Manny Fernandez, vice president of the Ticor title insurance company in Miami, doesn't normally follow the Washington Redskins.
"I don't [usually] have much interest in watching the Redskins," he said. "I do now."
As defensive tackle with the 1972 Miami Dolphins, who went 17-0 and won the Super Bowl, Fernandez has a vested interest in the 9-0 Redskins' quest for a perfect season.
He says he doesn't think they can do it, but, as he points out, he's not an unbiased observer.
"You have to qualify that because that's my personal opinion and I'm sitting here hoping like hell they don't do it," Fernandez said from his Miami office yesterday.
In the 72-year history of the NFL, the Dolphins are the only team to go through a season, including playoffs, unbeaten and untied.
Paul Brown's Cleveland Browns went 15-0 in the All-America Football Conference in 1948, but the NFL doesn't count that league's records the way it counts American Football League records because it didn't merge with the AAFC.
The Dolphins are proud of their feat, and they're not eager to have another team match it.
"Right now, it belongs strictly to us," Fernandez said. "To have to share it from a greed standpoint wouldn't be a lot of fun, especially if it were to happen in a 19-game schedule. People would say their undefeated was a better undefeated, and I don't want to concede that."
The Dolphins did it in the era of the 14-game regular-season schedule. The league switched to a 16-game schedule in 1978.
Fernandez said a team needs the breaks and has to stay healthy to win them all. The Redskins got lucky Sunday when Ian Howfield of the Houston Oilers missed a 33-yard field-goal attempt at the end of regulation time. Washington won, 16-13, in overtime.
But Fernandez still isn't convinced the Redskins will go 19-0.
"They don't strike me as a team that can make it all the way through" unbeaten, he said. "They're good enough to win the Super Bowl, but I just don't think their players have the -- I don't want to say talent -- I don't know if they have the background."
He noted that the year before the Dolphins went 17-0, they beat the Kansas City Chiefs in the celebrated Christmas Day overtime game and lost the Super Bowl to the Dallas Cowboys.
"We had the experience," he said. "A lot of the players on their team have not experienced it at that level. I think that plays an important factor as the pressure mounts."
The Redskins won Super Bowl XXII at the end of the 1987 season, but they have only 15 players on their active roster from that team. They've played in only two playoff games the past three years.
In the health department, the Redskins got a scare Sunday when they lost their two starting tackles, Jim Lachey and Joe Jacoby, with knee injuries. Earlier this season, tackle Ed Simmons was placed on injured reserve after spraining his knee against the Cowboys. But Redskins officials indicate that neither Lachey nor Jacoby is injured seriously enough to be put on injured reserve. Jacoby is expected to play Sunday.
Fernandez said he wouldn't root for Redskins injuries. "I hope they stay healthy and don't go undefeated," he said.
But if they do, he'd salute them.
"If they can do it, they deserve whatever comes with it," he said. "There are no special prizes or bells and whistles, but there's the personal satisfaction you take with you for the rest of your life, knowing you accomplished something no one else did."
NOTES: Russ Grimm is likely to make his first start of the season Sunday against Atlanta in place of Lachey, who suffered a mild right knee sprain against Houston. Lachey probably will be listed as questionable this week.
NFL teams that have started 9-0 or better:
Year.. ..Team .. .. .. .. .. .. ..Record
1991.. ..Washington Redskins.. .. .. 9-0
1990.. ..New York Giants.. .. .. .. 10-0
..San Francisco 49ers.. .. ..10-0
1985.. .. Chicago Bears.. .. .. ....12-0
1984.. .. Miami Dolphins.. .. .. .. 11-0
.. Minnesota Vikings.. .. .. 10-0
1973.. .. Minnesota Vikings.. .. ... 9-0
1972.. .. Miami Dolphins-x.. .. ....14-0
1969.. .. Los Angeles Rams.. .. ... 11-0
.. Buffalo Bills.. .. .. .... 9-0
.. Green Bay Packers.. .. .. 10-0
.. San Diego Chargers.. .. ..11-0
1942.. .. Chicago Bears.. .. .. ... 11-0
.. Chicago Bears-x.. .. .. ..13-0
1934.. .. Detroit Lions.. .. .. ... 10-0
.. Green Bay Packers.. .. ... 9-0
.. Green Bay Packers.. .. ... 9-0
.. Green Bay Packers.. ... 13-0-1
x-undefeated regular season