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Scott Ostler

Marcus and Bo Offer Preview, and It Looks as If They'll Be a Hit

November 16, 1987|Scott Ostler

SAN DIEGO — Forget about the won-lost record, Raider fans, if you can. Let's talk about the most intriguing dilemma in pro football--the Marcus and Bo Show, wherein lies the future and fate of the ballclub.

Alone, Marcus Allen worries opponents a lot. Alone, Bo Jackson plain ole scares them.

Together, Marcus and Bo, we're talking Ruth and Gehrig time.

The current season having been kissed off as a silver-and-black disaster, sealed by Sunday night's 16-14 loss to the San Diego Chargers, the Raiders turn their attention to the future.

"You hate to look to the future at this point in the season but when you start to get the job done with guys in the backfield, the future is bright," said Howie Long. "Bo just might be the best running back in football. Those two guys might be as good as anyone in our time.

"Marcus is the most unselfish player I've ever been around. Last year, when he was having fumbling problems, I think he had a broken bone in his hand, but he's not the kind of guy to talk about it.

"Marcus and Bo leveled some guys tonight. Bo is all man, from head to toe, and he knows it. Those two guys, I'm excited about that."

Sunday night, sharing the backfield much of the time, the two Heisman horses gave glimpses of greatness. Marcus got off a 44-yard run in the first quarter. He finished with 82 yards in 13 carries, and Bo got 45 yards in 8 carries. They each caught three short passes.

Nothing that would stir Grantland Rice to invent a Two Horsemen angle, but a teaser of bigger things to come.

So far, Marcus has ruined a very promising jealousy story, refusing to cry about the new kid muscling in on his territory. Basically, Marcus, former college and pro king of L.A. football, is being a brick about sharing his turf. Not all superstars would be so magnanimous. Remember Tony Dorsett when Herschel Walker hit Dallas?

"People assume I'm going to react one way (complaining about Bo) but I'm a team player," Allen said. "I think I blocked pretty well tonight. We get along extremely great."

However, Marcus doesn't like not knowing whether he's a running back, like in the old days, or a fullback, like when Bo is in the game.

"I just wish if they're gonna make a decision, they'd let me know, so I could make the transition to fullback, instead of playing two positions," Allen said. "You get better with repetition. If they're going to do it (play them both, with Marcus at fullback), at least give me the benefit of working there (in practice). You have to give me time at the position."

Bet on this: The situation will be cleared up immediately. Marcus will get his official notice of eviction from the running back spot, along with a new playbook.

The Raiders originally intended to bring Bo along slowly after he reported from baseball, but two things happened: The Raiders' season went bad, and Bo turned out to be as good as he looked in college.

Obviously, for the rest of the season, it will be the Marcus and Bo show. It will be fun to watch. Both these guys throw stunning blocks. It's almost like a personal competition out there. "See that block I gave you, partner? Now let's see what you can do for me now."

They would both love to carry the ball more, and maybe take out their frustration on their blocking assignments.

It's nice. It could be beautiful.

The bad news is, it might be a fleeting friendship. Pro football tradition dictates that you don't put two superstar runners in the same backfield. The temptation is strong to break that tradition. When did any team, Cowboys included, ever have this kind of potential one-two punch?

The bad news is that the Raiders don't seem to have a quarterback, and it may be necessary to ship out Bo or Marcus in order to get one.

What should the Raiders do? Trade one of the Two Horsemen, break up Ruth and Gehrig? Or keep 'em together like a matched set of jewels and pray for help at quarterback?

The vote here is to keep Bo and Marcus together. It's just too much fun to see these two guys lining up together in the backfield. The potential is high for entertainment and amazement.

"I think it's a good combo," Allen said in the understatement of the decade.

Quarterback? Who knows? Maybe every week play Marc Wilson, Rusty Hilger, Jim Plunkett and Vince Evans one quarter each and hope you keep the other team more off balance than your own team would be.

Sunday night, another Raider debacle in the books but one ray of hope emerging, Bo and Marcus left the locker room together, shooting down that promsing story angle of a superstar feud. It was like watching Edison and Einstein talking shop.

It was beautiful to see. They were only on their way to the team bus, but nobody stopped them.

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