WILD RIDE ON THE COACH-A-WHIRL
Powered by money, the NFL's coaching carousel keeps picking up
This is an article from the Jan. 25, 1999 issue
When he was coaching the Atlanta Falcons, Jerry Glanville chased
down an official he thought had blown a call and said, "This is
the NFL, which means Not for Long when you make those calls."
Today, Glanville's line applies to his former coaching brethren.
At least nine teams will have new coaches next season. Chaos
reigns even where guys are staying. Jimmy Johnson had to be
talked out of quitting the Miami Dolphins by Dan Marino and owner
With Marty Schottenheimer's resignation after 10 years of
leading the Kansas City Chiefs, the deans of NFL coaching are
the Pittsburgh Steelers' Bill Cowher and the Minnesota Vikings'
Dennis Green, who have lasted seven seasons apiece. Only six NFL
coaches will enter next fall with more than three seasons in
their posts. Things have gotten so crazy that coaches now stage
press conferences to say they're not leaving, as Johnson did
Why such upheaval? Money, mainly. Jerry Richardson shelled out
more than $500 million to become the founding owner of the
Carolina Panthers, and one 4-12 season was enough for him to lose
patience with Dom Capers, a man he'd thought of as a son. But the
cash cuts both ways. Mike Holmgren, lured by Paul Allen's
billions and by the nearly absolute power the Seattle Seahawks'
owner promised him, left a good gig with the Green Bay Packers,
which paid him $2 million in '98, to take over troubled Seattle
for $4 million a year. Johnson, meanwhile, is already rich. A
generation ago reluctant coaches had to suck it up and go to work
anyway. They needed the money. Johnson, who made $156,000 in one
day on the stock market last year and is probably worth more than
$10 million, is wealthy enough to do as he pleases.
Money has changed the players, too. Johnson could be brutal in
practice with his 1991 Dallas Cowboys, but tough tactics didn't
work as well in Miami this season. Johnson was amazed that he had
trouble getting the Dolphins to go all out in practice before
their Nov. 1 showdown with the Buffalo Bills for the AFC East
lead. He sees a leaguewide erosion of team spirit. "When I got to
the NFL in 1989, you'd meet the other coach at midfield before
the game and he'd talk about his team as we," Johnson says. "Now
coaches are mad at the front office, mad at their players. It's
much less a team thing."
A group led by real estate magnate Howard Milstein has now bid
$800 million for the Washington Redskins and their cash cow of a
stadium. For years the league has wanted big money from TV and
from Fortune 500 types like Milstein. The NFL got its money--and
the madness that goes with it. --Peter King
WOMAN ON THE EDGE
Julie Zell's fans call her the best snowboarder on earth, but she
says she's just a frustrated surfer. Zell, 31, is a backcountry
snowboarder. This isn't the back-and-forth half-pipe boarding you
see on TV in the X Games. What Zell does is simpler and scarier.
Without benefit of ski lifts, groomed snow or ski patrols, she
bombs down mountainsides where brave souls fear to tread. In this
sport, once the helicopter that brung you zooms away, there's
nothing to do but dance with the mountain.
Other downhillers watch out for moguls. Backcountry boarders have
to worry about bears, boulders and cliffs. Zell relishes zipping
down a 50-degree slope at better than 40 mph, tracing arcs
through virgin powder before knifing through a clump of trees and
plunging 30 feet over a crag. "I know my life is at stake," says
Zell, a three-time winner of the women's division at the King of
the Hill World Extreme Championships in Valdez, Alaska. But, she
adds, "In the snow, I'm in my element."
Unable to make the leap from merely excellent to world class as a
skier, Zell moved from her hometown of Syracuse, N.Y., to Maui in
1989. She fell in love with surfing but never quite mastered it.
After returning to the mainland in '90, she discovered
snowboarding. "I wanted to surf more than anything else, and this
was surf style," she says.
In Jackson, Wyo., Zell joined a crew of backcountry jocks that
included her older brother Jim, an extreme skier. In 1996 the
costs of daredevilry hit home when Jim was paralyzed in a
paragliding accident. Julie has also had to contend with vertigo
and fear of heights; she sometimes stares downhill and feels the
world spinning. She responds by tackling the toughest terrain she
Last year Zell tried boardercross, a motocross-style race in
which up to six snowboarders compete at once and has moved up
steadily in the world rankings. (She finished 10th last week at
the X Games after crashing into a racer who had fallen in front
of her.) Zell also signed an endorsement contract with Nike,
becoming the first backcountry snowboarder to score such a deal.
