Into this scene, stripped of three years' worth of high draft picks (except for the 1992 second-round choice the Vikings got from Seattle for Keith Millard), steps new coach Dennis Green—a butt-kicker, they say, a shake-'em-up guy. Minnesota exploded out of the box, winning all four of its preseason games by a combined score of 140-6. Seems that Green was trying to prove something early.
He has got enough quality people to put points on the board—halfback Terry Allen, wideout Anthony Carter, tight end Steve Jordan—but the defense is aging. The best-known names, end Chris Doleman, cornerback Carl Lee and linebacker Mike Merriweather, are all older than 30.
Vinny Testaverde is working with his third head coach and fifth quarterback coach in six seasons with the Tampa Bay Bucs. The guy's head must be filled with a jumble of X's and O's. He hears all those voices in his sleep: "Air it out." "Tighten it up." "Control the ball." "Stretch the defense." Now he's running Sam Wyche's quick-huddle, attack offense. Will the two of them be on the same page, in the same book, on the same planet?
Once you get past that question, there are many upbeat things about the new marriage of Wyche, the former coach of the Bengals, and the Bucs. The community loves him. He made more than 90 luncheon and charity-event appearances in his first 100 days in Tampa. The black players must have noticed that he has five black assistants. Management loosened the purse strings and let him bring in 10 players on Plan B, most noticeably guard Bruce Reimers.
The defense, under holdover coordinator Floyd Peters, is better than the one Wyche had in Cincinnati, thanks to guys like tackle Reuben Davis, end Keith McCants and linebacker Broderick Thomas. The schedule is kind, with the first two games, against Phoenix and Green Bay, both winnable and at home.
The Green Bay Packers' new general manager, Ron Wolf, is a solid football man. Their rookie coach, Mike Holmgren, was a brilliant offensive coordinator for San Francisco. To them we can say, Buckle up, gentlemen. Keep your chin straps fastened. It's going to be rough for a while.
Training camp was a mess of injuries and holdouts, with the most significant absentee being first-round draft pick Terrell Buckley, a cornerback who has already demanded to be traded and has signed a minor league contract with the Atlanta Braves.
Quarterback Don Majkowski, the wonder boy of 1989, has been injured repeatedly behind a decaying offensive line. Holmgren has shortened Majkowski's drop and has him throwing on rhythm, 49er style, to keep him away from the horns of the rush.
Green Bay has to run the ball, Holmgren says, but the only back he has is sturdy, but not speedy, Darrell Thompson, who finished 36th among NFL ballcarriers with 471 yards last year. The defense, when healthy, could be O.K. Keep an eye on linebacker George Koonce, a World League pickup, who was the leading tackier in the spring league.
The season opens with four games against teams run by new coaches, some of whom have rebuilding tasks as formidable as Holmgren's.