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The NFL
Peter King
October 25, 1999
Out of Site Jerry Jones looks at the Internet and sees more profits for his Cowboys
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October 25, 1999

The Nfl

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So expect some wrangling over what revenue goes where. "If I owned a team," says Jonathan Weber, editor of the Internet magazine The Industry Standard, "I'd be very reluctant to cede control of the Internet. Appealing to rabid sports fans, in theory, would be the kind of thing that could work as a paid model on the Internet."

Adds David Fiedler, editor of WebDeveloper.com, "If I were [Jones], I'd get ready for a lot of traffic on a lot of servers. He could have a hot site."

Most traditional family owners who are in the game primarily to win football games don't like to see Jones continuing to build his financial empire, figuring he has an unfair advantage when it comes to pursuing marquee free agents. "The thing I fear, for football and the league, is that the money keeps influencing everything," says Steelers owner Dan Rooney.

But consider this: Since the Steelers and the Cowboys met in the Super Bowl in January 1996, Pittsburgh is 31-23 with two playoff appearances. Dallas is 29-24 with two playoff appearances.

Down Without a Fight
Cunningham Takes a Seat

Vikings quarterback Randall Cunningham stood solemnly in front of his locker following his team's 25-23 loss to the Lions on Sunday, speaking in soft, even tones about the tactical wisdom of Minnesota coach Dennis Green. In particular he lauded Green's half-time decision to bench his starting quarterback—that would be Cunningham—in favor of Jeff George. "I support the decision 100 percent," said Cunningham. "It's not my time anymore. It's Jeff's time now." With that, Cunningham teased George, who was dressing next to him, and, in relinquishing his job without so much as a raised eyebrow, seemed but a shadow of the man who just a year ago was a dynamic league MVP candidate.

Cunningham's ceding of the starting job so easily seemed a strange way for a respected team leader to handle his demotion. It also spoke volumes about why Green made the switch: to provide a much-needed spark for a flat team that had lost its way.

"We needed somebody to step up in the first half, and nobody did," said George, who completed 10 of 14 passes for 214 yards and two touchdowns, leading the Vikings to 20 unanswered points and the cusp of victory. "If Coach Green stays with me, I'm going to do my part." Green quashed any possible controversy when he tersely declared George his new starter.

For George to succeed, the Vikings will have to overcome their puzzling ineffectiveness in the red zone. Last season, when Minnesota scored an NFL-record 556 points en route to a 15-1 regular-season record and a berth in the NFC Championship Game, Cunningham and Brad Johnson were highly productive inside their opponents' 20-yard line, completing 45 passes in 89 attempts for 301 yards and 21 touchdowns (with just two interceptions). This year, as defenses in the red zone have blitzed Cunningham less and dropped more defenders into coverage, Cunningham's struggles have been amplified—he has completed six passes in 22 attempts for 45 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. Translation: During their 2-4 start the Vikings have yet to score 24 points in a game. Last season they never scored fewer than 24.

The more conservative game plans of first-year offensive coordinator Ray Sherman have also frustrated Cunningham and may do in George as well. Consider Minnesota's final drive on Sunday: George took Minnesota to a first down at the Detroit 15 with 2:05 remaining, but Vikings coaches opted to keep the ball on the ground for three plays and settle for a field goal. Problem was, the Lions needed only a field goal to win and, having used their timeouts wisely, had 1:40 with which to work.

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