Ryan's return to give NFC East shot in the arm


Owner Bill Bidwill of the Phoenix Cardinals is doing his best to change the NFL's boring image.

Forget all those rule changes, such as the addition of the two-point conversion, the NFL is considering to spruce up its game.

Bidwill's easy answer was to hire Buddy Ryan as his head coach. There's never a dull moment when Ryan is around.

The move is perfect for Ryan, who will be back in the NFC East. He doesn't have to waste any time coming up with new grudges. He's got a lot of old ones to work on in that division.

To start with, his new team will play his old team -- the Philadelphia Eagles -- twice a season. They're owned by Norman Braman, whom Ryan once dubbed "the man in France."

Then we go to the Dallas Cowboys. Ryan will point out that Jimmy Johnson has yet to beat him.

Then there's the Washington Redskins. Remember the body bags? OK, that was the old regime. But Ryan's already said he's got a better job than Norv Turner, the new Redskins coach who turned Phoenix down.

Last, but not least, there's the New York Giants. Ryan will probably get around to mentioning he was 5-1 in his past six

games against them.

The only thing we can't expect is that he'll be taking any swings at the assistant coaches. When Ryan's the head coach, he's the boss and he gives the orders. He doesn't have take any punches.

Yes, it's going to be fun.

Of course, there are those who are wondering what Bidwill was thinking when he hired Ryan. We assumed Ryan's head coaching career was over because no owner would want to put up with him.

Bidwill, though, is desperate. For Bidwill, hiring Buddy isn't as nutty as it sounds.

Look at the alternatives. His first choice was Turner, and nobody knows if he'll be successful.

Ryan, meanwhile, has a proven track record. He'll do three things -- win 10 games a year, make the playoffs and sell tickets. In Phoenix, that's more than enough.

Ryan's never won a playoff game as a head coach, but in Phoenix, the standard isn't winning playoff games. Just getting there would be an improvement.

There were already lines at the ticket windows Friday and one restaurant had a "Buddy Burger" on the menu.

By the way, how long do you think it'll take for him to get that bounty out on Troy Aikman?

The Redskins mystique

When most coaches are evaluating jobs, they're likely to pick the one with the better players and the one that pays the most.

Turner did exactly the opposite last week when he turned down the Cardinals to take the Redskins job for about $100,000 less a year, even though the Cardinals beat the Redskins twice last year and appear to have better players.

In explaining his decision, Turner talked about how Washington was a "special place."

Despite the team's 4-12 record, that means the Redskins mystique is alive and well.

It remains to be seen if Turner made a mistake. In Phoenix, he'd be a hero just winning a playoff game.

In Washington, Joe Gibbs raised expectations to such a level that it's almost impossible for any coach to meet them.

For example, let's say Turner does as well as George Allen did. You'd think that'd be fine, right?

Not exactly. There are fond memories of Allen in Washington, but he won just two playoff games in seven years and lost his lone Super Bowl appearance. Do you think owner Jack Kent Cooke will be happy with two playoff wins in the next seven seasons after Gibbs went to three Super Bowls and won two of them in his first seven years?

Another difference is that when Gibbs arrived, he had Joe Theismann at quarterback, a running back named John Riggins, a wide receiver named Art Monk. General manager Bobby Beathard found the Hogs in his first draft plus Dexter Manley, Charlie Brown and Clint Didier.

What do you think the odds are this year of the Redskins finding players that match the talent of Theismann, Riggins, Monk, linemen to match Russ Grimm, Joe Jacoby and Mark May plus Manley, Brown and Didier?

Instead, the odds are it's going to take Turner time to rebuild. He has to hope Cooke will give him enough time to do that.

The Model-T coach

When Richie Petitbon was fired after just 10 months as the Redskins head coach, he left little doubt he didn't think he got a fair shot.

But he displayed his bitterness in public for the first time after the Cincinnati Bengals hired former Redskins assistant coach Larry Peccatiello as their defensive coordinator. Peccatiello replaced Ron Lynn, who was hired by the Redskins as their defensive coordinator. In effect, Peccatiello and Lynn traded jobs.

