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Some Are Smart, Others Smarting

October 07, 2000|STEVE SPRINGER

Despite the best efforts of Commissioner Paul Tagliabue to maintain parity, working toward the day when two 8-8 teams will meet in the not-so-Super Bowl, the smart guys are finding a way to rise and the not-so-smart are falling.


* Mike Martz, coach of the St. Louis Rams (5-0). Up until a year ago, any Ram coach who told his players they could be undefeated after five games, as Martz did, would have been drug-tested.

Now people are wondering if the Rams will ever lose.

He has gotten credit here before for demanding high standards, but Martz, showing some smartz, deserves credit this week for demanding nothing. He told his players after Week 2 that if they remained unbeaten for three more games, they wouldn't have to show up at all this week, their open date.

"A week off is unheard of in the NFL," St. Louis tight end Roland Williams said.

So is scoring 30 or more points in 11 consecutive games, an NFL record. Or averaging 505.4 yards and 43.4 points a game as the Rams are.

By sending the players home, Martz avoids the nagging injuries that occur in practice, enables his players to return refreshed and rested for the battles ahead and maintains a positive mental outlook.

Remember, this is a team that threatened mutiny two seasons ago because the players felt former coach Dick Vermeil was pushing too hard in practice.

Besides, what was Martz going to do, work on making the Rams better?

As it is, Tagliabue is trying to figure out how to break them up.

* Dennis Green, coach of the Minnesota Vikings (4-0). When quarterback Randall Cunningham replaced injured Brad Johnson, they said Green was gambling with an over-the-hill quarterback.

When Jeff George replaced Cunningham, they said Green was gambling with an erratic quarterback.

When Daunte Culpepper replaced George, they said Green was gambling with an untested quarterback.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Green has won with all of them. The explosiveness of receiver Randy Moss has something to do with it. So does the reliability of receiver Cris Carter.

But most of all, the credit must go to the manner and methods of Green, who has consistently produced excellence on the field despite his sometimes stormy relationship with previous ownership.

What more could an owner want?

A Super Bowl berth might be nice.

As well as Green has done in the regular season, he has only made it as far as the conference championship once in eight seasons, losing there to the Atlanta Falcons after his Vikings went 15-1 in the 1998 regular season.

Smart from July to December, Green has been dumbfounded by January.

* Bill Parcells, director of football operations for the New York Jets (4-0). Winning thanks to key mistakes by the opposition and key plays of their own in the fourth quarter, the Jets have been called lucky.

Isn't it amazing how luck seems to follow Parcells wherever he goes, whatever position he takes?


* George Seifert, coach of the Carolina Panthers (1-3). Seifert was smart enough to successfully follow football's then-reigning genius, Bill Walsh, in San Francisco where Seifert led the 49ers to two Super Bowl victories.

Of course, he had quarterbacks named Joe Montana and Steve Young to lead those teams, and an offensive coordinator named Mike Shanahan for the second Super Bowl win.

Seifert hasn't looked as smart in Carolina, where his struggles with the offense resulted in the resignation this week of offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave.

"I know that there are times when I'm not the easiest guy in the world to live with, or deal with," Seifert told the Associated Press. "I'm fairly passionate about this business and I pretty much say what's on my mind and go from there, but I was certainly surprised and disappointed he resigned."

Maybe Musgrave just wasn't smart enough to work for Seifert.

* Dan Reeves, coach of the Atlanta Falcons (2-3). When he couldn't win a Super Bowl with John Elway at quarterback, Reeves was considered dumb.

When he got to the Super Bowl with Chris Chandler at quarterback, Reeves was considered brilliant.

Now, with running back Jamal Anderson struggling to come back from an injury and the Falcon offensive line in disarray, Reeves' brilliance has dimmed again.

Such is life in the NFL, where today's genius is tomorrow's goat.

Just ask Walsh. Or Jimmy Johnson.


Anybody who has watched Pittsburgh Steeler Coach Bill Cowher, himself a former coaching genius, has surely cowered at one time or another after watching Mt. Cowher erupt, his face contorted in anger, words spewing from his mouth like hot lava at some ill-advised move by one of his players.

There aren't many moves more ill-advised than the one pulled by Pittsburgh rookie receiver Plaxico Burress on Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars. After catching a pass and holding on as he stumbled to the ground, Burress arose in triumph and spiked the ball, perhaps trying to emulate his hero, Terrell Owens.

At least Owens, still the leader in the clubhouse for this year's Tasteless Taunts Award, scored before he strutted around on the Cowboy logo two weeks ago. Not only hadn't Burress scored, he hadn't even been touched by a Jaguar. So when he spiked the ball, alert Jacksonville defender Danny Clark picked it up and ran 44 yards.

Fortunately for Burress, Jacksonville didn't score on that play or the subsequent drive and didn't win, the Steelers prevailing, 24-13, for their first victory.

Can you imagine what Cowher would have done to Burress if his brain-lock play had cost the Steelers the game?

Getting scalded by hot lava is not a pleasant experience.

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