Jones follows the dollars will they lead him to vote for Baltimore?

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Jerry Jones knows money.

The Dallas Cowboys owner likes to point out that he invested more money than any other single individual in the history of sports in 1989 when he bought the team and Texas Stadium for about $140 million.

He said the value of his investment was $40,000 a day.

"When you make that kind of commitment, you've got to have some planning," he said. "You can't just wake up every morning and say, 'What's new.' "

There was a lot of talk when Jones bought the team that he overpaid, but he turned out to be a super salesman and is adept at dreaming up ways of making money. He didn't make any friends in the media corps when he replaced the press box with luxury boxes and built a new press box under the roof, but he made a lot of money.

He may overreach at times, such as his theory that Emmitt Smith has to make sacrifices. Superstars don't make sacrifices. Overall, though, there's no owner more money-conscious in the league than Johnson.

That's why his virtual endorsement of the Malcolm Glazer family last week was a big boost to Baltimore's expansion hopes.

It highlights what Jones obviously understands: How lucrative the Baltimore deal is. He also understands the Glazers have the money to write the check for the team.

Jones' opinions tend to carry weight, too, because he's obviously studied the expansion race -- many owners haven't paid much attention yet -- and is a member of the new guard of owners who don't care about the past. They care about today. Which is why it's a waste of time for Baltimore to talk about the past in its presentation. Baltimore has to sell what it has today.

Jones also negates the league office infatuation with bypassing Baltimore for new markets. Jones' idea for getting new markets is to add four teams instead of two. He may have a tough time getting 21 votes for that idea, but it puts the onus on the people who want new markets to round up the votes. Jones isn't going to pass up the money in Baltimore.

Jones also has a history of being on the winning side when commissioner Paul Tagliabue wants to give up money. He helped defeat Tagliabue's idea to give the TV networks a rebate a year ago. He also favored cutting Tagliabue's proposed salary from $3 million to $1.6 million. He's not going to let Tagliabue leave that Baltimore money on the table.

Now that the premium seat selling campaigns have ended, it's obvious that Baltimore's offer is currently $98 million stronger than the Charlotte offer.

Even if Charlotte had sold out all of its PSLs (permanent seat licenses), the owners would have had to come up with $60 million more (on top of the purchase price in the $200 million range) to complete the financing of the stadium.

Now that it failed to sell one-fourth of those seats, Charlotte is another $30 million short, so the owners have to come up with $90 million more for the stadium unless it sells those seats later.

By contrast, Baltimore collected $8 million for its seats and it'll just turn the money over to the new owners once the team is awarded. So while the Charlotte owner has to pay out $90 million more, the Baltimore owner takes in $8 million. That's a $98 million swing.

Charlotte is expected to have banks promise to guarantee its shortfall, but the league doesn't want NationsBank to end up being a corporate owner. The danger is that the Charlotte owners would be facing crushing debt service.

It all adds up to the fact that money talks -- as Jones knows -- and Baltimore has the money.

The $1 million gate

Baltimore officials already have set it up so that the visiting team will make $1 million for every game played in Baltimore.

The eight regular-season visitors are decided by a league scheduling format, but Baltimore can use its two home preseason games each year as a bargaining chip because each team negotiates its own preseason games.

Most teams tend to play preseason games against teams in the same part of the country. For example, the Washington Redskins often play the New York Jets, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cleveland Browns.

But Baltimore is expected to send out the word that it will be willing to rotate those games among all the teams that want to make the trip so all the teams except the ones in its division -- teams don't play preseason games against clubs in their division -- can have an occasional crack at that $1 million gate.

Of course, it'd only be fair to look favorably upon the teams that support Baltimore, wouldn't it?

The young quarterbacks

When Drew Bledsoe of the New England Patriots and Rick Mirer of the Seattle Seahawks start today, it'll be the first time that two rookie quarterbacks have started openers since 1973.

Bert Jones of the Colts lost to the Cleveland Browns, 24-14, and Joe Ferguson of the Buffalo Bills beat the New England Patriots, 31-13, that year.

Bledsoe and Mirer are the first quarterbacks drafted 1-2 since 1971 when Jim Plunkett of the Patriots and Archie Manning of the New Orleans Saints both won their openers.

