Redskins-Giants rerun shows NFL complacency

PRO FOOTBALL

October 28, 1990|By VITO STELLINO

Walt Michaels, former coach of the New York Jets, used to quote his late father to explain the importance of succeeding regardless of the obstacles.

"Don't tell me if the sea was stormy," the shipowner would tell the captain in his father's story. "Just tell me whether you brought home the cargo."

The sea also was stormy for the National Football League in making out its schedule this year, illustrated in part by today's matchup between the Washington Redskins and the New York Giants, the teams' second meeting in three weeks even though it's still the first half of the season.

Val Pinchbeck, who's in charge of putting together the schedule has a laundry list of problems. He said the league first tried to schedule the second Giants-Redskins game the 14th week of the season, then the 11th week, but couldn't fit it in.

Pinchbeck noted the league got a late start in putting together the schedule because of the TV negotiations that produced open dates and an increase in national TV games from 46 to 59. The NFL had another problem because the baseball lockout changed that sport's postseason schedule, and NFL teams share 14 parks with baseball teams. The Giants don't share their stadium with a baseball team, but with the Jets.

"It isn't our desire to play both division games in the first half of the year," Pinchbeck said. "It certainly wasn't planned that way."

The bottom line, though, is that the NFL's schedule ship sank again this year for the Redskins and Giants. The NFL didn't get the cargo home in this rivalry.

Having the teams play twice in the first half of the season drain much of the drama from the National Football Conference Eastern Division race.

If the Giants win today, they'll have a three-game lead over the Redskins. The race will be virtually over.

If the Redskins win, they'll cut the Giants' lead to a game, and it should be a great race the second half of the season, but there will be no head-to-head meeting remaining.

John Madden, the CBS-TV announcer who has been complaining for three years about the Giants and Redskins playing twice in the first half of the year, had one word to describe this scheduling: "Stupid."

A better word might be complacency. Things like this happen because the league is too successful. Last weekend, it averaged 66,329 fans (including no-shows) a game -- the second-highest in league history.

Television ratings are solid, too. NBC is even with last year's ratings after seven weeks, CBS is down just 4 percent and ABC is down 10 percent, but is winning its Monday night time slot regularly.

It doesn't seem to matter that in the three-week period, including this week's games, the only games matching teams with winning records are the two Redskins-Giants games.

As long as the fans go to the game and watch on TV, the NFL can schedule the games whenever it wants to without being concerned about rivalries.

The NFL these days is reminiscent of the American auto industry in the 1950s, but it doesn't have to be worried about the Japanese starting a football league.

*

When the Los Angeles Rams play the Pittsburgh Steelers tomorrow night, more attention may be directed toward the officials than the players.

That's because the officials have had major problems in the Monday night game two weeks in a row.

There were several bad calls in the Minnesota Vikings-Philadelphia Eagles game two weeks ago, and last Monday night, they lost track of the downs in the Cleveland Browns-Cincinnati Bengals game. Bengals quarterback Boomer Esiason called the officiating "goofy."

This is about to rekindle the annual debate about instant replay. George Young, general manager of the Giants, said instant replay erodes the authority of the officials on the field and that his team continues to oppose it.

Jim Finks, general manager of the New Orleans Saints and head of the competition committee, said he prefers to wait until the end of the season to make any judgment.

The instant-replay debate never seems to end, even though the "experiment" is in its fifth season.

*

Bud Carson, coach of the Browns, is on the hot seat this week.

Speculation is rampant in Cleveland that he'll be fired if the tea falls to 2-6 today. The problem is that the Browns play at the San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers, 30-3 in their past 33 games, make a lot of teams look bad, and Carson may not survive a sorry showing.

Carson said the speculation about his future has affected his work.

"It takes away from my preparation, I know that," Carson said, "but that's something you're going to get if you lose. That's an extra burden you have to carry and you have to overcome. Nothing good happens with losing."

Owner Art Modell won't comment on Carson's future. "All I can tell you is I do not like the direction we're going in right now, and we have to do whatever is possible to reverse it," he said.

Meanwhile, Carson got a vote of confidence from an unlikely source -- Bengals coach Sam Wyche.

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