Control Bowl: It's Parcells vs. Johnson

THE BALTIMORE SUN

In the eight-year span from 1986 to 1993, Bill Parcells and Jimmy Johnson combined to win four Super Bowls with the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys, respectively.

But there was one catch. Neither was the master of his universe.

Neither Parcells nor Johnson had total control of his organization, so each split and now has his dream job.

Johnson runs the Miami Dolphins, and Parcells, after a four-year pit stop in New England where he clashed with owner Bob Kraft, is in charge of the New York Jets.

Their respective owners, Wayne Huizenga of the Dolphins and Leon Hess of the Jets, have given them carte blanche.

The only problem is that neither has the players he had in the past. There is no Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith or Michael Irvin on the Dolphins' roster, and no Phil Simms or Lawrence Taylor with the Jets.

Neither team is a Super Bowl contender, but each is trying to stay in the playoff chase.

Parcells, in his first season with the Jets, is 4-2, and Johnson, in his second year as Dolphins coach, is 3-2. They meet today at Giants Stadium in a pivotal game for both teams.

The two obviously admire one another because they like the concept of a coach who runs the whole show.

Parcells, remembering that Johnson was derided as a college coach when he went 1-15 in Dallas in 1989, said, "Quite frankly, I was one of the first people to recognize this guy was going to be strong competition. They started 1-15 and a lot of people were saying, 'Oh, he's a college coach. it's a different deal.' Well, it's not a different deal. If you can coach, you can coach."

Johnson was equally flattering about Parcells.

"Bill has a better memory than a lot of people in this league," he said. "Bill understands what it takes to get to a certain point. Some people when they get to the top of their profession, they forget when they were at a different level."

Since they're both in the AFC East -- they split the series last year when Parcells was in New England -- they're now an obstacle to each other's success.

This is just the first in what should be a spirited series of meetings over the next few years.

Running the ball

Now that Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda is talking about putting more emphasis on running the ball by using a two-back set, it's an appropriate time to compare Vinny Testaverde's 1994 statistics with his 1996 numbers.

In 1994 in Cleveland, Testaverde passed 376 times for 2,575 yards and won 11 games to take the team to the playoffs.

Last year in Baltimore, he passed 549 times for 4,177 yards, made the Pro Bowl and won four games.

Since Testaverde's touchdown passes went up from 16 in 1994 to 33, and his interceptions only increased by one from 18 to 19, the Ravens' defense got most of the blame for last year's 4-12 record.

But in 1994, Testaverde was sacked only 12 times and fumbled just three times. While he was throwing more last year, he was sacked 34 times and fumbled 11 times, even though the Ravens had a solid offensive line.

This year, Testaverde has been intercepted nine times. Only the New Orleans Saints' Heath Shuler, with 10, has thrown more.

When the Ravens ran just 18 times against the Pittsburgh Steelers despite a 21-0 lead, and after Testaverde fumbled twice and was intercepted twice, the team's lack of emphasis on the run was highlighted.

It showed the Ravens need a running game because the more they run the ball, the more they control the game, take time off the clock and keep their defense off the field. They're 3-3 despite the No. 2 passing game because they're 25th running the ball.

It's also probably time to junk the no-huddle offense except during two-minute drills. Steelers coach Bill Cowher said last week that Pittsburgh's scout team ran the no-huddle faster in practice than the Ravens did in the game, and the Steelers had no trouble making their normal substitutions.

Marchibroda has to realize that he's never going to turn Testaverde into Jim Kelly, and he's going to need a running game to complement the pass.

Legal file

St. Louis' antitrust lawsuit against the NFL opened last week with some spirited verbal jousting.

The NFL's lawyer, Frank Rothman, noted that St. Louis didn't tell the league it had a side deal with the Rams to pay $7.5 million of fees associated with the team's relocation from Los Angeles, suggesting that it wasn't ethical.

Former Sen. Thomas Eagleton, who helped negotiate the deal, replied, "There are no ethics in the National Football League."

Eagleton said the agreement was kept secret because the city didn't want to encourage the NFL to charge a relocation fee.

Meanwhile, St. Louis attorney Alan Popkin said his assertion that the city would have had several teams vying to move there if the league hadn't interferred was supported by Oilers owner Bud Adams.

Adams, who subsequently moved his team from Houston to Tennessee, was quoted by Popkin as saying, "If we'd been free to move, it would have been a stampede. It would have been like the bulls at Pamplona.' "

The trial is expected to continue for six to eight weeks, and St. Louis is seeking $390 million in damages.

Practice games

The NFL's preseason schedule will be the subject of much discussion when owners hold their annual fall meeting in Washington this week.

Although proposals to cut the preseason from four to two weeks aren't expected to pass, the owners are likely to vote to stop some teams from playing five games.

There also will be a proposal to set up the preseason schedule so that the teams with the best stadium deals don't schedule each other all the time.

Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson is a proponent of revenue sharing and backs this idea.

"If there's not a cessation of the chipping away of the fundamental revenue-sharing philosophy, this league is going to be in serious trouble," he said.

So far, the salary cap has stopped teams with good stadium deals from dominating the league. The Rams, for example, haven't turned it around in St. Louis, and the teams with two of the worst stadiums -- Denver and New England -- are the best in the AFC.

By contrast, the Cowboys don't win because of the revenue produced by Texas Stadium. They make a lot of money in that stadium because they've been a winning franchise. The Cowboys were losing $1 million a month in that stadium when Jerry Jones bought the team in 1989.

But the failure of teams to share premium-seat and luxury-box revenue could be a problem in the future.

Attendance woes

When the Oilers attracted only 17,737 fans for their Sept. 21 game in Memphis against the Ravens, Adams tried to blame the drop from 30,171 for the opener against the Oakland Raiders on his contention that the Ravens lack an identity.

But the Oilers have sold only 13,800 for today's game against the Cincinnati Bengals, so the crowd may not be much bigger than the one for the Ravens game.

It doesn't help that the Oilers keep making public relations gaffes. Running back Eddie George was supposed to appear in Memphis on Tuesday but was a no-show because of a commitment at his alma mater, Ohio State. The Oilers say he'll be in Memphis this week.

During his Ohio State appearance, George conceded that it's difficult to practice in Nashville and play in Memphis.

"I can't lie about that," he said. "It's a situation we have to deal with. We'll find out what type of team we are character-wise. Because if we win under these circumstances, we can win under anything."

Pub Date: 10/12/97

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