Openers

The Dallas Cowboys are the most successful team in league history in opening games. They're 25-7-1 in openers and once won 17 straight openers when they were coached by the man in the hat (Tom Landry) instead of the man with the hair (Jimmy Johnson). No other team has ever won more than nine straight openers.

The second best team in openers is the Denver Broncos, who are 20-12-1.

The worst team in openers? The New Orleans Saints are 6-20.

What openers mean

Just in case you wondered how important openers are, 102 of the 195 teams that won on opening day since the NFL went to a 16-game schedule in 1978 (including the 1982 strike year) went to the playoffs and 63 won division titles. Of the 195 that lost, only 43 went to the playoffs and only 20 won division titles.

That seems to indicate a team that wins its opener has a 50-50 shot at making the playoffs. A loser has a 25 percent shot.

The Denver Broncos, for example, never have made the playoffs in a year in which they've lost their opener.

A sad tale

One of the most heartwarming tales in the NFL came to an abrupt end when the Denver Broncos waived defensive end Kenny Walker, who played for two years even though he's deaf.

His interpreter, Guy Smith, who also lost his job in that capacity, said, "A deaf person can succeed in this league, even when there are people who don't think he can. Kenny's deafness can be a bigger handicap for the people he works with than it is for him."

Defensive line coach Ernie Stautner said it was a disadvantage for Walker.

"The rapid changes in the formations and recognizing what's happening in the defense are tough. And linebackers can't tell him. They have to come up to tap him, and they have enough to do with their own jobs," he said.

Walker was drafted out of Nebraska on the eighth round in 1991.

The Buddy file

The words of Buddy Ryan:

On Ray Childress, who walked out for a day because he wants a new contract: "I hope he comes back, but I don't write the checks. If I did, I'd give myself a raise for the fine job I've been doing."

On starting the season: "I'm ready to coach the varsity. I'm tired of coaching the junior varsity."

The Joe Montana file

Joe Montana, who makes his long-awaited debut in Tampa today with the Kansas City Chiefs, is only 5-5 in openers, but has won five of his last seven. It'll be his first start since the 1990 NFC title game played on Jan. 20, 1991. Montana was hurt with the 49ers leading, 13-12, and they lost, 15-13, on a Roger Craig fumble. How long ago was that? The Persian Gulf war had just started.

Montana insists he's concerned about the stunting defense of Tampa defensive coordinator Floyd Peters, who was formerly in Minnesota.

"It's a tough pickup day for the offensive lineman," he said. "We have to be ready for all kinds of things."

Steve DeBerg, who duels Montana today, was replaced by Montana as the 49ers starter on Nov. 23, 1980.

Another mistake

Al Davis, the maverick owner of the Los Angeles Raiders who once made it big with controversial players, lost the gamble on quarterback Todd Marinovich and cut him last week. Marinovich had drug problems in college and was noted for his offbeat lifestyle.

Steve Ortmayer, a Davis aide, said, "We have a history of succeeding [with players like Marinovich], but this time we didn't. The NFL is a fast and unforgiving business. We felt it was time to go in a new direction."

Davis is still trying to do what worked in the past all the time and it's not working now.

Joe and Bobby

It's coincidental that Joe Gibbs will make his debut as an NBC broadcaster doing today's San Diego-Seattle game because Chargers coach Bobby Ross is trying to follow in his footsteps.

Hired by Bobby Beathard in 1981, Gibbs started out 0-5, finished 8-8 and won the Super Bowl in his second year. Ross, hired by Beathard in 1992, started out 0-4 last year, finished 11-5 and now will try to win the Super Bowl in his second year.

Bubby likes Bubby

Bubby Brister, who's now the backup to Randall Cunningham in Philadelphia, still insists he's better than Neil O'Donnell, the former Maryland quarterback who is sidelined with an arm problem in Pittsburgh.

"When I'm healthy -- and I'm healthy now -- I can outrun and out-throw Neil. They have to know that's true. I was a Chuck Noll holdover. They went with Neil," he said.

Mike Tomczak will start today for the Steelers against the 49ers.

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