Zell had longed to be great at something, but there's another
power pulling her onward and downward with a force that would
scare most people out of their boots. "The mystery," she calls
it. She can't wait to get back in the chopper.
If you ever wanted to be the director who calls the shots for a
televised football game but were put off by the need to get your
butt up off your couch, here's good news. Next week in Miami at
the NFL Experience, football's Super Bowl fan carnival, Sprint
will unveil its Den of the Future, an interactive TV system that
could be the best thing for couch potatoes since the remote.
The Den's pulsing heart is the TV of the future, which shows
three angles of the action. If you love Mike Ditka's histrionics,
you can punch up da coachcam and watch Iron Mike bust a blood
vessel. If the Vikings throw long, you can toggle between a wide
shot and a Moss-covering Randycam. In addition to a stats ticker,
the screen can show two of your friends in their own Dens, which
means you can enjoy your pals' company without ponying up for the
The Den won't be ready for home installation for two or three
years. By then, maybe Sprint's technicians will have perfected a
nacho chip that launches itself into your mouth.
NBA Agent Ejected
When agent Steve Woods, who represents NBA players including the
Toronto Raptors' Kevin Willis and free agent Willie Burton,
blasted the NBA players' association during the lockout, he
never thought it would cost him his job. In a letter dated Jan.
5, Woods got word that the association was revoking his
certification to represent players. "Your inaccurate statements
regarding the unions [sic] proposals...indicates [sic] that you
are not qualified to represent members of this union," the
letter read. Citing Section 3B(m) of its bylaws, the association
banned Woods for "conduct...[that] jeopardizes the effective
representation of NBA players."
Woods's decertification smacks of hypocrisy. Referring to union
chief Billy Hunter, he says, "I'm essentially being fired for
misrepresentation by a man who told the players that they
wouldn't miss any games this season, that they wouldn't miss any
paychecks and that there would be an All-Star Game. If accurate
statements are the measure, Billy Hunter isn't fit to run a
lemonade stand." Woods has filed an unfair labor practices charge
against the players' association with the National Labor
Woods, 39, is an adjunct professor of sports business at South
Carolina and Clark Atlanta University. "He's honest and direct,"
says fellow agent Frank Catapano. "He didn't agree with how the
union was handling the lockout, but he always seemed reasonable."
"People might think I'm lucky--that this is like getting kicked
out of the Mafia," says Woods, "but it threatens my livelihood."
His next exchange with Hunter may occur in court.
Football in Italy
LOST IN TRANSLATION
A brochure touting the first American Football World Cup, an
amateur tournament next summer in Palermo, features this rundown
on first downs and touchdowns: "If a team go beyond the 10 yards,
it gains another four chances to advance further and so on until
the crossing of the goal line and the consequent attainment of
the touch down (goal) which is worth 6 points and gives the right
of a 1 point transformation (kicking the ball between two posts)
or a 2 point transformation (with a manoeuvre)."
Russian Sports Craze
GO WITH THE FLOE
The bulletin out of St. Petersburg last week was as much a part
of Russian winter as fur hats and Boris Yeltsin's head colds: The
search was on for two ice fishermen who had floated into the Gulf
of Finland on a chunk of ice. Eight days earlier in southeast
Siberia, six other fishermen had been set adrift in the Sea of
Japan when a passing ship sliced through the ice between them and
the mainland. Three are still missing.
Every weekend millions of Russians--mostly men, bundled in
parkas and plastic trash bags and stoked by coffee, soup and
ample supplies of vodka--use oversized drills to bore holes
through thick ice on rivers, lakes and bays. They sit on metal
buckets and shiver through -50[degree] cold all day, ostensibly
hoping to pull in a few carp or whitefish. The nation's winter
pastime "is the only way I have found to forget my troubles
completely," said one Siberian. "It is the most peaceful thing a
man can do."
