The Oilers, ranked 26th in the league in offense and 28th and last in defense, have become laughingstocks in Houston. In an attempt to polish up their image, the club bought a half-page ad in the Nov. 4 editions of The Houston Post and Houston Chronicle. The ad (right) offered an excuse for the play of the porous offensive line—"the youngest starting unit in the National Football League...average NFL experience is 1.77 years"—and boasted that management had "laid a very talented foundation for the offense' for years to come."
The ad laid a big fat egg with several Oiler players. "They're copping out," said veteran guard John Schuhmacher. "They're trying to cover their tracks. It's like a black plague around here, and it's getting worse."
Said another Oiler, "[General manager] Ladd [Herzeg] has a tremendous ego. He calls in [coach Hugh] Campbell every week and tells him to fire some of his assistants. The pressure on the coaches is unbelievable. Ladd listens to whatever people tell him. He's got a radio buddy who told him to put razzle-dazzle stuff into the game plan, so he calls in the offensive coordinator and tells him to put razzle-dazzle in the game plan. Campbell loves coaching, but if things don't change, if he isn't given more control, I think he'll quit."
After all their griping, the Oilers went out and upset Kansas City 17-16 on Sunday for their first win of the 1984 season. It wasn't exactly a tour de force for the offensive line, however—Oiler quarterback Warren Moon was sacked five times.
With the Eagles reportedly $30 million in, debt, Leonard Tose, who owns 99% of the club, and his daughter Susan Fletcher, the Eagles' vice-president and owner of the remaining 1%, met in Phoenix last week with attorneys for James Monahan, an Edmonton real-estate developer who is interested in buying a minority interest (reportedly 25%) in the team.
Fletcher said she and her father have no plans to sell a majority interest, but when pressed about whether they'd ever consider selling an interest sufficient to allow someone to move the Eagles from Philadelphia, Fletcher said, "Do I know if the Third World War's coming tomorrow? Who the hell knows? I don't know what life's going to bring."
One thing's for sure: the Eagles' lease with Veterans Stadium runs through 1991.
When Nancy McMahon arrived at the Northwestern Memorial Hospital emergency room two weeks ago to see her husband, Jim, the Chicago quarterback who had just been injured in a brutal game with the Raiders, doctors and nurses rushed to her. She was eight months pregnant. "I waddled in, my stomach sticking straight out, and they all gasped and said, 'Oh, my gosh! Are you O.K.?' " Nancy says. "I said, 'Hey, I'm fine. Just take care of my husband.' "
Jim, who earlier had suffered a hairline fracture of his hand, was diagnosed as having a lacerated left kidney. He was hospitalized and scheduled to be released Nov. 16 and will be sidelined at least a month.
"When Jim comes home, he's supposed to lie still," says Nancy. "I'll take care of him until the baby is born December 14. My mom will help out for two weeks. Then, the day after Christmas, I've hired a registered nurse to move in and take care of both Jim and me. We're quite a pair."
Saints nose tackle Derland Moore had to admit that Sunday's game with the Falcons, a 17-13 win, wasn't exactly like the good ol' days. For one thing, Atlanta's backup center, Joe Pellegrini, was playing in place of the grizzled 16-year veteran Jeff Van Note (broken ring finger). "I didn't know how to react," Moore said. "I looked over the line of scrimmage and there was a guy with teeth."
Who's the most productive quarterback in the game today? Dan Marino, who has thrown 30 touchdown passes in 11 games this season? Not according to the Houston Gamblers. They say it's Jim Kelly, the USFL's MVP. The Gamblers recently sent letters—"As you can plainly see, several QBs are between Dan and the all-time mark"—and packets of statistics to the national media as well as the Dolphins' public relations department in an attempt to put Kelly's records "in perspective." Those records include:
44—Jim Kelly, Houston (USFL) 1984
40—Peter Liske, Calgary (CFL) '67
38—Tobin Rote, Toronto (CFL) '60
36—Warren Moon, Edmonton (CFL) '82
36—George Blanda, Houston (AFL) '61
36—Y.A. Tittle, N.Y. Giants (NFL) '63
34—Daryle Lamonica, (AFL) '69
What the Gamblers didn't send was a crate of apples and oranges to go along with the stats.
