Big market, small market argument full of NFL holes

Quick Kicks

September 11, 1996|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

The conventional wisdom used to be that NFL free agency would hurt small-market teams and help big-market teams.

It hasn't quite worked out that way.

The Green Bay Packers' crushing, 39-13 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday night showed that the NFL's smallest town, with a population under 100,000, is home to one of the league's best teams.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles, the nation's second-largest city, doesn't have a team. Houston, the fourth-largest city, is on the verge of losing its team. And New York, the largest city, has two of the worst teams.

The Giants and Jets, both 0-2, are headed toward a matchup in two weeks that already is being billed as the Peyton Manning Bowl, in honor of the Tennessee quarterback who'll be the first Kotite pick in the draft if he skips his senior year.

The Giants and Jets are struggling for different reasons.

The Jets' problem is easy to analyze. Rich Kotite isn't a good coach. Even a big plunge into the free-agent market this year didn't improve the club. In his past 25 games over three years with the Eagles and Jets, Kotite is 3-22.

Case closed.

The Giants' situation is a bit more complicated. They have a good organization, and general manager George Young has a pair of Super Bowl trophies to prove it.

But Young has made two critical mistakes in recent years, and has yet to correct either one of them.

The first was hiring Dan Reeves as coach in 1993. Reeves can coach, but he's not content doing that. He wants to run the organization, which he proved in Denver is not his forte.

Young's second mistake was believing Dave Brown can play quarterback. Reeves was right in believing that he can't, but his answer was Tommy Maddox, who's just as bad and who eventually was cut. The backup, Stan White, isn't the answer, either.

Rookie Danny Kanell probably is, but he's a year away. The Giants should have gotten an experienced backup such as John Friesz to fill the role until Kanell is ready.

The Jets bought a quarterback, Neil O'Donnell, who proved he could win in Pittsburgh with a good cast around him. But Kotite isn't the right coach, and he hasn't put together the right cast.

Fast starts

With six AFC teams off to 2-0 starts, they virtually could wrap up playoff spots if they all win this week.

In the 1990s, 12 of the 13 AFC teams that started off 3-0 went to the playoffs.

But three of the six -- the Buffalo Bills (at Pittsburgh), Indianapolis Colts (at Dallas) and San Diego Chargers (at Green Bay) -- are underdogs on the road this week.

The other three teams -- the Kansas City Chiefs (at Seattle) and the Miami Dolphins and the Denver Broncos (at home) -- are favored.

The NFC has four 2-0 teams, but two of them, the San Francisco 49ers and Carolina Panthers, have byes this week. The other two are Green Bay, favored over San Diego, and the Minnesota Vikings, an underdog at Chicago.

Understanding

Bill Parcells was noted for his sarcastic, demanding style when he coached the Giants to two Super Bowl titles.

But Parcells has taken a different tack now that his New England Patriots are off to an 0-2 start and are one of the most disappointing teams in the league.

Instead of giving his team a tongue-lashing, Parcells is trying to be encouraging in public.

"I think we're going to be all right," he said. "If we can smooth out a few things, we'll be better."

The approach of trying to build the team's self-confidence may work -- especially because Arizona is visiting Sunday -- but it doesn't sound like the Parcells of old.

Two for one

Are two running backs twice as good as one? Not always.

The addition of Garrison Hearst in Cincinnati not only hasn't helped the team's running game, but it also has irritated Ki-Jana Carter, the first pick in last year's draft, who missed last season with a knee injury.

"Yeah, I'm confused, I'm frustrated," said Carter, who has 27 yards on 21 carries. "I thought they wanted me to carry the ball. I don't know. I'm supposed to be the feature back. Maybe the coaches are trying to weed me out."

Looking ahead

The feature game this week is the Monday night playoff rematch featuring Buffalo at Pittsburgh. The Steelers won, 40-21, last January en route to the Super Bowl. Bruce Smith missed the game with the flu and Jim Kelly went out with an injury. With Smith and Kelly healthy, the Bills could pull a road upset.

He said it

Linebacker Derrick Thomas on Kansas City's 2-0 start: "I really believe we have the potential to win them all this year."

Pub Date: 9/11/96

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