Ravens, 'Skins share tales of woe

ON THE NFL

December 22, 1996|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

If misery loves company, the Ravens' fans can feel empathy for the team they like to root against -- the Washington Redskins.

Both the Ravens and Redskins -- who play each other next season -- end their seasons today with meaningless home games and will watch the playoffs from their living rooms.

The Redskins are slightly better than the Ravens -- they started 7-1 against an easy schedule before running into tough teams and went 1-6 -- but there are remarkable similarities between the teams that had success in the 1980s but have struggled in the 1990s.

The Redskins haven't made the playoffs for four straight years, and the Ravens/Cleveland Browns have done it just once in the past seven years.

Both teams will soon move into new stadiums -- the Redskins next year if Maryland has a mild winter so the construction can continue rapidly -- and the Ravens in 1998.

Both teams have optimistic owners despite the recent years of frustration. Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke has predicted his team will be in the Super Bowl next season; Ravens owner Art Modell has said he'll have an "elite" team by 1998.

Both teams have easygoing, offensive-minded head coaches whose teams have been hurt by injuries and close losses, although their players tend to like playing for them and play hard.

When the Redskins were eliminated last Sunday in Phoenix, Redskins coach Norv Turner said, "Nothing that happened out there was from a lack of effort."

Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda says almost every week, "We didn't forget to fight."

The biggest similarity, though, is that neither team has a defense. The Redskins are 29th and the Ravens 30th in yardage allowed. The Ravens have allowed 5,538 yards and the Redskins 5,488.

There is one major difference between the clubs. The Redskins don't have any financial problems because Cooke is one of the country's richest men.

The Ravens will be in a cash squeeze until they move into their new stadium with all its luxury boxes and club seats.

Both teams, though, have to find players who can make plays and not just give good effort. As Marchibroda has said, they need to learn how to win.

Unless these teams come up with more playmakers, look for the game between them next year to be a high-scoring affair. The last team to get the ball should win.

Thanks but no thanks

The Redskins expect their new stadium to be ready next September, so they will honor 33 former players and coaches in a celebration today in what is supposed to be the team's last game at storied RFK Stadium.

Conspicuous by his absence will be former coach and player Richie Petitbon, who turned down the invitation because he is apparently still bitter after getting only a nine-month shot as a head coach in 1993 after Joe Gibbs quit.

Gibbs was invited, but wasn't able to come because of his TV commitments.

One former player and coach who wasn't invited was Jack Pardee, a leader of George Allen's "Over the Hill Gang" who was fired as coach at the end of the 1980 season after three years.

Zebras

Red Cashion, the referee with the distinct "First d-o-w-n!" call, is retiring after 25 years at the end of this season, so the NFL, which usually doesn't allow officials to talk to reporters, set up a conference call for him.

Cashion was so articulate and interesting that it's a puzzle why the league muzzles the officials.

He conceded the officials make mistakes -- he brought up one he made in Super Bowl XX -- and said that it would help if the league would simplify the rules.

He also said that the relationship between coaches and officials is better than when he came into the league. Saying the officiating is better than it's ever been, Cashion said he would have no problem if the league allowed officials to have news conferences or publicly admit when officials make mistakes. The current policy is to allow officials to talk to only a pool reporter on game day.

It might improve the officials' image if the league took Cashion's advice.

Rumors

The rumor season is in full swing now that it's time for many coaches to get pink slips.

Three -- Jim Mora of the New Orleans Saints, Dave Shula of the Cincinnati Bengals and Rich Kotite, who said Friday that he's leaving the New York Jets -- are gone and several more are due to go soon. Dan Reeves of the New York Giants figures to be fired first thing tomorrow morning. June Jones of Atlanta, Rick Venturi of New Orleans, Rich Brooks of St. Louis and Wayne Fontes of Detroit won't be far behind. Bill Parcells may leave New England when the Patriots' season is over.

Firing coaches will be the easy part for most teams. The hard part will be finding replacements.

There aren't a lot of hot candidates out there. Lou Holtz gets mentioned after having left Notre Dame, but he didn't seem fit for the pro game in his one season with the Jets in 1976. Pete Carroll, the defensive coordinator of the San Francisco 49ers, gets mentioned, but he lost his last five games in his one year with the Jets.

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