He comes by his
nickname honestly. Most of Rad's drills are run at full speed. On sweltering
country evenings in training camp, his offensive linemen usually are last to
get to the beer hole up the highway, their blackboard meeting having plowed on
to an hour when, through the screened windows, they can hear crickets. Of a
Saturday morning, just before the Steelers are to fly out of Greater Pittsburgh
Airport to a Sunday road game, Bad Rad's linemen may be found meeting in an
airport room to study a film of a previous day's practice.
we've made a film and spent money to do it," Radakovich says, "they're
going to go over it. Not for the purpose of having a meeting, but to accomplish
however, are just a fraction of his sweatshop. Offensive linemen, the least
prominent of players, crave playing time and recognition, to feed not only
their egos but their bank accounts as well. There are bonuses for linemen who
play full time, quarter upon quarter, game after game; yet Radakovich developed
eight regulars to play five interior line positions, alternating them by
quarters at financial cost to those who otherwise might have monopolized a job.
Bonuses also are paid to players who make All-Pro, but Rad blurs his players'
images by shifting centers to guard, guards to tackle and tight ends to
tackle—even in midgame. No matter that two seasons ago the Steelers' line gave
up fewer sacks than any line in the league and last season enabled Steeler
backs to amass the third-highest rushing yardage in NFL history—Mullins, Mike
Webster, Mansfield, Sam Davis, Gordie Gravelle, Kolb, Jim Clack and Ray Pinney
remained unsung in the network booths.
"We do what
it takes to win," says Rad. "For one thing, if you can play more than
one position, we'll never miss a guy who's hurt. For another, there's the fear
incentive—meaning, if you're only playing part time, you better keep hustling
to keep your job, and you better know that if you screw up, I don't give a
damn. I spell this out. They know exactly where I stand."
They do, and they
flee his training-camp meetings to a place called the 19th Hole to vilify him
over a cold pitcher. "He's the only coach," says one lineman, "who
believes he creates a player."
Perhaps he is.
While rival clubs field offensive linemen ranging from 250 to 290 pounds, Bad
Rad plays linemen who call themselves Rad's Fleas. Mullins, 244 on the roster,
has played at 222; Clack, listed at 250, finished a game at 216; Webster,
another program 250, has played at 228. "If you can do it," says Rad,
out there on his planet, light-years from traditional pro football precepts,
"who gives a damn how big you are?" Pulling and trapping, buzzing
opponents from every angle, Rad's Fleas do it, taught to eschew widely accepted
heads-up blocking and elbows-out technique. It is speed, then, that carries the
day for Rad's Fleas? Rad to Earth, confusedly: "No. We're interested in
power, and the hell with speed."
banged his shoe on his desk at the United Nations, he created no more commotion
than routinely marks Rad's meetings. Rad encourages dispute and gets it.
Mullins, chronically morose but somehow all out on Sundays, is to Rad what
Khrushchev was to Adlai Stevenson. In a practice-field moment of questionable
judgment, Rad once seized a flat, hand-held dummy to demonstrate a drill,
whereupon Mullins ecstatically charged into him, drove him fully half the
football field, dumped him onto his back with a thud, and then, helmet-first,
speared him sickeningly in the pit of his belly. Moon's complaint is that at
222 or somewhat upwards, he should not be made to switch from guard to
going to," Moon declared, making a stand late last season.
replied Rad, "your name will be announced as a starting tackle. You make up
your mind whether you're going to run out onto the field."
Moon answered the
introduction. Says Rad, "I really don't care about his personal feelings.
We want to win games."