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Who wants to be a millionaire?

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Posted: Thursday January 20, 2000 04:03 PM


Click here to send your NFL questions to SI's Peter King.

Every year, I like to look at the NFL salary list and compare it to baseball's. It's fun to see how weird the relative pay scales are. In fact, one day last fall, Cowboys Deion Sanders and Emmitt Smith were listening to stories of huge baseball salaries. Sanders -- jokingly, we believe -- said to Smith: "Why'd we have to pick the cheap sport?''

Boo-hoo, gridders. But it is interesting to see the disparity between the former and current America's Pastimes:

St. Louis power hitters -- The baseball salary and combined football cap numbers of players lighting up the sporting fields of St. Louis:

Cardinals first baseman Mark McGwire: $9,563,563.

Rams standouts: Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk, Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt (combined): $9,224,920.

Cheesehead-onomics -- The highest base salaries of the Brewers and Packers:

1. Dave Nilsson, Brewers, $5,694,133 (though, he won't be playing in 2000, he ranked first in 1999)

2. Marquis Grissom, Brewers, $5,000,000

3. Cal Eldred, Brewers, $4,766,667

4. Brett Favre, Packers, $4,300,000

5. Jeromy Burnitz, Brewers, $3,612,500

Maybe He's Worth It Dept. -- Boston pitcher Pedro Martinez, with a salary of $11.1 million, earns $2.58 million more than five of the top 10-rated quarterbacks in football combined -- Warner, Gus Frerotte, Jeff George, Peyton Manning and Rich Gannon.

Mirrors, Sort Of -- The teams that were the closest in gross salary in 1999, with games either below or above .500 in parentheses: Rockies, $54,392,504 (-18). Redskins, $54,385,218 (+2).

Disappointments of the Year -- The salary and football cap numbers of the biggest flops in baseball and football in 1999:

Albert Belle, Orioles, $11,949,794

Gary Sheffield, Dodgers, $9,956,667

Kordell Stewart, Steelers, $2,683,620

Randall Cunningham, Vikings, $2,133,333

Thought you might enjoy that. Now onto your questions:

Hey Peter, you're right. Lightning 100 is probably the best radio station in the country. What adjustments to you think Tom Coughlin has to make to break the Jags' three-game losing streak to the Titans?
-- Ravi Sachan, Nashville

Let me relay a story to you from last weekend in Indianapolis. I was talking with Colts GM Bill Polian about Eddie George, the 6' 2", 240-pound horse of an offense for Tennessee. I wondered where the line was in terms of yardage they could afford to give George. Was it 100? Or 110? More? "Oh, he can get his 110,'' Polian told me. "We just have to be sure he gets it on 27 carries. If he gets it on 12 or 13, we're in trouble.''

Well, George's 10th carry was his 68-yard touchdown sprint that gave the Titans the lead for good in a 19-16 win. It was the defining play in that game. And when I heard people after the game say the Colts did a pretty good job on George except for that one run, it was the same thing -- in my mind -- as saying a pitcher did a pretty good job on Mark McGwire, holding him to one home run in five at-bats, even though that one homer won the game. George has not killed Jacksonville in Tennessee's three-game winning streak over the Jags, but this is a different Titans team now, a team that will throw George at the defense: Stop me for four quarters if you can, and you'll win; if not, we like our chances. So it's vital that Jacksonville's front seven fill gaps, play tough and put the ball in Steve McNair's hands.

Okay, after all your top 10s, who is going to win the Super Bowl? Do you really think Jerry Jones will coach the Cowboys? If not, who are the leading candidates?
-- Nick Gonzales, Vilseck, Germany

If I'm guessing right now, I say Dave Campo, the Dallas defensive coordinator, has the best shot at the Cowboys job. But it's like what the ace NFL writer for the Dallas Morning News , Rick Gosselin, says: The head coach is the second-most important hire for the Cowboys. The most important is the offensive coordinator, the man who will try to revive Troy Aikman's career. Super Bowl winner? St. Louis. I just can't see anybody beating the Rams right now.

Peter, I really enjoy your MMQB column and will miss it very much in the offseason. My question regards Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots -- and for that matter, the rest of the league's purported interest in him as a coaching candidate. Why? This is a man who is wanted for a position that first and foremost requires outstanding communication with players. I think that throughout his first head coaching opportunity with the Browns, Belichick proved he is a terrible communicator. Plus, he lost. So why are the Patriots waiting patiently for him to occupy its two key positions, GM and coach? By the way, have a nice offseason.
-- Abe Froman, Richmond, Va.

