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Peter King
November 06, 1989
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November 06, 1989

Inside The Nfl

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On Sunday, Kansas City quarterback Steve DeBerg faced third-and-goal from the one-foot line at Pittsburgh, with the Chiefs trailing 23-17. DeBerg turned to referee Tom Dooley to complain about the crowd noise, and Dooley told him to run the play. DeBerg remained standing in apparent frustration until the 45-second clock expired and he was tagged for delay of game. Instead of running the ball twice and possibly taking the lead in the game, the Chiefs were moved back to the five-yard line. From there, DeBerg threw an interception and the Chiefs never scored again. "He turned around and appealed to me," Dooley said later, "and I warned him to play."

This is what has happened: Worried that crowd-noise penalties had been called too quickly during the preseason, Rozelle instructed officials before the start of the regular season to be more conservative in calling the infractions. Now, the quarterbacks who had threatened to take advantage of the new rule—including the Bengals' Boomer Esiason and the Giants' Phil Simms—are playing through noise that's as loud as the noise that drew penalties in exhibition games. Because the league has put the onus on offenses to try to play on, the rule has become a nonfactor. "[Rozelle] had to make a change," says Rooney. "I think what he did was right by not giving carte blanche to the visiting team." But does that mean officials should ignore the disturbances that caused the league to adopt the rule in the first place?


In five years of coaching the Miami Hurricanes, Jimmy Johnson lost nine games. He could lose his ninth in two months with the Cowboys, on Sunday night against Washington....

Next spring, after the consulting firm of Booz Allen & Hamilton finishes its report on the league, many NFL people expect to see changes in how it is run. "That's the only worthwhile thing that's come out of [the wrangling that followed Rozelle's resignation]," says Redskins executive vice-president John Kent Cooke. "We're going to redo the league."

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