Skip to main content
Original Issue


NFL player personnel directors are disappointed in the 1987 college crop. Says Dick Steinberg of the Patriots: "It's a four-person draft."

The first-round lineup: Miami quarterback Vinny Testaverde, Oklahoma linebacker Brian Bosworth (if he passes up his final year), Alabama linebacker Cornelius Bennett and Penn State linebacker Shane Conlan. And after that?

"There is a big dropoff," says Redskins general manager Bobby Beathard. "This year, teams are going to be drafting guys in the first round—and paying them first-round salaries—and they shouldn't be in that category. A lot of teams laughed at us last year for trading away our first-round pick, but I'm not so sure that wasn't a smart thing to do. Draft a kid in the round he belongs in and then pay him for his production."

Linebacker seems to be the position with the most candidates; defensive back is thin. As for running backs, Auburn's Brent Fullwood tops many NFL lists. But if you're looking for a quarterback, well, you're out of luck. This is the Year of the Backup QB. Listen to these ratings from player personnel types, who prefer to remain anonymous:

•Jim Harbaugh, Michigan: "He's a third-or fourth-round pick. He doesn't have a very strong arm."

•John Paye, Stanford: "Has a very unusual throwing motion; it's elongated. He doesn't get the ball off quick enough. When you've got defenses with six, seven and eight defensive backs, that's a must."

•Mike Shula, Alabama: "He doesn't have anything you want in a quarterback. Can't run. Can't throw. But he has the intangibles, and his name is Shula."

Who could blame Don Coryell for resigning last week as head coach of the Chargers? He was in an impossible situation in San Diego—and everyone in the NFL knew it.

The Chargers' problems started when Alex Spanos became the team's owner in August of 1984. Spanos, who has made hundreds of millions in the apartment construction business, is a demanding, no-nonsense guy. He now also has the reputation of being one of the most impulsive owners in the NFL.

Says Raider linebacker Linden King, an ex-Charger, "Players speak in whispers in the locker room." Says one Charger, "We better watch out what we say or we'll wind up in the dumpster."

One of Spanos's first major moves as San Diego's owner was to put Ron Nay in charge of scouting and player personnel in early 1985. Nay has not exactly distinguished himself. His 1986 draft picks were dubious: Only two players have made any impact on the team.

But Spanos's biggest bonehead move came the day after the 1985 season, when he appointed offensive coordinator Al Saunders as the Chargers' assistant head coach and began using him as a go-between in dealing with Coryell.

Says Chuck Weber, who was dismissed as the Chargers' linebacker coach last year, "For players to have someone else to go to is a mistake. There can only be one boss." Asked if Coryell could have won in that situation, Weber said, "No. It undermined leadership. It's not his fault." Last week Saunders replaced Coryell in the top spot.

The big question now going around the NFL is: Who will Spanos get to work for him as G.M. if he decides to oust G.M. Johnny Sanders, as rumors suggest? Spanos has already interviewed Terry Bledsoe, ex-Giants and Bills exec, and Carl Peterson, the USFL Baltimore Stars' president. Also on his list: Dick Steinberg of the Patriots and Steve Ortmayer of the Raiders.

Gambling on games is not unknown in NFL press boxes, which no doubt explains some of the cheering and table-pounding that occasionally goes on in such supposedly neutral precincts. The topic of writers betting on the games they cover was discussed at this year's American Press Institute Sports Editors Seminar in Reston, Va. No resolution was reached, but concern was expressed by, among others, Mike Waldner, sports editor of The Daily Breeze in Torrance, Calif., who believes betting on games can color a writer's objectivity. Several years ago, Waldner said, one of his beat writers bet heavily on pro football. "I don't think he ever filed a story that was angled because of his betting," Waldner said. "He and I were aware of other Los Angeles writers who could not say that. You could read them on Monday and know if they'd lost a bet on the home team."

Most newspapers take a hands-off approach to betting by their sportswriters, but the Akron Beacon-Journal, which considers it "verboten," according to executive sports editor Tom Giffen, is an exception.

"Not only could you lose your beat, you could also lose your job," he said.

Giffen has no objection to writers participating in office pools. "But if you're betting on the Browns and I find out, you're in big trouble in a big hurry," he said.




Two of the few: Bennett (left) and Conlan (clutching No. 22) are bona fide first-round draft picks.



Coryell finally resigned from a no-win situation.



OFFENSE: The Giants' Joe Morris carried 29 times for 181 yards and two TDs—he had gained 181 yards against the Washington Redskins the previous Monday—as New York defeated Dallas 17-14.

DEFENSE: Dolphins rookie linebacker John Offerdahl was credited with 10 tackles—giving him 84 for the season, 33 more than his nearest teammate—and one sack as Miami beat Houston 28-7.