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SPORTS WEEKEND | eXcesses and O's

Now It's Time to Put Teams in Their Place

November 03, 2000|MIKE PENNER

REALIGNMENT 2002

NFL owners this week voted to realign into eight four-team divisions in 2002, when the expansion Houston Texans join the league. As history has demonstrated time and again with this league, geographic alignment (Atlanta in the NFC West?) is a pipe dream and competitive balance (NFC has won 14 of the last 16 Super Bowls) hopeless.

As I see it, there is only one way the league can properly realign:

Audubon Society Division

Teams: Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons, Philadelphia Eagles, Seattle Seahawks.

Comment: Teams of a feather flocked together.

Carpetbagger Division

Teams: Baltimore Ravens, Indianapolis Colts, St. Louis Rams, Tennessee Titans.

Comment: Until they move again.

Politically Incorrect Division

Teams: Washington Redskins, Kansas City Chiefs, Green Bay Packers, Oakland Raiders.

Comment: Two teams whose nicknames offend Native Americans. Another whose nickname offends animal-rights activists ("Gimme a P! Gimme an E! Gimme a T and an A!"). And another whose supporters offend every convention of civilized modern society.

Super Bowl Hex, Hex, Hex Division

Teams: Buffalo Bills, Minnesota Vikings, Cincinnati Bengals, New England Patriots.

Comment: Bills (0-4), Vikings (0-4), Bengals (0-2), Patriots (0-2) have never won a Super Bowl, looking like they never will.

Once Were Giants Division

Teams: Dallas Cowboys, Pittsburgh Steelers, Denver Broncos, New York Giants.

Comment: Former NFL superpowers that, for a variety of causes, have fallen back among the hoi polloi. Technically, the Giants still might be Giants, but not in the figurative, on-Sunday, at-the-line-of-scrimmage, all-that-matters sense.

Zagats Division

Teams: New Orleans Saints, San Francisco 49ers, Miami Dolphins, New York Jets.

Comment: Winning teams come and winning teams go, but great restaurants are forever. Alignment vigorously approved by the Pro Football Writers Assn.

Second Division

Teams: San Diego Chargers, Chicago Bears, Cleveland Browns, Houston Texans.

Comment: Because they are certainly not ready for the First Division. Gathered here together for their own protection.

Four Degrees of Tshimanga Biakabutuka Division

Teams: Carolina Panthers, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Detroit Lions.

Comment: Biakabutuka was drafted in the first round in 1996 by the Panthers, who made their NFL debut the same season as the Jaguars, who paid big money last off -season to sign free-agent linebacker Hardy Nickerson, who used to play for the Buccaneers, who now play the Lions twice each season in the NFC Central.

HALL OF FAME WAIVER WIRE

Seventy-eight players, coaches and contributors were nominated this week for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Sadly, not all of them are going to make the cut:

Archie Manning: Hall of Fame gene pool, maybe, but in 14 NFL seasons, Peyton Manning's dad never appeared in a playoff game. Ten-plus seasons with New Orleans, most of them spent scrambling for life and limb, were the primary reason for that. Canton, no. Purple Heart, yes.

Ahmad Rashad: All-time record-holder for sideline-reporting unctuousness. Unfortunately, Hall of Fame vote is not conducted via the Bring-A-Buddy system.

William Andrews: Rushed for more than 1,000 yards four times in six seasons with Atlanta, but that was it. Only six seasons, only 87 games. Jamal Anderson should pass him in career yards before Thanksgiving, 2001.

Delvin Williams: Two 1,000-yard seasons, fewer than 6,000 career yards, an even 100 games in the league. They're really delvin' deep to pad out this ballot.

Jerry Gray: Played for the 1991-92 Los Angeles Rams. As we all know, there were no Hall of Famers on those teams.

Jerry Burns: Unlike Bud Grant, he never lost a Super Bowl as Vikings' head coach. Partly because he never participated in one. Went 55-46 from 1986-1991 as the warmup act for Dennis Green.

Bill Arnsparger: Reputed defensive guru who masterminded the Dolphins' "No-Name" and "Killer Bees" defenses and helped guide the 1994 Chargers to the Super Bowl, which, in hindsight, ranks as one of the top five miracles of the 20th century. But, as a head coach, he didn't last three years with the Giants, getting fired midway through the 1976 season after compiling a record of 7-28.

Bobby Beathard: Listed among the "contributors" nominees. Let's see: Ryan Leaf, Terrance Shaw, Bryan Still, no first-round draft choices in 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1999 and 2000. Yes, he definitely contributed to where the Chargers are today.

Art Modell: Why don't we run this one past the Dawg Pound?

Todd Christensen, Tom Jackson, Matt Millen: Would make a great in-studio lineup, though.

RETRO GRADES

Banking on the theory that winning never goes out of style, several NFL teams have turned back the clocks to their sartorial past in hope of reclaiming old glory. Results so far:

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