The run-and-shoot notwithstanding, Bill Polian, the Bills' general manager, believes we are entering an era that will be dominated by the run. "First of all, not a lot of good [classic drop-back] quarterbacks are coming out of college," says Polian, "but there are some great running backs." This year, for example, only one quarterback, Troy Aikman of UCLA, was drafted in the first round. But five running backs went in that opening round, as did six offensive linemen.
"The supply of quarterbacks has dwindled in dramatic fashion," says Raymond Berry, the coach of the New England Patriots. "That's going to change the nature of the game to more of a running attack."
According to Miami Dolphin linebacker Rick Graf, the game of the '90s "will be big guys running into each other as hard as they can, with no technique, just trying to run the ball, control it. It'll be smash-mouth football, and the fans will love it. They'll change. Instead of wanting touchdowns, they'll want to see great defense and running—lots of running. Fullbacks like William Perry will be typical."
The accordion opens, the accordion closes. Here are some other changes to watch for:
?The defensive emphasis in the years ahead will shift to big people who can run—'tweener types, 220-pound linebacker-strong safety combinations and 250-pound linebacker-defensive ends. "You might even see the creation of a new term for the type of player who can rush, back up the line and cover," says Indianapolis coach Ron Meyer. "He'd do for the NFL what Magic Johnson did for the NBA. Whoever envisioned a 6'9" guard in basketball 25 years ago?"
?Offensive coaches will give some thought to the emergence of this new monster and then come up with one of their own, thereby fortifying the most neglected position in football, tight end. They'll convert college linebackers and quick defensive ends. They'll produce their own Magic Johnsons, big guys who can block, catch the short pass and burn a defense deep.
?Players on both sides of the ball will be taller but lighter, because an effective anti-steroid policy will be implemented, preferably in consort with the Players Association (more on that later). The new policy will put an end to the freak show of six-foot-two 290-pounders we see now, players who have proportions God never intended for the human body.
?Teams will load up on running backs, carrying as many as seven regulars, as more and more good runners come out of college. Teams will attack in waves, with three sets of running backs, to ensure that the offense always has fresh legs in the game. The heavy-duty 1,500-yard back could become obsolete.
?With the emergence of mobile, more athletic quarterbacks from the colleges, NFL teams may put an extra passer in the back-field, much the way the Dolphins sometimes used backup quarterback Crash Jensen with Marino in the mid-'80s. An offense with a halfback who can throw as well as run would give defenses something extra to worry about.
?The use of instant replays to review the calls of game officials, after having been killed in 1990—without Rozelle and former Cowboy president Tex Schramm to prop it up—will be replaced by more advanced technology. Electronic sensors positioned along the sidelines and the goal line, and even in the ball, will signal whether a ball has crossed into the end zone and whether a player's foot has touched the sideline. Game officials will be leery of the new technology. There will be a call for a return to the good old days of instant replay.