Like Shuler, McNown may rue advice

On The NFL

August 01, 1999|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

The new coach had been an assistant on a successful team. His first major moves were to draft a quarterback in the first round and dump the team's old quarterback. The agent for the rookie quarterback turned down the team's offer of a $5 million signing bonus, demanding $6 million.

The result was a holdout.

It happened in Washington in 1994, when Norv Turner, who had been an assistant with Dallas, drafted Heath Shuler and shipped out Mark Rypien.

It's happening again in Chicago, where Dick Jauron, who had been an assistant with Jacksonville, drafted Cade McNown and dumped Erik Kramer.

The common thread in the two stories is that Tom Condon was the agent for both incoming quarterbacks.

The Bears now hope McNown doesn't suffer the same fate Shuler did. After holding out 13 days, Shuler fell behind, played poorly when he got a chance, was injured, eventually lost the job to Gus Frerotte and now has had his career ended by a foot injury.

McNown has been out for a week, and the two sides are farther apart than the Redskins were with Shuler. The Redskins were willing to give Shuler a deal that voided after three years, but were haggling over the signing bonus. The Bears are haggling over both the bonus and the voidable issue.

The Bears are offering a six-year deal that voids to five years, but doesn't have a buyback provision. Condon wants an additional $27 million, including a signing bonus of about $9 million, in the final three years after a void.

"I think that's excessive," said Jim Miller, the Bears' negotiator.

Nobody knows that better than Bears running back Curtis Enis, who held out 25 days last year and now regrets it, finding a holdout can hamper a rookie. He's telling McNown to come to camp.

"You're the 12th pick in the draft. You weren't one of the top four quarterbacks. So take your money, be happy with it and get in camp," he said.

If history is an indication, Condon will wait another week and take the Bears' offer the way he did with the Redskins.

It remains to be seen if McNown, the only one of the top five quarterbacks drafted who's been penciled in as a starter, can overcome the lost time.

Now that Kramer is gone, the Bears' alternative is journeyman Shane Matthews.

Loner

If a picture speaks a thousand words, the shot of Barry Sanders, alone, pulling his bags in a London airport spoke volumes. He didn't have any entourage or even any friends with him.

That's why it's difficult to figure out whether Sanders has really retired. There's a lot of speculation he wants to sit out a year to force a trade or return to Detroit if coach Bobby Ross is fired at the end of the year. Sanders doesn't like Ross' style.

But Sanders has always marched to the beat of his own drum. Nobody really knows what he's thinking.

Lions officials remember when the team made a trip to Europe for an exhibition game and they spotted him in line waiting to buy tickets to a play. He wouldn't ask the team to get them for him.

This can't be compared to Jim Brown's retirement. Brown was in London filming a movie and planned to return for the 1966 season. But when the movie ran long and his absence from training camp became an issue, he became stubborn and simply quit.

The football world will just have to wait to see whether Sanders is really retiring. Meanwhile, he's probably waiting in line to buy tickets to see the tourist sites in Europe.

Content

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Michael Irvin didn't get a contract extension in the off-season and his role may be reduced, but he's not complaining.

"Quite honestly, and I don't want this to sound bad, but financially, I'm in seventh heaven. If you really think about where I came from," he said.

"I'm going to say this again: I have never barked about wanting a long-term deal."

Of the Chan Gailey offense, he said: "I don't have a gripe with anything that works. If it's not working, then I've got a gripe."

Melodrama

Oct. 27 will be the fourth anniversary of the day when, on Al Lerner's plane, John Moag and Art Modell signed the deal to move the Browns. Moag, Modell and Lerner were on the the podium when the move was announced 10 days later on Nov. 6.

What's happened since to the three men who were once so close is a drama of love-hate relationships of almost Shakespearean proportions.

First, there was a falling out between Modell and Lerner, who wound up purchasing the new Cleveland Browns.

And now there appears to be a rupture in the relationship between Modell and Moag because Modell decided to hire Deutsche Banc Alex. Brown instead of Moag and Legg Mason to find him a minority owner.

Modell said it was just a business decision to go with a bank and added he's still a friend of Moag's. But Moag's no comment on the situation would seem to indicate there's a major rift between the two.

Who could have imagined their relationship would take such a turn after they bonded during the talks to make the move?

By the book

Former San Francisco 49ers coach Bill Walsh wrote a book with Ravens coach Brian Billick outlining his philosophy on building a team. It was titled, "Finding the Winning Edge."

But Walsh, now running the 49ers' front office, has learned you can't always go by the book.

Walsh and Billick wrote: "While a `new lease on life' or being `reborn' is theoretically possible, it is foolish for a team to acquire a free agent whose circumstances are contemptible -- regardless of how he performs on the field."

After writing that, Walsh has decided to take a chance on Lawrence Phillips.

Walsh said: "I feel like George Bush saying, "Read my lips. No new taxes.' But times changed, he's changed, and we have a need."

Quotable

"The demons come up every day. You do the best you can with it."

-- Lawrence Taylor, who's being inducted into the Hall of Fame on Saturday, on his battle with drug addiction.

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