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Tagliabue Delivers State of NFL Address

NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue spoke with the media on Friday and discussed a number of ongoing issues, including the negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement with the NFL Players Association.

Tagliabue addressed a number of issues related to the Redskins.

During a question-and-answer session with reporters, Tagliabue was asked about the recent trend of NFL teams, including the Redskins, hiring former coordinators to serve as position coaches and whether highly paid coaching staffs could impact the league's competitive balance.

"I think it is becoming an issue in terms of whether we continue to have a level playing field among the teams in the league and in terms of the financial resources some teams have available that others don't," Tagliabue said.

But, he added: "I think the history of the game is replete with coaches who were great when they had people like Bart Starr, Doug Williams, Marcus Allen and Terrell Davis playing for them and then those coaches weren't so good when [those players retired] and there were different players on the field.

"So I'm sure it's something that will be debated for a long time. How much do coaches win football games and how much do higher-paid coaches do better than lower-paid coaches? The jury is still out."

Regarding the use of instant replay, Tagliabue said he expected it to continue despite a number of controversial calls last season. The most notable controversy occurred in the Divisional Playoff game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Indianapolis Colts when Steelers' safety Troy Polamalu's apparent interception was overturned.

The Redskins also had issues with instant replay last season. In Week 10 at Tampa Bay, it appeared Washington's defense had stopped Bucs' fullback Mike Alstott on a two-point conversion attempt, but replay officials ruled otherwise in a game the Redskins lost 36-35.

Asked if the league would reevaluate the use of replay this offseason, Tagliabue replied: "I don't think so. I think what happened on the Troy Polamalu play, which I guess was the most controversial of all, was something that unfortunately people who understand officiating and people who understand human frailty understood could happen.

"But it's perfectly clear that in an overwhelming number of cases, it eliminates mistaken calls and gives officiating crews the ability to see things they do not see in real time. I think there will be very strong continuing support among coaches and owners for replay."

Tagliabue also commented on the situation with the New Orleans Saints, a franchise that was displaced last season due to Hurricane Katrina. The Saints played split home games between San Antonio and Baton Rouge, La., last season. The league hopes to have the Saints play all eight regular-season games at the Superdome next season.

The Redskins will play the Saints on the road in the 2006 season.

Said Tagliabue: "Our commitment to New Orleans and the region is a multi-year commitment. We know that this year is going to be difficult. We are working very hard to have all eight of the Saints' regular season games played in the Superdome.

"But we have a very short period of time to get all of the renovations done. We really need to get moving on that very quickly. We soon expect to announce some key elements of the Saints' regular season playing schedule and elements of their preseason playing schedule, which will involve games outside of New Orleans and other parts of the Gulf.

"In the next couple of weeks, we expect to announce a first-of-its-kind business council to support the Saints. I think the business people in New Orleans can see that the team coming back can be a magnet for other businesses and be a symbol of resilience and vitality. I think we have a very good shot at making it work, although this year will be tough."

On negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement between the league and the NFL Players Associations, Tagliabue was not optimistic.

"I don't think the negotiations are going very well," Tagliabue said. "I think that there needs to be an additional dose of reality on both sides of the table. I think that, to some degree, positions are hardening when they shouldn't be hardening.

"We have serious economic issues that we have to address and resolve. We have some serious system issues--performance-based pay, rookie pool and other related issues--that we need to resolve."

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