A year ago, the Kansas City Chiefs were in the catbird seat.
It all fell apart when they were stunned by the Indianapolis Colts, 10-7, in their divisional playoff game. That started a free fall that left the Chiefs on the outside looking in for the playoffs this year: They went from 13-3 to 9-7 and now appear to be in turmoil.
It starts at the top, where general manager Carl Peterson has yet get a new contract to replace the one that expires at the end of next month. It's uncertain if Peterson simply wants more money or a change of scenery.
Quarterback Steve Bono, who appears to be on his way out, even though he has a year left on his contract, met with Peterson last week and said: "Carl needs to get his situation resolved. Everything will filter down from there."
Peterson said, "I want to stay."
Coach Marty Schottenheimer has a year left on his contract and there's much speculation that he could be interested in one of the NFL's many open jobs.
Schottenheimer said he'll be back. "I'm under contract to the Kansas City Chiefs. I expect to be here in 1997," he said.
It remains to be seen whether he actually will be.
Meanwhile, Schottenheimer said some of the veterans were lulled into complacency by the 13-3 season.
"I was not able to get some of these players to want to learn," he said. "What gave me the greatest difficulty was there were some players who said: 'I got it. I know what we're doing.' That troubles me. I'm unaccustomed to losing.
"But if I'm going down, I want to go down with every guy beside me and behind me with the same commitment to what we're trying to do. In the absence of that, nobody's sacred in my view."
Schottenheimer did not absolve himself of blame.
"We never became a true team," he said. "I failed, and that's what's disappointing to me. My effort was as good as it's ever been. But I don't get paid on effort. I get paid on results."
Then there's the quarterback problem. Bono was infuriated when he was benched for Rich Gannon. When Gannon was injured, they had to go back to Bono in Buffalo. Bono flopped, throwing two interceptions and fumbling.
"I don't know if I can come back, just because of the negativity that has surrounded me," Bono said.
That comment was unusual for him because he's usually quiet, but he said: "It's one of the few times in my life where I've needed to talk about things. I felt like I had to talk about it because it hurt too bad to keep inside."
He did say, however, "I'd be the first to say I didn't play well enough to take us to a championship."
But he said there were extenuating circumstances, including injuries to his receivers.
In any case, the Chiefs have to find a new quarterback. The best available is Jeff George, but he comes with a lot of baggage and is always a gamble.
The Chiefs may believe it's time to gamble.
Reeves may get his wish
After chafing the past four years with the New York Giants because he didn't have control of the organization, Dan Reeves may be on the verge of getting the job that will give him that power.
Now that Florida coach Steve Spurrier has pulled out of the running for the Atlanta Falcons' opening, Reeves seems to have a good shot at the job.
Taylor Smith, son of owner Rankin Smith, said, "I would like to see somebody come in here who is a strong, football-oriented guy -- whether he be a coach or whatever -- and have him be able to make the decisions to make us a football team."
Taylor wants to step back because his family has gotten so much flak for the Falcons' struggles the past three decades. Attendance averaged below 42,000.
Reeves is eager to get control.
"At this point in my life and career, I want a situation where I don't have to point fingers at somebody else if I don't get the job done," he said.
Smith may hire former San Francisco 49ers executive John McVay to run the front office so he can stay in the background, but the coach will be in charge.
The only problem is that it's uncertain whether Reeves is a good enough personnel man to get the job done. In Denver, he rode John Elway's arm to three Super Bowls but never got him a running game or a defense. His top draft picks included such busts as Ted Gregory and Tommy Maddox.
But Reeves may be a good fit in Atlanta because he's a Georgia native who could help sell tickets.
Sun Belt not fan belt
Remember when the NFL was zapping Baltimore in the expansion derby and saying the league already had enough teams in the northeast corridor.
Well, it turns out the five teams in the northeast corridor -- the Giants, Jets, Eagles, Ravens and Redskins -- played 40 home games and sold out 39 (the only nonsellout was the Eagles' final home game against the Cardinals, and that drew 63,658).
Time to cut the cards
The NFL just can't leave well enough alone.
It had a good playoff system when 10 teams qualified -- the three division champions in each conference along with two wild-card teams.
But in 1990, it added two extra wild cards to create another game. All that does is clutter up the field with teams that have virtually no chance of winning the Super Bowl.
No team has won three straight road playoff games and won the Super Bowl, and only one team -- the 1985 Patriots -- has even gotten there doing that.
The first-round games are unattractive to fans. The game in Buffalo wasn't a sellout, and the game in Dallas wasn't sold out until Thursday.
Jimmy Johnson, coach of the Miami Dolphins, isn't sure it's worth making the playoffs as one of the last teams. His team won his final two regular-season games, and he was happy with that finish because he's looking to the future.
"The feeling the team has after winning the last two games, in some ways, it's better than going into the first round of the playoffs and getting your ears beat back," he said.
Lynn a scapegoat
Washington Redskins coach Norv Turner made defensive coordinator Ron Lynn the scapegoat for the team's second-half flop by firing him last week. Lynn's defense finished 28th in yardage allowed. Only the Falcons and Ravens were worse.
But if Turner thinks he's going to get to the playoffs, he might be more concerned that Bill Clinton was re-elected in November.
The last time the Redskins made the playoffs when a Democrat was in the White House was in 1945, when Harry Truman was president.
Up in the dumps
The Bucs poured Gatorade on coach Tony Dungy when the team finished its season with a 6-10 record after beating the Chicago Bears last Sunday, 34-19.
"I guess it's kind of a commentary on where this team has been," Dungy said. "I don't think I'll ever have another season where they pour Gatorade on me after 6-10. I think the expectations will be raised now, and they should be."
It's not Miller time
Miller complained last Sunday after Cowher rested starter Mike Tomczak by using Kordell Stewart against the Carolina Panthers
"It's almost comical, going into the playoffs, I don't have any work," Miller said.
Replied Cowher: "If any player has a problem, my office door is always open. If they want to know where they stand, they can come and see me."
It appears that Miller stands at the back of the line.
Getting the white out