5. Q: Will Troy Aikman, as he did during the off-season in draft preparations, figure prominently in suggesting what changes should be made in the Cowboys’ organization?

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A: No. “I don’t know that there will be changes, but if there are changes, I will not be a part of the process,” Aikman said. “I will not lobby for any particular person or coach that’s here. I think it’s best to just remove myself from that process.”

So those must be only rumors--all that talk about Aikman putting the seal of approval on Terry Donahue.


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