Reeves picks wrong in-house Giant to fight with

ON THE NFL

November 26, 1995|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

At a time of year when coaches usually are worried about keeping their jobs, Dan Reeves may be trying to lose his.

At least that's one of the possible reasons the New York Giants coach pulled a bizarre stunt a week ago.

When a reporter asked the Georgia native if he was interested in the University of Georgia job, he said no. He then said he wasn't going to sign a new contract with the Giants when his current one expires in 1997 unless he gets more authority.

It's not unusual for any coach to try to get more control, but it's foolhardy for a Giants coach.

Everybody in pro football knows how the Giants operate. General manager George Young is in charge. The format was set up in 1979 when co-owner Wellington Mara and his late nephew, Tim, were feuding over the direction of the team and compromised by hiring Young.

The Giants have won two Super Bowls under Young, who can have the job as long as he wants it and is expected to sign a contract extension soon.

Nobody knows this better than Reeves. When he was fired in 1993 by Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen -- who didn't like the way Reeves operated with total control -- Reeves applied to Young for the Giants' job. He said publicly that he had no #F problem with the way the team operated.

But he apparently has had trouble adjusting to the system. Reeves sulked last April when Young, following the advice of personnel director Tom Boisture, picked running back Tyrone Wheatley in the draft when the coach wanted Rashaan Salaam. Reeves has retaliated by rarely playing Wheatley.

Although he had complained publicly at times about the situation, Reeves' comments about not signing another deal caused a firestorm in New York and turned him into a lame-duck coach.

He then tried damage control.

Nine times during a 35-minute news conference Monday, he said he wished he hadn't made those statements. "It was a dumb thing to do," he said.

Meanwhile, Reeves' action leaves the Giants in a quandary as the end of the season nears and the team struggles at 3-8. Reeves would make $3 million over the final two years of his contract. Mara said only that the matter won't be addressed until the season is over. Co-owner Bob Tisch, who bought Tim Mara's share a few years ago, backed Mara and said he runs a "classy" organization.

Young would only say, "a lot of things are said out of frustration."

So how do the Giants handle this? Do they try to patch up the situation with Reeves or pay him off to leave?

Unless Reeves thinks he can get another job, his outburst doesn't make sense.

The fax attacks

Using the Internet to coordinate their efforts and using fax machines for quick communications, Cleveland Browns fans continue to turn their protests into an art form, and they appear to be getting results.

ABC-TV became their target after it virtually ignored the fans' protest during the Steelers-Browns telecast two weeks ago.

But after getting the Cleveland fans' fax blitz, the network's Al Michaels delivered a commentary Monday night that was critical of all the recent moves.

On top of that, owner Art Modell, painted a villain coast to coast, appears on the verge of giving Cleveland the Browns name.

Not that the protesters are mollified. They plan to picket his Florida condo today and have a plane fly overhead with a sign: "Art, you can't hide in Florida. Woof Woof."

They also take credit for bombarding the league office with 15,000 calls and 12,000 faxes and letters.

But it's unlikely they can persuade commissioner Paul Tagliabue to recommend the owners reject the team's move to Baltimore.

At the owners' meeting in Phoenix last March when they first rejected the Rams' move (they reversed themselves a month later after they were threatened with court action), Tagliabue said several teams were more distressed than the Rams.

"There's a feeling a number [of teams] have financial situations under the salary cap system more distressed than the Rams -- Cincinnati, the Cleveland situation needs to be addressed, Pittsburgh has concerns . . . Seattle, Denver, Houston, a number are seen being more distressed than the Rams," he said at the time.

Asked about those comments at the meeting in Dallas earlier this month, Tagliabue said he didn't remember making them.

But it will be difficult for him to go to court to fight the Browns' move after he said the team is more distressed than the Rams, a team the owners allowed to move.

Still, Cleveland fans probably won't have to wait long to get a new team. Seattle Seahawks owner Ken Behring, who wants a new stadium, became the first owner to mention Cleveland last week. He said the city has made offers to him and several other teams. City officials, still trying to keep the Browns, denied the reports.

In the end, Cleveland fans are likely to get what they want: a new team with the Browns name. In the process, they get rid of Modell and coach Bill Belichick. If all that happens, maybe they'll fax a few thank-yous to Baltimore.

The Shula file

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