Tom Landry, who has repeatedly denied that he's going to retire after this season, is finding that his word is anything but law around Dallas. Three weeks ago the Cowboy coach bawled out his players for airing their gripes in the press. He said there'd be a $1,000 fine and/or suspension for anyone speaking out of turn. But when Danny White learned that Gary Hogeboom would be starting at quarterback in Sunday's game at St. Louis, White questioned Landry's choice.
"When you go into the last game of the season with everything on the line—and I'm not sure this isn't the same sort of situation—do you put what you need out there and not worry, or do you save it for something else?" asked White, who has bruised the collarbone in the area near his left shoulder. "That's the question that has to be answered. Our backs are against the wall, and we have to win at all costs. I don't imagine he [Landry] feels that way."
The score as of Sunday: Cowboys 24," St. Louis 17; White's fine, zip.
For the time being, 49er defensive backs Dwight Hicks and Ronnie Lott have been forced to switch positions. Neither is happy about it. "I'm sure there will be a time in my life to play safety—when Dwight Hicks retires," says Lott, who has been an All-Pro cornerback in each of his three seasons in the NFL. "As far as I'm concerned, I'm still a free safety," says Hicks, also a three-time All-Pro.
Coach Bill Walsh claims the move isn't permanent. It was made, he said, because Lott's toe injury prevents him from pushing off his left foot. Walsh also wanted Lott, the 49ers' leading tackier the past two seasons, in on more of the action.
If the switch is permanent, Hicks stands to lose almost $60,000 in incentive bonus money by failing to make All-Pro teams at safety. Under his incentives Lott wouldn't be financially hurt. He's been telling Hicks to look on the bright side. "After all, there's playoff and Super Bowl money to consider," he says. "That offsets any incentive money because it comes with residuals that last after the Super Bowl, too."
After closed-door meetings in 1980 and '83, the Raiders regrouped and went on to win the Super Bowl each time. They circled the wagons again last week. "A lot of people are jumping ship," said center Dave Dalby, the offensive co-captain.
When the Raiders were getting mugged by Chicago Nov. 4, marketing director Mike Ornstein was doing a slow burn. He felt that Southern California sportswriters weren't suffering with the Raiders. "Negative press! I hope you all the on the way home," Ornstein said.
When Dallas staged its Silver Anniversary extravaganza Nov. 2-4, ex-Cowboys Blaine Nye, Larry Cole and Pat Toomay were absent, although no great fuss was made about it. After all, in 1971 the three linemen had formed The Zero Club to underscore their lack of recognition. Frank Luksa, a Dallas Times Herald columnist and the self-appointed Zero Club historian, says, "Each was unknown, unsung and unappreciated, and they joined in a series of common causes, the foremost [being] lethargy and sloth."
Toomay, who's a writer and whose second novel, On Any Given Sunday, was recently published, said, "Our not being invited is a reaffirmation of our motto: None for One, All for Naught. What this shows is that the fans haven't forgotten to forget us."
Nye, who's now a business consultant in Palo Alto, Calif., was perhaps the best guard the Cowboys ever had, even if a poll of Dallas fans left him off an All-Time Cowboy team. He waxed semi-nostalgic: "Ah, we had some great non-times. That's the beauty of it. You can't remember anything."
Cole, a real-estate developer in Colleyville, Texas, was in London. He's a guy who never had much to say, except in 1978, after he returned an interception for a touchdown in a game against the Redskins. The last time he had scored was 10 years before, on a similar play. Said Cole, "Anybody can have an off decade."
Pete Johnson has a new body. "I haven't bought any new clothes yet," says the Dolphin running back, who's a streamlined 251 pounds, down from the 280-or-so he weighed as a Charger in September. "I'm waiting to get down to 240 until I buy new clothes. But I'm sure I've lost several inches in several areas." Johnson, who's playing only in short yardage situations, realizes that only the fittest survive in Miami. "The pass is so important here," he says, "I can't walk around all bloated up. I'm trying to become as quick as I can."
