I respect coaches who are decent men, who treat players fairly.
I respect coaches who aren't tape-watching automatons, who
instead do things like take an old friend--Troy Aikman, in this
case--to see the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. I respect coaches
who have a sense of history. "You know how great it would be to
win here?" says Redskins coach Norv Turner, the type of coach I
root for. "I'd love to give these people a winner. There's not a
better town to be in if you succeed."
On Sunday at RFK Stadium, Turner's Skins gave him a 10-3 victory
over the Bears in the Jimmy Johnson Alumni Bowl, which pitted
two of Johnson's former Cowboys assistants, Turner and Chicago
coach Dave Wannstedt, against each other. While this game
probably won't appear on either team's highlight video, it aptly
illustrated the law of the NFL jungle: The desperate team
Entering the game Turner had a 9-24 record since taking the
reins of talent-depleted Washington in 1994. And coming off a
listless 17-14 home loss to the Eagles, he couldn't afford to
start this season 0-2 and realistically hope to make the
playoffs--which may be required for him to coach the Redskins
for a fourth season. After all, Washington plays three of its
next four on the road. "We drop two at home and we're looking at
a long season," Washington return man Brian Mitchell said on
The Redskins are--what else?--retooling, what with a young
quarterback (Gus Frerotte), an unsettled offensive line, a new
defensive leader (tackle Sean Gilbert) and 17 new players in
all. Washington fans are getting sick of the tinkering. Turner
knows his honeymoon is over. In the wake of the loss to
Philadelphia, he instructed his players to stop making excuses.
"You don't go out on the field with asterisks on your uniforms
if you're a new guy," Turner told them. "You go on the field and
you're an NFL player. So play like one."
The Redskins can be a feisty bunch. After Chicago punter Todd
Sauerbrun, who averaged 47.4 yards on seven kicks and allowed
zero return yards, rocketed a 50-yarder past Mitchell early in
the fourth quarter, Mitchell charged Sauerbrun. "You have no
guts," he yelled. "Punt it to me." Sauerbrun fired back with
expletives. "I'm dying to make a play," Mitchell said after the
Turner has a lot of guys like that, perhaps enough to make the
football season in Washington more interesting than the
presidential election season. "Norv's a great coach, a winner,"
Gilbert said. "We all want to play for him. I'd like to be with
Norv the rest of my career."
That's the sentiment running through the Redskins' locker room.
The players have about three months to show him how much they
After last week's vote in Tampa, where a half-cent increase in
the Hillsborough County sales tax was approved to help
underwrite a new stadium, it's looking more and more as if the
NFL, which has promised loyal Cleveland fans a team for the 1999
season, will be delivering an expansion club rather than an
existing franchise to that city. Expansion would make the NFL a
31-team league and leave Arizona as the only franchise possibly
looking for a lucrative stadium package elsewhere. But no city
wants a team run by Cardinals owner Bill Bidwill, who has almost
singlehandedly ruined a rich NFL market.
Of course, the league still wants to put a team in Los Angeles,
but the glacial pace at which local officials are addressing the
issues of finding an ownership group and building a new stadium
indicates there probably won't be a team in that market until at
least the turn of the century.
TRIAL BY FIRE
Two years after leading the Bears to the playoffs, quarterback
Steve Walsh has looked awful in two starts with the Rams, and
now his career may be in jeopardy. On Sunday, after completing
two of his first six passes against the 49ers, Walsh was pulled
in the second quarter of a scoreless game and replaced by rookie
Tony Banks. Banks took his first NFL snap from the St. Louis
one-yard line and threw an incomplete pass. On the next play he
was called for intentional grounding in the end zone, resulting
in a safety. Banks went 6 for 17 passing, was sacked four times
and fumbled three times before giving way to third-year reserve
Jamie Martin late in the fourth quarter of a 34-0 loss.
