Fittingly, Cardinals' Ryan touts benefits of NFL's new salary cap

ON THE NFL

July 10, 1994|By VITO STELLINO

Buddy Ryan is still going his own way.

Ryan, the cantankerous new coach of the Arizona Cardinals, can always be counted on to disagree with the conventional wisdom.

As the NFL prepares to begin its 75th season -- better known as The First Salary Cap Season -- there have been so many complaints about the new system that commissioner Paul Tagliabue has issued a gag order forbidding criticism of the cap.

That's why it figures that Ryan thinks the cap is a nifty idea.

"I like the salary cap myself because it puts everybody on a level playing field," he said.

He remembers the way things used to be.

"When I was there in Philadelphia, I wanted Wilber Marshall, but my owner wouldn't give me the money to get him," he said.

He also said he wanted Jim Lachey when he became available. Both wound up in Washington and helped beat the Eagles in the 1990 playoff game that cost Ryan his job.

Now things are different. Ryan was able to buy two of his old Eagles stalwarts, Seth Joyner and Clyde Simmons, to strengthen his defense in Arizona.

The Redskins, meanwhile, are having problems getting under the cap. They had to settle for signing, among others, two of Ryan's castoffs from the Cardinals -- Ken Harvey and Tyrone Stowe.

Ryan is so pleased with himself that he's boasting, "We plan on winning the Eastern Division. I don't see any reason why we can't."

That's typical Ryan bluster and it may be a reach to expect the Cardinals to beat the Dallas Cowboys, but there's no reason why the Cardinals can't finish second and fight for a wild-card spot.

Although he insists the NFC East is "probably the toughest division in football," it's a far cry from the days when it deserved that title. The Redskins are starting over, one step above an expansion team, the New York Giants don't have a veteran quarterback now that Phil Simms was released, and the Eagles were hurt by free agency.

The problem is that no other division has emerged to replace the NFC East as the premier division. Yes, it's a level playing field this year, but it may not turn out to be a good thing for the NFL.

The NFL built its popularity on glamour teams that were national TV attractions.

With this level playing field, there aren't many glamour teams left. Very few stand out above the pack. There's Dallas and San Francisco and. . .

Even the good teams don't have any depth. They can't afford it under the cap. San Francisco, for example, couldn't afford Steve Bono as Steve Young's backup. Now, the 49ers have Elvis Grbac as his backup and keep their fingers crossed. If Young goes down, the 49ers are finished. Injuries will be critical this season.

This could be the year of parity run wild with the majority of teams going 9-7 or 8-8.

That's why it's good to have Ryan back in the saddle again. He'll keep things from becoming too boring.

On the job

The decision of George Young, the general manager of the New York Giants, to hire former Colts and Cleveland Browns executive Ernie Accorsi as his No. 2 man fueled speculation in New York that Young might be thinking about stepping down soon.

Forget it.

As long as he doesn't have health problems, Young has no thoughts of retiring anytime soon. He loves the job and it's probably the best in football. Young works for one of the best owners in sports -- Wellington Mara. Mara is one of the few owners who would let his football people ship out Simms even though he publicly disagreed with the decision.

By adding Accorsi to his staff,

Young was simply recognizing the fact that the NFL is now a 365-day-a-year job. The free-agency signing period doesn't end until Friday, which is after several teams begin training camp. There's no longer an off-season.

The nickname battle

At least one NFC owner, who didn't want to be identified, doesn't agree with the NFL's court fight to stop the Baltimore CFL team from using the nickname Colts.

"I think the prevailing feeling is that it's a waste of time and money and another reason to tweak their nose in Baltimore," the owner said.

Tweaking Baltimore's nose is in vogue at the NFL office, even though some owners think it's a waste of money. Some realize the court fight is simply promoting the Baltimore CFL team, but Tagliabue insists on pursuing it.

That's why it's unrealistic of Jim Speros, the Baltimore owner, to think that a face-to-face meeting with Tagliabue can settle the dispute. Nobody likes tweaking Baltimore's nose more than Tagliabue.

Meanwhile, the Washington NFL team seems on the verge of dropping the name Washington. In the full-page ad the Redskins ran in several area papers, including a zoned edition of The Sun last week, the word Washington was never mentioned. The team simply was called the Redskins.

Owner Jack Kent Cooke has said he'll use just Redskins if he moves the team to Laurel, although it's difficult to know if he's serious.

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