Moon explains AFC Super defeats: 'It's what's up front that counts'

Houston Oilers quarterback Warren Moon is up front about the reasons the American Football Conference keeps losing Super Bowls to National Conference teams.

"It has to do with the line play, particularly the offensive lines," said Moon, who is scheduled to play in the Pro Bowl this weekend. "Nothing can dominate a game like an offensive line, and that's where I think the Super Bowls in the past have been won and lost.


"That's what happened with the New York Giants last year. I mean they controlled the game, and I don't think there's any question they have less talent at the skill positions than Buffalo. You look at Washington and they probably do, too."

The NFC teams have won eight consecutive world championships, including Washington's 37-24 victory over Buffalo in Super Bowl XXVI.


While Moon never has played in the Super Bowl, he makes a valid point. The Bills probably had the talent advantage in most of the key skill-position areas over the Giants and Redskins the last two years.

Let's look at the lineups: There isn't a coach in the league who would take Jeff Hostetler or Mark Rypien ahead of Bills quarterback Jim Kelly, or Ottis Anderson and Earnest Byner over Buffalo running back Thurman Thomas.

Andre Reed and James Lofton are a better wide receiver tandem than Stephen Baker and Mark Ingram and at least a push with Art Monk and Gary Clark. There isn't anyone who wouldn't prefer Bruce Smith to Leonard Marshall or Charles Mann. And Bills linebacker Cornelius Bennett might be picked higher than the Giants' Lawrence Taylor, Pepper Johnson and Carl Banks and the Redskins' Wilber Marshall, Andre Collins and Kurt Gouveia.

But the Bills have been overmatched up front. The Redskins' and Giants' offensive lines protected their quarterbacks and made space for running backs to gain yardage and control the clock.

* CASHING IN: Some prominent Redskins will be lining up at the pay window this offseason, trying to cash in on their Super Bowl triumph. The Redskins have 10 starters whose contracts expire tomorrow, including Rypien ($1.5 million), cornerback Darrell Green ($825,000), left tackle Jim Lachey ($800,000) and Byner ($610,000). He won't earn Bobby Bonilla money, but Rypien is sure to sign for more than the $10 million over four years. "I'm sure this is going to be a big one, and the big ones are going to take a while to do," Redskins coach Joe Gibbs said.

* NOT IN THE BOOK: Broncos coach Dan Reeves fired Mike Shanahan last week after finding out the offensive coordinator and quarterback John Elway were scripting plays for the first three series of the team's final six games. Shanahan convinced Reeves during the last offseason to permit Elway to call the plays. But Reeves wanted Elway to make those decisions based on down and distance situations.

* RUNNING FOR DOLLARS: NFL rushing leader Emmitt Smith wants the Cowboys to renegotiate his contract. He is scheduled to earn $465,000 in base salary and bonuses next season, which is less than eight teammates, including Alfredo Roberts, Tony Casillas and Nate Newton.

* QUICK TRIP: Former Redskins-Cardinals-Bucs defensive end Dexter Manley, who retired from the NFL after a fourth positive drug test, left the Sierra-Tucson Rehabilitation Center after a one-week stay. He had been scheduled to remain there for a month.


* INSURANCE PLAN: The Cowboys know the importance of having Steve Beuerlein behind Troy Aikman. They rejected an offer from the Chiefs, who have shifted their attention to the Saints' Steve Walsh and the 49ers' Steve Young. Walsh is unhappy with his situation in New Orleans and wants out. However, Young cannot be traded until the 49ers are sure Joe Montana will return from elbow surgery. Montana continues to predict he'll throw in the next week. The 49ers also have Steve Bono.