ROSEMONT, Ill. -- NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue's long efforts to bring football's geography in line with reality appear headed for defeat, as team owners have failed to agree on a plan to realign the league.
No action was taken yesterday on proposed realignment formats at the owners' annual fall meeting in this Chicago suburb, but Tagliabue said he would try again today.
Several owners, however, said there did not seem to be sufficient agreement to pass a plan by the required three-quarters vote.
"I'm not very optimistic," said Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell, adding that he would not want to force a team into a change of divisions.
Although a number of owners agree on the need to correct the current map, which suffers from anomalies such as Dallas in an eastern division and Atlanta in a western one, they acknowledged that almost every team proposed for a switch feared the loss of a key rivalry.
Tagliabue has suggested for months that the league should re-align when its two newest teams begin play in 1995. Without agreement on a plan, however, the expansion Carolina Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars likely will be inserted into the two divisions that have only four teams -- the AFC Central and NFC West.
"At the end of the day, I think we'll slot the two teams in," Modell said.
Indianapolis Colts executive Jimmy Irsay, a member of the re-alignment committee, said, "Right now there is no mandate to force realignment.
"I don't see it as being dead. It's a big decision. As of this moment I don't see it being done," Irsay said.
Tagliabue said that the two new teams will know their divisional fates today. "We're still discussing the whole realignment situation. . . . We expect to come out of here tomorrow knowing where the two expansion teams will be playing," he said.
Representatives of the teams, both of which would prefer to be in the NFC, said they would be satisfied to know by today.
"We're just thrilled to be in the NFL," Panthers owner Jerry Richardson said.
Tagliabue said a potential move of the Los Angeles Rams had not come up at the meeting and was not on the agenda. The team is considering a move to Baltimore or St. Louis.
"Under our procedures . . . the team has to make a proposal to the league, and then we would have to vote on it," Tagliabue said.
No request has been made by the Rams, he said.
"We will not do anything in terms of policy until we receive a proposal from them," Tagliabue said.