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Week 6 in the NFL

Diversity Program Gets a Boost from Standings

October 15, 2006|Sam Farmer

Two teams remain undefeated this season: the Chicago Bears and Indianapolis Colts.

They're coached by Lovie Smith and Tony Dungy.

Both coaches happen to be black.

This might have escaped the notice of some people, but not those in the Fritz Pollard Alliance, a group dedicated to increasing diversity among the NFL's coaching and administrative ranks.

"We're just totally ecstatic about what's going on in the league right now in terms of diversity," said John Wooten, the group's chairman.

Clearly, the Bears have emerged as the league's best overall team. They have outscored opponents, 156-36, and only three of their final 11 opponents have winning records. There's even talk that the Bears could run the table.

Wooten, for one, sees it as a great opportunity for a team with a black coach to finally win the Super Bowl -- which he considers the next giant step in further diversifying the league. He's quick to point out there have been many smaller steps in the last year, among them the promotion of black executives such as Rick Smith, general manager of the Houston Texans; Tony Softli, St. Louis' vice president of player personnel; and Ray Farmer, Kansas City's director of pro personnel.

"These things are meaningful," said Wooten, who credits Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney, and current and former NFL commissioners Roger Goodell and Paul Tagliabue for many of the changes. "People are looking at what's going on. The NFL is giving people opportunities."

Bruce Almighty

Tampa Bay lost again last Sunday, but the Buccaneers were pleased with the play of rookie quarterback Bruce Gradkowski, who made his debut in place of the injured Chris Simms.

Not only did Gradkowski run Coach Jon Gruden's offense more effectively than Simms, but none of his passes were knocked down at the line of scrimmage, which had been a problem for the player he replaced.

Drew or the Line?

Somewhat lost in the circus surrounding Terrell Owens is this:

Drew Bledsoe looks really bad. The Dallas quarterback is responsible for eight turnovers -- seven interceptions and a fumble -- and too often has looked clueless running the Cowboys' offense.

But Bledsoe got a reprieve this week when Coach Bill Parcells pointed to the offensive line as the main problem. He said the line didn't give Bledsoe enough time to do his job in last Sunday's loss at Philadelphia.

Yet even Bledsoe said his turnovers have been a real hindrance.

"That's got to change," he said. "That's real obvious."

Slipping Away

The Washington Redskins rallied at the end of last season, winning their final five games to make the playoffs. When they began that fantastic finish, though, they were 5-2 against the NFC and 2-1 in the NFC East.

Some people think Washington is already in deeper trouble now. Even though the Redskins will have a .500 record if they beat winless Tennessee today, they are 0-2 in the division and 0-3 in the conference.

Alexander the Good

The Seahawks won't have Shaun Alexander today when they play at St. Louis. That's bad news for Seattle, judging by how Alexander has produced against the Rams in years past.

In each of his last seven games against the Rams, he rushed for 100-plus yards.

Alexander's average of 102.3 yards rushing against the Rams is by far the best of any ballcarrier with a minimum of eight games against them. The others in the top five are William Andrews, 79.7; Jamal Anderson, 75.9; Ricky Watters, 72.9; and Walter Payton, 71.8.

Noteworthy Sale

A hot topic in Green Bay last week was the decision of Packers linebacker Nick Barnett to sell his downtown nightclub, FiveSix Ultra Club, and whether it was a sign he was fed up with the franchise.

And there's this question:

There's a nightclub in Green Bay?

-- Sam Farmer

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