After the game, however, there wasn't much talk about plays. The talk was of players, and those they played this game for. "You know what I've learned the last couple of weeks?" said the 59-year-old Accorsi. "We've been worrying so much about passing the torch to this generation. We've been worrying about the kids in their 30s and 20s, about their priorities and their dedication. After watching this team and our city, I know we're in good hands. We have nothing to worry about with this generation."
Mess in the Motor City
Millen's Worst Nightmare
"Seven interceptions," the grim voice said over the phone late on Sunday, not even bothering to open the conversation with hello. "Seven. This is the worst." The words were those of new Lions president Matt Millen, in the wake of a 24-14 loss to the Browns in Cleveland, a game in which quarterback Ty Detmer was picked off seven times. It was just after 10 p.m., and he was in his Pontiac, Mich., office, waiting for film of the game to arrive. "I can't sleep" he said. "I'll watch it all. I'll be here till three."
The Lions were anything but impressive in their opener, a 28-6 loss to Green Bay. But the loss in Cleveland was particularly disturbing. The Browns came into the game 5-28 since they reentered the league in 1999. Millen was amazed at how leaky his defensive front was, and he couldn't believe how tight end David Sloan and wideout Germane Crowell gave up on routes that became interceptions. "That absolutely baffles me," Millen said. Detmer, acquired in a Sept. 2 trade with the Browns, was making his first start in place of the benched Charlie Batch.
What hurts Millen most is probably the fact that he can't do much about the situation until the off-season. Even then, because of a tight salary cap and because teams don't often let their good free agents reach the market, it won't be easy to turn around this franchise. In the meantime the Lions can start getting ready for their next game—an Oct. 8 home date against the Rams.
Have We Got A Deal for You
Raiders tackle Lincoln Kennedy says playing two rounds of postseason games in five days would be "brutal." Bucs defensive tackle Warren Sapp says he'd play on one day's rest if that was the only way for his team to make the playoffs. However, the compressed postseason schedule conjured up by Broncos coach Mike Shanahan—as a way to keep the 12-team format intact if the Super Bowl can't be pushed back from its scheduled Jan. 27 date—was one of the options being considered.
By week's end, though, the league was cautiously optimistic that it could keep the game in New Orleans and play on Feb. 3 by switching dates with the National Automobile Dealers Association, whose annual convention is scheduled for Feb. 2-5. The car dealers are considering a plan in which the NFL, which stands to lose more titan $60 million in advertising and related revenue if it reconfigures the post-season schedule or shrinks the playoff field, would pay them millions of dollars to swap dates.
Despite the skepticism of some players and executives about playing the four wild-card games on Jan. 9 (the Wednesday after the end of the regular season), then returning with the four divisional games the next Sunday and Monday, one thing seems certain: The playoffs will have 12, not eight, teams. The lesser number had seemed likely when the NFL decided to play a full 16-game schedule, moving the postponed Week 2 games to the previously scheduled wild-card weekend of Jan. 5-6. "There are a lot of reasons that we have to have 12 teams," Shanahan says. "Quality of play would be so much better, so much more meaningful, in Weeks 14, 15 and 16 with a full playoff system. If I'm a TV executive, I've paid for quality games with playoff implications in December and January. We'd have a lot more meaningless games if we cut the playoffs to eight teams."
It won't make organizers of big events set for the weekend of Feb. 2-3 (namely the NHL All-Star Game) happy, but look for the NFL to come to terms with the car dealers by Oct. 15.