"You got to say that?" he asked, moving painfully. "You couldn't just sit here and not say a thing like that? Don't tell me about how long the season gonna be and it's only early July. Every game could be a season long if you talk like that."
Taylor's decision to play out his option with the Packers was not a sudden one. It began to percolate in his mind when Green Bay signed Grabowski and Anderson to contracts that totaled nearly a million dollars, although he had nothing against the youngsters for the money they made.
"More power to them," he said. "Got to get it ahead if you're gonna get it. It's easier to get it in front than after you been playing. I know the old man didn't break his back to gimme what I wanted." Taylor asked Lombardi for a healthy increase in salary after the 1965 season, but Lombardi made little effort to meet his demands.
"He come up a little," Taylor said. "Not much. He didn't seem to be much interested in keeping me. It didn't make any difference to me, because I knew how much I was worth, and I figured I'd get it somewhere."
But Taylor misses the Packer ambience. The atmosphere in the Saint camp is remarkably different from that of a veteran team. For Taylor, whose whole career was spent as a Packer, it has taken some getting used to.
"Everything was set on the Packers," he said. "You knew who was going to play where, and it was comfortable. Here no one has a job, and you don't know who will be around when the season starts. This is a lot younger team."
The fact that few players are sure of their jobs lends a special urgency to Saint practices. Fears has underlined this in his approach to the development of a cohesive unit. And Fears himself sought the head coaching job with a special urgency.
"I didn't wait for them to come to me," he said frankly. He is an earnest man who was an all-pro end in his playing days with the Rams. Van Brocklin, one of the two Ram quarterbacks with Bob Waterfield when Fears played, has said of him, "He was a game-breaker, a guy who always came up with his best play when you needed it most. He was a winner."
Fears felt, with reason, that he was peculiarly well qualified for the Saints' coaching job. "I spent five years with Lombardi," he said. "You can't help but learn a lot from him. Then last season I was with Norb Hecker of the Falcons, so I had a year's experience coaching an expansion club. I pointed all this out, but it was still a long sweat before they made up their minds."
When John Mecom Jr. and the other Saint owners finally called Fears down to Houston—where Mecom has offices—Tom shocked them.