For those longtime Baltimore fans who follow the Washington Redskins -- all half-dozen or so of you -- this season has a familiar look.
Each team had won a third championship (the Colts in 1958, '59 and '70, and the Redskins in 1982, '87 and '91) and then plunged to a losing record in two years. The Colts were 5-9 in 1972, and the Redskins were 4-12 last year. Each team recently had lost a future Hall of Fame coach (Don Shula in 1970 and Joe Gibbs in 1992). Each team fired his successor (Don McCafferty and Richie Petitbon).
Each team hired a mild-mannered, offensive-minded assistant who had been a quarterback as a player (Ted Marchibroda was hired in 1975 and Norv Turner took over this year), and each team had a change in management philosophy (Bob Irsay got the Colts in a trade from Carroll Rosenbloom, and the salary cap forced Jack Kent Cooke to stop his free-spending ways).
Each team alienated its fans when popular veterans departed (Johnny Unitas and Art Monk, among others). Each team started to rebuild around a young quarterback (Bert Jones and Heath Shuler).
Now we find out where the comparisons go. Marchibroda got the Colts to the playoffs in his first three years before he had a falling out with general manager Joe Thomas, and it all fell apart.
The Colts are still looking for another title, although it's easy to figure that the Irsay factor is the explanation for their problems.
But the Colts are the rule, not the exception. It's not easy building another championship team after a team has enjoyed a great run.
Since the modern era began after World War II, only one team has won another title after a run of three or more NFL titles. The Cleveland Browns won in 1950, '54 and '55 and came back did it again eight years later in 1964 (against the Colts in the title game).
Look at the other multiple champions. The Detroit Lions won in 1952, '53 and '57 and haven't been in a title game since. The Green Bay Packers won six times in the 1960s and haven't been in a Super Bowl since. The Pittsburgh Steelers won four times in the 1970s and haven't been in a Super Bowl since. The Oakland-Los Angeles Raiders won in 1976, '80 and '83 and haven't been in a Super Bowl since.
The San Francisco 49ers haven't won since winning four times in the 1980s, but they've remained contenders and haven't rebuilt.
The Dallas Cowboys came close, winning in 1971 and '77 and then coming back to get the last two Super Bowls, but they didn't get thethird one in their first run.
Now it's Turner's turn to take a shot at rebuilding. It doesn't help that he's not likely to get a lot of time, even with a five-year contract.
Remember, George Allen and Gibbs got the Redskins to the Super Bowl in their second seasons. Long rebuilding programs aren't too popular in Washington. After all, the president only gets four years.
Goodbye to Carlisle?
The Redskins will be training for their 32nd straight year at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa.
It may also be the last year because Carlisle got caught in the cross fire over Cooke's battle to build a stadium in Laurel. Cooke has said he'll move the training camp to Maryland to help sell his stadium idea. (He doesn't say anything about moving the training complex from Ashburn, Va., so the players will live and pay taxes in Virginia even if they try to masquerade as a Maryland team.)
If Gibbs were still coaching, he probably would fight to stay in Carlisle. He liked the facilities and the site and helped torpedo a lucrative offer by Richmond, Va., to play host to training camp a few years ago.
Turner, of course, has no attachment to Carlisle.
He said his first goal of training camp is to find it. "It's up in Pennsylvania somewhere," he said with a smile.
The battle for the Rams
Agent Leigh Steinberg and former baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth are among the movers and shakers trying to keep the Rams in Southern California.
They're looking for corporate sponsorship for a new stadium, and while that's a long shot, it could complicate the team's negotiations with cities trying to lure them.
Meanwhile, Orioles owner Peter Angelos proved he could show Donald Trump a few things about the art of the deal when he agreed to pay the players $2,000 each to agree to a day-night doubleheader. That's a double dip for the players because they're already getting paid to play all the games.
But Angelos realized there was no point in being stubborn and refusing to pay them and losing the receipts of an extra game in a regular doubleheader. It shows he knows how to make a deal and is willing to spend money to do it. That's why he still has a shot at getting the Rams.
Angelos' biggest obstacle remains the opposition of Cooke and commissioner Paul Tagliabue, who met with Rams executive vice president John Shaw last week -- shortly before Angelos' latest meeting with Shaw -- to give Shaw a strong pro-St. Louis and anti-Baltimore pitch. But the gossip around the league is that some team executives are telling Shaw he would be better off ignoring Tagliabue and taking the Baltimore deal.
The plot thickens, as coach Chuck Knox is trying to keep the players focused on the field as all the rumors swirl around the team."
"This [move] may already be a fait accompli," he said last week. "We might have an announcement sometime before the season starts. But we would sure like to see the franchise stay and be very successful. We would like to draw big crowds again and see people excited."
Back on the job
One of the strangest retirements in pro football ended last week when defensive lineman Scott Davis returned to the Los Angeles Raiders after a two-year hiatus.
A first-round draft pick in 1988, he played four seasons and became a starter before he suddenly announced he was retiring after the 1991 season to pursue business interests.
Now he's back at age 29.
"I pursued some business interests and have been successful with that and things were going well for me. I set out to do some things and I achieved them and I'm happy about it. But now, it's time for the next step in my life. This happens to be football," he said.
But can he make it all the back after missing two seasons? The Raiders will find out.
Money in the hand
In the salary cap era, players are learning that it can be risky to turn down an offer.
Richard Dent turned down a $2.3 million offer from the Chicago Bears, who then went out and drafted John Thierry. Dent wound up signing with the 49ers for $1.5 million.
But the best example could be Ricky Sanders, who wound up signing for the $162,000 veteran minimum -- plus an incentive package -- with the Atlanta Falcons after turning down $750,000 earlier. He also turned down $1.35 million from the Redskins last year.