STILL A COLT
The news that Indianapolis general manager Jimmy Irsay had taken quarterback Jeff George off the trading block didn't seem to come as much of a surprise to George on Sunday afternoon. "There's nothing I can do about it," he said with a shrug.
On Sept. 22, Irsay sent a one-page fax to all 28 teams, telling them that George was not available. One source says that the day before, a team—believed to be the Raiders—had turned down the chance to acquire George for two first-round draft choices. After that the Colts decided enough was enough.
The uncertainty surrounding George, who had held out for 36 days during the preseason in a snit over his treatment by fans and the media, had become an intolerable distraction for the organization. So Indianapolis took the unusual step of informing every team in the league that it wouldn't be trading George. Irsay tried to put a positive spin on the decision. "If we traded Jeff, our biggest need would be a young quarterback," he said. "We already think we have a great young quarterback, so it wouldn't make much sense for us to trade him."
Had a trade been made, it would have continued a bleak period of dealing by the Colts, who since '87 have traded four first-round picks, two second-round picks, Andre Rison, Chris Hinton and Cornelius Bennett for George, running back Eric Dickerson and linebacker Fredd Young. George is the only one of the last three still in a Colt uniform; Rison, Hinton and Bennett have all made recent trips to the Pro Bowl. And though George is said to be eager to leave his home state, the Colts would be foolish to oblige him.
"He's a talented player, Marino-like," says the player personnel director of a team that had shown interest in George during his holdout. "He's in the top five in the NFL as a pure passer, and if he's not their guy behind center, they're a mediocre team. I've got him pegged as a spoiled kid who has been pampered all his life and packs it in if things aren't going his way. But I think if he gets back in there and wins a few games, he can get his career back to normal."
On Sunday in Indianapolis, George made a brief third-quarter appearance in the Colts' 23-10 win over Cleveland after quarterback Jack Trudeau, who was given the starting job during George's holdout, left the game for a series with a bruised thigh. George entered to a loud chorus of boos and only a smattering of applause. He played one series—in which the Colts ran the ball three times before punting—and wasn't seen again. When George jogged off the field to more boos, defensive end Sam Clancy slapped George's hand and hollered into the side of his helmet, "Keep your head up. You'll make the plays. Just don't have ears."
Good advice. It's tough to get ripped in your hometown, but George is going to have to get used to it.
BE LIKE MIKE
Who is the hottest receiver in football? Is it Rob Moore of the Jets or the other Moore, Herman of the Lions? Nope, it's Alvin Harper, who usually resides in Michael Irvin's shadow in Dallas. Over his last six games—including three in last season's playoffs—Harper has averaged 28.9 yards per catch, a phenomenal figure. Harper credits quarterback Troy Aikman, saying, "Troy's in such a zone. Every ball hits me right in the hands, right in stride."
However, Harper's sprinter's speed, 6'3" frame and increased toughness make him, in tandem with Irvin, almost impossible to shut down. His competition with Irvin is friendly, though he knows that in Dallas, Irvin will always get first billing. "If they're throwing the ball to me five times a game and Michael 10," Harper says with a laugh, "Michael wants it 12 times to my three."
A startling piece of news emerged recently during the trial involving former Patriot owner Billy Sullivan, who is suing the NFL, claiming that the league denied him the opportunity to sell 49% of his team in 1987. He says that such a sale would have saved the Pats from bankruptcy and that ultimately he was forced to unload the club at a fire-sale price to Victor Kiam. Early in the trial Kansas City owner Lamar Hunt disclosed that for several years when Ralph Wilson owned the American Football League Bills, he also owned 25% of the Oakland Raiders. In 1967 Wilson's Bills traded quarterback Daryle Lamonica to the Raiders. Lamonica turned around Oakland's passing game. Over the next three years he threw for 89 touchdowns, and the Raiders, who had been mediocre, went 37-4-1.
Wilson acknowledges that the deal sounds fishy, but he explains that in 1961, the second year of the AFL, Oakland majority owner Wayne Valley told him that he was going to have to dissolve the Raiders after the season because of heavy losses. "We had one team near bankruptcy," says Wilson, "and I was afraid that if a second team, like Oakland, folded, the whole league might go down."
Wilson told Valley that he would try to find an investor to buy a quarter of the Raiders, but he failed. Instead Wilson gave Valley $400,000, and in return Valley gave Wilson a 25% stake in his team. "It was not done as an investment," says Wilson. "It was done to keep the league going. There was no ulterior motive, like trying to control two teams. I never had anything to do with the operation of the Raiders, and I never attended their stockholder meetings."
In March 1967 the Bills' brass knew that the 25-year-old, rifle-armed Lamonica would soon succeed Jack Kemp as the starter. But Buffalo coach Joe Collier wanted Oakland end Art Powell for his offense and suggested dealing Lamonica, end Glenn Bass and a second-round draft pick for Powell, quarterback Tom Flores and third-and fifth-round picks. "I didn't like it," Wilson said, "but I didn't second-guess the coaches. Of course, I was sick for years after the trade."
It remains the worst trade the Bills have ever made. Powell lasted one season, and Flores two. The Bills went south, while Lamonica took Oakland to Super Bowl II in January 1968. Wilson sold his shares back to the Raiders before Oakland entered the merged NFL in 1970. The NFL prohibits cross-ownership of franchises. "It's false that I ever made a decision to help the Raiders at our expense," says Wilson. "I was trying to help the Bills kick the hell out of the Raiders."
GAME OF THE WEEK
Giants at Buffalo, Sunday. On Jan. 27, 1991, the U.S. was at war with Iraq, and sharpshooters were atop Tampa Stadium to ensure that Super Bowl XXV would not become an arena for terrorists. It didn't, but it was nonetheless a Black Sunday for the Bills. With eight seconds to play, Buffalo kicker Scott Norwood missed a field goal attempt from 47 yards out, and New York won 20-19. The Bills will face the Giants for the first time since that day.
The Rams' Jim Everett, the league's lowest-rated quarterback, walked into the Astrodome to face the Oilers on Sunday amid rumors that teammates were questioning his toughness and calling him Chrissy Everett behind his back. To make matters worse, three members of Houston's ravenous front four have more than 60 career sacks. So Everett threw for 316 yards and three touchdowns, with no interceptions, and was not sacked. The final score: 28-13, Rams....
Speaking of the disappointing Oilers, who are now 1-3, Bum Phillips appears to be the overwhelming choice of fans on Houston talk shows to return to the team he coached from 1975 to '80 if owner Bud Adams dismisses Jack Pardee. But those close to the club think that Adams will promote defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan instead of bringing someone in from the outside. "It's something I'm going to have to think about," Adams said after the Ram loss. "I would think they [the coaches] would realize their jobs are on the line."...
The Vikings are 2-1 after beating Green Bay 15-13—remarkable, considering that they have led for just 15 minutes and eight seconds of the 180 minutes they've played this year.
THE END ZONE
With sports collectors flooding the lobbies of NFL road hotels, some players are registering under pseudonyms known only to family and friends. Oiler quarterback Warren Moon tends toward the punny. During Week 1 in New Orleans, he checked in as Bill Fold. During Week 3 in San Diego, he registered as Vic Tory.
Having lost his job to Trudeau during his holdout, George can do little but watch and wait.
Irvin has gotten the attention, but Harper (80) has quietly emerged as Dallas's big-play guy.
WALTER IOOSS JR.
The deal that sent Lamonica to Oakland smacked of insider trading.