NFL offering enjoyment, even without team here

THE BALTIMORE SUN

I'm really enjoying this NFL season. Baltimore people don't often say that. At least they don't admit it.

In our fair city, football fans like to say the NFL is so boring, so predictable. Rejected suitors -- and that's what we are, where the NFL is concerned -- often find flaws in what was once the object of their affections.

The NFL predictable? Are you kidding? Is there a football fan in America who would have predicted the New York Giants, after losing seven straight, would come back as they have?

The Giants have now won four straight and are 7-7. If they win Sunday in Philadelphia, they will have eliminated the Eagles from playoff contention and taken a big step toward a wild-card spot.

It would please me if they make it. The Giants are one NFL team a Baltimorean can really get into.

The front office is run by two men who have spent many years in Baltimore and whose hearts will always be here -- George Young, the general manager, and his new assistant, Ernie Accorsi.

And who in our town doesn't root for the Giants' Dave Meggett, the one-time Towson State star?

"It's absolutely amazing," ex-Baltimore Colts and Cleveland Browns general manager Accorsi said yesterday, "that we could lose seven straight games and still have a .500 record.

"I think the reason we survived the slump and came out of it in one piece is the organization. The Giants are a great organization with a lot of quality people -- George Young, the Maras and Bob Tisch [owners], Dan Reeves [coach].

"We all hung together. There was no backbiting. Now we're back on our feet. Even though I'm not in the No. 1 job, this is the happiest I've ever been."

The only thing certain about the NFL this year is that the 49ers and Cowboys are the best in the league and one of them will wind up in Super Bowl XXIX.

When the critics talk about NFL parity, they're talking about the rest of the league. With two weeks left in the regular season, 22 teams are still eligible for the playoffs.

Baltimore angles? The league is loaded with them.

How about Sunday's game between the two teams Pete Angelos has been trying to buy and move here, the Rams and Tampa Bay? Only the Bucs could win a game like that (24-14) and be eliminated.

The most fascinating section of the NFL is the one we're in, the Northeast, though we're not in the league. Fascinating does not necessarily mean successful.

How 'bout them 2-12 Washington Redskins? It couldn't happen to a nicer guy than Jack Kent Cooke. Does Laurel really want this team?

Up Route 95 the Philadelphia Eagles are self-destructing. Randall Cunningham is awful. The Eagles have lost five in a row and their coach, Rich Kotite, is finished, as well he should be.

What Kotite did last week was stupid. He said he was going to bench Cunningham in favor of backup Bubby Brister. Then Kotite changed his mind and went back to Cunningham.

Result: two ticked-off quarterbacks and an offense that could produce only three points against the Steelers Sunday.

In Philly, they're hoping owner Jeff Lurie can persuade Jimmy Johnson to coach next year. Johnson can name his own price, plus all the hair spray he wants.

Johnson says he'll announce his decision this weekend -- on Fox TV, for which he is a $600,000-a-year weekend commentator. That he'll announce it on Fox gives us a pretty good clue what the decision will be.

The New York Jets likewise have fallen apart, which is a disappointment to University of Maryland followers. The Jets' quarterback, ex-Terp Boomer Esiason, is a great guy, but the 6-8 team has lost three straight. The widespread feeling in New York is that the Jets can't win with Boomer.

The fans there are asking that rookie QB Glenn Foley be given a shot. Foley's brother, Kevin, is the backup to Scott Milanovich at Maryland.

Adding to the frustration of New Yorkers is the quick turnaround ex-Giant coach Bill Parcells has made in his second year with the Patriots in New England.

Parcells won two Super Bowls when he coached the Giants. Now his Pats, who haven't been in the playoffs in eight years, have won five in a row and could make it into the postseason.

The most likely AFC team to play in the Super Bowl is Pittsburgh, which is 11-3 and has won six in a row -- with another ex-Terp, Neil O'Donnell, at quarterback.

I don't see anything boring or predictable about the NFL. With all due respect for the job the CFLs did in Baltimore this year, the NFL is the league to be in.

Pro football is entertainment, and the NFL has the stars -- the Esiasons, the Cunninghams, the Parcellses. They are to football what Schwarzenegger, Tom Cruise and Harrison Ford are to the movies.

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