The free-agent pickup that has the Chargers ecstatic is middle linebacker Kurt Gouveia, one of coach Ray Rhodes's overachieving wackos in Philadelphia last year. The Eagles desperately wanted to keep Gouveia, but you've got to pay the price these days (in Gouveia's case, $4.3 million over three years). Philly didn't.
Quarterback Stan Humphries will be throwing to favorite wideout Tony Martin and whoever wins the Smurf derby on the other side. Third-round pick Brian Roche gives San Diego its first tight end who can get downfield since Kellen Winslow retired in 1987.
Ross sees a new commitment, based on healthy attendance at off-season workouts. These Chargers might not be as talented as the '94 edition, but at least they don't have post-Super Bowl syndrome.
The fans of the Pacific Northwest are in a funk of their own. They loved their Seattle Seahawks in the Jim Zorn-Steve Largent early expansion years and in the 1980s, when the Seahawks went to the playoffs four times, but after a 2-14 record in 1992 and a 6-10 mark in '93, enough was enough. Twice in each of the last two years attendance dipped below 40,000 at a home game, the first time that had happened in a nonstrike year. This season 30,284 showed up for an exhibition game against the Atlanta Falcons, the smallest nonstrike crowd in the 21-year history of the franchise.
The biggest factor is that Seattle hasn't had a winning season in five years. Another is owner Ken Behring, who announced last season that he had to move the Seahawks to Los Angeles because the Kingdome wasn't safe from earthquakes. Then in April a new player entered the game. Paul Allen, a Seattle native and the multibillionaire cofounder of Microsoft, has a 14-month option to buy the Seahawks and promises to keep them where they belong. However, the box office reports that a record-low 36,500 season tickets had been sold as of mid August, with many of the former faithful refusing to re-up until Behring is gone.
The only constant last year was Chris Warren and the running game, which finished third in the NFL. Quarterback Rick Mirer, who struggled to learn rookie coach Dennis Erickson's new system, threw an AFC-high 20 interceptions. The defense finished 25th in the league. Despite these failings Seattle won six of its last eight and finished 8-8. In the last five years the other four teams in the division have been moving away from the Seahawks. During that stretch Seattle's record against AFC West opponents is 9-31. Only when the Seahawks learn to beat these people consistently will it be time to take them seriously.