When a Cincinnati writer asked Petitbon to compare the two coaches, he said, "Comparing Larry Peccatiello to Ron Lynn is like comparing a Rolls Royce to a Model-T. If all their trades are like that, they'll go to the Super Bowl."

In six years with the San Diego Chargers and two with the RTC Bengals, Lynn had just one winning season -- an 8-7 mark in San Diego in the 1987 strike season.

The decision

Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and Cooke, who seem to agree only on the premise that Baltimore shouldn't have a pro football team, are likely to be at odds again soon.

Cooke, who had an angry exchange of letters with Tagliabue after his Wilber Marshall decision last spring, isn't likely to be pleased when Tagliabue makes his ruling on Gibbs' status.

Now that the Redskins have hired Turner, Tagliabue is likely to rule that one of the two expansion teams, Charlotte or Jacksonville, can hire Gibbs for the 1995 season without giving the Redskins compensation.

Even though Gibbs wouldn't be coaching a team until 1995 -- after his Redskins contract expires -- Cooke wants compensation, probably a first-round draft pick, if Gibbs is hired this year.

That means Tagliabue will have cost the Redskins two first-round picks, because he denied them a first-round choice in his Marshall decision.

That's the price Cooke will have to pay for Tagliabue's role in keeping Baltimore from getting an expansion team.

The deadline

The Feb. 14 deadline for Baltimore to get an NFL team seems to have taken on a life of its own.

Since Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum officials are still assessing the damage to the stadium from the Jan. 17 earthquake, it would seem to be logical to leave the stadium funding in place for a few months to give the Raiders more time to make a decision.

Even if Gov. William Donald Schaefer drops his opposition to the Redskins' proposed stadium in Laurel and a Canadian Football League team moves into Memorial Stadium, it probably wouldn't have an impact on Raiders owner Al Davis as long as the stadium funding is in place.

But Schaefer's comments last week seemed to indicate he's ready to put the funding to other uses once the deadline passes.

If that's right, Baltimore's NFL hopes are getting dimmer by the day even though there's no lack of interest in the league in the city.

Despite the Baltimore snub in the expansion derby, the city's ratings for the Super Bowl jumped from 40.1 (percentage of TV sets tuned into the game) last year to 42.6. That was higher than such cities as New York (41) and Detroit (38.6) and much higher than St. Louis (34.3), which is building a stadium in an effort to attract a pro team.

The hiring policy

The four new coaches hired this year -- Ryan, Turner, Pete Carroll and June Jones -- have at least one thing in common. They're all white males.

Since Dennis Green was hired by the Minnesota Vikings before the 1992 season, the NFL seems to have lost interest in minority hiring.

Eight teams have hired coaches the past two years and none has hired a minority. Only one, Sherman Lewis of the Green Bay Packers, even got an interview this year.

The two expansion teams also are showing no interest in hiring minority coaches.

Carolina has hired a president, general manager and assistant GM without tapping the minority ranks.

The end

The NFL season winds down today with the anticlimactic Pro Bowl.

Thurman Thomas will be playing -- and trying to hold onto to the ball -- while both Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith will be sitting out resting their injuries.

Aikman, who caused a flap last year when he left the stadium early, should get an acting award for the way he covered up the fact he was suffering bad headaches last week after suffering a concussion in the NFL title game against San Francisco.

Aikman went through all the interview sessions acting as if he had no problems. If he had skipped them to rest, it would have sent up a red flag that there was something wrong.

The missing tickets

According to a report in Sports Illustrated last week, one of the Dallas Cowboys lifted an envelope with 13 Super Bowl tickets belonging to defensive lineman Chad Hennings that was on a table as they were being distributed.

When coach Jimmy Johnson found out about it, he said if the tickets didn't turn up in 12 hours, he would do everything to find out who did it.

"In all probability, I will cut you from the team," Johnson told the team in a meeting. "On top of that, I will make sure the word gets around the league and you will never play in this league again."

Nobody knows whether Johnson would have carried out the threat because the tickets turned up the next morning.

The name of the player who took them wasn't revealed, but it may eventually slip out because some of the Cowboys apparently know who did it.

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