Everyone knows that the NFL tries to promote parity by scheduling strong teams from the previous season against other strong teams, and weak teams against weak teams. But less well known is that the league makes a special effort to get comparable-strength matchups early in the season to ensure that more teams are in the playoff race come November. "We work in that direction when we can." says the NFL's director of broadcasting, Val Pinchbeck, who helps make up the schedule. "But [because of the demands of television! our degree of control over that isn't what it once was."
Two marquee teams will especially feel the effects of front-loaded scheduling. The Raiders, who were 7-9 last season, will begin the season by playing six teams with a combined '88 record of 39-54-3. Chicago, which is coming off a 12-4 year, will face a 12-game winner, Cincinnati; an 11-game winner, Minnesota; and a 10-game winner, Philadelphia, in the first four weeks.
THE WILSON FALLOUT
The Bengals hope the Stanley Wilson story dies a natural death. In late May the story surfaced that Penthouse had paid Wilson a reported $250,000 for his account of his Super Bowl-eve cocaine binge. Penthouse is investigating Wilson's allegations that other Bengals joined him that night. A Penthouse spokesperson wouldn't comment on when, or even if, the article will run, but some of the players Wilson reportedly names have threatened legal action if their names appear. In May, Wilson, who had been suspended twice previously, was permanently banned from the league.
One player Wilson has reportedly implicated is running back Ickey Woods, who has angrily denied any involvement in the incident. Woods was bordering on being a hot commodity on Madison Avenue, but now he has become lukewarm. He was scheduled to make at least one commercial in the off-season, but it went instead to Cincinnati quarterback Boomer Esiason, who was paid $35,000. Woods's agent. Bruce Allen, says Woods's loss in potential endorsement fees "could conservatively be placed in six figures."
Timm Rosenbach, the Washington State University quarterback who became the Cardinals' first pick in July's supplemental draft, couldn't have asked for more bargaining power. Last year's starter, Neil Lomax, was struggling with degenerative arthritis in his hip, which has sidelined him for the year, and 31-year-old Gary Hogeboom, whom the Cards had signed as a Plan B free agent for $3.27 million over four years, was a short-term Band-Aid, if that. At camp one day, coach Gene Stallings turned to offensive coordinator Jim Shofner and said, "What the hell's wrong with Hogeboom?" Answer: arthritic elbow, bum shoulder—and expectations that were far too high. In his best season, at Dallas in '84, Hogeboom had seven touchdowns and 14 interceptions. That's why Phoenix agreed to pay Rosenbach $5.4 million over five years, including a $1.25 million signing bonus. According to one agent who has seen the NFL salary survey, Rosenbach's contract, unlike that of other rookie quarterbacks who signed rich deals, is payable over the life of the contract, with no deferrals. Not bad for a guy who last year at this time was just starting his junior season at college....
The Colts want to sign Eric Dickerson to a Bernie Kosar-length (six years) contract but not for Bernie Kosar money ($15 million). The negotiations on extending Dickerson's contract, which expires after the 1990 season, have been proceeding since June, but the Colts have reason to be encouraged. Dickerson recently bought a house that will be his first permanent home in Indianapolis. Coach Ron Meyer is especially heartened because he thinks Dickerson has seven years of effective football left in him....
When and if the World League of American Football is launched, league president Tex Schramm says, he wants a one-strike-and-you're-out drug-abuse policy. "It's my idea," says Schramm. "We've got to be squeaky clean, especially in Europe. Over there, if they find you with anything, you're in jail. No questions asked."...