Years sit lightly on Moon, but age talk is a burden


Don't ask Warren Moon about his age.

It's an old subject to him.

"It gets a little old," he said. "I understand it's a popular story. I understand it's something kind of unique going on right now. People don't know how many interviews I do and I get asked the same questions."

Moon did a national conference call last week and he was asked the same questions again.

Everybody wants to know why he's the oldest quarterback to pass for five touchdowns and 400 yards in a game.

That's what he did in leading the Seattle Seahawks to a 45-34 victory over the Oakland Raiders last week.

Moon, who'll turn 41 on Nov. 18, said, "I really don't know."

That's probably the best answer. He talks about knowing the game, keeping in good shape over the years and enjoying the challenge, but in the end there's no explanation.

What Moon is doing at his age defies all rational explanations.

Even Moon can understand why so many people gave up on him last year.

"That's understandable. A lot of people get caught up in my age and I had an injury. I could barely move toward the middle part of last season," he said.

Just a year ago, he was hobbled by two sprained ankles. When he couldn't play, Brad Johnson looked good enough that the Vikings signed him to a long-term deal that made Moon expendable.

He signed with Seattle, where he played college ball, as a backup to John Friesz. Knowing Friesz's history of being injured, he probably figured he'd get a chance to play.

The surprise is that Friesz got knocked out in the opener, a stunning 41-3 loss to the New York Jets.

The Seahawks lost the next game to Denver, 35-14. At that point, the season appeared to be in shambles. The Seahawks had lost their first two games at home by a combined score of 76-17.

But Moon has led them to a 5-1 mark since then and gotten them back in the playoff race.

"I don't do all the things I used to do, but I'm pretty close," he said.

The Seahawks will be in Denver today for a rematch with the Broncos.

If Seattle pulls off an upset, it'll be a game behind the Broncos and back in the division race. If it loses, it will have to settle for fighting for a wild-card spot.

Moon only promises one thing.

"We'll play them a lot better than we did the first time," he said.

Mad, mad NFL world

It's hard to believe some of the stuff going on in the mad, mad, mad world of the NFL these days.

There's Jim Harbaugh breaking a bone in his hand punching Jim Kelly (and Kelly claiming it was over a scuffle). There's Greg Lloyd taking a cheap shot at Keenan McCardell, claiming McCardell made a threatening phone call to his house. And then there's Dennis Green plotting a hostile takeover of the Minnesota Vikings in his book.

Then there's Sean Gilbert, who is just two days away from sitting out the season, even though the Washington Redskins are offering him between $3.5 million and $4 million a year in a long-term deal. He wants about $4.5 million a year.

If he doesn't show up by Tuesday, league rules forbid him from playing this year.

Players have sat out seasons before in contract disputes, but never with this amount of money on the table.

Even if he does sit out the year, the Redskins can keep the franchise tag on him and Gilbert will be back to square one next year. But he'll never make the money back he lost this year.

Big vote in Pennsylvania

The NFL has been successful at getting cities to approve money for new stadiums because they're afraid their teams will move.

But what happens if an owner refuses to threaten to move or the fans simply can't imagine the team moving.

That's the situation the Pittsburgh Steelers face Tuesday when voters in an 11-county area vote on a half-cent sales tax increase to fund two stadiums and several other civic projects.

The problem is Steelers owner Dan Rooney won't threaten to move and fans don't believe he'd leave his native Pittsburgh. The strongest thing he's says is that the Steelers won't be able to compete for players with teams that have better stadium deals and will eventually lose money.

Even that argument doesn't impress the voters because the Steelers have kept winning while losing a lot of players to free agency.

Rooney is trying to take the high road, noting all the other civic projects the increase would fund besides stadiums for the Steelers and Pirates.

"It's more important to the community than the Steelers," he said.

Unfortunately, the high road rarely works and the measure is losing in all the polls.

Going for two

The two-point conversion adds an exciting dimension to a game when a team is down by eight points in the fourth quarter.

But coaches, who follow a chart in deciding whether to go for two, don't realize it's usually a bad idea before the final quarter.

For example, coach Jimmy Johnson of the Dolphins went for two twice Monday night, trailing 15-13 and leading 19-18. He missed both times and lost in overtime to the Chicago Bears. If he'd kicked either extra point, he would have won in regulation.

Coach Jim Fassel of the Giants did the same thing Sunday, going for two when the Giants were trailing 21-16 and leading 22-21. He missed both times, so the Cincinnati Bengals were trailing by only eight points, 29-21, when they scored a touchdown with 1: 31 left. They then had a chance to tie it with a two-point conversion, but the Bengals failed to convert.

If Fassel had kicked one of the extra points, the Giants would have had a nine-point lead at the end and had the game wrapped up.

But coaches don't seem to learn from these mistakes. They aren't noted for being deep thinkers who look at the big picture. They live for the moment, and going for two while trailing 15-13 or leading 19-18 seems logical.

Johnson said: "Those particular ones aren't even decisions. Those are automatic. You look at the chart."

What he doesn't understand is that it's like taking a virtually certain one point off the board for a 28 percent chance -- that's how often teams make two-pointers -- of getting the two.

It's illogical, but logic is often lost on coaches.

Legal file

St. Louis' suit against the NFL is providing some fascinating glimpses into the inner working of the NFL.

It turns out that commissioner Paul Tagliabue doesn't even always give the owners all the facts before they vote. That's not surprising because the owners often seem to be the last to know about what's going on in the league.

Tagliabue testified that when the owners first turned down the Rams' move to St. Louis, he didn't tell them the Rams were offering $25 million.

Meanwhile, Tagliabue tried to get the Rams to pay $150 million over 30 years. They finally settled on $46 million plus a $12.5 million indemnity if Fox's ratings were hurt by the Rams' move.

Meanwhile, the rhetoric is getting nasty. NFL attorney Frank Rothman keeps calling the Rams greedy and even referred to Rams executive John Shaw as a "crook" during a break in his testimony.


New Orleans coach Mike Ditka on refusing to name his starting quarterback until after the bye week: "There will be a quarterback that will be named next week that will be the starter. Period. Cut and dried. It's nobody's concern but ours. Nobody's. Next [question]."

Pub Date: 11/02/97

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