The Commish Online                                                                                
An Expensive Phone Call
December 16, 2003
by Ward Lowe

Somewhere at NFL headquarters, Commissioner Paul Tagliabue sits at his desk and watches replays of Joe Horn’s touchdown celebration. And the commish is not amused.

During Sunday night’s Saints-Giants game, New Orleans receiver Horn caught a touchdown pass, trotted over to the goalpost, and, from the padding, pulled out a cell phone. He punched a few numbers and appeared to make a call. This, apparently, was part of some end-zone celebration.

Tagliabue doesn’t like end-zone nuttiness and implemented rules against “excessive” end-zone celebrations and other expressions of individuality. His efforts have resulted in complaints about the No Fun League, and the players are pushing the boundaries.

Well, the players should prepare for Mr. Tagliabue to push back. Hard.

I don’t mind a little creativity and celebration on the field, but at least make sense. San Francisco receiver Terrell Owens, who ushered in this new era of celebration through props, last season autographed the ball he had just scored a touchdown with. That makes sense.

But a cell phone? Is he supposed to be calling God instead of pointing up to the sky like everyone else?

Dead ‘Fins
The Miami Dolphins (8-6) suffered their sixth-consecutive December defeat Monday night, and moved to 9-11 in games after November during coach Dave Wannstedt’s four-year stint. Maybe Wannstedt can get the Atlanta job.

Although still alive in the AFC wild-card picture, Miami’s 34-27 loss at home to the soaring Philadelphia Eagles turned the rest of their season into a two-week must-win stretch. They certainly can beat the Bills on the road and the Jets at home, but even that won’t guarantee them a playoff berth. Dolphins defensive end Jason Taylor described Miami’s situation before the Philly game as “desperate.” I wonder what he’s calling it now?

McNair’s break is over
Injured Tennessee quarterback Steve McNair, famous for playing hurt, rode the pine Sunday as his Titans played Buffalo. Tennessee (10-4) needed the win to shore up their playoff spot after two straight losses, but coach Jeff Fisher decided to sit McNair and give fourth-year QB Bill Volek his first NFL start.

Good idea. Volek threw for 295 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another, as the Titans beat the Bills 28-26. Volek probably earned the respect and trust of his teammates and gave Fisher the confidence to use him again, taking a little pressure off McNair. Great news for Tennessee—except Volek gets hurt.

He lacerated his spleen during the game and will miss the rest of the season. That throws McNair and the cracked bone spur in his left ankle back on the field. Tennessee won’t get very far in the postseason.

Holt drops the ball
I mentioned two weeks ago that St. Louis Rams wide receiver Torry Holt was on pace to eclipse the single-season mark for receiving yards (1,848) set in 1995 by then-San Francisco receiver Jerry Rice. Rice averaged 115.5 yards per game, while Holt’s pace, once more than 116 yards per game, has now fallen to about 108 per game.

I doubt Holt is too concerned. He still leads the NFL with 102 catches and 1,518 yards, and the Rams Sunday clinched the NFC West.

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Ward Lowe is a writer and editor in Austin, Texas, who believes that 2004 will be The Year for his beloved Boston Red Sox. You can reach him at