Bill Bidwill may finally have gotten the message that he has to change the way he runs his football team.
For almost two decades, the amiable owner of the Phoenix Cardinals has run his team like a mom and pop shop. He tried to be his own general manager and filled his scouting staff with cronies such as George Boone, who drafted such classic first-round busts as Steve Pisarkiewicz, Steve Little and Clyde Duncan.
That's why even good coaches failed there. When the Washington Redskins won the Super Bowl last year, they had five former Cardinals coaches (Joe Gibbs, Wayne Sevier, Rod Dowhower, Emmitt Thomas and Jim Hanifan) plotting strategy.
When Bidwill hired a general manager in 1988, he selected an old Cardinal, Larry Wilson. That's also the year he moved to Phoenix from St. Louis. Neither move helped much, although Wilson finally dumped Boone earlier this year.
The team is on its usual trip to nowhere this year. It's 1-6, and last week's 7-3 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles may have been the most frustrating.
The Cardinals had a first down at the Eagles' 3 in the second quarter. On first down, Johnny Bailey got to the 1-yard line. The Cardinals then had six straight shots from the 1 -- three extra because the Eagles were offsides three times.
Six straight times, the Cardinals went into the center of the line. Bailey tried it four times and quarterback Chris Chandler twice. Coach Joe Bugel never tried a play-action fake.
Maybe it's just a coincidence, but Bidwill talked about going in a new direction last week. That goal-line stand could do for the Cardinals what the 1978 Joe Pisarcik fumble did for the New York Giants. Bidwill may have figured out he needs to bring in a professional to run his shop.
When Bidwill, who rarely makes public comments, was asked if he's considering a turnover that could affect Wilson as well as Bugel, he said, "If in my judgment, something should be done in the organization, it will be done."
The one thing Bidwill wouldn't do was give Wilson and Bugel a vote of confidence.
Wilson declined comment while Bugel took an upbeat note. "I think he'd like to see Larry Wilson and Joe Bugel succeed, and I think he's rooting for that," Bugel said.
They may be running out of time, though.
If Bidwill decides to bring in a new general manager, one obvious candidate would be Ernie Accorsi, the former executive vice president of the Cleveland Browns who resigned ear
lier this year. Accorsi is living in Baltimore and waiting to see if he gets any opportunity to return to the league next year.
When voters go to the polls in Arizona on Tuesday, they'll be deciding whether Phoenix will get the 1996 Super Bowl -- although that specific question isn't on the ballot.
The ballot question is whether to declare a holiday in honor of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. If they don't pass the measure, they'll lose the Super Bowl that was awarded to the city on a "conditional" basis.
This time, though, the NFL has learned from its past mistakes. Two years ago, it leaked a story to CBS the Sunday before the election that said the NFL planned to take away the game if voters failed to approve the holiday.
The move had the opposite effect. The measure lost by 17,000 votes. The January 1993 game, which had been awarded to Phoenix, was then moved to Los Angeles.
This time, the NFL is refusing all comment.
The perfect record
Troy Aikman, the Dallas Cowboys quarterback, will bring an 0-6 record against the Philadelphia Eagles into today's game. He has been intercepted 10 times by the Eagles while throwing only three touchdown passes and has been sacked 24 times.
"I think when I got my insurance policy back from Lloyd's of London, there was an amendment to the contract that they cover me for 14 games. The Philadelphia games are excluded," Aikman said.
"I've been married to Mike 15 years and he hasn't been talking to me at all," she said. Presumably, that was a joke, but with Ditka you never know.
Ditka said that if he decides to quit, he may join the fourth estate. "I'd probably become a writer. I can be as absurd as some of the things I've read," he said.
With a game tomorrow against the Minnesota Vikings, Ditka is threatening to bring back "The Fridge" as a ball carrier for the first time since 1990.
Ditka said it's time for William Perry to throw a touchdown pass.
"I want him to throw one. Then he can hit the trifecta. He's ran one, he's caught one and he's got to throw one," Ditka said.
Johnny Unitas' record of throwing touchdown passes in 47 consecutive games may never be topped. One reason is that it's rare for quarterbacks to even play in 47 straight games these days, much less throw a touchdown pass in that many in a row.
Vito Stellino's picks
The San Francisco Examiner showed questionable judgment last August when it ran a drawing on the cover of its Image magazine of Bill Walsh dressed in robes with a halo around his head with the headline "The Second Coming."
But you could pass it off as hometown boosterism.
What seemed hard to believe was Time magazine running a story on Walsh this week with the same headline: "The Second Coming." That was followed by the subhead, "With his return to Stanford, Bill Walsh converts campus agnostics into believers and raises an academic question: Can a football coach be called a genius?"
Isn't it enough to simply call Walsh a good football coach, maybe even a great football coach? Does he always have to be a genius?
And has anybody checked lately what the San Francisco 49ers have done without Walsh? A Super Bowl in 1989, a trip to the NFC title game in 1990, a 10-6 season in which they missed the playoffs by a game last year and now a 6-1 start.
I guess George Seifert will never be a genius. He has to be content with his 48-12 career record.
VITO'S PICK .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. THE LINE
Redskins 27, Giants 14 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Redskins by 10 1/2 If those boring Redskins fans had any ingenuity, they'd start chanting "Ray Must Go" to make Ray Handley feel right at home.
The Bills lose two straight, have to rally to beat the lowly Jets and they're favored by 19 points. The Patriots can almost see those moving vans on a clear day.
Steelers 20, Oilers 14 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Oilers by 2 1/2 The Oilers were 16 1/2 -point favorites last week and they won by 16. Now you know why they have those half-point spreads.
Rams 21, Falcons 17 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Falcons by 3 1/2
The best thing about the World Series was that Deion Sanders' team lost.
Bill Parcells must be happy that he didn't take that Tampa Bay job.
Dolphins 24, Jets 10 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Dolphins by 5 1/2
OK, here's the deal. Do you wonder how a Don Shula team could blow that game to the Colts? I've been told the dirty tricks team kidnapped Shula and put a look-alike on the field in his place. Trust me.
Lions 21, Packers 7 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Lions by 10
They keep worrying about what's going to happen to Green Bay when free agency comes. Can it be much worse than what's happening now?
Eagles 17, Cowboys 3 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Cowboys by 3 1/2
Troy Aikman just looks at those green uniforms and his body starts to ache.
49ers 31, Cardinals 7 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 49ers by 12 1/2
I don't think that was exactly imaginative play calling by Joe Bugel on the goal line last week.
Browns 23, Bengals 14 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Browns by 1 1/2
Mike Tomczak plays better now that he doesn't have Mike Ditka screaming at him.
Chargers 24, Colts 14 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Chargers by 7
Bobby Ross kept saying there was a light at the end of the tunnel. He was right. The light is called the Colts.
Bears 17, Vikings 7 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. . Bears by 3 1/2
If the Bears get a 20-0 lead, don't look for Jim Harbaugh to call any audibles.
Best bets: 49ers, Browns, Chargers and Saints
Last week's record: 7-5; against the spread: 3-9; best bets: 0-4.
Season record: 68-32; against the spread: 45-51-4; best bets: 10-19-3.