Plan to move Seahawks latest league headache

On the NFL

February 04, 1996|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

A week ago, commissioner Paul Tagliabue said at the Super Bowl that the NFL was at a crossroads.

It now appears that Ken Behring just ran off the road.

In the strangest case of franchise free agency yet, the Seattle Seahawks owner announced yesterday that he's taking his team out of Seattle.

He apparently plans to move the franchise to the Los Angeles area, although his official announcement didn't identify a destination.

This is a move that makes no sense. At least the four other teams that announced moves in the past year -- the Rams, Raiders, Browns and Oilers -- went to cities that had firm financing plans for new or renovated stadiums that promised a lot of dollars.

All Los Angeles has is plans for new stadiums, with no financing in place.

Behring apparently feels the city eventually will get a new stadium and he'll have squatter's rights, but Los Angeles isn't noted for building stadiums.

Al Davis, the Raiders' owner, moved to the Coliseum in 1982 after getting a promise of luxury boxes. He was still waiting for them last year when he moved back to Oakland.

In another strange development, Behring, according to the NFL, is arguing that the Kingdome is unusable and unsafe because of seismic risk.

Imagine that. He's worried about earthquakes in Seattle, so he wants to go to Los Angeles, which knows a thing or two about such things.

Football's also a tough sell in Los Angeles. If a team doesn't win, it isn't easy to draw fans.

The Seahawks played the Raiders in their home opener in 1994 at the Coliseum and drew 47,319 fans. The Seahawks aren't exactly a glamour team that is likely to excite the town.

NFL executives seem befuddled by the announcement. Behring isn't in the league's inner circle and didn't give any clues that he was about to make a move.

Bob Harlan, president of the Green Bay Packers, said, "I didn't hear anything about it at the Super Bowl, and I spent some time with the commissioner."

Then there's the matter of the resolution the NFL passed last year in which it said the league would control which team would go to Los Angeles. Behring is simply defying the league.

Since Tagliabue has backed down from fights in the past, Behring apparently assumes the commissioner won't fight him on this, although he's already got a court fight on his hands in Seattle.

Meanwhile, the timing couldn't be worse for Browns owner Art Modell.

Just when it appeared the owners were ready to approve his move to Baltimore at the Chicago meeting this week, they've got another distraction on their hands. He has to worry they could use it to delay the vote again.

But Modell said he's been promised a vote at this meeting.

/# "I have a commitment," he said.

Jones' friends

How many friends around the league does Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones have?

That's the intriguing question that will be answered at this week's meeting.

The major item on the agenda isn't the Browns' move, but revenue sharing tied to an extension of the collective bargaining agreement.

A majority of the owners favor revenue sharing, but it'll only take eight negative votes to block it.

Jones is against the idea, but to kill the proposal he needs to round up seven other owners to support him.

But Jones has alienated so many of his fellow owners that it's questionable whether he can get the seven votes.

When he was asked during the playoffs how many owners rooted for his team, he jokingly said, "Six and a half." Giants co-owner Bob Tisch, who was suspected of being the half, pleaded innocent to the charge of rooting for Dallas.

Lame ducks?

Browns personnel director Mike Lombardi and coach Bill Belichick will head the Cleveland delegation to the annual scouting combine in Indianapolis this week.

But nobody knows whether they'll be making the picks in the draft this April. Modell is deferring all decisions on the team's front office until after this week's owners meeting.

If Modell decides to make a coaching change, there aren't a lot of obvious candidates out there.

TC Dallas offensive coordinator Ernie Zampese isn't interested in being a head coach, and defensive coordinator Dave Campo has been on the job only one year.

Pittsburgh's offensive coordinator, Ron Erhardt, was 21-27 as a head coach in New England and was fired last week. Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau has been on the job one year.

In Indianapolis, the offensive coordinator, Lindy Infante, is a former Browns assistant coach, but was 24-40 as a head coach in Green Bay.

One possibility is San Francisco defensive coordinator Pete Carroll. He was 6-10 as a head coach with the Jets in 1994, but one year wasn't much of a test.

Overlooked MVP

Dallas cornerback Larry Brown was the MVP of the Super Bowl, but he's not a big enough star for the annual Disneyland commercial. Emmitt Smith got that job.

Brown, though, did help his prospects in the free-agent market (Dallas probably can't keep him, because of the salary cap).

His agent, Scott Casterline, is predicting Brown will get a raise from $500,000 to the $2.5 million to $3 million range.

That might seem a bit much for a player who would have been a second-stringer in Dallas if Kevin Smith hadn't been injured.

But there's usually one team that will overbid in free agency. Remember, the Browns gave Andre Rison a $5 million signing bonus last year.

The big Super Bowl loser in free agency was Pittsburgh quarterback Neil O'Donnell.

O'Donnell was hoping to get a deal worth $4 million a year before he started playing catch with Brown in the Super Bowl.

K? Both he and Brown will have to pay their way to Disneyland.

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