The Pete Johnson Workout consists of three miles of running every morning, weightlifting three times a week and cardiovascular exercises. And Pete has but one meal a day.
"I eat about eight o'clock at night and take a long walk afterward," he says. "In Cincinnati, I used to eat a lot of sandwiches and greasy stuff during lunch, but not anymore. The big thing is that I'm not going out drinking with the fellows anymore. Except for a beer now and then, I've given up drinking."
SING A SONG OF SPLITTING
There's a record that's getting aired on rock stations around Indianapolis, but it doesn't figure to make the Top 10 in Baltimore. One of the guitar players is Jim Irsay, the 25-year-old general manager of the Indianapolis Colts and son of club owner Bob Irsay. "My dad loves it," says Jim, who also wrote the lyrics to the flip side, Go Colts. "It's not his type or my mom's type of music. It's very Bruce Springsteen-like. Still, Dad pulls it out and plays it for his friends."
So here it is, folks, Hoosier Heartland:
Daddy called me up on the telephone.
"Son, is there anybody listenin'?
Are you alone?
It's goin' down tonight around 9 p.m.
The trucks are on their way as soon as I say when."
Well, the trucks pulled up to Baltimore.
The people 'round there didn't want us no more.
So we packed up our bags and drove out of town.
And 12 hours later we were Indybound.
Well, the Colts we had it tough a couple of years.
Just a lot of empty seats.
Lord, there was no one to cheer.
But we heard about a place that had a big white dome.
And it didn't take long for us to find a new home.
Hoosier Heartland, that's where we do roam.
Hoosier Heartland, get tin' down in the Hoosier Dome.
Hoosier Heartland, and the Indy Colts have found their home.
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
OFFENSE: Playing against the best overall defense in the NFL, Ram running back Eric Dickerson carried the ball 28 times for 149 yards and two touchdowns as Los Angeles defeated Chicago 29-13.
DEFENSE: Dallas safety Dennis Thurman set up two TDs: one by recovering a fumble, the other by jarring loose a Roy Green catch which then led to an interception, in a 24-17 victory over St. Louis.
Here are the rushers, passers and receivers who have had the most "good days" this season:
Most 100-yard rushing games
Eric Dickerson, Rams
Walter Payton, Bears
Freeman McNeil, Jets
John Riggins, Redskins
Gerald Riggs, Falcons
Billy Sims, Lions
Most 300-yard passing games
Neil Lomax, Cardinals
Dan Marino, Dolphins
Lynn Dickey, Packers
Dan Fouts, Chargers
Joe Montana, 49ers
Ken Anderson, Bengals
Tony Eason, Patriots
Most 100-yard receiving games
Roy Green, Cardinals
James Lofton, Packers
John Stallworth, Steelers
Mark Duper, Dolphins
Tim Smith, Oilers
Kellen Winslow, Chargers
THE YOUNGEST STARTING OFFENSIVE UNIT IN THE NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE
1984 HOUSTON OILERS STARTERS NOVEMBER 4, 1984
Draft 1980-3rd Round
Draft 1983-2nd Round
Draft 1982-1st Round
Trade (Draft 1982-2nd Round)
Draft 1984-1st Round
Draft 1984-1st Round
Walvers (Draft 1983-3rd Round)
Draft 1983-7th Round
Draft 1983-3rd Round
Draft 1983-5th Round
Average NFL experience of these starters is 1.77 years.
As you can see from the graphics above, the organization has laid a very talented foundation for the offense for years to come. The only intangible this collective young group lacks at this time is experience. It is by far the youngest starting offensive unit in the National Football League.
Come out and support these young, talented players at the Oilers' next home game scheduled for Sunday, November 18, 1984 at the Astrodome against the New York Jets.
For ticket information, please call the Oilers Ticket Office at 713/797-1000.
The Ticket Office, located at 6910 Fannin, is open Monday through Friday between 8:30 a.m. -5:00 p.m.
You may also purchase tickets at the Astrodome, which is open daily between 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
HOUSTON OILERS, INC.