Big week for NFL was a long time coming

Nfl Week 15

December 13, 1992|By VITO STELLINO

It was the fall of 1987. Ronald Reagan was president. The Soviet Union was the Evil Empire. Bill Clinton was the obscure governor of a small Southern state.

That's when Washington Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke announced at a welcome-home luncheon that he was going to build a new stadium. A few weeks later, the NFL players went on strike for free agency.

Five years later, on back-to-back days, those two goals became a reality.

On Tuesday, Cooke completed a deal with the District of Columbia to build a new stadium. As soon as the news release was written, the city immediately announced it that night. They didn't want to give Cooke a chance to change his mind. There were too many stops and starts in these endless talks.

The next day, commissioner Paul Tagliabue finally reached a deal with Jim Quinn, attorney for the players. that includes free agency. If the executive committee of the management council approves the deal this week, the players will finally have free agency.

It was just a coincidence that these two drawn-out negotiations -- that started about the same time -- ended at about the same time.

It's also a coincidence that Cooke is now looking forward to increased cash flow at the same time it's possible to bid for players.

Even though he's one of the country's richest men and the Redskins have been one of the best teams, he hasn't made much money on the Redskins and has often lost money.

That's because the Redskins don't have any luxury boxes or club seats at RFK Stadium and its seating capacity is only 56,677. That'll change once he gets into the new stadium with 4,300 seats in 331 luxuzy boxes and 15,000 club seats. It's likely to generate more revenue than any stadium in the league.

The prospect of Cooke having a new revenue stream at the same time free agency is coming would normally be the worst nightmare for opposing teams. The salary cap, though, will keep a lid on Cooke's spending.

Until the cap kicks in, one of the questions being asked around the league is how much bidding Cooke will do. He can be very unpredictable. He spent the big money for Wilber Marshall in 1988 and yet he made Darrell Green, Jim Lachey and Desmond Howard miss training camp this year before coming to terms with them.

Cooke's big decision this year is whether to go after Reggie White, the Philadelphia Eagles' defensive lineman. One provision of the deal the players made was that all the lead plaintiffs in the lawsuits, including White, couldn't be exempted from free agency.

White has left no doubt that he wants out of Philadelphia and he wants to play on grass for a team that has a shot to win the Super Bowl.

That would certainly fit the Redskins.

Two other teams that are supposed to be on White's list are the San Francisco 49ers and the Dallas Cowboys, although the cowboys don't play on grass.

The Patsies

Nobody knows the trouble the New England Patriots have seen this year. Their coach. Dick MacPherson, underwent surgery. Their general manager, Sam Jankovlch, got into a shouting match at halftime of a game with owner James Orthwein and Jankovich is supposed to be on his way out. Orthwein doesn't even want to own the team. He wants to sell it and get an expansion team for St. Louis.

The trouble is nobody wants to buy it unless the Patriots get a new stadium. They're not a viable team in Foxboro Stadium. If the labor deal is ratified and the NFL names two expansion teams sometime this year, the Patriots situation becomes even more confusing.

Can Orthwein be awarded an expansion team while he owns another team? Will he be awarded a team on the condition he sells the Patriots in a specific period of time? What happens if the only buyer is one of the losers in the expansion race that wants to move it? Sorting all this out isn't going to be easy.

Ending the streak

Running back Dave Meggett of the New York Giants wasn't pleased that he didn't catch a ball in last week's loss to the Washington Redskins, ending his streak of 45 straight games in which he'd caught a pass. He was tied with Bob Tucker for the club record and lost a chance to set it. He complained that he was thrown only one ball.

"I didn't like it and I didn't think it was fair," he said. "That's three years of work down the drain. I can't look back when I'm 40 or 50 and say I set a record. Nobody wants a tie."

He noted the Redskins got Art Monk a fourth-period touchdown pass to keep his string alive.

"There's no loyalty here, he said. "I guess Art Monk means more to the Redskins than I mean to the Giants."

Maybe Meggett should be more concerned about the Giants' won-lost record.

Looking sharp

The Green Bay Packers will be on national TV tonight (ESPN) for the first time this year. They haven't been on a Monday night football game since 1986.

Coach Mike Holmgren said, "My mom is in a wheelchair in California and she hasn't seen me on the sidelines yet so I've got to get a haircut."

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