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Inside the NFL | Sam Farmer ON THE NFL

Jury Is Still Out on These Decisions

September 06, 2003|Sam Farmer

Nice opening act, Patriots.

What's next, shipping Tom Brady to the Dolphins?

Letting Pro Bowl safety Lawyer Milloy slip away to division rival Buffalo a mere five days before the season opener against the Bills has to be one of the biggest front-office blunders in NFL history.

Or does it? Sure, Milloy was a five-time defensive captain with four Pro Bowl appearances to his credit, but he also was too expensive at $4.4 million for this season. And having great safeties is of less importance now that the Patriots are running a 3-4 defense that spotlights the playmaking ability of their linebackers.

Besides, safeties don't change the game the way a quarterback might, and the Patriots swept Buffalo last season even after Drew Bledsoe wound up there. Philadelphia outscored Washington last season, 71-28, after losing standout middle linebacker Jeremiah Trotter to the Redskins, a development many thought would come back to haunt the Eagles. So far, it hasn't.

Milloy gets a chance to stick it to his former team Sunday, and the football world will get its first hint of whether New England's decision was brainless or brilliant.

Some other two-sided plot lines:

DECISION: The Redskins part ways with Danny Wuerffel.

BRILLIANT: Wuerffel was like a bad habit for Steve Spurrier. Every time Washington got in trouble last season, Spurrier instinctively turned to his former Florida quarterback, who could recite the offense in his sleep. But the Wuerffel experiment wasn't working; that's why Redskin owner Daniel Snyder stepped in and released him.

BRAINLESS: Why is Snyder paying Spurrier $5 million a year if he doesn't trust him to make his own decisions?

DECISION: Five teams -- Washington, Indianapolis, Buffalo, San Diego and Denver -- are purposely carrying only two quarterbacks, and two others, Miami and Atlanta, go only two deep because of injuries.

BRILLIANT: Aren't No. 3 quarterbacks just clipboard holders, anyway? According to the Elias Sports Bureau, in 1,240 regular-season games since 1998, three quarterbacks threw passes for the same team in only 17 games.

BRAINLESS: Seven teams started three quarterbacks last season. And what about A.J. Feeley and Marc Bulger? Those guys would probably be out of the league now if all teams viewed third quarterbacks as unnecessary luxuries.

DECISION: Baltimore is starting rookie quarterback Kyle Boller in the opener at Pittsburgh.

BRILLIANT: Sure, the Ravens would love to make a Super Bowl run this season. But next season is more realistic, so getting Boller experience now is very important. He beat out Chris Redman and Anthony Wright for the starting job, and he could wind up being a better pick than Carson Palmer. Boller is the fifth opening-day starting quarterback in Coach Brian Billick's five seasons, following Scott Mitchell, Tony Banks, Elvis Grbac and Redman.

BRAINLESS: Talk about throwing Boller into the wood chipper right away. Even John Elway, who made his rookie debut against the Steelers, got pulled at halftime of that game. (The Broncos won, anyway.)

DECISION: The NFL has offered to pay the lion's share of an environmental-impact report for a rebuilt Rose Bowl.

BRILLIANT: It's a step in the right direction for proponents of bringing pro football back to Los Angeles. That the league is actually investing some money -- albeit chump change -- sends the right message.

BRAINLESS: Excuse the yawn, but everyone who has followed this story is just waiting for the next project to rise from the dead -- the Coliseum, Dodger Stadium, Carson....

DECISION: In advance of their opener, Raider receiver Jerry Porter calls Tennessee safety Lance Schulters "a girl."

BRAINLESS: It's extra bulletin-board material for the Titans, who are looking to avenge their 41-24 loss at Oakland in the AFC title game.

BRILLIANT: The girl remark finally gets Bill Parcells off the hook with new Cowboy receiver Terry Glenn.

DECISION: NFL officials are going to crack down on vulgar outbursts by coaches, players and team executives on the sidelines.

BRILLIANT: The game should be the focus, not some leather-lunged coach griping about a call. Go ahead, throw those unsportsmanlike-conduct flags.

BRAINLESS: How is Jim Haslett supposed to coach the Saints while swaddled in duct tape?

They Meet Again

Almost three years have passed since Cincinnati running back Corey Dillon torched Denver for 278 yards rushing, an NFL single-game record, and the Bengals dealt the Broncos one of their most embarrassing defeats in franchise history. The teams meet Sunday for the first time since that October 2000 afternoon.

Was Al 'Sundance'?

Apparently, Tampa Bay Coach Jon Gruden not only has a nose for football but a nose for Al Davis.

In Gruden's soon-to-be-released book, written with Vic Carucci, the former Raider coach recalls his days working under Davis.

"Al wore distinctive cologne that I can smell to this day," Gruden writes in "Do You Love Football?! Winning with Heart, Passion and Not Much Sleep."

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