Lynn-for-Schramm move is more than meets the eye

It wasn't so long ago that Tex Schramm and Mike Lynn wer two of the most powerful men in the National Football League.

Schramm founded and ran the Dallas Cowboys for 29 years, was a friend of former commissioner Pete Rozelle's and had a major impact on the league as head of the competition committee.


Lynn pulled off a feat that only Al Davis, managing general partner of the Los Angeles Raiders, had accomplished. Hired by Max Winter to become the Minnesota Vikings general manager in 1975, Lynn managed to oust Winter in 1984 and take charge of the franchise by gaining operating control of two-thirds of the voting stock.

He was one of the top behind-the scenes wheeler-dealers in the league. He led the new-guard revolt a year ago that catapulted an obscure league lawyer named Paul Tagliabue into the commissioner's job.


That's why it was so stunning Thursday when Schramm was fired as the head of the new spring World League and Lynn accepted the job as his replacement.

The two events were not entirely related. Schramm was out as the World League head even if Lynn hadn't been available to replace him.

The conventional wisdom is that Schramm was fired because his vision of the World League was too grandiose for the owners and that Lynn left the Vikings because he feared he was in danger of being pushed out of the job and wanted to save face.

But the conventional wisdom may not be entirely accurate.

Schramm said he was fired by the board of directors -- Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney gave him the news -- because of "philosophical differences" over the direction of the new league.

The league is likely to be scaled down now that Schramm has departed. The original plan was 12 teams, but now they're planning to go with no more than 10 and maybe just eight. Mexico City is out, Montreal may go and the European teams could be cut from four to two.

But that's not so much a matter of vision as an acknowledgment of the enormous task of trying to put together a new league. Rooney said he envisions eventually having more than 12 teams.

Schramm's real problem may have been that after three decades of running the Cowboys, he was used to doing things his way all the time. Listening to the ideas of the board of directors wasn't Schramm's way.


Rooney said the league's "objective will be the same," but there will be "more input" from the board and no "single focus."

Lynn, who already was a member of the board, should work better with the other members. With a reputation as a cost cutter, he may make it easier for the other owners to accept the new league. Schramm's reputation of being a big spender may have scared some of them.

Part of this is image. Lynn might do many of the same things Schramm did because he's also a believer in the international concept. But Lynn may sell the ideas better.

That leaves the question of why Lynn is leaving the Vikings. Lynn insisted his departure -- he hasn't decided on exactly when he'll leave -- had nothing to do with the court fight over control of the team, the flak over the trade for Herschel Walker or the team's 1-4 record.

"I'm not bailing out," he said. "My first love is the Vikings. My second love is the expansion of American football internationally."

Even if Lynn didn't fear he eventually would lose the legal fight, he just may have been tired of the battle and welcomed a career change. There's also speculation that Lynn is interested in running an expansion team in Memphis, Tenn., if that city gets one.


* The Schramm and Lynn moves will dramatically affect the World League, the Vikings and, surprisingly, Notre Dame.

Lynn said he will name his successor as general manager and that Jerry Burns will be retained as coach, although Burns has said he may retire at the end of the year.

If Lynn winds up calling the shots, his assistant, Jeff Diamond, is likely to get the job.

But Carl Pohlad, who has been fighting Lynn in court over control of the team, is friends with Lou Holtz, the Notre Dame coach. Lynn's departure renewed speculation that Holtz will jump to the Vikings next year.

Even if it isn't true, the speculation is likely to distract Notre Dame during the rest of this season. If Holtz leaves, Bill Walsh could be a candidate for the job. Now that Walsh has won three Super Bowls, he doesn't have much else to accomplish in football; following in the footsteps of Rockne, Leahy and Parseghian could appeal to him.

The loss of Schramm in the World League could give it a credibility problem. Even though it's only a developmental league, Schramm gave the World League a mystique.


Although Rooney said it'll still be a "first-class operation," the league will have to prove it. The board will update the owners on the new league at an owners meeting Tuesday in Chicago.

With the Vikings at 1-4, it's difficult to judge whether Lynn's eventual departurewill have much immediate impact. Lynn never was popular with the players, although he recently tried to improve his relationship with them.

Guard Dave Huffman first called him a "rat deserting a sinking ship" when he thought Lynn was leaving immediately.

After Lynn met with the team, Huffman said, "Well, he's not a rat anymore. They put down a gangplank sooner or later."

* There may be a power vacuum in the NFL now that both Schramm and Lynn no longer are running clubs. New owners such as Jerry Jones of the Cowboys, Ken Behring of the Seattle Seahawks and Victor Kiam of the New England Patriots aren't likely to fill the void.

Eddie DeBartolo Jr. of the San Francisco 49ers could be a leader if he wanted to, but often sends his top aide, Carmen Policy, to attend meetings for him.


Tagliabue could emerge as a leader, but except for his fine of Cincinnati Bengals coach Sam Wyche, he seems more lawyer than commissioner.

For example, when a spokesman was asked last week whether the league had a timetable on a decision on the fate of Washington Redskins defensive end Dexter Manley, the spokesman said: "The commissioner is a lawyer and has already established a reputation of not rushing to judgments."

The main focus of the owners meeting Tuesday will be the future the World League, but there also will be a report to the owners by the new expansion and realignment committee, which is expected to meet today.

The update is expected to be routine, and the target is expected to remain two teams in 1993.

A staff member for the commissioner asked representatives of expansion candidates not to attend, and both Baltimore and Memphis complied, but St. Louis and Charlotte, N.C., are sending representatives anyway.

Herbert J. Belgrad, chairman of the Maryland Stadium Authority, said the city will be represented at the next major meeting, in March in Hawaii.


* The controversy never seems to end for the New England Patriots.

While the Lisa Olson sexual harassment case was being investigated last week, the Patriots got involved in a new hassle.

Wide receiver Hart Lee Dykes was hospitalized after he and teammate Irving Fryar said they were assaulted at a Providence, R.I., nightclub.

Fryar was charged with illegal possession of a handgun. He has a Massachusetts permit for the handgun, but it wasn't valid under certain conditions.

The Patriots don't play until Thursday night in Miami. If ever a team could use a rest, the Patriots are that team.

* Wyche didn't seem very disturbed about being fined roughly recently for barring female reporters from his locker room.


He showed up at his news conference after last Sunday's game against the Los Angeles Rams apparently wearing only a towel. He then took off the towel to reveal a pair of shorts underneath.

Wyche no longer seems content to be just a coach.

"My goal is to be on a postage stamp or be one of those small quotes in the World Book Encyclopedia," he said.

The fine seemed to make a bigger impression on Atlanta Falcons coach Jerry Glanville than it did on Wyche.

Glanville said last week: "You guys make sure the women get into the locker room first. I have 30,000 reasons for saying that."

The Atlanta Falcons' Andre Rison has had five 100-yard receiving games in his first 20 games in the league. The 49ers' Jerry Rice had four in his first 20 games. . . . The Denver Broncos have had leads of 12, 14, 12 and nine points in their past four games and won only two of them. . . . The Denver Broncos' Bobby Humphrey, who's listed as doubtful with an ankle injury, leads the league with 568 rushing yards. That's better than the total of 18 teams.