Peaceful but dangerous. Each winter hundreds of fishermen from
Karelia to Kamchatka freeze to death, drown after falling through
thin ice or drift out to sea, never to be found. The Ministry of
Emergency Services recently stepped up patrols by icebreakers in
the nation's most popular offshore fishing areas. Yet this dicey,
icy sport has long been so popular that a politician can signal
his good health by talkin' fishin'. Last year the Kremlin
released footage of Yeltsin snowmobiling and discussing his day
on the ice: "They're not biting much, although the pike are this
big." Yeltsin coughed, holding his hands about three feet apart.
If Yeltsin really wanted to come across as a regular Boris, he
could have tried warming bait worms the way most of his
countrymen do. They keep the worms in their mouths or armpits.
Jerk of the Year
WAIT TILL NEXT YEAR, ALBERT BELLE
Bud Selig wasn't on hand to accept the first baseball Jerk of the
Year Award from Adam and Steve Hofstetter, creators of the Web
site www.jerkoftheweek.com, last week. When the Hofstetter
brothers--Adam, 23, a production editor at a Manhattan publisher,
and Steve, 19, a student at Columbia--showed up at the Major
League Baseball offices in Manhattan, a security guard told them
that Selig works at Milwaukee County Stadium. "Silly us," said
Adam, "looking for the commissioner at the commissioner's
Selig won the award for offenses including failing to stop the
dismantling of the Florida Marlins, driving his car into a parked
cement truck and "perpetuating the biggest conflict of
interest"--serving both as owner of the Brewers and as interim
commissioner--"since Pete Rose was a player-manager-gambler,"
according to the Hofstetters. The brothers hope their trophy, a
silver piggy bank, will inspire the commish to save for car
repairs and an office in New York "or at least a decent haircut."
This year's Granada-to-Dakar rally took a bizarre turn last week
when bandits attacked competitors near Tichit, Mauritania, in the
western Sahara. About 20 men brandishing assault rifles ambushed
50 racers and stole cash, a motorcycle, three trucks and four
cars. On Sunday organizers canceled the final leg of the
motorcycle competition and declared Richard Sainct of France the
winner. Another Frenchman, Jean-Louis Schlesser, finished 33
minutes, 38 seconds ahead of Italy's Miguel Prieto in the auto
division of the 5,843-mile race, while the robbers stayed a step
ahead of the Mauritanian troops chasing them.
--That for the sake of Dan Reeves's cardiologist, the Super
Bowl doesn't go into OT.
--That the unemployed World Cup soccer player from Cameroon,
Joseph-Desire Job, gets his wish.
--That Michael Jordan's 99.9% certainty he'll stay retired
becomes 99.8%, 99.7%, 99.6%....
NHL coaches fired through Jan. 18, the latest a nonlockout season
has gone without an axing since 1993-94.
Guarantee earned by South African boxer Francois Botha for
fighting Mike Tyson in Las Vegas (page 66).
Prize money earned by South African golfer Wimpie Botha for
finishing 30th behind Ernie Els at the Dunhill South African PGA.
Flat-screen 36-inch TVs bought by the Falcons' Jamal Anderson to
thank his offensive linemen for helping him lead the NFC in
Age of women's world amateur chess champ Jessie Gilbert of
Price to rent the former August Busch Jr. estate in St.
Petersburg, Fla., during Final Four week in March--not including
Winning bid for a "rarely worn" rubber jockstrap with "no
stains," on the ebay.com on-line auction site.
Michael Jordan-related items sold by the Home Shopping Network
within 24 hours of his retirement announcement.
Ty Wilcox of Oklahoma State (in red) kept his head in the thick
of the action while being pinned by Steve Blackford during a Jan.
10 dual meet at Arizona State. Despite Wilcox's loss, the
top-ranked Cowboys won 28-9 for their 55th straight dual-meet
victory, and on Sunday they ran their streak to 59 by winning the
Cliff Keen/NWCA National Duals in Iowa City.
As of Monday top-ranked UConn (15-0) and No. 8 Auburn (17-0)
were the only undefeated teams in major college basketball. The
Huskies and the Tigers might want to think about tanking a game
soon. Recent history suggests that being the last team to go
down to defeat during the season will earn you a high seed in
the NCAA tournament--and an untimely exit. Of the teams in the
past dozen years that have gone furthest each season without
losing, not one has won a national championship. Here's how the
last unbeatens have fared each year since 1987-88.
