Beathard makes wise choice, but this time it's belated

On The NFL

October 18, 1998|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

When Bobby Beathard was general manager of a Washington Redskins team that won two Super Bowls in the 1980s, he was dubbed the "smartest man in pro football" by Sports Illustrated.

His smartest move was hiring an obscure San Diego assistant named Joe Gibbs as coach in 1981.

At the time, the skeptics wondered if the Air Coryell offense -- created by Chargers coach Don Coryell -- would work on a Redskins team with John Riggins.

It didn't. The Redskins started Beathard 0-5 in Gibbs' first season before he switched to a one-back offense with Riggins and went to the Super Bowl in his second and third seasons, vindicating Beathard.

Now the San Diego general manager, Beathard made another unorthodox move when he hired Jacksonville Jaguars assistant Kevin Gilbride as coach last year. Gilbride's only moment in the spotlight came when Buddy Ryan took a punch at him when they were both assistants in Houston.

This time, Beathard's move didn't work. Gilbride displayed a dour personality and wasn't popular with players, fans or media.

Beathard was quick to admit his mistake and fired Gilbride last week after a fourth straight loss, replacing him with June Jones on an interim basis.

It was a quick hook, but sometimes a team is better off cutting its losses when it's obvious it made a mistake. The Redskins, for example, would have been better off firing Norv Turner after two years instead of giving him five years to devastate the franchise.

Realignment debate

The crowd of 74,051 the Jaguars drew for their Monday night game against Miami was a good argument for realignment.

"There was a lot of energy in the stands, a lot of excitement. You could feel it on the field," said Jaguars linebacker Kevin Hardy.

It would make perfect sense to put the Jaguars and Dolphins in the same division so they could play twice a year.

But it probably won't happen next year when the AFC goes to 16 teams, adding the new Cleveland Browns. To get to four four-team divisions, Seattle would have to join Jacksonville, Miami and Tennessee, and that's a tough sell.

The real test will be when Houston or Los Angeles joins the league in a few years as the 32nd team. The NFL could then go to eight four-team divisions.

The NFL could move four NFC teams -- San Francisco, St. Louis, Tampa Bay and Arizona. The league will propose that Tampa Bay join Carolina, New Orleans and Atlanta; St. Louis or Houston would join Miami, Jacksonville and Tennessee. It would then create a new western division -- San Francisco, Seattle, Arizona and Los Angeles or St. Louis.

Even that will be a tough sell because, among other things, Arizona wants to stay with Dallas, and Buffalo likes being with Miami.

But eight four-team divisions makes a lot more sense than two six-team divisions and four five-team divisions.

Those in six-team divisions -- like the Ravens starting next year -- will play 10 of 16 games against the same teams every year.

Stewart struggling

The Ravens get a front-row seat today as the Pittsburgh Steelers continue to try to answer one of the most intriguing questions of the year: What has happened to Kordell Stewart?

His quarterback rating of 51.0 is worse than Peyton Manning's 55.7 and he has thrown just four passes longer than 30 yards. His longest completion is 36 yards, the shortest "long" pass of any team in the league.

One theory is that he misses wide receiver Yancey Thigpen and offensive coordinator Chan Gailey. Another is that he's still haunted by the three interceptions he threw against Denver in the AFC title game that cost the Steelers a Super Bowl bid.

Or he simply could be going through growing pains. He's only in his second year as a full-time quarterback.

Ray Sherman, the Steelers' new offensive coordinator, keeps telling him to throw deep.

"He's got to do it. There's no doubt he's got to do it. He knows he's got to do it," Sherman said.

Going home

It's not unusual for a player or a coach to be taunted when he returns to a stadium he left. Rod Woodson of the Ravens is likely to hear it from the Steelers fans today in Pittsburgh. And the Patriots fans will be on Jets coach Bill Parcells tomorrow night.

But will the Patriots' fans taunt Curtis Martin's mother?

She thinks so.

"Because many of them know I made the concrete decision for Curt, and I'm sure they're not happy with it," Rochelle Martin said, referring to her son's decision to leave the Patriots for the Jets.

"I made the decision. I told him to go. It was a tossup to him."

Meanwhile, Martin has been hurt and has gained 368 yards; the Patriots replaced him with Robert Edwards, who has 379 yards.

When New England coach Pete Carroll was asked about Parcells' comment that the Patriots used Martin too much last year and caused him to get hurt, he said, "That was the biggest crock. Everything he says is a crock. You might as well make a list. He's just full of it."

Just some fodder for Tuna Bowl III tomorrow night. The teams split their two Tuna Bowls last year, with each team winning at home.

Langham rebounds

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