Ryan's bluster may cost Oilers Marshall trade awaits Tagliabue

PRO FOOTBALL

June 13, 1993|By VITO STELLINO

When the Houston Oilers hired Buddy Ryan to fix their defense, they didn't realize the cure could be worse than the illness.

The new defensive coordinator has yet to coach a game, but he's proven he's lost none of the bluster that got him fired as the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles two years ago.

Ryan immediately caused a stir last February by announcing Reggie White would want to play for him. The Eagles filed a complaint that he was tampering, but it turned out the Oilers never even bid for White.

Ryan wasn't done causing mischief. Even though he couldn't convince owner Bud Adams to bid for White, he did talk him into bidding for another one of his former players, linebacker Wilber Marshall. He said that Marshall could take the team to the Super Bowl. Ryan conveniently ignored the fact that Marshall made one trip to the Pro Bowl in five years in Washington.

Ryan's lobbying convinced the Oilers to offer the Redskins first- and fifth-round draft picks for Marshall. They finally decided that was too much, and on June 2 they called the Redskins and withdrew the offer.

The Redskins immediately called Marshall's agent, Richard Bennett, and told them they'd kick in $150,000 to make up the difference between what the Oilers were offering ($2.75 million) and what he wanted ($2.9 million). Bennett then faxed a letter to the Oilers saying he'd accepted their offer before the original June 3 deadline.

The Oilers said it was too late, but the Redskins and Marshall insisted it was a deal.

That's where things stand today. Neither side is budging and both sides sent the league office their arguments in writing last week.

"I'd rather be in our chair than their chair," a Redskins insider said last week.

The issue seems likely to remain at an impasse until commissioner Paul Tagliabue returns from a vacation in China the week of June 21. Tagliabue's first move likely will be to try to broker a new deal between the Oilers and the Redskins. If he fails and rules that there is no deal, Marshall will go to court. He's already gone to court against the franchise player concept in the new collective bargaining agreement and will not hesitate to go again.

The expansion derby

The debate in the media about whether Baltimore or Charlotte will get the second expansion franchise (St. Louis is the odds-on favorite for the first) is getting lively.

In Rudy Martzke's TV column in USA Today, ESPN's Fred Edelstein and CNN/USA Today's Danny Sheridan are taking pot shots at each other.

"I've got better sources," Edelstein told Martzke. "Remember, Freddy said Joe Montana was staying in San Francisco," Sheridan countered.

Martzke got so rattled listening to their debate that he wrote that Edelstein was predicting Baltimore would get the team and Sheridan was betting on Charlotte. It's actually the other way around.

"I got confused," said Martzke, who said he called Edelstein and Sheridan to point out his mistake but didn't print a correction.

Martzke said Edelstein told him that Tagliabue and his staff want to put a team in Charlotte because it's a new market while Sheridan countered that three owners on the expansion committee told him that if the vote were held today, Baltimore would get it.

This is probably good news for Baltimore because the owners have a vote and Tagliabue doesn't. The owners in the past have voted against Tagliabue when money is at stake -- such as on the TV rebate a year ago -- and the financial stability of Baltimore's offer could convince the owners to go against Tagliabue again.

Meanwhile, Chris Mortensen picked Baltimore in The Sporting News. "As of now, peg St. Louis as the favorite and move Baltimore back ahead of Charlotte. Baltimore's ownership group has been reduced to one man, Malcolm Glazer, who remains unfazed by the NFL's money game and says he is 'ready to write the check,' " Mortensen wrote.

Rick Korch in Pro Football Weekly didn't make a pick, but was positive about Baltimore's chances. He wrote, "The Baltimore people were the happiest about the expansion fee. In fact, Malcolm Glazer and his sons -- one of the two possible ownership groups -- were outright beaming because they have the money and they say they have it in cash. That could be enough to put Baltimore at the top of the list when when October rolls around."

All this, of course, depends on whether Baltimore is successful selling its 100 luxury boxes and 7,500 club seats when the campaign begins July 1. The city has to sell those seats to make its bid viable.

Counting the money

The Green Bay Packers, a community-owner team and the only one to make public its profit-and-loss statement, announced they made a net profit of only $860,818 last year.

That figure, though, includes a one-time charge of $4.1 million for the litigation settlement with the players. The Packers had operating income of $53,976,078 and expenses of $53,236,966.

Incidentally, the Packers had private box income of $1.12 million. By contrast, a new Baltimore team would take in $12.9 million in private box and club seat income.

The ratings game

They were smiling in the NBA offices when the first playoff game between the Chicago Bulls and Phoenix Suns drew a 16.8 rating. But there were broader smiles in the NFL offices.

That's because a 16.8 rating (the percentage of TV sets tuned in) was exactly the average rating for Monday Night Football last year.

It'll bolster the NFL's arguments in the next TV negotiations that its regular-season games match the playoff ratings in other sports. The networks will try to roll back the TV income the NFL gets because they insist they're losing money, but the NFL will argue its numbers warrant an increase.

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