The game will flourish in the '90s if the next commissioner and the league's owners give it a chance. Mr. Commissioner, here's where to start.
The point man on the NFL's team negotiating with the players for a new collective bargaining agreement should be Raider boss Al Davis, Working closely with his friend and prot�g� Gene Upshaw, the executive director of the Players Association and a Hall of Fame guard for the Raiders, Davis could push through a compromise plan he first proposed in 1987. " Davis and Upshaw could get a contract worked out in two weeks," says one general manager.
The key part of the agreement would be a salary and bonus scale for rookies. Gone would be the million-dollar packages given to players who have yet to prove themselves. Rookies would be paid according to their position—with quarterbacks getting top dollar—and their place in the draft.
"You can't solve the [league's financial problems] with increased revenues," says Rozelle. "You can only squeeze so hard. You have to attack it on the other end. You have to look for cutting costs." Clubs would benefit from the wage-scale plan by saving the millions they used to toss away on question marks. Veteran players would benefit, because more money would be available for them. Colleges would benefit, because they wouldn't have to worry about agents' signing their underclassmen.
A new collective bargaining agreement could also permit random testing for steroids if the Players Association were allowed to share responsibility for enforcement. The current system of announced, league-run testing gives a player plenty of time to flush the stuff out of his system before he's tested. The players have to have a hand in policing themselves.
But first the league's owners must act. They must find common cause again and name a commissioner who is strong enough to make it stick. Then the focus can return to the game. Expansion can proceed. And another fire can be lit.