Suddenly, Big D means disoriented

Quick Kicks

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

The ghost of Jimmy still is hovering over Jerry.

When the Dallas Cowboys proved they could win the Super Bowl last season without former coach Jimmy Johnson, it seemed finally to exorcise Johnson's ghost from the franchise for owner Jerry Jones.

Coach Barry Switzer even screamed, "We did it our way!" after the Cowboys beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Super Bowl.

But with the 1996 season just one week old, the old questions about Switzer's coaching have been raised again.

Johnson's Miami Dolphins beat the New England Patriots, 24-10, in his debut with five rookies in the starting lineup, but Switzer's Cowboys were embarrassed by the Chicago Bears, 22-6, Monday night.

Granted, the Cowboys had problems: wide receiver Michael Irvin is suspended, tight end Jay Novacek was injured and running back Emmitt Smith was playing on a tender knee.

But it was the sloppy way the Cowboys played that was so alarming. They even had problems lining up correctly.

"We won't beat anyone if we continue to play the way we did mentally -- missed formations, missed alignments, using up our timeouts because we can't line up right," Switzer said.

Coaching, though, is supposed to play a factor in getting the players lined up right.

On top of that, the Cowboys lost to a team coached by one of Johnson's old lieutenants, Dave Wannstedt.

"The Bears are well-coached, well-disciplined," Switzer said. The same couldn't be said of the Cowboys.

Two to tango

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Neil O'Donnell made beautiful music together and made the Super Bowl last season.

L Now that they've split, they're hitting all the wrong notes.

O'Donnell, who got a $25 million deal from the New York Jets, passed for 50 yards in the team's 31-6 loss to the Denver Broncos.

The Steelers, meanwhile, are having trouble replacing him. Jim Miller got the start at Jacksonville, but didn't last the whole game in a 24-9 loss.

Now, coach Bill Cowher is going with veteran Mike Tomczak against the Ravens on Sunday. He apparently thinks the Steelers need more experience at quarterback after losing two defensive starters, Greg Lloyd and Ray Seals, the past two weeks.

The Steelers also hope their defense gets a lift from their home crowd. They think the fans can slow the Ravens' no-huddle offense with a lot of noise, even though coach Ted Marchibroda says crowd noise hasn't affected it in the past.

Cowher said: "I think crowd noise is certainly a benefit that we have used here for teams that have tried to come in and use the no-huddle."

The Steelers fans probably haven't forgotten that Ravens owner Art Modell referred to them as a "hard-drinking, menacing" crowd recently.

Modell later said that was a compliment.

On the bandwagon

The Green Bay Packers bandwagon is getting crowded.

The Packers were the popular choice to win the Super Bowl before the season started, and they looked the part with a crushing, 34-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in their opener, as Brett Favre passed for 247 yards and four touchdowns.

Even President Clinton decided to get on the bandwagon. He spent 50 minutes with the team Monday.

"You're in the same position I'm in. I'm ahead in the polls, but there are 65 days to go. You're on the cover of Sports Illustrated, but there is a season to play," the president told the team.

Team president Bob Harlan said: "His first words to us were, 'I never thought I'd get a chance to see this place [Lambeau Field].' He wasn't anxious to leave."

Not all of the Packers are fans of Clinton, though.

Tight end Mark Chmura said that if the team visits the White House in February as Super Bowl champions, Bob Dole could be in the Oval Office.

"There is hope, but how much I don't know," Chmura said.

Clinton is the third president to visit the Packers in Green Bay. Richard Nixon was the first in 1970, and Gerald Ford dedicated the Packer Hall of Fame in 1976. Nixon visited as vice president in 1957 and took part in stadium dedication ceremonies.

Looking ahead

In the renewal of an old AFL rivalry, the Kansas City Chiefs are host to the Oakland Raiders on Sunday to start the silver anniversary season of Arrowhead Stadium. The Raiders hold a 35-34-2 edge in the 36-year rivalry, but the Chiefs have won 11 of the past 12.


"We realize that we're not as good as we really think we are." -- Redskins safety Stanley Richard, on Washington's 17-14 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in the opener, after being hailed as a playoff contender during training camp.

Pub Date: 9/04/96

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