Maybe it's the owners who need talking to be talked to


January 02, 2000|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

During his tumultuous six-month tenure as the owner of the Washington Redskins, Dan Snyder has often been compared to Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.

Maybe it should be the other way around. Jones now seems to be stealing a page from the Snyder book.

He called in about 20 veterans last week to stress the importance of today's game against the New York Giants.

It was similar to Snyder's move of meeting one-on-one with five veterans before the Arizona game.

Quarterback Troy Aikman, who was drafted the year (1989) Jones bought the team, said: "My career has been Jerry's career here. That's the first time he has done that."

His first coach, Jimmy Johnson, wouldn't have tolerated it. Meeting with the players is supposed to be the coach's job.

The late Jim Finks, who built playoff teams in Minnesota, Chicago and New Orleans, used to say the job of the owner is to "own."

The new breed seems to want to coach, too.

Aikman put the best spin on the meeting, saying: "I don't think anyone has ever questioned how passionate Jerry is about the Cowboys and how passionate he is about winning."

Coach Chan Gailey said he had no problem with it. What else was he going to say?

"That's irrelevant whose idea it was," Gailey said as he deflected the questions about the meeting. "Jerry and I talked about it. We talk about everything that happens on the team. I knew exactly what was going on and helped get it set up. I don't have a problem with it. He's the owner."

The reality is it doesn't make much difference if the Cowboys make the playoffs or not. They're 7-8 and have lost seven straight road games. They're not likely to go very far in the playoffs.

But Jones spent $41 million in bonus money this year on an aging team, and he's frustrated.

He doesn't seem to realize or doesn't care he's undercutting his coach and making him appear weak the same way Snyder has done in Washington with Norv Turner.

If the owner doesn't respect the coach, he should find another one and let him coach.

Coaching derby

It's surprising that in the final week of the regular season, only one coach, Pete Carroll of the Patriots, seems to have no chance of keeping his job.

Just a week ago, Bruce Coslet in Cincinnati and Mike Ditka in New Orleans seemed to have one foot on a banana peel.

But Cincinnati owner Mike Brown -- much to the chagrin of wide receiver Carl Pickens -- announced last week that Coslet will be back. And Ditka said he'll be back, although owner Tom Benson hasn't made an announcement.

"I just believe I'll be back," Ditka said. "There's no revelation to it. An angel of the Lord didn't come down and say, `You're going to be back.' I just believe I'm going to be back. I want to be back. And I'll be back."

Maybe he knows Benson doesn't want to eat the final three years of his contract.

In Arizona, Vince Tobin doesn't want to be a lame duck next year and has suggested he'll walk if he doesn't get an extension.

"Are the Cardinals moving in the direction we want to go with me at the helm?" he said. "If that's so, then we'll work it out. If they think not, then I'm sure we'll work it out the other way."

But it remains to be seen if Tobin would really quit. Turner told his friends in Washington for weeks that he was ready to quit because of Snyder's meddling and then quickly climbed back on board when Snyder said last week he'd be back.

Assuming that Gailey in Dallas and Jon Gruden in Oakland keep their jobs, that leaves Johnson in Miami and the Jets' Bill Parcells in unsettled situations. Neither has said if he'll be back.

Parcells has already put the new owner on notice, even though the team's sale hasn't been completed.

"I don't want to work with somebody I don't think knows what he's doing who I'm going to have to answer for," he said.


Even though government officials kept saying Y2K problems weren't going to be serious, the NFL forced all the visiting teams this weekend to travel on New Year's Eve.

The NFL could have made it easier by scheduling the Jets-Giants, Browns-Steelers, Eagles-Redskins and Saints-Falcons this weekend so the teams could have traveled by bus if there were problems.

It's also curious that the Ravens, Cardinals, Rams, Colts, Raiders and Titans had to travel on New Year's Eve.

What do they have in common? They all moved in the last 15 years.

Is that a coincidence? Maybe it's one more price of moving.

Meanwhile, commissioner Paul Tagliabue's two favorite expansion teams, Carolina and Jacksonville, got home games this weekend.

The record

Is John Unitas' record of throwing a touchdown pass in 47 straight games from 1956 to 1960 the most impressive record in the pro football record books?

It certainly may be the toughest to break. Dan Marino is second with 30. He did it from 1985 to '87. Peyton Manning got up to 27, tying for fourth place on the all-time list, before his string ended in Cleveland last week.

When you consider how much more emphasis there is on the passing game these days, it's remarkable that Unitas set it four decades ago.

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