1-man rule proves two-edged sword

ON THE NFL

September 30, 2001|By KEN MURRAY | KEN MURRAY,SUN STAFF

The predictable conclusion to the Jeff George saga in Washington underscores a recurring theme in the NFL these days.

Power corrupts. The more one person has, the more vulnerable he becomes.

Mike Ditka couldn't handle autonomy in New Orleans. Jimmy Johnson couldn't win his division in Miami, let alone recreate Dallas. Once Bill Parcells acquired total control in New York with the Jets, he made one run at a Super Bowl, came up short and retreated post haste to mediocrity. He wasn't such a hot chef, after all.

Very few, in fact, appear capable of adapting to the demanding role of head coach and personnel czar. Denver's Mike Shanahan handles it as well as anyone, but he has yet to go to the Super Bowl without John Elway.

Now, it appears Redskins coach Marty Schottenheimer - and perhaps even Seattle's Mike Holmgren - have fallen victim to the power syndrome.

Schottenheimer was lured to the Redskins this season with a four-year, $10 million contract and power over personnel decisions. When he axed George last week, it was a confirmation that his personnel acumen - or his ego - had gotten in the way of common sense.

Known for his strong arm, George had been traded, released or allowed to enter free agency four times before he arrived in Washington last year. Only once did he post a winning record as the starter. Still, Schottenheimer chose George over a number of other quarterbacks who would have fit his ball-control, short-passing philosophy.

It was pure folly to match George's arm with Schottenheimer's offense. Better the Redskins' coach should have gotten deposed Ravens quarterback Trent Dilfer.

But Schottenheimer suspected Dilfer's leadership presence, propped beside George, would have divided his locker room, so he went for the other Ravens quarterback, Tony Banks. Like George, Banks is better suited to throwing the ball deep. Wrong choice again.

The Redskins will pay dearly for the mistakes.

In Seattle, fans are wondering what price the Holmgren era will cost the Seahawks. Holmgren arrived in Seattle in 1999 off back-to-back Super Bowl appearances by his Green Bay Packers. He got autonomy and job titles in Seattle, but 34 games later, his Seahawks are 16-18.

Worse yet, his hand-picked quarterback, Matt Hasselbeck, has a deer-in-the-headlights look and Holmgren's offense hasn't scored a touchdown in two games.

In 112 regular-season games with the Packers, Holmgren's teams were held to three points or less only once. In Seattle, it's happened four times in the past 22 games. Obviously, autonomy isn't for everyone.

Vikings run amuck

The Minnesota Vikings had chaos on their sideline last week, and they may have had mayhem on the field, as well. Team sources told the St. Paul Pioneer Press that wide receivers Cris Carter and Randy Moss have sometimes ignored called plays and run their own routes in an attempt to get open.

That revelation came on the heels of their boorish sideline behavior in a 17-10 loss in Chicago. Carter argued with coaches on the sideline, including head coach Denny Green, berated quarterback Daunte Culpepper for not throwing him the ball and grabbed the jersey of Fearon Wright after a personal foul. Moss was also seen lecturing Culpepper.

The upshot was that Green took play-calling duties away from offensive coordinator Sherman Lewis in the second half to quiet the near-mutiny. Carter later apologized for his actions, and Green insisted there was no problem with Culpepper.

"We've got a lot of high-strung players," Green said. "We can't do anything about it, except not let it happen again and understand that it is not productive and it doesn't help us win ... That's the way it was, but it won't be that way anymore."

Emotions figure to run high again today, though. The 0-2 Vikings meet Tampa Bay with their season on the line. In the past three years, 19 teams have started 0-3, and only the 1998 Buffalo Bills rallied to make the playoffs.

A vote for Wright

Dallas Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith - 1,435 yards behind Walter Payton on the NFL's all-time rushing list - knows the score. He gained 40 yards against Tampa Bay when quarterback Quincy Carter was incapable of getting the ball downfield. He gained 85 yards against San Diego when quarterback Anthony Wright threw three touchdown passes. Smith says Wright should be the quarterback.

"We're not on the same page," Smith said. "We want to win right now, and they're developing [Carter] for the future. We're trying to get out here and stop this 0-2 thing from going to 0-3 or 0-4. ... It's nothing personal. It's just all about winning."

To which coach Dave Campo said no dice. When Carter's sprained thumb heals, he's the man.

By the numbers

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