Vikings president Roger Headrick says he has no plans to ask
scandal-plagued coach Dennis Green to resign, but the
organization's board of directors plans to question Green about
his relationship with a woman who claims he paid for her to have
an abortion in 1992....How many of you vastly overrated the
Bengals? In getting off to an 0-2 start, Cincinnati's pass
defense looked like a sieve, quarterback Jeff Blake had to run
for his life behind a green offensive line, and running back
Ki-Jana Carter was already questioning his future with the
Bengals after playing eight quarters in the NFL. "I thought I
was brought here to be the feature back," Carter, who rushed for
a total of 27 yards on 21 carries in the two games, said on
Sunday. "I don't know what the coaches are thinking."... Steve
Young hasn't thrown a touchdown pass in two games, yet the 49ers
looked as powerful as ever in thrashing the Saints and the Rams.
That's because the 49ers' running game and run defense are state
of the art. San Francisco is averaging 4.2 yards per rush behind
a revamped offensive line, while the Niners have held Mario
Bates of New Orleans and Lawrence Phillips of St. Louis to a
combined 45 yards....The latest shot fired in the NFL versus
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones: Last week Jones signed a three-year
contract with Nortel, a telecommunications company, to create a
Cowboys home page on the World Wide Web. The league had hoped to
reap a big payday by packaging all 30 teams in an Internet
arrangement, much in the way it negotiates a national network-TV
contract in which all teams share. With the Cowboys cutting
their own deal, the league's drawing power in cyberspace is
severely diminished....The NFL faces "the worst senior class in
the draft in a decade," according to one team's scouting
director. In the National Football Scouting combine's
season-opening college ratings, only three seniors had at least
7.0, the number assigned to projected first-year impact starters
(8 is the top mark): LSU tight end David Lafleur, Nebraska
defensive end Jared Tomich and Texas cornerback Bryant
Westbrook.... Dan Marino has a pedestrian 354 yards passing
after two Dolphins wins, prompting wideout Lamar Thomas to call
him "our secret weapon."
THE END ZONE
Ravens rookie guard Jonathan Ogden had $4.77 million of his $6.7
million signing bonus deferred to 1997. The Ravens didn't want
to pay the entire bonus up front, and Ogden's agent, Marvin
Demoff, wanted a huge chunk deferred in case Bob Dole becomes
president and is able to institute his promised 15% tax cut.
IS EMMITT TEMPTING FATE?
The Cowboys' Emmitt Smith (right) entered his seventh NFL season
with plenty of wear on his tires, but it's still his fervent
hope to one day surpass Walter Payton's career-rushing record of
16,726 yards. The question is, Will Smith--who has been tackled
more in his first six years than any other player over a similar
span--last long enough to do it? Over their first six seasons
Smith rushed and caught the ball a combined 516 times more than
Payton did. Eric Dickerson, the No. 2 alltime rusher, ran for
1,311 yards in his seventh year, but he was caught up in
contract squabbles and troubled by nagging injuries, and his
numbers eventually dropped off a cliff.
Smith entered this season with a sprained left knee, then
suffered neck and shoulder injuries late in Dallas's
season-opening 22-6 loss to the Bears. Despite being carried off
the field on a stretcher, he was back in the lineup on Sunday
for a 27-0 win over the Giants. He carried 25 times for 94 yards
and caught three passes for 12 yards, but with Dallas leading
24-0 early in the fourth quarter, he was still on the field.
Smith has a fatalistic view of his career. "Having more carries
than anybody at this point doesn't mean I'm more likely to get
hurt now," he says. "It's in God's hands." Here's how Smith's
annual workload (including playoffs) compares with the first six
years of the top five rushers of all time.
Player Rushes Catches Touches Average
Emmitt Smith 2,286 338 2,624 437.3
Walter Payton 1,900 208 2,108 351.3
Eric Dickerson 2,284 191 2,475 412.5
Tony Dorsett 1,813 235 2,048 341.3
Jim Brown 1,526 170 1,696 282.7
Franco Harris 1,693 137 1,830 305.0
has less talent this season than in his first two years in
Dallas, says, "That's like Bill Gates of Microsoft, when the
market drops three percent, complaining his net worth is not
what it used to be."