Good question. It says a couple of things. One, owners go with who they know. Bob Kraft knows, respects and likes Belichick. Two, look at the coaching field out there. It's as weak as any field that owners have ever surveyed. To Bob Kraft, hiring Bill Belichick accomplishes two things: one, taking a good coach from his arch-rival and two, it gives him the best coach for his team right now, with players almost unanimously in favor of the move.

What teams are going to have new quarterbacks for the 2000 season and who might they be? Doug Flutie, Jeff Blake, Neil O'Donnell, Trent Green, Dan Marino, Gus Frerotte, Trent Dilfer and Jim Miller could all be looking for new homes.
-- Eric Rubenbauer, Lake Mills, Wisc.

These teams will have different passers in 2000 than they had in 1999:

Jets: Vinny Testaverde returns to his job, with Ray Lucas a solid backup.

Dolphins: Damon Huard and a free-agent import will likely battle it out for the job of Dan Marino's heir.

Bills: It's Rob Johnson's job. Flutie will have to accept a backup role, which he probably will do.

Bengals: Akili Smith, in a landslide.

Ravens: I don't know. My guess is Brian Billick signs Randall Cunningham for cheap, signs Blake for $5.5 million a year, or drafts one of the two college guys and milks another half-season out of Tony Banks.

Chargers: Ryan "Don't Blame Me'' Leaf.

49ers: Steve Young passes a physical, takes a pay cut, and starts the opener.

Saints: Before president Bill Kuharich got fired, he was plotting the signing of O'Donnell or Frerotte. The Saints are in great cap shape. If I'm them, I go hard after Blake.

Bears: Cade McNown.

Giants: Kerry Collins.

Dan Marino has probably had the most positive press of any professional athlete other than Michael Jordan during the 1980 and '90s. Granted, he has thrown up Hall of Fame numbers. Yet, under two head coaches his Dolphins have failed to deliver. The reason is Marino has never have been able to share the spotlight with a star running back. I always thought Jim Kelly's ego was huge. He's a chump compared to Dan. What's your take on my spin?
-- Mike Wrona, Buffalo, N.Y.

I keep hearing and reading about Dan Marino's massive ego. Frankly, I don't see it. He certainly has great confidence in himself, but this is not a man who struts around saying he's better than everybody else and he has to do things his way. The Marino I know is a team guy, and more loyal than he's been painted. When Wayne Huizenga asked Marino in confidence recently about Dave Wannstedt's ability as a coach, Marino was high on Wannstedt - -even though he knows Wannstedt was down on him as a player and was likely conspiring with Jimmy Johnson to get Marino off the team in 2000.

Do you honestly believe that Kurt Warner is a good quarterback? It seems clear to me that he is just like Randall Cunningham, a mediocre QB on an incredible offensive team. Warner has no arm strength, and he's a statue in the pocket. St. Louis has an incredible array of talent at the the other skill positions and a very good pass blocking line, not to mention a brilliant offensive scheme.
-- Jim Maron, Toronto

You just don't do what Warner's done this year without being a good NFL player. I used to laugh when people said Pat Riley wasn't that good a coach with the Lakers; he just rolled the ball out and let them play. You don't win championships and play at the top of your game without being good. What Warner does very well is spread the ball around to the open man consistently. His arm strength is well above average. His game sense is terrific. Rams offensive coordinator Mike Martz thinks he can win championships with the guy. That's good enough for me. Now, is he a great, great player? I can't tell you that. He has to get knocked around some and experience some injuries in his receiving corps and face adversity before we know that. But all signs point to him being a good quarterback in the league for a long time.

Did you catch Randy Moss and his imitation of a water sprinkler on the side referee late in the game. It was a truly disgusting display. I don't know what's worse -- the act itsefl or the fact that he was so concerned with a perceived bad call (and his stats) so late in a game which was already far over. We're seeing more and more of this type of behavior, what is the league doing to stop it? It's really turning a lot of people off.
-- Nick Frangione, Ottawa

The league had better take notice of the continuing disrespect shown officials, because if that officials' union ever gets a legal spine, it could rise up and bite the NFL.

Peter, thanks for the kind words about our radio station, and remember, as you travel Lightning 100 can be heard anywhere in the world at I enjoy your reporting. Keep up the good work. Go Titans! (And go Browns. Come draft day, Nashville will be home to the Middle Tennessee Browns Backers Club -- over 150 strong.)
-- Kerry D. Massey, Mid-Days, Lightning 100

Kerry, you the man.

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