Here's how several NFL issues and personnel decisions could play out in the off-season...and beyond.
1. White on White The league has put together an embarrassing streak of not hiring a minority to fill any of its last 18 head coaching vacancies. Expect seven of the teams that will be shopping for new coaches—the Ravens, Panthers, Browns, Packers, Eagles, Chargers and Seahawks—to make lily-white appointments.
2. Instant Success At the NFL's annual meeting in March, replay is voted back in after an eight-year absence. An eye-in-the-sky official will have 45 seconds to review a questionable call and render a decision. Coaches will not have to issue challenges or have anything else to do with replay.
3. He Doesn't Know the Meaning of the Word "Quit" After a 40-33 Super Bowl loss to the Vikings, followed by 27 rounds of golf on three continents, John Elway decides to play the 1999 season. "I can't bear the thought of working in TV," he says.
4. From the Ground Up The Browns get a lot of nothing out of the Feb. 9 expansion draft but select Kentucky quarterback Tim Couch in the April 17 college draft, deal for a couple of linebackers—disgruntled Derrick Thomas of the Chiefs and hometown hero Chris Spielman of the Bills—and spend like crazy in the free-agent market. Cleveland goes 6-10 in its first season back in the league.
5. It's Only Money The '99 salary cap will be about $59 million per team. San Francisco enters the off-season having to shed about $21 million of its cap load and facing the prospect of (gulp) having to match another team's multimillion-dollar offer to restricted free-agent wideout Terrell Owens.
6. Seeing Red Laser pointers become a leaguewide nuisance. Players at the Metrodome in Minneapolis and Lambeau Field in Green Bay have already been pestered by these needlessly mass-produced toys. Wait until truly obnoxious fans get hold of them.
7. The Purple's Choice The Vikings go with Randall Cunningham as their starting quarterback over Brad Johnson, signing the free-agent Cunningham to a $6 million-a-year deal and trading Johnson to St. Louis for the Rams' first- and third-round picks in the '99 draft.
8. Speaking of Quarterbacks...The Raiders stick with Jeff George. Dumb idea, giving George a contract-mandated $5 million bonus? Not as dumb as going to camp with an un-proven free agent.
9. They Love L.A. Owners address the absurdity of life without Los Angeles and Boston by awarding the league's 32nd franchise to former Hollywood superagent Michael Ovitz and his ownership stable of stars. Ovitz's first big decision: whether to hire Ron Wolf or Harrison Ford as the general manager of the Los Angeles Megastars.