League executives overlooked something important when they approved the regulation. Quarterbacks now have an incentive to claim that the crowd noise is disruptive. "I never pulled away from center in my entire career because of noise," says Giants quarterback Phil Simms. "But will I now? Absolutely. I'm going to take advantage of the rule." Says Seattle coach Chuck Knox, "I guess every coach is going to have to teach his quarterback how to milk the crowd."
In partial response to that flaw, the NFL revised the rule two days before the season opened. Commissioner Pete Rozelle announced that officials could penalize the offense if the quarterback stepped back from center claiming he couldn't be heard when the officials thought he could be heard.
Despite its shortcomings, the antinoise rule still has its defenders. "I love it," says Pittsburgh coach Chuck Noll. "There was a time in this country when sportsmanship was important. The fans have forgotten that. Forget what they pay for a ticket; they have no right to interfere with the game the way they do. With this rule we're trying to create a level playing field, and it's not a level playing field when one team can hear its signals and the other can't."
JUST DO IT
Score. That's the point of an NFL offense. Teams that move the ball and bog down—or turn the ball over—end up where plain bad teams end up: watching the playoffs. The Elias Sports Bureau has computed for SI a statistic, points per possession (PPP), that measures the efficiency of an offense more accurately than the league's ranking by total offense, which is a simple sum of a team's passing and rushing yardage. In fact two of 1988's top PPP teams. Houston and Indianapolis, ranked only 14th and 21st, respectively, according to total offense.
Cincinnati had the NFL's best PPP in 1988. Says Bengal offensive coordinator Bruce Coslet, "In 1987 we'd get into the red zone [inside the opponent's 20-yard line], and we couldn't score. So, going into 1988 we stressed scoring every time we got into the red zone. That was the whole difference in our team. Every possession was important." Below are the too five PPP teams of 1988.
[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]
END OF THE CHARADE
Every year we fall for the rhetoric that accompanies the negotiations to sign rookies, but maybe these two stories will save us from that mistake in the future. Before and during the first few days of training camp, Harold Daniels, the agent for the Steelers' top draft pick, running back Tim Worley, was insistent about asking Pittsburgh to pay his client $9.2 million over five years, When Worley eventually signed for $3.05 million over five years. Daniels smiled and said everyone knew his first figure was a joke. Next, consider Tony Mandarich's comment after he signed with Green Bay last week for $4.4 million over four years: "I came out saying $2 million [a year], but what am I. stupid? I know I'm not going to get $2 million, especially by playing offensive lineman."
It won't be long now. Al Davis has dropped the Raiders' Spanish-language radio broadcasts, which had been heard in Los Angeles since the club moved there in 1982. Davis may announce a move to Oakland or Sacramento before the end of the month....