"John Mackey," Upshaw says proudly, identifying the former Colt tight end who took the bold step of suing the NFL on the union's behalf 22 years ago.
In an SI poll of NFL coaches last week, 20 of 28 respondents said that the most significant rule change of the season will be moving kickoffs from the 35-yard line to the 30 and lowering the kicking tee to one inch. "A tremendous percentage of kickoffs are going to be returned," says Buffalo coach Marv Levy. "And it's going to move the ball well past the 30-yard line as an average start. Even if you don't score from there, you've got a field-position advantage if you have to punt."
Four coaches, including the Cowboys' Barry Switzer, thought the two-point conversion would be the most important rule change. "I think people consider the two-pointer a last, desperate chance to win a ball game," he says. "But I think the two-point play will be used in the first quarter, second quarter, third quarter and fourth quarter."
Apparently the new rule addressing where the ball is spotted after a missed field goal won't be as big a factor as we thought. The change means that if team A, for example, misses a 47-yard field goal, team B gets the ball at the 37, where the kick was attempted, instead of at the 30, the line of scrimmage. The coaches were asked what they would do now if faced with fourth-and-five at the opposition's 30 on the first drive of the game. Only five coaches said they would go for the first down. So much for the thought that the new rule would make coaches gutsier.
One rule (actually an application of an existing rule) that may make the coaches angry prohibits defensive players from contact with receivers beyond five yards from scrimmage. Formerly, receivers and corners could bump each other incidentally while running downfield with no penalty called; now officials have been told that contact should bring a flag. "The officials are calling that rule so inconsistently that I think it's really hurting the game," says Brown coach Bill Belichick. "It's gotten the offensive players, the defensive players and the officials all confused."
The reason the "Jimmy Johnson to the Dolphins" rumors won't die is that an attorney for Miami owner Wayne Huizenga remains in occasional contact with Johnson's attorney, Nick Christin, about the possibility of Johnson's coaching the team at some point. While Huizenga denies he has any interest in Johnson, those denials will ring hollow as long as such overtures persist....
How bad did Denver quarterback and car dealer John Elway want the Broncos to land a great receiver in '94? When Denver was courting Raider free-agent wideout Tim Brown in the off-season, Elway took Brown to lunch and said he would get Brown a fully loaded sport truck, worth about $29,000, if the receiver signed with Denver. Brown signed an offer sheet with the Broncos, but L.A. matched it, and he remains a Raider. Elway, though, got a fine second prize: former Charger go-to guy Anthony Miller....
Fox TV's John Madden, on the impact of the salary cap and the player-go-round it has spawned: "Not that I ever wanted to go back to coaching, but this is the first year since I left [after the 1978 season] that I thought I could never do that again. The whole thing about coaching is to build a team and develop players and keep them through their prime. That's not possible anymore."