AFC notebook

November 21, 1999|By Vito Stellino

East

Ray Lucas remains the starter for the New York Jets against the Buffalo Bills today after his impressive showing Monday night against the New England Patriots, but coach Bill Parcells keeps reminding him that he's still learning. "I told him, `You're reading the instructions for the test.' You know when you open the pamphlet to find out how to do the test? That's where he is, opening the pamphlet. But it was a step. At least he got his pamphlet open." Lucas said: "It was a good night, but it's over." Former coach Bum Phillips used to say of Don Shula, "He can taken his'n and beat your'n, and he could take your'n and beat his'n." His son, Buffalo coach Wade Phillips, had his own version on Parcells. "We all know and he proved it again [against New England], Bill Parcells can take his and some of theirs and go back and beat theirs that used to be his. Isn't that the way that goes?" Because Dan Marino is injured, the Miami Dolphins will play the Patriots with a backup quarterback for the third time since 1993. Steve DeBerg led the Dolphins to a 17-13 win in 1993, and Scott Mitchell, now the Ravens' third stringer, lost, 33-27, in overtime in 1993. The Indianapolis Colts, yes, the Indianapolis Colts, are talking Super Bowl. "I know that if we keep winning, ultimately, we'll get to the Super Bowl," said linebacker Cornelius Bennett, who suffered his fifth Super Bowl loss in January while playing with the Atlanta Falcons. He was on Buffalo's four losing Super Bowl teams.

Central

The joke in Jacksonville is that a coach has finally figured out how to stop the team's high-powered offense -- the Jaguars' own Tom Coughlin, who took over as offensive coordinator this year and has a strained relationship with quarterback Mark Brunell. Coughlin didn't help it much when he told ESPN, "I'm the coach, and he's the player." The question now is whether he'll hire an offensive coordinator next year. Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney said before the game against the Cleveland Browns last week, "It's really good to see those uniforms back on this field." The new Browns then upset the Steelers, 16-15, in their first game there. The old Browns lost their first 16 games at Three Rivers Stadium. Rooney said it was one of the Steelers' worst losses, but he went to Cleveland coach Chris Palmer after the game and said, "You see now what this rivalry is." Most of the young Browns were just happy to get a win, but Orlando Brown, who had never won in Pittsburgh with the old Browns or the Ravens, said, "I don't think these guys realize what just happened here." The Tennessee Titans can boost their AFC Central winning streak to 12 with a victory over the Steelers. The Cincinnati Enquirer ran an editorial last week calling for Mike Brown to make changes in management. It said the Bengals and Brown had become "the Dan Quayle of the NFL, a handy punch line for a cheap laugh." It added, "The buck stops with Mr. Brown. His poor judgment of talent and bad decisions have been well-documented on our sports pages."

West

Although Brian Griese may have a chance to be healthy enough to play Dec. 5 against the Kansas City Chiefs, Chris Miller may have a chance to finish out the season as the Denver Broncos' starter if he keeps playing well. He has impressed coach Mike Shanahan in two games and has a chance tomorrow night to win the job with a good showing against the Oakland Raiders. Miller, who sat out three years because of several concussions, now says he can play three or four more years. Kansas City coach Gunther Cunningham wasn't happy when nickel back Eric Warfield gave up passes of 52 and 54 yards against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. "I told him I was going to kill him if he ever did it again. That's exactly what I told him. That's how I coach. He responded, and that's the way I like it," Cunningham said. The Chargers released wide receiver Bryan Still on Tuesday to close the chapter on one of general manager Bobby Beathard's worst mistakes. He gave up a first-round choice in 1997 (it turned out to be the 16th pick) to choose him on the second round in 1996. He turned out to be a bust, though the Falcons claimed him off waivers and will take a look at him.

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