By Cold, Hard Football Facts contributors Josh Bacott and Pat Imig
In the NFL, unlike Major League Baseball, steroids aren't viewed as a big issue. 
At least that's what one assumes based upon the reaction of the mainstream media in the case of San Diego's Shawne Merriman, who was suspended for four games this season after testing positive for steroids.
Merriman was, by all accounts, one of the top defensive players in the NFL this year. His 17 sacks led the league – made more remarkable by the fact that he accomplished the feat in just 12 games.
That's 1.42 sacks per game ... and that's an unofficial record, slightly ahead of Michael Strahan's 1.41 sacks per game in 2001 (he played all 16 games). Of course, we all remember Strahan was handed a gift that year, when Green Bay's Brett Favre took a dive to hand the single-season sack record (22.5) to the Giants' defensive end.
Nobody has taken a dive for Merriman this season, except for some prominent members of the pigskin media.
Merriman's 1.42 sacks per game is not exactly a statistical anomaly – an "outlier" the statisticians would call it – like Mark McGwire's 70 home runs was in 1998, or Barry Bond's record 73 in 2001.
But it is unprecedented. And that should cause people to sit up and take notice ... especially when it's coupled with the emperical evidence of a positive drug test.
But a sympathetic media, which has made a pariah of McGwire, has turned a blind eye to Merriman. His steroid suspension is immaterial, at least according to CBS and the cast of its NFL Today show.
The studio crew's interview of Merriman during halftime of the Patriots-Jets game Sunday served as a microcosm of the media's lightweight treatment of an issue that continues to take center stage in baseball. 
Merriman came to the interview dressed like a thug in a black wifebeater, merely reinforcing the image the public already has of him.
But not once during the course of the interview was the word "steroids" uttered. Nobody thought to ask, we suppose. James Brown, Shannon Sharpe, Dan Marino and Boomer Esiason tiptoed around the issue, choosing to fawn over their guest and throw out hard-hitting questions like this one from Sharpe:
"How much did missing those four games hurt you in not winning the Defensive Player of the Year (award)?"
How much did they hurt him? A more valid question might have been: "How much did steroids help you in setting a new per-game sack record?"
The CBS crew certainly shouldn't have attacked Merriman, but a question or two about the issue at hand would have been appropriate.
(And while certainly inappropriate, it would have been funny to watch James Brown do Merriman's "Lights Out" dance after Merriman fumbled through his denial.)
The mere suspicion of steroids in baseball sends the media into a frenzy. Just ask McGwire, who discovered yesterday that sports writers are in no mood yet to vote him into the Baseball Hall of Fame, because of the (incredibly strong) suspicion that he took performance-enhancing drugs.
Yet in the NFL, actually testing positive for these drugs is a stepping stone to the Pro Bowl.
Maybe CBS can pull up another chair and let Dolphins D-lineman Jason Taylor join the show. At least he's not afraid to speak up.
Pigskin Poetry
"It's not the playoff pressure, it's the pressure of being a great player in a big-time game." – Sharpe, on Peyton Manning's postseason struggles with interceptions

According to Sharpe, these are two different things.
"It's like a finger in a dike." – Al Michaels

Insert your own comment here.

"Tom Brady (is) 8-0 at halftime in his career." – Dan Marino

No record in NFL history is as coveted quite as much as "all-time playoff winning percentage ... at halftime." By the way, what the hell does this mean?

"Brady and (Josh) McDaniels are building the kind of relationship you hope a quarterback and coach build, the kind Brady's had only with Charlie Weis since entering the league in 2000." – Peter King,

Perhaps that's because Weis is the only offensive coordinator other than McDaniels Brady has worked with professionally. We appreciate the insight, Peter.

"Don't you get the impression that as wonderful as Tony Romo was for a month, he fell to earth with as heavy a thud as any other player in recent memory?" – King

King's definition of recent history must be "this week." Rex Grossman played the same fiddle this season. He was the second coming of Sid Luckman for the first eight weeks of the year. Since then, he's the reason why Bears fans wake up in a cold sweat each and every night.
Sean Salisbury Loves Himself
Apparently, ESPN analyst Sean Salisbury (our choice for 2006 hack of the year) finally found something he deems more impressive than a Brett Favre spiral: himself. 
Speculation ran wild after Salisbury was suspended by ESPN in October. The issue passed quietly until's Mike Freeman dropped this little nugget in a recent column: "The NFL analyst who shall not be named that took a picture of his penis with a cell phone camera and has shown it to numerous, uncomfortable women, then was suspended by his network for it. Absolute true story." 
So who was it? Question no more, writes thebiglead: "Drumroll please: An 'insider' writes: 'It's 100 percent Sean Salisbury.'"
Apparently, he's not angry at everyone. 

A Book Only an Idiot Could Write
Anyone surprised Joe Theismann was selected as the author of "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Understanding Football?" 
Here are some future titles we're hoping to see:
* "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Tijuana" by Barrett Robbins
* "The Complete Douche Bag's Guide to Football" by Ron Borges
* "The Complete Factless Hack's Guide to Football" by Skip Bayless 
* "The Complete Illiterate's Guide to Football" by Shannon Sharpe
* "The Complete Crack Smoker's Guide to Football" by Michael Irvin
* "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Picking Up Chicks" by Sean Salisbury
* "The Fraud's Guide to Football" by Pete Prisco (Get this, friends of the truth: Word this week is that Prisco, the man afraid of the Cold, Hard Football Facts, picked New England to beat San Diego while on Boston sports radio Wednesday, but picked the Chargers to beat the Patriots when on San Diego sports radio earlier in the week.)
Nick Saban on Nick Saban
Nick Saban is a buffoon. Aside from his complete hatchet job on the Dolphins, during which he repeatedly denied he'd leave the team, the guy skipped out on a meeting and phoned in his resignation so he could become coach at the school that just canned the son of the most famous coach in Dolphins history.
What's that you say? You already know that? Well, then how about this fun one courtesy of the Palm Beach Post, which details some stuff of interest for the Dolphins brass. 
Nick, what say you about the general managers you worked with, Rick Spielman and Randy Mueller?  

"I don't know how to say this, because I don't want to throw anybody under the bus ... when you look at the teams that have really good personnel people, that are doing what the coaches want them to do, finding the kind of players the coaches want them to find ... when you don't do that, they say, 'OK, here are the three best guys.'
"These are the three best guys? None of these guys fit our criteria for what we're looking for. People have to be willing to accept their role."

Interesting that Saban would place some blame or "responsibility for failures" on the people in charge of personnel when that same Nick Saban handpicked each and every front-office employee, coach and player. Plus, "sources" say Saban was so indecisive about certain free agents that he let them slip through Miami's fingertips and sign elsewhere.

Um, Nick ... no matter what the doctors said, you're the one responsible for passing on Drew Brees and signing Daunte Culpepper. That one worked out real well. 
Yet, sayeth the ego-monster: "I affected the team in a positive way. I mean, we were a 4-12 team that was $17 million over the salary cap. The team is closer to being successful now."
Uh-huh. Yep. The Dolphins are much better off with a new coach, no quarterback and a defense consisting of aging veterans.

Clearly, the poor baby had a hard time handling a 15-17 career record in the NFL: "Losing is a tough thing," said Saban. 
So, like Steve Spurrier (12-20 in the NFL), when the losses outweigh the victories, it's time to pack it in and head back to college.
Most people graduate from college. Saban and Spurrier retreated back to it.