Two quick changes wipe out Redskins' big advantages

PRO FOOTBALL

March 07, 1993|By VITO STELLINO

Maybe the Washington Redskins can blame Bill Clinton.

He came to Washington promising change, but this isn't the kind of change the Redskins had in mind. They liked the status quo.

Since the start of the year, they've lost two of the major advantages that helped them win three Super Bowls in the past decade.

On Jan. 6, the players and owners ended years of labor strife by reaching a settlement that includes a salary cap. It is triggered when revenue hits 67 percent of the designated gross revenue.

In one stroke, the Redskins lost the advantage of owner Jack Kent Cooke's open checkbook. They can no longer outspend teams by a wide margin.

The cap will eventually go down to 62 percent and each team will be forced to spend 50 percent, so the Redskins can never have more than a 12-percent advantage. They'll also have to spend less than they have in the past.

The cap figures to limit teams to about $35 million, but that includes about $4.6 million in benefits, so their spending on players will be limited to about $30 million. Last year, they spent $34 million on players.

In the past, they could stash players on the injured reserve list, pay Wilber Marshall $6 million to lure him from the Chicago Bears and keep high-priced veteran backups around in the twilight of their careers. They may no longer be able to afford such luxuries.

On Friday, they suffered another blow when Joe Gibbs resigned.

Gibbs is on the short list of the great coaches in the history of the game.

General manager Charley Casserly said that in his 12 years, Gibbs did "as good a job as has ever been done in the history of the NFL. A lot of people won Super Bowls, but nobody did it with three different quarterbacks."

Stepping into Gibbs' big shoes will be defensive wizard Richie Petitbon. He's a respected assistant, but nobody knows how well an assistant will make the transition to the head job. It's also unrealistic to expect him or anybody else to be another Gibbs.

The Redskins, of course, are putting the best face on all this. They're comparing it to when defensive coordinator George Seifert took over for Bill Walsh in San Francisco in 1989.

"It's the same situation," Casserly said. "Great organization, a guy who was a legend leaving, a guy taking over who is one of the best if not the best at what he does. The staff is intact. The worst scenario would have been if Joe resigned and we didn't have these coaches here. We would have had a problem. This is not a problem."

Casserly said there could be a plus in the transition.

"There's a positive in this thing. Everyone is going to be a little on edge. Richie is going to seize that opportunity. I think you're going to see a team that's going to be like the Redskins. They're going to play hard and they're going to win," he said.

Casserly isn't worried about the change affecting the battle for free agents.

"Quite frankly, everybody calls us and wants to play here. We don't have a problem in getting players to come here. We have a problem in picking the players to come. What we want to do is keep our players. We expect a great majority to be here. Those that aren't, we will replace with good football players," he said.

Now all Petitbon has to do is live up to Casserly's billing. If nothing else, Petitbon has the public self-confidence he's going to do it.

While Gibbs made an art form of poor mouthing, Petitbon simply said, "We'll win."

The Cobras?

The NFL needs to come up with a little more imagination.

When the league submitted a list of possible nicknames to the Baltimore officials, it included such duds as Cobras, Spanglers and Shipmen. Huh?

It's difficult to figure why they went to the trouble of submitting Cobras and Bombers to the patent office. Nobody is in a hurry to grab them. It's hard to get excited about a snake (can you imagine a snake on the helmet?) and a salute to Baltimore's history of building fighter planes that isn't exactly a prominent part of the city's history.

Anyway, the first priority is trying to buy the Colts name back from Bob Irsay, and that shouldn't be difficult. Irsay has a price tag on everything.

If it's too high, the next alternative should be to just ignore what the league calls the team. If everybody in Baltimore refers to the team as the Colts, who cares what league calls them? There's a precedent here. The NFL called it the AFL-NFL World Championship Game until everybody else started calling it the Super Bowl.

Anyway, if the league won't force the Redskins to go to Berlin, it shouldn't force a nickname on Baltimore.

If we're into bad nicknames, how about the Baltimore Block? At least it's a name with a Baltimore history.

Remembering Jerome

The Philadelphia Eagles are still honoring Jerome Brown, who was killed in an auto accident last June.

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