SEASON TEAM STREAK NCAA SEED RESULT
1997-98 Utah 18-0 3 Lost title game
1996-97 Kansas 22-0 1 Lost in regional semis
1995-96 UMass 26-0 1 Lost in Final Four
1994-95 UConn 15-0 2 Lost in regional finals
1993-94 UCLA 14-0 5 Lost in first round
1992-93 Virginia 11-0 6 Lost in regional semis
1991-92 Oklahoma St. 20-0 2 Lost in regional semis
1990-91 UNLV 30-0 1 Lost in Final Four
1989-90 Kansas 19-0 2 Lost in second round
1988-89 Illinois 17-0 1 Lost in Final Four
1987-88 BYU 17-0 4 Lost in second round
On Tuesday, 31 fans--one for each current NFL franchise--were to
be inducted into a Hall of Fans exhibit at the Pro Football Hall
of Fame in Canton, Ohio. Among the honorees:
Name Brian Maas
Nickname Mr. Cheer or Die
Day job Pharmacist
Vikes jersey, Brunhilde wig, cheese-piercing horns
Poses a danger?
Runs wacko Web site, tailgates in -40[degree] windchill
"Death, thunder, destruction and brawl! We gnaw away, claw away,
slash away all!"
[Name] Michael Torbert
[Nickname] Boss Hogette
[Day job] Nuclear engineer
Blond wig, polka-dot dress, plastic pig nose
[Poses a danger?]
To galleries at D.C.-area celebrity golf outings
Is featured in a line of Hogettes trading cards
"The Redskins and Hogettes go together like a pig and its
[Name] Patti Hammond
[Nickname] Mama Blue
[Day job] Hairstylist
Glittering clothing, wig with Christmas lights
[Poses a danger?]
Only if her wig short-circuits
Was spat at by Lyle Alzado
"My great-grandkids take me to school for show-and-tell."
[Name] Tim McKernan
[Nickname] Barrel Man
[Day job] Airline mechanic
Orange cowboy hat, boots and barrel
[Poses a danger?]
To Denver's reputation
Is nude under his barrel
"I've led cheers in a barrel for 20 years. God willing, I'll
last another 30. Go, Broncos!"
This Week's Sign That the Apocalypse Is Upon Us
After writing an editorial for his high school newspaper calling
football players "the spouse abusers, drunks and hamburger
flippers of tomorrow," a Scottsdale, Ariz., teenager was beaten
up by a member of the school's football team.
Momentous hype, wall-to-wall media coverage, endless punditry.
We're not talking about presidential impeachment but Super Bowl
week. Whether it's obtaining tickets, getting ideas for your
game-day bash or decoding the Roman numeral system, the
information you crave can be hard to find amid all the Super
static. Use the Web to find what you need to make Sunday super,
even if the game turns into a dud.
The South Florida Super Bowl XXXIII Host Committee's on-line
guest guide has the info an out-of-town NFL fan needs to survive
Super Bowl week in Miami: listings of restaurants and lodging,
game-day parking and transportation guidelines and an exhaustive
list of Super-related activities and parties.
Whether you'll be pregaming in the Pro Player parking lot or in
your living room, get some party tips from Joe Cahn, the
self-proclaimed Commissioner of Tailgating. Miami is the final
stop on his Tailgating Tour '98: Log on for some of the
artery-hardening recipes he's gathered in his 60,000 miles on the
That friend of a friend of a friend didn't come through with
tickets? Try Internet ticket broker Front Row USA to score
last-minute Super ducats. Front Row responds immediately to
E-mail requests and has a detailed Pro Player Stadium seating
chart so you can see how good--or bad--a $500 seat would be.
The NFL's official site has all the expected Super news, Super
stats, Super records, Super player profiles, and capsules and
video clips of Super Bowls past, including Broadway Joe's day in
the Miami sun in Super Bowl III (left). It also offers message
boards for John Madden wannabes, chats with former Super stars
and a chance for fans to add to the hype by setting up their own
Super Web pages.
sites we'd like to see
On-line daily planner to help workaholic Jimmy Johnson balance
football and family.
New Jersey Nets fan site of new part-owner Bill Cosby's cartoon
friend Mush Mouth.
Pacers coach, when asked whether Michael Jordan was the best
basketball player of all time: "He was one of two."