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Manning never far away from a game


Archie Manning was the second pick in the 1971 NFL draft and was the highest-paid player in the league a decade later.

But he admits he's better known to the younger generation as Peyton Manning's father.

"Archie who?" joked Manning, who does color commentary on the Saints' radio network and also spends his weekends watching his sons play football.

His youngest son, Eli, plays high school football on Friday nights, and his middle son, Peyton, is the most ballyhooed player in the country as the Tennessee quarterback.

Because Tennessee has a bye this week, Manning will be watching just one son play this week. He never misses a Tennessee game, even if it's a difficult connection to the Saints' next game.

Manning, who'll be here today for the Saints-Ravens game, has fond memories of Baltimore, even though he played only one regular-season game here. He also broadcast the Saints-Dolphins exhibition game in 1993, when Baltimore was vying for an expansion team.

"I was a big baseball fan, so I liked playing in those old baseball parks like Tiger Stadium," he said. "There aren't too many left."

The Saints lost his only game in Baltimore, in 1973, 14-10, even though Manning passed for 250 yards and threw a 33-yard touchdown pass.

He threw the touchdown pass on a scramble when he was woozy and called an audible from an old system that only half the players understood.

"The guys laughed about it on Monday," he said.

Even though Manning played on losing teams, he said he has no regrets about his career.

"I know people think, 'Poor Archie, he got beat up,' but it wasn't as bad as people make it out to be. I enjoyed playing," he said.

He's not one of those guys who longs for the good old days. He said today's athletes are better than ever. But he's concerned about what the salary cap and free agency are doing to the NFL.

"I worry about the game," he said. "It's like when we used to go to the park as kids and choose up sides. Each March and April, the teams choose up sides."

If the winless Saints keep losing, they would be in the running to draft his son, but Manning said: "I don't want to get into that. Anyway, quarterback isn't their problem. I thought they'd be a middle-of-the-pack team. The lack of a running game is probably the biggest problem."

Regardless of where he winds up, Manning's son will get a contract for more than $20 million with a signing bonus in the $7 million range. Manning made $600,000 when he was the league's highest-paid player just 15 years ago, but he doesn't look back.

"We probably had more fun than the guys do today, but then the guys in the '50s and '60s probably had more fun than we did," he said.

Rating the commissioner

Commissioner Paul Tagliabue is not particularly popular in Baltimore, but now his embattled regime is starting to be questioned around the country.

The Sporting News ran a cover story last week with a cartoon of Tagliabue looking at an eye chart. The headline read: "How to succeed in business without any vision: Under commissioner Paul Tagliabue, the NFL succeeds in spite of itself."

The story suggested he hire two assistant commissioners, one a football czar and one to handle stadium problems.

It repeated the familiar quote of John Moag, head of the Maryland Stadium Authority, that the NFL is "one of the most dysfunctional entities you can imagine."

Tagliabue was described as "combative, defensive and willing to quibble about the smallest points. . . . Even within league circles, he has an annoying habit of talking to listeners in a condescending tone."

It probably wasn't a coincidence that Tagliabue, who had been keeping a low profile, suddenly showed up on TNT at halftime of the Philadelphia-Atlanta game to say how "outstanding" the NFL game is.

He managed to ignore the fact that only 40,107 fans were in Atlanta to see that game or that New Orleans drew 34,316 last week and Tampa Bay 30,212.

The return

The St. Louis Rams' visit to Arizona today isn't a big deal in Phoenix. The game is expected to draw fewer than 46,000 at Sun Devil Stadium.

But it's a big deal in St. Louis, because it's the first time a St. Louis team has played against the Cardinals since they moved from St. Louis.

It'll be similar to the Ravens' visit to Indianapolis next month.

St. Louis defensive tackle D'Marco Farr said: "The fans are looking for blood."

Meanwhile, Cardinals owner Bill Bidwill points out he wouldn't have left if St. Louis had built the dome it now has for the Rams.

"Nothing was going to be done for us, and we knew it," Bidwill said. "The business and political leadership turned against anything that would have been."

The quarterback derby

This is only the fifth week of the season, and four more quarterbacks who were on the bench on opening day, the San Francisco 49ers' Elvis Grbac, Atlanta's Bobby Hebert, the Chicago Bears' Dave Krieg and St. Louis' Tony Banks, will start today.

That means 11 teams have made quarterback changes because of injury, illness, poor play or suspension.

Quick fact

Of the 18 former USFL players still in the NFL, five -- William Fuller, Sam Mills, Irv Eatman, Sean Landeta and George Jamison -- played for Saints coach Jim Mora with the Philadelphia-Baltimore Stars.


Detroit Lions coach Wayne Fontes, complaining that a newspaper ran a picture of him wearing Mickey Mouse ears at a charity event as part of a tongue-in-cheek, multiple-choice quiz:

"It ain't funny. If you don't like me, tell me."

Pub Date: 9/29/96

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