Developments and discoveries at the NFL owners' meetings in Phoenix:
Who's hot: Cowboy quarterback Danny White, who in the course of the meetings was rumored to be joining, variously, the Packers, the Raiders, the Rams, and—in an even-up trade for John Elway, if you can believe it—the Broncos. One thing is sure: Coach Forrest Gregg wants White in Green Bay.
Who's not: Atlanta quarterback Steve Bartkowski, who has played out his option, is recovering from his second major knee operation and is trying to squeeze the Falcons for about $800,000 a year. Says Gil Brandt, Cowboy player-personnel wiz, "Who wants to pay all that money? For what?" Says another G.M., "Nobody wants him."
Other names on the teams' shopping lists: The Jets will give up receiver Wesley Walker for an outside linebacker. The Seahawks are trying to dump backup quarterback Jim Zorn, and they'd like to pick up a running back, preferably New England's Tony Collins. Quarterback Vince Ferragamo is out of the Rams' plans; same story for Cleveland's Paul McDonald. The Raiders say they can part with defensive end Greg Townsend. Look for the Pack to ship receiver John Jefferson to Dallas. For White?
The Redskins may draft two and possibly three running backs this year, or possibly make a trade. The reason is simple. The Skins are worried about John Riggins's back problem and his future. "John has told me he won't play if he's going to have the kind of pain he had last year," says Bobby Beathard, Washington's general manager.
Bart Starr is a man without a country. Since he was fired as the Packers' coach a year ago, Starr has been the president/general manager/coach/p.r. director/marketing head/ticket taker of the Arizona Firebirds, a projected NFL expansion franchise in Phoenix.
What if the Firebirds never materialize? Well, Starr also works for a Milwaukee investment firm and co-owns two car dealerships in Birmingham. "When I heard two car dealers had bought the Saints and Eagles, I phoned my partner and said, 'Where are we going wrong? We've got to acquire more dealerships or up our sales.' "
The NFL may join the video revolution—by recording the game action on tape rather than on film. The advantages videotape has over film are many. Videotape is easier on the eyes, and all games would be in color; most teams do not use color film because of its high cost. Videotape is also quicker. Because there's no processing, teams can view instant replays on the sidelines and on the plane home after road games.
There is one big disadvantage. Though it's estimated that teams would eventually save $90,000 a year by switching to tape, setting up tape systems would involve an initial outlay of almost $800,000 per club. But one club owner predicts that the move to videotape will come within two years. "It's the best coaching tool I've seen," says Giants coach Bill Parcells.
Mike Lynn, the Vikings' general manager, is notorious for running the cheapest shop in the NFL. But he believes that the player-salary gold rush of the past two years has finally caused his peers to listen to what he has long been saying—that players have to earn their keep.
"We've created a monster by placing the emphasis on rookies, by making the high-round draft choices the team's highest-paid players," Lynn says. "People say I'm cheap. Well, I don't care. The Vikings' system works. We pay the 22 starters, and the others must prove themselves to be rewarded."
Agreed, the Vikings' system worked in the past. But last year Minnesota lost No. 1 draft choice Keith Millard, a defensive end, to the USFL's Jacksonville Bulls and ultimately finished in last place in the NFC Central Division.
Walker may romp in greener pastures next season.
White could be taking aim on a fresh start up in Green Bay.